Good News Friday

All of a sudden the days are getting shorter and Shabbat begins earlier, so my posting times for my Good News Friday posts will be earlier than they’ve been these past few months (I hope!).

I start this week’s installment with two fascinating items of archeology news.

The first, and most astounding in my opinion, is the discovery in Jerusalem of a rare Cohen Gadol’s (High Priest) stone weight from the Second Temple period:

A routine archeological excavation of an Old City synagogue destroyed by Jordanian troops during the War of Independence turned into much more, after the burnt remains of rare relics from the Second Temple period in 70 AD were revealed several meters below ground level.

An image of the scale weight from 70 AD.. (photo credit:OREN GUTFELD/IAA)

Among the artifacts unearthed in the 2013 excavation in the Jewish Quarter included a rare stone scaled weight inscribed with the name of a priestly family, covered in millennia-old ashes from the fire that Roman soldiers used to burn Jerusalem to the ground.

The synagogue in question, Teferet Yisrael, which was built during the mid-19th century, and served as one of the two main synagogues of the Jewish Quarter, along with the Hurva synagogue, was bombed in May of 1948 by the Jordanian Legion.

Despite its historic import, the process to rebuild the synagogues did not begin in earnest until 10 years ago, said Israel Antiquities Authority archeologist Dr. Oren Gutfeld on Thursday, noting that antiquities laws require excavations before construction of any kind.

“After we cleared all the ruins from 1948, we started in the basement of the synagogue and uncovered its ritual bath [mikveh], heating system, and parts of a chandelier,” said Gutfeld, who oversaw the dig with Hillel Geva, director of the Israel Exploration Society.

“Immediately after we took out the floors we arrived to a very, very massive and deep conflagration layer from the year 70 AD, when the city was burned to the ground,” he said.

“It was so massive, that every day after finishing the work we were all black [from the ancient soot], like firemen.”

Upon removing the burnt layer of debris, Gutfeld said a mikveh from the Second Temple period was found next to a storage facility filled with fragments of pottery, stone vessels, animal bones, and ancient coins.

“During the fire and destruction, something blocked it, and it stayed frozen in time for 2,000 years,” he said.

“While I was digging in the burnt layer, I found a stone weight covered with soot, and only one of the 600 stone weights uncovered from the Second Temple period had a Hebrew inscription. So, I looked at it and smiled to myself thinking maybe it’ll have an inscription, and when I put it in a bucket of water and took it out I started to shiver.”

I have to say, I started to shiver too as I read this incredible story. The importance of something tangible, that was held in the hands of the Cohen Gadol in the Bet Hamikdash, being uncoverd and verified, cannot be overstated.

The article continues:

“The lower line had the name of the family of a high priest named ‘Katros’ written in Aramaic, but we could not understand the meaning of the upper line until recently, which is why we delayed publication of the find until now,” he said.

After years of analysis, Gutfeld said it was recently determined that the first line also was inscribed with the family’s name, but in ancient Persian.

“It was used to measure weight on a scale – maybe even for objects in the Temple,” he explained. “So it makes sense that the family name was inscribed on the stone.”

Kol hakavod to Dr. Gufeld, Hillel Geva and all the archeologists and researchers on their discovery and verification of this incredible find. It deepens our connection to Jerusalem and of course also confirms that the Bet Hamikdash was no historical invention.

Not quite as meaningful on a national scale, but certainly of huge historical import, a mis-labelled epitaph in Egypt turns out to have been of a Jewish woman living in Egypt:

The limestone tablet had been labeled as a Coptic artifact for years until it was translated by Lincoln H. Blumell, an associate professor at Brigham Young University, who published his findings this month.

“In peace and blessing Ama Helene, a Jew, who loves the orphans, [died]. For about 60 years her path was one of mercy and blessing; on it she prospered,” the epitaph reads.

Limestone epitaph to Jewish woman Helene, translated by Associate professor Lincoln H. Blumell of Brigham Young University (Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)

Limestone epitaph to Jewish woman Helene, translated by Associate professor Lincoln H. Blumell of Brigham Young University (Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)

This document is unusual, because it describes the woman, Helene, as a Jew, but also uses the honorary title “Ama” which was normally only used to describe nuns and other distinguished Christian women in ancient Egypt, according to Blumell.

