Good News Friday

It’s been a very busy week for me so I’m glad to sit back and present you with this week’s Good News Friday post.

Starting with some very exciting news in archeology, an ancient seal of the Prophet Isaiah has been unearthed in Jerusalem:

The hand of the Prophet Isaiah himself may have created an 8th century BCE seal impression discovered in First Temple remains near Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, according to Hebrew University archaeologist Dr. Eilat Mazar.

Isaiah bulla, a 2,700-year-old clay seal impression which may have belonged to the biblical prophet Isaiah. (Ouria Tadmor/© Eilat Mazar)

“We appear to have discovered a seal impression, which may have belonged to the prophet Isaiah, in a scientific, archaeological excavation,” said Mazar this week in a press release announcing the breathtaking discovery.

Mazar’s team uncovered the minuscule bulla, or seal impression, during renewed excavations at the Ophel, located at the foot of the southern wall of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The discovery was published on Wednesday in an article, “Is This the Prophet Isaiah’s Signature?” as part of a massive March-June issue of the Biblical Archaeology Review dedicated to its recently retired founding editor, Hershel Shanks.

The Ophel excavations at the foot of the southern wall of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem (courtesy of Andrew Shiva)

The clay impression is inscribed with letters and what appears to be a grazing doe, “a motif of blessing and protection found in Judah, particularly in Jerusalem,” according to the BAR article.

The oval-shaped bulla, however, is not intact. On its legible portion, there is an inscription with First Temple Hebrew letters that seem to spell out the name l’Yesha’yah[u] (Belonging to Isaiah). On a line below, there is the partial word nvy, which presumably spells out “prophet.”

“Because the bulla has been slightly damaged at the end of the word nvy, it is not known if it originally ended with the Hebrew letter aleph, which would have resulted in the Hebrew word for ‘prophet’ and would have definitively identified the seal as the signature of the prophet Isaiah,” Mazar said.

In the BAR article, Mazar leaves room for the possibility that the inscription on the Isaiah bulla does not refer to the biblical prophet. “Without an aleph at the end, the word nvy is most likely just a personal name. Although it does not appear in the Bible, it does appear on seals and a seal impression on a jar handle, all from unprovenanced, private collections.”

“The name of Isaiah, however, is clear,” she said.

This is incredibly exciting news for the country, for historians, archeologists and most importantly, for the Jewish People, for once again this little seal proves the eternal and unbroken link between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel.

Kol Hakavod to the archeological team and researchers led by Dr. Eilat Mazar.

Moving back to the present day, following the US’s lead, Israel appointed its first female haredi judge this week (via Reality):

The Judicial Selection Committee on Thursday appointed Havi Toker to serve in the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court, making her Israel’s first female ultra-orthodox judge.

Judge Havi Toker

Toker, 41, was born in England and grew up in Bnei Brak as the eldest of 12 brothers and sisters in a well-known ultra-Orthodox family.

She began her legal career in 2003 and has since spent time clerking in the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court, before working as an attorney in the police investigators unit followed by the Jerusalem District Attorney’s Office.

The mother-of-four’s nomination was widely praised in Haredi media.

According to the ultra-Orthodox Kikar Hashabat website, Toker defines herself as “modern Haredi,” but a friend told the outlet that she is more Haredi than modern, “even though her eldest son serves in the army.”

Thursday’s appointment of Toker came just over a year after the US appointed its first female ultra-Orthodox judge, Rachel Freier, who began serving on the Brooklyn civil court.

Kol hakavod to Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and the Judicial Selection Committee for their forward thinking, and of course mazal tov to Judge Havi Toker. We wish her every success.

And now some excellent news for a change from British academia as we welcome the death of Israel Apartheid Week on British campuses (via long time reader and contributor Brian Goldfarb):

This week, thousands of Jewish students are walking onto their university campuses to be greeted by… nothing. Well, nothing out of the ordinary, that is. Academics are teaching; students are studying. There are sports games, library visits, lunch breaks, submission deadlines, placements, supervisions, J-Soc socials… But that’s all.

BDS is antisemitic

Why is this noteworthy? Surely a regular week at university does not warrant a 500-word article. But this week is not like all other weeks.

It’s Israel Apartheid Week.

Since the campaign began in 2005, events have taken place on more than 20 campuses in the UK. In previous years these have been coordinated efforts designed to intimidate Jewish students and cause a commotion: for example, in 2012 a mock checkpoint and an ‘Israeli Apartheid Wall’ were erected at the London School of Economics, leading to physical confrontation.

In stark contrast, this year a scattered handful of speakers will address fewer than 10 universities across the country.

Clearly, Israel Apartheid Week is weakening.

It’s losing the momentum it gained a few years ago; it’s being dragged by tired, worn-out campaigners who can’t admit defeat.

The decline of Israel Apartheid Week mirrors a drop in the presence of the Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions movement on our campuses.

The battle is not over completely unfortunately, but it’s a start:

To be clear, BDS has not disappeared altogether. Jewish students fought at City University, London and UEA recently. They faced awful intimidation and abuse for doing so (a disturbing, but distinct topic); but these are the only two motions we have faced this academic year. This is a drastic drop from the seven we fought last year.

There are still battles to be fought — and we will continue to fight them. A handful of Israel Apartheid Week events is still too many, and Jewish students must be able to challenge BDS motions free from intimidation and abuse; so we still have a long way to go.

We have to keep pushing back at the haters and bigots until they are defeated.

