Saturday, June 30, 2007

And one for the Good Guys - Jerusalem is Ours

There are many "battles" for a nation, at least for the nation of Israel. Our wars are fought with armies, but also on the field of international opinion. But this last battle is a difficult one because our enemies include not only those who are against the State, but also those who hate Jews in general, and those who are ignorant, and those who seek exciting news without regard to the realities at hand.

We often lose more battles than we win. International media outlets such as BBC are notorious for their clear and well published bias against Israel and all things Israel-related. Reuters runs a close second with their coverage - a clear example of which was seen during last summer's war in which clearly doctored photographs were allowed to be presented as "evidence" of Israel's actions in Lebanon.

Now, the good guys have won one battle - on CNN. Up until now, the capital of Israel was too sensitive an issue for CNN and so Israel, and only Israel of all the countries in the world, was not identified next to its capital when readers wanted to learn about the weather. All other capitals were identified as: Cairo, Egypt; London, England; Paris, France. Only our captial was referred to as" Jerusalem" and not "Jerusalem, Israel."

This one wrong has been corrected and the capital of Israel is finally identified correctly as Jerusalem, Israel.

A small victory that we can only hope is the beginning of a greater attempt to report the news honestly and with all relevant information presented.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Violence for Food - a Palestinian message?

On June 27, despite the volatile security situation in the Gaza Strip, the IDF continued to provide for the humanitarian needs in Gaza. Throughout the day, the following humanitarian aid was transferred from Israel into Gaza through the Sufa crossing with the coordination of the Gaza District Coordination and Liaison Office:
· 581 tons of animal feed
· 319 tons of straw
· 327 tons of sugar
· 164 tons of flour
· 5 tons of semolina
· 143,000 liters of oil
· 134 tons of rice
· 27 tons of seedlings
· 32 tons of salt
· 30 tons of baby formula
· 24,000 liters of hypochlorite (a water purifier)

In addition, 24 trucks of humanitarian aid were transferred through the Kerem Shalom crossing. 50,000 vaccinations were transferred through the Erez crossing and 22 Palestinians were taken for medical treatment in Israeli hospitals.

During the same period - no aid was sent from Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia or any other Arab country. And during that time, when Israel was helping to avert a "humanitarian crisis," Palestinians fired 4 Qassam rockets, one of which landedin Sderot. In addition, several mortar shells were fired and landed in the northern part of the western Negev and two Israeli soldiers were lightly injured by gunfire from Palestinian gunmen.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Thousands of words...but for a picture

It is said that a picture speaks a thousand words. What that often means is that the emotions and message of a single picture can often counteract the message received by even a thousand words. I thought of that saying recently when someone sent me the following pictures. The image of Israeli soldiers is one that brings anger and hatred around the world...even when they aren't even responsible...and the real pictures of Israelis soldiers rarely get media attention. Day in and day out, all they do is stand around and guard, defend against the possibility that someone may try to attack the place they are charged with defending.

Serving in the army in Israel is often a long and boring process, but this too is accepted as part of life in Israel. But there is another side to the Israeli soldier - the side that tries to reach out to "others" - not just to those whom they defend, but those who often associate and align themselves with the people against whom our soldiers are forced, too often, to take action.

Our soldiers have mere seconds to decide if the person approaching their checkpoint is friend or foe, someone simply seeking entrance to Israel for innocent reasons, or someone bent on murder and destruction. In those seconds, it takes all their training to decide, let them pass or stop and check them further.

It becomes a natural tendency to look, to evaluate, to question, to consider, to wonder, to fear, to hesitate. Despite this need, our soldiers remain people, human beings who reach out to others. Here then, are pictures of Israeli soldiers - our soldiers - our sons.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

To Save a Life

To save a life is considered one of the most important commandments. To do so, we are taught, is equivalent to saving the entire world. Though each life is equal, somehow saving a child seems most inspiring and important. They are our future...even when the child is not Jewish, not Israeli.
Even when it is the child of our enemies, we do our best to help. It is that, among other things, that continues to set us apart from our enemies and remind us that more than 60 years into this conflict, we continue to value our humanity.

