Friday, May 25, 2007

Israelis take stock of their middle-aged state

By Gil Troy, Canadian Jewish News, May 25, 2007

Like vigorous baby boomers who wonder whether their current good health or inevitable decline is the more defining reality, Israelis celebrated their country’s 59th anniversary uncertain about the state of their state.

From the outside, Iranians’ and Palestinians’ genocidal threats – reinforced by a relentless assault on Israel’s politics, history and ideology – makes the Jewish national project appear precarious. From within, post-Lebanon-war recriminations, political corruption, ideological drift, and social tensions intensify the pessimism.

Yet, this supposedly dysfunctional society is remarkably functional. Palestinian terrorism has been reduced, with the improved security restoring Israel’s characteristically vibrant normalcy. The stock market is booming as Israelis continue their friendly competition with Americans for the title of world’s most charitable citizens, based on donations per capita. Even the summertime war produced a bomb-shelter-induced baby boom this spring. Never underestimate a country whose citizens can transform being bombed into making babies.

The magic numbers four billion, 3,186,739, 257,000, 9.2 and 2.7 quantify Israel’s everyday miracles.

• Billionaire Warren Buffett spent $4 billion buying Iscar, part of foreigners’ $23.7 billion investment in Israel’s economy, which grew 4.5 per cent in 2006.

• In a country of seven million people, 3,186,739 Israelis voted in the 2006 election, the Middle East’s 17th free election, uniquely involving Muslims, Christian and Jews.

Israel’s marvellous universities teach 257,000 students cutting-edge and traditional skills.

• The percentage of the Israeli economy devoted to the non-profit sector – 9.2 per cent, ranking the county fourth worldwide – illustrates Israelis’ exceptional commitment to charity, volunteering, and tikkun olam, fixing the world.

• Finally, the Israeli Jewish birthrate of 2.7 children per woman represents the highest rate among developed countries. More than 100,000 new babies last year joined a future-oriented, family-friendly, community-building, values-rich society.

Still, the country faces serious problems, many of which are Israel’s version of broader western dilemmas. While Israel’s quest for peace with its hostile neighbours is unique, the underlying dilemma is familiar to post-9/11 westerners. Many Israelis have lost faith in diplomacy. The failure of the Oslo peace process to yield peace despite major Israeli concessions, along with the exterminationist culture feeding Islamist terrorism, has made many peaceniks skeptics. Diplomacy requires certain common rules and limits. Just as Cold War liberals wondered whether it was possible to negotiate with Communists, most Israelis and westerners doubt diplomacy can work with jihadists.

While Israel’s neighbours need to restore Israeli faith in diplomacy, Israel’s leaders need to re-establish their people’s trust. The scale of corruption is outrageous. Israelis wonder whether their leaders are a particularly bad bunch, whether society is experiencing a deeper values crisis, or whether the investigative scrutiny magnifies misdeeds into major crimes. Amid the modern media magnifying glass, Israel desperately needs worthy successors to David Ben-Gurion and Menachem Begin, founding fathers of the country who despised each other ideologically while both leading simple, modest lives.

Whatever explanation people offer for the corruption contagion, Israel’s material success has triggered a broader cultural crisis that all westerners will recognize. The new generation of Israelis – especially the secular majority – tends to be wealthier, more individualistic, more self-confident and more selfish than the founders’ generation of only decades ago.

Modern Israelis, like so many of us, are the children of modern consumerism, with television-compressed attention spans and iPod-induced self-involvement that’s balanced out by computer-fed creativity and connectivity. Israelis have to develop a communal ethos that cultivates modern individualism and ingenuity without abandoning a sense of national mission and idealism.

For a people battered recently and historically, the ability to be normal is quite exceptional. Living well truly is the best revenge, a repudiation of Nazi exterminationism as well as Palestinian terrorism. Israelis do and should delight in sharing their modern dilemmas with fellow westerners. At the same time, this celebration of normalcy and the powerful realities of daily living should not eclipse the special dimensions of Israeli life or the country’s unique challenges, even though they appear to Israelis living through them as quite normal, or at least familiar.