And since we are talking of BDS, here’s a huge #BSDFail: two huge foreign pharmaceutical companies, Merck and WuXi AppTec have partnered together to launch a Biotech incubator in Israel:

Darmstadt, Germany-based multinational chemical, pharmaceutical, and life sciences company The Merck Group, announced Tuesday it has partnered with Shanghai-based pharmaceutical company WuXi AppTec Group to launch ExploreBio pharma and biotech startup incubator in Israel.

Israel-born businessman Mori Arkin and life sciences-focused venture capital fund Pontifax Ltd. are also involved in the venture, Merck said in a statement.

Located at Merck’s existing complex in Yavne, a town in central Israel, the incubator will focus on pre-seed and early stage biotechnology startups. The program will operate with a five-year budget of 20 million euros ($25 million).

In a statement, Merck said that the incubator is looking to invest 1-1.5 million euros ($1.2-1.8 million) per company every year.

This is the third incubator operated by Merck in Israel. Merck’s Yavne site already hosts BioIncubator, the company’s healthcare and life sciences incubator, which was started in 2011 with a budget of 10 million euros ($12 million).

Established in 2000, WuXi AppTec is one of the largest clinical research providers in the world, focusing on biological, cellular and genome medical research as well as on medical equipment inspections.

This new investment in Israel’s scientific future says more about Israel than all the stupid slogans of BDS. It shows that these foreign giants have confidence in Israel’s future and in its scientific and technological prowess. Kol hakavod to the investors and we wish them and the Israeli companies huge success.

This week in the Synagogue we read the portion called “Zachor” – “Remember” – where we are commanded to “remember what Amalek did to you when you left Egypt”. We are also instructed to destroy Amalek and its memory.

There is no better way to destroy our enemies than by building ourselves up, whether by searching for our historical roots through archeology or by building up our innovative, technological industries. The articles I have brought to you here show that we are well on the way to success.

On this note I wish you all Shabbat Shalom!

Posted in Boycotts and BDS, Culture, Arts & Sports, History, Israel news, Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Poland rewrites its history of the Shoah

Auschwitz, a Nazi death camp in Poland

The new Polish legislation to criminalize anyone who claims that Poland played a part in the Shoah has outraged all Jews from across the world, as well as angering genuine historians.  The fear is that Poland is attempting to whitewash its citizens’ role in the Shoah as Amanda Borschel-Dan writes in the Times of Israel:

This week Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo’s Cabinet approved a bill which would criminalize the use of the phrase “Polish death camps” in reference to Nazi-run extermination camps in occupied Poland. Use of the banned expression could lead to a three-year jail term if considered intentional, or a hefty fine.

“It wasn’t our mothers, nor our fathers, who are responsible for the crimes of the Holocaust, which were committed by German and Nazi criminals on occupied Polish territory,” said Justice Minister Zbignew Ziobro on Tuesday. “Our responsibility is to defend the truth and dignity of the Polish state and the Polish nation, as well as our fathers, our mothers and our grandparents.”

The legislation was originally proposed by Szydlo’s ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS) in 2013, when it was rejected. Upon rising to power in 2015, however, PiS vowed to “recalibrate many of the ways in which Poles think, talk and learn about their own history,” according to German news agency Deutsche Welle, and to instill national pride.

Astonishingly, one Polish Jewish community leader thinks this is a good idea!

The nationalistic new government’s zero tolerance for the use of “Polish death camps” was lauded this week by young Polish Jewish community leader Klaudia Klimek, head of the Krakow branch of Poland’s largest Jewish cultural organization TSKZ.

Representing Poland’s 10,000-strong active Jewish community, Klimek said TSKZ’s president Artur Hoffman has also spoken in support of the bill — at the Israeli Knesset and as a consulting member of the Polish government’s commission of minorities.

In conversation with The Times of Israel, Klimek stressed the need for historical accuracy when speaking of the Holocaust, which was, she said, an atrocity committed by the German Nazi regime on occupied land. Unlike the case in other European countries, the Polish nation never collaborated with the Nazi regime, said Klimek. There were bad Poles, as well as good Poles, during World War II.

“We cannot say as a generalization that the Poles, or Polish society were involved in the Holocaust,” said Klimek. However, “because the majority of the Holocaust happened in Poland, the Polish society is reacting, and taking care of the history.”

But it is not as simple as that, as the article continues:

But after a summer of PiS politicians playing fast and loose with history, one could wonder whether this new “Polish death camps” law is a manifestation of nationalistic Poles’ historical whitewashing.

The legislation comes a month after high-profile historical “mistakes” were made by PiS politicians surrounding well-documented massacres perpetrated by Poles.

Most prominent among them, in a mid-July interview on Polish public broadcaster TVN, Education Minister Anna Zalewska insinuated that the Jedwabne massacre of 1941, when Poles burned alive more than 300 Jews in a barn, was a matter of “opinion.”

Jews from Poland and abroad gather for commemorations marking the 75th anniversary of a massacre of Jews in Jedwabne, Poland, on July 10, 2016. (AP Photo/Michal Kosc)

Zalewska is hardly alone. As reported by Polish Newsweek, a Polish public opinion survey following Zalewska’s statements found that 33% of the population agreed with the minister that the Polish massacre of Jews at Jedwabne is an opinion, 29% were undecided and only 38% agreed with the statement that “Poles burned Jews in a barn in Jedwabne.” The highest percentage of disbelief was found among youth.

