Friday, September 28, 2007

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad epitomizes all that is bad in the world: religious fanaticism, devilish slyness, wolfish cunning. The clever President of Iran managed to finesse democracy, which he eschews, to his own purposes; he took the pulpit at both Columbia University and the UN as if it were a sermon during the holy Moslem month of Ramadan.

He capped off his chutzpah with an invitation to U.S. President George W. Bush to speak in Iran.

Not unusual for despots to use freedom and democracy to their own purposes when the need arises.

Does that mean that Iran has ceased from its ambition of toppling the USA and Western Democracies? Nah, not for a second.

Does that mean that Iran has decided to liberalize its country to allow women equality? Nah.

Does it mean that the world is safer? Nah.

The bottom line is that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad behaved much as any dictator does when speaking in the enemy camp: he dissimulates with aplomb, tongue in cheek, happy to capture the public stage for his own purposes.

Columbia's President Bollinger was caught in a hard place. He had to insult Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad before the despot even opened his mouth, in order to distance himself from the pudding-minded dead of international affairs Cotsworth who had the ignorant audacity to invite the maniacal killer to address a liberal audience in the name of freedom of speech.

But that is all over, now. Israel has absorbed dozens of mortar attack from Hamas over the last few days, and gone into Gaza in a military operation. Minister of Defence Ehud Barak has said that a massive attack on Gaza is imminent. Will that solve any problems? Not really, but it will keep Hamas off balance for a few weeks. And then for a few more weeks. No longer will they be able to hit Israel with impunity.

The new strategy is, apparently, that the US and Israel and the EU can put enough pressure on Hamas economically and militarily that the Gaza population will decide Hamas isn't worth supporting any longer.

Will this plan work? Time will tell.

Meanwhile, the festival of the booths continues. Thousands of years have passed, and Jews still arrange to sit in make-shift shacks and tents as a reminder of the Exodus from slavery and oppression in Egypt.

A few days away on holiday at Chof Dor, which dates back to the time of the early Hebrews, to the Greeks, Romans, Crusaders, and even Bonaparte, is a reminder of the extensive history which envelopes the region like an ephemeral mist. The struggles of today are merely replicas of previous struggles, in different forms, with different enemies, and tomorrow other struggles will take place. One wonders if the HOly Land isn't simply a preternatural metaphor for life and existence on this planet, and if so, is there anything to learn we don't already know?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Time and Patience the two best warriors

Israel’s security cabinet decided on Wednesday to make life difficult for the Palestinians living in Gaza by imposing economic and other sanctions while declaring Gaza a ‘hostile entity.’ The left-wing Meretz party called the move dangerous and foolish. Hamas called the move an ‘act of war.’ Some Israeli analysts said it was a move that came too late.

Retired General Uzi Dayan has said that more needs to be done to stop the Kassam rockets from falling on Israel’s Southern towns.