“I’ve looked at hundreds of ancient Jewish epitaphs,” Blumell said, “and there is nothing quite like this. This is a beautiful remembrance and tribute to this woman.”

The epitaph has been dated to some time in the third century CE. Although older obituaries have been discovered, this one is unique in mentioning Helene’s religion, and in the use of the title “Ama.”

Another unusual feature of this document is Helene’s longevity. Based on other inscriptions from the period it seems that the average life expectancy of women at the time was about 25 years. Helene reached the age of 60.

According to census documents from that time, Helene was one of only 6 percent of Egyptian women from this period who lived to this age. More than half of men also died before the age of 30.

What a beautiful and touching eulogy for someone who must have been a very righteous woman. Kol hakavod to Lincoln Blumell who successfully translated the epitaph after so many years. May Helene rest in peace now that we know something of her life.

Turning now to something completely different, a story of an “ugly Israeli” has a very happy ending with many many beautiful Israelis who went out of their way to correct a wrong.

A chocolate shop in Jerusalem, Yaar Ha’Kakao (the Cocoa Forest) was swindled by someone who paid with a forged NIS 100 note. The owners posted a Facebook video about it –  and Beautiful Israel swung into action (via Hadassah). The post below tells us the happy ending (my free translation):

Dear Forger – chapter two:

You didn’t pay me back NIS 100, but because of you I received:

10 kg of chocolate from Mr. Cake, offers from 2 photographers to take free photos of my pralines;
An offer to build a website for free;
A boy and a girl who want to work for me on a volunteer basis;
NIS 500 shekels as a holiday gift for my 5 wonderful workers;
A morning TV interview on Orli & Guy (in the video here);
At least 20 private orders
An order of 86 packs of pralines for the workers of GVC Co.
An order of hundreds of pralines for the workers of Gichon;
Several other gifts for workers in a number of companies; a suggestion from the Director of Cisco to his workers to come and buy from us on Thursdays when I’m here;
Several dozen people who offered to give me the NIS 100 as a gift (of course I refused);
And at least 9700 likes, 2,400 shares, tens of thousands of moving comments.

May you turn into a Hassidic story dear forger.
So many sweet people who wrote warm words and came yesterday and today to the Tahana shopping center.

Thank you dear forger,
Thank you to the Almighty who sent you.
I hope you don’t end up in jail or that i’ll have to testify against you after all the good that you did for me.
Because I have no choice and it’s my legal and ethical dut to report you tot he polcie.

May you and all of us have a Happy Sweet New Year, and may we all discover our inner truth even if the path towards it sometimes seems forged.

Here is the post and video in Hebrew:

This is the most wonderful sweet story I’ve read in a while. It really brings a big smile to my face as it restores my faith in humanity, particularly in the much-maligned Israeli character. Kol hakavod to all those fantastic people who came through to help, and a huge kol hakavod to Yaar Ha’Kakao for their positive attitude and their steadfast faith in G-d.

And now to finish off this week’s installment, here is a bittersweet item.

Yesterday, 13th Elul, Yagil Henkin, the brother of Etam Henkin who was murdered along with his wife Naama almost a year ago, completed the writing of a Sefer Torah dedicated to their memory, and it was then inaugurated in Neria, where the Henkin’s lived (via Hadassah).

Scroll through the photos to witness the joy at the new Sefer Torah, even as it revives the memory of the Henkins, whose loss is felt by the entire nation.

No Sefer Torah, however precious, can bring back the dead, but it can keep their memory alive and help to teach future generations about the Henkins’ wonderful character, and how much they achieved in their short lives.

May the families be comforted with the addition of this new holy Torah scroll.

And with this food for thought I wish you all Shabbat Shalom!

