Sunday, August 31, 2008

Gilad is 22...and still in captivity

Who could have imagined that Gilad would spend yet another birthday in captivity?

Just last week, Israel released almost 200 terrorists, criminals, security prisoners. For what? Nobody I know in Israel understands this action. Not a single one. Hamas is still demanding the release of 1,000 prisoners in exchange for Gilad. Hizbollah says it doesn't know where Ron Arad is. Syria says it doesn't know where Eli Cohen is buried and so can't return his body.

And in the meantime, Gilad has spent another birthday in captivity. As the mother of an Israeli soldier, it sickens me, it saddens me, it worries me. I cannot imagine a week without speaking to my son, let alone a year. I cannot imagine a month in which I can't at least give him a kiss, a hug, a touch, let alone a year. How is it possible?

What words of comfort can we offer Gilad's parents? What words of hope?

Two weeks after Gilad was captured, our government and army failed to prevent the same thing from happening in the north. Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev were taken. They were finally returned to us. Heartbroken, we watched them come back in coffins while Lebanon danced and celebrated the return of a child killer.

What words of comfort can we offer Gilad's parents? What words of hope?

The sad fact is that there is none and so long as this government has other priorities, there is not likely to be any.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Well Gee, Can't you tell the difference?

or perhaps it is a case that "they" all look alike...

"they" being helicopters, I supposed.

According to a recent article in Haaretz, the downing of a Lebanese army helicopter last week was a case of mistaken identity. Hizbollah thought they were downing an Israeli chopper...

All I can say it - may they continue to make such mistakes in the future. Of course, had it been an Israeli chopper, there would have been a universal call for a UN resolution condemning Israel. Now the UN is stuck - no one to one to condemn.

And the good news is, that probably means Hizbollah now only has 39,999 missiles they can aim towards down...too many more to go.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Their Children...and Ours

What did your children do this summer? Mine went to a camp where they went swimming, did all sorts of art projects and played games.

According to a newsletter I receive regularly from a reliable source, here's what many Palestinian children did this summer:

Summer camps in the Gaza Strip run by Hamas and other terrorist organizations
inculcate youngsters with radical Islamic ideology and the culture of terrorism. Some camps offer military training to prepare future ranks of operatives for the terrorist organizations.

Young Palestinians undergoing military training at Hamas summer camps. Their instructors are Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades operatives; the rifles are made of wood.

1. Every year Hamas and other terrorist networks organize summer camps in the for Palestinians youngsters from the age of kindergarten to university. The camps indoctrinate them with radical Islamic ideology and the organizations' culture of terrorism (“the resistance”). It is part of a continuing process, which begins in
kindergarten and ends with university students, to turn the children into at least supporters and if possible, operatives in the various terrorist organizations. For the Gazan population, which is economically distressed, the camps (which charge almost nothing and provide the children with hats and T-shirts) are a convenient and popular way of giving the children something to do during the summer vacation.

2. Several hundred camps are operating in the Gaza Strip this summer, with tens of thousands of campers. Most of them have been organized by Hamas or Hamas-affiliated Islamic institutions. The Islamic Block, Hamas's student organization, also organized a summer camp for Islamic University students. The PIJ camps have at least 10,000 campers. In addition to the usual games and other leisure-time activities, the children are exposed to propaganda promoting violence and terrorism as the means of achieving Palestinian goals (especially the “right to return”) and the glorification of shaheeds, who are turned into role models. As part of their camping experience, Hamas campers are taken on field trips to visit the graves of shaheeds such as Hamas leaders (such as Ahmad Yassin and Abd al-Aziz Rantisi) and others.

3. Some of the camps have paramilitary or even fully military activities intended
to prepare the young Palestinians for enlistment into the ranks of the various
terrorist organizations. These activities are integrated into the extensive
training held by the terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip in preparation
for “the day after”. The training is often deliberately held in full view of the media. For example, an AP correspondent in the Gaza Strip was present at the graduation ceremonies of a Hamas camp in the eastern Saja'iya neighborhood of Gaza City , which ended on August 10. The correspondent reported that the camp aimed at “preparing the youngsters for battle against Israel .

About 200 teens dressed in the uniform of the Hamas military wing showed off their new skills,” which they acquired at the camp. Their final show included the presentation of various fighting techniques, while in the background their instructors (bearded Hamas operatives) kept up a steady barrage of rifle fire and detonated small explosive devices in a nearby field. Present at the final activities was Khalil al-Hayyeh , a senior Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip, who “thundered” that “[These youngsters] are tomorrow's leaders” (AP, August 11, 2008 ).