It is possible that the government feels emboldened after its successful raid on a reported Syrian uranium enrichment site near the Turkish border. It is also possible that the government wanted to do something to offset the death of St.-Sgt. Ben-Zion Henman, 22, from the Golan Heights settlement of Nov. Sgt Henman was a paratrooper in the brigade's Reconnaissance Unit. He was shot in the chest during an IDF incursion into Nablus searching for a terrorist group reportedly planning an attack on Israel. Sgt Henman died en route to the hospital. Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) claimed responsibility for the shooting.
It was bad luck for the Sargent, who had only two weeks left to serve in the army before his enlistment ended. He was wearing full military gear, including a bulletproof vest reinforced with ceramic plates, but the bullet managed to find the soft spot on his side where nothing was in place to stop it.
IDF troops continued their activities in Nablus on Wednesday, reportedly killing two Palestinian militants and one 38-year old handicapped bystander.
Iran has said it has methods to strike at Israel should Israel strike Iran. This came out of the mouth of one of Iran’s air force officers. Some reports say Iran claims it can blanket Israel with up to 600 rockets. Iran said that allies would also join in the attacks. It is assumed the Iranians mean Hamas in Gaza, the Syrians and Hezbollah in Lebanon.
The bomb that ripped through Christian East Beirut took the lives of five Lebanese including a member of parliament Antoine Ghanem, an anti-Syrian member of the right-wing Christian Phalange Party. It is unclear who was responsible for the blast. Syria is still under investigation for the blast that killed former PM Hariri, an anti-Syrian Lebanese billionaire.
The fourth annual Israel film industry’s business conference took place on Tuesday at Cinema City near Herzliya. A number of panels discussed topic relevant to the production of TV shows in Israel, the laws empowering the government to provide funding to television and film and the issue of minorities represented on TV.
One panel was made up of an ultra-orthodox film producer, two Israeli Arab women producers, and Uri Orbach, a religious member of one of the commercial channels in Israel. According to Orbach, the modern orthodox had to fight long and hard to get on TV, including starting their own film schools. He recommended the Arab community do the same, as well as turning to wealthy Arabs from outside of Israel for funding. The women countered that Israel would never let monies from Saudi Arabia come into the country even if it was to support a film school.
Some of the Arab women’s criticisms were foolish, and probably meant only to get attention, and a job on Israel TV. One of the women admitted she wanted to be a on-camera talent. She was a stunning well-spoken women who deserves a place, but was wrong when she said no Arabs were working at Israel TV stations. Rafik Halabi had long been a reporter and editor of the Hebrew evening news at the Israel Broadcasting Authority, as well as other Arab men and women, albeit very few.
An ill-fated all Arab station, broadcasting 12-hours a day, was taken off the air after a short run because of budgetary constraints. As of now the Israel Broadcasting Authority has to find ways to stay in business. One serious consideration is halving the workforce, either by dismissals or forced early retirement. Most Israelis eschew Israel Broadcasting Authorities channel 1 in favor of the commercial channels.
The PM is keeping a low profile these days. But his popularity rating has soared 10 per cent after the recent bombing of the Syrian uranium plant. The Winograd commission is still meeting, and their report is expected to be damning. However, pundits believe that given the volatility of the Middle East, should any number of things happen, from an attack on Israel by Iran or Hezbollah or Syria, and should Israel withstand it successfully, Olmert may be exonerated making the Winograd commission’s findings a mute point.
As Tolstoy wrote in War and Peace, “Time and patience are the two best warriors.”

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Syrian Sky

The Israeli air force’s reported attack against a Syrian target ten days ago is still making the new, although the Israeli government has yet to make an official comment. The night the news of the attack on Syria was reported, Israel TV cameras photographed Israel’s Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi with a big grin on his face.

On Sunday morning Knesset member Tzachi HaNegbi, a confidant of PM Olmert, said on Israel Radio’s Reshet Bet that Israel’s policy of no comment was clearly working.

The international media was filled with reports on the purpose of the attack. The reports vary from Israel striking a shipment from N. Korea officially listed as carrying cement but really filled with parts for a nuclear reactor, to reports that the strike was on a uranium enrichment plant in the desert near Turkey constructed with the help of N. Korea. Some reports focus on the fact that the ship suspiciously changed its flag from N.Korean to S.Korean when it sailed towards Syria.

One report has as many as eight Israeli F-15I and F-16 jet fighters armed with Maverick missiles and 500lb bombs, as well as an UAV, Israel’s Ofek 7 satellite, sending pristine detailed pictures of the site, and Israeli special forces ground troops spotting for the laser-guided smart bombs, all taking part in the attack.

Syria denies it has a uranium enrichment plant. Syria claims Israel fired missiles in the desert and fled after Syrian planes chased them off. During the Syrian-Israeli war of attrition in the late 1970’s Syria reported it had destroyed all of Israel’s planes in a dogfight, when in fact Syria lost every plane it sent up in the sky. Israeli military observers say Syria is known for bombastic statements with little basis in fact.

According to the London Sunday Times, Israel had been considering an air strike against Syrian targets since late spring, following Mossad chief Meir Dagan’s briefing of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, presenting proof that Damascus was trying to buy a nuclear device from North Korea.

An Israeli official reportedly told the London Sunday Times that Dagan thought the nuclear device could be fitted on Scud-C missiles and used in future military conflicts with Israel. Some press sources speculate that this raid on Syria was a training exercise for Israel’s plan to destroy Iranian nuclear facilities.

U.S.Sec of State Condeleeza Rice is due in the region on Tuesday for preliminary talks on the issues for the upcoming Mid-East summit in November. So far her only statement on the Syrian matter is to reiterate the US position that no untrustworthy states should allowed to be in possession of nuclear arms.