Posted in History, Israel news, Judaism, Slice of Israeli life | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

At the UN, only Israel is considered an “occupier”

Just like only Jews can be ethnically cleansed without a worldwide outcry, so too at the UN, only Israel – out of all the hundreds of brutal invasions and occupations – is called an “occupier”.  This is a further aspect to the usual Israel-blaming and non-stop condemnations of Israel for all kinds of war crimes, human-rights abuses etc. by the UN.  This hard-hitting and incisive article, by by Prof. Eugene Kontorovich and Penny Grunseid, appeared in the Wall Street Journal this week. Here are some highlights (emphases are mine):

New research we have conducted shows that the U.N.’s focus on Israel not only undermines the organization’s legitimacy regarding the Jewish state. It also has apparently made the U.N. blind to the world’s many situations of occupation and settlements.

UN - Useless Nations

UN – Useless Nations

Our research shows that the U.N. uses an entirely different rhetoric and set of legal concepts when dealing with Israel compared with situations of occupation or settlements world-wide. For example, Israel is referred to as the “Occupying Power” 530 times in General Assembly resolutions. Yet in seven major instances of past or present prolonged military occupation—Indonesia in East Timor, Turkey in northern Cyprus, Russia in areas of Georgia, Morocco in Western Sahara, Vietnam in Cambodia, Armenia in areas of Azerbaijan, and Russia in Ukraine’s Crimea—the number is zero. The U.N. has not called any of these countries an “Occupying Power.” Not even once.

It gets worse. Since 1967, General Assembly resolutions have referred to Israeli-held territories as “occupied” 2,342 times, while the territories mentioned above are referred to as “occupied” a mere 16 times combined. The term appears in 90% of resolutions dealing with Israel, and only in 14% of the much smaller number of resolutions dealing with the all the other situations, a difference that vastly surpasses the threshold of statistical significance. Similarly, Security Council resolutions refer to the disputed territories in the Israeli-Arab conflict as “occupied” 31 times, but only a total of five times in reference to all seven other conflicts combined.

General Assembly resolutions employ the term “grave” to describe Israel’s actions 513 times, as opposed to 14 total for all the other conflicts, which involve the full gamut of human-rights abuses, including allegations of ethnic cleansing and torture. Verbs such as “condemn” and “deplore” are sprinkled into Israel-related resolutions tens more times than they are in resolutions about other conflicts, setting a unique tone of disdain.

Israel has been reminded by resolutions against it of the country’s obligations under the Geneva Conventions about 500 times since 1967—as opposed to two times for the other situations.

In particular, the resolutions refer to Article 49(6), which states that the “Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” This is the provision that the entire legal case against Israel settlements is based upon. Yet no U.N. body has ever invoked Article 49(6) in relation to any of the occupations mentioned above.

Kontorovich and Grunseid’s conclusions are extremely pertinent but I have a strong feeling they are going to be completely ignored by the UN:

At a time of serious global crises—from a disintegrating Middle East to a land war and belligerent occupation in Europe—the leaders of the free world cannot afford to tempt the U.N. into indulging its obsessions. Especially when the apparent consequence of such scapegoating is that the organization ignores other situations and people in desperate need of attention.

Go and read the whole thing (if your blood pressure allows). If you can’t access the article, you can open it via Google.

On a similar theme, UN Watch’s Hillel Neuer exposed the Human Wrongs Rights Council’s hypocrisy as he questioned the High Commissioner of Human Rights on the Human Rights Council’s anti-Israel bias:

The High Commissioner rightly mentioned abuses by Venezuela, and said his office would speak out at “every opportunity.” If so, why has his Twitter account, followed by 1.5 million people, refused to post even one word on Venezuela over the past 6 weeks of escalating hunger, arbitrary arrests, and oppression?

The High Commissioner mentioned Crimea, Abkhazia, and Nagorno-Karabakh — yet failed to say that, under international law, these are occupied territories. Instead, he only used that term in one case: for the Palestinian territories. Why?

Finally, the High Commissioner criticized Iran, Syria and North Korea for refusing to cooperate with UN inquiries—and he then lumped in Israel with that list.

Let us be clear: UN Watch continues to demand that all countries cooperate with legitimate UN inquiries. But what if a UN mechanism is manifestly not legitimate?

The answer was provided three years ago by the High Commissioner himself, when he was Jordan’s ambassador to the UN.