Additionally, newly elected president of the Polish state’s Institute of National Remembrance Jaroslaw Szarek, according to a JTA report, recently told a parliamentary committee that “the perpetrators of this crime were the Germans, who used in their own machine of terror a group of Poles.”

Concurrently, to the condemnation of Klimek and other Jewish officials, the Polish government issued yet another in a series of rejections to Jewish community petitions to open the door to restitution claims from Holocaust survivors.

Yad Vashem, Israel’s national Holocaust Memorial museum, prefers historically accurate terminology:

Israel’s national Holocaust memorial and museum Yad Vashem told The Times of Israel on Wednesday that, as it has since 2006, it endorses the suggested replacement terminology — “the former German Nazi Concentration and Extermination Camp.” The Israeli institution has recognized over 6,000 Poles as “Righteous Among the Nations” for rescuing Jews; some 3 million Polish Jews died in the Holocaust.

But what instigated this legislation in the first place?

In the aftermath of the Polish Cabinet approval of the new bill, Tel Aviv University History Professor Havi Dreifuss wondered at the motivation behind the legislation.

“Although there is no argument that those camps were established by the Germans, as a historian it is always worrying and disturbing to see the use of law to impose something on common knowledge,” said Dreifuss, the head of the Center for Research on the Holocaust in Poland at Yad Vashem.

Funeral of the Jews killed in the Kielce pogrom of 1946 (l) and plaque in their memory, inaugurated by Lech Walesa, in 1990.

At the same time, said Dreifuss, historians, including Polish scholars, have unearthed concrete proof of two major massacres against Jews, 1941’s Jedwabne, and the 1946 Kielce massacre, in which 42 people died. She added that contemporary research shows there were other such massacres of Jews like Jedwabne at the hands of Poles in the region of Lomza. More study is necessary to completely uncover the facts behind these atrocities.

And despite the best efforts of the Polish government, awkward facts refuse to go away, facts like the complicity of Polish citizens in the killings of Jews:

Historian Jan Tomasz Gross’s 2001 book “Neighbors” caused shockwaves in Poland and beyond with its descriptions of the “ordinary” Poles who perpetrated the 1941 Jedwabne massacre. Gross, who was awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Order of Merit in 1996, has been an object of vilification under the PiS government. In February 2016, Polish President Andrzej Duda went so far as to request a re-evaluation of Gross’s worthiness for the medal due to the scholar’s attempts to “destroy Poland’s good name,” said Duda.

Poland’s “good name” which President Duda is so concerned about, is going to be hard to rehabilitate given the eager participation of many of its citizens in massacring their Jewish neighbours. Alexander Boot, a (non-Jewish) Russian emigré living in England, writes on his blog that “It wasn’t just the Germans“:

But the job wasn’t done yet. Einsatzengruppen and the local collaborators began to round up and shoot Jews. Most of the firing squads didn’t include a single German – there was no shortage of local volunteers. By the end of the war, only a couple of hundred Lwów Jews were still alive.

Thus three times the number of Jews were killed in that one city than in the whole of occupied France, where local enthusiasm wasn’t exactly in short supply either. Why such disparity? What made Lwów so much more efficient?

Actually, it wasn’t just Lwów. Simply compare the numbers of massacred Jews relative to their overall numbers in a small sample of European countries.

Western Europe: Germany, 142,000 out of 565,000; Austria, 50,000 out of 185,000; Denmark, 60 out of 8,000; Finland, 7 out of 2,000; Italy, 7,500 out of 44,500; France, 77,000 out of 250,000.

Eastern Europe: Greece, 65,000 out of 75,000; Hungary, 550,000 out of 825,000; Latvia, 70,000 out of 91,500; Lithuania, 140,000 out of 168,000; Czechoslovakia, 78,000 out of 118,000; Poland, 3,000,000 out of 3,300,000.

A map of the distribution of Jews in Europe comparing from 1933 to 1950.

You’ll notice that a much higher percentage of Jews were killed in Eastern Europe than even in Germany, which after all initiated the Holocaust and built the death camps.

Why such disparity? I can think of only one answer: Eastern Europeans didn’t mind the Holocaust as much, and were more than willing to lend the Germans a helping hand.

Another question: why did the Nazis set up all the extermination (as opposed to concentration) camps in Poland? Auschwitz, Belzec, Chełmno, Jasenovac, Majdanek, Maly Trostenets, Sobibor and Treblinka were all there.

To some extent, it must have been a matter of logistics: most of Europe’s Jewish population lived there or thereabouts, in what used to be the Pale of Settlement.

But it couldn’t have been just logistics. After all, the Nazis didn’t mind using hundreds of trains badly needed for military freight to transport Jews from, say, France all the way to Poland. It would have been more efficient to kill them in situ.

Also in the back of the Nazis’ mind must been the issue of post-war deniability for the Germans. Had those crematorium chimneys been spewing clouds of black smoke in, say, Hamburg, it would have been hard for its denizens to claim they didn’t know.

As it was, such claims weren’t all that credible anyhow, as Daniel Goldhagen demonstrates convincingly in his instructive book Hitler’s Willing Executioners. But he also shows that the Nazis were wary of a potential backlash from the Germans had they had to watch mass murder committed on their own doorstep. No such fears in Poland.

He [Duda] also objects to the death camps being referred to as ‘Polish’. I agree that ‘German camps in Poland’ would be more accurate. But those camps wouldn’t have been in Poland if the locals had detested them.