Press reports speculate that other parts and materials for nuclear development by Syria were supplied by Iran and sent through the underground pipeline established by the disgraced Pakistani nuclear scientist caught selling secrets to Al Queda and other terrorist groups.

N. Korea has said it has stopped its nuclear program and the sales of nuclear materials to other countries due to the tough sanctions by the US. N. Korea denies any involvement in the Syrian adventure. Analysts believe this action puts both Syria and N. Korea squarely back in the ‘axis of evil.’ International law experts say Syria may find itself vulnerable to UN sanctions

The daring Israeli raid was also meant to bolster lagging confidence in Israel’s military. According to Israeli Military Intelligence Chief Major-General Amos Yadlin, Israel has regained its high level of deterrence against Syria and Iran.

The Jewish New Year celebration ended Saturday night. The two-day New Year celebration ended as the Sabbath began, making this a three-day event. Religious families ate two festive meals per day. By the end of the weekend the traditional Fast of Gedalia, when no food or drink is ingested from sunrise to sundown, was a welcome cleansing.

Non-religious Israelis flocked to the beaches, parks and the hiking trails, if they stayed in the country. Traffic accidents claimed the lives of nearly a dozen Israelis over the weekend. A record number of Israelis flew abroad for the holiday, taking advantage of package tours to sites in Greece and Turkey. Some Israelis even defied the government’s security warnings and took their chances vacationing in Egypt’s Sinai desert, long a popular spot for Israelis. This in spite of the terrorist bombs that have struck both Sharm-El Sheik and Taba over the last decade.

A Thailand discount airlines plane crashed in the Thai resort island of Phuket. At least nine Israelis were reportedly among the over 70 dead or missing on the airline.The missing Israelis were reportedly Tal Feldman; Hila Gershoni of Holon; Hofit Eliya, 25, of Kfar Yona; Itzhak Biton of Kfar Yona; Rotem Naouri, 24, of Netanya; Adi Naim of Kfar Yona; Lily Alon of Jerusalem; Rachel Tofan of Jerusalem; and Michael Falcone, 26, of Yehud. The Thailand One-Two-Go Airlines plane skidded on a wet runway cracked in two then burst into flames during a landing in the heavy rain. Chabad said nearly 500 Israelis traveled to Phuket over the Rosh Hashana holiday bringing the estimated total of Israelis in Thailand to about 4,000. According to Chabad House Rabbi Nehemya Wilhelm, who flew into Phuket to help out after the crash, most Israelis first stop at the Chabad House in Bankok when traveling in Thailand. Chabad held Rosh Hashana services for over 1,000 people, mostly Israeli backpackers, during the New Year holiday. Chabad operates four centers in Thailand, all meeting points for Israeli travelers.

Early Sunday morning Israel switched to daylight savings time, setting the clocks back one hour. Some speculate the reason was to allow the religious men time to say their early morning “slichot” prayers and still manage to get to work at a reasonable hour. The official reason is to save money on Israel’s electric bill.

Israeli military observers say that Hamas is showing signs of collapse. This came after Hamas agreed to consider a cease-fire of rockets into Israeli territory. An unnamed Hamas official told the Yideot Achranot newspaper that Hamas had brokered a deal with other terrorist groups firing into Israel to hold their fire. The official said that Palestinian groups had agreed to consider not renewing their rocket fire unless Israel carried out targeted assassinations against senior gunmen.

Experts speculate the reason for the discussion of a ceasefire was the rocket attack on the Israeli Zikim army-training base that wounded nearly 70 soldiers. Hamas reportedly fears strong Israeli reprisals and is trying to mollify Israeli security forces before they launch a full-fledged attack on Gaza. On Sunday, Israel sent troops back to the Zikim base to resume training.

Meanwhile Palestinians fired Kassam rockets from Gaza into Israel, but there was no damage or injuries. Israel sent in troops and bulldozers into the southern Gaza strip in what the army said was a raid on a terrorist cell suspected of shooting rockets into Israel. Over thirty Palestinians were arrested for questioning.

Three Israelis were lightly injured when a sniper shot at their car on the West Bank, near the settlement of Karnei Shomron.

On Friday, Palestinians were kept out of the Temple Mount during the Jewish New Year festivities. In previous years militant Palestinians have heaved rocks down from the Temple Mount onto the Jewish worshipers at the Western Wall.

