Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Justice Comes...

to those who wait.

Another aspect of Israel is an incredible sense of justice. In the US, we were always taught very proper concept of "justice delayed is justice denied." In Israel, we learn another aspect of this tenet. Even when justice is delayed, you have to keep pursuing it...and it will come.

Seven years ago, two Israel reserve soldiers on their way to do their reserve duty, made a wrong turn and entered Ramallah. Their names were Vadim Nurzitz and Yossi Avrahami. In a violent episode that was largely filmed and aired later, the two were dragged from their car, beaten, and finally lynched.

Early this morning, the IDF announced that Israeli soldiers has arrested 36-year-old Tanzim terrorist Hayman Zaben in Shechem. Zaben is the last of the terrorists responsible for murdering IDF reservists Vadim Nurzitz and Yossi Avrahami. All the other terrorists responsible for the lynch are already in Israeli custody.

Nothing can bring comfort to their families - to the wives who lost their husbands and the children, including one born a few months after the lynching to Vadim's wife, who lost their fathers, but this is yet another case where we can see that justice comes to Israel...even if it takes time. This too, is Israel.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Helping Nicaragua

In recent weeks, Israelis have continued to travel over the world, helping others. After a horrible plane crash in Thailand, Israelis were among the first to send medical teams to help the injured and identify the dead. It's a sad fact that Israelis have much experience with dealing with this sad task and a wonderful testimony to the heart and soul of Israelis that we are willing to offer these services to others. Today's post has to do with yet another story of Israel reaching out to help.

The Israeli government has announced it is sending medical supplies to help the people of Nicaragua after a devastating hurricane hit - more below:

This is Israel!

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is sending $25,000 worth of medical suppliesto Nicaragua, aid to the victims of Hurricane Felix, which struck Nicaraguaat the beginning of the month.The hurricane, which hit the northern Caribbean coast of Nicaragua close tothe Honduras border, left a trail of devastation and at least 40 peopledead. Tens of thousands of people have been left homeless by the categoryfive hurricane. The International Red Cross made an appeal to the international communityfor help, and as a result Israel is sending medical equipment which willreach Nicaragua within a few days. The Israeli ambassador to Costa Rica andthe Israeli Honorary Consul in Nicaragua will present the equipment to therepresentatives of the Nicaraguan government.

Friday, September 21, 2007

The Weather and The Water

Israelis have a national obsession with the weather and the's a topic that dominates our news throughout the year.

The weather comes into play mostly in the winter, but most begins around now, the holiday season.
"Temperatures will drop by one degree Celsius Friday night and Saturday, and the
weather will remain through next Tuesday. The thermometer will begin to rise,
and the long-range forecast calls for slighter warmer than usual temperatures on
Thursday, the first day of the week-long Succot holiday. No precipitation is in

No precipitation is in sight - thus begins our national obsession with rain. For a country that is water-starved, every drop of rain is precious; every drop of water not to be wasted. Will it rain this winter - enough to fill the Sea of Galilee? Even better, will it rain so much, we will have to open the flood gates and let the water flow freely into the Jordan River to wind its way down and begin replenishing the depleted Dead Sea? It's an ongoing soap opera here!

Soon, we will hear the level of the Sea of Galilee - it is measured daily (and probably several times a day) to determine it's location in relation to a "red line" and the ideal "full" line. We are forever hearing that the sea is so many meters and so many centimeters below this line or above that line.

As the rainy season comes closer (it rains in Israel from around November until March and then usually not a drop - or at least not much more than a drop - from April through October), we all pray this will be a year of abundant rain to fill the rivers and make the land blossom with flowers. Israelis are obsessed with the weather and the water...and also the beautiful flowers the grow wild in the north and around the country during the rainy season.

May it be a year of abundant rain!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Are Rockets Inevitable?

Today in Israel, a sad statistic was released: Since the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip in the middle of June, an average of 15 rockets (between seven and 21) have fallen in Israeli territory every week.