They didn’t. At best, they shrugged their shoulders with indifferent acquiescence. At worst, tens of thousands of them took an active part in the atrocities. And those who deny these facts are the murderers’ accomplices after the fact.

Melanie Phillips thinks that Poland is unleashing its own inner demons with this legislation:

SOME YEARS AGO, when I visited Poland for the first and only time, I was astonished to be told there something I have since repeatedly heard: that the Jews were murdered in the concentration camps in Poland because they were Poles.

This is of course hideously untrue. Polish Jews were murdered in the camps because they were Jews.

It’s true that, as Yad Vashem testifies, Poland produced the greatest number of non-Jews recognized for saving Jews during the Holocaust. It’s also true that Poles were murdered in great number alongside them.

Such facts aren’t negated by the reality that Jews were also victimized by Poles. The Poles were victims of Nazism just as they were also victims of communism. They were not targeted as the Jews were for genocide.

The reason Poles deny that the Jews were victims of Nazi antisemitism is that this would reveal the Poles were victimizers, too. They murdered their Jewish compatriots because they hated Jews.

Making themselves equal in victimization to the Jews enables them to deny their own complicity in the attempt to liquidate the Jewish people. So they are coming up with preposterous and deeply offensive claims to deny Jewish victimization at Polish hands.

Strikingly, though, Poland is a great ally of Israel – which makes this a diplomatic crisis. So why is a country with such a deeply embedded anti-Jewish culture so keen on the Jewish state?

The answer is almost certainly in large part an attempt to bury Poland’s terrible past, whether out of genuine remorse or expediency – or both.

There’s also a difference between young, urban, cosmopolitan Poles, who have a genuine fascination with Jewish culture, and those in rural areas, many of whom remain rooted in a medieval form of Christianity, which still teaches that Jews murder Christian children for their blood.

There are some prominent Poles who speak frankly about Polish complicity in the Holocaust. “Of course Poles took part,” Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz, Poland’s prime minister during the mid-1990s, told the newspaper Rzeczpospolita. He urged Poles to talk “openly and honestly” about the “tens of thousands” of “szmalcowniks” – Poles who informed on Jews or extorted their property. “Antisemitism was and remains endemic in our country,” he said.

And if you still don’t think that’s possible, just watch the exchange in the two videos below, between Israeli journalist Ronen Bergman and the Polish Prime Minister a couple of days ago, where the Polish PM now accuses the Jews of complicity in the Holocaust!:

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has promised to speak with the Polish PM about this – but will it be enough?


The outrageousness of Morawiecki’s bold assertions and bald lies boggle the mind. Any slightly valid point he may have had regarding the description of the death camps as “Polish” rather than “Nazi” has been lost in his morass of historical revision, bordering on Holocaust denial.

Posted in Antisemitism, History, International relations | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Good News Friday

It’s not been an easy week in Israel, so it’s with a sigh of relief that I present you with this week’s Good News Friday installment.

Let’s start with a wonderfully heartwarming story of Kyra Warrell, a little girl from England who flew all the way to Israel to have an operation to save her leg, after the local doctors could only offer an amputation to “fix” her problem. The Jewish Chronicle has been following Kyra’s story from the beginning as they picked up the crowd-funding campaign to raise money to pay for the operation in Israel:

Kyra Warrell with her mum Rima

Kyra is six years old, bright, joyful and mischievous. Like any other little girl her age, she loves playing energetically with her friends. She is facing the prospect of having her left leg amputated above the knee, due to a deformity she’s had since birth.

Kyra has Proximal Focal Femoral Deficiency (PFFD), a rare condition affecting fewer than 1 in 50,000 children in the world. This means she has a deformed hip, a shortened left thigh and unstable knee and ankle. As her left leg is so much shorter, she needs to wear a bulky and heavy prosthetic to help her walk, which causes her a lot of pain.

As she gets older, the deformity will become more pronounced, meaning that her prosthetic will be more difficult to manage, and will lead to complications with her hips and spine.

Dr Dror Paley, world-renowned orthopaedic surgeon of the Paley Institute in Florida, is the most experienced limb lengthening and deformity correction surgeon in the world. He is an authority in his field, with decades of experience lengthening legs like Kyra’s, with a well-resourced team supporting him. Dr Paley has told us that not only can he lengthen Kyra’s leg, but that she will have a full range of motion – with no future complications – by the age of 16.

Kyra will need a series of lengthening operations over 10 years, but the first step is to correct her hip and ankle in February 2018.

The very good news is that most of the money was raised in time, helped along dramatically by the social media campaign of Sussex Friends of Israel, whereupon the family travelled to Israel where Kyra had the operation in Rambam hospital, where she recovered very well.

“The operation was a success, and Kyra will be ready next year for the first of two or three leg-lengthening surgeries which will give her a full range of motion by the time she is 16,” says Dr. Dror Paley, a specialist in treating proximal focal femoral deficiency.

The condition, which Kyra has suffered from since birth, would leave her left leg more than 20cm shorter than her right if left untreated.

Her mother, Rima, said Kyra would remain in a cast from her stomach to her ankle for the next few days.

“She is sleeping a lot at the moment,” said Mrs Warrell. “She is on an epidural to control her pain, so the challenge will be how she feels tomorrow when it’s removed and she is moved on to just paracetamol for pain control.”