Two special stories about our doctors struggling to save the lives of Palestinian children:

Gaza baby treated at Israeli hospital MDA ambulance transfers baby with heart defect from Gaza Strip to Sheba Medical Center for life-saving operation

A Magen David Adom ambulance transferred an eight-day-old Palestinian baby from Gaza to the Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer Sunday evening.This humanitarian act took place during one of the more difficult days in terms of Qassam launchings, during which a 36-year-old Oshri Oz was killed in Sderot The baby suffers from a congenital heart defect and without proper treatment will not survive long.

He was transferred to the Erez crossing, where an MDA ambulance was waiting to transfer him to hospital ventilated and in an incubator."We transfer patients from the Gaza Strip under fire on a daily basis," said Moshe Vaknin, deputy manager of Lachish region of MDA. "Last week, our medics continued to treat a patient while shells were fired at the terminal at Erez. During the Shavuot holiday we evacuated another baby in an incubator, endangering our staff."The baby is now hospitalized at the intensive care department at the Safra Children's Hospital at the Chaim Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer.

'No politics involved 'Dr Dudi Mishali, head of the Department of Pediatric & congenital Cardiothoracic Surgery at the hospital, said: "The baby has a complete occlusion of his aorta. This is a severe defect, and if the child is not operated on as soon as possible he could die within a day. 'He will probably be operated on tomorrow (Monday) and the prognosis is good.

He is currently on medication that is keeping him alive," he added.Dr Mishali said that an average of three Palestinian babies with heart defects arrive at his department every week:

"We have daily communications by phone and fax with doctors in Gaza.There is no heart surgeon in the Strip, so they transfer all of these children, and there are many, to be operated on here."

A bullet-proof Israeli ambulance entered the West Bank city of Ramallah on Thursday in order to save a six-month old baby in critical condition after reportedly inhaling toxic substances.

This was the first time a Magen David Adom ambulance entered the Palestinian territories since the second intifada broke out in the year 2000.

Up until now, MDA ambulances would only go as far as the IDF checkpoints, where they would pick up Palestinian patients in need of medical care in Israel.

Immediately after receiving the Palestinians' call for help, the Civil Administration's West Bank division called MDA requesting paramedics from Jerusalem take on the mission. Two paramedics took the call.

The paramedics evacuated the unconscious baby, just a few hours after two other babies, who went to the same daycare center as the boy, died of similar symptoms. MDA believes the babies were poisoned, but it is not clear with what or how.

Upon arriving in Ramallah, the ambulance was escorted by a convoy of Palestinian police, who accompanied it all the way to the hospital, and blocked roads to ensure it got through safely.

The MDA team reported that the baby was handed over to them in a professional manner, along with all the needed medical documents. The team was in constant contact with the Jerusalem dispatch.

Palestinians Shoot Me and Jews Treat Me...

What makes these words so incredible is that they were spoken by a 22 year old Palestinian man who had never met an Israeli before the day he was taken to an Israeli hospital with the hope that Jewish doctors could save his life.

Perhaps the most telling line in the whole article was spoken by Aref Suleiman, a young Palestinian who was shot 5 times at point blank range. Suleiman commented, "Palestinians shoot me and Jews treat me. It was supposed to be different."

Shot by their own side, healed by the enemy

By Charles Levinson in Ashkelon, Sunday Telegraph
Last Updated: 12:55am BST 10/06/2007

In the Gaza Strip's Jab aliya refugee camp, Aref Suleiman was raised on Palestinian struggle against the Jewish state. Today he lies in an Israeli hospital bed, his body riddled with Palestinian bullets, his wounds tended daily by Israeli nurses.