In 2013, when the President of the UN General Assembly, Vuk Jeremic of Serbia, organized a debate about international tribunals, then-Ambassador Zeid refused to cooperate. He said: “When it became clear to us that there was a distinct agenda to this meeting—a ‘flavor’ to it—it seemed to me the president of the General Assembly was exploiting his position for a narrower aim, and that was unacceptable to us.”

Mr. President, when this Council’s inquiries prejudge Israeli guilt; disregard terrorist aggression; select biased judges who have done paid legal work for the PLO; and then hire biased staffers who are also spokespersons for the pro-Hamas flotilla—would not the High Commissioner agree, using his own words, that there is a distinct agenda, a flavor, to all of this?

Unfortunately no answer appears to have been forthcoming. On the other hand we could probably write the answer ourselves. It would include some anodyne condemnation of Palestinian terrorism and then more condemnations of the settlements as “illegal occupation” and urging Israel to show restraint in the face of the murderous terror targeted at it, not forgetting reminders of the Geneva Convention and other treaties which are always ONLY applicable to Israel.

I really don’t understand why we continue to belong to this hateful organization.

Posted in Antisemitism, Lawfare and Delegitimization | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Let them eat dust. BDS demands: boycott Israeli water expertise

(A slightly edited version of this article was first published in the Algemeiner.)

The Jerusalem Post ran an interesting piece on Friday on Israel’s Greatest Victory. This victory is not any of its military feats, stunning and miraculous as they were, but rather its conquest of nature, defeating drought and the desert and turning Israeli into a water miracle:

Long before the state was founded, the Zionist leadership made water a priority the equal of the far better known concerns around defense and the absorption of immigrants. The diaries and letters of the pre-state leaders were filled with a worry that there be adequate water to grow food for what they accurately foresaw as a rapidly a growing population.

Drip-irrrigation at work

Drip-irrrigation at work

This emphasis on water – and the talk about making the desert bloom – accelerated after independence in May 1948.

While other newly decolonialized countries of that era put their focus elsewhere or sabotaged their future by diverting public money for corrupt purposes, Israel – even while still barely able to pay its bills – embarked on large infrastructure projects such as the National WWater Carrier, to bring water from the Sea of Galilee to the Center and the South. The government also began experimentation in a range of water technologies, ultimately, and most significantly, in desalination.

Israel also had the good fortune of having a now-forgotten hero, Simcha Blass, as head of its water planning for decades.

Israeli drip-irrigation technique

Israeli drip-irrigation agriculture

But when Blass got into a principled dispute with leaders such as David Ben-Gurion, Levi Eshkol and Pinchas Sapir in 1959, he resigned from public life and retired to a two-room apartment in Tel Aviv. A short time later, in remarkable circumstances, Blass began a second career as the inventor of drip irrigation, a water-saving technology that is being speedily adopted in water-scarce nations all over the world.

For many years, Israel has offered its water expertise to less developed countries as well as to the Palestinians in the West Bank and, until recently, the Gaza Strip. Egypt and the Kingdom of Jordan have also benefited from Israeli knowhow and training as have more than 100 countries at one time or another.

Israel has also extended its help to developed nations suffering from drought. California is a salient example. No Camels, (the Israeli-innovation tracking website), reports on Israel’s assistance to the drought-stricken state on growing more rice with less water. Israel’s excellence in water-conservation was even recognized by the White House as Israel was the only non-US country chosen to help provide water solutions for California.

Sorek desalination plant

Sorek desalination plant

In fact Israel has been water-independent for some years now, as this 2014 Ynet article reports:

“We have all the water we need, even in the year which was the worst year ever regarding precipitation,” said Avraham Tenne, head of the desalination division of Israel’s Water Authority. “This is a huge revolution.”

Tenne said the country has managed to close its water gap through a mixture of conservation efforts, advances that allow nearly 90 percent of wastewater to be recycled for agricultural use and, in recent years, the construction of desalination plants.