In the West Bank, Israel carried out its nearly weekly raids against suspected terrorist cells in Nablus. In Hebron a Palestinian man was killed when he opened fire on Israeli troops who had entered his neighborhood to break up a fight between feuding families. Israeli troops have become the de facto police force in the occupied territories, something that has been criticized in the past as one of the reasons for Israel’s poor showing when real combat was required in Lebanon.

According to the Haaretz newspaper, Hamas is planning a terrorist attack to disrupt the Mid-East Peace Summit scheduled to take place in November. PM Olmert and Palestinian president Abbas have kept a low profile as the talks approach. Neither man is considered strong enough to enforce any document signed at the conference.

The Israeli government on Sunday announced the formation of a National Emergency Administration, expected to be operational by 2008. The administration is expected to be the center coordinating activities between the various security and support elements of the country in times of a national emergency.

Pop star Madonna arrived in Israel just before the New Year with actress Demi Moor, fashion designer Dana Karen and other luminaries. Madonna was in Israel on a visit to the graves of Kabalistic rabbis, and to attend a Kabbala concert in Tel Aviv. Madonna is very interested in Kabala, even though she was born and raised a Catholic.

Israelis population is growing, and has reached over seven million people. The gross national product is higher than many countries in Western Europe. The U.S. Coastguard has stated that the Israeli ships are the safest on the sea. With a booming economy, a blossoming population. one can only be optimistic that the new year 5768 will be the beginning of a new age of peace and prosperity in the middle east.

Who knows? It just might. But don’t bet on it.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Sept 11, 2007 & Shana Tova

September 11, 2001 was a black day in the history of the Western world, but a day to celebrate if you were an Islamic fanatic. Hy Brown, 65, was the structural engineer of the World Trade Towers. He immigrated to Israel three years ago. According to an interview with Brown in the Jerusalem Post, the reason the towers collapsed was wet noodles. He said if you take twenty noodles and stand them up, balance a cup on top, the cup will be fine. Even if you take away nineteen noodles, the cup will still stand. But if you put water on the noodles, they’ll collapse with or without the cup. According to Brown the Twin Towers was built to withstand heat up to 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Jet fuel burns at 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The steel in the Twin Towers melted just like pouring water on noodles.

According to Brown, Bin Ladin, an engineer, knew the towers would collapse, he just underestimated the number of floors that would be effected. Brown thinks Bin Ladin’s plan was to topple the top five or six floors of the towers, send them onto other buildings, causing a domino effect. The second plane hit lower which caused the building to fall faster.

Israel has its own tragedy on a much small scale on September 11th. 69 Israeli soldiers were injured, one critically, five seriously, seven moderately, the rest lightly, when a Hamas rocket fired from Gaza fell on the Israeli Army’s Zitim training base a few kilometers from the border. The wounded soldiers were evacuated to a number of hospitals.

Parents of the wounded soldiers called for an immediate retaliation. Israel has been considering a massive group operation and while some analysts thought this attack would set off Israel’s counter-offensive, others believe the situation in the north of Israel tempers those moves. For months there have been fears that Syria may strike at Israel from the north. In the last few weeks those fears have abated, but yesterday Israeli Jets reportedly flew over Syrian airspace, fired five missiles at a Syrian target, jettisoned empty fuel tanks over Turkey, then returned unharmed to Israel.

The army is on high alert in the north and military analysts said that the Israeli army wasn’t going to risk attacking Gaza in the south and leaving the northern border and communities exposed to Syrian and Hezbollah attacks.

Major General (Res.) Yitzchak Ben-Israel, a Knesset member representing the Kadima party, said in an interview in the Yideot Achranot newspaper that “the situation in Sderot” (a neighboring town to the base) is intolerable. Ben Israel said that “deliberate firing on civilians’ is a war crime. The latest attack was on an army base, so the war crimes accusation may not apply.

As for retaliation, Ben Israel said that “there is no way to curb the activity of fanatical organizations…unless we use force.” The retired general claimed that over the last 60 years Israel has learned that striking back harder at the enemy each time an attack takes place ultimately results in the innocent Palestinian population voicing their objection to the attacks, causing the attackers to lose the support of the population, and the cessation of attacks. Ben Israel believed retaliation was necessary, but needed to be implemented in the context of an overall plan.