For the 22-year-old Mr Suleiman, who was shot five times point blank by Hamas militants last month during a renewed bout of Palestinian infighting, this is not the Arab-Israeli conflict he learnt about as a child growing up in Gaza's desperate, rubbish-strewn alleys.

"Palestinians shoot me and Jews treat me," he laughs bitterly. "It was supposed to be different."

The Barzilai Hospital sits on a sandy hilltop above the Mediterranean Sea in the southern Israeli port city of Ashkelon. In recent months, five Palestinian rockets have landed in the grassy dunes that encircle it, just six miles from the Gaza Strip.

Barzilai, however, has become a rare bastion of civility in an increasingly hate-filled conflict and a unique meeting ground for two peoples who otherwise have little direct contact.
Wounded Palestinians who get permission from the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli army are allowed into Israel to seek medical treatment that is not available at Gaza's rudimentary clinics. Here, Israelis and Palestinians meet their erstwhile foe, in many cases for the first time in their lives.

Mr Suleiman, who was only 15 when the second intifada erupted in 2000, had never been to Israel or met an Israeli. Suleiman, a guard in the Palestinian security services who was a devoted follower of the late Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat.

As he flirts with the Israeli nurses who bring him lunch, check his wounds and blood pressure and empty his bed pan, Suleiman seems, at least for the time being, to have forgotten historical grievances.

"The Jews are like honey, like flowers," he says theatrically. "They wash me, clean me, and change my gown every day. Even in my home, my own family wouldn't change me every day."
"Here, everything is beseder," he adds, using the Hebrew word for "okay".

For the young Israeli nurses, most from nearby communities that live in constant fear of the Palestinian rocket fire, the cultural exchange flows both ways. The Palestinian patients they treat put a human face on the conflict. Nurse and patient can even find a shred of common cause now that the Islamist Hamas movement, which has killed dozens of Israelis in suicide bombings, is locked in a deadly power struggle with the more moderate Fatah movement.

Victims on both sides of the war's de facto frontline are treated side by side here. Five doors down from Mr Suleiman, Ludmilla Visiptzky, 60, awaits her third session of surgery to patch up the shrapnel wounds she suffered when a Palestinian Qassam rocket struck her home in mid-May.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

And the help continues....

While much of the world flounders and the Palestinians continue to focus on killing each other, Israel has, for some reason, appeared to take on the brunt of worrying about any approaching "humanitarian disaster." Recent headlines even suggest Israel is considering parachuting food and medicines into Gaza to alleviate the problem.

We have heard nothing suggesting that the UN is ready to intervene or that Egypt is similarly wondering how it can help - but Israel apparently is focusing much of its efforts and more aid was reported delivered to the Palestinians in Gaza on Friday, June 22.

According to the army spokesperson's office:

Despite the volatile security situation in the Gaza Strip, the IDF is continuing its efforts to help provide a response to humanitarian needs in the Gaza Strip. Throughout the day the following humanitarian aid was transferred into Gaza with the coordination of the Gaza District Coordination and Liaison Office:Despite the volatile security situation in the Gaza Strip, the IDF is continuing its efforts to help provide a response to humanitarian needs in the Gaza Strip. Throughout the day the following humanitarian aid was transferred into Gaza with the coordination of the Gaza District Coordination and Liaison Office:
  • Basic products and medical supplies were transferred via the Kerem Shalom crossing: 75,000 liters of milk, 120 tons of animal feed and medical supplies for dialysis.
  • Five injured Palestinians were taken by the IDF to Israeli hospitals for medical treatment.
  • Basic products and medical supplies were transferred via the Kerem Shalom crossing: 75,000 liters of milk, 120 tons of animal feed and medical supplies for dialysis.
  • Five injured Palestinians were taken by the IDF to Israeli hospitals for medical treatment.