The Zionist revolution built on Jews’ exceptional history and sense of togetherness while promoting a vision of national normalcy. Modern Israel dances on the head of a similar pin, hoping, like the traditional fiddler on the roof, not just to keep balance but to live a life filled with meaning and joy.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Kassam rocket lands in Sderot factory

Jerusalem Post, May 17, 2007

A Kassam rocket fired from the Gaza Strip struck a factory in Sderot on Thursday evening.

The factory burst into flames and firefighters worked frantically to extinguish the blaze.

No casualties were reported.

(An man is seen through the shattered glass of a car that was hit by a rocket in Sderot Thursday

Photo: AP)

Elsewhere, Kassam rockets landed in two western Negev Kibbutzim and south of Ashkelon.

In one of the kibbutzim a rocket landed on a petting zoo, injuring farmyard animals and causing damage.

Another rocket landed in an open area outside Sderot. No one was wounded and no damage was reported.

(A teacher comforts a student after a rocket hit their school in Sderot.
Photo: AP)

By 7 p.m., 16 Kassam hits had been reported in Sderot and the western Negev. Magen David Adom paramedics were treating a mother and her nine-year-old daughter, both of whom were suffering from shock. A car was also damaged.

Another rocket hit a high school near Sapir College earlier in the day, causing significant damage and lightly wounding two pupils.

A moshav in the Eshkol Regional Council also suffered a Kassam hit. One of its greenhouses was reportedly damaged, but no one was wounded.


Meanwhile, dozens of Sderot residents barged into Mayor Eli Moyal's office, demanding his help in evacuating the city.

Israel Radio reported that more than 1,000 people had fled Sderot. Among the evacuees were 90 families with at least one member considered mentally disabled.

The angry Sderot residents stormed into the mayor's office after hearing that the Defense Ministry had ordered a halt to the evacuation of families from Sderot.

Also Thursday, a survey inspecting the shelters in the western Negev town showed that eighty bomb shelters in Sderot were unfit for use.

(May 16, 2007

18 wounded as 20 rockets hit Sderot. A young girl from Sderot reacts after her house was hit by a Kassam rocket fired by Hamas from the Gaza Strip Tuesday.

Photo: AP )

Israel Radio reported that due to a shortage of funds to renovate the shelters, they were being used to store scrap metal.

Only 36 Sderot shelters are in active use, although they too are in need of extensive repair work, it emerged from the survey.

On Wednesday night, a Kassam rocket reportedly hit a four-story apartment building in the city. Several people were reportedly suffering from shock as a result, while another rocket hit a transformer, knocking out electricity in parts of the city.

Earlier Wednesday, the Sderot Municipality prepared to temporarily evacuate 4,000 residents after Palestinians fired approximately 50 rockets into the area around the Gaza border within 24 hours.

A 70-year-old woman sustained serious shrapnel wounds when a Kassam rocket hit her Sderot home, and was evacuated to Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon. A man was lightly wounded in the attack, and four others were treated for shock, bringing the total number of shock victims for the day to 18.

Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.

Secret report: Chances captive survived are slim

Yedioth Ahronoth reveals secret IDF report on two soldiers kidnapped by Hizbullah last summer. Report says one of troops 'at least' seriously injured, second one is probably dead
Ynet, May 17, 2007

A secret IDF report given to the families of kidnapped soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev stated that one of the troops was "probably hit by an RPG bomb, and the chances for a person to survive such an injury without receiving immediate complex medical treatment requiring surgical skills are slim."

Regev and Goldwasser were kidnapped by Hizbullah on July 12, 2006, and the abduction led to an Israeli military response, which developed into the Second Lebanon War.

Regarding the second missing soldier, the secret report stated that "his condition is (at least) serious, after he was apparently hurt by an RPG bomb… and lost a lot of blood.

The report also says that the soldiers probably did not receive medical treatment in light of Hizbullah fighter's need to escape. The injured troops were carried out of the burning patrol vehicle on the shoulders of two Hizbullah fighters and were taken into Lebanon.