She added that Kyra had expressed an interest in visiting the hospital’s pancake stand and was to looking forward to celebrating her birthday on Wednesday. Sadly there is no chance of a cake with candles, which the hospital prohibits for health and safety reasons.

The Warrells were accompanied during their stay by local English-speaking volunteers who heard about Kyra on social media. One stocked their fridge in their rented flat before they arrived, another sat with them during the hours of the long operation. They arranged a birthday party for Kyra and took the Warrells out for meals. And I am proud to say that I played my own little part when I met the Warrells at the airport on Tuesday before they left to help them with getting a wheelchair, getting them through security and generally being a translator.

Kyra is now safely back home recovering, and the Warrells had only good things to say about Israel:

Kyra Warrell, the six-year-old who underwent pioneering surgery in Haifa to save her leg, has returned home to Britain as her parents praised the care she received in Israel.

Kyra having her first breakfast back home in Brighton

Her father, Neil Warrell, said medics at the Rambam Hospital had done everything possible to help the family before they flew back to Brighton on Tuesday.

The Warrells, who are not Jewish, said they were also overwhelmed by the kindness of the Israeli public.

Strangers stocked their fridge, took them out for meals and threw a birthday party for Kyra last week.

Rima Warrell, her mother, said: “We had a lovely last few days in Israel, entertained by people we met through Twitter who opened up their homes to us and took us sightseeing in Tel Aviv.

“We said a teary goodbye to these people. We will be friends for life.”

The story is not over for Kyra. She has more operations in store down the line, and the fund-raising will continue:

Mrs Warrell is already planning a new round of fundraising for Kyra’s first leg-lengthening surgery in Florida, where the family will have to relocate next year for three months of daily post-op physiotherapy.

You can donate to Kyra’s fundraising campaign here, and you can follow her progress on Step by Step with Kyra on Facebook and Twitter.

I’m sure you all ion me in wishing Kyra refuah shlema – a complete and speedy recovery.

On a rather similar theme, an Israeli biotech company has succeeded in growing bones in the laboratory!

Haifa-based biotech company Bonus BioGroup has entered the second trial of a clinical study seeking to regrow bones in a lab. The first trial, which began four years ago and comprised 32 patients, was completed successfully, according to Dr. Shai Meretzki, CEO and founder of Bonus BioGroup.

Dr. Shai Meretzki

The process they have designed could come out of an an H.G. Wells novel. Liposuction is used to retrieve fat cells from the body, from which damage-controlling cells are isolated. The isolated cells are then grown in a bioreactor, a man-made simulation of the human body. After two weeks, the new bone, tailored to the patient’s needs, is injected back inside of the patient in the form of thousands of tiny, living bone particles called BonoFill.

According to Meretzki, the new bone is very much alive. It can be strengthened, and it can grow along with the patient, a particular point of interest when it comes to regenerating children’s bones. Elderly patients, as well as patients suffering from osteoporosis, infections, cancer, or trauma accidents, could find themselves with new bones up to seven times stronger than an original bone. Cleft palates, currently treated with a series of surgeries spanning over years, could be healed in infancy.

A regrown bone (right) can replace the missing bone (left). (Sivan Geffen/Times of Israel)

In addition, Meretzki estimates that the procedure, if and when it is adopted by hospitals, will cost less than the current bone regrowth treatment, which can cost up to $90,000.

The new developments are being spearheaded by Meretzki, along with Prof. Ephraim Tzur, scientific adviser of Bonus Biogroup, and Prof. Nimrod Rozen, head of the orthopedic ward of Haemek Hospital.

Just imagine the implications of this dramatic new development! Maybe it could even help children like little Kyra who are born with deformed limbs.

Kol hakavod to Dr. Shai Meretzki and his research team at Bonus BioGroup. May their research produce great success, for the benefit of everyone.

Another biotech development is the recycling of “bad apples” (literally!) into a superfood:

Israeli scientists have found a way to repurpose unwanted and damaged apples that would otherwise go to waste into a “superfood powder” aimed at being a healthier alternative to sugar and a nutritional supplement.

Dr. Ofir Benjamin from Tel Chai Academic College and Professor Raffi Stern from MIGAL – Galilee Research Institute of the Galilee Development Authority in northern Israel produced a powder from second- and third-rate apples that is freeze-dried and to which small amounts of milk powder is added to prevent crystallization, the Tazpit Pres Service (TPS) first reported this week in a Jewish Press article.

Dr. Benjamin told the news service that the two embarked on the research in an effort to find a solution to the huge amounts of apples that are discarded every year in Israel for not meeting market standards, whether due to appearance, or falling to the ground before ripening. The waste is estimated at some 15,000 metric tons, or about 10 percent of the country’s annual yield, according to the report, which amounts to over NIS 25 million in lost income every year.

The powder has 600mg of vitamin C per 100 grams, has no food coloring or preservatives and is rich in antioxidants and nutritional fiber, according to the researchers. It is intended as a healthy sweetener for soft drinks and a supplement.

“The powder can be integrated into many food products and enrich their nutritional values, give them a refreshing apple flavor and turn them into a superfood,” Dr. Benjamin told TPS.

We went to Bereshit, one of the major apple producers in the country, and took samples of different kind of apples: second and third grade as well as apples designated for grocery shops and we found there is no difference between the powder produced with first choice apples and second and third grade apples,” he added.

With the new discovery, he said, “now apple growers will be able to take advantage of fruit that otherwise would have gone to waste.”

The scientists are set to present their findings at an agricultural conference hosted by the Galilee Development Authority next week.