Friday, June 22, 2007

To the Far Reaches...We will Help You

There are so many jokes about Jewish doctors...and yet, one of the key ways in which Israelis help others here in Israel and abroad is by sending medical teams. We have done this in countless natural disasters. Palestinians are regularly admitted to our hospitals, even Palestinian leaders, to give them complicated and excellent care not available in their own cities and hospitals. From Iraq, in the midst of war, children have been brought to Israel. From Jordan, and Egypt. They are brought here quietly, treated, cured and sent back home with little acknowledgement that it was their "enemy" that gave them life, that saved their children, that bettered their health and conditions.

A few weeks ago, on the same day that rockets from Gaza were falling and injuring Israeli civilians, doctors were performing a routine heart operation on a tiny Palestinian infant whole life was saved...because we have the know-how. Because we focus our resources not on bombs - but on education, not on rockets - but on developing medical devices and equipment that revolutionize the medical world.

Another recent story shows how we quietly reach far across the world, seeking to help others...and this story, like all the others, reminds us that This is Israel, too.

Israel launches humanitarian mission in Vietnam

An initiative presented by Israeli ambassador, led by Israeli doctor, sends medical staff of 54 to remote areas in Vietnam to treat the sick and poor,7340,L-3402193,00.html

Darfur and Israel

The situation in Darfur is so far away from Israel and our daily lives. We have school and children, work and family and daily pressures. It would be too easy to ignore the tragedy that has become reality in the province of Darfur, Sudan. It must be easy because much of the world seems able to do this.

But Darfur remains in our minds and actions - there have been many Israelis working to help the situation and most recently, dozens of Sudanese knew what most of the world denies - if they could get here, they would not be ignored, they would not be harrassed, they would not be alone. Israel is a country known to help others - as we did the boat people from Vietnam years we did after the tsunami in Asia and the earthquake in Turkey and so many other places.

And so, refugees battled the desert and the distance, bypassed the Egyptians, and came to little Israel - where they have been given shelter and dignity. This too is Israel. It is indeed part of our heritage and our promise - we were once refugees, we once had no place to go. We had no brothers in 22 lands to take us in and welcome us and so when we finally came home, we opened that home to others in need.

Read about Israel helping save the lives of more than 200 Darfur refugees:

Darfur refugees

Dozens of Sudanese refugees, have been accommodated in the southern Israeli city of Eilat. They have been given work in hotels and their children are scheduled to go to schools in the city. One of the refugees, 27-year-old Gatlan Genoa said: "I am happy. We now have a normal life after all the suffering we endured. We dreamed of living in dignity and our dream has come true."

Genoa, who came to Israel via Egypt, added: "It was hard. The Egyptians wanted to kill us. I didn't think I would live. When we crossed the border the soldiers didn't do anything to us. We understood then that Israelis were good people. Everything they are doing for us here in Eilat is heart warming." The children in the group spend their time at the children's clubs at the hotels where they are taken care of while their parents are at work.

More at:,7340,L-3399383,00.html

And more about Israel helping around the world

The purpose of this blog is to tell you about Israel - this is Israel, the country that I love, the country where I have chosen, with a sane mind and a dedicated heart, to raise my children. But an integral part of Israel is that ancient promise made by God, that we would be "a light unto the nations." Without getting overly religious or deep into theology, without getting mystical or Messianic, it is simply a part of the Israeli conscience - that we have the moral obligation to help when the means for providing that help is in our minds and hearts and means.

And so, though this blog isn't about what Israel does for the world, it is important to also show that while we try to better our lives and country internally, we still find the time and make the effort to help others.