Over the Rosh Hashana festive weekend, no less than 13 Kassams were fired into Israel. Are rockets inevitable? Well, most Israelis believe that if Hamas can control public demonstrations, limit what journalists can report, control vast amounts of money and funnel it where they wish, they can certainly control when rockets are fired against Israel.

So are rockets inevitable? No - they will fall so long as the Hamas-led government or similar organizations believe it is in their best interest to shoot them at Israel. They will fall so long as the Palestinians believe they can gain more from rockets than negotiations.

Israel - Discovering Worlds

Much of what Israelis accomplish on this world is left unknown...but then too, so is much of what we do outside our small planet. Here's a nice story from the Jerusalem Post's Judy Siegel-Itzkovich on how Israeli astrophysicists are helping discover new (or in this case very old) worlds.


Israeli astrophysicists help find oldest-known planet outside solar system

The discovery of the oldest planet yet identified outside our solar system - just announced in the prestigious journal Nature - illustrates the process that is likely to lead to the sun burning out in approximately five billion years.

The planet V391b Pegasi, whose discovery was made possible by an international team of astrophysicists including researchers at Tel Aviv University, revolves around a "pulsating" star (V391 Peg) that is mutating from its "red giant" status to a shrunken "white dwarf."
The discovery means that astrophysicists can now measure the star's radiation and investigate the planet's characteristics, instead of just theorizing about the distant future of Earth and other planets when their suns reach the end of their existence.

Prof. Elia Leibowitz of TAU's Department of Astrophysics and Astronomy (and son of the late philosopher and biologist Prof. Yeshayahu Leibowitz) is a permanent participant in the international team whose paper in Nature included 23 authors linked in the Whole Earth Telescope project.

Leibowitz told The Jerusalem Post on Saturday night that "no one has actually seen any of the exoplanets, thus there are no photographs, but the data proves that they have to be there."
The Pegasi star, part of the constellation of Pegasus, is "a very weak star and can't be observed by the naked eye. After putting out data together about three or four months ago, we had long discussions of whether it was in fact a planet. Gradually, more people became convinced, and we presented our data to Nature, which accepted our conclusion," he said.

After the embargo on the article was lifted on Wednesday at 8 p.m. Israel time, the astrophysicists who participated broke open bottles of champagne and communicated via e-mail. They have never all met in one place, Leibowitz said. The research was led by Prof. Roberto Silvotti of the observatory in Naples.

As stars can be observed only at night, observatories around the world - including TAU's Wise Observatory located five kilometers west of Mitzpe Ramon in the Negev - coordinate to watch a specific star continuously through 24 hour cycles several times a year and measure its radiation.
V391b Pegasi and its sun are located some 4,500 light years from our solar system, and the planet is three times heavier than Jupiter, the largest planet revolving around the sun. It takes about 3.2 years, or 1,170 Earth-days, for the planet to make one revolution around its sun. The distance between the planet and the sun is 1.7 times that between the Earth and our sun (150 million kilometers).

But these characteristics do not make V391 Peg and V391b Pegasi very different from the 200 exoplanets that have already been discovered. It is very unlikely to have residents, because its surface temperature is about 200 degrees Celsius. Its sun pulsates, meaning that the power of its light rises and falls at a rate of one percent, pulsating every six minutes. It loses one second every 22,000 years. The radius of its sun is only a quarter of our sun's, and it is white-blue in color, with a temperature of 30,000 degrees (compared to our sun's 6,000 degrees). The main difference, however, is in V391b Pegasi's age - it is the oldest exoplanet ever discovered.

Our sun is a "primary series" star that creates nuclear energy through most of its lifespan. It has been doing so for some five billion years, and has about the same amount of time to go, astronomers say. At that point, within several million years, according to astrophysicists, it will turn into a "red giant," swelling to a radius 100 its current one and turning red. It will then swallow up Mercury and Venus, causing major changes in Earth and the other planets in our solar system. The sun will start to shrink and within a few hundred million years, it will turn into a "white dwarf" no bigger than Earth.