Israel’s newly appointed President Shimon Peres told the press, “I don’t understand why the Palestinians keep firing at us since we’re already out of Gaza.”

The Prime Minister is reported as saying that no attack would take place until at least after the Jewish holidays.

As Israel approaches the New Year the population has climbed to 7.1 million.

In another event a U.S. Cour has found Iran guilty of the July 31, 2002 bombing of the Hebrew University’s Frank Sinatra cafeteria where nine students were killed. The court ordered Iran to pay $12, 904, 548 to the family of Marla Bennet, of San Diego, who was killed in the blast. The US Judge determined that Hamas carried out the attack, and since Hamas is a supporter of Iran, then the Iranian government has to pay up.

On Monday Israel kidnapped a top Hamas militant from Gaza during a daring commando raid. Reportedly the man was spirited out of the city to a waiting helicopter and then flown to a “secure location” in Israel. The man is reportedly to be held in exchange for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit who was captured two years ago by Hamas militants.

This action coupled with the Israeli Jets flying over Syria, are reportedly examples of Minister of Defense Ehud Barak’s aggressive policy since taking over his job a few months ago; action in direction opposition to that of his predecessor who took a “no response” attitude.

In hindsight one wonders at the lack of former PM Ariel Sharon’s wisdom in appointing former Minister of Defense Amir Peretz to that post. Analysts believe that Sharon must have thought himself invulnerable, and assumed that he, not Peretz, would manage any military conflict or complication. But Sharon’s stroke proved that hubris is not only the downfall of kings but can also be the downfall of nations. Given different circumstances, like a Syrian invasion of Israel coupled with Iranian missile attacks, joined perhaps by the Egyptians if they saw a clear victory, Israel might now be flying the flag of foreign nations.

As the New Year approaches nostalgia is not far behind. Old timers remember when supermarkets weren’t guarded, and freedom to move about the airports of the world was a relatively pleasant experience. Older Americans recall the American Express commercial with then football icon O.J. Simpson hurtling over barriers, dressed in suit and tie holding a briefcase in one hand, heading for the departure gate. Today he’d be at least detained, perhaps arrested, and possibly shot for the same action. There are those who believe he deserved any of the above, but that’s another matter.

Private airplanes, so far, afford that original pleasurable experience of travel, not the tension ridden gruff affair at the hands of unsmiling security personnel. 9/11 changed the world, as we all know.

But in Israel as far back as the early 1970’s bags were searched at the entrance to supermarkets and movie theaters. This came as a response to Palestinian terrorism then quarterbacked by the late Yassir Arafat and/or his cronies.

Each time a bomb went off in a different location, guards appeard at the entraces of similar places, all across Israel. For nearly forty years Israelis have been accustomed to searches at the entrance to public places, from malls to vegetable markets. After the “Lod Massacre” when terrorists opened fire at the Israeli airport, the profile screening system went into effect.

Again, a private plane landing in a private airport still allows assassins like Bin Ladin to fly into some remote airport with a suitcase nuclear bomb and no one would even ask him for his passport.

The world has changed since 9/11, but not enough. The threat of terrorism is as great as it was six years ago. The Islamists are still in the ascendancy. Perhaps the latest law suit against Iran will put a nation’s face on the cause for terrorism. Iran was reportedly also responsible for the attack against the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires, as well as the blast on Marine base in Lebanon nearly twenty years ago.

The sages tell us that “Ain Chadash Tachet Ha Shemesh,” (there’s nothing new under the sun.) Let’s hope that with this New Year, things begin to change for the better, that the voice of reason takes hold in the streets of the Arab world and puts a stop to the wholesale slaughter perpetrated by Islamic fundamentalists in the name of God.

Let’s hope that God, wherever He or She is, finally wakes up to what’s happening in His/Her name and decides enough blood has been spilled. If not, then the only thing new that’s going to happen is another war. The only question is when, and how far will it spread?

From those of us at Jerusalem Magazine, we’d like to wish all of our faithful readers of the Jewish persuasion, and that all those of the Hebrew faith be written in the Book of Life for a Healthy, Happy, Successful New Year. And for those of other faiths, may the Lord Bless you and Keep You. And for those Islamic Fundamentalists, I can only wish you what Tevye the milkman wished the Tzar in the play ‘Fiddler On The Roof.’ “May the Lord Bless you and keep you, far away from us.” But in their case, I’d leave off the blessing, and substitute a curse. The readers can fill in the one they think most appropriate.