4. Some of the summer camps in the Gaza Strip, which are a breeding ground for future terrorist operatives, are run by radical Islamic associations, most of them affiliated with Hamas. The associations are funded by Islamic foundations abroad, some of them through a organization known as the Union of Good. Thirty-six funds and foundations belonging to it were recently outlawed by Israel .

The Union of Good's Internet site reported it was sponsoring more than 100 summer camps in the Gaza Strip , whose theme was “We stand firm despite the blockade” (Union of Good website, July 8, 2008 ). The camps which the Union of Good sponsors (and helps finance) are fully affiliated with Hamas, and at some of them military training is provided by operatives from the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the movement's military-terrorist wing.

Palestinian youths given military training by Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades operatives Campers receiving paramilitary training at a Hamas summer camp (from an Israeli TV Channel 10 report which appeared on the Haaretz website, July 29, 2008 )
Typical images of these "camps" include:

  • Children wearing Hamas hats practice using a gun to subdue an enemy, practice capturing prisoners, fight with nunchakus, traditional Japanese weapons consisting of two sticks connected at their ends by a short chain or rope.

  • Children at a Hamas summer camp in the Gaza Strip exercising while
    shouting anti-Israeli and anti-American slogans.
  • Hamas summer camp in the Saja’iya neighborhood of Gaza City featured a theme “We stand firm despite the blockade” (Hamas Palestine-info website, August 17).
  • A group named after “shaheed” Ismail Abu Shunab, a Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip who died in a targeted killing in August 2003. The group is part of the summer camp run by the Hamas-affiliated Islamic Association.

  • Encouraging children to join Hamas and its military-terrorist wing when they grow up (from an Israeli TV Channel 10 report which appeared on the Haaretz website, July 29, 2008 ).

    Asked, “Who is your army?” the children answer “[the Izz al-Din al-] Qassam [Brigades], [Hamas's military-terrorist wing].

    The children are asked what their movement is, and they answer “Hamas!”
    A Hamas camper answering the questions “What do you want to be when you grow up,” says, “I want to be a military man, a holy warrior, to liberate this land, which belongs to us and not to others.”Pictures of children who wear uniforms and carry weapons. Hamas brainwashes the young to both accept and desire violence.

  • A preschool child wearing battle fatigues and a hat with the Hamas insignia; the picture is from the Hamas website. Hamas and the other terrorist organizations often issue pictures of children in uniform and carrying weapons, sending a message to the younger generation that violence is acceptable and desirable
    (Palestine-info website, August 17, 2007).

    The difference in the nature of the summer camps in the Gaza Strip and Judea and Samaria is readily apparent. In Judea and Samaria, where they are under the control of the Palestinian Authority, more emphasis is placed on art, sports, preparation for matriculation exams, foreign languages, music, literature, etc., in addition to Palestinian nationalistic themes such as the “right to return” and commemorating the shaheeds.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Story of the Olympics

...was, I assured my friends abroad, the wonder of the games, the fun of the gathering, and the wonder of meeting people from all over the world. Of course, I told my friends, it was easiest for us Israelis - we had no expectations of taking gold, didn't dream of silver and rarely even thought of bronze. What would come, would come.

I felt that my friends in the States were missing the glory when focusing on the gold...and that held...until Israel took a bronze medal!

Shachar Zubari, a 22-year-old soldier from Eilat, won Israel's seventh medal in Olympic history but only the first of the Beijing games - when he came from behind to win a bronze in windsurfing. Zubari began the race off Qingdao beach in fourth place. To win a medal, he had to finish the last race at least four places ahead of the three competitors in front of him.

Remarkably, he overcame a horrible beginning in which he returned to the starting line in the erroneous belief that his start had been disqualified. He made up for his delay, ultimately reaching second place in the race and third-place overall, earning the bronze medal. Zubari's medal is only one Israel is expected to win this year, after many hopefuls have disappointed.

Fellow windsurfer Gal Friedman, from Pardes Hanna, won Israel's only gold medal ever in the Athens Olympics in 2004. Israel's Olympic medal history is a short one.

The first came in 1992, in Barcelona, when Yael Arad and Oren Smadja snagged silver and bronze medals, respectively, in Judo. In 1996, Friedman won a bronze for windsurfing inAtlanta, and in 2000, Michael Kolganov won a bronze for kayaking. In 2004, Arik Ze'evi from Bnei Brak won a bronze medal in Judo. But this year, most dramatically, Ze'evi failed to win a medal, his tearful post-match lament being the most newsworthy event of the Olympics here in Israel until, thankfully, Zubari's come-from-behind windsurfing effort.

Imagine all the Beatles...