What a brilliant idea, ingenious in its simplicity (at least it seems simple to me!). Kol hakavod to Dr. Benjamin and Prof. Stern on their discovery and initiative. Let’s hope it becomes marketable very quickly.

And with all this “food for thought” I wish you all Chodesh tov, a happy and joyous month as we enter Adar, of which it is said “when Adar begins we increase our joy”:

משנכנס אדר מרבים בשמחה

Shabbat Shalom to everyone!

Posted in Israel news, Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Apartheid Israel? Who lynches whom?

A couple of days ago two Israeli soldiers, following Waze, a road-directions app, entered the Palestinian town of Jenin by mistake.

Watch this shocking and graphic video if you have the stomach:

Beyond the idiocy of two IDF soldiers following a phone map app blindly without paying attention to their surroundings, let’s analyse this phrase “by mistake“. Why should entering any town anywhere be a mistake? Because for Israelis – ALL Israelis, not just soldiers – entering an Arab town means almost certain attack, lynching, very likely death in a most gruesome manner.

In fact a Jew (not only an Israeli) entering an Arab town is such a dangerous proposition that Waze has an option to “avoid dangerous areas” – a synonym for Arab towns.

Avoid Palestinian territories when using Waze

The fact that this is taken for granted, that we expect worse behaviour than wild animals from the Palestinians, is the real apartheid. It is what has been called “the soft bigotry of low expectations”.   Why should a Jew entering Arab territory be at risk of his life? Palestinians, Arabs, Muslims, all wander around Israel with no danger to their life at all. I don’t need to tell you how many Arabs are treated in Israeli hospitals – yes, even Palestinians, even from unrecognized “refugee camps”, even from Gaza.

Not for nothing do you see signs like these outside Palestinian towns:

Do not enter or you will be killed

Apartheid against Israelis

I also want to take issue with an error in the subtitles of the video above. It was not the Palestinian police who came to their rescue. At least not at the beginning. The Palestinian police themselves were the perpetrators! They instigated the violence and they stole the soldier’s weapon according to his own report:

The IDF soldier, in the near-lynch in Jenin earlier on Monday, told family members that his weapon was taken by Palestinian Authority policemen, and it was the policemen that initiated the attack on them, according to a Walla News report.

The family members also told Walla, that the soldier told them that the Palestinian Authority police were not helping them escape the lynch mob, as was reported in the Israeli media.

 In the end, the female soldier managed to pepper spray their attackers, and the male soldier then used that opportunity to drive off to the checkpoint.

In a video taken right before the attack began, the soldiers can be seen surrounded by a crowd, and they are calmly talking on the phone and to the group around them.

It was after that point that the lynch attempt began.

Photos from the checkpoint after their escape show the two wounded soldiers sitting in the back of a pickup truck with Palestinian Authority license plates, so it appears that at some point the soldiers were moved to a PA police vehicle and then driven to the checkpoint.

And the very little that the Palestinian police did do outraged the rest of that benighted population:

While sources in the Palestinian Authority’s security establishment said the rescue was proof of the successful security coordination with Israel, a social media campaign against the police began. Some users dubbed these police officers traitors.

Other users wrote that the rescue prevented the Palestinians from boasting images hearkening back to a similar incident 18 years ago, in which two IDF reservists, Cpl. Vadim Nurzhitz and Sgt. Yossi Avrahami, got lost and ended up driving into the outskirts of Ramallah. They were brought to a police station in Ramallah where they were brutally beaten to death by a mob. A photograph of a Palestinian showing their blood on his hands became an iconic image of the Second Intifada.

With this in mind, let’s look at two incidents that happened at the same time:

And they still accuse us of discrimination and apartheid?

Posted in Defence and Military, Israel news, Lawfare and Delegitimization, Slice of Israeli life, Terrorism | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Iran and Syria are playing with fire in northern Israel

While we were sleeping on Friday night an Iranian drone invaded Israeli airspace. Israel shot the drone down and then went on the attack against Iranian air positions in Syria. The Syrians opened massive anti-aircraft fire against Israeli jets, causing one of them to crash. Thank G-d the Israeli pilots skillful managed to bring their aircraft back to Israel before ejecting. Both pilots were injured but are recovering in hospital.

Here is a quick summary of today’s events:

From the Jerusalem Post:

An Iranian drone, which was launched from a Syrian base in the Homs desert, was identified approaching Israeli airspace by the IDF at around 4 a.m. on Saturday, setting off alarms across the Golan Heights and the Jordan Valley.

The drone entered Israel via Jordanian airspace, flying for a minute and a half before it was intercepted by an Israel Air Force Apache helicopter near the town of Beit She’an.

Brig.-Gen. Tomer Bar, chief of the IAF Staff, the air force’s second in command, said the drone was an advanced model with a low electromagnetic signature that Israel had never intercepted before.

“We waited for it to cross into our territory,” he said, stressing that it was important for Israel “to get our hands on the drone.”
According to IDF Spokesman Brig.-Gen. Ronen Manelis, while the drone was Iranian and navigated by Iranian operators, Syria’s choice to fire its air defenses against Israeli jets shows that it has chosen to interfere in Israel’s fight against the Islamic Republic’s activity in the country.

Watch the drone being spotted, targeted and shot down by the IAF:

In response, Israeli aircraft targeted the drone’s launch site deep inside Syria, in a “complicated surgical strike,” in the face of heavy antiaircraft missile fire.