Shana Tova

Sunday, September 09, 2007

The Wisdom of Hillel

Every generation believes they are the most important in history. Editorial writers abound blaring about the greatest war in history waged under our noses. When the British used the long bow against the French for the first time the age of chivalry died, but so did scores of Frenchmen. The new weapon marked the rise of British colonial power.

Certainly when King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella sent Columbus sailing from Spain they believed they were on the cusp of a new era for their kingdom. Perhaps they believed it was a new era for the world, and it was, but I doubt they knew it then.

The colonial powers can trace their roots back to the first amoeba that slithered across the pond to incorporate, for the first time, another amoeba in its cell structure. Did old man amoeba brag that he’d just made history?

The egotism of our age is astounding. It is like a young adult who has no patience for their elders, since when back when the elders were young ‘things were different.’ But they weren’t really. Perhaps they simply had a different form, but not a different substance.

Is the Iphone or Ipod much different from the drumbeat of the native Americans? One is faster, and farther reaching, with the ability to send more details, but its still just a message after all. Its still just communication.

In the animal kingdom birds do a fancy dance show their plumage to inform the females they are ready to mate. This communication works, obviously, or there would be no animals, no birds, no people. A mini-skirt and tight blouse are just as significant as a peackock’s feathers, but not much different.

The scene of the monkeys attacking a rival band in 2001 is meant to show that the monkeys are no different from the humans, or even from machines who think they’re humans, like Hal. Al Jezeera, CNN, BBC, all broadcast messages. We call it news. The messages carry fear, happiness, sadness, love, and hate.

Monkeys in the form of groups of people use the media to send their messages. Osama Bin Ladin spoke on Al Jezeera, subtly threatening the Western World yet again. Cable television, once the purview of the fringe, is now mainstream. The Internet, once the playing field of the nerds, is now the place to be seen, and that’s what Osama Bin Ladin did next, went on the Internet with his messages. And what were they, like the monkey’s shaking the bones of their prey, using sticks and stones to attack their enemies, Bin Ladin first uses words, as the monkeys used their screeches, to warn of an imminent attack.

But is Bin Ladin a new phenomena? Were his two hi-jacked 747’s which flew into the twin towers any different than say the introduction of the elephant into warfare? Or gunpowder? Or the atomic bomb? The idea was always the same, win the battle, but the scope grew enormously. Much more of the world is at risk than a few dozen monkeys beating each others brains out with stones. More is at risk than a massive army of Greeks attacking Romans. Then a continent or two were at stake. Now the global village has put the entire world at risk.

But step back, look up, there are dots twinkling in the night sky. There are other planets out there, in fact there are an unimaginable number of planets. Scientists now estimate that there are billions of universes out there, trillions upon trillions of stars and planets that we know nothing about.

So, if this world is wiped out, it will hardly be noticed by the other stars, planets, and universes. Does that make the prospect of Bin Ladin succeeding any better? Nope. Does it mean we should give up, let him take over? Nope. What it means is that probably none of what we think is of paramount importance in our lives in our generations, is really that important.

Societies rise and fall, history if filled with examples from the earliest recorded scratching on some cave’s wall. We are all players in this game of life, all pawns perhaps of some great scheme. Or all just random elements banging against each other like pinballs bouncing off the obstacles on the way down the board.

It has been said that 1968 was a transitional point in history. Certainly it was transitional for the USA, for Civil Rights, for Women’s Rights, for freedom. But was 1968 any more important than 1492, when Columbus stumbled upon America; or the 11th century Crusades, when the Christians waged war against the Moslems; or 70 AD (or C.E.) when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem sending the Jews into Exile? How many transitional points in history are there?

And then there’s the old saw “There is nothing new under the sun.” The kaballists hint that that means previous societies preceded ours, back before Abraham and all the begats begun. Maybe way back when someone already invented a washing machine, and dryer, a microwave and cell phone. What if the ancient Breastplate of Judgment worn by the High Priests in the First Temple period (actually it disappeared with the Prophetress Deborah) was really a computer allowing the Hebrew prophets and kings to communicate with outer space, the future, or the past? What if we are just being tested by those way up in space, or in another dimension? What if the Buddist have it right, there is no body, really, just the soul, like smoke, dissipating in the far beyond.