Sometimes it just takes a little longer for a dream to come true - and that may be the case with Paul McCartney coming to Israel. So, if you happen to be in Israel in September and happen to be a Beatles fan - now's your chance...

According to CNN, who recently posted about the long-awaited concert:

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Some 43 years after a Beatles concert was -- according to popular belief -- banned by Israel, Paul McCartney has announced he'll perform there in September.

Paul McCartney says he's looking forward to playing a concert in Israel next month. The show, which will be held September 25 in Tel Aviv, had been rumored for onths. Promoters are saying it will be one of the biggest concerts ever held in Israel, and they hope it will encourage other top stars to come to Israel.

Israelis "will finally get the chance to experience a night of music and history they have been waiting decades for," a news release on McCartney's Web site announced Wednesday. Two plane loads of equipment will be arriving with around 100 McCartney production people. The concert will cost around $10 million to produce and the organizers said they are hoping to make a profit.

McCartney is billing the Tel Aviv show his "Friendship First" concert. "I've heard so many great things about Tel Aviv and Israel, but hearing is one thing and experiencing it for yourself is another," McCartney said in the news release. "We are planning to have a great time and a great evening. We can't wait to get out there and rock."

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Back to Helping the World, Department

No matter what is happening in the realm of sports and politics, Israelis continue to reach out to help others. Quietly at times and other times with a bit more splash, Israelis are helping make it a better world.

Following is a wonderful example. There is no cholera in Israel - at least not that I remember, and yet this solution, coming out of Israel, shows our ongoing concern for others.

From Israel National News:

The Red Cross in Kenya has adopted a unique cholera prevention program developed by master degree students from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. The prevention program was found to be highly effective in prevention and management
of the disease.

The Red Cross is preparing to implement the program beyond the displaced persons camps in Kenya, where it was first put into use. The students are from Kenya, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Colombia, Uzbekistan, India and the United States, and have been studying in Israel on the one-year Legacy-Heritage International Masters in Public Health Program at Hebrew University.

There are outbreaks of cholera in Kenya every year, mostly as a result of torrential rains with accompanying floods that contaminate already inadequate water supplies. The students have determined that the disease can be prevented and fatalities easily avoided if prevention efforts are integrated into routine health care and if outbreaks of the disease are reported early enough. However, student team leader Solomon Nzioka from Kenya said that the government often denies the outbreaks out of fears of losing tourist dollars.

If Kenyan government funding is secured, the students expect that the program will
increase access to safe drinking water from 47 to 80 percent within three years. While the program is currently only being considered in Kenya, the students hope
that it will soon be utilized in other countries, such as Nigeria and Ethiopia, where they say cholera is rife.

Monday, August 11, 2008

A New Iranian Record

That's right - a new record for Iran. They have amused us for two consecutive days in a row.

They've angered us in the past, pushed us to the point of disbelief and now - twice in two days, they have amused us. Today's special news comes from their attempt to spin what can't be spun.

According to Israel National News - now they like us:

Iranian Vice President for Tourism Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie made it clear that Iranians like Israelis and Americans. "We are friends of all of humanity. There is no difference at all between the Iranians and Americans, and the Israelis are also our friends," he stated. "The Iranians believe in peace and love between people."

I still don't think I'll be going to tour Iran any time soon.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Games of Brotherhood

Unless you happen to be Iranian and a swimmer on their Olympic team. And then, the issue is not brotherhood, but who will be in the pool.

Apparently, Iranian's swimmer has decided that being separated from the Israeli swimmer by five lanes is not enough and has decided to pull out of the competition.
Iranian swimmer Mohammed Alirezaei left his lane empty instead of swimming
against Israel's Tom Be'eri, who finished fourth. He set a new Israeli record
with a 1.02:42 time in the 100-meter breaststroke category.

That's ok, actually because it just proves our point. If they can't even get in the water with us...they can't be very brave in anything else. They may have a madman for president, but clearly they have little in the way of courage and guts. Guts is what it takes to compete, not to surrender. Courage is what it takes for a young man to reach inside himself and compete after being informed of the tragic and sudden death of his father.

Israel's Olympic team may or may not come home with any medals, but for Israel, that isn't the measure of greatness because unlike the Iranians, we understand that we are there to share in the brotherhood of man. One can argue about playing on the Sabbath and participating during the nine days of Av and the fast of Tisha B'Av, but when it comes down to it, what is telling on a national level is that we did our best and fell before no one.

Iranian's swimmer can't make that claim when he couldn't even manage to get in the water.