Here is another This is Israel...helping others story recently in the news:

Israel helps civilians trapped in fighting zone in Eastern Congo

(VIDEO) Ahead of the 'Band Aid' rock concert this Saturday, Itai Engel, one of the organizers and an investigative correspondent, speaks to Ynet about the human tragedy in Eastern Congo and what can be done about it,7340,L-3402927,00.html

Israel Saving Palestinian Lives (again)

Anyone who is familiar with Israel and its medical community knows that hundreds of thousands of Arabs are treated yearly in our hospitals, without discrimination (and often at little or no cost). When Israel pulled out of Gaza in the Summer of 2005, forcibly expelling more than 9,000 of its own citizens in a unilateral (and most people now say decidedly misguided) attempt at peace, it should, by all rights, have washed itself of any responsibility to the inhabitants of Gaza. They are on their own, as they so wanted - and yet they still want to come into Israel to work; they still receive water and electricity from Israel; they still demand aid and more.

In their recent civil war, fleeing Fatah Palestinians have demanded that Israel offer them free passage through Israeli lands to help them escape Hamas.

And, once again, Israel has answered the call to help save Palestinians - even when their own Arab brothers fail them:

Throughout the day the following humanitarian aid was transferred from Israel into Gaza with the coordination of the Gaza District Coordination and Liaison Office;
  • Trucks transferring food via the Kerem Shalom crossing: 200 tons of flour, 40 tons of meat, 90,000 liters of milk and 25,000 liters of cooking oil.
  • Medical supplies as well as 98,000 vaccines against Chicken pox, Tuberculosis, Tetanus and Rubella were passed via Erez Crossing.
  • 420,000 liters of diesel, 45,000 liters of gasoline, 43,000 liters of oil and 325 liters of cooking gas were transferred via the Nahal Oz fuel terminal.
  • Nine injured and chronically ill Palestinians were taken by the IDF to Israeli hospitals for medical treatment, including a 17 year old teenager suffering from Leukemia.
  • Over 150 foreign citizens staying in Gaza were assisted to cross into Israel.
  • The DCL has been also handing out throughout the day food and water to the Palestinians staying at the crossing.

All this after European observers fled in fear for their lives, where the UN has evacuated and the Americans and others have urged their citizens to flee.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Helping Others

This is a constant theme in Israel and for Israelis. We were there when there was a horrible earthquake in Turkey, when the US embassy was bombed in Kenya. We flew in teams to help after the tsunami in Africa, and now this latest example of tiny Israel reaching outside itself to help others in need:

A Group of 41 Young Israelis Aid Nepal’s Poorest

For the past month and a half a group of 41 Israeli volunteers and backpackers have been aiding Nepalese in Katmandu and the suburbs. The volunteers are working under the umbrella of the Israeli aid organization Tevel Betzedek which initiated this unique program.

The group, which will continue to aid locals for the next few months, consists of ten post army-pre college volunteers as well as Israeli lawyers, social workers, health workers and others. They are sharing their experience with several local non governmental groups.

Among them is a group called Umbrella Organization, which rescues children who have been trafficked. Umbrella, run by a French Jewish child of Holocaust survivors, currently has more than 275 children in their homes.

The Israelis are helping with health and education programs. .Other groups include CWIN--a famous Nepali children's rights organization, Prayas, which is dedicated to helping street children get off glue (most of the 5000 street children in Nepal sniff glue), a slum school which teaches street children, Pourakhi, a Nepali Migrant Workers Human Rights and Empowerment organization, that the Israeli team helped to create a Nepali language rights booklet that will be printed by the Israeli embassy and given to all Nepali workers coming to work in Israel, ETC (Educate the Children) where team members teach mathematics.

For more information please visit:

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Watch Out, Iran

Another side of Israel is the constant need to be on alert, to maintain the most modern and up-to-date weaponry and equipment. Israel is, for many reasons, a hi-tech hub of the world. We are number one or among the top in the world in per capita engineers, per capita computers per household, research and development and startups.

