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Voices: What you should know about terrorism’s impact

By: Sherri Mandell - USA TODAY

We live in very difficult times, with violent attacks, with mass shootings from San Bernardino to Orlando. I am unfortunately a victim of terror, a veteran victim.

We moved to Israel in 1996 from America. Five years later, on May 8, 2001, my eldest child, my 13-year-old son Koby, and his friend Yosef Ish Ran were murdered. In an attempt to help ourselves and others, my husband and I created the Koby Mandell Foundation, where we provide therapy and activities for hundreds of victims of terrorism in Israel. Along the way I have learned the following lessons:

There is no closure. There is no graduation certificate for grief. Somebody asked a friend of mine when I was three years into mourning, isn’t she over it? No. There is no closure. But there is what I call “disclosure.” Survivors can find new friends, new interests and a new mission.

Victims’ families don’t move on. They move with. With the memories. With the pain. With the love. And with the will to survive and bear witness.

Trauma isn’t only in the mind. It resides in the body. Survivors have to work with their bodies to deal with the pain: Using, for example, EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) or other trauma techniques.

Survivors don’t overcome. They become. Somebody else. Because the person they were before would never have had the capacity to deal with this emotional horror. In every trauma there is a shattering and an opportunity for rebirth.

The survivors don’t need to be distracted from the pain. If they don’t enter the pain, they will never exit it. What they need is support.

Don’t tell the survivors to “Be strong.”  In fact, once I was speaking to a 16-year-old friend of Koby’s and when he left me, he said, “Guard your strength.” I think that’s more important. Guarding your strength means take care of yourself, protect yourself, know what is good and bad for you.

It is not good to be alone. The community must help these families.

Make sure that the children are taken care of.

There is a difference between fate and destiny. Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik said that our job in this world is to transform fate into destiny. Even living with atrocity can be directed toward a sense of meaning and purpose.

Those who lose loved ones to terrorism and other acts of violence are not only victims. They are survivors. And the way they survive will determine their own children’s health. As studies of second- and third-generation Holocaust survivors have shown, trauma can be passed on if it is not processed. This is sometimes referred to as secondhand or vicarious trauma.

When individuals experience terror and violence, it also affects our local communities and our societies at large.The pain and grief, the trauma and stress, create ripples that affect everyone, whether they know us personally or have watched the tragedy on TV. Those who witness trauma (even on the screen) may be at risk for vicarious trauma disorders with the danger of higher stress levels and even PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).

When terror and violence hurt some of us, they hurt all of us.


Rosh Hashanah The Long Blast

Life’s Little Lessons - Jpost 

By Rabbi Lazer Gurkow

Three Sounds

The best known sound in Jewish tradition is that of the Shofar. One long blast called Tekiah, three short blasts called Shevarim and nine staccato blasts called Teruah. The blasts are sounded in that order except that after the third blast, the first one, the Tekiah, is sounded again. Effectively, the second and third blasts are bracketed by the Tekiah, the single long blast. What is the significance of this repeat?

Wordless Sound

Lets first talk about why we sound the Shofar. If we have something to say on this holy day, why don’t we just say it? To trumpet wordless sounds evokes caveman images of times when language was nascent and the verbal spectrum was too limited to convey complex ideas. We now know how to articulate, why don’t we?

The answer is that we articulate plenty on these days of awe. We stand for hours on end, turning page upon page of prayer and plea. But there is a level of emotion that cannot be articulated, it is a depth beyond words. That camber can only be accessed through wordless sound. 

Every language has an equivalent of the word ouch. Yet, no matter which language we speak, when we experience very intense and pervasive pain, we just scream. We don’t say, I am in pain, we don’t even say, ouch. Instead we emit a shout so guttural that it communicates a pain beyond words. Words can’t capture such deep and pervasive pain. It can only be conveyed through a shout.

The same is true of emotion. Some feelings can be communicated through poetry. Deeper emotions, with a glance. Sometimes emotions are so intense that they evince tears of joy. Some emotions are so powerful, so deep, that all you can do is sigh and say aaaah.

Then there is the emotion beyond articulation. Even wordless sound can’t capture it. We can’t convey it. That is what we feel on Rosh Hashanah. It is a bond with G-d, so deep, vast and pervasive that no humanly emitted sound does it justice. Instead we use an instrument and sound a powerful blast. It blasts an opening in our hearts powerful enough to release torrents of deeply held and long repressed emotions. It blasts an opening in our souls through which an untapped yearning for G-d cascades.

Replenishing the River

The metaphor given for this is a riverbed that goes dry. After years of flowing, a combination of ecologic and climactic factors have conspire to dry out the river. One day you realize that your river has run dry. How do you refill it? You dig for a wellspring. When you reach it, the water rushes to the surface and refills your river. The river will now run full again, perhaps even fuller than before.

Our relationship with G-d sometimes runs dry when we take Him for granted and pay more attention to our interests than to His. Throughout the year we don’t notice that the water levels are dipping. There is still plenty of water left in the riverbed so we don’t take note. But when the river runs dry we can’t keep lying to ourselves. We have to sit up and take note.

On Rosh Hashanah we take a peek at our river and discover that it is dry. We need to replenish the connection, but where do we take it from? We need to find a new source because the old well has run dry. This is why we dig deep into our souls, to a place that is yet untapped, a place that is beyond articulation, to tap a new, fresh, hitherto unexperienced, connection with G-d.

in the Holy of Holies

This is why the moment of Shofar sounding is so spiritual and uplifting. We can feel the Shofar strum the strings of our soul. We can feel the vibrations deep within and the stirring release of powerful connections. This is why many Jews, who don’t frequent the synagogue throughout the year, make a point of attending on Rosh Hashanah. How can we miss it? It is the most meaningful and powerful experience in the repertoire of our tradition.

We stand silently and listen, evoking memories of the High Priest in the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year. He too stood silently, breathing not a word. When he stepped out of the Holy of Holies, he chanted a short prayer, with an emphasis on short, but in the room he was silent.

The connection he felt with G-d in that holy space was indescribable. Beyond words and beyond sound. When he stood there, he was not a private individual. He represented the entire nation. Every soul was within him. The reverence felt by him reverberated across every soul in the nation especially those who were present in the Temple at that time.

We don’t have the Temple today and aren’t able to experience the connection with G-d that was present then. And though we await its rebuilding every day with the coming of Moshiach, it is not here yet. In the meantime we must make do with an alternative. The closest we can get to that experience, is the wordless inarticulate blast of the Shofar’s horn.

The Repeating Blast

We now return to the repeating of the Tekiah, the single long blast. Of the three sounds, the long blast is the least articulate. Though the other sounds are also wordless, they have character. The Shevarim is a groan. The Teruah is a sob. They communicate a message that tells us what to feel. The Tekiah is just a cry. A deep piercing wail that says nothing. It comes from the depth and has no message beyond the simple, I am here.

The groaning and sobbing evinces remorse for having allowed our river to run dry. The Tekiah is the blasting that strikes a wellspring to refill it. The first Tekiah is the agonizing cry from our depths. The second Tekiah is G-d’s response from above. Just like our yearning emits from our depths, G-d’s response emerges from His depths. 

From the straits I call to G-d, from a vast expanse G-d responds. Our first blast calls out to G-d from the straits, the deep confined place that has never yet been tapped. The Divine response comes from the celestial wellspring that abounds with love and forgiveness. It is the wellspring that we sought to tap with our blast. The first blast gives voice to our desperation. The second blast gives voice to His answer.

In summation, the sounds of the Shofar communicate the following message. Tekiah, we are desperate for G-d, we yearn for G-d from our depths. Shevarim, Teruah, we are brokenhearted over having allowed our relationship to run dry. Tekiah, G-d responds with love and says, return my children return. No matter where you have roamed, you can always come back home.


Unlikely Facebook Friendship Saves Afghan Baby With Heart Defect

By Diaa Hadidaug - New York Times

HOLON, Israel — They had never met, but they were Facebook friends connected across thousands of miles. Together the two digital acquaintances — a young English teacher in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, and a retired State Department official living in Haifa, Israel — collaborated to save a baby in Pakistan with life-threatening congenital heart problems.

Yehia, now 14 months old, had been born with his two main arteries reversed and two holes in his heart. His parents, Afghans living in Peshawar, Pakistan, found a local specialist who could perform the necessary surgery, but the price tag was $7,000. It might as well have been seven figures to the child’s father, who makes his living selling flour. The family’s savings, $200, had already been depleted by medical bills.

On a trip to Afghanistan for a family wedding in April, they sought out a relative, Farhad Zaheer, a teacher in Jalalabad who speaks English and is active on social media. Could he help? “No problem,” Mr. Zaheer, 29, recalls telling them. “I said, ‘I know lots of people, and I will contact them.’”

Among the people he contacted was Anna Mussman, 69, who has both American and Israeli citizenship. Mr. Zaheer had sent Ms. Mussman a friend request in 2012 after he worked on a project training teachers in Nouristan Province, which Ms. Mussman was overseeing for the State Department. He remembered Ms. Mussman, he said, because she commented kindly on his posts.

Social media has flattened communications across the globe, sometimes allowing for remarkable connections like this.

“Hello dear Madam!” Mr. Zaheer wrote in a Facebook message, with a photo of young Yehia attached. “This boy is my cousin who has been suffering from hole in heart. If you can do anything for his good health, we would be very thankful to you.” Ms. Mussman, who was born to Holocaust survivors in a displaced persons camp in Germany, jumped. Within a few hours she had contacted Simon Fisher, the executive director of Save a Child’s Heart, an Israeli charity that she had heard about once on CNN. The group provides free surgeries to children from developing countries.

“I realize helping a child from a country which Israel has no diplomatic relations is not easy, but perhaps possible,” Ms. Mussman wrote to Mr. Fisher in an email. “Thanks so much and Shabbat Shalom.”

It did not get any less complicated from there. Numerous other strangers and acquaintances helped plot a multicountry medical odyssey that barely skirted last month’s failed coup attempt in Turkey and culminated in an eight-hour surgery on July 30 at Wolfson Medical Center here in Holon, a city near Tel Aviv.

Yehia — whose father spoke on the condition that the family name not be published for fear of a backlash if it became known he had taken the boy to Israel for treatment — is the first Afghan treated by Save a Child’s Heart in its 20 years of operations. About half the charity’s 4,000 patients have been Palestinian; 200 others were children from Iraq and Syria, and the roster includes patients from Tanzania, Ethiopia and Moldova.

Israel boosters often highlight such programs as examples of the small nation’s outsized humanitarian efforts, including to hostile neighbors. Leora Robinson, a second-year medical student in Britain who is doing an internship at the charity, said that it provided an important counterpoint to portrayals of Israel as an occupier of Palestinian land, as she saw on campus during Israel Apartheid Week. “It opens eyes to the fact that this country doesn’t just have one side to it,” Ms. Robinson said.

But Tony Laurance, head of a group called Medical Aid for Palestine, said that while providing children “world-class surgery” was “an unequivocal good,” it should not obscure the broader impact of Israeli policies on medical care for Palestinians. Gaza hospitals are perennially short of medicine, equipment and well-trained staff because of Israeli restrictions on travel and trade, and many Gaza residents struggle to get exit permits for care outside the territory.

“What gets up my nose,” Mr. Laurance said, “is that it presents an image of Israel that betrays the reality.”

Mr. Fisher, executive director of Save a Child’s Heart, said his organization did not represent Israel’s government, “but it does represent Israeli society.” Private Jewish donors provide most of the $3.5 million annual budget, he said, and about 70 health care workers volunteer their time.

It was Mr. Fisher who, drawing on years of contacts, obtained Israeli visas for Yehia and his father after Ms. Mussman contacted him. But they would have to travel through Turkey.

Mr. Zaheer, the Jalalabad teacher, ever-confident, finagled his way into the Turkish Embassy in Kabul, where a sympathetic guard slipped him the email address of a Turkish diplomat. Ms. Mussman, the former State Department official, had put Mr. Zaheer in touch with Fary Moini, an Iranian-American who had worked in Jalalabad and had connections there. Ms. Mussman had met Ms. Moini during a stint in Jalalabad. At Mr. Zaheer’s request, Ms. Moini wrote a moving letter to the diplomat, whom she did not know, pleading for visas for Yehia and his father, and within a day, Mr. Zaheer picked them up.

Ms. Moini volunteered to meet Yehia and his father in Istanbul, accompany them to Tel Aviv, and be an extra pair of hands to care for him.

But her July 15 flight was canceled because of the attempted coup in Turkey. Save a Child’s Heart managed to find her a last-minute flight out of Toronto to Istanbul.

Mr. Fisher of Save a Child’s Heart worked to find a translator to help the father, who speaks Urdu and Pashto, communicate with the Hebrew-speaking staff. He remembered that during his time in the Israeli Army he had served with a soldier whose mother came from Kabul’s ancient Jewish community. He called the soldier, Yossi Betsalel — could his mother, Tsipora, translate? No, Mr. Betsalel said, she had long forgotten her native tongue. But she had a relative – Jacob Gul, 56, a retired rug seller, who had left Kabul 32 years ago and was probably still proficient. Mr. Gul immediately agreed to translate, and Ms. Betsalel ended up visiting Yehia in the hospital frequently.

Unaware of those efforts, back in Jalalabad, Mr. Zaheer contacted another Facebook connection he had never met: Michael Davidson, a 70-year-old Israeli who had immigrated from India in 1978 — and who speaks Urdu. Mr. Davidson and Mr. Gul were both on hand in Holon for the surgery, along with Ms. Moini and Ms. Betsalel, who said she had closed her clothing shop early because she could not concentrate while Yehia was having his operation.

Dr. Yahyu Mekonnen, 33, an Ethiopian surgeon, opened Yehia’s chest. Dr. Lior Sasson, who headed an operating team of nearly a dozen people, hummed an Israeli song while they stopped his tiny heart, to patch it up.

Eventually, they wheeled Yehia out, covered in bandages, even over his eyes. His father was surrounded by a makeshift family he had only just met.

“You can cry,” Mr. Davidson urged.

Mr. Gul offered a tissue. Ms. Moini touched his shoulder. Ms. Betsalel showed him photos of his son on her iPhone.

The father broke through his sobs with a polite smile.


Running Away from Peace

By Ilan Evyatar - Jersulam  Post

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas meets Israeli delegation in Ramallah, May 17, 2016. 

Not quite in the Olympic spirit, there is a two-horse race to the finish line that neither side seems to want to win.

The race that is to reach a lasting, just and comprehensive Israeli-Palestinian peace.

According to the Palestinian newspaper Al-Quds, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas recently turned down a request from US Secretary of State John Kerry that he meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to try and get the “peace process” rolling again.

Abbas, the report said, insisted that Netanyahu freeze all settlement construction and go ahead with a prisoner release that was agreed upon as part of the US brokered talks that collapsed in the spring of 2014, since when there have been no direct talks between the two leaders. Abbas also reportedly said that a direct meeting would circumvent French and Arab proposals – as if they were on the cusp of a breakthrough.

Both sides claim to be willing and ready for peace: Netanyahu has said repeatedly that he is willing to meet Abbas “anytime, anywhere.” Abbas told Israeli journalists back in April that Netanyahu is a partner for peace, and negotiator Gershon Baskin said Abbas had told him that he had made offers to meet with Netanyahu – offers that Netanyahu’s office denies.

Both sides accuse the other of stalling: “When Netanyahu is talking about direct talks, negotiations and meeting the [PA] president he wants to buy more time,” PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah said recently.

There are no peace talks, Netanyahu told the Knesset in July because Abbas “runs away, runs away, runs away, because he knows that he will have to make concessions – concessions on Jaffa, concessions on Acre, concessions on Beersheba. This is the simple truth.

That running away comment reminded me of a lecture I attended recently by veteran Arab affairs correspondent Ehud Ya’ari – parts of which I quoted on a column on the Islamic State threat to Israel.

Ya’ari, too, says the Palestinians are “running away from statehood.”

They have decided, he explains, that a statelet in the West Bank and east Jerusalem – a mini-state in their eyes – is not something for which they are willing to make the inevitable concessions they would have to make in order reach some sort of compromise with Israel.

For that mini-state, Ya’ari continues, they are not willing to give up right of return for the “refugees,” they are not willing to recognize Jewish heritage in Jerusalem, which the Palestinians, including Abbas, continue to deny. The Palestinian national movement, he says, will not be satisfied with getting a 1967-border state they believe will be locked behind a fence, and if Israel wishes, will be cut off from the benefits of its economy.

“What the Palestinians are saying to us,” says Ya’ari, “is that it’s either runaway statehood – i.e. they get the ’67 borders for free just like they got Gaza in 2005 with the Israeli withdrawal, but if it has to be part of a compromise deal with Israel resolving all outstanding issues, then no way. It’s either runaway statehood or running away from statehood.”

Ya’ari believes that it’s a matter of time before the Palestinians rescind the 1993 letter from PLO head Yasser Arafat to former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin recognizing Israel’s right to exist and that they are seriously deliberating suspending the Oslo accords and “collapsing into Israel’s unwilling arms.”

Such a scenario leaves Israel needing to push an initiative of its own – Ya’ari proposes an interim statehood backed by international security guarantees.

Any such move would require a broad coalition with Labor and as we know, Netanyahu opted instead to bring Avigdor Liberman into his coalition.

The Palestinians may be running, but the Netanyahu government isn’t chasing after them to bring them to the table, neither is it pushing any initiative of its own other than vague talk of a confluence of interests with moderate Sunni Arab countries that creates “historic opportunities.”

In this race, everyone is a loser.


Surf City Tel Aviv

By H. Bradley

With sea temperatures reaching tropical levels, during the summer months, sandy beaches for hundreds of kilometers and a respectable supply of waves, it is no marvel that Tel Aviv, is acquiring the title of “Surf City”, in the eastern Mediterranean. It won’t be hard to imagine Tel Aviv as the “Durban of Israel”.

Although Israel has decades long history of wave riding - The eccentric Dorian “Doc” Paskowitz is credited as the father of Israeli surfing, introducing surfing to Israel back in the 50’s - surfing was always an after thought at Israel’s popular beaches.

Not anymore. The surf bug has truly bitten and a thriving surf scene has taken root  - especially in the capital.

Arrive in Tel Aviv on any given day when the “waves are working” surfer speak meaning good waves – and you are likely to see surfers of all ages, backgrounds and ethnicities “shredding” - another term for good surfing - the waves that pour out of the Med and peel along the beaches. “Spots” - surf speak for where the waves break the best - like Gazebbo and Marina Beach is likely to have the most consistent waves, and crowds of wave riders, in the city. 

Perhaps the biggest sign that surfing culture is well established in Israel, is the international credit it is receiving., one of the most reputed surf forecasting websites, has dedicated live HD beach cameras to stream the waves of some of the popular beaches to the world-wide-web. Streaming live video takes a lot of clever people and resources to maintain. Consider that Durban, with its embedded surfing culture and thousands of surfers, has not been afforded this.

Not to say that Tel Aviv trumps Durban. Waves tend to go flat in Tel Aviv, for days on end, something rare in Durban. A live video of a surfers favorite “local”a word surfers use to refer to where they surf the most - is perhaps a more cherished instrument. Being able to know that the waves are “Cooking” - when the waves are REALLY good - , is both a science and an art form, something surfers take years to acquire.

Regardless of how often the waves are breaking in Tel Aviv, as with Durban back in the 80’s, it is no doubt that surfing can be the next big thing. We may even be talking Pokemon Go big! Wonder if Shaun Tomson ever “got barreled” at Tel Aviv?


Balfour notes

By: Alex Ryvchin - The Spectator

For the Jewish people the tiny sliver of land between the Jordan River and the eastern Mediterranean coast has always been their nation’s birthplace and homeland, the fountainhead of the Hebrew language and Jewish civilisation, thought and culture. It is from this land that the Jews were dispersed among the nations and, as enshrined in Israel’s Declaration
of Independence
, the Jewish people, ‘impelled by this historic and traditional attachment, strove in every successive generation to re-establish themselves in their ancient homeland.’

Despite the weight of their history and its primary place in the Jewish national consciousness, the Jews have never allowed their tragic and tumultuous past to impede the development of their future. Nowhere is this more evident than in the crystallisation of the Jewish yearning to return and self-govern, into a coherent national liberation movement rooted in decolonisation and indigenous rights, which restored the Jews to their ancestral lands and saw the rebirth of a Jewish homeland.

For the Palestinian people, their conception of history has also played a central part in the development of a national consciousness and has determined the trajectory of their own national movement.

The enduring symbol of the Palestinian condition has become the ‘key of return’, evoking the physical keys from properties Palestinians left behind during the failed Arab military invasion that was intended to throttle Israel at birth. The cherished keys recall the yearning of Palestinians also to return, both to the land in a physical sense and in a more potent ideological framing, a return to what they believe was a better time, a time before Israel.

But rather than being a source of strength and purpose from which to build something hopeful and constructive, the Palestinian conception of history has overwhelmingly been a source of bitterness, its manifestations have been frequently destructive, invariably tragic. The resulting wars, terror campaigns and petulant storm-outs from peace summits, have preserved the Palestinian view of history, and sustained the people in a perfect belief in their own victimhood at the cost of achieving a Palestinian State and finally ending the conflict.

Now the Palestinian leadership has taken its people’s national struggle into the realms of the satirical. The Palestinian foreign minister, Riyad al-Malki, announced at an Arab League summit in Mauritania that the Palestinians intend to commence legal action against Britain for proclaiming the Balfour Declaration in November 1917.

Written by foreign secretary Arthur Balfour, the seminal letter declared British support for the establishment of a ‘national home’ for the Jewish people in the territorial region then known as Palestine which was under the dominion of the crumbling Ottoman Empire. 70 per cent of the territory was subsequently cleaved off for the formation of a new Arab emirate of Transjordan (later the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan) on the east bank of the Jordan River.

The Declaration was given legally binding force in April 1920, following the end of World War I, when a Council of the victorious Allied and Associated Powers met at San Remo and granted Britain a mandate to govern the territory of Palestine on terms which included the pledge to help establish a Jewish national home. Those terms were ratified by the League of Nations in July 1922.

Writing in the Guardian, Ian Black called the latest stunt by the Palestinians ‘a stretch’ that ‘attracted more ridicule than serious analysis’. But the tenacity of the Palestinians in pursuing their objectives in international forums must not be underestimated, no matter how inconsequential or misguided these attempts ultimately prove to be.

In foreshadowing the law suit, the Palestinian foreign minister railed that the British ‘gave people who don’t belong there something that wasn’t theirs.’

In fact, the Balfour Declaration gave nothing to anyone. It simply expressed British support for the idea that the Jews, a people indigenous to the land, should be able to return there to reconstitute their national home if they so desired following the collapse of Ottoman colonial rule.

It was the League of Nations, the predecessor of the United Nations, and not a solitary British minister, that recognised the ‘historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine’ and the ‘grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country.’ It further encouraged ‘close settlement by Jews on the land’.

These binding international pronouncements, published decades before the Nazi period, demonstrate that Jewish national rights were recognised long before the Holocaust made the justice of a Jewish homeland, not only self-evident, but urgent. They also make nonsense of the proposition often put by Palestinian advocates that Israel was allowed to be created by the European powers to make others pay for their sins in relation to the destruction of European Jewry.

Boorish and unconscionable as al-Maliki’s statement was, it had an unintended virtue. It laid bare the true, but often disguised, Palestinian position that Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people, has no place in any part of the land. This is the only genuinely insurmountable point of difference between Israelis and Palestinians. The Palestinian leaders have also demonstrated the extraordinary lengths to which they will go to mire their people in a sense of grievance and entitlement instead of preparing them for the compromises necessary to finally achieve their own state.


Knesset building inaugurated 50 years ago this month

The Knesset building on Givat Ram in Jerusalem was inaugurated in a grand state ceremony 50 years ago this month. Some 6,000 guests, including heads of state, came to the ceremony, while some 5,000 Israelis watched it from the hills across from the legislature.

The Knesset as a legislative body began operating in 1949, and it travelled between a few buildings in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv at that time. In 1950, it met in Frumin House in the heart of Jerusalem. This ‘temporary’ house served the legislature for 16 years, thanks to delays in construction of the Givat Ram site.

Fifty years ago, the former president Shimon Peres was a young MK. He recalled the ceremony with pride to Ynet: “The inauguration of the Knesset building was a holiday for the country and a moving event for the entire nation. The day that the building was inaugurated was the day that the young State of Israel adopted the real democratic system.” 

Peres also said, “There was a real excitement and elation, similar to the day that the UN announced the decision to establish the State of Israel. Here, we launched the democratic foundation of the state. It was elation and a sense of the historic moment that we were laying the infrastructure for the democratic future of the young State of Israel.” 

In 1957, the architect Ossip Klarwein won a competition to design the Givat Ram building. However, the building that ended up being inaugurated was completely different from his plans, instead being a blend of various architects who changed during the nine years of the building’s planning and construction. The building was inaugurated on August 30, 1966, and the very next day, the MKs met therein.

The then-speaker of the Knesset, Kadish Luz, said at the time, “Here, on this hill of the hills of Jerusalem, the capital, we inaugurate the permanent home of the Knesset. Marking 18 years of the State of Israel, a home has been given to the highest institution, the source of all authority, rule and law in Israel. We have fulfilled ancient prophecies. Faith in the future return to Zion, recognition of the national unity of the tribes of Israel, and adherence to the spiritual assets that the Jewish nation has carried for thousands of years of dispersion throughout the world were the principal spiritual cause for its revival and thriving.”

The prime minister of the day, Levi Eshkol, said at the ceremony, “This building, which will house inside it the country’s legislature, constitutes a symbol of the rebirth of Israel in its land, a sign of the renewal of its sovereignty, and a testimony to its mind for developed democracy. Democracy in Israel took shape in difficult times, times of trial, days of crises and state, military, economic and social challenges. It took shape in a bitter struggle against hostility, threats and attacks from outside.”

He added, “On the anvil of the Knesset will be forged the people’s national unity; between its walls will form the wonderful union of children returned to their borders after the terrible destruction that befell them. Here will be unified Israel, which carried its pack on its eternal wanderings, its culture and its hope for other days, with which its existence was fought for, despite its dispersion and incessant pain, fought for and attained.


Australia, Germany suspend World Vision aid over Hamas funding accusations

By: Reuters, Associated Press

The international charity World Vision says Israel has accused the charity’s Gaza Strip director of funneling what appears to be an impossible sum of money to Hamas.

Israel’s Shin Bet security agency says Mohammed el-Halabi confessed to siphoning about $7.2 million a year to Hamas over five years. The agency says this is roughly 60 percent of World Vision’s total Gaza budget.

World Vision Germany spokeswoman Silvia Holten said on Monday the charity’s budget in Gaza in the last decade totaled $22.5 million. She says World Vision has stopped its Gaza operations amid investigations. Germany has suspended donations to World Vision in Gaza.

Meanwhile, Australia said on Friday it was suspending funding for relief group’s operations in the Palestinian Territories.

Mohammad El Halabi was World Vision’s manager of operations in Gaza, and was arrested by Israel on June 15 while crossing the border into the enclave.

According to the Shin Bet, el-Halabi crafted an elaborate scheme to funnel funds, food, medical supplies and agricultural equipment to Hamas. He fraudulently listed the children of Hamas operatives as wounded, created straw organizations, and inflated project costs to divert cash, the agency said. Building supplies intended to support farming projects were transferred to Hamas for constructing tunnels and military installations, according to the Shin Bet.

Israeli Foreign Ministry Spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon speculated that World Vision’s budget does not include in-kind donations.

“They are trying to belittle their role and to show they are much smaller than they really are,” Nahshon said of World Vision. He did not provide proof of his claim, but said el-Halabi’s legal team will have access to the evidence. He added that el-Halabi confessed to his crimes.

World Vision said it was shocked by the claims, and a Hamas spokesman said the group had no connection with Halabi.

Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) called the allegations “deeply troubling” and said in a statement that it was “urgently seeking more information from World Vision and the Israeli authorities.”

“We are suspending the provision of further funding to World Vision for programs in the Palestinian Territories until the investigation is complete,” it said.

Israel welcomed the decision and said it has passed on details of the case to a number of countries from where money is being sent to Gaza.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry said it “calls on the organization and others dealing in aid to the Gaza Strip to examine themselves and their local partners.”

Australia has paid World Vision approximately A$5.7 million ($4.35 million) over the past three financial years for the provision of aid in the Palestinian Territories, a DFAT spokesman said.


Victims of terror wave mourn losses ahead of Memorial Day

Omri Efraim - YNET

As Israel was preparing to mark Memorial Day for fallen soldiers and victims of terrorism, the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ) hosted a memorial to victims of the recent ongoing wave of terrorism on Monday night in Jerusalem.

 The event was attended by families of those murdered, along with those who were either wounded in or survived attacks.

“I never believed that on Memorial Day I would be speaking about a girl who gave her life for the country,” said Ofer Cohen, the father of Hadar Cohen who was murdered in a terror attack in February at the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem.

Also speaking at the event was Avi Damri, the widower of Simcha Damri who was murdered in the Istanbul terror attack last March. “The physical pain is the easy part of coping, but this abyss of loss and is impossible,” he said in a conversation with Ynet. “Our lives have changed since. Simcha was the main anchor that ensured all of us remained a united and happy family. I, and our four children, have been saying that since Simcha (Hebrew for happiness) left us, so did our happiness,” Avi said.

According to data released on Monday by the National Insurance Institute, since September, 29 people have been killed and 379 wounded in terror attacks. In total, since the end of Israel’s War of Independence, 2,576 civilians have been killed in terror attacks. Terror attacks have also left 3,011 orphans, 107 of whom have lost both parents, 975 widows and widowers and 972 bereaved parents.

Ofer Cohen shared his feelings about his daughter’s death: “Now that I know the details of the attack, I understand that I raised a girl with a special soul. My daughter Hadar killed the terrorists and saved lives. We’ve been embraced by the people of Israel and this helps us to cope with the difficult situation,” he continued. “I won’t lie. We have no comfort in the face of this gaping hole left behind by Hadar. She was a fighter of Israel but for us she was my little daughter. We take comfort when we hear, for example, that there are already four girls named after her.”

aptain Ziv Shilon, who was seriously injured and lost his hand in 2012 during an explosion on the Gaza border, came to support the wounded terror victims. “Big people in this country cope with big challenges. If we, the wounded, know how to overcome the small things, nothing will stop us.”

Maya Rahami, 25, who was moderately wounded last October in an attack in Armon HaNetziv in Jerusalem, also spoke at the ceremony. “I escaped the shooting on the bus when I bent down on my seat and prayed for my life. When I tried to flee, the terrorist stabbed me. I came out alive by a miracle,” she said. “The fear never goes away. It becomes an inseparable part of your life. It’s scary to get on a bus, or even to pass youths on the street, but my desire is to keeping moving and looking forward even during highs and lows.”

Natan Meir, who lost his wife Dafna in an attack in Otniel in January, told the wounded and the bereaved families that his wife would have wanted to “choose life.” He added that “This is the hardest commandment of all for us - for the bereaved families. The challenge is to choose life and therefore my children and I are trying to get up every morning, even when we don’t want to, and to choose life. This is our right and duty and we thank everyone who helped us on the way.”

Meir Pavlovsky, 31, who was wounded on the final night of the festival of Sukkot in October, in a stabbing attack in Hebron, attended the event with his girlfriend, who has become his fiancée since the attack. “The terrorist was hiding behind the Sukkah and then he jumped, pulled out a knife and while shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ stabbed me three times in my stomach and back,” recalled Pavlovsky. “I made my way to the city where I collapsed and paramedics saved me.”

After the attack, Pavlovsky was hospitalized for an extensive period of time, while the terrorist who stabbed him was arrested shortly before Passover. “It is a special feeling to be here with people who have had similar experiences. It is a good feeling to be able to speak with people, some with whom you share similar experiences, and try to help them.” 

The president for the IFCJ, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, praised the victims’ courage: “It was important for us to say to you that you are heroes. Sometimes, after more and more attacks, people become discouraged. You are heroes who aren’t discouraged and continue to hold onto life. No one can feel the extent of your pain, but it is important for every Israeli citizen to understand our debt to you.” 


Victims of terror wave mourn losses ahead of Memorial Day

Omri Efraim - YNET

As Israel was preparing to mark Memorial Day for fallen soldiers and victims of terrorism, the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ) hosted a memorial to victims of the recent ongoing wave of terrorism on Monday night in Jerusalem.

 The event was attended by families of those murdered, along with those who were either wounded in or survived attacks.

“I never believed that on Memorial Day I would be speaking about a girl who gave her life for the country,” said Ofer Cohen, the father of Hadar Cohen who was murdered in a terror attack in February at the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem.

Also speaking at the event was Avi Damri, the widower of Simcha Damri who was murdered in the Istanbul terror attack last March. “The physical pain is the easy part of coping, but this abyss of loss and is impossible,” he said in a conversation with Ynet. “Our lives have changed since. Simcha was the main anchor that ensured all of us remained a united and happy family. I, and our four children, have been saying that since Simcha (Hebrew for happiness) left us, so did our happiness,” Avi said.

According to data released on Monday by the National Insurance Institute, since September, 29 people have been killed and 379 wounded in terror attacks. In total, since the end of Israel’s War of Independence, 2,576 civilians have been killed in terror attacks. Terror attacks have also left 3,011 orphans, 107 of whom have lost both parents, 975 widows and widowers and 972 bereaved parents.

Ofer Cohen shared his feelings about his daughter’s death: “Now that I know the details of the attack, I understand that I raised a girl with a special soul. My daughter Hadar killed the terrorists and saved lives. We’ve been embraced by the people of Israel and this helps us to cope with the difficult situation,” he continued. “I won’t lie. We have no comfort in the face of this gaping hole left behind by Hadar. She was a fighter of Israel but for us she was my little daughter. We take comfort when we hear, for example, that there are already four girls named after her.”

aptain Ziv Shilon, who was seriously injured and lost his hand in 2012 during an explosion on the Gaza border, came to support the wounded terror victims. “Big people in this country cope with big challenges. If we, the wounded, know how to overcome the small things, nothing will stop us.”

Maya Rahami, 25, who was moderately wounded last October in an attack in Armon HaNetziv in Jerusalem, also spoke at the ceremony. “I escaped the shooting on the bus when I bent down on my seat and prayed for my life. When I tried to flee, the terrorist stabbed me. I came out alive by a miracle,” she said. “The fear never goes away. It becomes an inseparable part of your life. It’s scary to get on a bus, or even to pass youths on the street, but my desire is to keeping moving and looking forward even during highs and lows.”

Natan Meir, who lost his wife Dafna in an attack in Otniel in January, told the wounded and the bereaved families that his wife would have wanted to “choose life.” He added that “This is the hardest commandment of all for us - for the bereaved families. The challenge is to choose life and therefore my children and I are trying to get up every morning, even when we don’t want to, and to choose life. This is our right and duty and we thank everyone who helped us on the way.”

Meir Pavlovsky, 31, who was wounded on the final night of the festival of Sukkot in October, in a stabbing attack in Hebron, attended the event with his girlfriend, who has become his fiancée since the attack. “The terrorist was hiding behind the Sukkah and then he jumped, pulled out a knife and while shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ stabbed me three times in my stomach and back,” recalled Pavlovsky. “I made my way to the city where I collapsed and paramedics saved me.”

After the attack, Pavlovsky was hospitalized for an extensive period of time, while the terrorist who stabbed him was arrested shortly before Passover. “It is a special feeling to be here with people who have had similar experiences. It is a good feeling to be able to speak with people, some with whom you share similar experiences, and try to help them.” 

The president for the IFCJ, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, praised the victims’ courage: “It was important for us to say to you that you are heroes. Sometimes, after more and more attacks, people become discouraged. You are heroes who aren’t discouraged and continue to hold onto life. No one can feel the extent of your pain, but it is important for every Israeli citizen to understand our debt to you.” 


The Meaning of True Independence

By: Col. Richard Kemp - Israel Hayom


These were the words of Prime Minister Menachem Begin delivered to the U.S. President Ronald Reagan in December 1981. Begin, one of the greatest leaders and fighters of our times, knew the meaning of true independence. 

He knew that it was not about firecrackers, dancing in the streets or lighting flames. It was about standing up for yourself and submitting to no man. Declaring to the world, “this is where we stand.”

Israel’s independence was bought at a high price in Jewish blood, fighting first against the might of the British Empire and then against five powerful Arab armies which sought its destruction.

For 68 years Israelis have fought again and again to defend their independence against enemies who would subjugate their country. No other nation has struggled so long and so hard, surrounded by such unyielding hostility. But in making their stand, Israelis have never had to stand alone. From the beginning, Jews from the U.K., the U.S., Europe, Australia, South Africa and around the world rallied to the fight for independence under the glorious banner of the Mahal. Among them were non-Jews, including a Christian soldier from my own regiment.

In the years since, and even today, the courage of their young successors, the “lone soldiers”’ of the diaspora, travelling thousands of miles from the safety of their homes to stand and fight here to preserve Israel’s independence, inspires awe and humility. As Begin said: “This is the land of their forefathers, and they have a right and a duty to support it.”

Israel’s independence has a strength that cannot be known by those who have not had to struggle for their freedom. What is the meaning of this independence?

It means that Israel’s right to exist is not to be sanctioned by the peoples of the Middle East or by the leaders of the Western world. It is to be determined only by the Jewish people who, down the millennia, have fought, suffered and died for that inalienable right.

It means that Israel is not to have its borders imposed by international bodies or by foreign states, no matter how powerful they might be. It means that Israelis are not to be dictated to about where they can and cannot settle in their land. It means that Israel is not to be told how it may or may not defend the lives of its people under the sovereign independence of the law. It means that Israel is not to be lectured or scolded about human rights by those that have no glimmer of understanding of what human rights truly are.

The civilized world has an obligation to respect this independence just as it respects the independence of other free, democratic nations.

Israel has shown mankind how a besieged nation - against all odds - can survive and flourish, decide its own destiny and unwaveringly retain its honour, its decency, its dignity, its integrity and its compassion. It was not for nothing that British Premier Winston Churchill described the Jewish people as “beyond any question, the most formidable and most remarkable race which has appeared in the world.”

Today not just Israel but the whole of civilization should celebrate the independence of the nation that continues to shine a beacon light onto that world.

Col. Richard Kemp is a former commander of the British Forces in Afghanistan.


The Arabs’ Real Grievance against the Jews

By Fred Maroun - Gatestone Institute

As Arabs, we are very adept at demanding that our human rights be respected, at least when we live in liberal democracies such as in North America, Europe, and Israel. But what about when it comes to our respecting the human rights of others, particularly Jews?

When we examine our attitude towards Jews, both historically and at present, we realize that it is centered on denying Jews the most fundamental human right, the right without which no other human right is relevant: the right to exist.

The right to exist in the Middle East before 1948

Anti-Zionists often repeat the claim that before modern Israel, Jews were able to live in peace in the Middle East, and that it is the establishment of the State of Israel that created Arab hostility towards Jews. That is a lie.

Before modern Israel, as the historian Martin Gilbert wrote, “Jews held the inferior status of dhimmi, which, despite giving them protection to worship according to their own faith, subjected them to many vexatious and humiliating restrictions in their daily lives.” As another historian, G.E. von Grunebaum, wrote, Jews in the Middle East faced “a lengthy list of persecutions, arbitrary confiscations, attempted forced conversions, or pogroms.”

The right to exist as an independent state

Zionism stemmed from the need for Jews to be masters of their own fate; no longer to be the victims of discrimination or massacres simply for being Jews. This project was accepted and formally recognized by the British, who had been granted a mandate over Palestine by the League of Nations. The Arab world, however, never accepted the recognition formulated by Britain in the Balfour Declaration of 1917, and it never accepted the partition plan approved by the United Nations in 1947, which recognized the right of the Jews to their own state.

The Arab refusal to accept the Jewish state’s right to exist, a right that carries more international legal weight than almost any other country’s right to exist, resulted in several wars, starting with the war of independence in 1948-1949. The Arab world still does not today accept the concept of a Jewish state of any size or any shape. Even Egypt and Jordan, which signed peace agreements with Israel, do not accept that Israel is a Jewish state, and they continue to promote anti-Semitic hatred against Israel.

The right to exist in Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem

In 2005, Israel evacuated all its troops and all Jewish inhabitants from Gaza, in the hope that this would bring peace at least on that front, and to allow the Gaza Strip, vacated by Jews, to be a flourishing Arab Riviera, or a second Singapore, and perhaps to serve as a model for the West Bank. The experiment failed miserably. This is a case where Jews willingly gave up their right to exist on a piece of land, but sadly the Palestinians of Gaza took it not as opportunity for peace, but as a sign that if you keep on shooting at Jews, they leave -- so let’s keep on shooting.

There are many opinions among Zionists as to what to do about the 

West Bank. These opinions range from a total unilateral withdrawal as in Gaza, to a full annexation, with many options in between. At the moment, the status quo prevails, with no specific plans for the future.

Everyone, however, despite the treacherous UNESCO’s rewriting of history, knows that before that piece of land was called the West Bank, it was called Judea and Samaria for more than two thousand years.

Everyone knows that Hebron contains the traditional burial site of the biblical Patriarchs and Matriarchs, within the Cave of the Patriarchs, and it is considered the second-holiest site in Judaism. Every reasonable person knows that Jews should unquestionably have the right to exist on that land, even if it is under Arab or Muslim jurisdiction. Yet everyone also knows that no Arab regime is capable or even willing to protect the safety of Jews living under its jurisdiction from the anti-Semitic hatred that emanates from the Arab world.

East Jerusalem, which was carved away by the Kingdom of Jordan from the rest of Jerusalem during the war of independence, is part of Jerusalem, and contains the Temple Mount, the Jews’ holiest site. The Old City in East Jerusalem, was inhabited by Jews up until they were ethnically cleansed by Jordan in the war of 1948-1949.

Although Israel has twice in the past, first under Prime Minister Ehud Barak then under Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, offered East Jerusalem as part of a Palestinian state, that offer is not likely to be made again. Jews know that it would mean a new wave of ethnic cleansing, which would deny the Jewish right to exist on the piece of land where that right is more important than anywhere else.

The right to exist in the Middle East now

During Israel’s War of Independence, Jews were ethnically cleansed from Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem, and in the years that followed, they were ethnically cleansed from the rest of the Arab world.

Today, Israel’s enemies, many of them Arab, are challenging its right to exist, and therefore the right of Jews to exist, on two fronts: threats of nuclear annihilation and annihilation through demographic suffocation.

Iran’s Islamist regime has repeated several times its intention to destroy Israel using nuclear weapons. Just in case Iran is not “successful,” the so-called “pro-Palestinian” movement, including the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, has a different plan to destroy the Jewish state: a single state with the “return” of all the descendants of Palestinian refugees. The refusal of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and his predecessor Yasser Arafat to accept any two-state solution presented to them is part of that plan.

The right to exist elsewhere

Anti-Zionists claim that Jews are imperialists in the Middle East, as were the British and the French, and like them, they should leave and go back to where they belong. This analogy is of course not true: Jews have an even longer history in the Middle East than do Muslims or Arabs.

Do Jews belong in Europe, which tried only a few decades ago to kill every Jew, man, woman, or child? Do Jews belong in North America where until a few hundred years ago, there were no Europeans, only Indians?

Saying that Jews “belong” in such places is not reality; it is just a convenient claim for anti-Zionists to make.

The Jews will not give up

As Arabs, we complain because Palestinians feel humiliated going through Israeli checkpoints. We complain because Israel is building in the West Bank without Palestinian permission, and we complain because Israel dares to defend itself against Palestinian terrorists. But how many of us have stopped to consider how this situation came to be? How many of us have the courage to admit that waging war after war against the Jews in order to deny them the right to exist, and refusing every reasonable solution to the conflict, has led to the current situation?

Our message to Jews, throughout history and particularly when they had the temerity to want to govern themselves, has been clear: we cannot tolerate your very existence.

Yet the Jews demand the right to exist and to exist as equals on the land where they have existed and belonged continuously for more than three thousand years.

In addition, denying a people the right to exist is a crime of unimaginable proportions. We Arabs pretend that our lack of respect for the right of Jews to exist is not the cause of the conflict between the Jews and us. We would rather claim that the conflict is about “occupation” and “settlements”. They see what radical Islamists are now doing to Christians and other minorities, who were also in the Middle East for thousands of years before the Muslim Prophet Mohammed was even born: Yazidis, Kurds, Christians, Copts, Assyrians, Arameans, and many others. Where are these indigenous people of Iraq, Syria and Egypt now? Are they living freely or are they being persecuted, run out of their own historical land, slaughtered by Islamists? Jews know that this is what would have happened to them if they did not have their own state.

The real Arab grievance against the Jews is that they exist. We want the Jews either to disappear or be subservient to our whims, but the Jews refuse to bend to our bigotry, and they refuse to be swayed by our threats and our slander.

Who in his right mind can blame them?


Welcome to the greenest building in Israel

- By Karin Kloosterman – Israel21c

A strange-looking capsule made of curved bamboo strips (sustainably harvested, of course) pops out from a south-facing wall of sun-collecting tubes.

The intention of building such an odd accessory into Israel’s latest and foremost “green” building for the Porter School of Environment Studies at Tel Aviv University really was to scream “look at me” as thousands of Israelis make the daily commute into or across Tel Aviv.

Built atop the highest part of Tel Aviv on a precipice that hangs over the city’s main artery, the Ayalon Highway, the new edifice - Israel’s first LEED Platinum-certified building - sits outside the main belt of the campus beside the university’s unusual Urban Safari. While it was once a dumping ground, today this is prime real estate close to the train station.

The Porter School was established about 15 years ago, and oversees an estimated 150 master’s students and 60 aspiring PhDs every year. Now it finally has a home fitting of an environment school that attracts overseas students and visitors. ISRAEL21c got a private tour before the building opens for the coming school year.

Indoor wetlands

With no security perimeter, the Porter School welcomes guests with wetlands. A series of open gray-water collection pools recycles water from the building, turning it fresh with the help of water lilies.

Standing at a shaded entrance, Porter PhD student Hofit Itzhak Ben Shalom shows us the features that architects built in to ensure minimal energy will be consumed by the building and people using it.

“Notice no elevators?” she points out. “We have elevators, of course, but we’ve hidden them. We want people to think about taking the stairs automatically.”

There are about 300 sunny days per year in Israel. In the summer, the heat can be unbearable. Reducing the energy costs of cooling the building was a key factor in its construction.

It was designed by about 40 people from Axelrod-Grobman Architects; Chen Architects and Joseph Cory’s Geotectura Studio.

To deal with the intense heat of the sun, the building is in three layers to shield people working in its labs and offices. A series of enclosed patios are for public expo rooms. Solar tubes collect energy from the sun and simultaneously shade occupants from its rays. The tubes, in fact, generate about 30 percent of the energy used by the school. Water in the tubes gets heated, and up on the roof this heat drives turbines that create power.

On the wall with the solar tubes hangs an egg-shaped capsule where students and teachers can “float” new ideas. The capsule is more than a pretty nose on the face of the building. It is like an egg ready to give birth to new ideas.

The central lobby is a buffer zone with vaulted ceilings illuminating passive light and cooling features that transfer seaborne air around the building at certain times of the day. Cool water pipes underfoot circulate another layer of cool air around the building.

The third segment of the building to the north has few windows opening to the south in order to conserve air-conditioning energy. The office windows face the north, and the rooms were built smartly so that movement and light sensors will automate air-conditioning and artificial lighting when needed.

A green home of dreams

Much thought went into the construction of the building, from sensors in the wetlands to choice of plants for the green roof to transferring waste energy to water piping in the floors to cool or heat the building, depending on the weather. Even the concrete is from a sustainable source, Itzhak Ben Shalom tells ISRAEL21c.

The Porter School follows the Azouri Eco-Tower, Tel Aviv’s first LEED Gold standard edifice, built in 2010. Israel’s first “green” building was Intel’s Development Design Center in Haifa.

Prof. Dan Rabinovich, who heads the school, says that Porter’s students “belong to a generation that sees sustainability, the environment, social justice and our common future on this planet as one and the same.”

Their new building will be a testament to this. Look for it by day and lit up by night as you drive northward on the Ayalon Highway. Better still, pop in when it’s open to see what kind of new green research is cooking.


Requires Turkey to Tackle Anti-Semitism

- By Aykan Erdemir - Blogger-Times of Israel

Turkish and Israeli negotiators are having talks at an undisclosed location in pursuit of a reconciliation agreement to resume normalized relations. Both countries have a lot to gain from détente, and any step toward easing tensions in the Middle East should be cause for celebration. As a former member of Turkish Parliament, who has vocally supported closer Turkish-Israeli ties and a “peace pipeline” carrying Israeli gas to Turkey via Cyprus, it is encouraging to see that the talks that started in June 2015 have come this far. However, I have serious concerns about the shaky foundations of Turkish-Israeli rapprochement, and remain unconvinced about its sustainability.

Turkey’s government mouthpieces – notorious for their anti-Semitic and anti-Israel vitriol – seem to be in a celebratory mood about the apparently impending reconciliation. A pro-government daily, for example, published not only a front-page endorsement of normalization but accompanied it with news of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s plans to serve as a witness at a wedding in an Istanbul synagogue. Last week, the media ran similar praise for Erdoğan’s meeting with Jewish-American leaders during his Washington visit.

Such positive coverage is an extraordinary development in a country that, according to the Anti-Defamation League, harbors higher levels of anti-Semitism than Iran. The U-turn of the pro-government media, which only a year ago aired a documentary alleging a millennia-long Jewish conspiracy to dominate the world, is curious, to say the least.