Tisha B'Av - To Mourn, To Remember, To Overcome

Tisha B'Av is one of two major fasts in the Jewish calendar. It takes place, as the name implies, each year on the 9th day of the month of Av and culminates three weeks of sadness and mourning marking a large number of tragedies that have marked Jewish history for hundreds and even thousands of years. Both of our Holy Temples were destroyed on this day, centuries apart. Massacres and pogroms and expulsions have marked this day.

There are minor fasts that run from sunup to sundown and can often be put aside for various reasons. There are two that we do not put aside, but for major issues of health.

One is Yom Kippur, the most solemn day on our calendar. On this day, we look back at our deeds in order to look forward. We are hopeful tht the year to come will be a good one and so we use this time to reconcile the past and look at the lessones we cn learn and take into next year.

The second is Tisha B'Av. This is a day of great saddness for our people, for all that we have lost throughout out history, for all that we were not worthy. On both days, we take on the burden of mourners. We do not eat. We do not wear leather shoes.

And a very large part of both days involves remembering the consequences of our actions. On Yom Kippur, as much as we do a national reckoning, we are focused more on ourselves as individuals and our personal actions. On Tisha B'Av, our greatest sorrow is mourned. The connection to Jerusalem and our losing our Holy Temples becomes our focus above all other tragedies that have befallen our people. Few of us have had the honor to go up to the Temple Mount and even those who do have this honor are often greatly saddened by the restrictions imposed by our own government. Israel has the distinct dishonor of being the only democracy in the world that forbids someone to pray silently; the only country that would arrest someone simply for moving their lips in devotion and prayer. How sad and how appropriate, on this saddest of days, to read the following article and take a tour, if only virtually, of our holiest place.

A Virtual Tour of the Temple Mount
by Moshe Feiglin

On the 19th of every Hebrew month I have the privilege to guide a group of Jews on the Temple Mount . At 7:30 in the morning, I wait at the main entrance to the Western Wall for the people who will join me. The people who come are not average tourists. Before they arrive, they purify themselves in a ritual bath, put on non-leather shoes and make sure that they know where it is permissible by Jewish law to walk on the Temple Mount.

This week is part of the period of mourning for our destroyed, holy Temple . As such, I invite you to join me here for a virtual tour. I hope that someday you will join me in Jerusalem for the real thing.

At 7:30 we enter the side entrance that leads to the Mugrabim Gate. Well, we don't really enter. Other groups of tourists from around the world or groups of Israelis who look like tourists sail right past the security. But for us - the Jews who look like Jews - there is a special procedure. We must undergo a body check. On the surface, it seems like the police are searching for weapons, as is the norm in all public places since the Oslo 'Peace' Accords descended upon us. But actually, they are searching for something much more dangerous. They are searching for prayer books. One time, a particularly industrious policeman caught me with a Grace after Meals card that I always carry in my wallet. I began to laugh and almost got myself arrested.

After it is clear that we are free of any dangerous prayer materials, we undergo a briefing. The group is sternly informed that it is forbidden to pray on the Temple Mount - the site of the Jewish holy Temple . "Whoever prays," the policeman warns, "will be arrested, and will not be allowed on the Temple Mount next time." After that degrading ceremony, we ascend to the holiest place in the world. The yearning for this place and for the Temple that will be built upon it has preserved our identity for close to 2,000 years.

We gingerly step onto the wooden bridge that will bring us to the Mugrabim Gate,
above the Western Wall. Before we enter the gate, I ask my group to look down
below, to the Herodian street that was uncovered in the archeological digs in and around the Temple Mount This is the street on which Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi
Tarfon walked. On the day of the destruction of the Temple , 1,938 years ago,
Roman soldiers toppled the huge stones of the Western Wall onto the street below. This pile of rocks was unearthed and wisely left by the archeologists as it had been found. It provides us with a snapshot of the day that the Temple was destroyed.

With awe in our hearts we enter the Temple Mount . The awe is almost immediately
sidelined by what feels like an emotional sledgehammer to the head. Arab children are playing soccer. Other Arabs sit in the shade and chew on a sandwich. The Temple Mount looks like a Moslem park. Our holy Temple of the past peeks out at us from everywhere, but you have to be able to see past the sorry picture of the present. Exquisitely crafted marble pillars from the Second Temple period are scattered about the Mount. Remnants of the gold plating that covered the pillars can still be detected in the cracks.

A Moslem guard joins our group. He keeps his eyes on our lips. If he sees someone
whispering a prayer, he immediately informs the Jewish policeman, who will call
extra forces to arrest the “criminal”.