The report, which was not shown to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert during the war, is not based on intelligence information, but on findings at the scene of the kidnapping.

The IDF said in response, "Our work premise is that they are both alive."

The full details on the secret report and additional and surprising revelations from Ronen Bergman's book 'The point of no return' will be published Friday by Yedioth Ahronoth.

Jerusalem Day 5767

Celebrating 40 years of a unified capital

The Temple Mount and Jerusalem.
Photo: Ariel Jerozolimski

  • Did Israel want the Six Day War?: Historian Michael Oren reviews new versions of traditional Zionist histories
  • Six Days of War: A timeline of the historic war
  • City under siege: A young American writer's first-person account of a miracle victory
  • Homeland security: An interview with Menashe Ben-Ari about his experience during the liberation of Jerusalem

  • Divided celebration: A Wadi Joz resident explains his reasons for not celebrating Jerusalem Day
  • A new rallying point: Events in Hebron and Homesh show that much remains the same since '67

  • IDF soldiers next to the tower of David in Jerusalem's Old City.
    Photo: AP

  • Which Jerusalem?: The debate over identifying the capital's geographic boundaries
  • Finding ourselves: The archeological treasures unearthed beneath the IDF's battlegrounds
  • Yearning for the Old Yishuv: Dreaming for the way things were and may someday be
  • Jerusalem after 40 years: Religious rebirth after the war
  • Creating new boundaries: Tom Segev's 1967
  • Jerusalem of (Dore) Gold: A new book explains why the city holy to three religions must remain in Jewish hands
  • Jerusalem Day event
  • Monday, May 7, 2007

    Israel supporters march in N.Y.

    Thousands of Israel supporters marched in New York City. Organizers estimated that some 100,000 people marched with floats and flags up Fifth Avenue through the city's midtown celebrating the anniversary of Israel's founding in 1948.

    Among those attending Sunday's Salute to Israel Parade were New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, U.S. Reps. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.), New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski.

    For more photos visit:

    100,000 March for Israel in New York City

    100,000 March for Israel in New York City

    by Hillel Fendel

    ( Over 100,000 Israel-supporters marched up Fifth Avenue in New York City on Sunday in the colorful and spirited annual Salute to Israel Parade.

    When it ended, some 20,000 of them packed into Central Park for an activism-geared Israel Day Concert.

    Photo: Steven Posner

    The parade was led by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, accompanied by Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupoliansky. Various delegations and floats represented synagogues, temples and Jewish day schools from the greater New York area - and even from Maimonides Academy in Los Angeles. The Nefesh B'Nefesh Aliyah organization, Israel's Ministry of Tourism, El Al Israel Airlines, Hadassah, JDate, the Yachad organization of the Orthodox Union, and many more were also represented.

    Click here to hear the Israel Day Concert with Israel National Radio's Rabbi Tovia Singer
    Hour One Hour Two Hour Three

    Photo: Steven Posner

    Participating politicians included New York Governor Eliot Spitzer and Congressmen Reps. Jerrold Nadler and Anthony Wiener.

    At the concert, MC'ed by radio host Nachum Segal, keynote speaker MK Effie Eitam (National Union) updated the crowd on the current political, military and social situation in Israel. The event focused on Israel's captives - particularly Gilad Shalit (held in Gaza), Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev (both apparently held in Lebanon), and Jonathan Pollard (imprisoned in the United States).

    Photo: Steven Posner

    Performers included Hassidic-music singers Shloime Dachs, Shlomo Katz, the Piamenta brothers, the Israeli-American trio Yood, Jewish rapper Remedy (Ross Filler), Kosha Dillz, Gershon Veroba, rock-and-reggae band Pey Dalid, and Chaim Kiss.

    Photo: Steven Posner

    Photo: Steven Posner

    Photo: Steven Posner

    Photo: Steven Posner

    Photo: Steven Posner

    Photo: Steven Posner


    Steven Posner's pictures courtesy of Jacob Richman - see more at his website.