Also curious are the new public-diplomacy efforts at the Foreign Ministry. Ankara’s consulate and congregants of a Modern-Orthodox synagogue in New York will co-organize a conference this Sunday on the “Inclusion and Prosperity of Ottoman Turkish Sephardi Jews.” The conference marketing proudly features a photo of the recently restored Grand Synagogue in the city of Edirne, which is being billed as a monumental testimony to the Turkish state’s embrace of its Jewish citizens. Somehow, the conference organizers neglected to recall the Edirne governor’s appalling pledge that he would not allow Jews to worship in the synagogue, let alone the 1934 pogroms that cleansed the area from Jews in the first place.

Erdoğan’s Islamist-rooted Justice and Democracy Party (AKP), which has ruled Turkey since 2002, is attempting to paper over some ugly truths. The AKP is desperate to overhaul its failed foreign policy – including an ongoing crisis with Russia, fear of Iran’s rising regional hegemony, and the collapse of Turkey’s vision for Muslim Brotherhood rule in Egypt and Syria. With its list of regional enemies mounting, the AKP hopes to steer Turkey back to its traditional allies: the European Union, NATO, and Israel. This is why Erdoğan recently toned down his anti-Western rhetoric and miraculously come to appreciate the transactional relationships he can establish with pragmatic counterparts, rather than the Islamists he was courting just months ago.

Turkey’s government, however, still offers frequent reminders of its hypocrisy on Jews and Israel. Following last month’s suicide bombing in Istanbul, a board member of the AKP’s women’s branch in the city tweeted her wish for the wounded Israeli tourists to have been killed. A few weeks before, a chief advisor to the president appeared in pro-government media to attack political rivals as “raising soldiers for the Jews.” The board member had to leave her post but the chief advisor is still serving.

For those of us committed to combating prejudice against Turkey’s minorities, the current state of affairs poses a particular challenge. In the run-up to the Turkish-Israeli rapprochement, Turkish analysts are expected to turn a blind eye to years of anti-Jewish and anti-Israeli propaganda disseminated by Turkey’s top officials and their mouthpieces. But it would be a mistake to do so.

A Sephardic friend of mine once told me her parents raised her in accordance with kayades, a Judeo-Spanish word for Turkish Jews’ code of silence in the face of discrimination. Today, those seeking to point out the disingenuous premises of Erdoğan’s reconciliation attempts are forced to wrestle with kayades once again.

Thankfully, some Turkish citizens have already made the right choice. On this year’s International Holocaust Remembrance Day, a handful of Turkish Jews and their non-Jewish friends launched Avlaremoz, a news site dedicated to combating anti-Semitism in Turkey. Avlaremoz means “Let’s talk” in Judeo-Spanish, and is a direct challenge to kayades. As expected, Avlaremoz was one of the few news outlets that covered the Erdoğan advisor’s remarks.

Turkish-Israeli rapprochement is important for regional stability. A sustainable relationship, however, cannot be built on hypocrisy and silence. Turkish society needs to recognize and confront the pervasive anti-Semitism and anti-Israeli sentiment that has taken hold of wide segments of the population, due in large part to the influence of the AKP. A future built on dialogue must start with genuine conversation about the wrongs of the past, but also about the dangerous politics that have led us to this perilous present.

Aykan Erdemir is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a former member of the Turkish parliament


Learning to hate

- By Ariel Bolstein- Israel Hayom

Over the years we have grown accustomed to the international community treating the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with a double standard. In the majority of cases, the world is quick to blame Israel for all the problems in the region, whereas the Palestinians are commonly met with forgiveness and understanding. It is especially grating when these double standards spread afield throughout Europe, because we should be able to expect that our friends - with whom we share similar moral values and a desire for progress - not to turn a blind eye when those values are trampled on by those who harbor ill will toward Israel. It is therefore encouraging to learn that the Mideast Freedom Forum Berlin, a reputable German think tank, is focusing a spotlight on the Palestinian Authority educational system.

Recently published research by the MFFB deals with the textbooks used in the first to ninth grades in the PA, including schools operated by the U.N. Relief and Works Agency. Textbooks are the most important indicator of a society’s values. They reflect everything we seek to pass on to the next generation. And in the case of the Palestinians, the MBFF research reveals, the next generation mostly receives messages of burning hatred.

Textbooks in the PA contain condescending and degrading language about Jews. There isn’t a lack of examples. No place where Jews live, regardless of location or size, is described as a city, village or community. These places are only depicted as Arab villages and towns. On the subject of those places where Jews live, whether in large numbers as in Tel Aviv or a small kibbutz, researchers found that they are universally referred to as “settlements.” The word “Israel” is also hard to find in Palestinian textbooks and is replaced with terms like “the occupation regime,” or “the Zionist terrorist organization.” History books ignore all vestiges of Jewish civilization. Maps in the PA’s geography textbooks provide no redemption either - Israel simply does not appear in them. The authors of one textbook didn’t even spare the Mandatory-era stamp. On the original stamp, produced by the British, the name of the land appears in three languages, but Palestinian students will only see its censored version, without Hebrew, which was erased.

And if anybody thinks this is all arbitrary, the researchers offer their primary conclusion and determine unequivocally: In no Palestinian textbook will one find any call for peace, tolerance or mutual understanding. Meanwhile, calls to fight and carry out violent attacks against Israelis appear frequently. Those who perpetrate such attacks are glorified and praised profusely. Terms like “jihad,” “shahid,” “heroism,” and “sacrifice” are reserved for acts against the “Zionist enemy.” As early as the second grade, textbooks emphasize the importance of shahids (martyrs) and implore the young pupils to visit the families of those who have fallen on the altar of jihad.

The researchers conservatively describe the inciting textbooks as “problematic,” but also don’t hesitate to conclude that these books promote and entrench hatred against Jews and Israelis, and contribute to legitimizing violence as a means to resolving the diplomatic conflict. Anyone who dreams of peace in the Middle East must first root out this incitement from the education system. Considering the fact that PA schools are largely funded by European donations, responsibility for teaching this hate and its consequences falls on the shoulders of European leaders.

Ariel Bolstein is the founder of the Israel advocacy organization Faces of Israel


Above Board

“Israel Apartheid Week”, an annual anti-Israel hate fest masquerading as human rights activism, has come and gone. The Board, as before, combined with the SAZF, SAUJS and others in opposing it. As always, the main battlegrounds were the universities. For Wits, the showdown commenced a week early when the Wits Palestinian Solidarity Committee booked a venue on the false pretext of representing the orienteering society. Disciplinary action will be taken against those responsible, which will be closely monitored by the Board.

SAUJS responded by mounting an effective silent counter-protest, and also went ahead with its weekly learning session. Despite the latter being a non-political Jewish study gathering, IAW supporters interrupted proceedings and taunted participants. This revealed again the true nature of IAW, which is not about promoting peace, human rights or even Palestinians welfare, but about demonizing the Jewish State and inciting hostility against the Jewish community. We are extremely proud of our students for standing their ground in the face of such lawlessness and abuse, and for doing so, moreover, in so restrained and dignified a way. Our campuses are currently hot-beds of tension, and matters could easily have spiraled out of control they taken the proverbial bait. Throughout this period, the Board was in constant consultation with the SAUJS leadership, providing logistical assistance and advice whenever required. 

For IAW, we brought out the distinguished Palestinian academic, theologian and peace activist Prof. Mohammed Dajani, whose itinerary included media interviews, meetings with journalists and speaking engagements. Formerly of al Quds University, he is founder of the Wasatia movement of moderate Islam and believes that both sides need to be aware of one another’s aspirations, fears and narratives if the conflict is to be resolved. Such voices urging moderation and empathy are sorely needed in today’s troubled world. 

Inspiring Address by Shimon Peres

An estimated 1500 people attended the address on 6 March by former Israeli Prime Minister and President Shimon Peres, a living legend amongst international statesmen who over the decades has been at the centre of Israel’s efforts to achieve peace with its neighbours. For us it was as much about showing solidarity with Israel and paying tribute to one of her greatest sons as about hearing what he had to say. Many religious and political leaders were also in attendance, and a large media presence, which the Board was instrumental in arranging.

 Shutting down debate, as we know, is a standard tactic by radical anti-Israel campaigners. We saw this again in the lead-up to the Peres visit, with dire threats being made to have him arrested as a “war criminal”. For this lobby, what Peres had to say was irrelevant – the very fact that he was speaking was unacceptable. Nothing, predictably, came of any of this, beyond a bedraggled handful of protestors trying to make themselves heard and being largely ignored. South Africa remains a robust democracy, and by and large, people do not appreciate being told which views they are expected to endorse and which ones are off limits.


Time to let a robot park your car

Conventional parking garages are an environmental failure, taking up lots of land and resources to build and maintain, not to mention the gasoline wasted as waiting cars idle and then troll for a vacant spot and maneuver into and out of it.

Unitronics Group reimagined the whole scenario to look like this: Drive your car into a 20-by-20 foot entry bay, turn off the engine, lock up, take a ticket and go on your way. The rest of the process is fully automated.

After you leave the bay, a Unitronics robot scoots under the car, engages the wheels and lifts the vehicle using a combination of radar, optical sensors and cameras. It transports your car to the destination spot and positions it perfectly with no chance of a fender scrape or space-hogging poor parking.

To activate retrieval, you enter the bay and either pay the fee via computer or (for registered monthly users) swipe a coin-like RF card on your keychain. A computer screen tells you the number of the room in which your car will be waiting, faced outward for quick exit, and shows your vehicle’s progress as one of the robots brings it to the room within two or three minutes.

This is no startup dream.

Established in 1989, Unitronics develops industrial automation products, smart warehouses and automated parking solutions for global clients including Danone and BP in Belgium and Coca-Cola in Holland.

It built 47 projects in Israel and runs an international network of 165 distributors and sales offices in Europe, the United States, Israel and the Far East.

Unitronics’ US subsidiary recently completed four new-generation automated parking garages in the United States – three in Hoboken, New Jersey, and one at City Hall in West Hollywood, California – plus another in Mexico.

The sixth project, a 300-space, $4.5 million carpark, is planned to open in late 2017 in a luxury apartment complex in Cliffside Park, New Jersey. The seventh is expected to be a very large $24 million project in Calgary, Canada, for which Unitronics signed a binding letter of intent and will begin once a building permit is secured.

 Unitronics founder and CEO Haim Shani tells ISRAEL21c that while mechanical parking is not a new idea, the Israeli solution does not require any devices or systems aside from the robot and offers revolutionary financial and ecological benefits.

“Our solution is unique and can change the whole game. The developer not only enjoys high density parking but also lower cost,” says Shani.

To begin with, Unitronics parking facilities use only one-third of the space of a conventional normal parking lot –storing three times more cars in the same space – thereby saving on real-estate, excavation, development and maintenance costs.

“It’s a green solution, too,” says Shani. “The car is turned off after the driver leaves it in the entry bay, so there is no waste of fuel and no emissions in the building. Since it’s a robotic system, there is no need for lighting or ventilation inside the parking garage, which consume much more energy than does our robot.”

While conventional parking garages pose personal and theft risks, Unitronics’ automated facility lessens the likelihood of injury to car owners and car theft, thus also reducing insurance costs for entrepreneurs.

And finally, the automated, remote-managed system saves on manpower costs. “We don’t actually need any employees at the parking garage but normally one person is on duty during rush hours to serve customers,” says Shani.

The Unitronics Group, based in Airport City, went public in 1999 and is listed on the Brussels and Tel Aviv stock exchanges. Employees number about 250 in Israel and almost 50 in the United States.

“The company is profitable but we expect significant growth so we are raising money through the stock exchange,” says Shani.



By The Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein - Jerusalem Post

The Israeli people are heroes. They have endured an onslaught of terrorist attacks that would have crippled any other nation on earth. Since September there have been 307 attacks or attempted attacks in 170 days, in which 33 people have been killed and 360 injured. There have been 192 stabbings, 76 shootings and 39 vehicular attacks.

An extended onslaught of this nature would break the morale and ability to function of any society. And yet Israelis go about their daily lives in fortitude and bravery. Children go to school, people go to work and society continues to function at a very high level, shaking off the constant threat of danger with remarkable resilience.

Jews in the Diaspora watch from afar in awe and admiration, and in unwavering support. The words of King David from the Book of Psalms come to mind: “May G-d bless His angels, mighty heroes who...listen to the call of His word.”

The people of Israel are the brave angels of G-d Himself. The Talmud says that this verse refers to those farmers who observe the Sabbatical year, when farmers do not cultivate or harvest their fields: “It is the normal way of the world for a person to be able to do a mitzva for one day, one week or one month, but for an entire year?! And this farmer sees his field lying desolate and he sits silently. Is there any greater hero than this?” The Talmud sees such personal discipline and commitment to doing the right thing, as heroic and brave, indeed, even angelic and super-human.

Certainly the same can be said of the brave people of Israel today. To apply the thinking of the Talmud to the current situation one could say: It is the normal way of the world for people to endure terrorist attacks, for one day or one week; but the Israeli people have endured terrorist attacks on their streets now for months, and yet they face these challenges with enormous bravery. Are there any greater heroes? Indeed the verse “May G-d bless His angels the mighty heroes” applies directly to each and every man, women and child of the Israeli people, who have with such fortitude endured such an onslaught.

And the onslaught of recent months is just the latest mutation of an ongoing war to destroy Israel, one which began at the birth of the Jewish state, and even before, and has taken the form of seven conventional wars and many waves of terrorism.

For decades without respite generations of Israelis have fought with remarkable heroism and bravery in the armed forces of their country, to defend their homes and cities from murderous attacks. All the while, they have created, with G-d’s blessings, a flourishing society, which has absorbed millions of refugees, establishing a haven of freedom and prosperity in a region of hatred and oppression.

And they have done so for all these years with positive energy and even optimism.

Israeli society is filled with a joy for life and with a will to celebrate every part of it. This is the greatest answer to the terrorists, who seek to bring destruction and death to the world. Jews around the world are so deeply grateful to the people of Israel because it is this bravery and the refusal to bow in submission before evil violence that ensures that the freedom and independence of Israel to function as a Jewish state in the Middle East is protected.

And indeed, all decent people in every civilized country should be grateful to the Israeli people for standing so resolutely on the front lines of the war against the forces of radical Islam, which seek to assault and destroy freedom, life and dignity. The Israeli response of little children attending nursery school, or teenagers high school, or the countless Israelis walking to synagogue on Shabbat, and who go to their businesses and places of work each and every single day with a positivity and determination, is the greatest answer to the forces of evil that seek to destroy civilization based on the values of life, dignity and freedom – values which our Torah gave to the world. And it is for the defense of these sacred values that we pay humble and grateful tribute to the heroes of Israel, and we pray, “May G-d bless His angels, mighty heroes.”


Israel to launch one of the most advanced missile defence systems in the world, with U.S. help

By Ruth Eglash and William Booth - The Washington Post

TEL AVIV - A joint exercise now being conducted between thousands of Israeli troops and the U.S. European Command represents a final test before Israel begins to deploy one of the most sophisticated missile defence systems in the world.

When it is complete, Israel’s multibillion-dollar rocket and missile air defence system will be far superior to anything in the Middle East and will likely rival, and in some ways surpass, in speed and targeting, air defences deployed by Europe and the United States, its developers say.

The United States has provided more than $3.3 billion over the past 10 years to support the defensive system, which will be able to knock down not only ballistic missiles but also orbiting satellites.

Although Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Obama have had a strained relationship, rubbed raw by their deep disagreement over the Iran nuclear deal, U.S. ¬spending on Israel’s air defences has soared in the past decade, from $133 million in 2006 to $619 million in 2015.

The Israeli defence establishment and its American partners have designed a layered system that will allow the Jewish state to respond to simultaneous attacks from multiple fronts - the relatively crude homemade rockets lobbed by Hamas from the Gaza Strip, the midrange rockets and missiles fired by the Shiite militants of Hezbollah from Lebanon, and the long-range ballistic missiles being developed by Iran that could carry conventional or chemical warheads.

In addition, Israel’s new X-Band radar will allow its forces to detect incoming missiles 500 or 600 miles out, vs. 100 miles, the current limit of their radar tracking systems, according to summaries of the systems provided to Congress.

“I define the system as pioneering,” said Uzi Rubin, former head director of Israel’s missile defence program. “Even the United States doesn’t have anything as complex, as sophisticated.”

The system will also be able to prioritize incoming rockets and missiles by calculating their trajectories. Some missiles may not be intercepted, if their targets are fields and farms, but projectiles that would hit populated areas or important infrastructure - such as military bases, oil refineries and nuclear facilities - would be stopped.

The Israeli missile defence system is being built in partnership with U.S. defence contractors, including Raytheon, Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

The Israelis are planning to start deploying their coordinated system of radars, launchers and interceptors over the coming months, though there have been delays in the past, they warn.

In December, Israel and the U.S. Missile Defence Agency celebrated successful tests of two new ballistic missile defence systems - David’s Sling, which is designed to intercept short- and medium-range threats, and ¬Arrow-3, which is intended to stop long-range attacks and knock out enemy targets in space by deploying “kamikaze satellites,” or “kill vehicles,” that track their targets.

David’s Sling and Arrow-3 will join Iron Dome and the existing Arrow-2 in coming months.

The Iron Dome batteries were responsible for intercepting 90 percent of their targets during Israel’s war with Hamas in the summer of 2014, according to the Israel Defence Forces, when Hamas fired 4,000 rockets and mortar rounds at Israel from the adjacent Gaza Strip.

On Tuesday, the Defence Ministry announced that major components of the David’s Sling defence system will be delivered to the Israeli air force “over the course of several weeks.”

Israel called David’s Sling “the world’s most revolutionary innovation in the family of interceptor systems.” The system is designed primarily to handle the kinds of rockets and missiles, built by Iran and Russia, that are now in the possession of the Hezbollah militia in Lebanon and the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad.

Beyond the threat posed by the splintering of Syria, Israel is worried that Syrian missiles could be transferred to Hezbollah or acquired by the Islamic State or al-Qaeda.

In a recent speech, Hezbollah leader Hasan Nasrallah threatened that his militia’s missiles could strike ammonia storage tanks in Israel’s Haifa port in a future showdown with Israel, warning that the damage would be equivalent to an atomic bomb and could kill 800,000 people.

Maj. Gen. Nitzan Alon, the ¬Israel Defence Forces head of operations, said Hezbollah could have upward of 100,000 rockets and missiles stored in Lebanon.

In 2006, before the deployment of Iron Dome, Hezbollah fired about 4,000 projectiles at Israel’s northern cities, causing some 40 civilian deaths and significant damage.

Israel’s military leaders warn civilians that no air defence ¬system is perfect - or even close to it.

“There is no hermetic defence or total security that will intercept everything fired at Israel. In the next real war, rockets will fall on the State of Israel,” said Brig. Gen. Zvika Haimovich, commander of the Israeli air force’s Aerial Defence Division.

Haimovich briefed reporters last week in the middle of “Juniper Cobra,” a biennial U.S.-Israel air defence drill, which is scheduled to end Thursday.

More than 1,700 U.S. soldiers and sailors, alongside American civilians and contractors, are taking part in the exercise, which ¬is focused on computer simulations of coordinated and sustained air attacks on Israel from multiple fronts.

In such a scenario, U.S. air defence probably would come into play, and the drill is designed not only to test Israel’s soon-to-be-deployed systems but also to improve how well U.S. and Israeli assets can communicate and coordinate their response.

“The purpose of this exercise is to improve interoperability of our air defence forces and our combined ability to defend against air and missile attack,” said Lt. Gen. Timothy Ray, U.S 3rd Air Force commander.

“And just as important,” Ray said, “it signals our resolve to support Israel and strive for peace in the Middle East.”


Kuwaiti Columnist: Israel Has Outdone Us In Everything – We Must Learn From It

On February 1, 2016, Ahmad Al-Sarraf, wrote in his column in the Kuwaiti daily Al-Qabas about Israel’s advantages over the Arabs in a wide variety of fields – democracy, military, science and technology, human rights and freedom of worship, and economics. He called on the Arabs to look at the reasons for Israel’s success and superiority, instead of viewing it as a political-religious foe about which they know nothing at all.

Following are excerpts from his article: (

“In theory, Arabs have [only] one enemy in the region – except that recently we have made additional enemies, such as Iran. Some went even further, stepping up their hatred of Iran, while at the same time becoming more accepting of Israel [than in the past], to the point where it has become more friend than foe...

“Usually, every conflict is rooted in one side’s ignorance of the situation and nature of the other – though I tend to believe that Iran knows far more about the 22 Arab countries that those countries know about it. I attended Kuwaiti schools; in my day, their curricula were far more developed and were open to the other. Despite this, I do not remember reading a single line about [Iran] that was even remotely positive – neither about [its] geography or climate, nor about [its] strength, weakness, or history. So it was only natural for us to view it negatively, [even though we] had no [concrete] reason to do so.

“As for Israel, many [of us] view it as a political-religious foe, as opposed to a cultural danger, and this is a serious mistake. Even though our conflict with it has never ceased, we have remained ignorant regarding everything it represents, and for 70 years we have lacked, and continue to lack, all knowledge about it, and have learned nothing from it.

“Israel has outdone us in all fields – military, scientific, and cultural – but despite this we have refused to consider the reason for its obvious superiority to us, and have never stopped calling it ‘the monstrous entity’... “Since its founding, Israel has been committed to democracy, while we refuse to even speak of it [i.e. democracy], let alone adopt it...

“Israel has given its minorities rights that most citizens in most Arab countries do not even dream of. Furthermore, the freedom of worship there exceeds that in any Arab or Islamic country.

“Israel has focused its attention on science, spending large sums on research, while we are still focused on whether drinking camel urine or using it medicinally is actually helpful.

“Israel has managed to unite people emigrating to it from 50 countries, and to forge a single people from them, while we have not managed [even] to create a [joint] army out of the [Arab] people, with its deep historical roots.

“Israel has known law and order since its first day, while we still try to comprehend the meaning of both these words. Two of [Israel’s] senior leaders went to prison for corruption, while we still argue over how to convict the master thieves in our midst.

“Israel has developed its technologies and developed its agriculture, industry, and military, becoming an advanced and respected country, while we currently occupy the bottom slot in every field.

“Israel has managed to get its companies traded on the international stock market, while we consider liquidating our assets after nearing bankruptcy. “The list is long, and the sorrow that accompanies it persists.” 


No One Is Actually Boycotting Israel

By Adrienne Yaron – The Jerusalem Post

No one is actually boycotting Israel. Not the Europeans. Not the American Studies Professors. Not Saudi Arabia. Not even Roger Waters. There is not a single human being on this planet that has access to electricity and the internet that actually boycotts all Israeli products. How do I know this? The same way you all know it: they all have cell phones, and there isn’t a cell phone manufactured today that does not contain Israeli hardware or software or both.

In fact, the overwhelming majority of Israeli export products are simply not susceptible to boycott. Of Israel’s top ten export categories, only two of them consist primarily of consumer products: pharmaceuticals and medical equipment. Do you really think anyone with AIDS or HIV will boycott the best HIV medications available? Or that diabetics will boycott the easiest and most painless insulin administrators, or the newly developed artificial pancreas? Will blind people really refuse to use technology that describes the world to them in real time because it was engineered by Israelis? The list of cutting edge, top of the line medical treatments, therapeutics, vaccines and medical equipment invented and produced by Israel is immense, and most of them have no viable substitute. You either use the Israeli product or go untreated. Do you think a lot of people would choose the latter? When the chips were down, even veteran anti-Semite Jimmy Carter used Israeli cancer treatments. Heck, how many people really exist that would even be willing to pay triple or quadruple the price, out of pocket, to avoid a generic antibiotic that was made by Teva? I would guess not that many. 

The rest of Israel’s top ten export categories are all industrial or governmental-level products, which are not purchased by individual consumers. The industrial and government level products that Israel markets are, like Israel’s pharmaceuticals, generally unique, necessary, and irreplaceable. China, India and Africa need Israel’s agritech and water technology products to feed and water their burgeoning populations. California has no choice but to employ Israeli companies to solve its drought problems. Every country in the world that wants to protect its population from terrorist attacks must turn to Israel for the most state of the art security products. And of course, Israel’s high tech industry, both hardware and software, is thoroughly integrated into virtually all modern electronic products. Even most Arab countries either directly or indirectly use Israeli water, agriculture, and communications technology.

BDS’ own website only instructs its supporters to boycott “fresh produce, Ahava, and Sodastream.” Ahava and Sodastream are both great companies, but they hardly constitute a major percentage of Israel’s export sales. Moreover, these two companies probably benefit by increased sales from Israel supporters because they are the only two individually-named targets of the boycott movement. As for “fresh produce”, this stopped being a major export of Israel decades ago. Fresh fruits and vegetables now constitute only about 3.6% of Israel’s total exports. More importantly, the overwhelming majority of Israel’s fresh vegetable market is to Russia - a nation that has shown little interest in the boycott bandwagon and a lot of interest in feeding its population. Both India and China have also been steadily growing their market share for Israeli produce, and there is little doubt than any sales drop in Europe will be outbalanced by an increase from these giants.

So in fact, all the huffing and puffing of the anti-Israel “BDS” crowd is nothing more than hot air. The BDS movement has not, and will never have, any significant economic effect on Israel’s overall economy, because Israel’s economy is grounded in products and services that effectively cannot be boycotted. In fact, financial analysts are predicting Israel’s economy will grow more than any other developed country in 2016. Even these academic association resolutions are hypocritical and phony. If you read the texts of them, they specifically allow for “individual members” to continue working with “individual Israeli scholars” - in other words, these hypocritical professors don’t actually have to give up anything, or stop any research projects with Israelis. They make their nasty, defamatory statement, and continue business with their Israeli colleagues as usual. So what does all this mean? It means we have been fighting the BDS movement all wrong. BDS cannot really hurt Israel economically. They probably spend more money promoting their “boycott” than it actually costs Israel in lost export sales. The real goal and purpose of BDS is to defame Israel, and attempt to discredit it in the eyes of foreign observers, in order to exert political pressure. BDS demonstrations are an opportunity for them to spew anti-Semitic vitriol and express their vicious hatred of the Jewish state. BDS’ only real power is in propagating its hateful ideology.

Those of us that support Israel have been out there trying to convince people why they should not boycott Israel, defensively arguing that Israel is a nice place and please don’t be mean to us. And in the process, we’ve been making the BDS movement seem far more powerful and effective than it really is. Our protestations make it seem like BDS is actually hurting Israel. Responding rationally to their arguments makes them seem legitimate. Does Israel need to vastly improve their public relations? Yes. But we cannot do that by giving the BDS movement more credibility than it deserves.

If we want to beat BDS, we must expose them as the useless hateful idiots they really are. What we should be doing is humiliating these people with the evidence of their hypocrisy and ignorance at every opportunity. BDS tables should be countered with humorous tables offering “Deposit your cell phone here to boycott Israel.” When pro-Israel voices are asked about the issue by the press, we should thank them for the free advertising and their continued support of Israeli communications technologies used in planning and recording their events. BDS are nothing more than schoolyard bullies. They thrive on making us upset, but ultimately that is their only real power. 

We can defeat them simply by laughing at them. After all, what is more ridiculous and pathetic than a bitter Jew-hater who can’t survive without Jewish technology? We can discredit them simply by showing the world how hypocritical, idiotic, and ineffectual they really are.


Twenty years on, Rabin’s vision of peace is still unrealised

By Rafael Barak - The Globe and Mail

Twenty years ago today, Israelis went to bed in the middle of a living nightmare. After a rally with 100,000 Israelis coming together in support of peace, our Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin, was assassinated. Those who lived through that traumatic night can still recall the deep sadness that filled our hearts.

Mr. Rabin was not just my prime minister, but also a man who I had the honour and privilege to serve. At the time, I was chief co-ordinator for talks with the Palestinians. It was my job to follow the agendas of each negotiating team and inform our superiors, Mr. Rabin and foreign minister Shimon Peres, on the progress.

This gave me a unique window into Mr. Rabin’s psyche. Every time the team debriefed him, he would ask the same question: If we agree, will the Palestinians live up to their end of the bargain? As a former army commander who used probabilities to make decisions, he wanted us to provide him with a percentage. The team always gave an honest assessment that was sometimes closer to 50 per cent than 100 per cent. For Mr. Rabin, it came down to whether he could trust Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian leader, as a partner for peace.

On Sept. 13, 1993, Mr. Arafat and Mr. Rabin met on the White House lawn to sign the Declaration of Principles (Oslo I Accord). As President Bill Clinton pulled the men together, Mr. Rabin’s body language said it all when he awkwardly extended his hand. During this famous handshake, it became clear that while he may have had his own misgivings, Mr. Rabin was a courageous statesman who took risks for peace.

When Mr. Arafat first returned to Gaza in July, 1994, he tested Mr. Rabin’s trust. Mr. Arafat violated the terms of his safe passage from Egypt by using his own vehicle to smuggle in terrorists. Although Mr. Rabin’s doubts were validated by intervals of terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians, as well as threats from Israeli extremists, he was determined to conclude an agreement that would lead to peaceful co-existence between our two peoples. He continued to push forward and the Interim Agreement (Oslo II) was reached in September, 1995.

Even Mr. Rabin’s death on Nov. 4, 1995, the result of gunshots by a Jewish extremist, did not kill his vision. From left to right, every single Israeli prime minister since has picked up the torch.

In 2000, Prime Minister Ehud Barak made historic compromises by offering Mr. Arafat 95 per cent of the West Bank. Mr. Arafat refused and the Palestinians responded with a second violent intifada. In 2005, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon withdrew totally from Gaza, evacuating 22 Jewish settlements and even uprooting cemeteries, to give peace a chance. A few months later, Hamas took over and turned Gaza into a giant launching pad to fire rockets into Israeli territory. In 2008, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert revived Mr. Barak’s generous proposal, but this time it was Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, who had to make the decision. He didn’t even offer a yes or a no – missing another opportunity for peace. Since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu came to office in 2009, there have been several initiatives including a 10-month settlement freeze that Mr. Abbas, once again, ignored.

Unfortunately, in the past two months with the recent wave of knife attacks, Mr. Abbas has contributed to the culture of incitement. Official Palestinian channels, including Facebook accounts, have been spreading lies about the Temple Mount. It appears that Mr. Abbas would like to transform our political dispute, which can be solved through compromise, into an international religious conflict. In doing so, he is trying to absolve himself of any responsibility by seeking an imposed solution from external actors and not through direct talks with Israel.

Despite 20 years of missed opportunities, Mr. Rabin’s legacy lives on with the large majority of Israelis who support peaceful co-existence and pass this message on to their children. However, for peace to truly be at hand, Israel needs a reliable partner. Now more than ever, it is imperative that the international community holds the Palestinian leadership accountable for its words and deeds. Only when we have a real Palestinian statesman who takes risks and makes compromises – one who recognizes Israel as the Jewish homeland and acknowledges our security concerns – will Mr. Rabin’s bold vision of peace finally become a reality.


Why Palestinians do not want Cameras on the Temple Mount

By Khaled Abu Toameh - Gatestone institute

WHY IS THE PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY (PA) OPPOSED TO JORDAN’S PROPOSAL to install surveillance cameras at Jerusalem’s Haram al-Sharif (Temple Mount), sacred to Christians, Muslims and Jews?

This is the question that many in Jordan have been asking in light of the recent agreement between Israel and Jordan that was reached under the auspices of US Secretary of State John Kerry. The idea was first raised by Jordan’s King Abdullah in a bid to ease tensions at the holy site in the Old City of Jerusalem.

Shortly after Israel accepted the idea, the Palestinian Authority rushed to denounce it as a “new trap.” PA Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki and other officials in Ramallah expressed concern that Israel would use the cameras to “arrest Palestinians under the pretext of incitement.”

During the past two years, the Palestinian Authority and other parties, including Hamas and the Islamic Movement (Northern Branch) in Israel, have been waging a campaign of incitement against Jewish visits to the Haram al-Sharif. The campaign claimed that Jews were planning to destroy Al-Aqsa Mosque.

In an attempt to prevent Jews from entering the approximately 37-acre (150,000 m2) site, the Palestinian Authority and the Islamic Movement in Israel hired scores of Muslim men and women to harass the Jewish visitors and the police officers escorting them. The men are referred to as Murabitoun, while the women are called Murabitat (defenders or guardians of the faith).

These men and women have since been filmed shouting and trying to assault Jews and policemen at the Haram al-Sharif. This type of video evidence is something that the Palestinian Authority is trying to avoid. The PA, together with the Islamic Movement, wants the men and women to continue harassing the Jews under the pretext of “defending” the Al-Aqsa Mosque from “destruction” and “contamination.”

Hundreds of Muslims on the Temple Mount, yelling and throwing objects, surround three Jewish men and their children, as about a dozen police officers try to hold back the angry crowd and evacuate the Jews.

The installation of surveillance cameras at the site will expose the aggressive behavior of the Murabitoun and Murabitat, and show the world who is really “desecrating” the Islamic holy sites and turning them into a base for assaulting and abusing Jewish visitors and policemen.

The cameras are also likely to refute the claim that Jews are “violently invading” Al-Aqsa Mosque and holding prayers at the Temple Mount. The Palestinian Authority, Hamas and the Islamic Movement have long been describing the Jewish visits as a “provocative and violent incursion” into Al-Aqsa Mosque. But now the cameras will show that Jews do not enter Al-Aqsa Mosque, as the Palestinians have been claiming.

Another reason the Palestinians are opposed to King Abdullah’s idea is their fear that the cameras would expose that Palestinians have been smuggling stones, firebombs and pipe bombs into Al-Aqsa Mosque for the past two years. These are scenes that the PA, Hamas and the Islamic Movement do not want the world to see: they show who is really “contaminating” the Haram al-Sharif. Needless to say, no Jewish visitors have thus far been caught trying to smuggle such weapons into the holy site.

By rejecting the idea of setting up 24-hour surveillance cameras at the Haram al-Sharif, the Palestinian Authority has found itself on a course of collision with Jordan. Jordanian politicians and columnists have voiced outrage over the stance of the PA, and have dubbed it harmful to Palestinian and Islamic interests.

The Jordanian newspaper Al-Ghad, which is close to the government, quoted Jordanian politicians as denouncing the opposition of the Palestinian Authority to the cameras as “inappropriate, clumsy, tasteless and unfair.”

Sources in Ramallah explained this week that the PA’s opposition to cameras should also be seen in the context of the power struggle between the Palestinians and Jordan over control of the Islamic holy sites in Jerusalem. The Jordanians have long been seeking to preserve their status as “custodians” of Al-Aqsa Mosque and other Islamic holy sites in Jerusalem. This is a status that some Palestinians and the Islamic Movement in Israel have been trying to change during the past two decades, especially after the signing of the Oslo Accords between the PLO and Israel in 1993.

The Palestinian Authority’s opposition to the installation of cameras is seen as an attempt to undermine Jordan’s status at the Islamic holy sites. Many Palestinians argue that they, and not the Jordanians, should be in charge of the Haram al-Sharif. Members of the PA are opposed to the cameras because it is a Jordanian proposal and reinforces Jordan’s role at the holy site.

As such, the Palestinian Authority’s position could be seen as an attempt to change the status quo at the holy site by driving the Jordanians out of the area. King Abdullah is obviously aware of the Palestinian attempt to prevent him from playing any role at the holy site; that is why he was quick to reach a deal with Israel about the installation of cameras. The PA, meanwhile, will continue to work against having cameras in the hope of preventing the world from seeing what is really happening at the site and undermining Jordan’s “custodianship” over Islamic holy sites in Jerusalem.

It now remains to be seen how Secretary Kerry, who brokered the camera deal between Israel and Jordan, will react, if at all, to the latest Palestinian Authority attempt to continue escalating tensions at the holy site. If Kerry fails to pressure the PA to stop its incitement and repeated attempts to exclude the Jordanians from playing any positive role at the Haram al-Sharif, the current wave of knife attacks against Jews will continue.


Has the Acra from 2,000 years ago been found?

By Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs (website:

Researchers with the Israel Antiquities Authority believe they have found the remains of the stronghold - the Acra - which the Greeks used to control the Temple more than 2,000 years ago - and evidence of the Hasmonean attempts to conquer the stronghold.

A fascinating discovery recently uncovered in archaeological excavations the Israel Antiquities Authority is conducting in the Givati parking lot at the City of David, in the Jerusalem Walls National Park, has apparently led to solving one of Jerusalem’s greatest archaeological mysteries: the question of the location of the Greek (Seleucid) Acra - the famous stronghold built by Antiochus IV in order to control Jerusalem and monitor activity in the Temple which was eventually liberated by the Hasmoneans from Greek rule.

The parking lot excavations in the City of David National Park have been ongoing for a decade. The Elad Foundation, which operates the national park, is funding the extensive excavations. The Givati excavation continues to uncover numerous artifacts from more than ten different ancient cultures from Jerusalem’s history. The Givati excavation is open daily to the general public.

Over the past 100 years of archaeological research in Jerusalem, numerous theories have been put forth identifying the location of the Acra. They uncertainty stemmed from the paucity of architectural remains that can be traced to the Greek presence in Jerusalem.

Both the Book of Maccabees, as well as the historian Josephus Flavius, locates the Acra within the City of David.

“And they built the city of David with a great and strong wall, and with strong towers, and made it a fortress [Greek: Acra] for them: And they placed there a sinful nation, wicked men, and they fortified themselves therein.” (1 Maccabees 1:35 - 38)

“....and when he had overthrown the city walls, he built a citadel [Greek: Acra] in the lower part of the city, for the place was high, and overlooked the temple; on which account he fortified it with high walls and towers, and put into it a garrison of Macedonians.” (Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 12:252-253)

In recent months, excavators believe that they have exposed evidence of the Acra citadel on the City of David hill: a section of a massive wall, a base of a tower of impressive dimensions (width c. 4 m, length c. 20 m) and a glacis. The glacis, which was built next to the wall, is a defensive sloping embankment composed of layers of soil, stone and plaster, designed to keep attackers away from the base of the wall. This embankment extended as far down as the bottom of the Tyropoeon  - the valley that bisected the city in antiquity and constituted an additional obstacle in the citadel’s defenses. Lead sling shots, bronze arrowheads and ballista stones that were discovered at the site and stamped with a trident, which symbolized the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes, are the silent remains of battles that were waged there at the time of the Hasmoneans, in their attempt to conquer the citadel which was viewed as a ‘thorn in the flesh’ of the city.

Historical sources state the stronghold was occupied by mercenaries and Hellenized Jews and tell of the suffering Jerusalem’s residents were exposed to at the hands of the Acra’s inhabitants. The fortification’s mighty defenses withstood all attempts at conquering it, and it was only in 141 BCE, after a prolonged siege and the starvation of the Greek garrison within the Acra that Simon Maccabee was able to force its surrender.

According to archaeologists, Dr. Doron Ben-Ami, Yana Tchekhanovets and Salome Cohen, excavation directors on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “This sensational discovery allows us for the first time to reconstruct the layout of the settlement in the city, on the eve of the Maccabean uprising in 167 BCE. The new archaeological finds indicate the establishment of a well-fortified stronghold that was constructed on the high bedrock cliff overlooking the steep slopes of the City of David hill. This stronghold controlled all means of approach to the Temple atop the Temple Mount, and cut the Temple off from the southern parts of the city. The numerous coins ranging in date from the reign of Antiochus IV to that of Antiochus VII and the large number of wine jars (amphorae) that were imported from the Aegean region to Jerusalem, which were discovered at the site, provide evidence of the citadel’s chronology, as well as the non-Jewish identity of its inhabitants.”



- Robyn Bradley

A gold medallion has gone on display at the Israel Museum and has sparked an interesting debate about its origin and purpose. The unique four-inch diameter ornament was discovered at the base of the Temple Mount.

There are countless opinions and views as to what this rare medallion was used for, but the strongest arguments came from Professor Eilat Mazar and David Mevorach.

The find, made by a Hebrew University team led by Professor Eilat Mazar near the Temple Mount’s Southern Wall, was dated to the early 7th century CE. It is believed by Mazar that it in all likelihood served as an ornament for a Torah scroll. It is emblazoned with a seven-armed menorah, a shofar and what Mazar identified as a small Torah scroll.

However, David Mevorach, senior curator of Hellenistic, Roman, and Byzantine Archaeology, is less certain of the Torah scroll suggestion. He believes that there are no depictions of a vertical Torah scroll from the 7th century CE, as would appear on the medallion and that the holy text is typically shown horizontally inside an ark in representations from that period and before.

He instead challenges that the symbol to the menorah’s right, is a bundle of myrtle, willow and palm branches - three of the four species bound together during the Sukkot holiday. While at first glance the object on the right appears to be a Torah scroll covered in an embroidered mantle, “the fact of the matter is that we don’t know such Torah scrolls from the 7th century CE. We’ve never seen such things.

“We do however know of depictions of the lulav (palm) and haddasim (myrtle) on the right side of a menorah,” although stylistically different, Mevorach said.

Mazar nevertheless noted that the item has the unmistakable rounded ends of a wooden roller and that the palm frond is always depicted as pointy and never as rounded as on the medallion.

“The more logical thing is that we have a Torah scroll here,” she argued. “To say it’s the four species, especially a lulav, it’s impossible.”

The theories about the Medillion are endless and despite the scholarly debate over the symbolism found on the exceptional ornament, there’s no question of its uniqueness and beauty.


Netanyahu: Root of terrorism is that Palestinians don’t want Israel to exist

- Lahav Karkov-Jerusalem Post

Israel will be here forever and overcome terrorism, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in his address to the Knesset at the opening of its winter session Monday.

“After 100 years of terrorism and 100 years of attempts to destroy the Zionist enterprise, our enemies still have not learned,” he said.

“Suicide terrorism was not victorious over us in the ’90s and ’00s, and the terrorism of knives will not defeat us now. What always wins is the recognition that this is our home and our homeland.”

“Our will to live trumps our enemies’ desire for death. There is no way to stop the Zionist enterprise,” the prime minister added.

Netanyahu said the “courage of our security forces and our citizens, and the mutual responsibility that characterizes our nation” are what will help Israel overcome terrorism, combined with new laws to stiffen penalties for rock – and firebomb-throwers.

The prime minister pointed out that now is far from the first time libels about the Temple Mount were used to provoke violence against Jews, specifically mentioning lies by the former mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin al-Husseini that sparked the 1929 massacres of Jews in Israel.

Netanyahu read from a Wakf Muslim religious trust-published pamphlet from several years prior to the pogrom that says Haram al-Sharif, the Arabic name for the Temple Mount, is “beyond dispute” at the site of King Solomon’s Temple.

“There are some who still say today that Jews have no connection to the Temple Mount.... They say that Jews make the Mount dirty and impure. They repeat the lie over and over again that we want to destroy al-Aksa Mosque or change the status quo in the place. That is a total lie,” he said.

Netanyahu repeated several times that Israel seeks to maintain the status quo on the Temple Mount and protect the holy places of all religions.

He said that lies are being disseminated by Hamas, the northern branch of the Islamic Movement of Israel – which the prime minister is seeking to outlaw – and the Palestinian Authority.

Netanyahu urged PA President Mahmoud Abbas to denounce terrorism as Netanyahu did hate crimes by Israelis against Arabs.

Netanyahu said that Abbas constantly refuses to negotiate, because he knows that would mean declaring an end to the conflict, giving up on the right of return and recognizing Israel as the Jewish state.

“[The Palestinians’] refusal to recognize a Jewish state in any borders is and has always been the root of the conflict,” he said.

MKs from the Joint List demonstratively walked out when Netanyahu took to the podium, so they were not present when the prime minister accused some of them of incitement.

“We want coexistence, and we are investing in the Arab sector as no government has before, but there is a member of this House who said ‘the Henkin family [killed by Palestinians in front of their two children] are settlers. You cannot treat them as innocent civilians.’ What does that mean? That you’re allowed to murder them?” Netanyahu said, referring to MK Basel Ghattas (Joint List).

The prime minister said MK Haneen Zoabi (Joint List) “did not limit herself to settlers. She justifies acts of terrorism everywhere. She said, with great concern, to a Hamas newspaper two days ago that ‘actions by individuals are not enough, ‘you need a full intifada.’ It’s unbelievable. An MK in Israel is calling for mass terrorism against Israeli citizens. There is nothing more justified than a criminal investigation against her.

“Whoever calls for murder or justifies it is not worthy of being a member of this House,” he said.

Netanyahu called on Israeli Arabs to choose between incitement or coexistence and peace.

“You cannot... enjoy all the rights and at the same time undermine the state. I ask you to choose the right way,” he said.

The other speeches, by Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, President Reuven Rivlin and opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) called on MKs and the public to be responsible and not incite.

Edelstein spoke very briefly, deciding not to give his planned remarks. “I think that what is expected from us at this time is different, and so my request is that everyone go to a mirror, look at himself in the eyes and say... maybe this is the time for which I was elected,” Edelstein said. “As a public leader I will tell the people who chose me, things they may not want to hear, because if we do not do that, no one else will,” Edelstein said. “That is my only request from MKs at this time.”

Rivlin urged MKs to avoid referring to career military people as burdens and to approve an IDF budget that would allow for long-term planning.

In addition, the president said some political leaders, and others, are trying to turn the Israeli-Palestinian conflict into a religious one, adding that “anyone who does such a thing has our blood on their hands.”

“The Jewish people and the State of Israel do not have, nor ever will have, a war with Islam.

The horrible lie that depicts the State of Israel as seeking to change the status quo on the Temple Mount is not only a blatant falsehood, but also a dangerous plot that has cost innocent lives...

“Israel is not trying to prevent Muslims from praying in their holy places, as Israel would never harm the mosques on the Temple Mount. And I believe that the disseminators of this lie know this fact well.”

Rivlin recounted that, as a child growing up in Jerusalem, one could have been sent to jail by British soldiers for blowing the shofar by the then-tiny Western Wall plaza, and that as a nation that experienced violations of its freedom of worship, Israelis would never act in such a way.

“The attempt to play on our most primal fears, the attempt to ignite the messianic fundamentalist imagination, will not only cost lives, but deepen the grip of despair,” the president added. “Unleashing the specter of religious zeal, is to attempt to undermine any positive effort being made here to establish trust between Arabs and Jews....

“Specifically during these tense days, we must remember that building trust between Jews and Arabs within Israel and outside, it is not just an option – it is a necessity.”

Rivlin called for public leaders to support cooperation and trust, and not hatred and enmity.

In his speech, Herzog said: “We are destined to live together in this country, Jews and Arabs together. We are fated to respect one another, despite the difficult reality,” and that Jewish MKs are as responsible to do so as Arab ones, and vice-versa.

Herzog called for MKs to stop inciting and lying and denounce anyone who raises a knife or a stone against a Jew or anyone who hurts an Arab just for being an Arab.

He suggested Israel outlaw the northern branch of the Islamic Movement, as well anti-Arab groups Lehava and La Familia.

Herzog accused Netanyahu of not doing enough to stop terrorism.

“Jerusalem is being divided on your watch,” Herzog said.

“The writing was on the wall [about the wave of violence], but you are like the three monkeys. You don’t hear, don’t see, don’t speak,” Herzog said.

He called on Netanyahu to negotiate with Abbas even if “his hands are not clean,” because Israel must separate itself from the Palestinians, or the Jews were liable to become a minority in the country.


Revolutionary Rooftop Farm Grows Organic Veggies Sans Soil In The Heart of Tel Aviv

- Eunice Lim-NoCamels 

Buying organic and locally grown produce is a raging trend that is here to stay. And a new project in Israel called “Green in the City” is taking the trend to a whole new level, literally.

‘Green in the City’ grows mostly organic vegetables in floating beds of water (without soil) on the rooftop of Dizengoff Center, Tel Aviv’s central mall complex. Started by Mendi Falk, the project aims to bring the farm to the city, and fresh produce onto urban dwellers’ plates. Lettuce, basil, bok choy, onions, tomatoes, and cucumbers are among the vegetables grown on Falk’s compact, 100-square-meter rooftop farm. And while just about anything can be grown on the farm, Falk concentrates mainly on leafy vegetables because they have the shortest life cycles.

Urban agriculture requires less water, no soil

The science behind this intriguing project is hydroponics, a type of gardening that grows plants using very little nutrient-rich water solutions and without any soil. There are different types of hydroponic systems, but they all essentially work by pumping just the right amount of nutrients and water directly to the plants’ roots. Unlike traditional agriculture, hydroponic gardening gives the grower control over the plants’ watering and feeding cycles, as well as over the strength and acidity of the nutrient solution that is given to the plants. Falk’s farm also utilizes an aquaponics system: fish are grown in a tank that is connected to the plant growing beds, with water circulating between each other. The plants take in nutrients from the fish tank’s waste and clean the water that is pumped back into it. The advantages are numerous: First and foremost, the plants grow faster and produce greater yields. These systems also take up less space, rule out the need for pesticides (since plant diseases and parasites are mostly soil-borne), and require less weeding. In addition, the rooftop garden needs less water as hydroponics uses 70 to 90 percent less water than conventional gardening.

“Harvested just 15 minutes before being served on the customer’s plate” 

According to Falk, customers can taste the difference. “The taste is different not because the produce is growing in hydroponic systems, but because people are not used to eating fresh vegetables,” he tells NoCamels. “They’re used to eating vegetables that have been sitting in their refrigerator for days. Our vegetables are organic, pesticide-free, and truly fresh, because oftentimes they are harvested just 15 minutes before being served on the customer’s plate.” 

Green in the City is a joint venture between Dizengoff Center and Falk’s company Living Green – which sells hydroponic and aquaponics systems to private consumers. “We believe that urban agriculture should be more spread throughout the city,” Falk says. “Since the farm is located on top of a popular space, people can easily come and see that the hydroponic method is not that complicated and they will be inspired to grow their own vegetables in their homes with hydroponic systems.”

A solution for world hunger? 

The farm’s produce is currently sold to two restaurants in Dizengoff Center – Café Greg and Garden Restaurant – as well as to Dizengoff Center’s farmers market for about $1 per unit, as opposed to organic vegetables sold at local supermarkets, which on average cost $2.5 per kilo. Falk says that 100 square meters are not enough to run a financially sustainable farm, and plans to expand to a 500-square-meter space on the Center’s roof in the coming months. 