The essence of life, said the Hebrew sage Hillel is “Be Good To Each Other,” and all the rest of the Bible, he said, was commentary.

As we approach another Hebrew New Year the lessons of Hillel have still to be learned, by the good guys, and the bad guys. Turning the other cheek gets you another 747 right up your high rise, and nuking the crazies makes you a mass murderer. The horns of the dilemma get sharper as the decisions get closer, but in reality, it is all, as Kohelet (The Preacher from Jerusalem in Ecclesiastes) said “Vanity and chasing after wind.”

Let’s hope that the new Hebrew year will see the end of the bad guys, and the success of the good buys, and let’s hope we have the wisdom to discern who’s who.

Pop Diva Madonna comes to Israel with a covey of Kabbalistic wannabees, to experience the holiness that is said to descend on Israel during the holidays. May the Lord grant her nirvana, enlightenment, and the ability to convince others who the bad guys are, and who the good guys are.

In Israel PM Olmert bemoaned the state of education in the country after a group of skin-heads were arrested following a year-long investigation. The teenagers, mostly non-Jewish Russians who felt strange in Israel, drank and made trouble to express their disenfranchisement. Not unusual. Juvenile delinquents have existed for thousands of years. In modern times films were filled with miscreants causing trouble. The fact that these were boys with at least one Jewish grandparent, and that the boys were ‘skinheads’ giving Nazi salutes, beating ultra-orthodox Jews, as well as Ethiopians and Philipino workers, only makes it harder to take. Nazis aren’t supposed to live in Israel. Its like fire blazing beneath the surface of water. But both are possible. Is education the answer?
Modern Western society believes education is the answer to everything. And it probably is. But first one must educate the educators, the governors, the bosses, make them realize that these kids are left out, and are angry about it. Education is needed on both sides, the kids and the society they live in, to recognize the root of the problem and then deal with it.

Maybe in the end it does all boil down to what Hillel said, “Be Good To Each Other.” The rest is commentary.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Rockets Still Screeching Over Sderot

Kassam rockets continue falling on the southern Israeli town of Sderot, only a few kilometers from Gaza, as they have for the last five years. Parents have kept their school aged children at home in protest over the continued rocket attacks from Gaza. According to media reports, more than half of the parents are now sending their children out of Sderot for education. The controversy over the bomb proofing of the schools continues. Parent’s committees claim that only a few of the schools have been bomb-proofed, and the rest are vulnerable to Kassam rocket attacks.

The Israeli government has decided again not to okay a large ground invasion of Gaza. The invasion was meant to stop the rocket attacks on Israel. Defense Minister Ehud Barak has said that sooner or later such an invasion must take place. Photographs of Israeli soldiers who entered Gaza in a commando operation show five rocket launchers, each a flimsy assembly of thin iron rails that look more like over sized clothes hangers than deadly firing mechanisms. According to the Haaretz newspaper, eleven rocket launchers were captured Wednesday during an IDF raid on Gaza.

A press release by the Prime Minister’s office stated “the security establishment, in cooperation with the Foreign Ministry and the relevant legal bodies, has been instructed to prepare a plan – taking all military and civil considerations into account – to disrupt the services that the State of Israel provides to the Gaza Strip in response to the continued criminal and indiscriminate attacks against the Israeli civilian population." Those in opposition to the move questions the legality, since Israel may be perceived as in charge of Gaza in certain interpretations.

According to a statement by PM Olmert on September 3, 2007, "The IDF has been instructed to destroy all launchers and target anyone involved in the attacks. We will hit all those in the chain of command who harbor terrorists and act against the State of Israel."

Both the Maariv and Yideot Achranot daily newspapers ran editorials on Thursday about the Kassam rockets. Yideot’s editorial said, “Considered, measured and continuous economic sanctions will cause the Hamas regime to think carefully before firing Kassams." The editorial in Maariv called for more innovative leadership and urged the Government to stop allowing Islamic Jihad and Hamas to set the pace of events
Meanwhile negotiations continue between PM Olmert and Palestinian President Abbas over a two-state solution to the problem. But some believe Olmert is merely trying to deflect criticism of his policies. According to the Haaretz Newspaper, the Winograd committee investigating Olmert’s decisions during the War in Lebanon II have postponed issuing their findings, which are expected to be very harsh in their criticism of Olmert, then Defense Minister Peretz, and then Chief-of-Staff Halutz. The committee wants to give those expected to be damaged most by the findings a chance to appear again before the committee and state their case before the results are released. A new date for the findings is reported to be sometime in the spring of 2008.

