Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Sounds of the Shofar

More rockets fell on Sderot on Tuesday, this time hitting a home and lightly injuring the residents. Over the last few days the IDF has continued its strategic raids in the West Bank and Gaza. Six Arab men were arrested attempting to infiltrate from Gaza by scaling the eighteen-foot high concrete wall with a rope ladder. The men were caught. According to the IDF spokesman, the men were apparently attempting to infiltrate into Israel in order to find work.

Reportedly the concrete wall separating Israel from Gaza has no electronic sensors, as does the electrified separation fence, making the wall relatively easy to breach. Members of the nearby Moshavim who were interviewed on Israel Television complained about the poor security. One farmer pointed to the wall looming over the edge of his hothouse. “ I carry a gun,” he said, displaying his M-16 automatic rifle. “This is my protection.”

The solution to the problem in Gaza seems no closer, according to informed sources. IDF soldier Gilad Shalit is still imprisoned in some secret dungeon in Gaza where he celebrated his birthday two years after his kidnapping.

The Israeli press reported that Israel is concerned with major arms shipments into Gaza. According to Maj. General Moshe Kaplinsky, Iran has shipped Russian-made weapons to Syria that made their way through tunnels in the Egyptian desert and into Gaza. Among the weapons are sophisticated anti-tank rockets.

On Tuesday an IDF Major luckily escaped with his life when he took a wrong turn in his army jeep and wound up in the West Bank town of Jenin. He was rescued by the Palestinian Authority’s police force. The Israel government is making much of this cooperation between the IDF and the PA security services. The major is reportedly going to stand before a disciplinary committee. Apparently he took a road forbidden to the IDF, drove through an army checkpoint, and then took a wrong turn, winding up in the Arab city.

This major was lucky. Nearly a decade ago two Israeli soldiers took a wrong turn and wound up in Ramallah. In that instance the two men were set upon by angry crowds, brought into the Ramallah police headquarters, then lynched. Their bodies were dragged through the streets of Ramallah behind a car.

The northern border with Lebanon and Syria is quiet, but Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak has said that Hezbollah has as many as 20,000 rockets, more than Hezbollah had prior to the outbreak of the War in Lebanon II. Barak said that the tension with Syria had eased, and a war is not imminent.

A flap rose over a comment by Shas party mentor Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. Rabbi Yosef, a well-respected Torah sage, has made impolite remarks in the past that caused his supporters no end of misery. This gaff blamed lack of belief in God for the death of those soldiers who fell in Lebanon. Rabbi Yosef ignored the scores of religious soldiers who died in those fierce battles. A cartoon in the Haaretz Newspaper showed Shas leader Eli Ishai hiding behind his desk while an aide calls from the doorway that more reporters are on the line wanting an explanation of the Rabbi’s remarks.

Gad Yaacobi, 72, former cabinet minister and one-time high ranking Labor party leader died on Monday in Canada during a complicated heart surgery. Yaacobi had flown to Canada for the specialized surgery. According to political analyst Hannan Crystal, speaking on Israel Radio’s Reshet Bet, Yaacobi was Shimon Peres’ main counsel starting back in the 1960’s. By the early 90’s, however, the young guard of the Labor party came to power and excluded Yaacobi from the Knesset list. According to Crystal this was a tragic loss for Israel and the Labor party. Crystal said that Yaacobi was intelligent, urbane, a humanist, and an idealist. He was replaced by men, according to Crystal, who were interested in their own rise to power, not the good of the country, or the party. Crystal said that the country could use men like Yaacobi now, rather than those in power, or in the wings.

Changes are taking place on the face of Jerusalem. A new tower is rising at the entrance to the city which spans the new bridge that is to carry the new light-rail into the train’s new terminal. Once completed the new tower will hold an illuminated arch meant to welcome visitors to Jerusalem. The light-rail, when completed, will run from Mt. Herzl through the city to the far northeastern suburb of Pisgat Zeev.

Another rail project kicks off Saturday night when the new extension to the town of Modiin is hooked up to the line that now stops at Ben Gurion airport. The ride from Modiin to Tel Aviv, with a compulsory stop at Ben Gurion Airport, is scheduled to take twenty-minutes. A fast rail system is on the drawing boards for Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The ride is scheduled to take less than an hour. At present a train runs the old route and takes nearly three hours, although passengers say the scenery is worth the extra time.

Temperatures in Israel are in the high nineties. Schools are out until September 2. The annual teacher’s strike negotiations have begun. Without the teacher’s strike looming, and salaries up for renegotiations, the start of the school year wouldn’t be recognizable.

Israel’s economy is expanding. This caused Bank of Israel head Stanley Fisher to raise interest rates in an attempt to dampen the economy.

A two-page ad in both Haaretz and the Jerusalem Post caused a stir on Tuesday. Russian-Israeli billionaire Arcadi Gaydamack took out the ad and accused Prime Minister Olmert and his government of malfeasance in office, spite, and jealousy. Gadaymack became a Robin Hood figure in Israel during the War in Lebanon II when he set up “refugee camps” for residents fleeing the rocket attacks. The government was shamed into admitting that the Home Front Command wasn’t as competent as Gadaymack.

The Russian billionaire said he was also approached to help build bomb shelters in Sderot, but the government stopped him after he’d built about forty, saying he was not authorized to carry out the construction. Gadaymack claims PM Olmert is preventing the performance of good deeds out of embarrassment that the government cannot carry out their own safety measures for the citizenry of Israel.

Right-wing politician Avigdor Leiberman, of the Yisrael Beitainu party, told the press on Tuesday that he was in favor of economic sanctions against Iran not military strikes. Leiberman was speaking on an Iranian language Parsi broadcast. He said that Iranian leaders all had their secret bank accounts stashed in Switzerland and other places, and were well taken care of in the event of a military strike. But it was the common man who would suffer in a war, not the Iranian leaders. Leiberman offered no details of which Iranians had bank accounts outside of Iran nor which banks and countries such accounts were in.

The Wakf, the Muslim authority in control of the Temple Mount, where the Mosque of Omar and the Al Aksa Mosque sit, have begun more excavations without proper archeological supervision. The Wakf has lately begun to ignore Israeli authority over the site. Israeli archeologist complain that the site is the most holy place in the Jewish lexicon, and should be respected. The Wakf has so far ignored all pleas. However, when Israel erected a temporary bridge leading to the Temple Mount the Wakf made a worldwide plea to stop the work. Israel has yet to take the same action.

The Jewish High Holidays approach rapidly. Each morning the sounds of the shofar can be heard echoing off the walls inside the synagogues and drifting out the open windows floating through the neighborhoods. Synagogue seating arrangements are being made, families are deciding who will attend whose dinners, without upsetting one family of in-laws or another. The Holidays bring a reminder of the Yom Kippur War, and then other wars in Israel. Lately information has been published claiming that the former Soviet Union was behind precipitating the 1967 Six-Day war, including detailed plans to destroy Israel’s nuclear reactor in Dimona. However, Israel defeated the Egyptian Army before they could launch their first air sortie, and then made short shrift of the remainder of the Egyptian and Syrian armies. Had the Jordanians not joined the battle, they would still possess the West Bank and the Arab towns and villages along with them.

With the approach of the High Holidays, one wonders if any of Israel's vocal enemies will decide to launch a sneak attack, as the Egyptians did on Yom Kippur in 1973. Defence Minister Ehud Barak has announced the pullback of some troops from the Golan Heights for the holidays. If this is true, then by all indications the holiday season will be relatively peaceful.