These items are particularly relevant at the moment since the annual Watec Conference is about to take place in Venice, from the 21st – 23rd September (organized by the Israeli Kenes Exhibitions). It is no surprise, given Israel’s expertise and experience in water-conservation, desalination, water purification etc., that several Israeli speakers are lined up to speak there.

Watec Italy Conference

Could anyone find anything objectionable in this conference? Well, yes, they could. Certain  “activists” are demanding that the EU withdraw its support for the Watec Italy conference because of the Israeli connection:

Roughly 40 European trade unions, environmental groups and human rights networks are demanding that the European Commission withdraw its support from an Israeli-run water conference slated to take place in Italy at the end of September.

“We, the undersigned European trade unions, human rights and right to water organizations, are alarmed by the European Commission’s sponsorship of an event that includes the participation of companies involved in and facilitating violations of international law,” said the letter, sent to European Commission President Jean- Claude Juncker and Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Commissioner Karmenu Vella.

“As documented by international organizations, UN agencies and EU institutions themselves, Israel exercises strict control over Palestinian water resources and denies access to the Palestinian population, which has led to ‘stark inequalities’ in access to water between Israelis, including settlers, and Palestinians,” the letter continued, citing a January 2016 European Parliament briefing.

“The European Commission’s patronage of WATEC comes at a time when Israel is cutting off water to Palestinian communities, leaving tens of thousands without access to water during the hottest time of the year,” the letter said.

While Palestinians continually blame Israel for failing to enable sufficient and affordable water, Israelis authorities consistently stress the fact that Israel provides above and beyond the water supplies required by the 1995 Oslo II Accords.

As we well know, all these water libels have been debunked over and over again by Israel. This 2012 report by CoHav, an Israeli advocacy volunteer group, on Israel’s water issues vis-a-vis the Palestinians is as relevant today as it was 4 years ago. Some of its salient points:

Israel is supplying the Palestinians more than double the amount agreed in the 1995 agreement. Agreed 23.6 million cubic metres, including 5 for Gaza, actually supplying 52.

Palestinians are losing 33% of water supplied due to evaporation, leakage and a large part due to theft.

Over 300 illegal wells have been drilled in Judea and Samaria which ultimately can destroy the aquifer and cause an ecological disaster for the Palestinians.

In spite of help offered, the Palestinians do not recycle waste water or have any plans for desalination

And who exactly are these unnamed “activists” who wrote the letter? Why, it’s our old friends, BDS  who never miss any occasion to denounce Israel and call for boycotts, no matter how counter-productive to the very people they purport to defend.

The fact that they want the EU to boycott a water conference in which Israel is a participant shows more clearly than any stunt what their ultimate objective is: the total delegitimization of Israel as a normative country amongst the nations,the attempt to turn it into a pariah about whom nothing is legitimate, not even its life-saving technologies, and ultimately to destroy it.

Let them choke on their own dust while Israel solves the world’s water woes.

Posted in Boycotts and BDS, Incitement, Lawfare and Delegitimization | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The only ethnic cleansing that the world accepts is that of the Jews

Binyamin Netanyahu brought down the opprobrium of the world onto his head on Friday when he stated two categorical truths: the first: the Palestinians want to ethnically cleanse Jews off their land.  The second: that it is absurd that such ethnic cleansing is a pre-condition to “peace”.

Here is Bibi’s statement:

The United with Israel article reports on the video which has gone viral:

Israel’s prime minister rejected international criticism of Israeli construction in Judea and Samaria on Friday, equating it to “ethnic cleansing” of Jews and insisting the Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria are not an obstacle to peace, in a video that drew a rare rebuke from the United States.

Benjamin Netanyahu said in a video posted online that he has “always been perplexed” by claims that Israeli building in Judea and Samaria is “an obstacle to peace.”

He pointed to Israel’s Arab minority, which enjoys citizenship and voting rights.

“No one would seriously claim that the nearly 2 million Arabs living inside Israel, that they’re an obstacle to peace,” Netanyahu said. “Yet the Palestinian leadership actually demands a Palestinian state with one precondition: No Jews. There’s a phrase for that: It’s called ethnic cleansing.”

“It’s even more outrageous that the world doesn’t find this outrageous,” he added. “Since when is bigotry a foundation for peace?”