Many of these startups are started by ex-soldiers who take the drive they learned in the army to new heights. A recent, Ynet story offers one example:

Ofek-7 signs in from space
06.14.07, 20:11 /

The Eye in the Sky
Spy satellite Ofek-7 launched successfully / Hanan Greenberg

Defense establishment successfully launches new intelligence satellite from Palmahim Base; Israel expected to receive first images from space within 48 hours. 'Satellite has advanced capabilities which will significantly improve Israel's operational and intelligence abilities,' senior security source says "Everything seems to be in order. The improvement we're seeing is significant, especially after the failure of Ofek-6."

"One of the things we do is take care of the satellite's longevity…we're planning its mission in space for maximum efficiency," said captain A., also from the Intelligence mapping unit.

"The satellite's cameras are pointed at areas we're interested in," explained major A., a colleague of the two. "Ofek then sends signals to a ground-reception station, where they are decoded and transferred for Army Intelligence use."

Friday, June 15, 2007

Thinking of what comes next

Part of living in Israel includes thinking about what comes next in the scheme of things. Right now, there is civil war in the Palestinian areas and political turmoil in our own government. The defense minister, proved incompetent in the last war has been replaced by Ehud Barak and the Prime Minister remains hugely unpopular.

A strike is looming in the airport and Sderot and its environs are still being hit by rocket attacks daily. Despite all of this, Israelis remain among the most satisfied with their lives and overall conditions in the country.

Much could be improved, but we remember, through it all, that this is Israel. This summer, an organization known as Nefesh b'Nefesh will be bringing several planes full of new immigrants to Israel and tourists will again fill our hotels and visit our beautiful cities and attractions.

As Israel heads into summer, Israelis are very busy thinking about what comes next...and hopeful that tomorrow will be better, our leaders braver and more sure of the path they choose for us.

Helping Others

My middle son often volunteers for the local ambulance squad. Recently, he took part in an amazing new progralm launched in cooperation with the Israeli police. Teenagers go (with police escort...the police wait outside) to the homes of the elderly and ask them if they would allow the police to install (for free) hand railings in their bathrooms and showers to help them get in and out of the shower/tub.

If the elderly residents agree, the police return at a later time and volunteer their time to help make sure the senior citizens are safe.

What an incredible gesture on the part of the young people, who volunteer their time and energy to go around asking, and what an incredible gesture from the local police who volunteer their time and energy to go around and install these safety measures.

This is truly what Israel is about - community, caring, helping, volunteering. This is Israel.

Another side of Israel

All too often, people outside of Israel think of our country as one where there is much violence, constant terror attacks and danger all around. For the most part, this is not true. We live in relative peace - our cities are quiet, crime levels are lower than in most developed countries and there is a strong sense of community. You can probably here a "but" coming along, and so, this post is about the "but" part of living in Israel.

Two recent events sadly show that we are still a society in which sometimes our enemies show their determination...luckily, our determination remains strong and so even if tomorrow a rocket hits...the day after, we will still be here.

Two recent stories:
  • A Kassam rocket slammed into a schoolyard recently, just thirty minutes before it would have been filled with children. The high school has not yet been reinforced, and the building’s music room was damaged by the explosion.
  • And quickly into the realm of beyond belief...two women from Gaza were recently caught on their way to attack Israelis. The two women included a pregnant mother of eight, and her niece, a mother of four. The two were planning a joint two-pronged suicide attack in Tel Aviv and Netanya.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Amnesty International...Fails Again

A new Amnesty International Report on the West Bank has charged Israel with the "destruction of hope" of Palestinians. Funny that they do not identify this supposed destruction with ongoing Palestinian corruption, internal fighting, the embezzlement and misuse of millions of dollars that should have been spent on education, on health care, on roads and infrastructure.

The report's bias becomes obvious from its very title: "Enduring Occupation: Palestinians under siege in the West Bank," and goes downhill quickly from there. No mention is made of Israel's having withdrawn from Gaza, the ongoing rocket attacks on the people of Sderot, the huge number of attempted suicide bombings that have been stopped by Israel's security forces.