“It was the most extensive Syrian antiaircraft attack since 1982,” Bar said, stressing that, nonetheless, “we consider this to be a fully successful operation. Israel’s air superiority was not affected today.”

Two Israeli crew members were wounded after ejecting from their F-16I when they recognized that one of the enemy missiles had locked onto their jet, which then crashed near the entrance to Kibbutz Harduf in the Beit Netofa Valley in the Lower Galilee. The pilots also parachuted inside Israel and were evacuated to Rambam Medical Center in Haifa. The military later cleared for release that one of the crew members was severely wounded while the other one was slightly injured.

A picture taken at the northern Israeli Kibbutz Harduf on February 10, 2018, shows the remains of an Israel F-16 that crashed after coming under fire by Syrian air defenses. (AFP Photo/Jack Guez)

While it is believed that the F-16 was hit by a Syrian surface-to-air missile, the entire incident is under investigation.

It was the first time that Israel lost an aircraft in a combat situation since 2006, when an Israeli Yasur (Sikorsky CH-53) helicopter was shot down over Lebanon, killing the entire five-person crew, including the first female flight mechanic in Israel’s heavy-transport helicopter fleet.

Following the crash of the jet, Israel carried out a large-scale attack against 12 targets in Syria, including three Syrian SA-5 and SA-17 air defense batteries and four other Iranian military targets.

According to Syrian media reports, Israel struck the Abu Al-Thaaleb Air Base near the town of Kiswah, which is home to Syria’s First Armored Division and part of the Islamic Republic’s buildup in Syria.

The Israeli attack was again met with antiaircraft fire, which triggered air raid sirens on the Golan Heights and in the Upper Galilee. According to Manelis, several enemy missiles hit open areas in northern Israel.

“Iran and Syria are playing with fire,” he said. “The results of our strikes are not yet fully known to them [Iran], and they may be surprised when they discover what we targeted.”

Here is the IDF Spokesman’s announcement Twitter:

Thank G-d the condition of one of the downed pilots has improved:

The condition of a seriously wounded Israeli pilot began to improve Saturday, after he underwent surgery for injuries he sustained while ejecting from his plane over northern Israel, in the midst of a severe confrontation between Israel, Syria, and Iran. The F-16 jet he was piloting took part in Israeli airstrikes in response to an Iranian drone that entered Israeli airspace from Syria in the early morning hours on Saturday.

Dr. Rafi Beyar, the head of Haifa’s Rambam Medical Center, said the pilot was in stable condition after suffering injuries to his chest and abdomen. He said the pilot, who was still unconscious and connected to a respirator, also required blood transfusions.

Beyar said a second pilot, who was lightly injured while abandoning the aircraft, was set to be released from the hospital on Sunday.

According to unconfirmed reports, Iran was using the Syrian base, which Israel attacked, as its own:

Iranian and Quds forces have been working for a while from the Syrian T4 air force base near Palmyra, Syria, supported by Syrian armed forces and with the approval of the Syrian government.

IAF attacks Syrian base (IDF spokesperson)

An unconfirmed report said that in the past several months, Iran has began using the base as if it were its own, and transferring weapons to allies in an attempt to build up its strength against Israel.

These Iranian activities are disguised as support against global jihad, but the events of the past day have proven that their true purpose is direct and violent actions against Israel.

Iran’s actions have proven correct all of Israel’s warnings against allowing Iran’s establishment in Syria. There was an intentional attack, and Israel was forced to respond, first to the threat on her territory, and later to those who acted against it in enmity from Syrian soil.

Following the hostilities, Binyamin Netanyahu asserted that Israel will not allow an Iranian entrenchment in Syria:

Israel will continue to defend itself, including by acting against Iranian efforts to entrench itself militarily in Syria, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Saturday evening, at the end of a day that saw a dramatic escalation in Iranian-Israeli hostilities on Israel’s northern border, including the apparent downing of an Israeli fighter jet.

“Israel wants peace but we will continue to defend ourselves with determination against any attack on us and against any attempt by Iran to entrench itself militarily in Syria or anywhere else,” Netanyahu said in a filmed statement from the IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv, adding that Israel “holds Iran and its Syrian hosts responsible for today’s aggression.”

Netanyahu also said that he spoke with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday, noting that Israeli-Russian military coordination vis-a-vis Syria will continue.

“I want to clarify: Israel seeks peace but we will continue to defend ourselves resolutely against any attack against us and against any attempt by Iran to establish itself militarily against us in Syria or anywhere else,” Netanyahu said.

“Our policy is absolutely clear: Israel will defend itself against any attack and any attempt to harm our sovereignty,” he said. “Iran made such an attempt today. It brazenly violated our sovereignty, it infiltrated its aircraft into Israeli territory from Syrian territory,” he said, referring to an Iranian unmanned aerial vehicle.

“This is both our right and our duty and we will continue to make use of it as necessary. Let no one make a mistake,” Netanyahu said.

The second in command of the Israeli Air Force claimed that we had done serious damage to Syria’s air defenses:

Israel inflicted serious harm to Syria’s air defenses, said IAF Air Staff Commander Brig. Gen. Tomer Bar on Saturday, after the IDF launched a number of airstrikes on Iranian and Syrian targets in Syria, following the interception on Saturday morning of an unmanned Iranian drone in Israeli airspace.

Bar, the Israeli Air Force’s second-in-command, said the response was “the biggest and most significant attack the air force has conducted against Syrian air defenses since Operation Peace for the Galilee” in 1982 during the First Lebanon War.