And now, we stand at the entrance to the Hulda Gates. It is from here that the Jews
who came from near and far for the Jewish holidays would enter the Temple Mount.. It was here that, after days of walking to Jerusalem , they would finally see the Temple in all its glory. We can imagine how, when they would come face to face with the house of G-d, they would bow down with intense devotion. We stand silently as we face the Dome of the Rock that covers the Foundation Stone, the site of the Holy of Holies. We tightly seal our lips. Remember, it is forbidden for Jews to pray here.

We continue. Off to the side we see what looks like a pile of junk. We approach the
pile. This is not junk, but huge, ancient wooden planks. When a fire broke out at the Dome of the Rock a number of years ago, large amounts of these planks were removed from there. A Jewish man managed to buy some of those planks from an Arab junk dealer. He sent them for botanical examination and for Carbon-14 dating. The tests showed that the planks are made of cedar and cypress trees - the very same trees cited in the Book of Kings - the trees that Hiram the king of Tzor sent to King Solomon to build the 1st Temple. The lab dated the trees to the 1st Temple period. When a 2,000 year-old boat was discovered in the Sea of Galilee, a museum was built in Ginosar to house the vessel that may have carried the Jew who founded Christianity. But remnants of the 1st Temple? Just throw them into the junk pile. That is how Israel relates to its Jewish identity.

We continue to walk. The Arabs have been digging through the center of the mountain for years and have already cleared an immense area that now houses the largest mosque in the Middle East. They do their best to destroy any remnant of the Jewish Temple. The Israeli government allows them to dig and destroy as they please. Piles of debris - chock full of ancient, priceless artifacts - are regularly trucked off to Jerusalem garbage dumps. Jews who pick through the piles of debris have found amazing artifacts from both Temples. The gray tone of the debris piqued the interest of Temple loyalists. Laboratory tests confirmed what they suspected. The dominant factor in the debris is ash. 1,938 years ago, a huge fire burned here.

We reach the entrance of the sanctuary. This is where the priests raised their hands to bless Israel . We stand in silence. Strong emotions of awesome sanctity and horrifying degradation storm through our hearts. And here we end our virtual tour. I have presented you with just a taste of what we experience on the Temple Mount. Whoever wishes to learn more is welcome to join me on the 19th of every month.

The famous, prophetic poet, Uri Tzvi Greenberg, wrote: "He who rules the Temple
Mount rules the Land of Israel ." The Temple Mount is the beating heart of the
Land of Israel . Our national heart is no longer circulating the blood to our organs. On the periphery - in Sderot and Ashkelon - gangrene has set in and begun to spread. When Jews give the keys to the Mount to a foreign nation, they forgo the justice of their claim to any other part of the Land. The most important weapon that a nation can have - belief in the justice of its cause - has been denied us, and we steadily retreat. If we deny the Mount, we cannot claim that our cause is just. Not in Jerusalem and not in Tel Aviv.

If we want to return to ourselves - to our moral health, our culture, our security and our destiny - if we want to bring peace to our Land and to the world, we must remember the destroyed house of G-d and tenaciously return to the Temple Mount.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Stories of Yesterday, Proven Facts Today

Part of living in the Holy Land is recognizing that this is a special land in so many ways. Holy to three major religions, the crossroads of the world in many ways, the land often gives forth the truth that so many want to deny. Dig in the ground here, and you are digging into history. Not mere decades or even centuries, but millenia peel away.

The Dead Sea scrolls are just one example but there are many others. Those who seek to deny Israel's past and the Jewish connection to this land are quickly defeated, not by the words of politicians, but by the land itself.

A recent article about yet another archeaological wonder confirming, yet again, the Jewish connection to the land was recently found in Israel.

From Israel National News:

Archaeologists have unearthed proof of another Biblical story at Jerusalem's ancient City of David, this time corroborating the Book of Jeremiah. A completely intact seal impression, or "bula", bearing the name Gedaliahu ben Pashur was uncovered. The bula is actually a stamped engraving made of mortar.

Gedaliahu ben Pashur's bula was found a bare few meters away from the site where a second such seal, this one belonging to Yuchal ben Shlemiyahu, an elder in the court of King Tzidkiyahu, was found three years ago, at the entrance to the City of David.

According to Professor Eilat Mazar of Jerusalem's Hebrew University, who led the dig, the ancient Hebrew letters "are very clearly preserved." The seal impression was found in clay, she said.

In the Book of Jeremiah (38:1-4), both men were ministers to King Tzidkiyahu, who reigned from 597-586 BCE. The two, along with another pair demanded the death penalty for the prophet Jeremiah in response to his plea for the king to surrender the city to the oncoming hordes of the Babylonian conqueror Nebuchadnezzer.