Leibowitz said Israel was ideally located for the research, as there are few observatories in the Middle East, and none of those that exist, including the Egyptian one, participated in the Whole Earth Telescope project. "Thus there were certain hours when we were the only one or one of the few able to observe the star. But the research continues, as we are due to meet at a conference in Egypt in the near future," he said.

Leibowitz was assisted by Ezra Mishal, the technical director of the Wise Observatory, and by Sami Ben-Gigi, the manager of the Mitzpe Ramon facility, along with John Dunn, the chief observer.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Miracles from what could have been Great Tragedy

Israel is indeed a land of miracles. We have seen this repeatedly - when 39 SCUD missiles were launched against Israel from Iraq...and one man died as a result of a heart attack. We saw it last summer, when thousands of rockets fell on northern Israel and while many were killed and injured, almost daily there were reports of unbelievable near-misses and seconds or mere meters enabling a tragedy to have been averted.

Thus today, another story of what could have been a tragedy proving the miracle behind it. Last night, just after 2:00 a.m., two rockets were fired by terrorists in Gaza. They don't care where the rockets land, only that they terrorize, murder and maim. That's why we refer to them as terrorists - the target isn't a military one - merely the hope that some Israeli somewhere will be injured, the more the better, the worse the better.

This time, the landing location wasn't a school yard in Sderot, a sleeping family's home, a hospital or factory. This time, the rockets landed on an army base, sending more than 60 soldiers to the hospital. But what could have been a tragedy proved to be a miracle - none of the soldiers were seriously injured, most treated for light wounds and shock.

But the miracle for one family was even greater. Segalit Ido, whose son Roi is stationed on the base, was called to the hospital because her son was among the injured. After the first rocket attack, Roi ran to help his friends and was injured by the second rocket.

Roi will celebrate his 20th birthday in just a few days. "His gift is that he is alive," the soldier's mother stated. It is the ultimate miracle and the ultimate gift - the gift of life.

The Palestinians are celebrating in Gaza for the "success" of the rocket attack, but we will celebrate the greater gift, the greater miracle - more than 60 families in Israel are celebrating that their sons are alive and well and what could have been a great tragedy, proved to be a great miracle instead.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

3000-year old honey...from the Land of Milk and Honey

Israel is the land of milk and honey - that promise is supposed to imply that it is a sweet land, a prosperous land, one in which the inhabitants will not suffer hunger and poverty. Now comes news that Israel has always been a land of honey and sweetness. This is particularly appealing, given the proximity to Rosh Hashana, when it is a tradition to eat apples dipped in honey and other sweet dishes.


JERUSALEM (AP) -- Archaeologists digging in northern Israel have discovered evidence of a 3,000-year-old beekeeping industry, including remnants of ancient honeycombs, beeswax and what they believe are the oldest intact beehives ever found.

One of the ancient beehives found at Tel Rehov in Israel.

The findings in the ruins of the city of Rehov this summer include 30 intact hives dating to around 900 B.C., archaeologist Amihai Mazar of Jerusalem's Hebrew University told The Associated Press. He said it offers unique evidence that an advanced honey industry existed in the Holy Land at the time of the Bible.

Beekeeping was widely practiced in the ancient world, where honey was used for medicinal and religious purposes as well as for food, and beeswax was used to make molds for metal and to create surfaces to write on. While bees and beekeeping are depicted in ancient artwork, nothing similar to the Rehov hives has been found before, Mazar said.

The beehives, made of straw and unbaked clay, have a hole at one end to allow the bees in and out and a lid on the other end to allow beekeepers access to the honeycombs inside. They were found in orderly rows, three high, in a room that could have accommodated around 100 hives, Mazar said.

The Bible repeatedly refers to Israel as a "land of milk and honey," but that's believed to refer to honey made from dates and figs -- there is no mention of honeybee cultivation. But the new find shows that the Holy Land was home to a highly developed beekeeping industry nearly 3,000 years ago.