His vision for hydroponic systems extends way beyond his own business interests. “I think this is a part of a bigger solution for world hunger,” Falk explains. “Of course, hydroponics will not replace traditional agriculture as the major source of food, but in countries where there is not enough fertile ground or enough water, hydroponics can provide a much needed solution.”


Migrant Crisis: Where Have the Gulf States Been?

- Mardo Soghom-The Atlantic

Why a region with $2 trillion in annual income can’t seem to spare much for the neighbours.

Finally, a rich Arab has come forward with a major offer of help to Middle Eastern refugees.

Naguib Sawiris, an Egyptian billionaire, tweeted on September 1 that he was willing to buy an island from Greece or Italy to “host the migrants” and not hold back on any financing needed to make it a permanent home. He even suggested that it could become a new country called Hope. (Though he also suggested it could be “at least temporary until they can return to their countries.”)

The reaction on social media to Sawiris’s generous offer has been largely positive. After all, who would criticize a successful world citizen for the willingness to do what most governments are reluctant to do to address the current crisis?

But few in the media or diplomatic circles have asked the more important question: Where have the rich Arab countries been over the last few years, as the Syrian civil war has raged and millions of refugees have fled to neigbouring countries? The only Arab countries to have accepted Syrian refugees are Jordan and Lebanon, two weak economies with very limited means. To be sure, rich Arab countries have sent some aid to refugees in Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon, but no major plan has even been offered that would appear to be aimed at making a serious difference.

Consider the financial means at the disposal of five energy-rich Arab countries: Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Bahrain. Their combined GDP is about $2 trillion a year, and their combined population is under 55 million people. That translates into a per capita annual income in the poorest member of this group, Bahrain, of more than $21,000 and a per capita gross national income in the richest, Qatar, of $90,000.

It is not hard to imagine what 5 percent of their combined annual GDPs-around $100 billion-might have done to avert the worst of the crisis. Arab countries could have offered well-financed safe havens on the vast stretches of land they control, or they could have offered major financial incentives to other countries to host the refugees. Per capita income is roughly $50,000 in Austria and around $43,000 in the U.A.E. Yet no rich Arab country has allowed Syrian refugees to stream across its border.

But, arguably, expectations ought to have been low to begin with. For a Syrian, Iraqi, Lebanese, or citizen of any other average Arab country, it is next to impossible to get even a temporary visa from some of these rich Arab countries, the same or worse for a work permit. Still, many people are prepared to criticize Western countries for not readily offering safe haven to Middle Eastern refugees.

As thousands of Syrians and other migrants flood into Austria, it is interesting to compare that country to the U.A.E. because of similar populations (around 10 million) and GDPs (both upward of $400 billion). Per capita national income is roughly $50,000 in Austria and around $43,000 in the U.A.E. Yet no rich Arab country has allowed Syrian refugees to stream across its border, even en route to other countries.

Government policies aside, it is also interesting to look at popular reactions to the unfolding drama. While many NGOs and large numbers of Westerners have urged their governments to act to help or accept the refugees, public responses have been more muted among rich Arab states. There have been no reported demonstrations to pressure those governments to accept refugees or find other, fundamental solutions. While Indian or Pakistani workers remain foreigners because of their linguistic differences with Arabs, Arab migrants can communicate and influence local populations.

Part of the explanation might lie in the fear such countries have had regarding migration by “other” Arabs to their lands. They have sought jealously to safeguard their wealth from possible dilution.

They have also appeared concerned about possible political instability if Arabs from other countries arrive and swamp their relatively small populations. While Indian or Pakistani guest workers will always remain foreigners because of their linguistic differences with Arabs, Arab migrants speak the same language and can communicate and influence local populations, especially in volatile societies like Saudi Arabia.

Even recognizing all these concerns, though, it remains puzzling why five countries with a combined national income of $2 trillion have not offered credible assistance to solve the current refugee crisis. After all, they have all more or less been involved-directly or indirectly-in the Syrian civil war by virtue of having either encouraged or armed various groups.




The international agreement to restrain Iran’s nuclear program, which will likely go into effect next week, should count as the crowning diplomatic achievement of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The ratification of this deal marks the first time Iran has agreed to radically curtail its previously unregulated nuclear activities, and it would not have happened without Netanyahu.

For more than a decade, he has lobbied, cajoled, and pressured the United States and Europe to thwart Iran’s nuclear ambitions. He played by far the largest role in focusing the attention of the great powers on the threat of a nuclear Iran. His single-minded, insistent lobbying, his powerful speechmaking, and his orchestration of a highly potent publicity campaign in Washington, when combined with the presence, in the White House, of a president predisposed to believe that a nuclear-armed Iran would pose a profound national-security threat to the U.S. (I am not referring here to George W. Bush), led to the application of crippling, multilateral sanctions on Iran, a sanctions regime that brought Iran to the negotiating table. At the negotiating table, Iran’s leaders eventually agreed to a set of limitations and controls on the country’s nuclear program that are quite stringent, and which, if properly implemented, reduce the chance that Israel will find itself the target of an Iranian nuclear weapon for many years to come. And all this was achieved without preventative military strikes that might have delayed, but not prevented, Iran from crossing the nuclear threshold. Of course, the threat of a unilateral Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities - a threat deemed credible by the Pentagon, by the White House, and by many European leaders - also helped concentrate the world’s attention on the problem, and aided President Barack Obama in his campaign to convince sometimes-balky allies to join in the sanctions regime in order to prevent an Israeli strike.

Netanyahu, of course, doesn’t see this agreement as a victory for Israel; he sees it as a victory for evil, and as a bitter defeat for the once-great United States of America. The reason Netanyahu believes this agreement represents a defeat for the U.S., and an existential threat to Israel, is not because of weaknesses in any of its specific provisions, singly or in combination. The deal is far from perfect. All arms-control agreements are the products of sometimes discomfiting compromises, and this one has its fair share of problems, not least of which is that it comes with an end date.

Netanyahu’s complaint is not with the Iran deal. It is with the notion that one can deal with Iran. Like many of his Republican allies on Capitol Hill, he sees this deal as a defeat because it brought about neither complete capitulation by Iran at the negotiating table nor the demise of the Iranian regime. Netanyahu’s worldview is Manichaean; there is good, there is evil, and good people don’t do business with evil. I have sympathy for this view; I am a Reform Manichaean myself, and I think I understand the perfidious nature of the Iranian regime. But the total defeat of Iran was not a credible option, especially in the post-Iraq War American political reality, and it was Netanyahu’s mistake - one of several mistakes - to believe a) in the lethality of sanctions that turned out to be merely crippling, and b) that the United States, in the absence of sanctions-induced regime change, would choose confrontation over diplomatic compromise.

I framed the first paragraph of this post in a way meant to highlight a public path Netanyahu could have chosen in the months before the nuclear agreement was finalized. Imagine, for a moment, if, instead of committing to a public fight with the chief executive of the nation that is Israel’s benefactor - a fight, for reasons I will soon explain, Netanyahu was never going to win - he had instead done the following: claimed victory in his struggle to keep Iran away from the nuclear threshold, and then announced that he would be working with Obama and his European allies (and with Vladimir Putin as well) to ensure that the deal was as tough as possible. Would he have gotten all, or even much, of what he wanted? Probably not. But would the deal be somewhat stronger today if Netanyahu hadn’t made the perfect the enemy of the good? Yes, most likely.

It was not only Netanyahu’s Manichaean worldview that placed him on the path toward a fruitless, even self-destructive, confrontation with Obama (and the rest of the world); it was his faulty understanding of American politics. Specifically, he made three basic mistakes of analysis:

1. He overestimated the power of AIPAC, the main pro-Israel lobbying   group, to fight a president deeply committed to the idea of a deal;

2. He underestimated just how alienated many Democrats in Congress, including (and, in some cases, especially) Jewish Democrats, felt about his leadership, and in particular his decision to make Iran a partisan issue in Washington;

3. He did not understand that post-Iraq fatigue in America create  more space than usually exists for diplomacy with a rogue regime.

It is Netanyahu’s Manichaean worldview that moved him to make confronting Iran the cause of his life, and he succeeded beyond expectation in pressuring the international community to extract significant concessions from his foe. But it is this same black-and white view of the world that kept Netanyahu from participating in the shaping of the final deal - to Israel’s detriment, alas - and this same worldview that prevented him from claiming victory, when victory was his




Although it was between Pesach and Shavuot when the earthquake struck Nepal, when I visited the decimated villages I couldn’t help thinking about Sukkot, the culmination of the holiday season that is about to begin. And that inspired me to try my hand at a classic form of writing I’d never yet dared: the writing of a prayer.

Sukkot, of course, is the holiday when we leave the comfort of home for a temporary dwelling that is penetrable by rain and starlight. It’s an embrace and celebration of the knowledge that everything is provisional except for faith. Sukkot is also about how, when material comforts are diminished, community could, might, should, be strengthened. As the Talmud says: “All of Israel are worthy of dwelling together under one sukkah.”

In the remote villages of Central Nepal, where Tevel has been working for eight years, after the earthquake villagers scrambled to slap up temporary dwellings before the monsoon. Though not exactly sukkot (the preferred roofing for the temporary dwellings is tin sheeting, not palm fronds) they were provisional enough - open to the wind, in constant danger of being washed away by storms. Virtually all the villagers’ houses - 700,000 of them, according to the government–were reduced to rubble, and those that were not were irreparably cracked and uninhabitable. The same was true of the schools and other public buildings. Seeds that needed to be planted urgently were trapped in the rubble as shown in a feature about Tevel’s work with seed distribution on Many cows, goats and buffalo, the only form of savings most villagers had, were killed or injured. Already living on the edge, their faith in life shaken by the betrayal of what had seemed most solid the earth - the villagers wondered how they would ever be able to build a house again. Yet the alternative - migration into city slums, where they would live bereft of land, community, culture, nature, and whatever political power small farmers hold, seemed even bleaker.

As the weeks turned into months, things just got tougher. Aftershocks reinforced trauma and sometimes caused deadly mudslides. Nerves and morality frayed in the face of ongoing disaster. In some places girls were trafficked or assaulted and ancient tensions between castes flared anew. But there was also tender evidence of something else communities coming together to help themselves and help each other. The villages were not just a collection of houses, they had spirit and resilience. Nepal was not just a country in name despite its 100-odd languages and ethnic divisions. Nepalis from the city were reaching out to destroyed villages with food or roofing. For Tevel, there was nachas: the villages in which we had worked to establish groups of women, farmers and youth were organizing themselves faster, protecting each other, and demanding help from the local authorities with more selfconfidence than other villages, as can be seen in this clip.

Still, even in the strongest villages, the future was uncertain.

Rebuilding a village in the midst of chaos seemed to me to be a metaphor for our task in an increasingly chaotic world. Despite, and sometimes because of our vast scientific and technological prowess, we are suffering through a period of grave uncertainty. Our spiritual and ideological “homes”, whether religious, scientific or national, too often seem inadequate to contain the complex set of global interconnections–environmental, economic and political-which comprise and define our world. Whether it is global warming, nuclear proliferation, the inordinate concentration of wealth and concomitant inequality, the extinction of species and the death of the oceans, or the rise of murderous fundamentalisms, the world seems to be spinning out of control. No one is more vulnerable to the economic shifts and environmental changes then the villages of the “two-thirds” world. Thus the collapse of their homes is tragedy multiplied.

In the face of the terror and confusion that lies without, many religious Jews have turned inwards—suspicious of any attempts to expand Jewish solidarity to include all human beings. Yet Judaism enjoins us to believe that we can make a home that can hold humanity’s highest aspirations in this world. “G-d desired to make a home in the lower realms”, is how Midrash Tanchuma expressed it. As Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, my teacher, often said: “We are making a new home for humanity, we are building one wall, the Tibetans are building a wall, and so on…” Pay attention to the nuance: All of humanity’s spiritual traditions are cooperating in building a home together, not by merging, but by contributing something solid and unique.

The sukkah has layers and depths of symbolic and experiential meaning within Jewish tradition, especially within Jewish mysticism. One way, to contribute to the building of humanity’s new home is by “supercharging” our beloved and intimate treasures, such as the sukkah, with new kinds of meaning that are created through solidarity with others. The prayer I composed, together with my friend and teacher Avraham Leader, melds these themes together: Building homes for the homeless, and making a home for G-d in this world by helping to create a humanity infused with empathy and solidarity.

Prayer for the homeless in Nepal and around the world

May it be Your will, G-d of our fathers and our mothers, that you guard us and all those who dwell on this earth from suffering and ordeal, from natural disasters, evil decrees and war. And through the merit of our desire to build, according to your desire, a home for you in this world, may your compassion reach all those whose homes were destroyed, and send your help from where holiness dwells so that they may rebuild their house quickly and without obstructions and delays, a home that is shelter from rain and storm, a home filled with grace and kindness and love. And bless them and their villages and communities with fitting livelihood so that they are not forced into wanderings and migration, pushed from their land as if sold as slaves or handmaidens. And let us merit-and realize for You-a home for the world that is filled righteousness and justice, loving connection and peace. And to the hungry and thirsty, send their faithful sustenance and provisions. You who suspend the earth upon nothing, bring salvation to human beings and to beasts of the field. Amen


Netanyahu’s warnings apt on Iran nuclear deal

By the National Post - Canada Editorial

In March, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to a joint session of the United States Congress about the threat posed by a nuclear-armed Iran. The White House viewed the speech as an unwarranted intrusion into U.S. politics; and yet it contained much wisdom.

It is all the more relevant after Tuesday’s announcement that the “P5+1” powers, including the United States, have concluded a nuclear agreement with Iran. “We’re being told,” the Israeli leader said, “that the only alternative to this bad deal is war. That’s just not true. The alternative to this bad deal is a much better deal.” He was right then, and is still right now. This is a bad deal.

We are realists. The status quo between the West and Iran was never going to last forever, and diplomacy is certainly preferable to war. But the stakes -  a nuclear armed Iran, with all the danger and destabilization that would imply for the region and the world -  are simply too high to accept just any deal, at any price.

It is true that Iran has now pledged not to develop a nuclear bomb. It is to give up roughly two-thirds of its centrifuges, necessary to build weapons-grade fissile material, and destroy most of what fuel it has already refined. United Nations inspectors are to have greater access to Iran’s military and nuclear facilities. On paper, these are positive developments. If strictly honoured - we’ll come back to this point - they would constitute the start of a good deal.

The agreement assumes that Iran will, in fact, honour the undertakings it has made. Its track record in this regard is not encouraging

But note, first, at what cost these victories were won. The economic sanctions that brought Iran to the table after years of open defiance of international law will be gradually unwound. A UN arms embargo will be lifted, making it easier for Iran, still the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, to spend its sudden post-sanctions windfall on weapons for Hamas and Hezbollah.

And while giving up many of its centrifuges, it is retaining thousands of them. Those centrifuges, plus the scientific and industrial know-how the country has accumulated, will leave Iran as a threshold nuclear state, able to assemble a bomb on relatively short notice - somewhat longer notice than would previously have been the case, yes, but is that the best the West could do?

All this assumes that Iran will, in fact, honour the undertakings it has made. Its track record in this regard is not encouraging. The deal supposedly answers that with what is invariably described as an “intrusive” inspections regime. Yet Tehran has the right to appeal any request for an inspection visit to the UN, and will no doubt make a habit of it, stalling the inspectors just long enough to clean up its act.

And if it is caught cheating? If it does not live up to the deal it has just signed? Then the sanctions are supposed to be reimposed - with the approval of the UN Security Council, including the two states, Russia and China, most eager to sell arms to Iran. On this the peace of the world depends.

The bottom line is this: the agreement assumes a desire on Iran’s part to become a constructive member of the international community. Yet there is precious little evidence of this, from a regime that continues to destabilize the region and to threaten Israel, and gives every sign of doing so in future - only now with the status of a nuclear threshold state.

Whether or not Iran ever actually constructs a working nuclear weapon is, in a way, beside the point: just the threat of it will be enough. As with North Korea today, neighbouring states will have to consider, in any given conflict, whether the matter is worth fighting a nuclear war over.

Indeed, if Iran is to have a de facto nuclear deterrent, you can rest assured Saudi Arabia and Egypt, Sunni Arab nations that have as much to fear from Shia Iran as Israel and the West, will want the bomb, too. This is an unpleasant prospect, to be sure. But if the U.S. won’t work to contain Iran, you can’t blame the locals for taking matters into their own hands.



From wounded hero to pediatrician

By Rotem Elizera - Ynet

Asael Lubotzky, a 32-year-old from Jerusalem, was directly hit by an anti-tank missile during the Second Lebanon War in Bint Jbeil. Nine years after being in limbo between life and death, Lubotzky will mount the stage at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem next week to officially receive his doctorate degree in medicine.

“Now it’s my turn to apply and pass on what I learned to other people,” said the young doctor.

Lubotzky was born and raised in the West Bank near Jerusalem, enlisted in the Golani Brigade, and during the war in Lebanon served as a platoon commander in Battalion 51. Hezbollah terrorists fired an anti-tank missile that hit the armoured personnel carrier he was in, and as a result he was seriously wounded and had to undergo a long rehabilitation process.


“I was among those evacuating the wounded,” recalled Lubotzky. “It was a tough battle in which eight soldiers were killed, including Major Roi Klein and Lieutenant Amichai Merchavya, a close friend of mine.”

The injury occurred after two weeks of fighting. According to Lubotzky, “We were in a convoy and we entered a missile ambush. Seconds before the missile was launched I stood up to see the battle area. Half my body was inside the carrier and half outside, and that’s what really saved my life. The missile hit the front of the vehicle and dozens of pieces of shrapnel sliced through my body, but luckily they hit my lower body. My head and chest were not hit.”

Lubotski’s injured leg, which was partially attached to his body, slid off the stretcher during the evacuation. “I shouted at one of the soldiers to catch it and tie it to the stretcher. In my heart I had already accepted that my leg was lost.”

Upon arrival at the Israel-Lebanon border, medics placed a tourniquet below the knee in order to cut off a smaller part of the wounded leg. Lubotzky was rushed to Rambam Hospital in Haifa, where doctors were able to restore the severed leg in place. Later it was strengthened and extended through muscles that were transplanted from his back. As part of the rehabilitation process he underwent ten orthopedic and plastic surgeries.

“That night I received nine units of blood at the hospital,” Lubotzky said recounting the moments when his life was in jeopardy. After being rehabilitated and starting to walk, Lubotzky decided he wanted to be a doctor. 

“In my personal experience as a patient, I was moved and excited by the field. I was very interested in physiology and medicine and my desire is that my experience as a patient will contribute to my being a doctor, to have a better understanding of the patient, as far as I can, as one who was in their place.”

Unlike others, Lubotzky did not dream of becoming a doctor from a young age. “Before the injury, I took the psychometric entrance test and got a good score so I thought it might be enough for me to study medicine, but it was only an option.”

Lubotzky hopes his rehabilitation process will encourage other wounded soldiers. “When I was in serious condition, rehabilitated soldiers visited me, encouraged me and told me that life continues after the injury. Now it’s my turn to apply this and pass it on to other people.”

Lubotski, married and a father of three, began his internship in paediatrics at the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem two weeks ago: “I chose paediatrics because I like to look at the totality of the person and not one specific topic. I love children; it’s a very joyful profession”. 

Although he uses crutches, the young doctor does not let the physical hardships get in his way. “Yes, it is a little more difficult and complex and I have to spend many hours on my feet. Sometimes the children ask me about my crutches and usually I feel it creates a better chemistry with them. It’s even a little less frightening to them than a doctor that comes with a white coat and an official uniform.”


The case for Israel is rooted in more than security

Noses went out of joint and knickers got in a twist when Israel’s new deputy foreign minister delivered her inaugural speech to the Jewish state’s diplomatic corps.

“We need to get back to the basic truth of our right to this land,” said Tzipi Hotovely, who is running the foreign ministry’s day-to-day operations, while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu retains the title of foreign minister. The land of Israel belongs to the Jewish people, she declared, and their claim to it is as old as the Bible. “It’s important to say this” when making Israel’s case before the world, she said, and not to focus solely on Israel’s security interests. Of course security is a profound concern, Hotovely observed, but arguments grounded in justice, morality, and deep historical rights are stronger. She even quoted the medieval Jewish sage Rashi, who wrote that Genesis opens with God’s creation of the world to preempt any subsequent charge that the Jewish claim to the land was without merit.

Needless to say, Hotovely’s message was scorned on the left as primitive zealotry. “Her remarks raised eyebrows among many in the audience,” the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported. One diplomat said his colleagues “were in shock” at the suggestion that they should cite the Torah when advocating for Israel abroad.

Diplomacy is not Bible class. Yet why should Israel and its envoys shrink from making the fullest defence of Jewish rights in what was always the Jewish homeland? Though modern Zionism didn’t arise as a political movement until the 1800s, the land of Israel has always been at the core of Jews’ national consciousness. Even during 19 centuries of exile, Jewish life in Israel (renamed “Palestine” by the Romans) never ceased. In all those years, no other people ever claimed the land as their country, or built it into their own nation-state.

Jewish sovereignty wasn’t regained by downplaying the historical and religious bonds linking the Jews to the land. World leaders and opinion-makers didn’t regard those links with patronizing disdain; many found them intensely compelling.

In 1891, alarmed by reports of Jews being massacred in Russia, hundreds of prominent Americans signed a petition urging the restoration of Palestine to Jewish rule. “According to God’s distribution of nations, it is their home, an inalienable possession from which they were expelled by force,” declared the petition, among whose signatories were the chief justice of the United States, the speaker of the House of Representatives, future President William McKinley, and scores of influential industrialists, bankers, educators, and journalists. (One of them was Charles H. Taylor, the first publisher of the Boston Globe.)

Twenty-five years later, when Britain famously committed itself to “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people,” its motives were not only strategic and pragmatic, but religious. Prime Minister David Lloyd George and Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour spoke feelingly of Jewish history. “I could tell you all the kings of Israel,” Lloyd George said, recalling his school days, “but I doubt whether I could have named half a dozen of the kings of England.”

Why should Israel shrink from the fullest defence of Jewish rights in what was always the Jewish homeland?

President Woodrow Wilson, whose father was a Presbyterian minister, also endorsed the Zionist cause. “To think,” he later exclaimed, “that I, the son of the manse, should be able to help restore the Holy Land to its people!” Still more enchanted with the revival of Jewish governance in the Jewish homeland was Harry Truman, whose lifelong study of the Bible strengthened his conviction that Jews had a legitimate historical right to Palestine.

The immemorial Jewish bond with the land is even enshrined in international law. When the League of Nations set the terms of the Mandate for Palestine in 1922, it unanimously recognized “the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine” and the justice of “reconstituting their national home in that country.” It was essential, wrote Winston Churchill at the time, to stress that the Jews were “in Palestine as of right and not on sufferance,” and that the Jewish national home there “be formally recognized to rest upon ancient historic connection.”

Israel has gained nothing from its unwillingness to assert vigorously the Jewish claim to the land as a matter of historical justice and biblical legitimacy. It has only made it easier for its enemies to promote a false narrative of Zionist aggression and illegal occupation. Hotovely may have “raised eyebrows” in exhorting Israel’s diplomats to focus unapologetically on Jewish rights and history, but the record is clear: Those are the arguments that have always gained the most traction.

To repeat: Diplomacy isn’t Bible class. But the strongest case for Israel is rooted in more than security. Even now, according to the Pew Research Centre, 44 percent of American adults - and 55 percent of American Christians - believe Jews have a God-given right to the land of Israel. A backward superstition? On the contrary. The Jewish nation’s ties to its homeland are an enduring element of the human story, and an asset that Israel underrates at its peril.


Entrepreneur boasts drip system could end world hunger

By David Shamah – The Times of Israel 

“It’s hard to believe that a little drip system could do so much, but our new rice drip irrigation product really has the potential to vastly improve the lives of people in the developing world,” Aviv said.

One might be inclined to take such a claim with a grain of salt (or rice). But NaanDanJain – an Israeli-Indian firm, created in 2007 when Israeli irrigation tech firm NaanDan merged with India’s Jain Irrigation Systems – is one of the world leaders in drip-irrigation, filters, climate control systems, sprinkler systems for agriculture, and other hardware and control systems used in farms across India and the rest of Asia, as well as in North America, South America and Europe.

Speaking last week at Agritech 2015, a major agricultural technology event in Tel Aviv that drew some ten thousand visitors from Israel and abroad, Amnon Ofen, director of NaanDanJain, said that the company was “helping India bloom with our affordable drip irrigation, filter, and fertilizer technology. There is no question that our firm has been responsible for the green revolution in India. I would estimate that NaanDanJain products have helped increase India agricultural output by tens of percent. Millions of Indian farmers are using Israeli equipment and technology, and they are producing more from their land.”

If sales and revenue are any indication, NaanDanJain is a hit with farmers. The company had revenues of nearly a billion dollars in 2013-14, and is now the second biggest irrigation company in the world (behind another Israeli drip-irrigation firm, Netafim). But, said Aviv, the company’s new system for watering rice is very different – and perhaps far more important – than anything the company has tried before.

Rice is the staple crop in the Far East, where most of the world’s poor people live, and is the third biggest crop by yield in the world. It’s also an expensive crop to raise. Rice, according to the common wisdom, needs a lot of water.

But the common wisdom is wrong, said Aviv – and that is the basis of NaanDanJain’s new way of watering rice. “I, too, was under the impression that rice was a ‘thirsty’ crop, but as an agronomist, I conducted an in-depth study of the crop – and discovered that it is no thirstier than wheat, corn, or any of the other commodity crops where drip-irrigation has successfully been used to save water.”

Currently, rice farmers use the traditional furrow-flooding method of watering their crops, where they dig ditches around rows of growing rice and let loose large amounts of water, which flow through the furrows and seep into the soil where the crop is growing.

That is exactly what wheat and corn farmers did before drip-irrigation, which aims water directly at seeds and plants – thus obviating the need for flooding and furrows, and saving up to 70% of the water needed. Actually, many of those farmers still use the furrow system or other irrigation techniques; currently only about 5% of the world’s farmers use drip-irrigation.

Rice farmers in rural China, India, Cambodia, Vietnam, and other Asian countries don’t have that luxury, though – and it’s for them that the company developed the rice drip system, said Aviv. “We installed the systems in several test areas, and discovered that the rice did better with drip-irrigation than with traditional irrigation – it was stronger, bigger, and less prone to fungus attacks, which are usually caused by excessive moisture. Farmers were able to save 70% of the water they used, and got a 50% increase in output per hectare. We did a similar thing with bananas – between drip-irrigation and other technologies used by farmers, we were able to nearly quadruple the output of bananas in some places.”

With the system perfected, NaanDanJain has embarked on a sales campaign to convince rice farmers that drip-irrigation is a good idea for their farms. “Farmers, especially in the developing world, are set in their ways – if it was good enough for their fathers and grandfathers, it’s good enough for them. We are trying to educate them that this is not necessarily the case, and that with climate change and prices on the international commodity market squeezed by competition, they need to take new approaches to growing.”

If anything preventing is farmers in developing countries from adopting drip-irrigation, it’s the initial up-front investment needed to install a system. NaanDanJain has a solution for that as well, said Aviv. “We lend farmers the money they need to install systems, and they pay back from profits they make on their crops. We’re sort of a micro-lender for these farmers, one of the few private companies in this region of the world that has a financing model like this.”

With the breakthroughs in water technology, the investments being made in water infrastructure by governments in the Far East, Africa, and South America, and by international groups like the UN, along with the financing models aimed at getting water-saving technology out of research labs and into farms, Aviv is very optimistic that the world can solve its hunger problems. “I know that statistics show that drip-irrigation is not widely used, but I can almost guarantee that within a decade the picture will be very different. The world has no choice but to go the water-saving route.”

Drip-irrigation was invented in Israel by Netafim – which Aviv does not see as a rival, but as a partner in the “good fight” both companies are waging to bringing Israeli water-saving technology to the world. “Israel has invented many things that have benefited the world, from computer and networking technology to mobile tech to medical innovations,” said Aviv. “That’s all great, but our innovations in water and agricultural technology are the real game changers. The Internet and mobile tech is good for now, but that’s eventually going to change. The water-saving technology we are inventing now will be in use hundreds of years from now.”


Diplomatic Activism Won’t Bring Israeli-Palestinian Peace

The Europeans have decided that the Arab-Israeli conflict in the Holy Land, over a hundred years long, must finally end. High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini recently came to Israel to convey the EU’s impatience with the impasse in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. France intends to bring the matter to the U.N. Security Council to set an 18-month deadline on the resolution of the conflict.

The European intentions are laudable, but seem to be removed from the Middle Eastern reality. While partition of the Land of Israel between the Jews and the Arabs living in this small part of the world is desirable, the Palestinian national movement has proven to be the wrong partner to implement partition and is largely responsible for the failure of the two-state solution.

The Palestinian national movement seems unable to reach a historic compromise with the Zionist movement as it still seeks control over the Temple Mount, a “right of return” for Palestinian refugees, and the complete absence of any Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria. The Palestinian media and education system perpetuate the conflict by inciting against Jews and their link to the Land of Israel. Indeed, the gap in positions between Israelis and Palestinians is extremely large and cannot be bridged overnight. It is totally unrealistic to expect an agreement on final status issues in the near future.

The bitter truth is that the two societies still have the energy to fight for what is important to them. Ethno-religious conflicts usually end when at least one of the sides displays great weariness. The gullible Europeans are having difficulty realizing that peace is not the most important value for the Israelis or the Palestinians.

In addition, the Palestinians failed to capitalize on the opportunity to build a state. The most remarkable failure and most devastating to the state-building attempt was the loss of a monopoly over the use of force. This led to chaos and the loss of Gaza to Hamas in 2007. As long as Hamas plays a central role in Palestinian affairs, no real Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation is possible. What happened in the Palestinian territories reflects a phenomenon widespread in the Arab world, the collapse of statist structures. Arab political culture seems unable to sustain statist structures or overcome tribal and sectarian identities.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) is not that different than Arab political entities such as Libya, Iraq, Syria, or Yemen, which are unable to effectively govern their territories. The PA and its leadership are basically sitting on Israeli bayonets that make sure the PA-ruled territory is clear of radical violent elements that want to topple the illegitimate rule of PA President Mahmoud Abbas and to perpetrate terrorist attacks against Israel. This is the essence of the security cooperation between Israel and the PA. Economically, the PA is also dependent upon interactions with Israel and Israel’s cooperation with donor states.

Above all, the Palestinians refuse to accept Israel as a Jewish state, a core issue in the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict. While Israel, under the leadership of then - Prime Minister Menachem Begin, recognized the “legitimate rights of the Palestinian people” in 1978, the Palestinians still have not reciprocated. Moreover, the growing appeal of Islamism within Palestinian society, a phenomenon reflecting regional trends, makes the recognition of a Jewish state increasingly difficult. Denying the legitimate right of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel only reinforces the large Israeli consensus that the Palestinians are not a serious partner for peacemaking.

The turmoil in the Arab world has also hardened Israeli positions in negotiations with the Palestinians. Political circumstances may change suddenly in the Middle East, making defensible borders imperative. Israeli presence along the Jordan River is a vital security requirement for Israel. It is a pity that the Palestinians have not yet internalized this change and are failing to calibrate their aspirations to the reality on the ground. Unfortunately, realism is hardly part of the maximalist Palestinian political culture.

Therefore, the protracted Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains intractable. The two-state solution that everybody pays lip service to is simply not a realistic outcome under the current circumstances.

Last year, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reluctantly accepted a working paper submitted by the U.S. in an effort to salvage the negotiations with the Palestinians. But Abbas refused to accept the American document, effectively ending the American diplomatic efforts. As expected, Netanyahu’s latest concession -- negotiating the borders of the settlement blocs -- did not satisfy Palestinian desires. Over the years, the Palestinians have rejected generous offers by Prime Ministers Ehud Barak (2000) and Ehud Olmert (2008). Obviously, Netanyahu cannot do better.

A resolution to the conflict is not on the cards. The best that can be achieved is interim agreements, tacit or formal, that do not entail grave security risks for Israel. Even the Obama administration learned the hard way that conflict resolution should be substituted with conflict management. That is the only strategy that has a chance to minimize suffering on both sides and achieve a modicum of stability in a stormy Middle East.

The European peace offensive, another exercise in futile diplomacy, will in all probability produce another bout of diplomatic activism in pursuit of another forum for an Israeli-Palestinian exchange of views that will similarly fail. Such failures hardly discourage professional diplomats who make an honourable living by trying to bring peace. The Quartet will probably also try again to make peace. We should wish all of them luck.

Efraim Inbar, a professor of political studies at Bar-Ilan University, is the director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies and a fellow at the Middle East Forum.


Israel’s Parliament Approves New, Precarious Government

By Joshua Mitnick – The Wall Street Journal

Israel’s parliament on Thursday approved Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s new coalition, marking the official start of a slim majority government that gives him little room to manoeuvre domestically and in international affairs. The parliament, known as the Knesset, late Thursday night voted 61 to 59 along partisan lines to approve Mr. Netanyahu’s narrow coalition of conservative and religious parties in the 120-seat body.

The inauguration puts an end to weeks of tortured negotiations with coalition partners and members of Mr. Netanyahu’s own Likud party - whose haggling over cabinet positions caused the ceremony to be delayed by two hours. The unexpectedly difficult task of forming a coalition signals a potentially volatile future for a new government that will face a constant threat of collapse. In a brief inaugural address before the vote, Mr. Netanyahu complained that his March 17 election victory had been distorted by coalition negotiations.  He complained he would be vulnerable to “excessive demands” from coalition partners and individual legislators, and appealed to Opposition Leader Isaac Herzog to join the government as foreign minister and overhaul Israel’s election system together. “We will establish a government, and this government will operate under the limitations of the system,’’ the prime minister said. “But I am leaving the door open to widen the government. Otherwise we will continue to build governments every two years.”

Immediately after Mr. Netanyahu finished, Mr. Herzog rejected the offer in an address to the parliament. Mr. Herzog accused the prime minister of caving to coalition demands and said that the next government would leave Israelis isolated without hope for a peace deal with the Palestinians.“ No real logical leader would join your circus of a government,’’ he said. “This government will worry from day to night over its existence.” The next election is slated for the end of 2019, but few people believe the current government will last that long.

Despite the pomp of the inauguration, Mr. Netanyahu’s new government also faces growing diplomatic isolation. The government continues to expand Jewish settlements in the West Bank and the Israeli prime minister said at the end of election campaign that establishing a Palestinian state wasn’t possible in the foreseeable future - developments that have irked enemies and allies alike.

While President Barack Obama has called on the new Israeli government to demonstrate a commitment to a Palestinian state, the new government’s policy guidelines only refer to the desire to reach a peace deal, they omit any reference to a Palestinian state.

Israel must now grapple with a French initiative to pass a United Nations Security Council resolution on statehood. There are also growing calls in Europe to boycott Jewish settlements and recognize a Palestinian state.

Though his election victory appeared to give him a sweeping mandate to govern, Mr. Netanyahu was only able to manage to cobble together a two-seat parliamentary majority. The government consists of an alliance among his Likud party and Jewish Home, dominated by pro-settler ideologues who want to block a Palestinian state and limit the ability of Israel’s Supreme Court to strike down policy; ultraorthodox parties who want to boost entitlements for their religious seminaries; and Kulanu, a moderate center-right party that wants to pursue economic overhauls to ease the cost of living. But the coalition is likely to handicap his ability to push dramatic new initiatives in foreign or domestic policy, analysts say.

“With a 61 - member coalition, it’s very difficult to get any achievements,’’ said Danny Dayan, a former chairman of the Yesha Council of Jewish settlers. “The most you can do is maintenance: to defuse problems and survive.’’

Josh Mitnick has been reporting on Israel, the Palestinians and the Middle East for the Wall Street Journal since 2008. 


MKs may turn the air blue, but the Knesset is Earth’s greenest parliament

By Renee Ghert-Zand – The Times of Israel

With solar roofs, recycled paper, auto-close computers and air conditioners, and a NIS 7 million energy-saving project producing a more sustainable legislature, the Knesset is Earth’s greenest parliament. Israeli governments may not have a history of lasting very long, but at least the operation of the Knesset building itself is becoming more and more sustainable. By undertaking measures that any environmentally friendly homeowner would take, the home of Israeli politics has recently become the greenest parliament in the world.

On March 29, the Knesset unveiled a 4,560-square-meter solar field on its roof and those of surrounding buildings. Although the 1,500 solar panels are the highlight and the most obvious aspect of the greening of the Knesset, they are by far not the only way in which the Knesset is conserving energy. The Green Knesset Project, launched in January 2014, involves 13 different ecologically conscious projects at a cost of NIS 7 million ($1.8 million).

“Today is the closure of a circle. Eight years ago, we had a dream of making the Knesset a green parliament,” MK Dov Khenin of the Joint Arab List, chair of the Knesset environmental caucus, told a group of reporters he met in a Knesset hallway on his way to the solar-field unveiling ceremony.

The 450 KW-producing solar field, which is larger than its closest competitors at the German Reichstag in Berlin and the Australian Parliament House in Canberra, will generate 10 percent of the electricity used at the Knesset - worth NIS 300,000, annually. Together with additional energy-saving measures, the solar array is expected to help meet one-third of the Knesset’s energy needs. The field has a NIS 2.4-million price tag, and the savings it will generate are expected to cover the cost of its construction within eight years.

Alterations like these have been necessary mainly in the older part of the Knesset building, which was inaugurated in 1966. The newer section of the structure, inaugurated in 2008, was built according to more up-to-date standards.

For instance, the older glass surrounding the famous hall containing tapestries by the artist Marc Chagall in the original building have been recently switched out with thermally insulating double-paned windows. On the other hand, the newer building was designed to make use of natural light and sun radiation to provide heat during the winter, and has awning-type structures above windows that keep the building interior cool during other times of the year by blocking the intense summer sun.

Despite Israel’s reputation as the Start-Up Nation and being known for developing and exporting cutting-edge technology - including solar technology - to the rest of the world, bringing progressive environmental solutions to the Knesset surprisingly took some effort, mainly in terms of reeducating not only members of Knesset, but also the Knesset staff.

“It’s a matter of changing organizational culture,” said Ronen Plot, director general of the Knesset. “During the preelection recess (January through mid-March 2015), we offered an in-depth course on sustainability for 35 employees from different departments.”

This week-long advanced course - on subjects such as environmental ethics, environmental law, and environmental economics - followed sustainability workshops that were compulsory for all Knesset employees.

“We are entering an era of sustainability, but it’s not just about the building. It’s also about influencing the staff and the MKs. Everyone needs to be on board if we are to act as an example to other parliaments around the world,” said Dr. Samuel Chayen, sustainability coordinator for the Green Knesset Project.

According to Plot, not all the MKs are happy about the changes. It seems it will just take some time for them to get with the program, which includes everything from individual plastic water bottles being replaced by glass pitchers of water in committee rooms to the installation of toilet flushing systems with two volumes - three liters for liquid waste, and six liters for solid waste (the old toilets used a standard nine-liter volume).

All lighting and air conditioning turns off automatically when a room becomes empty. Even computers left on, but not in use, are remotely turned off after a warning is given. At this point, 80 percent off all paper used in the Knesset comes from recycled sources, and all printing is double-sided.

More significantly, paper is being replaced by electronic information delivery systems. MKs have been given electronic tablets to use, and the computer screens at each seat in the Knesset plenum hall are being upgraded. It used to be that the only thing an MK could do with the screen was vote on proposed laws. Now, they will be able to get all kinds of information about bills and other parliamentary business on those screens, as well.

“Some MKs may prefer paper, but they are not going to get the huge annual budget in printed form anymore,” said Plot, as he spread his arms about a foot apart to show how thick the document usually is.

“It’s going to be distributed on a flash drive they can plug in to their computer,” he said.

The Green Knesset Project will also include optimization of the irrigation of the gardens on the extensive Knesset grounds and the possible replacement of the pumps in the building’s air-conditioning system. Experts from Haifa University are looking into establishing a green roof (a roof covered with vegetation) on the Knesset roof after the shmita (Sabbatical) year is over. It would be for research purposes and could also boost the Knesset’s power savings.

While diners at the Knesset cafeterias have been required to separate their recyclables into separate bins, soon they may be asked to deposit the organic waste from their meals into special containers. Knesset representatives are currently working with the Jerusalem Municipality on a plan to transfer organic waste from the Knesset kitchens to a treatment site where it will be used for making compost - rather than being sent to a landfill.

“We finished phase one of the project nine months early, and we plan on starting phase two in half a year from now,” said Plot. “We will invest every shekel saved in phase one into phase two. We expect to recoup our total investment in five years,” he added.

The Knesset has signed cooperation agreements in the area of green research with the parliaments of a number of other countries in Eastern Europe and Africa.

“If the Knesset remains the sole green building, then we will not have achieved our goal,” said Khenin.  “Our status is among the most advanced in the world. We hope that government ministries, private businesses and other parliaments will follow our example,” he added.


No peace in our time

By Charles Krauthammer – The Washington Post 

Of all the idiocies uttered in reaction to Benjamin Netanyahu’s stunning election victory, none is more ubiquitous than the idea that peace prospects are now dead because Netanyahu has declared that there will be no Palestinian state while he is Israel’s prime minister.

I have news for the lowing herds: There would be no peace and no Palestinian state if Isaac Herzog were prime minister either. Or Ehud Barak or Ehud Olmert for that matter. The latter two were (non-Likud) prime ministers who offered the Palestinians their own state - with its capital in Jerusalem and every Israeli settlement in the new Palestine uprooted - only to be rudely rejected.

This is not ancient history. This is 2000, 2001 and 2008 - three astonishingly concessionary peace offers within the past 15 years. Every one rejected.

The fundamental reality remains: This generation of Palestinian leadership - from Yasser Arafat to Mahmoud Abbas - has never and will never sign its name to a final peace settlement dividing the land with a Jewish state. And without that, no Israeli government of any kind will agree to a Palestinian state.

Today, however, there is a second reason a peace agreement is impossible: the supreme instability of the entire Middle East. For half a century, it was run by dictators no one liked but with whom you could do business. For example, the 1974 Israel-Syria disengagement agreement yielded more than four decades of near-total quiet on the border because the Assad dictatorships so decreed.

That authoritarian order is gone, overthrown by the Arab Spring. Syria is wracked by a multi-sided civil war that has killed 200,000 people and that has al-Qaeda allies, Hezbollah fighters, government troops and even the occasional Iranian general prowling the Israeli border. Who inherits? No one knows.

In the last four years, Egypt has had two revolutions and three radically different regimes. Yemen went from pro-American to Iranian client so quickly the United States had to evacuate its embassy in a panic. Libya has gone from Muammar Gaddafi’s crazy authoritarianism to jihadi-dominated civil war. Tunisia, the one relative success of the Arab Spring, suffered a major terror attack that the prime minister said “targets the stability of the country.”

From Mali to Iraq, everything is in flux. Amid this mayhem, by what magic would the West Bank, riven by a bitter Fatah-Hamas rivalry, be an island of stability? What would give any Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement even a modicum of durability?

There was a time when Arafat commanded the Palestinian movement the way Gaddafi commanded Libya. Abbas commands no one. Why do you think he is in the 11th year of a four-year term, having refused to hold elections for the last five years? Because he’s afraid he would lose to Hamas.

With or without elections, the West Bank could fall to Hamas overnight. At which point fire rains down on Tel Aviv, Ben Gurion Airport and the entire Israeli urban heartland - just as it rains down on southern Israel from Gaza when it suits Hamas, which has turned that first Palestinian state into a terrorist fire base.

Any Arab-Israeli peace settlement would require Israel to make dangerous and inherently irreversible territorial concessions on the West Bank in return for promises and guarantees. Under current conditions, these would be written on sand.

Israel is ringed by jihadi terrorists in Sinai, Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Islamic State and Iranian proxies in Syria, and a friendly but highly fragile Jordan. Israelis have no idea who ends up running any of these places. Will the Islamic State advance to an Israeli border? Will Iranian Revolutionary Guards appear on the Golan Heights? No one knows.

Well, say the critics. Israel could be given outside guarantees. Guarantees? Like the 1994 Budapest Memorandum in which the United States, Britain and Russia guaranteed Ukraine’s “territorial integrity”? Like the red line in Syria? Like the unanimous U.N. resolutions declaring illegal any Iranian enrichment of uranium - now effectively rendered null?

Peace awaits three things. Eventual Palestinian acceptance of a Jewish state. A Palestinian leader willing to sign a deal based on that premise. A modicum of regional stability that allows Israel to risk the potentially fatal withdrawals such a deal would entail.

I believe such a day will come. But there is zero chance it comes now or even soon. That’s essentially what Netanyahu said Thursday in explaining - and softening - his no-Palestinian-state statement.

In the interim, I understand the crushing disappointment of the Obama administration and its media poodles at the spectacular success of the foreign leader they loathe more than any other on the planet. The consequent seething and sputtering are understandable, if unseemly. Blaming Netanyahu for banishing peace, however, is mindless.


Next Israeli government will inherit a plethora of problems

By Lidar Gravé-Lazi - Jerusalem Post

Despite the outcome of Tuesday’s election, these past few months have demonstrated that the public is at least as concerned with socioeconomic issues as it is with the Iranian threat and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. From the Zionist Union to Yesh Atid and Kulanu, from Meretz to Shas, the parties put social and economic issues at the forefront of their campaigns. Each appealed to the underprivileged, to families that can’t make ends meet, to young couples who cannot afford to buy an apartment, and to parents worried about their children’s education and future.

The next government will inherit a plethora of socioeconomic problems, including high poverty rates, high cost of living, a housing crisis as well as protests on overcrowding in schools and the state of education, to name a few.

One of the major problems the new government will have to address is the issue of poverty in Israel – which has one of the highest rates in the Western world, standing at some 20.9 percent, nearly twice the OECD average of 11.3%. The National Insurance Institute annual poverty report estimated that there were some 1.65 million people living in poverty in 2013, among them 756,900 children and 432,600 families.

The previous government placed the issue firmly on the agenda by establishing the Committee to Fight Poverty, headed by Eli Alalouf (Kulanu), which was responsible for making recommendations on the actions required by the state to combat poverty in all aspects of life. In June, the committee released the long-awaited recommendations, totalling an estimated NIS 6 billion to NIS 8b.

Prior to the dissolution of the 19th Knesset, several of the recommendations were set to be implemented, including grants for some 18,000 single-parent families and pension income supplements for some 190,000 elderly living under the poverty line. They have been put on hold.

Another major issue facing the next government is addressing the growing gaps in Israeli society, primarily between the general population and the ultra-Orthodox and Arab segments. The Arab and ultra-Orthodox populations consistently lag behind the general Jewish population on everything from employment rates to wage gaps to education.

Numerous efforts have already been made, including by former economy minister and right-wing Bayit Yehudi party leader Naftali Bennett to employ more Arab women and ultra-Orthodox. Likewise, former education minister Shai Piron (Yesh Atid) also aimed to reduce inequality across the board in the education system and implemented numerous reforms to achieve that end. 

These social issues are just the tip of the iceberg. More and more Israelis are feeling discontent with the state of socioeconomic affairs in the country and are making their voices heard. Despite the outcome or political orientation of the newly formed government, these social issues are not going away anytime soon.

Lidar Gravé-Lazi holds degrees from Johns Hopkins University (B.A.) and Tel Aviv University (M.A.) in International Relations and Strategic Studies with an emphasis on Israel-Diaspora relations and Middle Eastern affairs.


Blaming Israel for Gaza’s reconstruction delays is wilful ignorance

By Daniel Taub - The Guardian

Golda Meir, the former Israeli prime minister, said: “We will only have peace when our enemies love their children more than they hate us.” I could not help being reminded of this bitter truism this week when I read a chorus of “pro-Palestinian” voices squarely blaming Israel for the repeated delays to reconstruction in Gaza.

While both the UN and the Arab League have identified the real obstacle to reconstruction as intra-Palestinian violence and intimidation, these voices choose to remain in their traditional comfort zone of pointing at Israel, and Israel alone, as the culpable party.

By electing to obscure the real challenges to reconstruction, these voices are not addressing the problems of Gaza, but instead helping to perpetuate them.

The simplistic narrative presented by numerous NGOs and observers from afar is that Israel is refusing to allow building materials to be imported into the Gaza Strip, and as such is the main barrier to reconstruction in Gaza. Thirty international agencies, in a joint statement issued last week, identified Israel as “the main duty bearer”.

In a separate statement, Catherine Essoyan, Oxfam’s regional director, said: “Only an end to the blockade of Gaza will ensure that people can rebuild their lives.” Speaking in a debate in the House of Commons on the reconstruction of Gaza last week, one MP went further, stating: “Members on either side saying that Israel has kept Gaza supplied, I think people must be living in a parallel world.”

A power struggle between Hamas and the PA has taken precedence over the rebuilding effort.  In fact, while Israel has good reason to have concerns about the end use of construction materials in Gaza – vast quantities of imported aid were diverted by Hamas to construct miles of terror attack-tunnels – Israel has cooperated fully with the trilateral Gaza reconstruction mechanism (GRM) established by the UN. To date under this arrangement it has facilitated the entry of over 62,000 tonnes of construction supplies to Gaza. This is corroborated by the Palestinian Authority’s own figures, which confirm that reconstruction is not being constrained by any lack of supply, and that stocks of all key materials, including cement, aggregate, and re-bar (steel), remain in surplus.