The Israeli army Wednesday night sealed the Nablus offices of the Da'wa charity which the IDF claims is a front for a Hamas terrorist financial center. The Israeli forces confiscated documents and digital media from five different offices affiliated with the Hamas organization.

The Israeli government declared the Da'wa organizations illegal due to the financial support Da’wa provides for families of suicide bombers and imprisoned terrorists. According to the IDF spokesman, Da’wa actively encourages terrorism and this financial contribution of millions of dollars a year provides incentive for terrorists to carry out attacks and increases public support for terror organizations. The statement also said that Da’wa funds kindergartens which incite against Jews and Americans, support families of suicide bombers and other Palestinian terrorists who have died or are imprisoned in Israel.

An Israeli army statement said that the level of influence which these institutes hold over various groups within the Palestinian public varies. These institutes organize activities ranging from kindergartens in which children are incited against Jews (Israelis in particular) and Americans, to providing funds and guidance to students in higher levels of education, to supporting families of suicide bombers ('martyrs') and other Palestinian terrorists who have died or are imprisoned in Israel. It is important to note that these institutes, which are funded by millions of dollars per year, actively encourage terrorism.

The Maariv daily newspaper reported on Thursday that Israel will begin new procedures for punishing draft-dodgers. According to some of the proposals, the IDF proposes to suggest legislation that would cancel drivers' licenses, block eligibility to practice medicine and block all possibility of Government employment. Lately it has become a problem in Israel to enforce the draft. Many young men prefer to seek their livlihood in the marketplace or start their careers rather than serve in the armed forces.

His Royal Highness Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust History Museum on Friday, September 7, 2007. He planted a tree in honor of his grandmother Princess Alice who was recognized as Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem in 1993, for rescuing the Cohen family in Greece during the Holocaust. In 1994, her son, HRH Prince Philip Duke of Edinburgh planted a tree in her honor at Yad Vashem.

The prince also placed a wreath in the Hall of Remembrance, as well as visiting the Children’s Memorial in honor of the one and a half children who were killed by the Nazis during World War II. This was the first visit of British Royalty in nearly a decade. The Prince arrived on private visit to Israel continuing the royal family's tradition of not making official visits to Israel. Some political analysts claim this is a form of boycott of Israel by the royal family.

While music lovers of the world mourned the death of Luciano Pavarotti at the age of 71 in his home town of Modena, Italy, (Pavarotti was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last July), the Israel Cancer Research Fund honored this years grant recipients at the Caesarea home of U.S. Ambassador to Israel Richard H. Jones. The ICRF has donated over $35 million towards cancer research. The cancer drug Glevec was developed by ICRF researchers. Two of the ICRF’s recipients, Dr. Aaron Ciechanover and Dr. Avram Hershko were awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 2004. In this year’s ceremony the ICRF handed out grants of nearly $1.5 million.

Israeli warplanes soared over Syrian airspace on Thursday sparking concerns of an outbreak of hostilities between Syria and Israel. Syria reportedly fired anti-aircraft missiles at the planes, to no effect. According to Syrian news sources, Israeli fighter planes flew into Syria and dropped bombs in the desert. Al-Arabiya television reported that the incident occurred in north-eastern Syria, close to the border with Turkey.

A Syrian analyst told Hebzollah's Al-Manar television that the plane was likely dumping munitions in order to maneuver, and was not carrying out a bombing raid.

This latest flap comes amid concerns of growing tensions between Israel and Syria that some analysts feared might result in a war. During the last few months both Syrian and Israeli officials kept saying they had no interest in hostilities. Analysts say however that a misunderstanding on either side could spark an unwanted engagement of forces.

Israel has flown over Syrian airspace in the past without sparking hostilities, said Israel's Science, Sport and Culture Minister Ghaleb Majadele (Labor Party) on Friday.
Military analayst speculated that the Israeli planes might have been testing the Syrian air defense systems in the event that hostilities do break out in the future.