Bar said the Iranian drone remained in Israel’s airspace for a minute and a half before being taken out by a combat helicopter over the city of Beit Shean, near the Jordanian border. He added that the drone was quite advanced and emulated Western technology.

Bar said Israel would study the drone.

After the UAV was intercepted, Israel targeted at least 12 other sites “including three aerial defense batteries and four Iranian targets that are part of Iran’s military establishment in Syria,” according to a military statement.

Refreshingly, after 8 years of Obama-speak and demanding that Israel “exercise restraint”, President Trump’s administration backed Israel’s right to self-defense:

In a statement, Pentagon spokesman Adrian Rankine-Galloway said, “The [US] Department of Defense did not participate in this military operation.”

“Israel is our closest security partner in the region and we fully support Israel’s inherent right to defend itself against threats to its territory and its people.

“We share the concerns of many throughout the region that Iran’s destabilizing activities that threaten international peace and security, and we seek greater international resolve in countering Iran’s malign activities.”

Meanwhile, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said, “The United States is deeply concerned about today’s escalation of violence over Israel’s border and strongly supports Israel’s sovereign right to defend itself.”

“Iran’s calculated escalation of threat, and its ambition to project its power and dominance, places all the people of the region – from Yemen to Lebanon – at risk.

“The US continues to push back on the totality of Iran’s malign activities in the region and calls for an end to Iranian behavior that threatens peace and stability.”

Unfortunately the Russians were not so accommodating:

Israel has taken great care to coordinate all its actions in the area with Russia, which backs Syrian President Bashar Assad and maintains a large military presence in the country.

But Russia’s foreign ministry expressed concern over Saturday’s strike and called for restraint.

“We consider it necessary to unconditionally respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria and other countries of the region,” it said in a statement. “It is absolutely unacceptable to create threats to the lives and security of Russian servicemen who are in Syria at the invitation of its legitimate government to assist in the fight against terrorists.”

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the war in Syria, said Israel targeted the edges of a military air base, called T-4, in the Homs desert near Palmyra, where Iranian and Hezbollah forces are based alongside Syrian troops. The Observatory said the raids resulted in casualties, but didn’t specify. It also said Israeli raids targeted areas in southwestern Damascus, bordering the southern provinces. This was followed by raids on Syrian government posts along the Damascus-Beirut road, close to the border between Syria and Lebanon.

As for the implications of this hostile exchange, the Jerusalem Post’s Yaakov Katz thinks this is the opening salvo of the war against Iran:

his was long in the making. Years ago, the Iranians came to the rescue of Bashar Assad in Syria and, together with Russia, ensured his survival. The problem is that they haven’t left. On the contrary – even though Assad is today in control of the majority of Syria, Iran is staying put and trying to establish an even greater presence within the country. On Saturday, we saw how determined it is to do just that.

It is too early to tell what lesson Iran has learned from the clash on Saturday. On the one hand, it succeeded in infiltrating a drone into Israel, even though it was ultimately intercepted. Its ally Syria succeeded in shooting down an Israeli fighter jet. On the other hand, Israel carried out its most widespread bombings in Syria since it destroyed almost all of Syria’s air defenses in 1982.
Israel’s retaliation was important for two reasons – it needed to neutralize the Syrian batteries that were used to down the F-16, but also to exact a price from Iran by bombing the control center used to operate the drone as well as other Iranian targets in Syria – the nature of which we will likely learn over the coming days.

The question will be whether Israel succeeded in boosting its deterrence. That depends on what Iran decides to do next. Will it keep on building its presence in Syria? Will it attempt another violation of Israel’s sovereignty down the road?

While the downing of a fighter jet is a heavy blow to Israeli morale, it was not totally unexpected and needs to be viewed through the wider context of what has been going on for the last five years. Israel has carried out more than 100 strikes in Syria, and in war there are always wins and losses. The fact that a plane hasn’t been shot down until now is the real story and speaks volumes of the IAF’s superior capabilities.

Finally, Israel needs to be concerned by Russia’s response to the events on Saturday. In Moscow, the Foreign Ministry issued a statement calling for restraint and for all sides to “respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria.”

On the surface, it seems like Russia is taking Iran and Syria’s side and not Israel’s, despite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s best efforts to win over Vladimir Putin and his countless meetings with the Russian president. Beyond the ministry statement’s rhetorical significance, it could have practical consequences if Russia decides to deny Israel operational freedom over Syria in the future.

Israel will have to tread carefully and will not have a lot of choice but to accept Moscow’s directives. While Russia has allowed Iran to establish a presence in Syria it has – until now – prevented it from setting up large bases or a presence right along the border with Israel on the Golan Heights.

That could all still happen – and will depend on what Russia’s interests will be when it comes to the future of Syria and the wider Middle East.

Let us hope that cooler heads prevail in Syria, Iran and Russia. No one in Israel is looking for an escalation, but we will defend ourselves.

Posted in Defence and Military, Iran, Mideast news | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Shabbat Shalom

Instead of a Good News Friday post, here is a lovely video about Jerusalem to sweeten your Shabbat.

And here are some IDF soldiers wishing us all Shabbat Shalom:

Shabbat Shalom everyone. I hope you all have a quiet, peaceful and joyful Shabbat.

Posted in Israel news, Judaism, Slice of Israeli life | Tagged , , | 4 Comments