If import restrictions aren’t the problem, what is? At the Cairo conference in October, donors pledged $5.4bn in aid, but the bulk of this commitment remains undelivered, as donors remain unconvinced that Hamas genuinely wants to rebuild Gaza’s homes, and not Gaza’s tunnels. In his briefing to the security council earlier this month, the UN’s under-secretary general, Jeffrey Feltman, cited the delay in the disbursement of international aid as a major obstacle to reconstruction, stating: “Despite the GRM’s continued expansion, four months after the Cairo conference donors have yet to fulfil the vast majority of their pledges. This is frankly unacceptable, and cannot continue if we hope to avoid another escalation in Gaza.”

The second impediment to reconstruction is the failure of Palestinian governance in Gaza. Under the GRM, agreed between the Palestinian Authority, the UN and Israel, the PA bears primary responsibility for coordinating reconstruction, leading both private sector and public sector works. A power struggle for control of the Gaza Strip between Hamas and the PA has degenerated into violence and recriminations, and taken precedence over the rebuilding effort.

The secretary general of the Arab League, Nabil Elaraby, was in no doubt about the cost of this political dispute, telling the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper: “The internal differences and the absence of cooperation between the PA and Hamas are behind the delay in reconstructing the Gaza Strip.” Likewise, Feltman told the security council: “The combination of the failure to rectify the persistent governance and security issues and the slow pace of reconstruction has created an increasingly toxic environment.”

Yet the true obstacles in Gaza – clear to Elaraby and Feltman – are wilfully ignored in the disingenuous comments by foreign aid agencies and legislators. By masking the true causes of paralysis in Gaza, individuals and organisations claiming to be committed to the wellbeing of Palestinian civilians have instead become accessories to the perpetuation of their suffering.

Daniel Taub is the Israeli ambassador to the UK


Here comes the sun, Israel launches a solar power field

- By Karin Kloosterman - Israel 21c

The new solar field at Kibbutz Ketura generates enough energy to power three communities, and takes Israel one step nearer to becoming a clean-tech superhero.

The solar field at Kibbutz Ketura is the first of many planned in an effort to have 10 percent of Israel’s energy from renewable sources by 2020. It’s taken five years to get off the ground, thanks in part to the difficulty of coordinating between no less than 24 ministerial offices, but the first Israeli solar field was finally launched to fanfare, VIP barbecues, music, a religious rapper (who wrote a song for the occasion) and a picturesque setting sun.

Arava Power’s 4.95 megawatt solar field in Kibbutz Ketura marks a milestone for the state of Israel. The Jewish nation has been intent on branding itself as a clean-tech superhero, selling solar innovations like inverters and software abroad, yet not quite able to prove its commitment to renewable energy on its home turf. Now, after successfully navigating labyrinthine regulatory hurdles, Arava Power has its sights set on helping Israel reach its stated goal of 10 percent renewable energy by 2020. About half of that amount could be generated by solar energy in the Negev desert, which sits under clear, bright skies most days of the year.

Although it’s a Middle East country, Israel doesn’t have any appreciable oil sources beyond the natural gas wells off the coast of Haifa. It does have a large amount of oil shale, but environmentalists caution that extracting oil from the shale would cause too much damage.

What’s left? The sun, an energy source that makes non-polluting perfect sense. Arava Power, says CEO Jonathan Cohen, is pioneering the way for other companies to make their mark in this new industry in Israel.

“There is no doubt that the natural advantage will be fully leveraged,” says Cohen. “There are talks of bio-gas, and an aggressive drive to get wind up and running.”  

“It was tough,” he said at the launch event, held on World Environment Day in front of a crowd of about 500 kibbutz members, press, ministers in infrastructure and agriculture from Israel and around the world, as well as executives from companies like investor Siemens. “We are pioneers. The bureaucracy and regulations were almost a nightmare at stages, as is expected for a brand-new pioneering industry, in a brand-new pioneering company, in a brand-new pioneering country. We very much appreciate that the building, the establishment of the first ground phase of a large solar field in Israel, is an event.”

Cohen foresees the Negev and Arava desert region as capable of providing about 2,000 to 2,500 megawatts of solar power - half of Israel’s renewable energy goals - to the national grid. Such an endeavor will require an enormous amount of financing, perhaps as much as $2 billion.

In the meantime the newly launched solar field at Ketura is expected to provide enough power to serve the energy needs of three nearby kibbutzim.

To the end of fulfilling Israel’s role as a “renewable light unto the nations,” a phrase coined by Arava Power’s co-founder, Yossi Abramowitz, in a nod to the biblical imperative upon Israel to be “a light unto the nations,” Arava Power announced that the profits from the four corners of its recent solar field will be offered to charity in the spirit of the Bible’s requirement for farmers and their produce. 

The company plans eventually to build some 40 solar fields in Israel, contributing about 400 megawatts of power in total. So far, one percent of this dream has come true, and later this year Arava will launch a solar field eight times larger than the one at Kibbutz Ketura.

It’s a “first small step for mankind,” Cohen says.


President Reuven Rivlin’s speech at the funerals of victims of terror attack at Paris kosher supermarket

- Ynet

Dear families, Yoav, Yohan, Philippe, Francois-Michel, this is not how we wanted to welcome you to Israel. This is not how we wanted you to arrive in the Land of Israel, this is not how we wanted to see you come home, to the State of Israel, and to Jerusalem, its capital. We wanted you alive, we wanted for you, life. At moments such as these, I stand before you, brokenhearted, shaken and in pain, and with me stands an entire nation.

Phillipe, you wanted to shop for the Sabbath, and what is more Jewish than preparing, shopping on a Friday, for the holy Sabbath day. “My father is a hero”, wept Rafael, your son. “He was murdered, simply because he was a Jew.” What can we say to your dear wife Philippe? What can we say to your three young children, whose cries of ‘Daddy’ will be met with silence?

Francois-Michel, the apartment that you bought here in Israel, was ready for your arrival. You so wanted to make aliyah, to live here with us. But you will never now be able to affix a mezzuzah upon the doorpost of your home in Israel. “What man is there, who has built a new house and has not yet inaugurated it? Let him go and return to his house, lest he die in battle,” as it is written in the Torah. But for you, the war came to you, and the murderer’s hand destroyed everything.

Yoav, you were here, just two weeks ago in Jerusalem, for the first time. You stood at the Western Wall, you were photographed wrapped in the Israeli flag. Today, you are here for the second, and the final time. As a Jewish hero, at one with us.

Yohan, you could have got away, escaped, you could have run – but you did not surrender. You fought with the murderer, to save the life of a three year old boy. You succeeded in that, but paid with your life. Just twenty years old, and already a hero.

Dear families, people of Israel, Philippe Braham, Yoav Hattab, Yohan Cohen and Francois-Michel Saada, were murdered on the eve of the Sabbath, in a kosher supermarket in Paris, in cold blood, because they were Jewish. The murderer made sure to be in a Jewish shop, and only then did he carry out the massacre. This was pure, venomous evil, which stirs the very worst of memories. This is sheer hatred of Jews; abhorrent, dark and premeditated, which seeks to strike, wherever there is Jewish life. In Paris, in Jerusalem, in Toulouse, and in Tel Aviv. In Brussels, and in Mumbai. In the streets, and in the synagogues. In the schools, and in the local market. In the train stations, and in the museums.

Like many, I watched the millions who marched in the streets of France. It was a demonstration of deep solidarity which warmed my heart. While the last weeks and months have proven, that terror does not discriminate between blood, we cannot escape the fact that this terrorism, explicitly targets the Jewish people. Those wearing tzitzit, those wearing kippot, those eating kosher food, praying in synagogues, ‘students of the Torah’.

It would be dangerous to deny that we are talking about anti-Semitism, whether old or new. Regardless of what may be the sick motives of terrorists, it is beholden upon the leaders of Europe to act, and commit to firm measures to return a sense of security and safety to the Jews of Europe; in Toulouse, in Paris, in Brussels, or in Burgas.

We cannot allow it to be the case, that in the year 2015, seventy years since the end of the Second World War, Jews are afraid to walk in the streets of Europe with skullcaps and tzitzit. It cannot be allowed, that we should see in the news, frequent vandalism of Jewish cemeteries, of Jews being beaten, and of synagogues and communities under attack. It is no longer possible to ignore or remain ambiguous, or to act weakly or with leniency against the rabid anti-Semitic incitement. Ignorance and violence will not simply go away on their own.

My brothers and sisters, members of the French Jewish community, we have in recent years witnessed a strengthening and a tightening of the vibrant and strong connection between the Jewish community of France, and the State and citizens of Israel. This strong and close bond finds expression in times of joy and grief, in good times and in bad.

 We stood here together, and accompanied on their final journey, Miriam Monsonego, Rabbi Yonatan Sandler, and his infant children, Gavriel and Ariyeh. And just last summer, the people of Israel stood as one, as they laid to rest Jordan Ben-Simon, a ‘lone soldier’ from France. I met his parents, and his sisters. Special people, a family committed to a love for Israel, Jewish tradition, and a love for the State of Israel.

At these difficult times, I have learned how much we truly are one people. I understand how important it is that we stay together, close together, regardless of geographical distance. And today too, we are brothers, members of one family, with heads bowed, with tears of sorrow. A bond which cannot be unraveled by time or distance. A bond of spirit and blood.

Much has been said since the murders, on the issue of the immigration to Israel of French Jewry. My dear brothers and sisters, Jewish citizens of France, you are welcome. Our land is your land, our home is your home, and we yearn to see you settle in Zion. However, returning to your ancestral home need not be due to distress, out of desperation, because of destruction, or in the throes of terror and fear. Terror has never kept us down, and we do not want terror to subdue you. The Land of Israel is the land of choice. We want you to choose Israel, because of a love for Israel.

Dear families, aside the graves of your loved ones, we promise that we will continue to fight for your right to live as Jews – wherever you may be. We will continue to fight for your right to open up proudly the synagogues, to educate your children in the study of Torah, a love for Israel, and a responsibility to the world around them.

Jewish blood is not worthless. Human blood is not worthless. The earth will not cover the blood, nothing will cure the pain. Here, between Jerusalem’s mountains, upon Har HaMenuchot, we lay to rest our brothers who have come from afar, our brothers, sons of France, but also sons of Jerusalem. May they be of blessed memory.



By Viva Sarah Press - Israel21c

44 candles

There are at least 44 candles in each box of Hanukkah candles,

enough for one person to light the hanukkiyah according to tradition

every night. Some boxes include extra candles as they tend to break

easily. Today, candles come in a variety of colours, wax types, and

even scents. You can also fulfill the mitzvah of lighting the hanukkiyah

with oil.

Holiday Calories

When you eat holiday treats fried in oil, you can’t really expect for

them to be fat-free. The average 100-gram sufganiya (doughnut)

packs 400-600 calories. One potato latke has about 150 calories,

svinge (a Moroccan cruller) 350-442 calories, and chocolate coins

220 calories each. Israelis devour some 24 million sufganiyot during

the eight-day holiday - adding up to 10.8 billion calories.

Hanukkah, Chanukah, Hannuka

Hanukkah also goes by the names of the Festival of Lights and

Feast of Dedication. As if multi-names weren’t enough, the holiday

also has a variety of transliterated English spellings - thanks to the

guttural Hebrew sound of the first letter, which cannot be rendered

properly in English.

Dreidel, dreidel, dreidel

Get your spinning finger ready: It’s time to remember when the

Greeks were in town and forbade Jews to learn Torah. Tradition

holds that kids used to meet up in secret to learn, but if a Greek

soldier happened upon their meeting they would pretend to be

gambling with their dreidels. Israeli author/politician Avram Burg

is said to have the largest dreidel collection in the world, counting

more than 3,500. Dreidel, by the way, is a Yiddish word which

comes from ‘drei’ - to turn or spin. The dreidel, or sevivon in

Hebrew, features four Hebrew letters. In Israel, the letters are

Nun, Gimel, Hay and Peh. The letters stand for the Hebrew phrase

“A great miracle happened here (for those in Israel - Nes Gadol

Hayah Poh). Abroad, they’re Nun, Gimel, Hay, Shin (a great miracle

happened there – Nes Gadol Hayah Sham).

Most popular Jewish holiday

Though it is one of the most well-known and celebrated Jewish

festivals worldwide, Hanukkah is actually a minor holiday. The

holiday is not even mentioned in the Torah. Some say Hanukkah

gained popularity in the late 1800’s among American Jews because

of the season in which it falls – usually around Christmastime.

Hanukkah always begins on the 25th day of Kislev on the Hebrew

calendar. The corresponding Gregorian date varies. Others point

to the fun aspect of the holiday as the reason for its popularity.

Maimonides wrote that the mitzvah of lighting the hanukkiyah is

even more important than buying wine for Sabbath.

Menorah vs. Hanukkiyah

The menorah is a seven-branched candelabra used in synagogues.

The hanukkiyah is a nine-branched candelabra used during

Hanukkah. Because the hanukkiyah can also be called a Hanukkah

menorah, confusion often sets in. Tradition states that the

hanukkiyah should have all candles or wicks at the same level, with

only the shamash - the ninth candle or wick, for lighting the other

eight - a bit higher or lower.

Lighting in the right direction

GPS navigation could help when organizing the hanukkiyah.

According to accepted rules, you should place the candles right to

left to correspond with the direction in which you read the Hebrew

language. But you should light the candles from left to right, giving

more attention to the new candle first.



By Ruth Eglash - The Washington Post

Here in this southern Israeli town, they have been

cleaned of rust, given a lick of paint and recycled

into a chic but cheap living space, replete with two bedrooms,

a living room, kitchenette and bathroom. Stacked atop one

another, the worn boxes now constitute Israel’s first student

village made solely of retired shipping containers. Israel is not the

first place to realize the value of the containers. Across the United

States and Europe and in Australia, the hunks of metal have been

refurbished and turned into luxury homes. In the oil fields of

Saudi Arabia, Libya and Kuwait, they have for years been used as

rough, temporary housing for guest workers. And in Amsterdam,

students have been living in the converted boxes since 2006, in

the largest shipping container village built to date.

In Israel, where hundreds of thousands of people led by a group

of university students took to the streets in 2011 to protest

the high cost of living, converted containers are being used as a

solution to the dire shortage of affordable student housing.

“There are millions of these containers that can be used. They

are usually discarded after only two or three years and the

companies don’t know what to do with them,” said Effy Rubin,

director of partnership at the non-profit student organization

Ayalim, which encourages young people to move to the Galilee

and Negev desert regions. Rubin said the containers were

bought from Israeli companies for about $2,000 each and were

transported this year to two locations in Israel - Sderot in the

south and Lod in the centre - to form the basis of the country’s

first two container villages.Renovations to turn the containers

into a liveable space - two containers were fitted together for

each apartment - cost a little more than $40,000 per apartment

and took less than six months to complete. In Sderot, a city that

sits in close range of rockets fired by Palestinian militants in the

Gaza Strip, the container village includes interlocking stairwells

with reinforced concrete to provide bomb shelters. Both villages

- Sderot, which initially will house up to 86 students, and Lod,

built for 36 - are set to open Dec. 1. Rent for the two-person

apartments will be no more than $160 a month per person.

“This is an opportunity that can’t be missed for students in

Sderot,” said Bar Asaev, 31, a student of industrial management

at the local Sapir College. “My school does not have student

housing, and this really gives us a good solution.”

Sapir College is one of 56 institutes of higher learning in Israel -

distinct from the country’s seven long-time universities - that have

opened in the past 20 years to provide students with alternative

learning options. Set in some of the country’s more peripheral

towns, most of them do not have the means to operate student

dormitories or offer rent-controlled accommodations. As a result,

thousands of students rent apartments on the open market.

Asaev will live in the container apartment with his girlfriend, Avital

Ben David, 27, who recently completed four years of study in

social work. “This is a great project. I wish it would have happened

sooner,” she said. During her years at the college, she said, she

rented apartments on a nearby kibbutz, worrying each year that

the price would increase beyond her meagre student budget.

Students living in the container village will pay a few hundred

dollars per month for rent in addition to 10 hours a week doing

community service.

The plight of students with no choice but to rent apartments

without price control rose to prominence in July 2011, when a

group of Tel Aviv University students pitched a tent on the city

centre’s upscale Rothschild Boulevard to protest the high cost

of accommodations.

Within days, a tent city formed around the students, a show

of solidarity from other Israelis angry about exorbitant housing

prices in Tel Aviv. Throughout the summer, hundreds of

thousands of Israelis took to the streets of Tel Aviv and other

cities, setting up similar tent cities and holding rallies to protest

the high cost of living and decrying social injustice. It was the

biggest mass protest Israel has ever seen. The new container

villages in Sderot and Lod are, in part, aimed at addressing those

grievances. To secure a spot in either village, residents must

commit to volunteering in the local community.

“The concept is very educational. It allows us to contribute to

the community, and in return we get a nice and cheap place

to live,” said Banchi Avraham, a student at the Interdisciplinary

Centre Herzliya, about a 30-minute train ride from Lod.

And how does she feel about living in a metal box? “I don’t see it

like that,” she said. “It looks great inside, and I am very excited to

be part of a new project. I like being the first one to try something.”

Ruth Eglash is a correspondent for The Washington Post based in

Jerusalem. She was formerly a reporter and senior editor at the

Jerusalem Post and freelanced for international media.



By Alan Dershowitz - The Algemeiner

Last month the Columbia chapter of

Amnesty International invited me to deliver

a talk on human rights in the Middle East. I

accepted the invitation, anxious to present

a balanced view on human rights, focusing

on the Israeli-Arab-Palestinian issue. As a supporter

of the two state solution and an opponent of many

of Israel’s settlement decisions, I regard myself as a

moderate on these issues. That was apparently too

much for the national office of Amnesty International

to tolerate. They demanded that the Columbia

chapter of Amnesty International disinvite me. They

did not want their members to hear my perspective

on human rights.

The excuse they provided were two old and out of context quotes

suggesting that I favoured torture and collective punishment.

The truth is that I am adamantly opposed to both. I have written

nuanced academic articles on the subject of torture warrants

as a way of minimizing the evils of torture, and I have written

vehemently against the use of collective punishment of innocent

people-whether it be by means of the boycott movement against

all Israelis or the use of collective punishment against Palestinians.

I do favour holding those who facilitate terrorism responsible for

their own actions.

The real reasons Amnesty International tried to censor my speech

to its members is that I am a Zionist who supports Israel’s right to

exist as the nation-state of the Jewish people. As such, I have been

somewhat critical of Amnesty International’s one-sided approach

to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. For example, I wrote an article

criticizing Amnesty International’s report on honour killings in the

West Bank. An honour killing occurs when a woman has been raped

and her family then kills her because of the shame her victimization

has brought. Despite massive evidence to the contrary, Amnesty

International mendaciously claimed that honour killings had increased

in the West Bank since the Israeli occupation and that the fault for this

increase in Arab men killing Arab women, lies with Israel. The reality

is that there are far fewer honour killings in the West Bank than there

are in adjoining Jordan, which is not under Israeli occupation, and that

the number of honour killings in the West Bank has been reduced

dramatically during the Israeli occupation. But facts mean little to

Amnesty International when Israel is involved.

The national office of Amnesty International did not want their

members to hear my criticisms of their organization, despite the fact

that I was a strong supporter in its early days, before it became so

one sided and anti-Israel. They were afraid to have their members

hear the truth. They feared an open marketplace of ideas, so they

tried to shut me down.

Fortunately another Columbia student group immediately invited

me to give my talk, and some members of Columbia Amnesty, to

their credit, came to listen. They asked me hard questions, which

I tried to answer with fact and logic. Some agreed with me, while

others disagreed. That is the nature of open dialogue that Amnesty

International claims to champion - except when it comes to their

own organization, in which case it tries to censor speech critical of

its policies.

In general, Amnesty International - especially its European branch

located in London-has abandoned its commitment to human rights

in preference for an overtly political and ideological agenda. Its

position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has become particularly

troubling. In addition to providing an abuse excuse to Palestinian

honour killers in the West Bank, it has demonized Israel for its

attempts to protect its citizens from Hamas war crimes. In a recent

report it condemns Israel for its military actions in Gaza without

even mentioning the Hamas terror tunnels that provoked Israel’s

defensive actions. These tunnels - I was in one of them just before

the war - were built for one purpose and one purpose only: to kill

and kidnap Israeli citizens. The tunnel I was in exited right near an

Israeli kindergarten with more than 50 children. The sole purpose

of the tunnel was to send Hamas death squads into Israel to kill and

kidnap as many of these children as possible.

No country in the world would tolerate the existence of such

tunnels, and international law permits defensive actions to shut

them down. Yet Amnesty International never mentions the tunnels

and makes it seem that Israel sent troops into Gaza simply to kill as

many Palestinians as possible.

Amnesty International has become an apologist for terrorism and

an enemy of democracy. Its failed effort to stifle my free speech and

the rights of Columbia students to listen to me is symbolic of what

a once great organization has become: a cheerleader for human

wrongs rather than human rights.



Yonit Levi and Udi Segal - Tablet Magazine

We live in a country whose people don’t agree with each other on anything. And yet one activity - besides bickering - comes close to uniting everyone: watching the news. Israelis want all the information, all the time. This is true even on a normal, calm day, if such a thing truly exists in the Middle East. The combined ratings of the evening news broadcast on the three main networks - Channel 1, Channel 2, and Channel 10 - reach 40 percent, meaning four out of 10 people in the country tune in to the evening news. Brian Williams and Scott Pelley would kill for those numbers.

The war in Gaza turned all three Israeli networks into 24-hour news channels. Television was the main source of information while rockets were flying toward Israel, and no one turned it off. What was once an hourlong evening news program mutated into an ongoing, seemingly endless broadcast. The country’s national pastime became an obsession.

As a matter of fact, the 24-hour news cycle began almost a month before Operation Protective Edge: It all started June 13, after three young Israelis were kidnapped on their way home from a rabbinical seminary by Hamas terrorists. The continuing newscasts, fuelled by politicians’ vague messages regarding the situation of the youngsters, created the false hope that Israel could capture the kidnappers and release the hostages alive. Eighteen broadcast days later, when the bodies were found in an open field near Hebron, the public attitude was one of shock, mourning, and calls for revenge. And when a few days later Hamas began the barrage of rockets targeting Israel, the national mood and the media platform were equally prepared for war.

During the 50 days of the war in Gaza, Israelis, and the rest of the world were watching two completely different wars. In Israel, the country was under attack and it was all happening on live television: The camera leaped between different cities being targeted - showing the rocket’s trajectory from the Gazan border, the subsequent sirens, and civilians taking shelter in Israel and, often, the rocket’s interception by the Iron Dome anti-missile system several minutes later - moments of deep anxiety, followed by relief, over and over, throughout the day. Israeli networks co-operating with the IDF’s Home Front Command aired banners clearly stating which region was under attack, and in some areas where the sirens weren’t loud enough, this turned out to be life-saving information.

It might be difficult for an outsider to understand, but when your child is spending their summer vacation running to find shelter - with merely a 15-second warning in the south, 90 seconds in Tel Aviv - one has limited emotional capacity to see what is happening to the children on the other side. When you add to that the fact Hamas controlled all data and information coming from Gaza - and banned Israeli reporters - you see the juxtaposition emerging. The world showed the war in Gaza, and its effect on Gazans, while on Israeli television Gaza was a sidebar.

Thus, while the world castigated Israel for using excessive force, on Israeli television the prime minister was upbraided for not doing enough - lengthy studio discussions brought forth the opinions of former generals and, astonishingly, sitting cabinet ministers, saying more could and should be done. Indeed, television was the only place the phrase “we should reconquer Gaza” was stated over and over again, while in reality no one in the Israeli government even came close to contemplating such a move (although when asked about it in interviews, even left-wing ministers made sure to stress that “all options” were on the table).

Ten days into the war, when Hamas rejected a cease-fire offer and sent terrorists through a tunnel into Israel, the IDF’s ground operation began. Here, too, it is important to note the disparity: The international media sees Israeli soldiers as legitimate military targets, while to Israelis they are quite literally “our boys” - who are sent off at the age of 18 into mandatory military service. In this war Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon’s close friend lost his son, the grandson of a prominent left-wing politician was severely injured, and every anchor or reporter knew someone who was fighting in Gaza. In Israel there is often only one degree of separation.

Not only were Israelis watching a different war on television, but the pictures they saw were embedded in a different narrative that, in a nutshell, was this: We left the Gaza Strip, dismantled all settlements, completely retreated to the 1967 lines, and the outcome was that Hamas took over Gaza and we got rockets, which at any moment might strike our homes. The world, in contrast, heard the story of Israel bombing innocent civilians in an Israeli-made prison - and saw pictures of the devastation inflicted by our military might.

Our purpose is not to declare who’s right and who’s wrong but rather to point out the enormous and continuing gap between how the Gaza war was perceived in Israel and how it was generally represented elsewhere in the world. This difference in perception will in turn deeply affect the likely outcome of Operation Protective Edge. The worldwide conviction is that the only realistic solution to the gruesome pictures of destruction and death that were broadcast on TV is to step up efforts to negotiate a two-state solution - an effort that seems even more pressing now than it did before the war. Israel, on the other hand sees a dark reality in which a piece of land that was evacuated and turned over to the Palestinians became a haven for terrorists who shot missiles into homes and dug tunnels into communities in order to launch further attacks. Good luck to anyone trying to convince Israelis to withdraw again.



Rabbi A.J. Jacobs -

Sound familiar? It’s a thought that you, along with Jews all over the world, may have noticed has already crept its way into your conscience. And if it hasn’t yet made its appearance - it’s there, lurking just below the surface waiting for the opportune time to rear its ugly head. And eventually, no matter how long you try to ignore it and suppress it, the realization that the New Year is almost upon us will emerge. Your muscles will tense ever so slightly, your heart will start to beat a little faster and you may notice small beads of sweat forming on your forehead - but do not be alarmed - these are all normal reactions. After all, it is almost Rosh Hashanah.

But why should the thought of the approaching holiday cause us such discomfort, anxiety, or even downright fear? Is it simply because it brings to us the realization that time moves by so quickly that it could spin your head? We don’t take notice on a day-to-day basis of the speed with which the time whirs by, but when yearly milestones come around it somehow seems that it is just not possible that a full year has gone such a short time. Perhaps this is partially to blame. But that can’t be it. If this were the only explanation then it would stand to reason that every Jewish holiday would elicit the same response - and in my experience the realization that “it’s almost Shavuos” doesn’t quite do the trick.

To understand this phenomenon we need to explore the meaning of Rosh Hashanah, its purpose and context. Perhaps then we can begin to discuss how to approach the anxiety that it causes.

Rosh Hashanah is referred to by the Sages as Yom HaDin - the Day of Judgment. We are told that on this day (not coincidentally the anniversary of the creation of man) the Heavenly Creator reviews the progress of each and every individual over the past year. The Sages compare us to sheep passing before their shepherd one by one in a single-file line. The message is that there is nothing to hide behind and no one else to blame - we stand on our personal merits alone. The Almighty scrutinizes our deeds, analyses our thoughts, and reviews our level of commitment to serve Him. Then, the gravest moment of all, He turns to the two large tomes set before Him - one the book of Life, and the other the book of Death - and inscribes our names in one...or the other. On this Yom Hadin our King decrees the events of the entire following year. Everything is decided on this day - our ability to earn a living, our health, our children’s success at finding a mate - even how many times we will stub a toe - no detail is overlooked.

Indeed, Rosh Hashanah is a serious, even scary day. No wonder why the thought of its approach sends shivers down our spines. But now let’s move forward and a look at the events that follow the Day of Judgment - The Days of Repentance and Yom Kippur - and we will find something very peculiar.

Teshuva, repentance, is, quite literally, the process of returning to God. Every time we err and do something that is not in line with what the Creator wants of us, a distance is created and barriers are placed between us and Him. With teshuva we break down those barriers and draw close once again. The Sages tell us that, although teshuva is acceptable at any time, there is one time of the year that is set aside specifically for teshuva, a time when God looks to us to accept our teshuva and assists us in the process. This time is the ten days of the year that begin with Rosh Hashanah and culminate with Yom Kippur. Ideally, we are meant to spend the days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur involved in deep introspection. Now it is our turn to scrutinize our deeds, review our thoughts, and consider our level of commitment to serving our Creator. We recall our mistakes and shortcomings, regret them bitterly, and resolve to set a course for a path of self-improvement. On Yom Kippur we intensify this process through the service of the day and by denying ourselves the basic comforts of normal life. By the time the shofar sounds at the end of the day, we are secure in the knowledge that the filth and stain of our misdeeds have been washed away, and we are instructed, say the Sages, by a Bas Kol, a heavenly voice, “Go and eat your bread in happiness.” After all of the stress, anxiety, and hard work, we are rewarded with... well, a beautiful ending.

But if we take a step back and look at the entire chronology something seems wrong. Rosh Hashana, Days of Repentance, Yom Kippur. First comes the Judgment, then teshuva, then forgiveness. We come to Rosh Hashanah with an entire year’s worth of baggage, and only afterwards do we attempt to do anything about it. Wouldn’t it make more sense to first do teshuva and be forgiven and then come to judgment? Wouldn’t it be more beneficial to break down the barriers, wash away the stains and clean our slate before Rosh Hashanah? Wouldn’t it be nice to go into the Day of Judgment knowing that everything has already been taken care of? It certainly would alleviate some of the pre-Rosh Hashanah stress! So why this seemingly cruel reversal of order?

The answer, of course, is that, to the contrary, this reversal of order is a tremendous favour that Hashem does for us. Our Creator knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows that as time goes on and, day by day, we go through the motions of life, we tend to forget what’s really important. We don’t always have the time or clarity of mind to focus on our relationship with God. And eventually we get used to neglecting our duty to constantly grow closer to Him. It reaches the point that we become so jaded in our lack of spiritual growth that we are like sleepwalkers - physically awake but spiritually asleep. Our Creator knows that if, while in this state, we were given a special opportunity to break down the barriers that keep us from Him, we may very well not even notice. In our stupor we would be liable to let the opportunity slip right by.

So we need a wake-up call. Something powerful enough to shake us out of our slumber. Something scary enough to sober us up, and fast. Enter Rosh Hashanah. The awesome nature of the day forces us to examine our relationship with Hashem. We must face the fact that there are so many barriers to break down and so much filth to wash away. The shofar, like an alarm clock, screams to us, “Wake up!! Things cannot continue this way! There is so much work to be done!” Only after this reminder can we hope to take advantage of the opportunity given us and begin, in earnest, the work ahead. Only once we have been shocked into facing reality do we stand a chance to begin the process of returning to Hashem and gaining forgiveness on Yom Kippur. And although the decree of Judgment is written on Rosh Hashanah, it is not sealed until Yom Kippur.

So as you anticipate the coming of the New Year, you may feel a bit anxious. Your muscles may tense ever so slightly, your heart may start to beat a little faster and you may notice small beads of sweat forming on your forehead - but do not be alarmed - these are all normal reactions. After all, it is almost Rosh Hashanah.



Danit Kleinman - The Times of Israel

This basic outline of the current Israel-Gaza media war sounds eerily like an exact replica of the wildly popular Harry Potter series. If we look carefully, J.K. Rowling’s magnum opus can provide us with a lens to put the Israel-Gaza media war into clear focus.

If you haven’t read the books, here’s a quick recap of the relevant points: Harry Potter is the hero of Rowling’s wizarding world, whose arch nemesis, the evil Lord Voldemort, vows for his death and wizarding world domination. As the series opens, Voldemort is near death, as a lethal spell aimed at Harry backfired and left him in critical condition. Eventually, Voldemort brings himself back to life through a potion involving Harry’s blood - so Harry is the only good wizard who sees it happen, and only he knows that Voldemort has returned and is very dangerous. Harry expects the support of the wizarding world in the fight against Voldemort, because Voldemort had killed so many innocent wizards in the past.

But Harry is sadly mistaken. The Minister of Magic, fearing for his job and his comfortable life, sews denial of Voldemort’s return throughout the wizarding government, and insinuates that Harry has become deranged under stress. The situation continues to devolve, with the wizarding world’s newspaper constantly portraying Harry and his supporters as misguided or even insane. All the while, Voldemort gains ground support and convinces the media to turn a blind eye to his return, and slander Harry across the wizarding world. By the time the truth about Voldemort’s return finally comes to light, it is too late: he has enough power and supporters to take full control of the media. By the final book of the series, the only truthful reporting is coming from underground radio.

So let’s match up the players to our current media war. Let’s look at why the wizarding world wanted to deny Voldemort’s return, and likewise, why our world wants to deny Hamas’s evil.

Hamas has been a purely evil terrorist group from the beginning, but somewhere along the line, much of the world decided it was inconvenient to see things that way. Much like in the Harry Potter series – Voldemort’s return to power was inconvenient, and the wizarding world did not want to see the danger brewing underfoot. If they did, they would be terrified. If Voldemort was really back and dangerous, everyone was in peril. It was more comfortable to see Harry as deranged and his actions as imbalanced, than to believe Harry and recognize the truth.

And so today, it is more comfortable for the world to see Israel as in the wrong, as misguided and acting disproportionately, than to believe Israel and its supporters and recognize the truth, that Hamas is evil.

Why? Because believing Israel would be terrifying.

If Israel is right and Hamas is evil, what does that mean for the rest of us? It means that nobody is safe - unless Israel wins. Similarly, in the Harry Potter series, nobody would be safe unless Harry won. The majority of the wizarding world did not want to believe their safety relied on a 17-year-old boy. So too, the majority of our world does not want to believe its safety relies on a tiny Jewish country in the Middle East.

If Israel is wrong and Hamas has understandable motives and isn’t evil - the world feels much safer. But that feeling is sorely misguided, because the only way for lasting security is for Hamas to be completely demilitarized and discredited. Denying Hamas’s evil and calling for use of proportionality in fighting them, calling for a cease-fire without demilitarizing them, is of no use to anyone. If Hamas were to destroy Israel, Europe and America would be next. According to Hamas, America is the “Big Satan” - Israel is only the “Little Satan.” And giving credit to Hamas gives credit to terrorists everywhere.

So is the majority of today’s media ignorant, unconsciously supporting the wrong side? I don’t think so.

In the Harry Potter series, things were much more clear-cut: before Voldemort’s return became public, the media was ignorant, fueled by a conscious or subconscious desire to keep their world comfortable, and to report the news people wanted to hear. Then, the media was clearly infiltrated by Voldemort’s supporters, who either wrote the news themselves or used spells to brainwash others to write their story.

Much of today’s world media is coming from both standpoints. Some publishing companies seem to operate consciously or subconsciously from a desire to keep things comfortable and report what people want to hear. But some of today’s news is also coming from obvious Hamas supporters - and most especially, from brainwashed journalists who are fed misinformation through phony pictures, fake statistics, and slanderous words. They have seen countless images of dead Palestinian women and children, without digging deeper to understand that stockpiles of the dead are designed by Hamas for media pictures, without understanding that Hamas is truly using their own citizens as human shields. Hamas sends children out to the streets with guns to try to kill IDF soldiers. Hamas holds babies in one hand while shooting at IDF soldiers with the other. Hamas plants their missile launchers in schools, hospitals, and private homes. Hamas takes all of Gaza’s pre-blockade building materials - some provided by Israel - tons of concrete and metal that could have been used for roads, schools, hospitals, parks, and bomb shelters, and uses it to build terror tunnels and rockets (by the way, that’s why the blockade was imposed). What these journalists can’t see, or refuse to see - through all of the images and statistics fed to them by Hamas - is that Hamas is actually pure evil. We don’t necessarily like to see things so black and white today, but this is black and white, and anyone who says otherwise is pulling the lids over their own eyes.

Harry had to keep fighting Voldemort and the media, no matter the danger or public opinion. Israel must keep fighting Hamas and the media, until Hamas is demilitarized. If they don’t, the entire Western world is in danger of giving way to radical terrorist power; power that, if given the chance, would kill those they deem unworthy and raise the rest on violence and fear. Hamas openly states its goal of murdering every Jew in the world. And we already see anti-Semitic protests, coming largely from the world of radical Islam, in Europe, and anti-Semitic protests disguised as anti-Israel protests in the U.S. and Canada. But don’t think it’s only the Jews in danger - radical Islam calls for the destruction of the West.

On a final note, let’s look at what happened after Harry Potter won. After Harry killed Voldemort, did Harry and his supporters turn on Voldemort’s remaining supporters and destroy them? On the contrary, they offered them peace and welcomed back those who had been astray. And some of Voldemort’s supporters were never happy to have been with him in the first place; they were just scared that he would kill them if they left or opposed him (much like many “eyewitness” accounts from Gazans in Gaza are fabricated out of fear of Hamas killing in retaliation for sharing the truth). After Israel wins - meaning Hamas is demilitarized and all tunnels destroyed, so they have no chance of ever firing rockets or kidnapping or suicide bombing Israelis again - then, and only then, Gazans too will find peace. Whether through citizenship or a two-state solution, Israel will not leave Gazans out of the peace that will reign. We know this as a fact, because Israel tried to give Gazans that peace less than ten years ago when they pulled out of Gaza so that Gaza could establish a Palestinian state, with much horticultural richness left to them by Israelis - and no blockade. But Hamas came to power in the region and controls those in their power through violence and fear.

Supporting Israel, like supporting Harry, is the only path to lasting peace.



by Daniel Pipes - Middle East Forum

Missile shield: The superb performance of Iron Dome, the protective system that shot down nearly every Hamas rocket threatening life or property, has major military implications for Israel and the world. Its success signals that “Star Wars” (as opponents maliciously dubbed it upon introduction in 1983) can indeed provide protection from short-range and also presumably from long-range rockets and missiles, potentially changing the future of warfare.

Tunnels: Tunneling behind enemy lines is hardly a new tactic; historically, it has had success, such as the 1917 Battle of Messines, when British mines killed 10,000 German soldiers. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) knew of Hamas’ tunnels before hostilities began on July 8 but failed to appreciate their numbers, length, depth, quality of construction, and electronic sophistication. Jerusalem quickly realized, as the Times of Israel wrote, that “Israel’s air, sea and land supremacy is not mirrored underground.” The IDF thus requires additional time to achieve subterranean dominance.

Consensus in Israel: Hamas’ unrelenting barbarism created a rare consensus among Jewish Israelis in favor of victory. This near unanimity both strengthens the government’s hand in dealing with outside powers (Prime Minister Netanyahu admonished the U.S. administration never again to second-guess him) and is likely to move Israeli domestic politics decisively to the right into the nationalist camp.

Middle Eastern response: With the exception of Hamas’ state patrons (Turkey, Qatar, Iran), the Islamist terrorists found almost no governmental support in the region. In one striking example, Saudi king Abdullah said of Hamas killing Gazans, “It is shameful and disgraceful that these terrorists are [mutilating the bodies of innocents and proudly publicizing their actions] in the name of religion.” How well he knows his mortal enemy.

Rising antisemitism: Especially in Europe but also in Canada and Australia, antisemitism came to the fore, mainly from Palestinians and Islamists as well as from their far-left allies. This response will, in all probability, increase immigration to the two havens of Jewish life, Israel and the United States. By contrast, Middle East Muslims kept quiet, with the exception of Turks and those Arabs living under Israeli control.

Elite vs. popular responses: It’s not every day that the secretary-general of the United Nations and all 28 foreign ministers of the European Union side with Israel against an Arab enemy, but that did occur. In the U.S. congress, the Senate unanimously approved and the House voted 395-8 in favor of an additional $225 million for the Iron Dome program. In contrast, among the wider public, pro-Israel sentiment declined almost everywhere (although not in the United States). How to explain this disparity? My hunch: Leaders imagine what they would do if faced with enemy rockets and tunnels, while the public focuses on photographs of dead babies in Gaza.

Dead babies: Which brings us to the most complex, counterintuitive, and strange aspect of the entire conflict. Because the IDF enjoys a crushing advantage over Hamas on the battlefield, their confrontation resembled a police operation more than a war. Thus, Israelis were judged primarily by the clarity of their leaders’ public statements, the judicious use of force, and the handling of evidence. Accordingly, media attention invariably drifted from the military sphere to questions of proportionality, morality, and politics. Hamas’ greatest strategic weapon in its effort to damage Israel’s reputation and ostracize it was neither rockets nor tunnels but wrenching photographs of dead civilians purportedly killed by the IDF.

This leads to the bizarre situation in which Hamas seeks the destruction of Palestinian property, compels civilians to sustain injuries and death, inflates casualty figures, and may even intentionally attack its own territory - while the IDF takes gratuitous fatalities to spare harm to Palestinians. The Israeli government goes further, providing medical care and food and sending technicians into harm’s way to make sure that Gazans continue to enjoy free electricity.

It’s a curious war in which Hamas celebrates Palestinian misery and Israel does its best to keep life normal for its enemy. Strange, indeed, but this is the nature of modern warfare, where opeds often count for more than bullets. In Clausewitzian terms, war’s center of gravity has moved from the battlefield to public relations.

In all, the civilized and moral forces of Israel came off well in this face-off with barbarism. But not well enough to forestall, for too long, yet another assault.



An interview with Amos Oz - Deutsche Welle

Amoz Oz: I would like to begin the interview in a very unusal way: by presenting one or two questions to your readers and listeners. May I do that?

Deutsche Welle: Go ahead!

Question 1: What would you do if your neighbor across the street sits down on the balcony, puts his little boy on his lap and starts shooting machine gun fire into your nursery?

Question 2: What would you do if your neighbor across the street digs a tunnel from his nursery to your nursery in order to blow up your home or in order to kidnap your family?

With these two questions I pass the interview to you.

Of course now we are already in the middle in the interview. I take it that - just like in the case of the second Lebanon war in 2006 and the Gaza offensive in 2009 - you support the present Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip?

No, I only support limited military response and not unlimited military response, as I did in 2006 and as I did later on in the previous fighting in Gaza.

Where do you draw the line?

Destroy the tunnels wherever they come from, and try to hit strictly Hamas targets and no other targets.

There seems to be a problem here. The tunnels are an elaborate system and difficult to find. The entries are hidden in public and private buildings, so you would have to do house-to-house searches - which implies a civilian toll. The same applies to destroying rocket launchers in civilian areas…

Well, I am afraid that there can be no way in the world to avoid civilian casualties among the Palestinians as long as the neighbor puts his child on the lap while shooting into your nursery.  One aim of the Israeli offensive is to destroy the tunnels that allow weapons to get into and fighters to get out of Gaza.

Is the analogy of the child on the lap really appropriate? Gaza is densely populated and Hamas positions are inevitably in civilian areas…

Yes - and this is Hamas’ strategy. This is why for Israel it is a lose-lose-situation. The more Israeli casualties, the better it is for Hamas. The more Palestinian civilian casualties, the better it is for Hamas.

Would you consider the present ground offensive to be limited or unlimited?

I think in some points it is excessive. I don’t have detailed information on what is actually happening on the ground, but to judge from some of the hits that the Israeli army caused in Gaza, I think at least in some points the military action is excessive - justified, but excessive.

So what is your suggestion?

My suggestion is to approach Abu Mazen (Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas) and to accept the terms - which the whole world knows - for a two-state-solution and coexistence between Israel and the West Bank: Two capitals in Jerusalem, a mutually agreed territorial modification, removal of most of the Jewish settlements from the West Bank.  When Ramallah and Nablus on the West Bank live on in prosperity and freedom, I believe that the people in Gaza will sooner or later do to Hamas what the people of Romania did to Ceausescu. I do not know how long it will take, but it is destined to happen - simply because the people in Gaza will be very jealous of the freedom and prosperity enjoyed by their brothers and sisters on the West Bank in the state of Palestine. This in my view is the solution, although this solution cannot be implemented in 24 hours or 48 hours.

Can you imagine a Palestinian state that is not hostile toward Israel?

Absolutely. I believe the majority of the Palestinians are not in love with Israel, but they do accept with clenched teeth that the Israeli Jews are not going anywhere, just like the majority of Israeli Jews - unhappily and with clenched teeth - accept that the Palestinians are here to stay. This is a basis not for a honeymoon, but perhaps for a fair divorce just like the case of the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

But that conjures up the image of a Palestinian state with an economy in turmoil, a weak government that cannot rein in radical groups, and one that may use hostility toward Israel to stay in power. 

This depends on how much support and material aid the new Palestinian state gets from Israel, from the wealthy Arab countries and from the rest of the world.

Many people argue that the two-state-solution is dead, given how far the building of settlements and roads in the West Bank has proceeded.

Well, I have seen some years ago Prime Minister Ariel Sharon remove all the Jewish settlements and the Jewish military from Gaza in about 36 hours and without bloodshed. I’m not suggesting that that will repeat itself in the West Bank so easily, but I believe that nothing in the world is irrevocable except death.

You have been talking about a long-term solution. But what could a short-term agreement look like?

The present hostilities will only stop, unfortunately, when one of the parties or both of them are exhausted. This morning I read very carefully the charter of Hamas. It says that the Prophet commands every Muslim to kill every Jew everywhere in the world. It quotes the Protocols of the Elders of Zion (an anti-Semitic diatribe) and says that the Jews controlled the world through the League of Nations and through the United Nations, that the Jews caused the two world wars and that the entire world is controlled by Jewish money. So I hardly see a prospect for a compromise between Israel and Hamas. I have been a man of compromise all my life. But even a man of compromise cannot approach Hamas and say: ‘Maybe we meet halfway and Israel only exists on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.’

Hamas is presently demanding that the blockade of the Gaza Strip be lifted…

I am absolutely for it. I think that the blockade should be removed. I think plenty of international, Arab and Israeli resources should be pumped into the Gaza strip in return for effective demilitarization. This is a proposal that Israel ought to make immediately.

Would that not send the signal that rocket attacks are a feasible means of exerting pressure?

Israel bombed the only power plant in Gaza.  If the return is an effective demilitarization of the Gaza strip, I am sure at least 80 percent of the Israeli Jews will endorse such a deal - even in the present militant mood.

Are you among the 85 percent of Israelis who want the offensive to continue until the strategic goals of destroying the tunnels and rockets are reached?

The only alternative to continuing the Israeli military operation is simply to turn the other cheek. I never agreed with the need to turn the other cheek to an enemy. Unlike European pacifists I never believed the ultimate evil in the world is war. In my view the ultimate evil in the world is aggression, and the only way to repel aggression is unfortunately by force. That is where the difference lies between a European pacifist and an Israeli peacenik like myself. And if I may add a little anecdote: A relative of mine who survived the Nazi Holocaust in Theresienstadt always reminded her children and her grandchildren that her life was saved in 1945 not by peace demonstrators with placards and flowers but by Soviet soldiers and submachine guns.

How secure can Israelis feel?

How secure can Jewish people feel on this planet? I think not about the last 20 or 50 years but about the last 2,000 years. But I will tell you what my hope and prayer for the future of Israel is. I would like to see Israel removed once and for all from the front pages of all the newspapers in the world and instead conquer, occupy and build settlements in the literary, arts, music and architecture supplements. This is my dream for the future.

Amos Oz, born Amos Klausner, is a renowned Israeli novelist, journalist and professor of literature. His works have been translated into 42 languages, including Arabic. Oz, who was born in Jerusalem, is an advocate of the two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.



Ben Sales  JTA

Get used to conflict. That’s the message Israeli officials and security experts are relaying as the Israel Defense Forces conducts its third operation in six years against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Israel’s missile defense capabilities have grown significantly since previous rounds of fighting in Gaza - Operation Cast Lead in 2008-2009 and Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012 - while Hamas has expanded its capability to strike deep at population centers in the Israeli heartland.

 But experts say the core objectives for each side - a bolstering of credibility among Palestinians for Hamas, a quiet border for Israel - were only temporarily achieved in previous rounds of fighting and are unlikely to be secured for the long term by this one.

“There’s no military solution, so there will be another round,” said Yiftah Shapir, head of the Middle East Military Balance Project at Tel Aviv University’s Institute of National Security Studies. “We need to restore Israeli deterrence for a year, two, three. In between the rounds, they’ll get new weapons and develop more clever ways to hurt us. They can’t beat us, but they can anger us and hurt us.”

The IDF’s latest operation, Protective Edge, began in the early hours of Tuesday morning. Since then, Hamas and Islamic Jihad have fired 360 rockets at Israel, according to the Israeli military, and Israel has launched more than 700 airstrikes on Gaza.

“Today we expanded our operations against Hamas and the other terrorist groups in Gaza,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement Wednesday. “We will continue to protect our civilians against Hamas attacks on them.

“This could take time,” he added.

Hamas has been shooting rockets into Israel for well over a decade, but its missiles can now strike much farther than border towns in southern Israel, which have previously borne the brunt of the group’s firepower.

Long-range rockets have sent residents of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem running for cover this week, and the majority of Israel’s population centers are under threat.

Israel has avoided casualties thanks to early warning sirens, which signal residents to head for protective shelters, and Iron Dome, a missile defense system that intercepts rockets headed for populated areas. But the Palestinian death toll stands at more than 80, including more than a dozen children, several of whom were killed in the bombing of a house in southern Gaza on Tuesday. A spokesman for the Israeli military told The New York Times that a warning to evacuate had been issued prior to the attack.

Netanyahu ordered the IDF to expand the operation on Wednesday and the army has called up 40,000 reservists. Israeli leaders have discussed the possibility of an imminent ground invasion of Gaza.

If ground troops do invade, Protective Edge would expand beyond the scope of Pillar of Defense, an eight-day campaign fought entirely from the air. The operation would more closely resemble Cast Lead, a three-week war begun in December 2008 that involved an Israeli ground invasion and left 13 Israelis and 1,400 Palestinians dead.

According to experts, even a ground invasion would be unlikely to topple Hamas or end rocket fire for more than a couple of years.

Amir Rapaport, the editor of Israel Defense magazine, said Israel’s best hope for the long term would be an international presence capable of stopping Hamas’s import of weapons, but Rapaport said it was unlikely that Hamas would accept the idea.

“We want to get not just long-term quiet, but also a mechanism that will deny Hamas and Islamic Jihad the ability to utilize the quiet to get more missiles,” Rapaport said. “I don’t know if that’s a goal that we’ll achieve.”