Amnesty calls the Security Fence a "the wall of death," but ignores the fact that for many Israelis, it is a wall of life, protecting hundreds of thousands of people from suicide bombers and other terrorist attempts. Since the so-called "wall of death" has been constructed, the rate of suicide bombings has dropped by more than 90% (as has the rate of car thefts and many other violent and non-violent crimes).

Amnesty attempts to justify the one-sided, biased report that is only directed at Israel by saying, " cannot ask armed groups to conduct investigations, or to put in place mechanisms, because that's not what armed groups are supposed to do. " Isn't that convenient? Isn't that just too easy for Amnesty?

No, Amnesty's intention is clear for all to see, made more obvious than ever by its latest failure to live up to the test of honesty, integrity and true research. To unmask the simple truth, the reality is that if Jews or Israelis are doing it, it will be condemned by Amnesty International, by the United Nations General Assembly and by as many other self-serving and prejudiced organizations that can be found.

Amnesty admits its own limitations: "we have not carried out studies on textbooks used in the PA or by other authorities on that matter. As far as the issue of armed struggle of different parties throughout the world that wish to conduct wars, or armed struggles, as an organization we're not opposed to that." That doesn't stop them from commenting and condemning Israeli actions of self-defense.

It would be nice to say that this report has damaged Amnesty's credibility, but sadly, it has no credibility left to harm. Thus, this report simply becomes another mound of useless information added to a long history of poor judgments. If Amnesty International were to actually try to research its work, it would likely find its members endangered, kidnapped and murdered in Gaza.

Luckily for them, the chances of this happening are about as remote as Hamas honoring a real ceasefire, Bashar Assad ever really working for peace, or Mahmoud Ahmedinejad planning only non-violent uses for his nuclear development.

Democracy in the Region

Israel is often mentioned as the only real democracy in the Middle East. This point was brought home recently, as Syria took to the polls. Current President Bashar Assad won 97% of the election. Just one catch, he was the only candidate. Not to be outdone, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad called Assad's election results, "a victory for all freedom-seeking nations."

One has to congratulate the 3% who managed to vote against Assad but more importantly, one has to remind the world that an election with one candidate is not a real election, nor is it a victory for anyone - most especially not a freedom-seeking nation.

Israel remains the only viable democracy in the Middle East.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Sderot Challahs for Sale!

Israelis are living in a parallel universe lately. For most, life is filled with the ordinary. We get up in the morning, get ourselves and our families organized for the day. We’ll sit at a computer or work in business, go for a walk with a friend, have lunch at a nearby restaurant, do the weekly shopping, or chat on the phone. It’s all so ordinary, so routine, so normal.

Except that this morning…like every morning for the last few few weeks…a rocket was fired at one of our towns and people went scurrying for cover, panicked that they wouldn’t reach safety in time. A thousand thoughts go through their minds. Where will it hit this time? Where is my husband…or my wife? Where is my mother…or my father…or my son…or my daughter? That’s what the people of Sderot are going through each time the Color Red warning goes off. Then there is a boom – loud if it is close by, or a dull thud if it is further in the distance. Either way, it now becomes a mad dash for the phone to check on loved ones, to tell others that this time they are safe. And through these moments of terror and worry, the rest of us are going about our lives and doing normal things.

It was like that this past summer as well. That time, it was all the people in the north who sat in bomb shelters while we continued to work, to visit with friends, and to do all those ordinary things that people must do to survive. And yet, a part of our consciousness was always focused to the north, and now to the people living within striking distance of Gaza. We know that they are in danger. We feel their fear and we worry for them. Like last summer, we are at a loss how we can help. The kassem rockets, like the katyushas last summer, are terror weapons. They are not targeted to a specific area, they have no guidance system. It is simply a matter of pointing and shooting. The success almost doesn’t matter because in the seconds it takes before impact, the purpose, that of terrifying our civilian population, is accomplished.