In addition to raising its status on the Palestinian street, Hamas hopes the rocket fire will compel Israel to ease economic restrictions on Gaza, said Gershon Baskin, the founder of a joint Israeli-Palestinian policy group and a former liaison in previous indirect negotiations between Israel and Hamas.

Baskin said Hamas also hopes the rockets will convince Israel to release the hundreds of Hamas operatives it arrested last month in its West Bank operation to rescue three kidnapped Israeli teens.

“The point of this operation was to bolster support for them in Gaza, the West Bank and the Arab world,” Baskin said. “From their perspective, it’s too early to stop because they haven’t succeeded in doing any damage yet.”

It’s not only security experts that see Protective Edge as history repeating itself.

Shachar Liran-Hanan, a third-year student at Ben-Gurion University in Beersheba, lived in the embattled southern city during Pillar of Defense and grew up in a small town in Israel’s north, where she remembers running for cover during Israel’s 2006 war in Lebanon.

Joking that she always chooses the tensest places to live, Liran-Hanan is using her experience coping with missiles to set up an impromptu center where students can engage in pro-Israel advocacy on social media.

“I feel that I have more experience and I deal with it easier, but new students don’t have that feeling,” she said. “We all want to get to calm, to a situation of peace. But in the meantime, we want to be strong and to help make this situation a little more tolerable.”

Shahar Liran-Hanan quoted in the above article was a successful and popular Israeli Shlicha to Durban in 2010/2011.  



Alan Dershowitz Jerusalem Post

MYTH 1: The primary cause of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is the occupation of the West Bank and Israel’s settlement policy. 

Reality: The reality is that Hamas’ rocket attacks against Israeli cities and civilian targets has little to do with Israel’s occupation and settlement policy on the West Bank. Even if Israel were to make peace with the Palestinian Authority, the rocket attacks from Gaza would not stop. These Hamas attacks are incited by the Muslim Brotherhood, Iran, Syria and others opposed to the very concept of the nation state for the Jewish people. The best proof of this reality is that these attacks began as soon as Israel ended its occupation of Gaza and uprooted all the civilian settlements from that area. 

Israel left behind agricultural hot houses and other equipment that the residents of Gaza could have used to build a decent society. Moreover, there was no siege of Gaza at that time. Gaza was free to become a Singapore on the Mediterranean. Instead, Hamas engaged in a coup-d’état murdering many members of the Palestinian Authority, seizing control of all of Gaza, and turning it into a militant theocracy. They used the material left behind by the Israelis not to feed their citizens but to build rockets with which to attack Israeli civilians. It was only after these rocket attacks that Israel began a siege of Gaza designed to prevent the importation of rockets and material used to build terrorist kidnap tunnels. There are good reasons why Israel should change its settlement policy on the West Bank and try harder to achieve peace with the Palestinian Authority. But even if that were to be accomplished the rockets from Gaza would continue and Israel would have to take the kind of military steps any democracy would take to prevent its civilians from lethal aggression. 

MYTH 2: What is being experienced now is a “cycle of violence”, with equal blame on both sides. 

Reality: The reality, of course, is that there is no comparison-legally, morally, diplomatically or by any other criteria-between what Hamas is doing and how Israel is responding. Hamas is willfully and deliberately committing a double war crime by targeting Israeli civilians and using Palestinian civilians as human shields. The deliberate targeting of civilians, as Hamas admits-indeed boasts-it is doing, is a clear war crime. Hamas has specifically aimed its lethal rockets at Beersheba, Tel Aviv, Haifa and Jerusalem. This is a war crime. Moreover, it is firing these rockets from hospitals, schools and houses in densely-populated areas, in order to cause Israel to kill Palestinian civilians. This too is a war crime.

This has been called Hamas’ “dead baby strategy.” It deliberately puts Israel to the tragic choice of attacking the rockets and killing some children who are used as human shields, or refraining from attacking the rockets and thereby placing their own children at risk. Israel has generally chosen the option of refraining from attacking legitimate military targets, but when any human shields are inadvertently killed or injured, Hamas stands ready to cynically parade the dead civilians in front of television cameras, which transmit these gruesome pictures around the world with captions blaming Israel. Hamas has also adamantly refused to build bomb shelters for its civilian population. It has built shelters but has limited access to them to Hamas terrorists. 

This is precisely the opposite of what Israel does-building shelters for its civilians and placing its soldiers in harm’s way. Most recently Hamas has forced or encouraged civilians to stand on the rooftops of military targets so as to prevent Israel from attacking these entirely appropriate targets. Indeed a lawsuit is now being brought in Israel, against the Israeli military, urging it to ignore these human shields and to attack the military targets. The argument is that unless the military targets are attacked, Israeli civilians will die, and a democracy has the obligation to prefer the lives of its own civilians over the lives of enemy civilians. 

Thus far the Israeli military has refrained from attacking military targets that are protected by human shields. There is absolutely no symmetry between the war crimes committed by Hamas and the entirely appropriate military response by the Israeli Defense Forces. 

MYTH 3: Muhammad Abbas is part of the solution, not part of the problem. 

Reality: Muhammad Abbas has become part of the problem, especially in recent days. He has supported Hamas in its war crimes against Israeli civilians and has characterized Israel’s self-defense actions as “genocide” against all of the Palestinian people. I have met Abbas and found him to be a decent man who genuinely wants a peaceful solution to the conflict, but he is not a man of courage who is prepared to stand up and tell the Palestinian people the truth about the current conflict. His willingness to join together with Hamas in a governmental partnership demonstrates both his weakness and his willingness to be complicit with evil. He speaks out of two sides of his mouth, one side when he speaks in English to Western media and diplomats, and the other when he speaks in Arabic to the Palestinian street, which he knows contains many supporters of Hamas. His public support for Hamas has made it far more difficult for Israel to arrive at a negotiated solution with the Palestinian Authority. It has also made it more difficult for Hamas to stop the rocket barrage and agree to a cease fire. The entire civilized world should be standing behind Israel as it defends itself against war crimes. That so many continue to support-or remain silent about-those who commit these war crimes tells us something deeply disturbing about their values and prejudices. 



David Harris Jerusalem Post

For the Non-Aligned Movement, it’s all about Gaza’s innocence and Israel’s guilt. One fine day, with nothing else to do but consider how to provoke peaceful, serene Hamas-ruled Gaza, the big, bad Israelis decided to attack. For a fair share of the media, it’s above all a story of Palestinian suffering at the hands of Israel’s military machine. For the protesters in Frankfurt, Germany, on Saturday, it was about equating Israel to Nazi Germany.

It’s a perfect illustration of reverse causality. Hamas triggered a war, but that’s long since forgotten, if ever it was remembered. The focus now is only on the suffering of those who are responsible for the conflict in the first place. Indeed, Goethe was right. There are those who can’t, or won’t, see what’s right in front of them.

Ideological blinders get in the way. Or a failure of imagination about the true nature of Hamas. Or a gullibility that allows people to believe whatever the Hamas propaganda machine churns out. Or, in some cases, downright hostility to anything that Israel, the Jewish state, does.

It’s high time for moral clarity, not moral fog. Hamas is a terrorist organization. That’s its official designation by the United States, European Union, Australia, Canada, and others. Israel is a democratic country with an independent judiciary, the rule of law, free and fair elections, and a robust civil society. Hamas is anti-Western, anti-Christian (and, not surprisingly, anti-Semitic), anti-gay, misogynist, and anti-intellectual. Israel is the exact opposite.  Hamas has territorial ambitions on Israel. In fact, that’s putting it too mildly: it would like to replace Israel in its entirety with a Muslim Brotherhood-ruled state. Israel has no territorial ambitions on Hamas-ruled Gaza. To the contrary, Israel left it totally nine years ago, with the hope of never having to return.  Hamas has a vested interest in using its Gaza base for permanent confrontation with Israel.  Israel, which, alas, can’t change its geography, has a vested interest in a peaceful, moderate, and developing state on its border.

Hamas, the sole ruler of Gaza since 2007, has used the last seven years to smuggle in weaponry and develop military punch, rather than building the foundation of a responsible state.

Knowing this arsenal has been stockpiled for the sole purpose of being used against it, Israel seeks, as any nation would, to prevent Hamas from attaining its lethal goal.

Hamas has no compunction about deploying terrorist cells and weapons in civilian population centers in Gaza, fully aware that Israel would have no choice but to appear to be targeting “innocent” people.  Israel goes to unprecedented lengths to avoid falling into the Hamas trap, even phoning and dropping leaflets in advance to warn civilians to leave target areas. Hamas cynically tells the civilian population to stay put, not to react to Israeli warnings about imminent strikes. The more Palestinian casualties, the better, as far as Hamas is concerned.

Israel makes every effort to alert its entire population, Jewish, Christian, and Muslim, to Hamas missile strikes and move people into shelters as quickly as possible.

Hamas uses mosques for storing arms.  Israel uses houses of worship, including mosques, solely for prayer. Hamas uses schools for weapons depots.

Israel uses schools solely to educate its children, Jewish, Christian, and Muslim.

Hamas uses hospitals as terrorist redoubts.  Israel uses its hospitals solely to cure the ill and injured, including residents of Gaza who can’t find adequate care there.

Hamas aspires to kill as many Israelis as possible, with rockets fired indiscriminately in all directions. Israel seeks out only the Hamas terrorist infrastructure, and has aborted many operations when the risks of civilian casualties were too great.

Hamas, as the record amply shows, has no compunction about falsifying information, doctoring photos, staging scenes, and inflating numbers to make its case to the outside world. Israel, by contrast, goes to great lengths, even to the point of sometimes losing the edge in the “media race,” to verify information that it presents about its operations. Hamas supporters explode in paroxysms of glee when Israeli targets are hit. Israelis don’t honk horns, shoot in the air, and pass out candy for doing what they wished they didn’t have to do in the first place, and voice regret when the inevitable mistakes in warfare occur.  Hamas wouldn’t know how to spell the words “international humanitarian law,” much less adhere to it.  Israel’s defense forces have specialists in international humanitarian law assigned to every unit in an effort to ensure maximum compliance. Hamas shouts from the rooftops that Israel is a brutal enemy.  Israel, unlike any other targeted nation in history, is actually providing - right now - up to 70 percent of Gaza’s electricity and much of its fuel and foodstuffs, even as hundreds of rockets are fired from Gaza into Israel.

Hamas celebrates death, something few Westerners can understand. Israel celebrates life, something all Westerners should understand.


Israel must be mad enough to induce fear - yet crazy enough to seek peace

Gil Troy - The Jerusalem Post

Making peace with your enemies is one thing, but dealing with sadists is impossible. 

Once again, Palestinian terrorists have shown a perverse genius for hurting Israelis yet uniting them - even as the international media mostly ignores the Palestinian crime. When two 16-year-olds and a 19-year-old are abducted hitchhiking - they are no longer “yeshiva students” or “settlers” but simply “our kids.” Israel becomes one intimate kibbutz as we all see our own children, friends or neighbors in the smiling photos repeatedly broadcast of Naftali Frankel, Gilad Sha’ar and Eyal Yifrach.

I have had a sick feeling in my stomach since hearing the news - terrified by what those kids must be enduring, while heartbroken in feeling their parents’ anguish, too.

Conversations with other terror victims have taught me that if Naftali, Gilad, and Eyal are still alive, they are replaying their mental tape of Thursday night repeatedly, imprisoned in the “if only” regret game, blaming themselves for doing something that is quite routine. If they survive - and we desperately hope they do – they will struggle with the Israeli terror victim’s vertigo-inducing life lesson: although targeted deliberately as members of a despised group, their particular victimization was random.

Similarly, the parents are playing “what if” scenarios over as they feel paralyzed by fear, bargaining with God, hoping that somehow, their kids will “only” be traumatized by being kidnapped, rather than brutalized or killed. The cost too many have paid to live in this land is too high - losing so many precious gems. But the traditional cliché remains true: “ein breira,” we have no choice, we cannot run away back to statelessness and impotence.

While every life is precious, kidnapping teenagers is particularly cruel. It shows these terrorists have no ethics, no limits to their hatred - and to their rejection of any chance at peace. What kind of a person kidnaps a teenager - and what kind of a people celebrates such evil? The Palestinians distributing candy to celebrate this empty “victory” disgust me. Cartoons celebrating catching these three teenagers, showing mice with Jewish stars dangling on a fishing rod (that the vigilant Palestinian Media Watch translated), enrage me - and this from Fatah, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s “moderate” movement if we swallow the naïve Obama-Kerry peace-processing Kool-Aid.

Making peace with your enemies is one thing, but dealing with sadists is impossible.

When will the world pressure the Palestinians to change their thuggish totalitarian political culture rather than always blaming democratic Israel? In this nasty neighborhood, Israel must restore the balance of dread, whereby our enemies fear us more than we fear them. The Israeli government should shut down the West Bank until Naftali, Gilad and Eyal are freed.

I desperately hope for peace but unhappily must prepare for war. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu can find encouragement in Machiavelli’s insight that it can be “a very wise thing to simulate madness.” Palestinians must fear Israel’s response when they target us - terrorists themselves can be terrorized if their own people turn on them and say “stop” - a word most Palestinians have failed to use with the murderers they idolize.

Nevertheless, as Israel mobilizes, I hope Palestinian leaders can break the cycle their own people are starting. Assuming these kids are still alive, it would be truly transforming if Abbas could intervene, save these children, and return them home as safely as his wife returned to her home after undergoing surgery in an Israeli hospital.

Alternatively, if Hamas is truly moderating as America and the rest of the world have decided it is, here is an opportunity for statesmanship.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh could free the kids as thanks for earlier Israeli medical treatment of his mother-in-law and his late granddaughter.

A Palestinian leader saving these Israeli teens could make an epoch-changing gesture comparable to Egyptian president Anwar Sadat visiting Jerusalem. He would earn Israelis’ gratitude, demonstrate his power in the territories and demonstrate that he truly wants peace. There has to be some Palestinian leader brave enough to challenge his people to seek a different path. Do they really want the word “Palestinian” to be most freely associated in the civilized world with the word “terrorism?” Is that who they are? Is that who they wish to be? In a world whose one constant is change, leaders - and followers - can make things better or worse. Fifteen years ago, Palestinian leaders were pitching Gaza as a tourist destination, as millennial Oslo hopes soared, even amid tensions. Then the Palestinians turned from peace talks back to terrorism; yes I blame them, as Bill Clinton and other experts do. Israeli counterattacks finally produced today’s relative quiet - which the kidnappers now threaten. We need Palestinians courageous enough to end their people’s addiction to violence - and Israelis brave enough to respond warmly if such moves occur.

Asking Israelis to be mad enough to induce fear yet crazy enough to risk for peace is mutually reinforcing, not contradictory. Israel’s attempts at peace during the Oslo years reinforced my love of Israel - while fueling my fury at Palestinians’ violent rejectionism enabled by the world’s myopic complicity.

Willingness to compromise can telegraph strength, not weakness. President John Kennedy cleverly distinguished between compromises of “issues, not of principles,” explaining, “we can compromise our political positions but not ourselves.” Israel’s borders can be debated and adjusted - but we will not compromise our existence or our children’s safety. Fury at Palestinian crimes will not blind me to our own shortcomings - or stop me from trying to lure the dove of peace, even when the weather turns stormy.

This duality has shaped Israeli success since 1948: ever vigilant in both defending and building the state; seeking peace while preparing for war; sheathing the sword whenever possible but keeping it sharp and ready, because “ein breira,” we have no choice. We must defend our children and ourselves.


Israel a leader in field of neonatology, says Israeli expert

Ron Csillag  - The Canadian Jewish News 

A leading Israeli expert in neonatology is eager to export his country’s success in saving babies in distress.  Dr. Michael “Miki” Karplus was Israel’s sole delegate to last week’s summit in Toronto, “Saving Every Woman, Every Child Within Arm’s Reach,” convened by Prime Minister Stephen Harper to address maternal, newborn and child health.

The three-day conference, which drew dozens of doctors, scientists and experts from around the world, addressed three key objectives, according to a statement: delivering results for mothers and children, doing more together globally, and undertaking “real action” for women’s and children’s health.

Real action is something Karplus understands; it turns out Israel is a leader in the field of neonatology, a pediatric subspecialty devoted to the health and well-being of newborns. Over the past few years, through two “mother and baby” units it established in the African nation of Ghana, Israel has learned how to treat troubled newborns cheaply and without expensive medical intervention that is unavailable anyway. The idea is to involve mothers much more centrally, Karplus told The CJN in an interview before the conference’s start. While the notion has taken hold, he’s eager to take tangible results to other places.

“The whole idea is to expand,” said Karplus, who headed the department of neonatology at Ben-Gurion University’s Soroka Medical Center for nearly 30 years. “We would like to come to international agencies and say, ‘look, we have this model and we would like to propose that we take it to an area and set up a number of them. Then we can study [infant] mortality when we compare an area that has a unit with an area that does not.’ ”

The units in Ghana, established by Mashav, Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation, with guidance from the Soroka Medical Center, do not rely on expensive respirators, ventilators or incubators. “The high mortality in babies in the developing world…is due to infections and complications from being born small,” Karplus explained. “Many of these complications could be dealt with [using] limited resources so that mortality can be reduced with simple means.”

Among the best known methods is so-called “kangaroo mother care,” in which the mother, through skin to skin contact, warms her baby. That replaces incubators, which are expensive and when they break down in developing countries, there’s no one to fix them, Karplus pointed out. Underweight babies, meantime, also need warmth, as well as feeding and a clean environment. Great care is taken to allow only the mother to handle her newborn. “Infection will be minimal because no one else is handling the baby. The big danger is cross-infection.”

Decades ago, Karplus came to the view that newborns with problems could be saved through basic, inexpensive interventions that did not require a doctor. He and his team developed a training course for nurses and medical assistants based on simple, affordable methods. In Ghana, the Israelis focused on newborns’ most common problems and found that treatments, in most cases, did not require doctors. “There are very few doctors in Africa,” Karplus pointed out. “You cannot set up such units in rural areas of Africa if you expect doctors to work there. So the approach is really to work with the staff that are available. With these very simple means, you can reduce mortality tremendously.

“If the condition of the baby deteriorates, we are helpless,” he went on. “But the number of babies we will lose because of the lack of respirators is very small. We are going to save, with simple means, the majority of the babies who are now dying.”

With just two centres in Ghana, both in the southern town of Kumasi, it’s impossible to tell whether Israel’s efforts have made a dent in the country’s infant mortality rate, which in 2012 stood at 49 per 1,000 live births (Canada’s rate is five, Israel’s is three). That is why this year Israel will evaluate its units, both from a health and cost-effectiveness standpoint. 

As a pioneer in the field, Israel was represented at the Toronto conference to share its experience in Africa and propose that its model spread elsewhere, Karplus noted. “We started very early, 20 years ago, before there was an international trend [and] nobody was interested in this kind of approach,” said Karplus. “Nowadays, it is the internationally accepted way of doing things.” 

Asked whether Israel is known for its work in the field, Karplus replied, “not enough. There are so many countries with very high neo-natal mortality that would gain so much if these units could be set up.”


Peace goes by the name Hadassah

Qanta Ahmed - The Times of Israel 

It is spring in Rehavia. Leaving the twinkling lights of the King David Hotel, I walk to dinner. Jerusalem gleams from the recent rain. The city is fresh, the night breeze cool. Contemplating the plans I have for tomorrow, I run into a colleague from New York. Hearing my schedule, she says “Tomorrow, you will see what Peace looks like.” Her words remain with me for the rest of my time in Israel. For a long time, I will think of nothing else.

I am in an elevator in Ein Kerem. Dr. Mickey Weintraub, chief of Hadassah Hospital’s Pediatric Hematology Oncology division accompanies me. In silence, I stand stock still surrounded by my colliding worlds. To my right stands a veiled Muslim woman in full hijab and abbayya. To my left, a tall Hassid wearing his sombre 19th century suit stands, looking ahead. Everyone follows the digital display of the changing floors, but all I can do is stare around me. What to me seems miraculous, to everyone else seems mundane. The short journey slows to a single potent memory: the dichotomous worlds where I have made my homes have condensed into this powerful moment, one where an Israeli Hassid stands next to a Western Heterodox Muslim who flanks a modern Orthodox Jew in ranks with an orthodox Muslim Arab woman. The tumultuous region, the turbulent ages kaleidoscope into a sharpness of extraordinary clarity. For a moment, I see Peace.

The elevator opens, and we separate to different paths. I follow my colleague and meet the staff and patients at Hadassah Ein Kerem’s Pediatric Hematology Oncology Unit. The ward is familiar in the way all hospitals will always be to me. But what is so strikingly distinct is the diversity of humanity which unfolds along our tour. Nurses, doctors, parents and patients continue with the demanding business of confronting cancer. In each bay of the ward I notice a round table. Casually pulled up, families are gathered around, some of their children receiving intravenous chemotherapy, others awaiting the routine events of their day. Intermittently, nurses record vitals in charts, murmuring reassurance to those in their charge. Some of the nurses are hijabed Arabs, others equally observant and covered Haredi women. I find them almost indistinguishable. 

My colleague details the logistics of serving this community of patients. Hadassah is an 1100 bed facility which serves more than a million people across some of the most contested territory in the world. It served both communities, even during the violent Second Intifada, earning Hadassah the nomination for the Nobel Prize - the only hospital in the world to have been thus honoured. Hadassah does all this on a budget which is over 90% philanthropic. That’s akin to one American hospital attending almost 39 million Americans, in the face of smouldering conflict, almost entirely financed by charitable patronage. Though these donations are almost (but not entirely) from the Jewish international community - Muslims patrons in Turkey and Morocco exist - many of the patients at Hadassah are Muslim Arabs from the Palestinian territories. Hadassah has trained more than 73 Palestinian resident physicians in recent years and now seeks the opportunity to train them as subspecialists, recognizing the urgent need to build physician capacities in the Palestinian community. Lacking specialist physicians, all too often, patients must be cared for in Israel, at Hadassah-Ein Kerem or Hadassah-Mount Scopus. 

In coming days the same insights are echoed when I meet with Dr. Osnat Levtzion-Korach the Director of Hadassah University Hospital-Mount Scopus, and Dr. Hani Abdeen, the former Palestinian Minister of Health who is now the Dean at the School of Medicine at Al Quds University Medical School in East Jerusalem. Numerous Israeli and Palestinian medical residents and faculty observe the same. The unity of their commitment to serve a shared population is striking, inconsistent with a region portrayed as in interminable, violent conflict. I find both Israeli and Palestinian physician leaders seek the same goals - to better serve their hybrid community, to better educate the physicians of the future and above all to pursue these complex goals together in close collaboration.

The next day at Hadassah’s Mount Scopus campus, I visit the emergency room. It is rare that a physician spends time in a waiting room and I savour the luxury of a vista I rarely experience. Around me, the soft hum of families murmurs as they settle in for their waits. I see Arab families who might have been from Malaaz in Riyadh. Ordinary working folk, they are veiled, or thobed, bearing baskets of nourishment and necessity. I almost catch the faint scent of cardamom that such families in Riyadh inevitably trailed as they travelled with delicious thermoses of Arabic coffee. I find myself transported to Arabia.  Seated in the same area nearby, I see families I might have attended in Maimonides, New York had I accepted a job I was once offered. It’s hard to believe I am not in Brooklyn as I see the tall, demure, peyos-adorned men, their formal black hats, escorting their modest wives. They look at me peaceably with entirely no curiosity. I remain unnoticed because, I discover with some delight, I fit in. Only later do I realize there is no segregation, neither men from women, nor Muslims from Jews, not Israelis from Palestinians. 

These were just some of the memories Hadassah gifted me during my short visit. In visiting my colleagues and their patients, I finally see Israel as she was intended. Israel is a place of healing and recovery for all who enter, a place where respect is accorded to every human created in the image of the Lord. As I reluctantly leave Yerushalayim Shel Zahav, the City of Gold, though it is my third trip to Jerusalem, I realize this has been my first glimpse of Yerushalayim Shel Mala, the cosmic Jerusalem, where Peace goes by the name Hadassah.



David Horovitz 

"Our objective will be to achieve a final status agreement over the course of the next nine months... When somebody tells you that Israelis and Palestinians cannot find common ground or address the issues that divide them, don’t believe them.” - US Secretary of State John Kerry.

For all of Secretary Kerry’s unfathomable optimism eight months ago, Israeli-Palestinian negotiations had been going nowhere for months before they crashed spectacularly this week. 

The Palestinians halted direct talks with the Israelis back in November, in protest at ongoing Israeli settlement construction. (Israel would argue legalistically that, according to the understandings that governed the resumed peace effort, it was not required to limit West Bank building.) The Palestinians then torpedoed Kerry’s efforts to draft a document setting out the “principles of final status,” under which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was prepared to agree to continued negotiations on the basis of the pre-1967 lines. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas rejected the Palestinian quid pro quo, which specified the goal of two nation-states for two peoples - a Jewish nation-state and a Palestinian nation-state.

All is nearly but not yet completely lost. As of Thursday afternoon, some of those in the know were describing the situation as “still fluid.” Tellingly, almost two days after Abbas dramatically signed up “Palestine” to 15 international treaties and conventions in an apparent screw-you gesture to the US and Israel, Netanyahu’s office was still batting away a deluge of requests for comment. The something-for-everybody deal - Israel releases the fourth and final batch of long-term terrorism convicts, including perhaps a dozen Arab-Israelis, as well as 400 security prisoners not involved in violent crimes; Israel halts new settlement housing tenders; the Palestinians come back to the table for at least nine more months and eschew the unilateral route to statehood; and the US releases Jonathan Pollard - could yet, just possibly, be revived. Netanyahu had been well on the way to mustering a cabinet majority for such an arrangement when Abbas got his pen out on Tuesday evening.

But in Jerusalem on Thursday there was a degree of bafflement as regards Palestinian intentions - today and looking back over the unhappy eight months since Kerry hosted Livni and Erekat in Washington. Netanyahu emphatically wants the talks to continue, even though there is no indication whatsoever that he and Abbas could ever find mutually acceptable positions on most of the core issues of a permanent accord. But does Abbas want the crisis resolved? Or was the entire Kerry-led negotiation exercise just a pretext, under which the PA would secure prisoner releases and then shift back to the unilateral route - bashing Israel in every possible forum, seeking international endorsement for statehood, while claiming to have negotiated in good faith?

Kerry’s confident assertion that he could midwife peace in nine months was always unwarranted. But one of the sadder aspects of this deeply troubled pregnancy is his own flawed midwife role - the facilitator who sometimes became a complicator. 

For it was Kerry who inexplicably gave Abbas to understand that Israel would be prepared to free some of its own citizens in the course of the agreed, four-phase program of 104 terrorist releases - when Israel had made no such commitment. And it was then Kerry, flailing, who sought to sweeten that bitter pill, and wound up prompting a political uproar in the United States, by dragging Pollard into the equation.

It’s not clear that Israel would have released the final batch of prisoners as scheduled last weekend without a promise by Abbas to continue the talks. But the dispute over the Arab-Israelis on the list certainly didn’t help. And it was that delay in the prisoner releases that prompted Abbas’s international treaties stunt - heralding the current crisis. 

There will be plenty of consequence, including the possibility of a lurch back into violent confrontation and an upsurge in terrorism, and plenty of blame to assign if this week does indeed mark the end of Kerry’s bid for a deal. The Palestinians have a weak president who, while no duplicitous, terror-fostering Arafat, never confronted the narrative bequeathed by his unlamented predecessor, to the effect that the Jews have no sovereign legitimacy in this part of the world. The Israelis have a prime minister who, facing a choice of confidence-building demands from the PA, opted not to take the pragmatic path of curbing settlement expansion and instead betrayed victims’ families, undermined the justice system, and encouraged future terrorists to believe they can get away with their crimes, by freeing dozens of vicious killers.

At the heart of the impasse, however, lies a fundamental asymmetry: Israeli Jews have come to believe that their own best interests, and specifically the imperative to retain a Jewish and democratic Israel, require an accommodation with the Palestinians. There is no comparable imperative on the Palestinian side - not, that is, so long as much of the international community persists in indicating to the Palestinians that they will be able to achieve full independence and sovereignty without the inconvenience of coming to terms with Israel.



Saragh Parfitt

Rochelle Blumenfeld is an award winning artist whose paintings are
represented in many private and public collections throughout the
United States and Europe.

Rochelle feels that “My paintings are my own worlds, ones that I can
control. Although my works are sometime non-representational,
they are like the world around us are composed of motion, light,
and space . . .I use a strong diagonal thrust to add power to the
motion. I work by applying many layers of paint to the canvas,
building a complex surface of planes and colour. Visually I like the
sense of depth that I can get from this technique and thematically
it reflects the way I see the world.“

Rochelle has created several paintings representing various Jewish
festivals including the beautiful image of the Pesach Seder Table,
which she has kindly allowed us to use as a cover for our Pesach
edition of Hashalom.

In Rochelle’s words: “The many symbols of Passover appear on
the Seder table as all assemble to retell the ancient story fromthe
Haggadah. The strong background of the painting tells the very
dramatic story, the parting of the Red Sea, the exodus from slavery
to freedom.”

More images of Rochelle Blumenfeld’s stunning art works may be
seen on her website:



The M-302 rocket is a Syrian-made munition that can launch
a 375-pound warhead as far as 125 miles. In a Red Sea raid
Wednesday, Israeli naval commandos intercepted a shipment
of these rockets that had been loaded on a freighter in the
Iranian port of Bandar Abbas and were destined for Gaza. The
rockets would have put most major Israeli cities within striking
distance. Iran denies sending the weapons, which happened to
be disguised among cement bags labelled "Made in Iran."
The interception of the Panamanian-flagged ship, called the
"Klos-C," is not the first time Israel has hooked a deadly Iranian
cache at sea. In 2009, Israel found 500 tons of weapons on a
cargo ship destined for Hezbollah in Lebanon. In 2002, the
seizure of the Gaza-bound Karine-A ship, loaded with Iranian
arms for Yasser Arafat, persuaded the Bush Administration that
the Palestinian leader was actively abetting terror against Israel.

The seizure of the ship is a reminder that the aims and methods
of Iranian foreign policy remain unchanged despite the alleged
moderation of President Hasan Rouhani. It also suggests the
possibility that Hamas, which governs Gaza, maintains a military
relationship with the regimes in Damascus and Tehran despite
its claims to have severed ties after the Syrian uprising began
in 2011 and Bashar Assad started massacring Palestinians along
with everyone else.

As Israel's commandos were boarding the ship, Iranian Foreign
Minister Mohammed JavadZarif was in Tokyo, where he said
Iran would not close its reactor in Arak as part of a nuclear deal
with the West. The only practical purpose for that reactor is to
produce plutonium for atomic weapons. If the Administration
won't draw conclusions from what the Iranians do in secret, is
it too much to ask that it draw conclusions from what they say
in public?



Jonathan S.Tobin

PHILADELPHIA (JTA) -- In the past few weeks, Secretary of State
John Kerry has come under attack from prominent Israelis as well
as American friends of the Jewish state for some of the methods
he has adopted in his determination to find a solution to the Middle
East conflict.

Such criticism strikes the Obama administration, as well as many
friends of Israel, as absurd. After all, what better favor could the
United States do for Israel than to help it find the peace for which
its people have hungered since the birth of their state?
But while Kerry's defenders are right to scorn those who seek to
question his motives, the way the secretary has tried to strong-arm
Israel has neither enhanced the chances for peace nor strengthened
Israel’s security. Though the quest for peace is, in principle,
a noble endeavor, Kerry has set in motion a chain of events that is,
in fact, strengthening those who seek to delegitimize and boycott
Israel and may even increase the chances of a new round of Palestinian

Kerry came into office last year determined to take up a challenge
that his predecessor, Hillary Clinton, did her best to avoid. Clinton
assessed the chances of peace between Israel and the Palestinians
in the foreseeable future in the same manner as most foreign
policy hands: slim to none.

With the Palestinians hopelessly split between the Fatah-ruled
West Bank and Hamas-run Gaza, there seemed little leeway for
Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas to sign an agreement
that would end the conflict. Since the Palestinians had already
turned down offers of statehood in almost all of the West
Bank, Gaza and a share of Jerusalem in 2000, 2001 and 2008,
there seemed no reason for Israel to make further concessions
only to be turned down yet a fourth time.

But Kerry was undaunted by these realities and set out to restart
Israeli-Palestinian talks. Kerry has persuaded the sides to negotiate
and may get both Abbas and the government of Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu to agree to a framework to extend the talks
that were slated to last only nine months.

Kerry may even coax the Israelis to offer, as has been reported,
the Palestinians a state in 90 percent of the West Bank plus territorial
swaps of land inside the Jewish state. If so, he may be as
close to cutting the Gordian Knot of Middle East peace as any of
the Americans who have preceded him. Even if he fails, this would
seem to be a praiseworthy endeavor. But those who care about
Israel shouldn’t be cheering.

What Kerry has forgotten -- or never knew in the first place --
about the failures of his predecessors is that peace initiatives don’t
occur in a vacuum. The dynamic of every negotiation to broker
an end to the conflict is that in the eyes of international public
opinion, progress is only measured in terms of Israeli concessions.

That means that rather than bolstering Israel’s image and support
around the globe, every such effort -- including Israel’s aforementioned
three generous offers of Palestinian statehood, as well as
the Gaza withdrawal -- only served to make Israel even more
unpopular. In the 20 years since the signing of the Oslo Accords,
Israel has made concession after concession, and yet international
efforts to delegitimize Zionism and support the boycott, divestment
and sanctions movement aimed at the Jewish state have onlygrown. Israelis well understand that the current Palestinian leadership
is not likely to sign any deal that will recognize the legitimacy
of a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn. Nor will
the Palestinians renounce a “right of return” for the descendants
of the 1948 refugees.

No matter what Kerry pressures Netanyahu into offering Abbas,
the answer will probably be same one Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert
received: No. When that happens, expect the BDS campaign
to redouble its efforts and for European nations to blame Israel
regardless of the fact that, once again, Palestinian obstinacy will
have ended the negotiations and not a lack of Israeli flexibility or

Even worse, by seeking to frighten the Israelis into concessions by
speaking, as he did last fall, about the chances of a third intifada if
the talks fail, and by, more recently, predicting an upsurge in boycotts
if no peace deal is achieved -- while failing to acknowledge
Palestinian intransigence as a possible cause of any failure -- Kerry
has not only tilted the diplomatic playing field against the Jewish
state. He has also signaled that if he fails, it will be Israel’s fault.
While he may not have intended to encourage either violence or
boycotts of Israel, that is exactly what he has done.

While Kerry entered this process thinking only of its success, an
individual with less hubris and a clearer understanding of history
would have known from the start that the costs of failure might be
considerable. Israelis, who will pay the price for that failure, should
be forgiven for thinking that Kerry deserves no thanks for his part
in this sorry exercise in narcissism.

(Jonathan S. Tobin is senior online editor and chief political blogger of
Commentary Magazine.)


Letters to the Editor Malcolm Hedding writes ...

Dear Sir/Madam,

Re: the Solidarity Conference in support of the people of Palestine
As a proud South African I am appalled at the outcomes and views expressed by the Solidarity Conference mentioned above. I well remember that when our beloved President, Nelson Mandela of blessed memory, came to power he expressly stated that South Africa’s foreign policy would henceforth be implemented according to strict democratic values. That is the nation would forge friendly relationships with those nations that truly gave multi-party democracy to their citizens and thus committed themselves thereby to viable and authentic expressions of freedom.

Sadly this commendable ideal was short lived in that the country rapidly endorsed non democratic totalitarian dictators like Muammar Gaddafi, Fidel Castro, Yasser Arafat, (who wasn’t a Palestinian but an Egyptian), and Ahmadinejad of Iran. The only true democratic state in the Middle East, Israel, has been repeatedly condemned and vilified by our politicians and community leaders. The Solidarity Conference is just another example of this foolishness and it constitutes a contradiction of the facts on the ground. But as Adolf Hitler said, if you tell a lie repeatedly it will be accepted as fact!
The so called Arab Spring has witnessed the real apartheid states of the Middle East being challenged and overthrown by their restless masses who have endured far too long under their ruthless leaders. Sadly, the will of the oppressed masses has been once again thwarted by Islamists who immediately seized power and imposed on their citizens radical Islamic rule while at the same time murdering thousands of Christians all over the region. True to form, the South African government has ignored these sectarian and apartheid like killings preferring rather to condemn Israel and label it an apartheid state. Mean while Syria burns and some 130,000 civilians have been killed. This unending conflict has now given rise to the biggest refugee crisis the world has ever seen. Nearly half the country is on the move in an attempt to find refuge from the storm caused by ruthless dictators.
To the utter embarrassment of the Israel and Jew haters, Israel, the only true democracy in the region, has remained an island of peace and tranquility. Indeed the Israelis have done everything possible to relieve the pain and unending suffering of the Syrian civilian population.

From 1948 to 1967 the Palestinians held everything in terms of land that they say they want now. Far from building a state they used the opportunity to initiate conflict after conflict in an attempt to destroy Israel. They even drew up various Charters wherein they state unashamedly that their end game is nothing less than the complete destruction of Israel and this in spite of the fact that under Oslo 1, 2 and 3 they were obligated to remove these destruction clauses from their protocols. They have yet to do so! Indeed they continue to pursue this agenda since the text books in their schools continue to this day to convey this message.

The real goal for them is not peace and never has been but rather the total destruction of the Jewish state. Yasser Arafat confirmed this in Johannesburg in 1994. His statement in this regard is clearly on record and cannot be denied and this after he shook the hands of Bill Clinton and Yitzhak Rabin on the White House lawn.

Israel has already made many painful and difficult decisions in order to make peace with the Palestinians; all to no avail. Under the Oslo accords she withdrew from over 93% of the West bank and even declared her intention to hand over much of East Jerusalem including the Temple Mount if this would bring a resolution to the conflict. The offer was rejected and as Yasser Arafat’s wife recently confirmed; the Palestinian leadership was not in the end prepared to make a peace deal that would go down in history as the betrayal of the Palestinians claim to all of Israel, including Tel Aviv. The Gaza withdrawal was yet another genuine attempt at peace but was rewarded with missile attacks on the southern villages of Israel.

The proverbial elephant in the room that our politicians and anti-Israel activists conveniently ignore is that of Islamic triumphalism. It is this radical theology that is driving all the conflicts in the Middle East today and so wherever you look be it Tunisia, Egypt, Sudan, Iraq , Syria, Iran and the Lebanon the message is the same; death to the Jews and Christians and to the United States of America. Naturally our leaders and their fellow travelers conveniently ignore this and prefer to brand Israel an apartheid state never mind the fact that, if and when the Palestinians get a state, they have already declared that it will be “Jew free!” “Palestinians only”; sounds very much like “whites only.”

In the end the real nature of this unending war against the Jews is ant-Semitism. Yes, ant-Semitism; a deep seated evil that takes hold of the human heart and produces the worst form of racism. This is the real issue at the bottom of this discussion. Most troubling of all is the fact that the Democratic Alliance could not stand up to the clear distortions of the Solidarity Conference. Once again they have thereby demonstrated the sickness that befalls politicians all over the world; that of caving in to expediency and opportunism. Shame on them! By contrast the African Christian Democratic Party has demonstrated courage and a commitment to truth that we can all be proud of. They will not be popular but they have done the right thing.

When it comes to Israel the South African political landscape is deeply concerning since there has been a growing antagonism to Israel and the local Jewish community even though the facts on the ground in Israel tell a very different narrative to that peddled by the Solidarity Conference. The madness has to stop. As for the South African government; the ills of the country should be their urgent business especially when millions of people are without work and the poor and homeless, in vast numbers, are crying out for help. Maybe they should look to Israel for help!
Malcolm Hedding

Chairman Emeritus - Christian Action for Israel 1991-2001 Executive Director Emeritus - The International Christian Embassy Jerusalem 2001-2011

Associate Minister-World Outreach Church 2011.



Ilan Ben Zion

HEBRON, West Bank — Bundled up and clutching a red water bottle, four-year-old Muath stood outside his Hebron home on Sunday. His father, Mahmoud Abu Danash, set his jaw and steeled himself for a nerve-wracking trip.

Muath, the youngest of Abu Danash’s nine children, was about to go under the knife - at Holon’s Wolfson Medical Centre, in central Israel.
Muath was diagnosed with congenital heart disease when he was 6 months old. His mother, distraught after having lost two infant sons following failed cardiac surgery, starved herself to death. (Abu Danash’s two brothers also had infants who died of congenital heart disease, suggesting a possible genetic predisposition.)

There was no way Abu Danash, unemployed, could afford to pay for the operation necessary to try to save Muath’s life. He and his family of 10 live in a modest but tidy and brightly decorated three-room apartment in Hebron’s Harta Sheikh neighborhood, a tangle of unnamed alleys and potholed streets in the West Bank’s largest city.

Standing by the yellow Palestinian cab at the gate was Dr.Wafiq Othman, a jocular paediatric anaesthesiologist who works with Save a Child’s Heart (SACH), an Israeli nonprofit that provides essential cardiac surgery to children from around the world. Muhammed, a nurse from Hebron who works twice weekly at Wolfson, joined as their translator.
“It’s a life or death situation,” Abu Danash said. He voiced thanks for SACH’s gift to save his son’s life and expressed hope that – inshallah, God-willing – all would be alright. He said such charitable works are “essential for any society.”

SACH, the brainchild of late American-Israeli cardiovascular surgeon Dr. Ami Cohen, offers life-saving heart surgery for children from developing countries which lack the know-how, facilities or funds to operate locally. The children are flown into Israel from locations as disparate and distant as Tanzania and the Philippines, and are treated at Wolfson at little or no expense to the patient’s family.

The organization’s The Heart of the Matter program also provides training for Palestinian physicians and nurses so they can bring their expertise home and build needed medical infrastructure. With funding from the European Union, private donors and foundations, The Heart of the Matter provides treatment for Palestinian children in an effort to bring Israelis and Palestinians together through medical care.

The EU funds The Heart of the Matter though it’s Partnership for Peace program, which finances projects that improve the lives of ordinary people and promote communication and cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians.

Such life-saving medical interaction stands in sharp contrast to the escalating tensions of recent days between Israel and the Palestinians.

Leaving Hebron’s mangled roads behind, Abu Danash, Muath, his stepmother Lubna — who opted to go by the name Umm Muath in solidarity with the child — and the rest of our group travelled to the Tomb of Rachel checkpoint outside Bethlehem. The Palestinians passed through unhindered and piled into a waiting hired van. (This correspondent, on the other hand, was briefly held up by the Israeli police for illegally entering Area A.)
“I learned some Hebrew while I was in the hospital,” Abu Danash said, turning to me in the van soon after we entered Israel. “I don’t speak much, but enough to understand.”

No amount of bright colors and playful pictures can make a children’s ward happy. Entering the brightly lit hallway, Abu Danash and Umm Muath were greeted by a Palestinian woman who immediately identified the family as fellow Hebronites. Last Thursday night this woman and her six-day-old baby had been rushed to Wolfson for emergency heart surgery. Doctors operated on the tiny infant hours before Muath arrived, and the child lay on a gurney in the intensive care unit alongside African and Israeli children.

Muath, scared and wailing softly, sat on Lubna’s lap as he underwent an initial inspection by the nurses. He joined a covey of tiny children from around the world brought to Wolfson for emergency cardiac surgery unavailable or unaffordable in their home countries. Simon, a curly-haired lad from Tanzania, his sister and mother stood in the hallway as Abu Danash and Lubna calmed their son.

“I don’t know what will happen. I’m scared,” Lubna said. “I will feel better when he gets out of the hospital.”

Muath was set to undergo surgery Wednesday morning, and would then be expected to remain at Wolfson for about a week to convalesce.
Abu Danash, noticeably anxious as I turned to leave, said he felt ill. He walked with me a little way along the hospital corridor, out of earshot. ”I hope it all goes well,” he said, and then slowly walked back toward his child.
According to the latest report Muath has returned home after his five days of recovery in hospital.



Israel State Archives has published a 50-year-old letter from the Mossad claiming it unknowingly offered paramilitary training to a young Nelson Mandela, along with documents illustrating the Jewish state's sympathy for the anti-apartheid struggle in the 1960s.

The release of the documents on the State Archives' website in the wake of Mandela's death appear to be aimed at blunting criticism of the close alliance Israel later developed with South Africa's apartheid rulers.

Israeli relations with post-apartheid South Africa remain cool. The South African government is a fervent supporter of the Palestinian cause, and the Palestinians frequently compare their campaign for independence to the South African black population's struggle that ended apartheid.

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received some criticism for not travelling to the Mandela memorial service that was attended by dozens of world leaders. Netanyahu cited the expense of chartering a plane and transporting a large security detail.

The newly published Israeli documents from the 1960s, released days after Mandela's death on Dec. 5, highlight Israeli officials' voices against apartheid and their attempts to rally international pressure on the South African government to stop the 1964 Rivonia Trial, in which Mandela was later sentenced to life in prison.

But perhaps most startling is the memo, first reported by the Haaretz daily over the weekend, claiming Mandela had received paramilitary training from Israeli handlers in Ethiopia in mid-1962 - without them realizing who he was.

In the 1960s, Israel actively courted Africa's post-colonial leaders in a search of allies. It sent scientists and other experts across the continent. The memo suggests Israel was running a military training program for fighters, though it was unclear the scope of the program. After the 1973 Yom Kippur War, when under Arab pressure dozens of African countries broke diplomatic ties with Israel, the Jewish state formed close military ties with South Africa's apartheid government.

The Oct. 11, 1962 memo, labeled "Top Secret," suggests the Israeli trainers thought the man they later discovered was Mandela was from Rhodesia - now Zimbabwe - where African nationalists at the time were struggling against colonial rule.

According to the memo, a man named "David Mobsari who came from Rhodesia" met with officials several months earlier at the Israeli Embassy in Ethiopia, expressing interest in the tactics of the Hagana, the pre-Israel Jewish resistance movement against British rulers.

"He greeted our men with 'shalom,' was familiar with the problems of Jewry and of Israel and gave the impression of being an intellectual," the letter states. He received training in judo, sabotage and light weapons, it goes on, adding that the "Ethiopians" - an apparent code name for Mossad agents there - "tried to make him into a Zionist.

"Only after Mandela was arrested and his picture published did the Israelis determine his true identity, the letter reveals, referring to him as the "Black Pimpernel," a widely used moniker at the time.

"It now is clear, through photographs published in the media on the arrest in South Africa of the 'Black Pimpernel' that the trainee from Rhodesia introduced himself with an alias and that the two are the same," the letter says. In handwritten notes scribbled on the letter 13 days later, it says his real name is "Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela."
The Nelson Mandela Foundation, an official organization dedicated to promoting his legacy, has questioned the account. While confirming that Mandela toured African countries that year, and even received military training in Ethiopia, it said there was no evidence that he had had any contact with Israelis.

"In 2009, the Nelson Mandela Foundation's senior researcher traveled to Ethiopia and interviewed the surviving men who assisted in Mandela's training - no evidence emerged of an Israeli connection," the foundation reported.

Israel Archives posted the letter Sunday following the report in Haaretz, which said it obtained the document from a former graduate student. The ex-student, David Fachler, said he found the letter while conducting research a decade ago and showed it to the newspaper after Mandela's death.

According to other documents released by the archives, Israel maintained a strong interest in Mandela's well-being after his arrest and throughout the Rivonia Trial, where he was convicted of sabotage in 1964 and sentenced to life imprisonment.

According to the archives, Israel also had an interest in the case because about a third of the defendants were Jewish, and Israel feared the case could see the spread of anti-Semitism in South Africa.

One letter, dated April 21, 1964 and written by Azriel Harel, an Israeli diplomat in South Africa at the time, called for rallying international opinion to prevent the Rivonia defendants from receiving death sentences. He also suggested that an economic boycott of South Africa be considered.

"Perhaps the economic value of the boycott is little, but its psychological or publicity value is high, one that strongly affects public opinion, and that is the way that maybe should be continued, in addition to all the rest of the means to force South Africa to retreat from its racist policy," he wrote.

A Foreign Ministry document dated May 18, 1964, discusses efforts to recruit Jewish philosopher Martin Buber and Israeli author Haim Hazaz to sign a declaration in support of the Rivonia defendants.

The letter, published in English two days later, calls on South Africa to release them, saying, "shed not the blood of men and women who seek only to hold up their heads in dignity.

"Another document includes comments in the Israeli parliament by then-Foreign Minister Golda Meir voicing her objections to apartheid. Another letter written by Harel in March 1965 laments the plight of Mandela's wife, Winnie, after her husband was imprisoned and she was placed under heavy restrictions.

"Her family's source of income has been deprived," Harel wrote. "It is advisable to spread this information and provide a means of income for her and her children."

Alon Liel, who served as Israel's ambassador to South Africa in the early 1990s after Mandela's release from prison, said Israel's courtship of African leaders in the 1960s was well known. He said the young Jewish state was in search of allies. "Also, there was a policy that Israel would be a light unto the nations," he said.

Yaacov Lozowick, Israel's state archivist, said there was no political agenda behind the publication of the documents. He said the archives often publicize documents that may be "interesting" in connection to current events, such as Mandela's death.

But he said it was possible that staffers were aware of Israel's strained relations with South Africa and searched for something more positive.
"I didn't ask them. They didn't ask me. But it's very likely. Yes. That's human nature. But was it damage control from the Prime Minister's Office? Definitely not."


Center Field: Yes, Minister Lapid, Israel can be both Jewish and democratic

Gil Troy

Judaism can welcome democracy today more than it did 3,000 years ago. In fact, many theorists root democracy in Judaism and the Bible.

Something about Israel prompts even sophisticated people to make simplistic statements. Last week’s most sophisticated simpleton was Finance Minister Yair Lapid.
While pleading eloquently for Arab equality at the “Prime Minister’s Conference on Arabs in the economy” at Tel Aviv University last Tuesday, Lapid claimed a Jewish democratic state posed an impossible contradiction.
As a columnist, Lapid’s job was to provoke controversy, occasionally. As a statesman, Lapid should be less inflammatory and more accurate, especially regarding his country’s character and democracy’s meaning. Most of Lapid’s speech was courageous and constructive. True, Israelis frequently rely on tokenism, pretending “that if there’s a successful Arab soccer player, then we don’t have a problem.” Lapid’s admirable solutions include implementing local policing – which would protect all citizens better – integrating women into the labor force, national service for all, and “education, education, education.”
He spoke movingly about Jews’ “moral obligation” given our unhappy past as the oft-oppressed people “to always remember what it is to be a minority... to feel alien in the land you were born in.”
Nevertheless, Lapid stumbled when claiming Israel cannot be democratic and Jewish because “significant parts” of the democratic idea “stand in contradiction to Judaism.”
Addressing the Arab participants, he reasoned: “The meaning of democracy is equality before the law. How can Israel say that everyone is equal before that law – that you’re equal before the law – when the law defined Judaism as the cultural, national and legislative basis for the state?” Lapid made three fundamental mistakes. First, he offered a reductionist, one-dimensional definition of a complicated phenomenon. Democracy involves majority rule not just equality and minority rights. Even American democracy is rife with contradictions.
In any democracy, a minority can call any majority expression anti-democratic while a majority can override any minority claim. Healthy democracies try to balance majority rule with minority rights, popular rule with equal protection for all. Second, Lapid has been listening to too many reactionary rabbis. “Judaism” is not the unchanging monolith countering democracy he described. Traditionally, rabbis described Judaism as an “etz chaim,” a Tree of Life but also a living tree, growing imperceptibility yet steadily.
Thus, Judaism can welcome democracy today more than it did 3,000 years ago. In fact, many theorists root democracy in Judaism and the Bible.
So, again, we are talking creative tension, not contradiction.
Say a finance minister, using his legitimate democratic power, imposed a harsh Value Added Tax on basic staples like vegetables. In a healthy Jewish democracy, critics could invoke Jewish values promoting sensitivity to the poor to challenge said minister to seek less Grinchlike approaches in balancing the budget.
Finally, Zionist history, including Israel’s Declaration of Independence, proves that “Judaism” is not the basis for the state – “Jewishness” is. In Israel’s governing DNA the peoplehood aspect of Jewish identity trumps the religious aspect.
If Judaism were just a religion, then a Jewish state could not be democratic; it would be a theocracy. Because the Jews are a people with a particular religion, Jews can establish a Jewish democratic state, just like the British, the French and others have established states expressing their particular national identity which includes a religious heritage, while following democratic processes.
Examine the cross-laden Crown Jewels in the Tower of London. Salute the flags of Greece, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom – with their crosses. Even visit the United States and Canada on Christmas Day. All these democracies have different degrees of Christian influence woven into their governing and social fabric.
So, yes, Minister Lapid, Israel should treat its Arabs equitably. But that can happen in a Jewish democratic state, which, like all pluralistic democracies, must navigate in a complex world and calibrate different dimensions of that miraculous messy mechanism called democracy.
Absolutist statements misreading democracy, Judaism, and implicitly Zionism, from a government minister, make this noble work of bridge-building harder. Lapid’s caricature is particularly problematic because he launched it into an atmosphere already polluted by the delegitimization of Israel. His rhetoric reflects that noxious nexus wherein Zionist perfectionism, Jewish self-criticism and Israeli bluntness meet global antagonism, creating a destructive multiplier effect.
The “Israel’s-an-oppressive-apartheid-state” folks will quote his inflammatory remarks to “prove” Israel’s perfidy. Their contempt makes most Israelis defensive. Tragically, precisely where they need to be expansive, in dealing with Israeli Arabs – and the Palestinians – Israeli Jews are pilloried. Especially given the Jewish history Lapid knows so well, the attacks send most Israelis into a rigid clinch. That is why Lapid also erred in disputing Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s demand that Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state. The Palestinians have spearheaded this delegitimization campaign for decades, inflaming tensions. There will not be peace until both peoples respect each other’s legitimate national rights.
Next time, rather than making sweeping simplifications that spur stalemates, Lapid should toast Israel’s kooky contradictions that reflect the kind of creative tension which could help Israel’s Arabs. In Israel, supposedly “anti-democratic” ultra-Orthodox Jerusalemites vote in greater numbers than the supposedly democratic “Zionist sector.” In Israel, the head of the supposedly democratic Labor Party, Shelly Yacimovich, dodges her rival Isaac Herzog’s debate challenge – and resists his demand that she open enough polling places in development towns, kibbutzim, moshavim and Arab villages, even if they oppose her. And, in Israel, both the non-populist Supreme Court and popularly elected Israeli governments have advanced Arab rights; not enough yet, but much more than there was half a century ago.
In short, Israel, like all democracies, is a constructive hypocrite – at least articulating ideals it should fulfill.
Israel, like all democracies, is in formation. Israel, like all democracies, is awash in tumultuous tensions, which may look like impossible contradictions to simpletons or enemies, but often trigger creative and inspiring leaps forward.



In the typhoon-ravaged Philippines, Israel brings its experience in disaster relief

Marcy Oster

Obviously wanting to get back to work as the medical manager of the field hospital set up by the Israel Defense Forces in the  Philippines, Lt.-Col. Dr. Ofer Merin speaks hurriedly about the three days his team has been seeing patients in the typhoon-ravaged nation.
He tells of at least 12 babies the hospital has delivered -- most of them premature -- and the stabbing victim who may have died if not for the IDF hospital in Bogo City on Cebu Island, one of the areas hardest hit by last week’s Typhoon Haiyan.
By 5 a.m. Sunday, Merin says at least 50 people had lined up in front of the field hospital to receive treatment.
"If we stayed here two months or even two years we would have patient work," he said during a phone call with the media from the Philippines early Sunday morning.
The field hospital began operating on Friday morning, about seven hours after the team arrived on the island. The parents of the first baby delivered by the Israeli team that first morning named him Israel in gratitude to the volunteers.
Established adjacent to the local hospital in Bogo City, the Israeli field hospital is the only one located in a region of about 250,000 residents, Merin says. Representatives of other countries have visited to view its operation.
The 125-member Israeli team has been seeing about 300 patients a day who were either injured in the typhoon or unable to care for chronic conditions such as heart disease or diabetes due to lack of running water or electricity. Others with untreated diseases, including those with advanced cancer, also have made their way to the facility.
Some 22 members of the team are medical doctors, 15 are nurses and the rest are technicians, lab workers and members of the Homefront Command who are coordinating logistics. The delegation brought 100 tons of equipment and supplies.
Merin says the local officials and residents, as well as the medical staff of the local hospital, "greeted us warmly."
"We are working hand in hand with the Filipino people," he said.
Merin, a cardiac surgeon and deputy director of Shaare Tzedek Hospital in Jerusalem, says the Israelis also have performed surgeries in the local hospital in concert with local doctors "to give them some of our knowledge."
Despite the death toll of more than 3,000, which is expected to climb thousands higher, and the nearly 2 million displaced, Merin says the wounded are not wandering the streets like he saw in Haiti following the 2010 earthquake. He also was part of the Israeli team that traveled to Japan in the aftermath of its 2011 tsunami; the Japanese infrastructure was better able to withstand a disaster, Merin said.
At about 4 a.m. Sunday, a man who had been stabbed in the chest was brought to the Bogo City field hospital by friends. Doctors put in a chest drain, which Merin says was beyond the capabilities of the local hospital.
"I am not sure what would have happened if we had not been around," he said.
Mobilizing and operating the field hospital has cost Israel millions of dollars,  Merin says, as well as lost manpower. The medicines and much of the equipment brought in will remain when they leave in about two weeks, he adds.
Merin, who is volunteering, believes the IDF is able to mobilize so quickly in the wake of natural disasters because it operates as an army unit, sending an advance team that allows the unit to deploy quickly upon arrival.
One of the logistics officers left with the team for the Philippines two days after his wedding, despite being on leave from the army for the occasion.
Israelis, Merin says, are "ready to drop everything and come and assist anywhere in the world that we need to be."
His team in the Philippines, he adds, is "really treating [the patients] with all their heart."

Acknow. JTA


With Israeli help India can feed the world

Brett Jonathan Miller

With right water and agricultural management, India can feed the world in the future with lessons from Israel, Brett Jonathan Miller, consul-general of Israel in Mumbai, said recently at Goa university.
A small country like Israel, which has to rely mainly on markets outside to export its produce, will look at India and China more than ever in the near future with Europe's economy weakening, Miller said.
Speaking to students of the Centre for Latin American and International Studies at the Goa university on his visit to the state, Miller said that while more than 50% of water in areas like Mumbai is wasted even before it reaches homes due to poor pipelines, Israel recycles 70% of its water for use.
"We have no land, no water and no natural resources, except the gas discovered recently. India can provide for us in the future with the right management," Miller said.
Miller spoke at length about the increasing political conflict, civil wars and terrorism in the Middle-east and Israel's concerns at maintaining safety in the country in middle of the region.
"The important question is if what began as a democratic movement in the form of Arab Spring has seen more successes or failures? The West supported these movements at first thinking them to be in favour of democracy. But in these countries like Egypt where there is no democratic foundation like in India, just a vote is not enough. A vote is, in fact, dangerous," Miller said.
He said that Islamic political groups saw an opportunity in the crumbling of regimes and grabbed it.
"Morsi in Egypt was elected democratically. But it did not last as the party he came from itself did not have a democratic functioning. That is leading to conflict. In Germany, before World War II, the Nazi party too was elected democratically at first, but could not uphold the same democratic principles," Miller said drawing a comparison. He said that the Middle east is only faced with uncertainty at present with no immediate solutions in sight.
Miller's talk drew critical comments from students from the Middle-east at GU over the Palestinian issue. "If one side does not accept the right of the state of Israel to exist, there is a fundamental problem in resolving the conflict. It is difficult to live under threat every day," the diplomat said, responding to the stinging questions.

Acknow. The Times of India


Chinese billionaire to fund joint China-Technion program

David Shamah

Li Ka Shing is providing $130 million to enable Israel’s tech education powerhouse to establish a branch in Asia.
The richest man in Asia is giving $130 million to the Technion to build a research center in China. Li Ka Shing, estimated to be worth some $31 billion – and, according to Forbes, the world’s eighth-richest man – is funding the joint project between the Technion and Shantou University, located in Guangdong Province.
The new center, to be called the Technion Guangdong Institute of Technology (TGIT), will be located on its own 330,000 square meter campus to be built by the local government, while the Li Ka Shing Foundation (LKSF) will fund projects and programs at the new center. LKSF is the main funding arm for Shantou, providing nearly all of the school’s HK$6 billion endowment. The $130 million gift for the joint Technion-Shantou project, meanwhile, constitutes the largest gift ever to the Technion, and one of the largest to any Israeli school.
TGIT will begin offering undergraduate programs in civil and environmental engineering and computer sciences in the academic year beginning in November. Next year, the new joint project will conduct life sciences research using “Big Data” analysis to tackle medical and social issues, including improvements in clinical diagnosis procedures. By 2020, the institute will offer courses in other engineering-related fields, from mechanical to aerospace engineering.
The roots of the partnership go back to 2011, when LKSF officials visited the Technion, followed by a reciprocal visit to China by Technion President Dr. Peretz Lavie. Speaking Sunday at a ceremony in Tel Aviv in which a memorandum of understanding for the joint project was signed, Lavie described the partnership as “a major breakthrough and an opportunity to strengthen ties between Israel and China.
“When you combine the innovation and entrepreneurial spirit of Israel with the unbelievable scale of China, you have a great partnership,” he said.  “We hope that by combining our research methodologies with the scale and resources of China, we will create a major research institute that will help not only China and Israel, but also mankind in general.”
As a result of that 2011 trip, Li Ka Shing became interested in Israeli hi-tech and decided to invest in several Israeli start-ups, including Waze. Part of the money being used to fund the new project is coming out of the profit that Li earned when Google bought Waze earlier this year for some $900 million, LKSF said.
Speaking at Sunday’s event, Li said that “in a world of fluid boundaries, the transformative power of technology waves like a magic wand, bringing new models and opportunities to many frontiers and generating new solutions to entrenched problems. But we all know the wands are only as powerful as the wizards who use them, and the magic comes from the genius within.
“Our responsibility is to invest in education to unlock that genius and enable the continuing realization of human potential, building a society rich in knowledge and securing a sustainable quality of life for all,” Li said.
For China, said Professor Gu Peihua, provost of Shantou, the Technion is a role model for China to follow. “What the Technion has done to advance the Israeli economy through student and staff research and innovation is an example for Chinese universities to follow. If many universities in Guangdong and China do the same as Technion has been doing in Israel, an innovation-based economy will emerge.”
Within a few decades, Gu said, he expected TGIT to become one of the best technological schools in Asia, if not the world.

Acknow. Times of Israel


For Real Innovation, It's Not Silicon Valley But Silicon Wadi

Peter Nguyen

Ask most people what they know about the state of Israel, and you’ll get some version of “War, violence, Holy Land, and bus bombs.” But amidst all the turmoil, real people are living real lives. They go to work, eat good food, love their children, and talk to their neighbors.
Oh, and they start businesses.
According to the Startup Genome Project, Tel Aviv, Israel — dubbed Silicon Wadi, which means valley in Hebrew — has the No. 2 startup ecosystem in the world. It has more startups per capita than anywhere else, and it has 61 companies on the NASDAQ. That’s more than Europe, Japan, Korea, and China combined!
On a recent trip to Silicon Wadi, I was amazed at the vibrant atmosphere. People work hard and play hard. The nightlife ranks with the top cities in the world. There’s something in the air; people are innovating, reimagining, and causing some major disruptions.
The Disadvantages of Staying in the Box
With tech companies both old and young making their headquarters in Silicon Valley, it isn’t a terrible place to look for inspiration and contacts. But Silicon Valley is basically reliving the California Gold Rush of 1849. A few companies hit it big there, so now everyone is rushing to do the same.
When people hear that it only took 19 months for Instagram to be acquired by Facebook for $1 billion, they want some of that. Sadly, it’s just not a true story for most companies in the Valley. Most startups fail and lose a lot of money doing it.
Silicon Valley might be on its way out as the dominant tech ecosystem in the world — and Silicon Wadi is poised to take its place.
The Advantages of Tel Aviv
Tel Aviv is a startup hotspot for several reasons.
1. “Jewish Geography”: Israelis say they’re separated from anyone in the country by only one or two degrees. Networking is so engrained in Israel’s culture that it’s practically a reflex. People aren’t secretive or protective of their connections; instead, they’re happy to help others connect — everyone is ready with an open Rolodex.
2. Community: Unlike the hypercompetitive nature of the American startup scene, Israel has a more community-focused vibe. Part of the cohesiveness is due to the shared religious upbringing of Israelis and the shared value of helping others in need. They care deeply about improving their country and economy, and all companies, nonprofits, and government entities are closely intertwined.
3. Military Service: Girls graduating high school must serve at least two years in the military. Boys do three. This reality causes teenagers to grow up a lot faster, which helps them pay attention to problems that need solving. Young people are required to work in teams, learn to lead, add value, and serve others.
4. Immigrants: Most of Israel is made up of immigrants or sons and daughters of immigrants who are, by definition, risk-takers: They move from comfort and familiarity to start a new, better life, and they have the desire to improve and innovate. Since the country is so young, it can adapt and move a lot more quickly, creating systems to improve the quality of life as they go.
Not many people know about Israel’s tech scene. Most just think of Israel as a small, war-torn country, but don’t be surprised if Silicon Wadi soon leapfrogs Silicon Valley to become the hottest startup scene in the world. It didn’t take them long to reach No. 2, and those in second place always try harder.



Israel's secret doctors

Robert Fulford

To help refugees from the Syrian war, Israeli doctors and aid workers must do their work furtively. When they go into refugee camps in Jordan, they change clothes so that they can fade into the background. They must be smuggled in and out. They don’t tell others where they’re going and when they go home they usually don’t say where they have been. Above all, they don’t want anyone to know the names of their patients.
They move “under the radar,” in the words of a clandestine organization in this field. When they treat Syrians in Israeli hospitals, they make sure no visiting journalist learns details that will identify the patients to authorities back in Syria.
Usually, Israel is glad to announce when it contributes to emergency relief. The case of Syrian aid is different.
Syria does not recognize Israel and forbids its citizens to go there. Israeli doctors are not welcome in Jordan, where their work has been denounced as a violation of Jordanian sovereignty. And Israel is anxious not to be involved in the Syrian civil war. It does nothing, officially, that could make it look like the medical corps of the rebellion.
For Syrians the possibility that their own government will punish them adds to the horror of their situation. This summer, in Nahariya, Israel, near the Golan Heights, scores of patients have been covertly brought across the border from Syria to be treated by Israeli doctors.
For patients’ friends or relatives, Israel becomes a last hope when no Syrian medical help is available. Masad Barhoum, clinical director at Western Galilee Medical Center, recently told an NBC reporter that many patients arrive unconscious. “When they wake up and find that they are in Israel they are anxious and afraid.”
A Syrian woman in the hospital said that she came to Israel because her daughter was hit by a sniper’s bullet. “The hospital in my town was destroyed. They saved her here, but now I am afraid to go back. We will be marked.”
An Israeli organization, iL4Syrians, operates anonymously in Syria and other desperate countries. Providing food and medical supplies for those who need them, it relies on secrecy to protect both its local contacts and its own practitioners. Its web site identifies no directors or staff but carries a defiant slogan: “Nobody asks permission to kill. We do not ask permission to save lives.”
They explain that “We focus on countries that lack diplomatic relations with Israel, transcending differences.” They argue that a respect for the sanctity of human life expresses Jewish tradition and culture. As they see it, this applies to Israel’s toughest and cruelest enemies as well as anyone else.
Since all of these efforts are unofficial and unrecorded, no one can say how many Israelis are involved. I was alerted to this phenomenon by one of the regular letters of Tom Gross, an astute British-born commentator on the Middle East.
Gross has a 15-minute film showing a couple of days spent by an aid group visiting refugees. The refugees don’t expect them to arrive and are surprised when they learn that their benefactors are Israelis. That makes some of them nervous but in the film others say in Arabic “May God bless Israel.”
The team takes along a professional clown to perform for the children while food is being handed out; in one camp, however, the adults briefly riot over limited supplies. A journalist asks one of the aid workers, “Do people call you crazy?” She answers: “Not many people know.”
Information about this work has to be pieced together from fragments of journalism, like a paragraph in an Israeli/Arabic paper: “The Arab countries offer condolences but the best role is provided by the Israelis because they are crossing the border to provide assistance to the refugees, risking their lives without a word of thank you.”
These are dark days for much of the world, dreadfully dark for Syrians. Few can even imagine a solution that does not involve even more tragedy for them. W.H. Auden, in his poem “September 1, 1939” described an even darker time and offered the only advice that made sense to him: “Show an affirming flame.”
As Jews celebrate the start of the new year, it’s worth noting that these Israeli humanitarians have found a way to make their flame burn with a brave affirmation.

Acknow.  National Post


Uganda named as country to absorb African migrants from Israel

Ben Hartman, Lahav Harkov

Uganda is the African country that has agreed to accept thousands of African migrants scheduled to be deported from Israel, it emerged on Thursday after the military censor lifted a gag order.
Uganda will also allow migrants to use its territory as a transit point to return to their home countries or go elsewhere.
On Wednesday, Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar had announced that Israel had finalized an agreement with an unnamed African country and that deportations would begin after the High Holy Days.
He made his announcement at a meeting of the Knesset Interior and Environment Committee, and said that Eritrean and Sudanese migrants would be given a grace period to leave voluntarily, after which they will face punitive measures, including the cancellation of residency permits and penalties against them and their employers.
Sa’ar, on Thursday night, touted his efforts to stem illegal migration from Africa, saying that “someone who crosses the border illegally goes to a detainment facility, not the fast track to Tel Aviv or Eilat.”
According to Sa’ar, migrants “are not refugees. Everyone who requests refugee status must go through me, but over 90 percent don’t even apply.
This is purely economic migration, because the quality of life is much higher here than in Africa.”
Although the process is complex and will take a long time, Sa’ar promised the illegal migration will end.
“We are humanitarians, we follow international law, but we are also committed to protecting Israel as a Jewish and democratic state,” he said at a pre-Rosh Hashana event in Tel Aviv with party activists.
On Thursday, a joint statement was issued by a number of Israeli human rights organizations, including the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, the Hotline for Migrant Workers, Physicians for Human Rights – Israel, ASAF, Amnesty Israel and others.
According to the statement, “For years, the [Interior Ministry] has been talking about a third country that will take the asylum-seekers from Israel in exchange for arms and money, and even Uganda was previously mentioned.
But it turned out that Uganda is no longer a safe country and that there is no way to ensure the safety of those deported to it.”
The human rights organizations said the announcement of the deal with Uganda is intended “to pressure asylum- seekers in Israel into asking to leave Israel in any way they find, even if it means risking their lives.”



For African migrants in Israel, a life in legal limbo

Ben Sales

Hanging by his feet in a torture cell in the Sinai Desert, Dawit Demoz knew he had only one way to escape a nearly certain death: He would have to make good on his captors' demand of a $3,500 ransom to buy his freedom.
Demoz, 23, tells a harrowing tale of escaping mandatory conscription in the Eritrean Army and following a desperate journey through Sudan, Libya and finally Egypt, where a human trafficking gang captured him in 2010 as he made his way toward the Israeli border.
For three weeks, Demoz claims, he was beaten, electrocuted and hung from the ceiling until his family was able to come up with the money to buy his freedom.
Demoz then was smuggled across the border into Israel, following a path that tens of thousands of Eritreans had followed before. He had hoped his struggles might finally be over. But as soon as he crossed the border, he was thrown in jail.
“I heard that Israel is a democratic country with Jewish people who know what a refugee is because they suffered before,” Demoz said. “So I thought Israel could save our life. But it’s not what I expected.”
Demoz is one of an estimated 62,000 migrants who have illegally crossed into Israel since 2006 -- most of them Eritrean men driven from their homeland by an oppressive dictatorship that drafts them into the military as teenagers and can keep them there indefinitely. According to the United Nations, there are more than 300,000 Eritrean refugees and asylum seekers worldwide.
In Israel, they live without fear of torture and death. But their rising numbers have led to a backlash here, prompting a government crackdown that has nearly eliminated the cross-border flow. In July, Israel sent 13 detained Eritreans back home and has been urging others to self-deport for more than a year.
But though the influx has stopped, nearly 55,000 migrants remain in Israel, most of them in Tel Aviv. The government affords them limited rights and services, but does not recognize them as refugees, instead giving them temporary IDs they must renew every three months.
For these migrants, who arrived in Israel with no money, no Hebrew and no work permit, daily life often is a challenge.
“These are people who are here five years, and when they go to the Interior Ministry, they don’t know what will happen,” said Orit Marom, director of public activism for Assaf, a nonprofit that helps illegal migrants receive social services. “They’re always temporary.”
Like many Eritreans who have crossed into Israel, Demoz spent his first three months in jail while Israel determined his status. Upon his release, the army took him to Beersheva and gave him a one-way bus ticket to Tel Aviv.
His first three nights were spent with other Eritreans in a park across from the Tel Aviv bus station. But then a friend from back home found Demoz and took him into a one-room apartment he shared with three other men. It’s crowded, Demoz says, but better than sleeping outside.
“Some don’t have a place to sleep,” said Nordin Ishag, a Darfurian who came to Israel in 2007 and last year founded Darfur Friends Association, a social service organization. “They were sleeping in the park, the street. We cannot let them sleep outside. They are human beings.”
Despite its refusal to grant them permanent residence, the Israeli government provides a range of services to the migrants. Children receive free education through high school and infants get free medical care. This year, the Health Ministry opened an emergency medical clinic for migrants at the Tel Aviv Central Bus Station, and a Tel Aviv municipal program provides child psychiatric services and access to government services to the migrant population.
An array of community nonprofits also have sprung up to help.
The Schoolhouse provides English classes and helps migrants qualify for employment, while the Darfur Friends Association offers legal advocacy, health care and English classes funded almost entirely by local Darfurians. Ishag estimates the organization receives monthly donations of about $25 each from 300 donors.
For many, $25 is a significant sum. Demoz’s first job in Israel, working seven days a week at a metal shop, paid him just about $6.50 an hour. He has found each of his subsequent jobs -- pool cleaning, building platforms for construction and working at a Herzliya hotel -- through employment contractors in south Tel Aviv. The contractors match asylum seekers with jobs and pay their salaries -- often with fees attached, ostensibly for taxes.
“There is one big problem here -- we have no ID, no papers, no life,” said Sammy, 32, an Eritrean who worked 14 hours a day, seven days a week as a restaurant dishwasher before he was fired, with no severance, after three years.
Sammy was interviewed recently at a health clinic for asylum seekers and migrant workers run by Physicians for Human Rights-Israel. The clinic, staffed by volunteer doctors with specialties ranging from gynecology to physiotherapy, treats 7,000 people a year. For many of them, it is their only realistic way to get health care.
“It’s difficult to get a doctor beyond the human rights doctors,” said Ananwuna, 41, who said he owes nearly $10,000 to an Israeli health care provider for the 2010 removal of a uterine tumor.
Some Eritreans have managed to achieve a measure of success. Habton Mehari, 31, who came here in 2007 and calls himself “the luckiest refugee in Israel,” is on a full scholarship at Ben-Gurion University.
As of last year, he's also a father, but the Interior Ministry won’t register his son in his name. He is also $3,000 in debt from his wife’s labor, he says, and often faces racism when he leaves campus.
For Demoz, the future remains uncertain. He hopes to be able to return home at some point. Until then, he wants the Israeli government to recognize him as a refugee.
“I want to be here and for the Israeli government to treat me like a human being,” he said. “All Eritreans who live in Israel want to go back to Eritrea, but we can’t go back now. These people have no other option.”

Acknow. JTA


Israel's Security Paradox: Never Safer and Never More Uncertain

Frida Ghitis

For the moment, Israel's enemies are focused on their own problems. But the regional turmoil could affect the way it negotiates with Palestine.
As Israel enters yet another round of peace negotiations with Palestinians, the fundamental concern that will guide its decision-making is security. And that's one issue that creates a quandary unique to this moment in history.
Israel has arguably never been safer than today. At the same time, the country's strategic position beyond this moment looks hazier than ever.
Israel's enemies have, for the moment, set aside the obsessive attention they normally expend on the Jewish state and have focused on more urgent matters of revolution and civil war. For its foes, Israel is a secondary issue right now. That provides a measure of security, however temporary.
Today, the Arab Middle East, Israel's neighborhood, is in turmoil, distracted from its anti-Israel sentiment. Iran, meanwhile, has seen its principal allies, Syria and Hezbollah, coming under enormous pressure. but Hamas is weaker than ever. Syria is self-destructing. The Muslim Brotherhood is on its heels. As a result, Israel is the quietest, most stable, safest country in the region. But in the region more broadly, the only certainty is change.
The extent of Israel's willingness to compromise with Palestinians will be determined in part by how its leaders perceive the state's strategic position in the midst of this paradox. If Israel is safer than ever, and they believe this is a relatively long term condition, the idea of withdrawing Israeli forces from the West Bank and letting the territory come under the control of a new country, the not particularly friendly or strong Arab country of Palestine, will seem a more tolerable risk. If, on the other hand, Israeli leaders view the country as encircled by an increasingly threatening maelstrom, they and the Israeli population -- which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promises will have a vote on any deal -- will become more resistant to risky withdrawals.
From the day of its founding, the Jewish state has faced complicated security challenges. Every major political, diplomatic and military move has been viewed as potentially life-and-death decision. A mistake, Israelis believe, could lead to the end of their country. For decades polls have shown a majority of Israelis support the creation of Palestinian state. Underneath that support, however, lies a gnawing fear about whether a Palestinian state would become a base of operations against Israel, and potentially a key player if a major war breaks out, or if Iran attacks.
Israel's strategic position has already been transformed. On the northern border -- Syria, a country with which Israel has fought several wars and is still technically at war -- President Bashar al-Assad is in the midst of a brutal civil war. The conflict has left more than 100,000 Syrians dead. It has also torn the country apart, decimating Assad's military machine. Assad's forces obviously measure up to the opposition, but undoubtedly two years of fighting has degraded the Syrian army, with countless losses of armament and personnel.
The decision by Lebanon's Iran-backed militia Hezbollah -- one of Israel's most bitter foes -- to jump into the Syrian fray on Assad's side has also exacted an enormous cost. Hezbollah Chief Hassan Nasrallah concluded that Assad's fall would be catastrophic for his organization. By openly siding with Assad, he destroyed the group's once-mighty reputation in the Arab world. His participation has helped Assad stop rebel advances in Syria, but it is killing scores of Hezbollah fighters, using up their weapons stockpiles, and sharply eroding their support in and out of Lebanon.
Another militia that has fought open warfare with Israel, the Palestinian group Hamas, which rules the Gaza strip, has seen its strategic position crumble as a side-effect of the Arab uprisings.
Hamas is a Palestinian outgrowth of the Muslim Brotherhood. When Muslim Brotherhood parties started winning the first wave of post-uprising elections, Hamas greeted the development with jubilation. But practically everything has gone wrong for Hamas since then.
Hamas expected that the toppling of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and his replacement with a Brotherhood-dominated government would bring an open border between Gaza and Egypt. Instead, the Egyptian military, even under the now-deposed Mohammed Morsi, flooded the smuggling tunnels linking Gaza to Egypt's Sinai desert. When Egyptian soldiers started getting killed in the Sinai, the pressure on Gaza and Hamas increased.
Things have only gotten worse for Hamas from there. Now Egypt is under the rule of the profoundly anti-Brotherhood army. A large segment of the population shares the sentiment, and many blame Hamas at least partly for Egypt's troubles.
Making matters worse, Hamas's decision to move away from Syria's Assad when it looked like he was about to fall cost the group the vital support of Damascus and Tehran. Hamas is now left without a patron and has greater difficulties rearming. Israelis worried about the rise of the Brotherhood, but for now that fear has generally abated. The Brotherhood is fighting for its life in Egypt and is under pressure elsewhere in the region.
The shape, the attitude, and the ideology of the Arab states that will emerge in the coming years, unknowable today, will go a long way in determining Israel's security situation, creating a particular challenge for military and political strategists -- and for peace negotiations.
Syria, which holds massive stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, may come apart. It could become a failed state, with jihadi enclaves dominated by ideologues with sharply anti-Western, anti-Israel views, just across the border from Israel. Assad's fall could bring a moderate democracy, but it could just as easily bring something much more ominous.
Egypt is still in play, and the only other Arab country with which Israel has a peace treaty, Jordan, is hardly a sea of tranquility.
Israel's greatest security worry, however, lies further East, in Iran. President Hassan Rouhani has raised hopes in some quarters that a deal with the West could at last be reached ending nuclear enrichment. But, in fact, Iran may have just bought itself more time to move ahead with the banned program. The outrageous Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has moved off the scene, bringing an end to the most incendiary rhetoric, but the real power in Iran rests with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, whose viscerally anti-Israel views remain unchanged.
The relationship between uranium-enriching Iran and Lebanon's Hezbollah, just across the border from Israel, is as close as ever, and Hezbollah continues to desire Israel's destruction.
As they scan the horizon and consider their choices in talks with Palestinians, Israeli strategists will have to weight countless unknowns and decide how to make the most of this period during which Israel is, in fact, safer than it has ever been. Even if the future looks unclear, there is no better place from which to negotiate than from a position of maximum strength. The real goal is finding the best way to make security permanent.

Acknow. Daily Alert


Israelis create 'super plants' that resist drought

Indo Asian News Service

A group of researchers in Israel have reportedly grown genetically engineered plants that can live longer and resist long periods without water and can yield more produce.
In what could be the solution to world food crisis, scientists from the Faculty of Biology at Technion University in Haifa have created what they call "super plants" by modifying a longevity hormone in the genes known as zytokinin.
The research has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the US, Xinhua reported.
"Let's take a staple food, for example rice, when the photosynthesis ends, the rice stops growing, it's a natural process with every plant," said Technion University Biology professor and president of the Kinneret College Simon Gepstein, who led the research.
"But by extending the juvenile hormone, we have managed to extend the life of the plant, therefore producing more crops."
In plants, ageing comes about when zytokinin levels drops, so the researchers prevented the breakdown of the juvenile hormone and made it stay higher for a longer period, preventing the ageing.
"We not only extended the plant's life and managed to make it yield more, but we have also extended the shelf life of the vegetables and fruits it gives," Gepstein said.
"The vegetables and fruits now last double and sometimes three times more after they are cut if they come from the genetically modified plants. I took a modified lettuce home and it took 21 days for it to start getting brown, whereas normal lettuces go bad in five or six days," he said.
Gepstein believes the super plants can be the solution for food shortage in the world, not only because the plants live longer and give more vegetables that can last more on the shelf, but also because they hardly need any water.
"These plants can survive droughts, they can go on for a month without water and even if you water them, they only need 30 percent the amount of liquid normal plants do," he said.
Gepstein discovered this feature of his genetically modified plants by sheer chance, when he forgot to water them for a few weeks.
"We found out that after a month of not getting any water they were as good as when they do get it, so we could take their seeds to arid zones or areas where there is severe drought risks and feed the population with them," the researcher said.
His team is now exploring other possible features these "super plants" may have, like their resilience to pests and parasites and heat as well as cold.
"Despite all the bad the word 'genetically modified' has, I can tell our plants are not dangerous for human health, because we have altered them using their own components, they have nothing added to them," Gepstein said.
Currently, the researcher said, seed companies from all over the world are running field tests with the seeds to verify that these plants can grow outdoors as well, as they did in the greenhouses of Technion University.
"If all goes well, we may be able to see these super plants growing in fields worldwide," Gepstein said.


Legs for paraplegics, and other startups from Israel’s ‘Silicon Wadi’

Michele Chabin

When U.S. President Barack Obama visited Israel in March, he stopped at the Israel Museum. But in addition to a tour of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Mr. Obama met with seven groups of inventors whose products exemplify the best of Israeli innovation.
As part of the demonstration, a paraplegic, strapped into ReWalk, a battery-operated exoskeleton suit created by Argo Medical Technologies, walked confidently around the room. Students from the Technion, Israel’s Institute of Technology, operated the Robotic Snake, a miniaturized camera-equipped robot that can slither into hard-to-access disaster sites. And scientists from Mobileye showed how their collision-prevention system can help drivers navigate more safely.
Choosing seven products couldn’t have been easy, given Israelis’ talent for innovation in everything from high tech to med tech, solar energy to water recycling.
Second only to Silicon Valley in the number of business startups, according to Startup Genome, a data project that ranks the world's top startup ecosystems, Israel’s own “Silicon Wadi” (wadi means valley in Arabic), a tech-rich stretch of land from Tel Aviv northward, is sprouting with creativity.
Israel is ranked 26th of 144 countries by the World Economic Forum’s 2012-2013 Global Competitiveness Report. It’s also third in innovation, fifth in investor protection and 17th in financial market development.
About 300 multinational companies, including Cisco, Microsoft, IBM, Google and Intel, operate in Israel, according to the trade organization Israel Advanced Technology Industries (IATI). Some manufacture products here while many more operate research and development centres.
Saul Singer, co-author of the book Start-Up Nation, which analyzes the country’s tech boom, said Israel receives 2.5 times as much venture capital per capita as the U.S and spends about twice the OECD average on civilian research and development, above and beyond military R&D spending.
“This whole country is a startup,” Mr. Singer said. “It took a lot of drive and determination and willingness to take risks to turn Israel into a reality 65 years ago, and those are the hallmarks of entrepreneurship.”
That determination has been driven partly by a need to overcome adversity. Surrounded by hostile neighbours, Israel has had to develop ways to grow its own food in inhospitable soil, preserve its scant water supply, build a modern infrastructure and develop sophisticated military technology.
With a tiny local market, Israeli startups aim internationally “from day one,” Mr. Singer said.
He also credits Israel’s mandatory military service for teaching the younger generation the values of teamwork, leadership and goal-oriented sacrifice, and mass waves of immigration for spurring growth and introducing new perspectives for tackling problems and challenges.
Jonathan Medved, a Jerusalem-based entrepreneur and CEO of OurCrowd, an equity crowdfunding site for startups around the world, said Israelis “have learned to live with risk and transformed it from a four-letter word into a normal part of everyday life.“ If a company ultimately fails, “it fails,” Mr. Medved says philosophically. “When you live with existential risks, the rest is manageable.”
It’s relatively easy to raise money for Israeli startups because the industry has such a solid track record, Mr. Medved says. Since 2008, investors have paid roughly $17-billion (U.S.) for almost 300 startups, according to IATI. In fact, Google just acquired Israel-based Waze, a real-time traffic and navigation app, for $1-billion (U.S.), pending an antitrust investigation.
Even so, Israeli universities, which spawn many startups, are facing deep government budget cuts. Venture capital funding is down due to the global economic slowdown.
Also, outside of investment circles, most consumers don’t realize just how ubiquitous Israeli innovation is, Mr. Medved says, citing ventures in everything from computer chips and wireless technology to drip irrigation and hardier fruits and vegetables.
He notes that the Library of Congress uses Ex Libris Israeli software, that Arab countries and the FBI use Israeli video intelligence products, and that BriefCam, an image-processing system that summarizes hours of video, helped authorities find the Boston Marathon bomber.
If the Israeli startup scene has one weakness, analysts say, it is the unwillingness – some say inability – of entrepreneurs to build and keep large innovative ventures in Israel. More often than not, Israeli inventors sell to multinationals that leave little more than R&D operations in Israel.
The majority of startups close up shop following an overseas buyout, according to an Israel Export Institute survey. While the entrepreneurs get rich, the sale usually means Israeli job losses and lower tax revenues.
“What we need to do is turn Israel into a centre for local multinationals,” said Ariel Beery, a long-time social entrepreneur and CEO of the Tel Aviv-based biomed startup MobileOCT.
To do that, Mr. Beery said, Israeli entrepreneurs need to study management, consumer infrastructure and customer service – subjects tech geeks rarely pick up at university.
Professor Boaz Golany, vice-president for external relations at the Technion, doesn’t dispute the need for startups to adopt better corporate practices, but he also sees an upside when multinationals buy out successful Israeli companies.
The fact that most startups never become Teva or NICE or Check Point “can be seen as a failure,” Dr. Golany acknowledged, referring to three homegrown Israel-based corporate giants. “But experience shows that most of the entrepreneurs who sell to multinationals become serial entrepreneurs who create more startups, which pour money into the economy.
“That’s the fuel for greater innovation,” Dr. Golany said.



John Kerry’s Bid for Mideast Peace Is Doomed

Jeffrey Goldberg

It’s a testament to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s grit, determination and self-assurance that he refuses to give up in his quest to bring Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table. But I wish that he would, during the long slog toward renewed talks, ask himself one question: Why didn’t his predecessor, Hillary Clinton, apply herself to the problem in the same manner?
Certainly, Clinton possesses the same qualities of fortitude and indefatigability. No one is more tenacious than Clinton when she identifies a goal worth pursuing. So why did she resolutely avoid this issue? The answer is simple: She saw no reasonable chance for success, even success modestly defined.
The goal Kerry has in mind -- getting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas together for direct talks about the most divisive issues -- won’t be achieved. Both the Palestinians and Israelis know that Kerry’s proposed negotiations won’t work, but neither party wants to upset Kerry by saying so, and neither wants to be perceived as uninterested in compromise. So they may meet, and then maybe they will meet again and maybe they will even meet after that. But peace, and a Palestinian state that would be the byproduct of peace, won’t happen, not now and not in the foreseeable future.

Kerry’s Delusions
I wish this all weren’t true. Peace for Israel and a state for the Palestinians are goals worth achieving. Reaching these goals won’t change the Middle East as much as Kerry thinks it will, but I’ll address this particular delusion of the American foreign-policy elite another time. (I already have, come to think of it, in this column.)
The delusion at hand is that Kerry will succeed where numerous secretaries of state have failed, and succeed in what might be the most inauspicious moment in years to start new negotiations: The Middle East is erupting all around Israel, which makes even centrist and some left-leaning Israelis fear the idea of tangible territorial concessions; the Palestinian Authority is weaker than ever; the two territories that would make up the future state of Palestine (the West Bank and Gaza) are divided between the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Hamas and the more moderate Fatah; and the Israeli Cabinet is under the de facto control of the settlement movement, which continues to expand its holdings on the West Bank.
But maybe I’m just a cynic. I called Ari Shavit, Israel’s leading columnist and a man who very much wants to see a Palestinian state created on the West Bank, to ask him if my bleakness was unjustified. “I’m just this moment putting the Champagne bottles in the fridge,” he said. “I expect to open them shortly. We’re all going to have special permission from the Muslim Brotherhood to drink Champagne.”
Shavit’s withering sarcasm wasn’t matched by contempt for Kerry, though. Like many Israelis, Shavit has a strange kind of respect for Kerry’s quixotic efforts. “Kerry is a decent, noble American trying to bring peace to a tormented land and a troubled region, and I salute him for his benign intentions and commitment and energy,” Shavit said. “But that said, I think this good will and energy and political capital is being invested in a course of action that resembles too much the previous attempts that have failed. I think the right approach is to learn from the failures of the past and to do something practical that relates to the realities on the ground rather than reach for something that is totally unrealistic. There is no serious Israeli or Palestinian who thinks that the Kerry approach would work.”

Modest Ideas
So if the idea of bringing Netanyahu and Abbas together to talk about the largest issues is a bad idea, what constitutes a good idea? “Modest ideas,” Shavit said, modest ideas that may lead to less modest ideas.
That means a different approach, undertaking one set of negotiations between the U.S. and Israel, and another between the U.S. and the Palestinian Authority. Each side could take a few steps separately that would lay the groundwork for eventually having direct talks about the actual issues separating them: the future of Jerusalem, the future of the Jewish settlements, a solution for Palestinian refugees and borders for the future state of Palestine. Shavit argues that this strategy would shift the discussion away from the dangerous binary of all or nothing at all.
To the Israelis, Kerry should be asking for a freeze in the expansion of settlements beyond Israel’s security barrier. These far-flung communities are home to a small minority of settlers, but their growth signals to Palestinians like nothing else that Israel means to continue occupying the whole of the West Bank. A majority of Israelis would agree to a freeze, and Palestinians would interpret it as a sign that Israel might be considering territorial compromise. And Kerry would have a powerful argument behind him, one most Israelis understand: Continued expansion outside the main settlement blocs, and on the far side of the security barrier, threatens Israel’s democracy and its Jewish character. The settlements entangle Israel to a dangerous degree in the lives of Palestinians.
To the Palestinians, Kerry should be arguing for a return to “Fayyadism,” the technocratic approach to state-building championed by former Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. Israelis would interpret a return to Fayyadism as a sign the Palestinians were serious about building a state with legitimate and organized institutions, rather than the sort of Palestinian state Israelis fear: corrupt, dysfunctional and a launching pad for attacks.
If Israel were to make a limited gesture on settlements to the Palestinians, and if the Palestinian Authority would make a sincere effort to return to technocracy, then it might be worth trying to bring Netanyahu and Abbas together.
Right now, though, there’s no point. One day soon, Kerry will understand why.



Why are the Israelis so Damn Happy?

Tiffanie Wen

A new study shows them to be among the most contented in the Western world. What gives?
By now everyone in Israel has read the results of the study published earlier this month that showed Israelis ranked among the happiest people among the Western nations, despite an extensive laundry list of problems in their country.
Israel ranked low in terms of income, housing, education and security for example—all things we would typical associate with contentment. As an Asian-American who hails from San Francisco, I could add a few of my own complaints to the list: lack of ethnic food, the outrageous cost of imported goods, the raging summer heat, the marginalization of minorities and refugees, and the famous Israeli frankness that has me constantly fielding questions about why I pay so much for my apartment and my (ever so subtle) fluctuation in weight (Up or down? Eating cakes or working out?), chief among them.
So then why—if they probably can't find a job or afford the apartment that they live in—are Israelis so damn happy?
War has quite a bit to do with it.
The fact is that Israel has been in a perpetual state of war—or under the threat of war—since David Ben-Gurion declared independence in May 1948, the only Western country in the world in which this is the case.
Even during periods of "peace," there still seems to exist, at a minimum, a potential intifada brewing in the West Bank, or chemical weapons making their way into the hands of Hezbollah, or rockets being lobbed into the country from Gaza.
And this has created a fascinating psychological paradox, one that has been studied extensively by Professor Zahava Solomon of Tel Aviv University. On one hand, as she told me in a recent phone interview, the culture of conflict has made Israelis constantly aware of their potential demise; on the other it has made them virtually fearless.
Think about it. How would you act if you woke up every morning thinking that this day could be your last? Or at least took a moment to imagine how you would be eulogized at your funeral? (An exercise that Stephen Covey recommended in his wildly popular “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” although admittedly “live in a war zone” did not make the list.)
The point is this: you'd enjoy the day you had. And if you continued to survive until the next morning, this daily exercise might develop into a mantra for how you lived your life. And you might bother to take that beach day, or spend more time with your family. You might grow a pair and launch that startup you've been thinking about (Boom: Silicon Wadi) or stop a beautiful woman on the street and insist that she have lunch with you, or park on the sidewalk if there was no other parking within a five-block radius. You might climb a mountain, or go scuba diving or backpack in South America for a year. All things that Israelis do in droves, and that, in my opinion, probably lead to a more fulfilling existence.
Why—if they probably can't find a job or afford the apartment that they live in—are Israelis so damn happy?
This brings us to the second part of the paradox: Israelis have a lot to fear. And so they've learned to fear nothing.
A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests that Israelis recover from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) more quickly than people of other Western nations. The study compared people who experienced 18 months of terror during the Second Intifada to New Yorkers after 9/11 and found that the amount of PTSD in Israel was similar to New York immediately following the collapse of the Twin Towers. However, one and two months after the attack, PTSD was significantly higher in the U.S. than it was during the Second Intifada.
Several studies have repeatedly illustrated the rapid habituation to new conflicts by the Israeli public. And still other studies have consistently shown that while the level of anxiety in Israel is typically higher than other Western nations, the level of clinical anxiety remains very low, even during periods of immense violence.
So even though Israelis are painfully aware of the never-ending threats, they're also braver because of them. By experiencing more anxiety on a daily basis, they've become inoculated against bad things when they do occur, and habituate to them rapidly. They are able to function in spite of them.
And if they have learned how to get on with life despite a credible threat of chemical warfare or irate threats coming out of Iran, it follows that they can probably deal well with housing and economic woes. Everything here is simply small potatoes in comparison.
Daily life in Tel Aviv is rife with examples of this: A dog bites another dog at the park. Maybe a little yelling ensues in the good Israeli way, but no one throws any punches or threatens to sue. Someone cuts in front of you in line at a chaotic grocery store on Friday afternoon. You grumble but let it pass. Apartment hunting on foot in 110 degrees all day? Should've worn layers. You can't get an office job out of the army so you wait tables for a few years? Nothing to be ashamed of. 
These experiences, I'm embarrassed to admit, have the ability to frustrate me to the point that my day (or week, or month) is ruined. And part of the struggle living here is that they often do. But to an Israeli, my thinking about these things one minute after they happen seems like overhyped drama.
And this tough Israeli psyche doesn't just manifest itself within the die-hards who’ve lived here for decades, like my 86-year-old ex-paratrooper neighbor Fishkay, who was born in Israel and says, "Nothing scares me" with such a stone-cold expression on his weathered face that you truly believe him.
 Even young people who had never experienced conflict before this last scuffle in November handled it better than I did.
I crumpled into a ball in the rocket-proof hallway of my Tel Aviv apartment building and sobbed into my dog’s fur. (Unfortunately Fishkay was on hand to witness the whole humiliating display.)
“Why aren’t they scared?” my American friends and I uttered to each other in disbelief for the entire duration of Operation Pillar of Defense.
Being raised in Israel lends to a unique mental capacity for overcoming hardship that is unlike any other Western country in the world, a mindset which, if you’re living in a place where it's tough to find a job or pay your rent and people regularly threaten to wipe you off the map, could come in pretty darn handy.
So where does that leave me? A non-Jew who doesn't identify with the historic narrative of persecution; a non-Israeli who is unaccustomed to living under the threat of war; and an American that has come to “expect more and pay less” like the Target slogan so succinctly proclaims?
Like everyone else in this country I’ll either have to adapt and be happy or get out. And in true Israeli fashion, I'm sure the locals will be cool with it either way.