Last summer, during the war, hundreds of thousands of people relocated and stayed with friends and family. So too, thousands of residents from the danger area have relocated in this latest crisis. At the same time, many choose to stay. For those that stay, maintaining a business is very difficult and sometimes dangerous. Like last summer, an effort is being made to help, at least financially, those who remain behind.

This past Shabbat, an effort was made throughout the country to raise money to purchase challot, the braided sweet bread eaten on the Sabbath, from a bakery in Sderot. Money was collected, but because of the precarious situation, it was never able to reach Sderot and it will be attempted again this coming weekend. In the meantime, a friend called me with the suggestion that all the money that was collected still be given to the Sderot community and a new effort to collect more money from individual families for their weekly challah be started again. This way, at least financially, we are still able to help the people of Sderot.

This coming Shabbat, hopefully hundreds and thousands of Israelis will order challah from Sderot and hopefully this week, even before the Sabbath arrives, the Israeli government will find a way to ensure that our efforts are not wasted. But even more so, we hope the Israeli government will finally fulfill its reason for existing – to protect the people of Israel. They failed last summer, that is clear to all. And, they are failing now, as each rocket hits and people have 15 seconds to run to safety.

This coming Shabbat is a test for all – to those not living in the danger zone – please make the effort to find a community representative who has organized this challah-purchasing effort (or coordinate it on your own).

To the Israeli government – please do something to ensure that this coming Shabbat, and all that follow, bring the people of Sderot and its surrounding communities security and safety.

Reprinted with permission.
Paula R. Stern is a freelance journalist. You can visit her personal website at: and her blog at

Friday, June 1, 2007

Why do we bother?

A few days ago, an eight-day-old Palestinian baby girl was rushed to an Israeli hospital, suffering from a life-threatening heart condition

An Israeli paramedic at the scene explained: "She is from Gaza and we are taking her to Tel Hashomer hospital. She is going to be operated there to mend the heart problem."

Her father and a Palestinian medical team was allowed through the checkpoint to accompany the infant to the hospital for the surgery. According to Israeli medical sources, in the past five months about 200 Palestinians, including members of rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah, have been treated at Israeli hospitals. They mostly had bullet wounds or injuries sustained during beatings inflicted by Palestinians themselves.

Amazingly enough, this story made little headlines around the world. It was something expected - that Israel, in the midst of war and rocket bombardments, would open its gates (figuratively and literally) to help a Palestinian child. China Central Television, wary of perhaps reporting something that might be considered pro-Israel, worked hard to counter the positive nature of the report by blaming Israel for the Palestinian's failing medical infrastructure.

One feels compelled to remind the Chinese and others that had the Palestinians taken the more than 10 billion Euros it has received in aid since 1993 and invested it in education and hospitals, instead of bombs, rockets and bullets, the Palestinian medical infrastructure would almost definitely be in a much healthier condition.

As for Israelis, on another day when rockets fall, one wonders why we even bother. And, before others condemn me...let me say that we bother because, as Hizbullah's Nasrallah points out, Jews love life.
"We have discovered how to hit the Jews where they are the most vulnerable.
The Jews love life, so that is what we shall take away from them. We are
going to win, because they love life and we love death."
-- Hizbullah General Secretary, Hassan Nasrallah

Israelis helping Israelis

In times of stress and war, Israelis reach out to each other. This is the way it was last summer in the north, and this is the way it is again as Israel's southern cities continue to take the brunt of hundreds of Kassem rockets fired from Gaza.

Here's one news story showing how students are reaching out to the people in Sderot:
June 1, 2007

Over 1,000 students from the national religious-Zionist sector are planning to arrive in Sderot today along with their rabbis. Before sundown, the students plan to visit as many homes as possible in Sderot, where they will hand out flowers and sweets. Once the Sabbath begins, the students plan to dance and meet in the town's synagogues.

The initiative for the "Sderot Shabbat" belongs to Rabbi Chanan Porath, Chairman of the Orot Chesed organization.