The Region: The Israel card has been overplayed

Barry Rubin

The fact is that Syria is wrecked for years to come; Iraq is not in good shape due to internal battles; and Egypt is on the verge of disaster.
Bashing Israel has become fashionable in many Western circles, but in the Middle East it doesn’t work anymore.
For decades in the Middle East the most reliable political tool often seemed to be the Israel card; condemning Israel, blaming it for the Arab world’s problems, and claiming that those who were insufficiently militant on the issue were traitors.
But the Israel card doesn’t work anymore, at least not in the way it used to. True, the rise of revolutionary Islamism has focused more hatred against Israel. Yet at the same time – and this analogy is imperfect – it is less of a single-issue movement. As revolutionary Islamists seek to destroy their rivals (nationalist, moderates and each other) and fundamentally transform their own societies, they are kept pretty busy.
Jibril Rajoub, a senior Fatah official and supposed moderate, may insist that Israel is the main enemy of the Arabs and Muslims, but the Arabs and Muslims aren’t paying much attention. The Palestinian Authority, which his group runs – and which rules only on the West Bank – has no Middle Eastern patron at all.
The Sunni-Shia conflict is deepening, with clashes already taking place in Bahrain, Iraq, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and above all Syria. Indeed, the Syrian civil war is a full-scale contest between the two blocs. Even Muslim Brotherhood think tanks have said that the Shia, and especially Iran, are a more dangerous threat than is Israel.
The chance that these two blocs would cooperate against Israel is close to zero. It was different a few years ago. Before the “Arab Spring,” Iran seemed set to become the region’s Muslim superpower. If Tehran obtained nuclear weapons (sometimes referred to as the “Islamic bomb”) it was expected to wield growing influence throughout the Arab world.
Today, however, that situation has reversed itself. Sunni Arabs, whether they are Islamists or anti-Islamists, openly hate and fear Iran. A nuclear weapon in Tehran’s hands would not increase its strategic or political influence. Iran faces a Sunni wall against its ambitions and it is almost without Arab allies.
As for Hezbollah, Iran’s sole reliable ally, it is not able to attack Israel from southern Lebanon. Thousands of its soldiers are tied up in Syria to keep an arms supply route open, help the Bashar Assad regime win, and protect Shia villagers. It also faces growing opposition from Sunni Muslims, financed by the Saudis and stirred up by hatred over Hezbollah’s actions in Syria, within Lebanon itself. Plus the fact that the Lebanese don’t want to be victimized by Hezbollah going to war with Israel given the damage suffered in the late round in 2006.
This is not, of course, due only to the Sunni-Shia issue. There has also been a sharp revival of Arab identity against the Turks and Persians. The region’s history of such ethnic clashes has been revived. If the Syrian civil war ends in a rebel victory, the winners will soon turn against their Turkish patrons. Indeed, while the trade between the two countries is still growing, the Syria issue has driven a deep rift between Turkey and Iran, who are supporting opposite sides.
Even Muslim Brotherhood Egypt and Muslim Brotherhood Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, have fallen out, albeit perhaps temporarily. The Egyptian government is unhappy that Hamas has not cracked down enough on the Salafists in Gaza and the Sinai who want to attack it.
In addition, Egypt – busy with internal transformation, domestic conflicts and economic problems – wants Hamas to keep things quiet on its border with Egypt.
Israeli officials describe current security cooperation with the Egyptian government, or at least the intelligence services and military, as being quite good. Disputes between Muslim Brotherhood groups and even more radical Salafists are creating problems in Egypt and Syria.
Another factor is the economic catastrophe that is striking, or is about to strike, much of the Arab world. The incompetence and bad policies of the Islamists are making a mess. In Iran, of course, this is heightened by international sanctions. The obsessively anti-Israel strategy of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has become unpopular as being unnecessarily provocative.
The fact is that Syria is wrecked for many years to come; Iraq is not in good shape due to internal battles; and Egypt is on the verge of disaster. Obviously, to attempt to stir up hatred against Israel as being responsible for these problems in order to mobilize popular support is tempting.
But what can be done about it? Israeli flags can be burned in Cairo; tourism there may become impossible; and the embassy could be closed. Yet will Egypt court war, with a reluctant military, the need for international financial aid, and the possibility that the US could cut off the arms supply? Unlike the Arab nationalists, who could depend on the USSR, the Sunni Islamists have no big-money patron, at least outside Qatar.
Finally, something has been learned by the Arab masses and leaders over the past half-century. The old cries that Israel could easily be destroyed by cooperation and determination don’t seem quite as persuasive in the face of many Arab military defeats. There’s a lot more caution. Among the elites there’s even the idea that Israel can be an asset in their struggle against Iran.
I don’t want to overstate the case. Moves toward peace – with Islamists in power or looking over the regime’s shoulders and eager to inveigh against treasonous moderation – are unlikely. Vicious propaganda will continue unabated. Terrorism will be launched at every opportunity.
Ironically, this change coincides with a frenzied effort to reduce support for Israel in the West, including in Jewish communities through boycotts, sanctions, divestment, and massive misinformation. One wonders at times whether this campaign is a substitute for relative disinterest in doing much in the Middle East itself. Perhaps this is taken as justifying inaction or perhaps it is seen as still another attempt to find a victorious strategy when so many others have failed.
Perhaps someday, if and when revolutionary Islamists have consolidated power in several countries, the situation will change again. But until then, yelling “Israel” at a crowded rally – at least in the Middle East – will not prove a panacea for the political problems of Arab governments and politicians.

Acknow. J. Post


Exporting Israel’s ‘help one another’ attitude

Sarah Carnvek

British Rabbi Yossi Ives is using expertise from Magen David Adom (MADA, Israel’s national emergency response network) to help the Myanmar Ministry of Health upgrade its emergency medical services. Rabbi Ives is also teaching Kenyans how to create a bio-fuel system based on Israeli innovations.
His pulpit may be in the UK, but Rabbi Ives has made it his mission to help the developing world with Israeli know-how.
"The expertise Israel has created is particularly relevant to the countries we want to help," he says. "Israel has a uniquely high concentration of expertise in so many different fields. It is the natural place to come to, to be able to draw innovative solutions."
Ives set up the Tag Foundation for Social Development three years ago as his way of putting Jewish humanitarian values into practice. It's UK-based, but it is centered on Israeli expertise. Tag is an acronym for the Hebrew words "Torah (the first five books of the Bible) and Gedulah (greatness) ".
The international NGO operates more than 20 projects in 12 countries in South Asia, East Africa, the Middle East and the former Soviet Union, focusing primarily on health, agriculture, disaster preparedness and community development.
"We strongly believe that the experience that Israel has gained over the past six decades, as it faced and overcame numerous challenges, as well as its responses to the volatile situation it continues to address, can be immensely helpful to the developing and transitional world. An added benefit is the potential to change attitudes toward Israel and build bridges," reads the organization’s mission statement.
Working together
Ives and his Tag team identify development needs around the globe and assist in setting up programs with partners that have included MADA, MASHAV (Israel’s international aid agency), Israeli universities and local experts to improve health, first aid, water technology and education, among many other initiatives.
"There are hundreds of organizations in Israel contributing to fellow citizens. We export this spirit for volunteerism," says Ives. "The culture of Israel is to help one another. That's a wonderful sentiment."
Current projects include rejuvenating a sustainable local industry in Myanmar through beekeeping. Tag sent two Israeli beekeeping experts to Myanmar to jumpstart the industry in cooperation with the Myanmar Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries.
The experts brought a gift of 70 queen bees from Israel and provided a course in modern beekeeping methods. The trip has set the stage for continued collaboration in agricultural development.
Tag is also working with the Myanmar Ministry of Health to provide expertise in emergency medical services geared to victims of the country’s numerous traffic accidents.
In a project at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Tag brought together representatives of the Jordanian Red Crescent (Jordan's counterpart to the Red Cross), MADA and the Negev Institute for Strategies of Peace and Development to provide a seminar on health and leadership development for 14 Bedouin women in Israel.
And in Azerbaijan, the Tag team has been teaching first aid, community building and special outdoor training to the local population affected by sniper fire and landmines.
Sharing, not fixing
Tag's premise is often likened to the Jewish principle of tikkun olam, or repairing the world. However, Ives doesn’t like that analogy.
"I don't see the world as broken and we needing to fix it. We can share. I can't give you what I don't have. I can share what I have," says Ives. "We can only give what we have and we're pleased to share it. Israel can share its knowledge."
Ives says that the people with whom Tag has worked hold Israel in the highest esteem.
"People have fantastical ideas about Israel. There's tremendous respect of Israeli expertise," he says. "Israel gives people hope – if Israel can do it, why can't they? We have twice as many friends as enemies."
Most of Tag's core staff is based in Israel, including Chief Operations Officer Dr. Amos Avgar, past executive director of the international development program at the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.
"Our operation staff is based here because we are an organization whose focus is on sharing expertise - almost entirely Israeli expertise," says Ives.
As a British organization, Tag has been able to make global connections regardless of politics. But Ives has a dream that one day, "the world will recognize for non-political reasons that Israel should be the natural destination to come to for solving the world's problems."

Acknow. Israel Diplomatic Network


Israelis cycle Mount Everest

AdViva Sarah Press

Daniel Moores and Abraham Cohen pedaled along the highest road in the world from Lhasa to Kathmandu to raise money for impoverished Nepali communities.
Two Israeli expert cyclists will today (May 7) complete one of the craziest fundraising campaigns – a two-week cycling marathon from Lhasa, Tibet to Kathmandu, Nepal.
Daniel Moores and Abraham Cohen decided to take on the highest road in the world to raise money for Nepali communities living on the lowest incomes. Moores and Cohen, together with the Israel-based non-profit organization Tevel b’Tzedek, launched an indiegogo funding campaign to support marginalized populations in rural communities in Nepal.
They surpassed their $3,875 goal by nearly $400. Their journey is inspiring. Moores and Cohen rode some 1,200 kilometers at 4,000-5,000 meter altitudes.
“We went through ice glaciers, a small river, deep sand dunes, facing a new obstacle with each step we took,” Cohen wrote on his daily blog. “When we arrived to Rongbuk monastery guest house we were so glad. We met a group of motor bikers coming from Kathmandu to Lhasa, they thought we are mad. Maybe they were right.”
The Everest Cycling Marathon for a Just World was sponsored by ROI Community. Tevel b’Tzedek promotes social and environmental justice by raising funds to improve the quality of life in impoverished Nepali communities using a holistic development model that focuses on agriculture, education, health and women’s empowerment.

Acknow. ISRAEL21c


Israel sends Noah’s Ark of animals to Turkey

Viva Sarah Press

Ramat Gan Safari organizes shipment of 40 different species to reinforce Izmir Wildlife Park.
The 40 ‘passengers’ on Tuesday’s Turkish Airlines flight to Istanbul are part of a special animal exchange between the Zoological Center Tel Aviv – Ramat Gan Safari and the Izmir Sasali Wildlife Park.
The modern day Noah’s Ark cast – set to move house on May 7 – will include three zebras, six antelopes, three monkeys, three meerkats, four raccoons, six fruit bats, and 20 ibises.
The Safari has a healthy population of zebras and Safari spokeswoman Sagit Horowitz said it is the world’s leading zoo in zebra exports. Several months ago, Turkish zookeepers in Izmir asked Ramat Gan Safari for help in boosting their zoological collection. The Ramat Gan Safari – like other zoos in Israel — is a member of the international zoological organization and regularly participates in exchanging animals to promote breeding and bolster exhibits at other zoos.
But Horowitz noted this is the biggest exchange in which the Ramat Gan Safari has ever taken part. Horowitz also said that although Israel and Turkey may be at diplomatic odds with one another; animals are the true gesture of cooperation and always override politics.
The best proof for this notion is Izmir the elephant. In 2008, the Safari sent Winner, a captive-born Asian elephant, to the Izmir Wildlife Park as part of a breeding program exchange. In 2011, Winner and his Pakistan-born ‘wife’ Begumcan, welcomed the birth of Turkey’s first elephant on its soil – Izmir.

Acknow. ISRAEL21c


Zulu King marks Israeli Independence event in South Africa

AdGil Lavie

King Goodwill Zwelithini, leader of the Zulu nation in South Africa, has marked Israeli Independence day along with his wife Queen Thandi at a Yom Haatzmaut ceremony held on Thursday at the Israeli embassy in Pretoria.
Along with the King, other important dignitaries that attended included the Rev. Bishop Dr. B.E. Lekganyane  Head of the Zionist Christian Church, Reverend Kenneth Meshoe MP President of the African Christian Democratic Party, and Ambassador C.T. Rubushe, Chief Director of Middle East at the South African Department of International Relations and Cooperation.
Altogether the event was attended by 400 guests including Christian Zionists and members of the Jewish community. In addition to an Israeli themed lunch, local South African bands entertained the crowd with lively music. The Israeli national anthem was performed by Udi Cohen, and played by the Zimriya youth band.
In a welcoming speech delivered by Ambassador Dov Segev-Steinberg, he expressed gratitude for such an outstanding event filled with such high calibre guests. In his speech, he spoke of the “incredible strides” that Israel has made in industries such as “technology, medicine, science, education, agriculture and more” and Israel’s want and willingness to share her knowledge and capabilities with others. Regarding the peace process with the Palestinians, he expressed a desire to build bridges towards a meaningful dialogue in order to find an outcome based on the principle of a two states solution.
With his term ending later this year, the Ambassador ended his speech on a personal note, summarizing his past five years in South Africa, remembering it as one of his most interesting and enjoyable posts; “This has been my experience in South Africa which will always have a special place in my heart.”
In a speech delivered by the Zulu King, he praised the ability of the Jewish people to always rise above challenges, categorizing Israel's history as one filled with paradox and tragedy, but ultimately triumph. He also expressed a desire to further cooperation with Israel in the arena of agriculture and to promote youth exchanges between the two countries.
Conveying a message from the South African Government, Ambassador C.T. Rubushe, reflected the on going contributions of the Jewish community in South Africa. "Many contributed significantly to South Africa’s development…Many [Jews]…took part in the anti-apartheid and liberation struggle...”.
Regarding bilateral relations, Ambassador Rubushe praised “the incredible contributions that Israel has made to South Africa,” saying “These valuable projects… are much needed and also complementary to the objectives of our own National Development Program.”
In a telephonic interview with Israeli Ambassador to South Africa, Dov Segev-Steinberg, he praised the event as hugely successful and said it shows the extent of friendship that Israel enjoys in South Africa.
 "The event shows that there are many friends here that support Israel and they came to show their support from different stratas of society," he said. He continued by expressing goodwill and continued cooperation between the two countries.


What really happened in Jerusalem

Charles Krauthammer

“I honestly believe that if any Israeli parent sat down with those [Palestinian] kids, they’d say, ‘I want these kids to succeed.’ ”
— Barack Obama, in Jerusalem, March 21
Very true. But how does the other side feel about Israeli kids?
Consider that the most revered parent in Palestinian society is Mariam Farhat of Gaza. Her distinction? Three of her sons died in various stages of trying to kill Israelis — one in a suicide attack, shooting up and hurling grenades in a room full of Jewish students.
She gloried in her “martyr” sons, wishing only that she had 100 boys like her schoolroom suicide attacker to “sacrifice . . . for the sake of God.” And for that she was venerated as “mother of the struggle,” elected to parliament and widely mourned upon her recent passing.
So much for reciprocity. In the Palestinian territories, streets, public squares, summer camps, high schools, even a kindergarten are named after suicide bombers and other mass murderers. So much for the notion that if only Israelis would care about Arab kids, peace would be possible.
That hasn’t exactly been the problem. Israelis have wanted nothing more than peace and security for all the children. That’s why they accepted the 1947 U.N. partition of British Palestine into a Jewish and Arab state. Unfortunately — another asymmetry — the Arabs said no. To this day, the Palestinians have rejected every peace offer that leaves a Jewish state standing.
This is not ancient history. Yasser Arafat said no at Camp David in 2000 and at Taba in 2001. And in 2008, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered a Palestinian state on all of the West Bank (with territorial swaps) with its capital in a shared Jerusalem. Mahmoud Abbas walked away.
In that same speech, Obama blithely called these “missed historic opportunities” that should not prevent peace-seeking now. But these “missed historic opportunities” are not random events. They present an unbroken, unrelenting pattern over seven decades of rejecting any final peace with Israel.
So what was the point of Obama’s Jerusalem speech encouraging young Israelis to make peace, a speech the media drooled over? It was mere rhetoric, a sideshow meant to soften the impact on the Arab side of the really important event of Obama’s trip: the major recalibration of his position on the peace process.
Obama knows that peace talks are going nowhere. First, because there is no way that Israel can sanely make concessions while its neighborhood is roiling and unstable — the Muslim Brotherhood taking over Egypt, rockets being fired from Gaza, Hezbollah brandishing 50,000 missiles aimed at Israel, civil war raging in Syria with its chemical weapons and rising jihadists, and Iran threatening openly to raze Tel Aviv and Haifa.
Second, peace is going nowhere because Abbas has shown Obama over the past four years that he has no interest in negotiating. Obama’s message to Abbas was blunt: Come to the table without preconditions, i.e., without the excuse of demanding a settlement freeze first.
Obama himself had contributed to this impasse when he imposed that precondition — for the first time ever in the history of Arab-Israeli negotiations — four years ago. And when Israel responded with an equally unprecedented 10-month settlement freeze, Abbas didn’t show up to talk until more than nine months in — then walked out, never to return.
In Ramallah last week, Obama didn’t just address this perennial Palestinian dodge. He demolished the very claim that settlements are the obstacle to peace. Palestinian sovereignty and Israeli security are “the core issue,” he told Abbas. “If we solve those two problems, the settlement problem will be solved.”
Finally. Presidential validation of the screamingly obvious truism: Any peace agreement will produce a Palestinian state with not a single Israeli settlement remaining on its territory. Any settlement on the Palestinian side of whatever border is agreed upon will be demolished. Thus, any peace that reconciles Palestinian statehood with Israeli security automatically resolves the settlement issue. It disappears.
Yes, Obama offered the ritual incantations about settlements being unhelpful. Nothing new here. He could have called them illegal or illegitimate. It wouldn’t have mattered — because Obama officially declared them irrelevant.
Exposing settlements as a mere excuse for the Palestinian refusal to negotiate — that was the news, widely overlooked, coming out of Obama’s trip. It was a breakthrough.
Will it endure? Who knows. But when an American president so sympathetic to the Palestinian cause tells Abbas to stop obstructing peace with that phony settlement excuse, something important has happened. Abbas, unmasked and unhappy, knows this better than anyone.

Daily Alert /Washington Post


1942: Ben Gurion's censored demand for Jewish army

AdRoi Mandel

IDF archives reveal David Ben Gurion's demand from Allied Forces of Jewish army to fight Nazis; else, he warns, 'Your hands will be soaked in Jewish blood'; excerpts censored by British now published.
"In the name of all Jews, we demand of you, rulers of England, Russia and the United States, our right for a Jewish army," thus David Ben Gurion opened his 1942 speech calling on the allied forces to let Jews form an independent force to fight the Nazis.
The speech was revealed in its entirety by the IDF archives and the Defense Ministry, including the parts rejected by the British censor for hinting at Jewish independence.
The bold text, including the opening phrases, are the parts erased by the censor. The full speech will be made available online by the IDF.
The speech continues: "Our right to fight the greatest of our enemies as Jews, in a Jewish framework, Jewish organization, Jewish headquarters, Jewish discipline and under a Jewish flag.
"Our needs will not be met by the crumbs allowed us here to protect our homeland and the surrounding countries."
Hitler's regime, Ben Gurion foresaw, would be vanquished, but "we do not know if the victory of democracy, liberty and justice will not find in Europe an immense cemetery strewn with the bones of our people, men and women, old and young."
He continues: "The Jewish people's delegates are called today to challenge from Zion, before the world, the spilling of our Jewish blood"
He does not know how many were already killed and how, Ben Gurion said, but their massacre "is due solely for one sin, that these are Jews. For only Jews have no protector, no warrior."
But Ben Gurion's call for outright independence and criticism of the British was rejected by the censor: "For Jews have no standing, state emblem, no Jewish military, no Jewish independence and no free and safe homeland."
Ben Gurion pled the allied forces' leaders to "prevent the annihilation of a jailed, shackled, defenseless nation," and urged them to allow Jewish children to immigrate to Palestine.
"Reject the disgraceful edicts to the effect that a Jew from an enemy state isn't allowed to return to his homeland. As long as this shameful decree exists, as long as our land's gates are shut to Yisrael's refugees, your hands will be soaked in Jewish blood, spilled in the Nazi inferno."
In the speech, Ben Gurion demands the British to allow Jews to fight the Nazis as a Jewish army: "Every Jew will carry proudly the yellow star, and if we meet our brother from the Nazi ghettos we'll carry them on our arms with the yellow star. It will be a flag of honor, a mark of martyrs and saints.
"Not the Nazis, but you, civilized nations, are dishonoring us when you deprive our right as a people, an equal nation, of our right to fight Hitler as Jews."
Ben Gurion's demand was not for an auxiliary force, such as the Jewish Brigade Group, but for an independent Jewish army, a demand which was also censored: "We want to fight as a Jewish army. All Jews who aren't duty bound to enlist in some other military, all Jews free to do as they please, we demand their human right, we demand their honorable right to enlist in a Jewish army under a Jewish flag, as an equal partner to the allied forces."
At the speech's climax Ben Gurion calls for Jewish independence in Palestine: "And we demand not only our right to fight as Jews, we demand the right that every nation in world has, be it big or small, for an independent homeland.
"All the unnecessary victims, all the thousand, hundreds of thousands and maybe millions of victims are the product of discrimination of the Jewish nation.
"These are the victims of a nation which has no country and no freedom. We demand of you to correct this wrong: Equal national standing, homeland and independence for the Jewish people."
Ben Gurion concluded: "We'll do what we can to avenge you and we'll give ourselves no quarter until we save you from the Nazis and from the atrophying Diaspora, and we'll bring you, all of you, to us, to our salvaged land."

Acknow. ynet


As Syrian conflict rages, Druze loyalty to Assad persists

Ben Sales

At first glance, the identification cards of young Druze men looked identical to those of any Israeli, with a number, photo, name and address. The only difference is the citizenship line: Instead of listing "Israeli,” most of the Druze cards are blank.

“If someone takes citizenship, he’s labeled as an extremist,” said Wafa Abusela, 19, sitting with his friends in a cafe in Majdal Shams, a Druze city in the northwest corner of the Golan Heights. “People won’t talk to him.”

A secretive offshoot of Islam, the Druze community spans the territory of Israel, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan, and their allegiances are similarly fragmented. Druze who live in the Galilee are citizens of the Jewish state, but the Golan Druze rejected offers of citizenship after Israel annexed the territory in 1981, retaining their loyalty to Syria. Of the 20,000 Druze living on the Golan, only a small fraction hold Israeli citizenship.

There's little evidence to show this is changing. According to Interior Ministry figures, 20 Golan Druze requested Israeli citizenship in 2012 – a substantial jump over the two to five that did so annually in previous years, but still a minuscule percentage of the total population.
But as the Syrian civil war continues to rage just over the border, the Golan Druze say they are grateful for the stability and security that Israel affords - even as they still eschew the idea of becoming citizens, citing pressure from their parents and the fear of reprisals should the Golan ever revert to Syrian control. "A gap between Israel and Syria is standing out now with the civil war," said Shmuel Shamai, a professor at Tel Chai College and the Golan Research Institute. "The young people talk about the subject of human rights more, and all the murder happening in Syria, the young people don’t identify with it."

Young Druze, Shamai said, feel less connected to Syria than their parents, though "they're still not going to be doing pro-Israel activity."
"People understand that there's democracy, that people can say what they want," said a Druze employee of the Interior Ministry, who has Israeli citizenship but did not give her name because she was not authorized to speak to the media. "People here are happy with Israel. It’s good for me here. I was born here.”

A 25-year-old gas station attendant illustrates the competing claims on Druze loyalty. Recently returned from Syria, he knows the horror stories unfolding on the other side and feels safer in Israel, where he hopes to begin working soon as a dentist. But loyalty to his family has made adopting Israeli citizenship an impossibility. “My father taught me that we are Syrian,” he said. "The feeling is, if you don’t want to be Syrian, leave the state. My home is here. My parents are here.”

Druze are generally loyal to the country in which they live. Unlike Israeli Arabs, many Galilee Druze serve in the Israeli army.   But many residents of Majdal Shams consider the Golan to be Syrian and, according to some reports, still support the Assad regime. A few said the rebels are agents of foreign interests - a belief promoted by the Assad regime. “Whoever supports foreign entities doesn’t understand politics,” said Sayed, 43, who was born in Majdal Shams and did not give his last name. “We support the state, and whoever supports the state supports Assad.”

Despite their divided loyalties, the Druze community is often held up as an exemplar of the Jewish state's success in protecting the rights of ethnic minorities, with Jewish tour groups routinely making stops in Druze villages to enjoy local hospitality.  “We and the Druze live in full cooperation,” said Ori Kalner, deputy head of the Golan Regional Council.  Druze contractors have managed much of the Golan’s recent construction, Kalner said, and the council is developing a shared industrial park with Majdal Shams.

Still, there's a sense among some Druze that Israel's rule over the Golan won't last forever. The Interior Ministry employee said that fear of an Israeli withdrawal keeps many residents from taking Israeli citizenship or openly supporting the rebels. Residents are scared, she said, that should Assad survive and come to regain control of the Golan someday, they will be punished for betrayal.

“In the end, we’ll go to Syria,” said Safi Awwad, who says he feels “almost” like an Israeli. “The Golan belongs to Syria.” Rafi Skandar disagreed, insisting that parental pressure against accepting Israeli citizenship would recede.

“In another five years,” Skandar said, “everyone will have Israeli citizenship.”   



As world's largest exporter of drones, Israel looks to transform battlefield

Ben Sales

An Israeli soldier sits in an office chair in an air-conditioned metal chamber staring at two screens side by side. One shows a map with a moving dot. The other displays a video feed. Next to the soldier are three more identical stations.   The soldier isn't an air traffic controller but a pilot, and his aircraft is called an unmanned aerial system, more commonly known as a drone.

Welcome to the next generation of the Israeli Air Force.
Israel long has relied on superior air capability to maintain a military edge in the Middle East, and its pilots are among the most respected soldiers in the county. Now Israel’s drone industry is booming, and experts predict that within decades, manned flight largely will be a thing of the past – especially in risky combat missions. During Israel’s Pillar of Defense operation in Gaza last year, Israeli drones reportedly played a key role on the battlefield.

“Already today we see that the technology can work faster and better than our five senses, which are limited,” Tzvi Kalron, a marketing manager for Israel Aerospace Industries told JTA in an interview during a recent tour of an Israeli drone facility. “When you take away the human factor in battle and send tools that know how to do it better, it’s easier.”

With two large drone manufacturers - Israel Aerospace Industries, a government company, and Elbit Systems - Israel is the world's second-largest producer of drones, behind the United States, and the world's largest exporter of drones.  IAI began manufacturing drones in 1974, employs 1,000 people in its drone division and sells about $400 million worth of drones per year. The company exports to 49 countries, including NATO allies fighting in Afghanistan, such as Canada and Australia. The client list also reportedly includes some U.S. rivals, such as Russia, and developing countries like Nigeria.

About one-fifth of IAI’s drones stay in Israel. They range from the 5-ton Heron TP, which can fly as high as 45,000 feet and stay in the air for 52 hours, to the handheld Mosquito micro-drone, which weighs less than a pound and travels nearly a mile. The Heron looks like an oversized, gray remote-control airplane, with a radar sticking out of its top and, of course, no space for a pilot.

Along with Air Force drones, the Israel Defense Forces plans to incorporate drones in infantry units. Soldiers may carry a disassembled mini-drone in two backpacks and, when patrolling cities, assemble the drone, launch it by slingshot and monitor it by remote control. The Ghost, as this drone is known, weighs nine pounds and can help the unit eliminate blind spots and, according to IDF spokesman Eytan Buchman, overcome the “fog of war.”

“You can’t see around the corner, you don’t know what’s on the other side of the hill,” Buchman said. “It's definitely helpful when you're facing guerrilla opponents and rely heavily on the element of surprise.”   He added that drones help save civilian lives by identifying civilians near a bomb’s target and helping reroute the bomb to avoid them.  The Ghost's only protruding feature is its most expensive part: a small, round camera that sticks out of the drone's underbelly. To protect the camera, the Ghost flips upside-down before it lands.

Kalron said IAI hopes to expand its drone options in the coming years, developing stealth drones that are harder to see and hear, and working on a micro-drone with wings that flap like a butterfly - a concept known as biomimicry. IAI also is expanding drones’ civilian uses, like surveillance of large crowds and stadiums.

IAI’s drones conduct surveillance, take photographs, and record audio and video, according to Kalron. He would not discuss the drones’ combat capabilities; IAI’s website includes the payload limits for drones.
Drone expert Arie Egozi of the online publication Israel Homeland Security told JTA that “from a technological standpoint, every drone” can shoot missiles. “You put bombs under the wings and it shoots them,” Egozi said.

Some critics argue that the use of drones raises serious moral and legal problems. The debate has been particularly heated on the American use of unmanned vehicles for targeted killings in Afghanistan and Pakistan. While drones are not without their Israeli critics, they have provoked far less controversy here than in the United States. For many Israelis, a future where planes fly unmanned and pilots are at less risk of death or capture is a welcome development.

“If you can take the pilots out of danger, of course it’s better,” said Uri Aviv, a civilian flight instructor who spent 15 years in the Israeli Air Force. “The moral question is about hitting the target, not the type of weapon. It doesn’t matter if you use a cannon, a tank, a plane or a drone. A pilot can’t see who he’s hitting - it’s the same thing with a drone.”
The biggest concern raised by drones, says Hebrew University philosophy professor Moshe Halbertal, is that their pinpoint accuracy raises the bar for the soldiers operating them. Freed from the stress and uncertainty of flying a plane, Halbertal said, soldiers must take more time to “identify who is a legitimate target” and review the decision before launching a strike. Halbertal said he doubts that “those who operate drones will be much quicker in using weapons” than traditional pilots.

Egozi said the bigger question for Israel is about the efficacy of exporting to countries such as Russia, which has provided technology to Israeli adversaries like Iran and Syria. Israel’s agreements with Russia have required pledges that Russia not sell certain missile technology to Iran. Every IAI export deal must receive Israeli Defense Ministry approval before being finalized, according to Kalron.  He said he looks forward to a day when 95 percent of army aviation is unmanned and the Israeli Air Force is not needed.

“In 20 or 30 years they’ll fly drones on commercial flights,” Kalron said. “It’s a trend that’s developing quickly. Technology is superior than all human abilities.”



The Myth of Palestinian Innocence

Lyn Julius

My organisation, Harif, aims to tell the story of 2,500 years of Jewish history and culture in what is known as the Arab world. It’s a story with a dramatic ending: 99 percent of these Jews – numbering a million in 1948 – have fled in the space of one generation.

When people learn about the Jewish expulsion, they usually respond with sympathy. Jews from Arab countries are entitled to recognition and redress, they acknowledge.

But that recognition and redress must come from Arab countries, they say.

Indeed, one of the most enduring myths is that Palestinians bear no responsibility for the exodus of the Jews from 10 Arab countries. The Palestinians are innocent of any wrongdoing.

Regrettably, that position is borne of ignorance and wishful thinking. From the outset, the Palestinian cause was a pan-Arab nationalist cause. It has also a powerful Islamist dimension: Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood do not aim to set up a Palestinian state, so much as reclaim Islamic wakf land from the Jews. From an early stage the campaign for Palestine took on an antisemitic hue. If the Fatah and Hamas unity deal lasts, there will be nothing to choose between nationalist and religious rejectionism of a sovereign Jewish state.

Yet the role of the Palestinian Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, in inciting anti-Jewish hatred and violence as early as the 1920s and 30s, is incontrovertible. Not only did the Mufti instigate deadly disturbances in Palestine in 1920 and 1929, it is well known that the riots which led to the murders of 133 Jews in Hebron and Safed were sparked by the lie that the Al-Aqsa mosque was in danger.

Wherever the Mufti went in the Arab world, persecution and mayhem followed against the local Jews.

In December 1931, the Mufti held a World Islamic Congress in Jerusalem. An Iraqi delegate remarked, “If the Jews carry on we will have no choice but to treat the Jews in the only way they know.”“The only way they know”

meant that Jews should be treated as submissive dhimmis, inferior to Muslims and at their total mercy. Following pressure from the Western powers on the Ottoman empire in the 19th century, dhimmitude had been largely abolished. But in 1921, Yemenite Jews claim it was due to Palestinian pressure that the decree forcing Jewish orphans to convert to Islam was reinstated. It happened after a Palestinian delegation had visited Yemen to demand that the Imam stop all immigration to Palestine. The Orphans’ Decree, argues scholar SD Goiten, was the single most important reason why Jews were desperate to flee Yemen.

From 1931 on, the Mufti ceased to speak of Zionists but Jews. All Arabs were exhorted to treat the Jews of their countries ‘as the Jews treat the Arabs of Palestine’.

The congress was followed by violence in Morocco – in Casablanca in 1932, Casablanca and Rabat in 1933, Rabat and Meknes in 1937 and Meknes in 1939. In Tunisia, an entente between Tunisian nationalists and the Palestinian Arab Higher Committee sparked violence in Sfax in 1932. All this well before the creation of the state of Israel.

British reports noted the intense propaganda in Yemen. Jewish refugees tried to make for British-controlled Aden. In 1939, a crowd was incited against the British and the Jews when they were shown fabricated photographs of Arab children hanging from telegraph poles. Other newspapers mendaciously reported that thousands of Arabs had been killed and bombs thrown at the Muslim holy places in Jerusalem.

But the worst incitement, with the deadliest consequences of all, took place in Iraq: In 1939, Palestinian teachers expelled by the British to Baghdad together with the Mufti, along with Syrian and Lebanese emigres, played a key role fanning the flames of Jew-hatred with false propaganda. The Mufti himself plotted a pro-Nazi coup to overthrow the pro-British government. With the British army at the gates of Baghdad, the Mufti was forced again into exile – but not before he had primed the Arabs of Baghdad to unleash the Farhud of 1941. The pogrom claimed the lives of at least 140 Jews, with many mutilated and raped, and 900 shops looted and wrecked.

Thereafter, the Mufti’s collaboration with the Nazis, despite strenuous Arab efforts to downplay it, has been well-documented. Taking refuge in Berlin, he sought Nazi license to exterminate Jews in Arab countries as well as Palestine “in the same way as the problem was resolved in the Axis Countries.” He raised a Bosnian Muslim SS division which slaughtered 80 percent of Bosnian Jewry. Before the mass Palestinian exodus, the Arab League hatched a postwar, coordinated Nuremberg-style plan to persecute their Jewish citizens as enemy aliens.

The Arab League’s decision to launch their ill-fated 1948 war against the fledgling state of Israel came after fierce lobbying by the Palestinian Mufti.

No, the Palestinians are not the innocent victims they claim to be.

The Palestinians must face up to their responsibility not only for driving the conflict with Israel, but playing their part in the ethnic cleansing of the Jews from the Arab world – now 50 percent of Israel’s Jewish citizenry. If their choices have led them down the path of misery and disaster, they have only their leadership to blame.



The Build-up nation and tall building stories

David Arkin

A brief background: I’m a Senior Analyst and Business Assistant to the CEO at Hanson Israel Ltd. Hanson is part of the giant HeidelbergCement Group, and is the 2nd largest supplier of building materials (Ready-Mixed Concrete, Quarry Products and Asphalt) in the Israeli market. Near the end of the year, there is an annual visit where the CEO tours the 30 plus operating units, hearing first-hand from the operating manager, looking back at the year that was, looking forward to the new year with its goals and challenges, and taking the opportunity to tell some tall building stories.

In 2009, the best-selling book Start-up Nation hit the streets. It examines how tiny Israel, with no natural resources, surrounded by enemies and constantly at war with its neighbours, manages to attract more venture-capital per capita and produce more start-up companies than any other large, peaceful and stable nation. The result: once the start-up grows and becomes mature, there are more Israeli-listed companies on the NASDAQ than any other foreign country (foreign referring to any other country than the U.S.A. of course). The full title Start-up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle says it all. The importance of Israel as a global hi-tech innovation centre had entered the world business discourse even before the book was published. The modern state was established in 1948, but before an uncanny mix of immigration, military service, R&D and chutzpah all combined to create a nation of inventors and entrepreneurs, let’s not forget our roots and how we got there.

Alreadyin Bereshit in the second parsha, Noach builds his magnificent ark to shelter his family and all animal-kind from destruction. Then in Shemot, the Hebrew slaves are erecting the pyramids before being led out of Egypt to the Promised Land. Once in Eretz Yisrael, our fortunes revolve around the construction and destruction of the Bet Hamikdash. Building and construction have been central economic activities in our ancient history. No less so in modern times. From Kibbutzim to Moshavim to modern cities, to settling the Negev and the Galilee, to building modern highways and railways, fuelled particularly by the Soviet Immigration in the 1990’s, Israel’s building and infrastructure market has expanded and continues to expand at an enormous rate. The Government in 2010 approved an ILS 27b investment package over ten years for new and upgraded roads, junctions, railways and a light train project. In addition, many actions to accelerate private residential building have been approved (faster planning and a speedier tender process, acceleration in the ILA land selling). Israel may have the highest number of university degrees per capita in the world, but here’s something you wouldn’t know: according to the latest Global Cement Report, Israel has one of the highest per capita cement consumption rates in the world (643 kg/capita compared to 252 kg/capita for South Africa). As far as I could see, only China and the low-populated Iceland and Luxembourg had higher per capita rates. (See for yourself if cement stats interest you:

So, who are you going call for all your ready-mixed concrete, aggregates and asphalt needs? Holding approximately 20% market share (that means 1 in every 5 houses built in Israel) there is a high likelihood that it will be Hanson. With 26 concrete plants, 3 quarries, 2 asphalt plants, a fleet of 50 trailer-trucks and another 100 sub-contracted, and a fleet of 80 mixer-trucks and another 120 sub-contracted, Hanson is a huge and complex company. It’s actually one big company made up of 30 plus smaller companies, where each plant manager is like a mini-CEO. So when the big boss comes knocking on your door for his annual visit, all the stops are pulled out to impress him. The CEO in question is my direct manager, Eliezer Priel. Tall, stately, bespectacled, anda trained engineer by profession, he joined Hanson on 1 April 1978. Back then the company was known as Pioneer,and this was five-and-a-half months before I was born.

The CEO visit to each plant or quarry was a festive affair and involved an entourage including the area manager(s), regional manager, and sometimes an area sales manager. I tagged along just to make sure that it was really crowded at times inthe office. Not quite a Royal Visit, but treated like royalty, the format was the same: first touring each plant, meeting and greeting workers, and then retiring to the plant manager’s office to discuss safety and environment issues, and the local business and market. The already crowded office got more crowded as laptops competed for space with the complementary tea, coffee, cool drinks, bourekas and biscuits on the manager’s desk. In and out in three hours max, and on to the next plant.(A quarry was different. The size of a small town, a visit here took nearly the whole day.)

Hanson’s main line of business is ready-mixed concrete. Each Plant was different: each with specific environmental issues, each with a different market and selling price, different levels of competition and different sources of aggregates from quarries. Even the coffee was different. Only the end product, the ready-mixed concrete, was by-and-large the same!Despite these differences, the overall macro-picture was of course constant: business is good (dare I say booming?). The main purpose of the visit was for Eliezer to hear from the local plant manager. For example, in Bet Shean, he was updated on the plans of SPNI (Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel) to rezone the industrial area on which the plant is situated to that of a nature reserve. In Givat Shaul and Atarot he bemoaned the fact that our main competitor was selling at rock-bottom prices to keep market-share in the Jerusalem area, instead of raising the market price as the price-leader and allowing everyone to enjoy higher profits. In Palmachim he inspected the new mobile bomb shelter (literally a re-enforcedconcrete igloo) ordered courtesy of Hamas rockets in the recent week-long war in mid-November last year. In Holon he was told how over-zealous municipal inspectors look to impose spot fines for excess dust on the road outside the boundaries of the plant. 

For the most part of each visit, though, Eliezer did the talking. Some of it was on current affairs, but a lot was nostalgia. Current issues arose in Hadera where he told of personal conversations with Stanley Fischer who did not want to allow banks to raise the level of credit to contractors for fear of a housing bubble. In Modi’in (the plant is actually located next to the Haredi town of Modi’in Illit) he asked how it was possible that one of the plant’s three workers was Haredi, yet in our huge quarry next to Elad, none of the Haredim there could be tempted to join the Hanson labour force despite repeated offers of work. In Lod, he commented on lawlessness in that city after seeing the owner of a neighbouring house building illegally and renting out rooms to African refugees (lawlessness equaling lax municipal inspections in this case). Nostalgia came to the fore in Nazareth, where he lamented that secondgeneration contractors sit in plush offices all day, have never been on a roof-top before, do not understand the business like their fathers and are more vulnerable to cash flow problems and bankruptcy. Back in Lod, he related how Dan Propper (Chairman of the Board of the Osem group) once asked for a discount on the concrete supplied to the swimming pool his daughter was building (Eliezerapproved – it was only NIS 1,800!)In Netanya, he reminisced how as young plant manager he refused to give credit to a certain Yitzhak Tshuva who was an upcoming contractor with a dodgy payment reputation, and made him pay in cash. I don’t think this effected Tshuva’s business too much as Forbes currently lists him as the 8th richest Israeli with a net worth of $1.9b. Still in Netanya, he told of a story of the wife of one of the previous mayors who ran off with her personal trainer, who happened to be a Danker. It sounded like an episode out of “Dallas” to me. The Danker family and the dealings of their vast empire controlled through the IDB Group are splashed across newspaperson a weekly basis, creating scandals the Ewingscould only dream about. But the funniest campfire story was about the time he met a potential customer in Gaza (this was now right back in the day in the early eighties): the client claimed to be the official photographer of the Saudi Royal Family and wanted to build a huge villa. Eliezer brought aggregate samples of all sizes. He and the photographer drank coffee together on the empty plot and the stones were examined and rubbed together endlessly to determine their quality. After hours of banter, the order came through: 12m3 of concrete – enough to build a hut!

At the end of the tour (and it was a great scenic drive around the country too), Eliezer was satisfied that the business was in good shape to meet the immediate challenges in 2013 (increase in cement haulage prices, municipal and water rate hikes). We are booked already to revisit certain problematic plants in April after Pesach where the order-book, price and market share weren’t to his satisfaction. For my part, I was satisfied to learn that the best coffee in the whole operation was made by Farage, the shipper at Nazareth. And I’m looking forward to revisiting Kiryat Malachi we were treated to excellent sfinges (Moroccan doughnuts). On a more serious note, I have a deeper appreciation for the building materials industry and its workers in Israel, and its impressive contribution to the development of the modern economy. I’m not sure I’ll ever be an expert in water/cement ratios or even carry out a simple slump test, but I’ll leave this to the ready-mix experts like Eliezer. I heard one area manager calling him the Shimon Peres of Concrete. An apt description, considering that for the last thirty-five years (twelve of which as CEO)he has been an integral part of the Build-Up nation’s development and success.


Predictions for 2013

David M Weinberg

My predictions for the local and regional scene in 2012 were bang-on: I foresaw that Netanyahu’s government would fall over the 2013 budget, that Yacimovich would eclipse Tzipi Livni and Yair Lapid, that Binyamin Netanyahu would act to solidify his alliance with Avigdor Liberman, that the IDF would take action against Hamas and that Abbas would take to the UN against Israel, that Israel would hold back on hitting Iran, and that Syria would begin breaking up. I even correctly estimated the percentage of American Jews who would vote for Obama (68 percent). I was wrong only about Egypt – but so was everybody else. (I thought Tantawi would hang on). Looking into my crystal ball for the year ahead, what I see is a new, broad Israeli government that doesn’t last long, another futile settlement freeze, exacerbated Peres-Netanyahu tensions, continued stalemate with Iran, trouble on the Golan, and despite it all – life in Israel will remain great.

Binyamin Netanyahu: After tacking to the Right for the election campaign, Netanyahu will tack back to the center of the political map when crafting a coalition. In order to enhance his international respectability, he’ll bring Ehud Barak and Avi Dichter back into the cabinet. He’ll co-opt Yacimovich and Lapid into the government with him (despite Shelly’s current protestations), but not Livni. Once he has policy guidelines worked out with them, he’ll invite Naftali Bennett, Aryeh Deri and the ultra-Orthodox to join as well as junior partners.

Elections, again: Netanyahu will have difficulty with his own Likud faction, and his broad new coalition government won’t last long either. We’ll have elections again within two years. Shelly is counting on that, which explains her reticence in the current campaign to criticize the haredim or the settlers. She is thinking ahead to the next coalition. So is Deri, who would be glad to lead Shas into coalition with the Left. Bennett is also thinking ahead. He’ll prove more moderate than his current image, and I don’t rule out a return to the old days of Labor-NRP partnership. Stranger things have happened in Israeli politics. Keep an eye on Amir Peretz, who is sure to jump parties once again this year, just for the fun of it.

Palestinians: Barack Obama will wedge Israel and the Palestinian Authority into some form of renewed peace talks, for which Israel will once again have to freeze some settlement activity. Netanyahu will freeze development of E-1. In fact, that’s one reason he put it on the table: So that he’d have what to freeze when the time comes.

(The other reason: to warn the Palestinians against suing Israel in the International Criminal Court). The Jewish Home won’t bolt the government over this, as long as Netanyahu promises to keep building in Jerusalem. In any case, the peace talks won’t last long, because the PA’s appetite is too ravenous and it won’t be able to restrain itself from seeking to demonize, isolate and criminalize Israel in international forums. Even so, the world will continue to coddle Mahmoud Abbas, despite his intransigence. As for Abbas’ threats to dissolve his newly-declared Statelet of Palestine – ignore them. He is bluffing and blustering, as usual.

Haredim: The induction of 40 black hats once every half year into an ultra-Orthodox Nahal unit is no longer sufficient.A broader solution to haredi draft-dodging has to be found, and this time the haredi parties will have to live with new guidelines, probably along the lines of the wise and moderate Plesner plan. Calm leadership is required for quiet, respectful deal-making,without Supreme Court intervention. The haredim also will have to swallow a Religious Zionist Ashkenazi chief rabbi, to be elected in June. A moderate chief rabbi can then work to improve conversion policy and practice, without the issue going to the Knesset or courts.

Shimon Peres: With his 90th birthday coming up and his term as president coming to an end, Peres clearly feels he can speak his mind freely, giving vent to his views on peace and the Palestinians no matter how much they contradict government policy or public opinion. Expect exacerbated Peres-Netanyahu tensions. President Obama might show up for Peres’ birthday bash (to be celebrated with great fanfare in June at the fifth Presidential Conference on Facing Tomorrow), which will give the American president additional opportunity to press Netanyahu for concessions to the Palestinians. I would rather see Israel’s best friend in the world, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, come instead of Obama. As for the presidency, Reuven Rivlin thinks he is shoo-in for the job after Peres, but I think Natan Sharansky would be a much better and more inspired choice.

Diaspora Jewry: Who will set the Jewish community tone on Israel – the Reform movement and J Street who keep on implicitly threatening to “secede” from support of Israel because it is too right-wing and illiberal for them, or mainstream Jewish organizations who recognize Israel’s heroic efforts to balance security with peace, and tradition with modernity?

Iran: If we’re lucky, Teheran’s cockiness and bluster will trip it into a shooting war with the US in the Straits of Hormuz, and then the US will destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities. If we’re less lucky, Iran will make steady but quiet progress in nuclear enrichment and weaponization, while bamboozling the US and EU with endless negotiations. Israel will hold back from a direct military confrontation with Iran, until the Iranians foolishly go for a nuclear breakout or Obama grows a spine. Actually, this is exactly what I predicted for 2012, and it’s the least bad scenario. A worse scenario is that Obama cuts a deal with the Iranians over Israel’s objections, which allows them to keep their nuclear enrichment facilities and free themselves of sanctions by promising to halt 20 percent enrichment.

Arab world: A domino effect is in play, with Egypt still convulsing (Morsi may not survive), and the Saudis sitting on a boiling cauldron. Thankfully, King Abdullah of Jordan seems stable for now. Dozens of radical Islamic militias have emerged in Syria, meaning that following Bashar Assad’s departure (to a Russian-built dacha in an Alawite mini-state on Syria’s northwest coast), the Golan border could turn into noman’s land, a safe haven for terror groups – similar to the current situation in Sinai. Or it could become a territory controlled by a one strong Islamist organization – such as is the case in south Lebanon and Gaza. Either scenario means trouble for Israel. Nevertheless, expect Washington to press Israel to help “strengthen” the new Syrian regime by negotiating the handover of the Golan. Israel: At 8 million strong, sizzling with creativity and vibrancy, Israel will continue to be envied far and wide. All in all, it is a great place to live, especially in comparison with the crumbling Arab Middle East states around us or much of the failing West. Our economy is stronnd our technological edge formidable. This is the year in which we may even become energy self-sufficient. Hurray!

Acknow. To Jerusalem Post


Overheated Rhetoric on Israeli Settlements

In facing an election in which his most dangerous competition is from the far right, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has adopted a familiar tactic: a flurry of announcements of new construction in Jewish settlements in Jerusalem and the West Bank.The predictable result has been a storm of denunciations by the United States and every other member of the U.N. Security Council, along with dire predictions that the new building would “make a negotiated two-state solution . . . very difficult to achieve,” as British Foreign Secretary William Hague put it.

The criticism is appropriate, in the sense that such unilateral action by Israel, like the unilateral Palestinian initiative to seek statehood recognition in November from the U.N.General Assembly, serves to complicate the negotiations that are the only realistic route to a Middle East peace.But the reaction is also counterproductive because it reinforces two mistaken but widely held notions: that the settlements are the principal obstacle to a deal and that further construction will make a Palestinian state impossible.

Twenty-five years ago, Israel’s government openly aimed at building West Bank settlements that would block a Palestinian state. But that policy changed following the 1993 Oslo accords. Mr. Netanyahu’s government, like several before it, has limited building almost entirely to areas that both sides expect Israel to annex through territorial swaps in an eventual settlement. For example, the Jerusalem neighborhoods where new construction was announced last month were conceded to Israel by Palestinian negotiators in 2008. Overall, the vast majority of the nearly 500,000 settlers in Jerusalem and the West Bank live in areas close to Israel’s 1967 borders. Data compiled by the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace show that more than 80 percent of them could be included in Israel if the country annexed just more than 4 percent of the West Bank — less than the 5 percent proposed by President Bill Clinton 12 years ago.Diplomats were most concerned by Mr. Netanyahu’s decision to allow planning and zoning — but not yet construction — in a four-mile strip of territory known as E-1 that lies between Jerusalem and Ma’ale Adumim, a settlement with a population of more than 40,000. Palestinians claim that Israeli annexation of the land would cut off their would-be capital in East Jerusalem from the West Bank and block a key north-south route between West Bank towns. Israel wants the land for similar reasons, to prevent Ma’ale Adumim — which will almost certainly be annexed to Israel in any peace deal — from being isolated. Both sides insist that the other can make do with a road corridor.

This is a difficult issue that should be settled at the negotiating table, not by fiat. But Mr. Netanyahu’s zoning approval is hardly the “almost fatal blow” to a two-state solution that U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon described. The exaggerated rhetoric is offensive at a time when the Security Council is refusing to take action to stop the slaughter of tens of thousands of civilians — including many Palestinians — by the Syrian regime. But it is also harmful, because it puts pressure on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to make a “freeze” on the construction a condition for beginning peace talks. Mr. Abbas had hinted that he would finally drop that demand, which has prevented negotiations for most of the past four years, after the General Assembly’s statehood vote. If Security Council members are really interested in progress toward Palestinian statehood, they will press Mr. Abbas to stop using settlements as an excuse for intransigence — and cool their own overheated rhetoric.

Acknow. Editorial Board, The Washington Post


America and the Muslim Brotherhood: A Romance


Alex Joffe

One of the most consistent and depressing aspects of U.S.-Middle Eastern relations is the determination of our intellectuals and officials to defend Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood. When Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi made his recent power grab, for example, immunizing his decrees from judicial review, Yale law professor Noah Feldman, said that Morsi merely “overreached”—and did so “in the service of preserving electoral democracy.” State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland lamely characterized Morsi’s actions as a “far cry from an autocrat just saying my way or the highway.”

This indulgence, though, is merely the culmination of a more-than-60-year relationship, mostly hidden from view. There has long been an on-again-off-again American romance with the Brotherhood.

The Muslim Brotherhood was founded in 1928 by Hassan al-Banna as a puritanical, reactionary pan-Islamic movement. It developed as a state within a state, including a network of social welfare organs like hospitals, and an underground party apparatus that quickly spread to other countries. Al-Banna had already met with the Mufti of Jerusalem in 1927; in 1945, he sent his son-in-law, Sa’id Ramadan, to set up a branch of the Brotherhood in Palestine. Hamas, established in 1987, is the Brotherhood’s most recent Palestinian branch.

The Brotherhood collaborated with the Nazis before and during World War II. In 1948 it murdered an Egyptian Prime Minister and in 1954 tried but failed to assassinate Gamal Abdel Nasser.

There followed a violent Egyptian crackdown on the organization. The Brotherhood went underground, spawning more radical groups. In the 1970s, while those groups picked up guns, the Brotherhood disavowed violence and, despite periodic bouts of suppression, re-entered Egyptian politics and, more important, Egyptian society. When Mubarak was overthrown, it was well-positioned as the only organized and funded opposition group. Little of this was foreseen or correctly understood in the West.

This lack of understanding has a history. In the wake of World War II, the U.S. government’s perceptions of the Middle East were filtered through a single lens: the threat of Communism. The threat was hardly just theoretical. Moving into the vacuum created by Britain’s retreat from its colonies, the Soviet Union abrogated a treaty with Turkey in 1945 and demanded large chunks of Turkish territory. It continued its wartime occupation of northern Iran until 1946 and attempted to set up puppet regimes in Azerbaijan and Kurdistan. The entire “Northern Tier” seemed poised to fall to Communism, taking oil supplies with it.

The United States countered with proposals for NATO-like security alliances and ever-larger development schemes, like the Aswan Dam, designed to revolutionize standards of living across vast swaths of the Middle East and lessen the appeal of Communism. The U.S. government also tried to make Islam itself into an American partner. During the 1940s American officials met regularly with the Brotherhood, seeing it as a perfectly useful anti-communist tool. What they knew about the Brotherhood’s violently anti-modern, anti-Semitic ideology is uncertain.

In 1953, the American Embassy in Cairo asked the State Department to invite Sa’id Ramadan, son-in-law of the Brotherhood’s founder, at U.S. government expense, to a“Colloquium on Islamic Culture” organized by Princeton University and the Library of Congress. The colloquium was a cover for American efforts to enlist the aid of Muslim scholars and notables.

During the colloquium, Ramadan even met President Eisenhower. When Egypt cracked down on the Brotherhood in 1954, Ramadan escaped, fleeing to Switzerland. In Geneva he founded an Islamic Center and Al Taqwa Bank, both of which, with ample Saudi funding, have spread the Brotherhood throughout Europe and beyond. Ramadan traveled widely, in part at American expense and perhaps on a CIA-supplied official Jordanian passport. He spoke out against Communism—and promoted the Brotherhood.

Today, one of Ramadan’s sons, Hani, runs the Geneva center. Another, Tariq, is a public intellectual who, as Paul Berman and others have noted, has mastered the art of appearing to be a liberal Islamic modernizer when in fact he is steadfast Islamist. He is, of course, widely lauded in academia.

But U.S. involvement in the Brotherhood during the 1950s was more than anti-Communism. As Ian Johnson shows in A Mosque in Munich, it also appealed, with its overtones of an “authentically” Arab and Muslim Middle East, to State Department Arabists and their academic counterparts who regarded Israel as an impediment to American friendship with the Arabs and an aberration that ruined an otherwise romantically pristine region.

The Cold War was a bonanza for Middle Eastern studies—which, as Martin Kramer has shown, rapidly moved away from analysis of history, religion, and texts toward models of “modernization” and “development” aimed at providing practical, relevant knowledge. Study of religion and ideology played a reduced role. Thus prepared, the field’s academics and the policy-makers they trained failed to predict the rise and fall of Arab nationalism, the emergence of Islamic fundamentalisms, and various revolutions from Iran to Egypt. One might do better to examine what these experts confidently predict, then expect the opposite.

America’s fundamental inability to take religion and ideology seriously persists. Senator John Kerry, likely the next Secretary of State, stated confidently after meeting Morsi in Cairo in June, 2012 that the Egyptian president was “committed to protecting fundamental freedoms” and “said he understood the importance of Egypt’s post-revolutionary relationships with America and Israel.”

The delusional quality of such thinking was exposed by Eric Trager of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy in a recent piece tartly titled “Shame on Anyone Who Ever Though Mohammad Morsi was a Moderate.”

Trager, who has had first-hand experience with the Brotherhood, details its rigid ideological worldview and cell-like structure and laments the fact that such religious totalitarians could ever be mistaken for democrats. But Trager’s remains a minority view inside and outside government. Believing what people say about the religious foundations of their politics cuts against the grain for overwhelmingly secular and politically liberal academics, who believe that materialism must be the true prime mover. In this view, radical-sounding leaders, once in power, become “responsible” and “pragmatic;” “moderates” can be separated from “extremists” and “military wings” from “political wings.” Suggestions to the contrary are crude prejudice.

For its part, the U.S. government has long displayed what historian Fawaz Gerges approvingly called an “accomodationist” approach, predicated on the belief that Islamic groups like the Brotherhood have sworn off violence. But the Obama administration has shown even more willingness than its predecessors to look the other way in the face of Brotherhood abuses of power—and of women and religious minorities—in pursuit of an “authentic” Egyptian democracy. It has not taken the Brotherhood’s credo to heart: “Allah is our objective; the Quran is our law; the Prophet is our leader; jihad is our way; and death for the sake of Allah is the highest of our aspirations.”

For Israel the situation has become especially grave. Morsi, who can barely bring himself to utter its name, was lauded by the U.S. government, shortly before his coup, for his handling of the Israel-Gaza conflict. He may face hundreds of thousands of internal protestors, but there is little to restrain him while there is no American financial pressure or Egyptian army opposition. The Brotherhood’s Islamization of Egypt continues, transforming schools, courts, and mosques down to the local level. When Mohammad Badie, “Supreme Guide” of the Brotherhood, states that “jihad is obligatory” for Muslims and calls peace agreements with Israel a “game of grand deception,” it behooves all parties to listen.

Acknow. Jewish Ideas Daily


Yeshiva Revolution

Yoel Finkelman

Shaul Stampfer, one of Israel's foremost experts on Eastern European Jewry, is the most unlikely of iconoclasts. A thin, quiet, unassuming man, he gives the impression that he would have been happy as a simple melamed (elementary school teacher) in the shtetls he describes. He seems to revel in challenging common assumptions, tweaking conventional wisdom, and making Eastern European Jewry look very different from what everyone seems to think. He does all these things in “Lithuanian Yeshivas of the 19th Century: Creating a Tradition of Learning,” an expanded translation of his masterful 1995 Hebrew book on the subject. Its publication should change the way English-speaking Jews think about what a yeshiva is and ought to be.

In the collective contemporary imagination, yeshivas were bastions of uninterrupted Torah study, respectful awe of great rabbis, and blissful isolation from outside concerns. Stampfer's meticulous research paints a much more complicated picture.

In the early modern period, European yeshivas were local, semi-formal operations. Students would gather to study with a local rabbi, eating daily meals with some homeowner and sleeping on benches in the synagogue. In 1803, R' Hayyim of Volozhin started a new kind of institution, separating the yeshiva from the local rabbi. He gathered elite students from the furthest locations, raised funds from an international network of donors, constructed a separate building, offered stipends to cover the young men’s living costs, and provided more comfort in which to study Torah. His model spread rapidly and, albeit with many changes, still dominates yeshiva study worldwide.

But this model had unintended consequences. By concentrating young, energetic, gifted, spiritually intense young men in one place, yeshivas created intellectual and cultural tensions. Even as students learned Torah 12 and 14 hours a day, they actively participated in the great intellectual and ideological battles then engaging Eastern European Jews, arraying traditionalists, assimilationists, Zionists, socialists, and maskilim against each other. And the students were not universally on the side of piety and tradition.

Memoirs abound of young men who arrived innocently in yeshiva only to encounter nontraditional literature and ideas for the first time. In the famed Volozhin yeshiva and elsewhere, some of the boldest students organized underground Haskalah societies, Zionist groups, even student newspapers.

Staff members tried to shut them down but had limited success. Some students ignored these dangerous influences, piously continuing their uninterrupted Torah study. But for some, the exposure helped foster other things, like the diverse and complicated intellectual and mystical legacy of a figure like R' Avraham Isaac Kook. Time spent in Volozhin also set the stage for creative rebellion against religion by some of Zionism's most influential secularists, such as Hayyim Nahman Bialik.

Yeshivas also bred power struggles between students and staff members. The stipend paid to students for living expenses was not a fixed sum: The rosh yeshiva could diminish it if a student broke rules and acted in ways deemed inappropriate or raise it for good behavior. This discretion gave the administration enormous power over the students—and created resentment. Students were not shy about expressing their frustrations with yeshiva life, at times in creative and even violent ways. One year, when students thought that the rosh yeshiva, R' Naftali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin (the famed Netziv), had insulted a student, they refused to offer the Rabbi the usual Shavuot greetings after prayers. The Netziv was forced to apologize. When students in the Telz yeshiva were unhappy with staff appointments, they staged a strike.

Much of this was not much more than the usual power struggle between self-important teenagers and their educators. But some of it also stemmed, ironically, from the student’s enormous respect for the institution of yeshiva. Students were taught an ideal of what yeshiva and Jewish life should be, and that ideal was too cosmically important to be left to the whims and human foibles of the flesh-and-blood rabbis who led the institutions.

Modern yeshivas imagine, nostalgically, that the great Lithuanian yeshivas were just like today’s, but they were not. Today’s yeshivas work to create an atmosphere of submission, not only to Torah but to human rabbis, conventional dress, formulaic social habits, and predigested ideas. Good yeshiva students don't rock the boat.

After reading Stampfer, I feel nostalgic for something else, something like the stormy nature of the 19th-century yeshivas. I could skip the arrogance and violence, but I’m impressed with these young Torah scholars’ sense of group mission and pride. They wanted a yeshiva not only for followers but for leaders. They studied not only to preserve what was but to envision what would be.

(Yoel Finkelman lives with his wife and five children in Beit Shemesh, Israel. He is the author of “Strictly Kosher Reading: Popular Literature and the Condition of Contemporary Orthodoxy.” This article was first published by Jewish Ideas Daily ( and is reprinted with permission.)


Israel embraces IDF orphans through a bar & bat mitzvah celebration in Jerusalem

Daniel Tuksar

On Monday, October 29th, 35 boys and girls of Bar & Bat Mitzvah age visited Jerusalem, sang and danced at the Kotel and cried together with their family members. Yet, these were no ordinary children celebrating their special day – these are children who have lost a parent who fell while protecting Israel, young kids whose tears of joy were mixed with those of sorrow, missing their father who was killed in Gaza or on the Lebanese border, often barely having a chance to meet him. The day was generously sponsored by various donors from around the world, embracing the children, while stating that "these little boys and girls have made the ultimate sacrifice, as we all feel responsible to those who have fallen on our behalf to reciprocate in the smallest of ways, making sure that a smile comes back to their children's faces."

IDF Widows & Orphans Organization ( is behind this truly memorable day, and many more amazing experiences for these brave children. Throughout their lives the orphans are assisted in many ways, provided with school equipment and university scholarships. For their Bar and Bat Mitzvahs the children visit Canada and the U.S., hosted by families in different Jewish communities and spending 10 days in a camp. Throughout the year, hundreds of orphans aged 13-18 attend camps around Israel, celebrating Hanukkah, Pesach and Sukkot, hiking, barbecuing, biking and learning about Israel, but also spending time together while able to talk about their tragedies to other children who, unfortunately, understand them all too well.

This year's celebration was truly remarkable, as the children, among whom there are youngsters from the western Negev, who in addition to suffering the loss of a parent are constantly suffering from rocket attacks from Gaza, toured the Old City and gathered next to the Kotel. The festivities were continued by warm words by the IDF Chief Rabbi, Rafi Peretz, stating that "their parents, the heroes, fell for all of us, fighting for the unity of the Jewish people – the most crucial value." From there the children continued to the Kotel, where they were called to the Torah.

In the evening, a reception was held at the Jerusalem Theatre, where the celebration was joined by the President of Israel, Mr. Shimon Peres, IDF Chief of Staff, Lieutenant-General Benny Gantz, representatives from the Ministry of Defense, the Israeli Police and numerous friends from Israel and around the world. Seven of the boys and girls spoke of their fathers and the tragic circumstances in which they fell, lighting candles in their memory on a menorah before a touched crowd.

President Peres spoke to the children, telling them: “You’re the most precious things we have.” He continued by noting that no other country in the world had been forced to fight seven wars in 64 years of its existence. Logically, he remarked, Israel should have lost those wars, as we were outnumbered in each one of them. But love of the country, together with the incredible commitment of our soldiers, had resulted in victories. It is your parents, our soldiers, the President said, that are true heroes of Israel – "you should remember them proudly."

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu sent a personal video to the children, in it congratulating the youngsters and wishing each child would realize his or her dreams and contribute to the nation.

Chief of Staff Gantz finally stated that everyone would like to turn the clock back so that a celebration of this kind, without a parent, would be avoided. Their parents had not chosen to die, he explained, but they were eager to protect Israel and have tragically paid the highest price for their courage.

For more information on IDF Widows & Orphans Organization and possible twinning with Bar & Bat Mitzvah children in your community + an invitation to next year's celebration, please visit or contact at



The New Frontlines

There is one thing that is inevitable in life and that is change. I have heard on many occasions that one could “either become the embracer of change or the victim of change”. Social media is a recent change in the form of communication. Not only has it changed the way the new generation communicates, but it also has been a catalyst for other change in the world. The Arab Spring has probably been the biggest event in recent history that can be attributed the influence of social media. Through Facebook, Twitter and the internet in general, messages spread quickly across the world in a matter of seconds, to the masses. We see the definition of Social Media appropriately taken from Wikipedia:

“Social Media employ web- and mobile-based technologies to support interactive dialogue and ‘introduce substantial and pervasive changes to communication between organizations, communities and individuals’. Social media are social software which mediate human communication. When the technologies are in place, social media is ubiquitously accessible, and enabled by scalable communication techniques. In the year 2012, social media became one of the most powerful sources for news updates through platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and Google+”

The important thing to note about social media is that it does not involve pages of words, but short sentences, of main points, and pictures. More can be said in an image, considering the brain thinks in images and not in words. This saves space and makes a significant emotional impact on the person viewing this image. Having said all of this, there is a new battleground – the social media. Both Hamas and Israel have used these tools in the latest battle in Israel and Gaza where Israel undertook the operation of “Pillar of Defense”. We can see from the images below that people can be lead to believe lies and also be taught the truth, but either way, the images stick with us and are more easily engrained in our memories. I urge everyone that has the means, to join this battleground to defend Israel. In this arena we can all be soldiers, from wherever we may be in the world. The more voices that are heard, the more people will know that Israel has far greater support than is evident.



Operation Pillar of Defense

(emailed by Rebecca Zivan of Kol Voices Seminar, Israel 19 November 2012)

What is the background to the situation in Gaza?

The Palestinian territories are geographically split, the West Bank is to Israel's east and the Gaza Strip is located south-west of Israel. In 2006 Hamas, which is deemed a terrorist organisation by the United States, European Union and Israel, won the Palestinian legislative elections. In 2007 a unity government was formed with Hamas' political rivals, Fatah, together with members of other parties and independents. However, later that year Hamas launched a violent takeover of the Gaza Strip, ousting Fatah members from their positions; in the fighting that ensued 161 people were killed including 39 civilians and two United Nations personnel. Following the takeover the two Palestinian territories fell under two different leaderships with Fatah, which has the support of the West, in power in the West Bank and Hamas ruling the Gaza Strip. As a result of Hamas' rise to power both Israel and Egypt imposed closures on Gaza's borders. Hamas and other terrorist groups have been launching rockets and mortars at southern Israel from within Gaza since 2001. In 2005 Israel withdrew all its civilian and military presence from Gaza; in the years that followed there was a massive increase in the number of these attacks, peaking at over 3,000in 2008. In the winter of 2008-2009 Israel launched 'Operation Cast Lead' in Gaza, aimed at destroying the terrorist infrastructure in Gaza. In the years that followed the level of rocket fire was significantly reduced to the region of hundreds per year, however in the last year the frequency of attacks has once again increased. Last month around 170 rockets and mortars were fired at Israel from Gaza and in the days prior to the launch of Operation Pillar of Defense some 150 rockets and mortars were fired at Israel in a matter of days.

What are the aims of Operation Pillar of Defense?

In a statement to the press on Wednesday Barak outlined the goals of the operation as being: "1. Strengthening our [Israel's] deterrence, 2. To inflict serious damage on the rocket launching network, 3.To deliver a painful blow for Hamas and the other terrorist organisations and 4.To minimise damage to our home front." In the opening hours of the operation the IDF targeted and killed the head of Hamas' military wing Ahmed Jabri, who the IDF said was "directly responsible for executing terror attacks against the State of Israel" in recent years and was in charge of the capture of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in 2006. The IDF also destroyed what is believed to be the majority of Hamas' long range Fajr-5 missiles; these Iranian made missiles are able to reach Israel's two major cities, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

What rocket attacks have there been since the operation began?

Hamas and other terrorist groups have launched over 1,000 rockets since the operation began, with the clear aim of targeting Israeli civilians. Hamas is in possession of an array of rockets of differing size and target range including: heavy mortars (range: 9.7km), Qassam rockets (17.7km), Grad rockets (20km), upgraded Grad rockets (48km) and Fajr-5 missiles (75km). Prior to Operation Pillar of Defense all bar the Fajr-5 missiles were frequently fired at southern Israel putting over 1 million Israelis under the threat of rocket fire. On Thursday, for the first time, Fajr-5 missiles were fired at Tel Aviv. Whilst no damage was caused, the attack means that now over 3.5 million Israelis, 45% of the population, are under the threat of rocket fire. On Friday terrorists fired rockets towards Jerusalem; the rockets are believed to have landed in open areas outside Israel's capital. Hamas claimed that these rockets, dubbed 'Qassam M-75s', were Gazan made and said that they had also been fired at Tel Aviv. Since Wednesday three Israelis have been killed and over 70 injured; extensive damage has been caused to property. The three were killed on Thursday in the southern city of Kiryat Malachi when a rocket directly hit their home.

Gaza Rocket Hits School in Ashkelon on Monday
- Yaakov Lappin and Ben Hartman

A rocket fired by Palestinians in Gaza hit a school parking lot in Ashkelon on Monday morning. No injuries were reported as all Israeli schools are closed within a 40-km. radius of Gaza. The Iron Dome rocket-defense system intercepted three of the four rockets fired at Ashkelon. The fourth scored a direct hit on an apartment building, wounding two people. A house near Kiryat Malachi was struck Sunday evening in a direct hit. There was widespread wreckage but no injuries were reported. The residents had taken cover in the reinforced safe room.

Hamas and other terrorist factions launched 120 rockets into Israel on Sunday, including two Fajr-5 missiles at Tel Aviv. Both were intercepted. In Ashdod, six Grad rockets were intercepted, while one smashed into a residential building, wounding two residents. Five civilians traveling in a vehicle in Ofakim were injured by shrapnel from a rocket.

The Iron Dome intercepted 38 rockets heading for built-up areas on Sunday. The army has completed preparations for a ground offensive, as it masses growing forces at the border with Gaza. (Jerusalem Post, 19 November 2012)

How is Israel protecting its civilians against rocket attacks?

A key element of Israel's defense strategy is the Iron Dome anti-missile defense system which was first deployed in 2011. One battery consists of a radar system which detects and tracks incoming rockets, the system then determines if the rocket will hit a populated area or open land, if it is the former the system's missile firing unit will launch an interceptor missile to shoot down the incoming rocket. If the rocket is heading towards an open area an interceptor missile will not be launched. The Iron Dome has an estimated success rate of 80-90%, and thus significantly reduces the risk of casualties in areas protected by the system. Prior to the current operation four Iron Dome batteries were deployed in Israel to protect the population from attacks. Work on a fifth battery was sped up in light of current events, allowing for its deployment in central Israel on Saturday; the battery successfully shot down missiles heading for Tel Aviv over the weekend. Of the more than 1,000 rockets fired in recent days over 320 have been successfully intercepted by the Iron Dome, more than 600 have hit open areas and over 35 have hit populated areas; over 100 rockets launched landed in Gaza. The country's Home Front Command has sent clear instructions to citizens within the range of fire on what to do when a siren sounds warning of an imminent attack; in areas within 40km of the Gaza Strip school has been cancelled and other restrictions have been put in place. The IDF has stressed that, whilst the Iron Dome provides protection, not all areas are covered and the success rate is not 100%.



Linking to Lincoln on Chanukah

Edmon J. Rodman

It’s not because of the new Spielberg movie - that gives us something to do on Christmas Day - but because of the 150th anniversary of a little-known event in American history that threatened to expel a portion of the Civil War-era Jewish population from their homes on the Festival of Lights.

On Dec. 17, 1862, during the height of the war, Gen. Ulysses S. Grant issued General Orders 11 expelling “Jews as a class” from a war zone that included areas of Tennessee, Mississippi and Kentucky within a 24-hour period. It was the first day of Chanukah.

At the time, Chanukah was not the major holiday it is now. But Grant’s order, if carried out, meant that entire families would be uprooted during the holiday and beyond, and exiled from their communities. Today, relaxing in our home with family on Chanukah, retelling the Maccabee story that takes place in a far-off time and land, it’s uncomfortable to imagine a different story about our freedom that hits much closer to home.

On that day, Grant was attempting to cut off the black market sale of southern cotton, in which some Jewish and other traders were engaged. As researched in the engaging new book “When General Grant Expelled the Jews” by the prominent historian Jonathan D. Sarna, we find that Grant's order was enforced in several towns in Union hands, including Paducah, Ky.; Holly Springs, Miss.; and Trenton, Tenn., among others.

“Only a few Jews were seriously affected by General Orders 11,” perhaps fewer than 100, according to Sarna, but news of the order and the resulting outrage was quickly spread by The Associated Press. The B’nai B’rith sent a petition to Washington calling upon President Lincoln to “annul” the order. Other Jewish leaders moved to organize delegations to meet with Lincoln. A Jewish merchant from Paducah named Cesar Kaskeltraveled to Washington on a mission to have the order overturned. Upon arrival he was able to arrange through an Ohio congressman a meeting with the president.

According to an account of the meeting that Sarna says is often quoted but most likely embellished, Lincoln, using biblical imagery, asked Kaskel, “And so the children of Israel were driven from the happy land of Canaan?” In response, Kaskel asks for “Father Abraham’s” protection, to which Lincoln replies, “And this protection they shall have at once.”

The reality seems to have been that when Lincoln finally heard of Grant’s order, he ordered the general in chief of the Army to countermand it. An account by the prominent Cincinnati Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise, who also had met with the president about the issue, provides Lincoln’s rationale: “I do not like to hear a class or nationality condemned on account of a few sinners.”

This Chanukah, then, with Lincoln on our minds, how should we commemorate Lincoln’s action to rescind what Sarna cites as “the most sweeping anti-Jewish regulation in all American History”? Should we devise a stovepipe hat menorah? Fry up four score latkes or change the lyrics of the modern classic Peter Paul & Mary Chanukah song to “Light one candle for the Tennessee Children”?

Not necessary.

Jews going back to Lincoln’s presidency have found ways to connect before. After his assassination, expressing their sorrow, many rabbis delivered sermons that were collected in a book by Emanuel Hertz titled “Abraham Lincoln: The Tribute of the Synagogue.” The basis for the Library of Congress’ Alfred Whital Stern Collection of Lincolniana was donated by Alfred Stern, a Chicago businessman. There’s even a Lincoln Street in Jerusalem.

Continuing the connection is this year’s Steven Spielberg film about Lincoln’s role in the passage of the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that abolished slavery. Watching the film, I found it to be an excellent way at Chanukah time to rededicate an interest in Lincoln’s heart, humor and wisdom.

Another film, “Saving Lincoln” by director Salvador Litvak, approaches the Lincoln story through the eyes of his bodyguard. It might prove another way to light up a Chanukah night.

Sarna’s book would be good for any night of the holiday, which many see as a struggle for freedom. For me it was a reminder that the dreidel's message -- "a great miracle happened here” -- can apply to the U.S. as well.

“In the end, General Orders 11 greatly strengthened America’s Jewish community,” Sarna writes. “The successful campaign to overturn the order made Jews more confident.” And Grant, to “repent” and to “rehabilitate himself with the Jewish community” during his two terms as president “appointed more Jews to office than had any of his predecessors.”

This Chanukah, when we stand before our lit chanukiyot reciting HanerotHalalu, “These lights which we kindle recall the wondrous triumphs and the miraculous victories,” perhaps we can also recall the victories here of Cesar Kaskel, Rabbi Wise and ultimately Abraham Lincoln, who protected our freedom.

So maybe they weren’t exactly American Maccabees - but Maccabee style for sure.

Acknow. JTA


Israel's Golden Paralympic Hero


For the second time in his life, Noam Gershony grabbed the headlines of all Israeli media after beating David Wagner of the United States in straights in wheelchair tennis at the Paralympic Games on Saturday.

It took the 29-year-old Israeli with the winning smile less than an hour to wrap up a 6-3, 6-1 victory against the top seed in the quad singles final.

“Wow, this feeling is almost unbearable. I don’t know how to describe it. I haven’t realized yet that I have just won gold. It’s crazy,” said Gershony. “There was so much pressure to bring home the gold because I knew I could do it. I barely slept last night. I’m just happy to have made it.”

It was Gershony’s second Paralympic medal. He and doubles partner Shraga Weinberg won the bronze in the quad doubles event last week. Israel’s leaders and top athletes, as well as the country’s residents, saluted Gershony’s win.

“I was very excited about your victory. The State of Israel embraces you for your great achievement. You symbolize the victory of the human spirit over the difficulties created by the reality in which we live. This is gold for you and the country,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Gershony in a phone call to London. His achievement earned him the privilege of carrying the Israel flag in the closing ceremony in London.

‘Exceptional determination’

Six years ago, Gershony topped the national news when he was critically injured during the second Lebanon War.

En route to the combat zone, Gershony was involved in an Apache helicopter crash that cost the life of his co-pilot. With open wounds, loss of blood and multiple fractures, Gershony’s prognosis was not optimistic. Yet he proved that after years of therapy, operations and rehabilitation it was not only possible to reach the Paralympics but to win a gold medal as well.

“I salute you on behalf of the IDF on your exceptional determination and achievements,” Chief of Staff Benny Gantz told the tennis star by telephone.

“You proved that you are as good on court as you are in the sky, talented in the Apache and tennis,” said President Shimon Peres. “We are very proud of you. This is the best news we could have received this weekend.”

True Israeli hero

To his friends, family, commanders and fellow rehabilitation patients, Gershony has always been a hero. “When you hear that knock on the door at 3 am, you know that something very bad has happened,” his father, Moshe, told The Jewish Chronicle about the moment an IDF officer arrived at the family’s home near Tel Aviv to break the news of the crash. “They took us to the hospital and said the situation with Noam was critical. We 2012had to wait about a week before they told us he was almost out of danger.”

Gershony himself told Ynet: “It was a miracle that I was saved. From the moment that I got my life back as a gift, I promised myself that I wouldn’t waste it.”

As part of his rehabilitation regimen, physiotherapists suggested he try wheelchair tennis to build up muscle tone in his damaged limbs. The shy gold medalist, who was left a quadriplegic after the accident, took to the sport just over one year ago and quickly shot up in the world rankings. His mother, Pnina, told reporters that just seeing her son on the court was a victory. “We said that no matter what happened on the court, he had already won,” she said.

During the final match, Nimrod Bichler, Gershony’s coach, sat in the stands crying. “Five and a half years ago, Noam came to the Beit Halochem tennis courts for his first time. I can’t get that picture out of my head. A thin guy, unshaven, just like today,” he told Yediot Aharonot. “From the first practice I could tell he was super talented on the court. His athletic achievements are great but he’s also a special person and a true Israeli hero. I’m so proud to be his coach.”

Blue-and-white tennis

Israel has nurtured other top tennis players on the international circuit. Shachar Peer, Andy Ram, Jonathan Erlich, and Dudi Sela are all well-known names. In the Paralympics, names like Gershony, Shraga Weinberg and Boaz Kramer stand out as well.

Gershony holds the highest ranking of the lot – second in the world in quad singles – yet he wasn’t a household name until today. His friends from the Air Force knew his abilities – and were so confident he’d make the semi-finals and finals that they only bought tickets to the final stages of the London Games. “I want to commend Noam on his amazing achievement,” Peer, the country’s best-known player, told Ynet. “To top the world’s best player at the Paralympic Games is an unbelievable success. You’ve inspired all of us.”
As the Paralympics officials readied the court for the medal ceremony, chants of “Noam, Noam!” grew louder and louder. Gershony wheeled himself to the top of the podium. “I’m on top of the world,” he said. When the national anthem began playing, Gershony couldn’t halt his tears. “I can’t put into words how it felt to hear ‘Hatikva’ and see the [Israeli] flag at the top of the pole,” Gershony, who wrapped himself in an Israeli flag, told reporters on the court. “I never thought I would have the chance to represent the country and certainly never believed that I would be able to bring it such honor.”

Acknow. Israel21c

Viva Sarah Press


Only bombing Assad's force will stop the slaughter now

It need not become ‘another Iraq’ and the Syrian military challenge can be met. President Bashar al-Assad continues to exploit the international community's propensity to turn a blind eye to the escalation in Syria, which now results in the murder of hundreds of innocent civilians each week. Thus in order to avoid a Syrian civil war, Western resolve to use its leverage beyond the weak condemnations, publicised summits, and ineffectual initiatives of the past months is likely to be tested. Indeed, examination indicates that six arguments propounded by opponents of Western military intervention do not hold much water, and instead suggests that Western inaction is likely to hasten the very scenario that opponents of military intervention seek to avoid.

First, Syria need not become "another Iraq". Those who resist intervention warn that military intervention might end in the West becoming mired in another Muslim country, on the heels of the unsuccessful Afghan and Iraqi experiences. This argument belittles the West's successful experience in Kosovo 20 years ago and in Libya in 2011, where intensive airpower removed Gaddafi, stopped the bloodbath, and enabled democratic elections. Moreover, a military intervention need not involve a ground invasion or even peacekeeping forces – which, in any case, would have little influence on Assad. The recommended model, built on the lessons of Iraq, is a Western aerial campaign that paves the way for regime change, as it did in Kosovo and in Libya. There are no "boots on the ground", at least initially (and should that become necessary, Turkish forces should be assigned to this mission).

The suggested strategy in Syria is to use gradual steps to convince Assad that an international campaign is a credible option: from moving aircraft carriers to the region and Turkish ground forces to the border, to reconnaissance sorties, no-fly zones, and humanitarian corridors.

Second, the Syrian military challenge can be met. Another argument postulates that the Syrian military presents a bigger threat to Western militaries than those confronted in Iraq and Libya. The Syrian defensive capability is not dramatically greater than Iraq's of 1991 or 2003, which already included advanced Russian systems. As the Syrian military has been preoccupied with internal uprisings over the past year and a half, it is likely that its capabilities have even eroded. Therefore, those who doubt the West's capacity to face the current Syrian defence ignore the fact that Western power was built to cope with much greater challenges.

Third, the lack of international consensus cannot justify passivity. Those who call for passivity in Syria claim that since there is no consensus among members of the UN Security Council and no explicit Arab League request, there is no legitimacy for foreign military intervention. These arguments ignore the moral obligation − the "Responsibility to Protect" principle − endorsed by the West. This principle, formally adopted by the UN in 2005, declared the international community's obligation to halt and prevent mass atrocity crimes. In today's situation, it compels Western leaders to act with the Arab League to stop the massacre of Syrian civilians by the regime. It also obliges the Western powers to promote this campaign with their allies if Russia and China obstruct any broad endeavour under the UN framework. In any case, no Russian, Chinese, or Arab opposition justifies passivity while Assad's regime continues to slaughter the Syrian people.

Fourth, deterioration is not a risk of intervention, rather a result of non-intervention. Some contend that military intervention would result in social chaos and escalation of violence, as there is, thus far, no apparent force or future administration that could restore peace to the country. However, since events in Syria have already created the threat of full-scale civil war, this is not a risk of intervention, but of doing nothing. Every day that passes deepens the hatred between Syria's different ethnic groups and increases the challenge of restoring public order. As the ethnic issue is a regional ticking bomb, the deterioration in Syria might easily spill over its borders, with region-wide consequences. On a related note, military intervention also enables Western powers to cope with the potential use of chemical weapons – by the regime against the rebels, or by terror organisations against Western targets.

Fifth, the Syrian opposition presents an opportunity for cooperation. Another instance of faulty logic is that the West should avoid military intervention since there is no emerging leadership to leverage international support to exile Assad's regime and effectively manage the country "the day after" his fall. The Syrian opposition coalition, however, has scored both military and territorial achievements over the past months. Recent events indicate that the opposition has generated enough momentum to significantly challenge one of the strongest armies in the region. Accordingly, current conditions favour more successful cooperation between the West and the regime's opposition than those who oppose military intervention suggest. Finally, action in Syria might support the international campaign against Iran. Those who oppose intervening contend that it would increase Middle East tensions, move Iran out of the international focus, and sharpen the rift between Russia and China and the other members of the P5+1 who lead the negotiations with Tehran. Acting in Syria however, could weaken, if not break, the nexus between Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, and Palestinian terror organisations, and therefore likely contain Iranian influence in the Levant. This would have a dramatic impact on the balance of power between radical and pragmatic forces in the region. And it would signal to Iran the West's resolve to back up its interests and threats with force. When the US used force in Iraq in 2003, Iran suspended its nuclear programme. This time, force might put additional pressure on Ayatollah Khamenei. A "Syria first" approach might complement international efforts and undermine Tehran's recalcitrance vis-à-vis the West.

A gradual military intervention along the lines of the Libyan model of a Western aerial campaign seems the most effective response to the Syrian crisis. Only if Assad assesses that Western intervention is a real threat might he abdicate and make room for leadership with better prospects for halting the violence. The West must not let unfounded fears guide its policy while atrocities in Syria continue.

Amos Yadlin is Executive Director of the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University and former Head of Military Intelligence of the Israeli Defence Forces

Acknow. The Daily Alert

Amos Yadlin


Waves of change in the Ethiopian Community

AdOn a recent day in Afula, the largest city in Israel’s Galilee region, a group of Ethiopian Israeli parents sat with their children and played a game of Monopoly. But there was a twist: Dispersed through the “chance” and “community chest” were special cards instructing the players to take positive actions, such as saying something nice about their families. For many Ethiopian Israelis, life has been a constant struggle for the two decades they’ve been in Israel. Without education or the basic skills needed to live financially independent lives in one of the world’s most competitive economies, they have had trouble finding steady work. In fact, unemployment in the Ethiopian community is more than double the rest of Israeli society.

Ethiopian Israelis have also faced discrimination similar to that experienced by the waves of poorly-educated non-western immigrants arriving in Israel in the 1950s. Three generations later, these groups have completely integrated into Israeli society, but for the Ethiopian immigrants the road ahead seems long indeed.

There is a general sense within the Ethiopian community of having been led to water without getting to drink. And the frustration has boiled over. Some teenagers have expressed their sense of alienation by embracing the North American “rapper” culture which at times promotes sexism, drugs and violence. Others have decided to emotionally distance themselves from the shame they feel in seeing their parents struggle to function at even the most basic levels. Many parents, feeling helpless and depressed, have been unable to offer the emotional warmth their children crave. Most tragically, this community has also seen a sharp increase in domestic violence and alchoholism.

“Success in a new place, like Israel, requires self-esteem,” said Barry Spielman, communications director for The Jewish Agency in North America. “The Ethiopian families came with a tremendous amount of pride in their heritage and a true love for family. They were motivated by a desire to provide a safe and promising future for their children, but the challenges they faced were so overwhelming that the strong spirit and optimism that brought them to Israel became a casuality. And the children took note.”

Change requires rebuilding the family unit, which has for thousands of years been the Ethiopian Jews’ principal source of strength. The Jewish Agency - with the support of Jewish communities around the world - is helping the Ethiopian Israeli community regain its dignity, family by family.

Family Futures is based on The Jewish Agency’s successful Youth Futures model. Through Youth Futures, mentors - or trustees - have created personalized programs that have help hundreds of at risk children in 32 of Israel’s most economically-challenged communities find opportunities to excel. The programs include enrichment activities and guidance designed to help parents access necessary social services.

The mentor who helps children and their families progress over a three-year period is usually a young adult who grew up in the same community and has earned the respect of local teachers, agency administrators and business owners.

Like Youth Futures, Family Futures pairs trustees with a clientele of families, but there is more of an intensive focus on parenting skills, budget management, building community support networks and improving relations between parents and their children. Parents participate in group workshops, weekly home meetings with their trustees, and activities such as group holiday celebrations. The goal is to create waves of change with the hope of breaking the cycle of hopeless feelings that many first-generation and second-generation Ethiopian Israelis have experienced.

Currently there are more than 420 participating families in 15 cities throughout Israel’s periphery, including Idit - a single parent, living in Afula with four daughters, three of whom also were involved with Youth Futures. One daughter is now happily attending a religious school while another was selected for a local scholastic honor society and serves on her student council.

“My family trustee visits, on average, once a week,” Idit says. “She speaks to me, encourages me, and pushes me to do great things. Family Futures paired me with an NGO that taught me how to manage my finances properly, and put me on the correct path.” Idit added: “Family Futures has helped me improve my relationships with my daughters, to set boundaries and to enjoy quality time with them. They have truly influenced the way I interact with my daughters as well as the home environment. I stopped smoking and now I make shopping lists.These are just two things that I couldn’t have done in the past.”




In two speeches calling for increased Jewish unity, Israeli U.S. Ambassador Michal Oren urged stronger Diaspora support for Israel and greater Israeli respect for the diversity of Jewish life in America.

"Sometimes it seems that we, Israelis and American Jews, not only inhabit different countries but different universes, different realities," Oren said in a May 4 speech in Washington to an American Jewish Committee gathering of about 400 young Jewish activists from around the world.

He offered similar remarks Sunday in Detroit to delegates of the annual plenum of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, a public policy group that brings together local Jewish community relations councils, national Jewish organizations and the largest synagogue movements.

"Ironically, at a time when support for Israel in this country is at a near all-time high -- indeed it's one of the few truly bipartisan issues -- we Jews seem increasingly divided," Oren said in his Washington remarks. "Let me be clear: At stake is not merely Israel’s policies or rights of American Jews to criticize them. At stake is nothing less than the unity of a Jewish people."

Oren offered up a definition for being pro-Israel, describing it as one who works to ensure the survival of the Jewish state; is grateful to be living in a time when there is a Jewish state; appreciates the danger of a nuclear-armed Iran and other threats facing the Israeli people; has strong opinions about controversies in Israel and accepts that there are divergent views; finds ways to contribute to and be enriched by Israel; and takes pride in Israel’s successes.

"The pro-Israel person sees Israelis - left, right, religious, secular - not as some distant ‘other’ but as part of a whole - a dynamic, creative, rambunctious and precious whole," Oren said in Washington. "The pro-Israel people are those who view even those who disagree with them politically as part of their people, as mishpochah," or family.

In both speeches, Oren also stressed the need for a greater concern for Jewish peoplehood and respect for religious pluralism.

"In Israel," he said, "to be pro-'the Jewish people' is to guarantee respectful space for egalitarian prayer at the Kotel, to maintain a dialogue over the conversion issue, to enable open debate about those Israeli policies that impact all of world Jewry."

Acnow. JTA



With his recent segment for 60 Minutes, CBS News reporter Bob Simon has once again stoked the perennial debate over why so many native Palestinian Christians have been leaving the Holy Land in recent decades. Sadly, he addressed this important issue with a very superficial brand of journalism.

The report relied mainly on one local Palestinian cleric – notorious Israel-basher Rev. Mitri Raheb – to single out the “Israeli occupation” as the scapegoat for this Christian flight. There was no need to dig deeper, since Simon knew the report was sure to be a sensation from the moment Israeli ambassador Dr. Michael Oren caught wind of the production and intervened with his bosses at CBS News.

If Bob Simon had truly wanted to know why Arab Christians have been fleeing in droves from Palestinian areas, he should have asked those émigrés now living in Toronto, Sydney and Santiago. Because that is where the majority of Palestinian Christians now reside – in dispersed communities in Canada, Chile, Australia, Germany, the United States and elsewhere.

The disturbing truth is that more than 60 percent of the Arab Christians born in Palestinian areas over the past several generations now live abroad. Yet the same holds true for Lebanese Christians, as a similar 60% of their beleaguered community now live in foreign lands.

Indeed, there has been a widening Christian exodus from all the surrounding Arab countries, with Iraq’s ancient Assyrian Christian community collapsing from 1.5 million to as few as 250,000 since the Second Gulf War commenced in 2003. The Coptic Church in Egypt is also losing tens of thousands of parishioners in the wake of the Arab Spring.

So it is indisputable that Arab Christians are fleeing all across the Middle East, and surely the Israeli occupation is not to blame. Rather, this flight has been primarily due to local conflicts and the rise of Islamic militancy, as noted by Ambassador Oren, and the Palestinian Christians are no exception to this trend. The lone exception, in fact, happens to be the State of Israel, the only place in the entire region where the community of Arab Christians is growing and where Arab Christians are afforded their democratic rights.

Still, some Palestinian clerics insist that Muslims and Christians would co-exist in perfect harmony if not for the Jews and their settlements. That, sadly, is a living portrait of a people in denial. How else to explain that Palestinian Christian flight from the Holy Land predates the “occupation” by decades?

For instance, the last British census in 1948 recorded 29,000 Arab Christians living in Jerusalem, while the first Israeli census in eastern Jerusalem in 1967 found only 11,000. That means two-thirds of the Arab Christian population had fled during the 19 years of the Jordanian occupation of east Jerusalem.

The real root of the current exodus actually lies in the historic interplay between Christians, Jews and Muslims in the Middle East ever since the Islamic conquests began in the seventh century. The region’s Christians and Jews became dhimmis – suppressed minorities living under Muslim dominance. They could keep their faith but had to accept second-class status. To survive, both communities adopted a code of silence which dictated that they never challenge the system or say anything bad about Islam in public.

This system of dhimmitude basically held until modern times. The Crusades may have brought temporary relief for some Christians, but only terror for the Jews.

When Ottoman rule over the Middle East began to wane, the dynamic finally began to change. The Great Powers of Europe moved into the region, each concluding deals with the Sultanate in Istanbul to provide protection to various imperiled Christian denominations. Western missionaries also brought with them schools, hospitals and other modern institutions.

With their better education and job skills, Arab Christians became more mobile and many began to migrate to the West to escape the prison of Islam. Thus the modern-day Christian exodus began.

Meanwhile, the Zionist movement arose with a dream of restoring Jewish sovereignty back in their ancient homeland. Israel’s emergence in 1948 challenged the system of Muslim dominance over Christians and Jews, an achievement the Arab world has never truly accepted.

For many Christians in the Middle East, the rebirth of Israel actually stands as a light and model of freedom from Muslim tyranny. But for Palestinian Christians, the conflict that seeks to destroy the Jewish state has been too close for comfort. They are powerless to end it and struggling to survive.

Thus many Palestinian Christian leaders have taken to patriotically waving the flag of Palestinian nationalism higher than even their Muslim neighbors, in the hope such loyalty to the cause will safeguard their flocks. They rail against the Israeli occupation and the settlements as the reason for their dwindling presence. The checkpoints and security barrier may create hardships for them, but they are not the core reason why proud Christian families who have weathered many turbulent centuries here are now pulling up roots.

We must all understand that they are employing an ancient survival mechanism ingrained through centuries of Muslim oppression. Unable to name the real culprit, Palestinian Christians often deflect Muslim anger away from themselves by directing it at the Jews. Meantime, Ambassador Oren is giving voice to the things they cannot say.

Acknow. Jerusalem Post




Israel’s Independence Day is a time for us to consider what makes Israel truly unique.

Israel is unique in restoring sovereignty and the capacity for self-defense, to a people who had been stateless and powerless for 2,000 years.

Israel is unique in ingathering to an ancestral homeland an exiled people who had been scattered around the globe.

Israel is unique in having become a global technological power despite the fact that we face threats faced by no other nation on earth.

Israel is unique in the Middle East for having a vibrant, liberal democracy where women are equal, minorities are free and where all are subjects to the rule of law.

But Israel is unique in one other important way: we are unique in having such passionate friends, Jews and non-Jews alike, for whom the well-being, security and future of our country is so important. This passionate support, along with Israel’s strong army, free economy and dynamic society is the pillar of our national strength.

And this Independence Day, I want to thank the tens of millions of friends of Israel throughout the world for their unwavering support for the one and only Jewish state.


Benjamin Netanyahu
Jerusalem, Israel



It would be logical to assess that Hamas (a part of the Muslim Brotherhood) must be a winner from the “Arab Spring.” The various revolts have brought Islamists into power in several Arab countries, and most importantly the Muslim Brotherhood has attained a predominant position in Egypt’s parliament and may win the presidency in the forthcoming election.
But that assessment would be premature. For one thing, Hamas has lost its long-time headquarters in Damascus due to the revolt in Syria. Those who worked there have scattered: Khaled Meshal (head of the Hamas politburo) to Doha, Qatar, and others to Cairo, Istanbul, and elsewhere. As a result, more power is centered in Gaza. An Israeli newspaper story this week carried this headline: “Meshal loses control of Hamas military wing as authority moves to Gaza.” Hamas is obviously undergoing significant internal strains. Moreover, to the extent that all of its key leaders are in Gaza they are all vulnerable to Israeli retaliation for any acts of terror they authorize.

This also means that the key leaders will be involved in governing Gaza, rather than sitting comfortably in exile plotting. Polls taken earlier this year found “a significant decline in the popularity of Hamas in the Gaza Strip and a decrease in the positive evaluation of the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip….” and there is little reason to think this will change. Why? The same poll found that “73% say there is corruption in the PA institutions in the West Bank while only 62% say there is corruption in the institutions of the dismissed government in the Gaza Strip.” One of the reasons Hamas won the 2006 Palestinian parliamentary elections was the reputation of Fatah for corruption. Now Hamas is seen as almost equally corrupt.

Another news item reminds us that governing is difficult: “Blame game defers solution to Gaza’s energy crisis,” the Ma’an story says. The difficult relationship between Hamas and Egypt is the culprit, and Egyptian authorities are more concerned about law and order in the Sinai, their own relations with Sinai Bedouin smugglers, and the lawlessness of smuggling through Hamas’s tunnels, than with energy supplies to Gaza.

Perhaps this will change once a new president is elected, but I doubt that Egyptian nationalism and Egypt’s concern about the Sinai will disappear. According to the New York Times, the Egyptian Brotherhood is pressuring Hamas to moderate its extremist views and cooperate with Fatah, which rules in the West Bank. While Hamas might have expected warm support once the Brotherhood came to power in Egypt, the Times story suggests it may not be forthcoming:

“Now we have to deal with the Palestinian parties as an umbrella for both of them, and we have to stand at an equal distance from each,” said Reda Fahmy, a Brotherhood leader who oversees its Palestinian relations and is now chairman of the Arab affairs committee in Egypt’s upper house of Parliament. “Any movement of the size of the Muslim Brotherhood, when it is in the opposition it is one thing and then when it comes to power it is something completely different.”

What has changed is clear: once upon a time all the branches of the Brotherhood were in opposition to regimes in power, supporting each other’s struggles materially, politically, and rhetorically. Now some govern states, as is the case in Tunisia and Egypt, and a gap may grow between them and those whose main concern is fighting Israel. Hamas may face the worst possible combination of elements: it is not a government and does not govern a state, it faces a Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt that will have huge challenges meeting the needs of the Egyptian people, and it must at the same time cope with the almost impossible problems of ruling Gaza. The poll mentioned above says that only 31 percent of Palestinians living in Gaza give their Hamas rulers a positive evaluation. That number is more likely to decline than to rise. Hamas is one of the losers from the Arab Spring.

Acknow. Beyachad