Of course such simple, clear truths are unacceptable to the liberal, progressive, enlightened, oh-so-politically correct State Department which never met a terrorist it couldn’t love. They condemned Netanyahu’s video as “inappropriate”:

Washington on Friday fumed at comments made by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a video released online in which he accused the Palestinians of advocating ethnic cleansing of the Jewish population in the West Bank.

US State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau told reporters the administration is “engaging in direct conversations with the Israeli government” about the video.

“We obviously strongly disagree with the characterization that those who oppose settlement activity or view it as an obstacle to peace are somehow calling for ethnic cleansing of Jews from the West Bank. We believe that using that type of terminology is inappropriate and unhelpful,” Trudeau said.

She said Israel expansion of settlements raises “real questions about Israel’s long-term intentions in the West Bank.”

I would like to throw the State Departments words back in their face and ask them why the Palestinians’ demands for ethnic cleansing of Jews from Judea and Samaria do not raise real questions about the Palestinian Authority’s long-term intentions in the West Bank”.

As expected, beyond Washington’s seething, Netanyahu’s words also aroused condemnation from the usual suspects, as the JPost reports:

The Zionist Union’s Tzipi Livni responded to the video, saying that the US is now saying that all the settlements are obstacles to peace, including those inside the large settlement blocs, while in the past Israel received recognition for those blocs.

“I worked to get diplomatic benefit while paying a political price, while Netanyahu is trying to get political benefit while paying a diplomatic price,” she said.

Tzipi Livni might wave her diplomatic credentials around, but the truth is that she achieved nothing during her vaunted peace-processing career.  The highlight of her career was the lopsided UN Resolution 1701 after the Second Lebanon War which handed a political victory to Hezbollah.

Ayman Odeh, head of the Joint List, slammed Netanyahu for comparing Israeli Arabs to “settlers.”

Netanyahu, he said, “is comparing a minority born here, who has lived in the place for generations, which Israel came and foisted itself upon, to settlers that were transferred against international law to occupied territory, all the while trampling the human rights of the residents of the West Bank and Gaza.”

But reality, he said, “never bothered Netanyahu.”

I don’t expect anything different from Odeh, but he really must be called out for the bunch of lies that he spouts. Calling the Palestinians “a minority born here who has lived in the place for generations” is a verifiable untruth. The land was empty and desolate, and the Arabs were uninterested in it until the Jews returned to their homeland and made it flourish. It is the Jews who are indigenous to Israel – which includes our Biblical and historical heartland, Judea and Samaria – not the Arabs, and the only time the land was Judenfrei was for a mere 19 years, a blink in the eye of history, from 1948-1967.

With every other nation, the world applauds as indigenous peoples return to their homelands. But as always, when it comes to the Jews, when they are ethnically cleansed, they’d better stay ethnically cleansed!  The hypocrisy and absurdity, as Netanyahu points out, are breathtaking.

As for the video itself, people are scratching their heads wondering what prompted Netanyahu to publish this provocative statement davka now. The JPost gives a bit of background:

The brief video is the eighth that Netanyahu has made since David Keyes took over from Mark Regev as Netanyahu’s English spokesman in March. The Prime Minister’s Office views these videos as a very effective way to get the premier’s unfiltered message out to millions of people. Some 750,000 people have seen this video since it was uploaded Friday, and the number of those who have seen the others – which have dealt with issues varying from Israeli Arabs to gay rights – have been seen by tens of millions of people.

Raphael Ahren in the ToI further explains Netanyahu’s intentions. He notes that this is not the first time Netanyahu has made decried Palestinian ethnic-cleansing of the Jews in videos, speeches and interviews:

“Ethnic cleansing for peace is absurd. It’s about time somebody said it. I just did,” Netanyahu said at the end of the two-minute clip. But Netanyahu did not invent this controversial comparison on Friday afternoon, when the clip appeared on his social media accounts. He has made the argument, in various mutations, throughout his political career. In the 2000 edition of his book “A Durable Peace,” written before his watershed Bar-Ilan speech conditionally accepting the two-state solution, he flatly rejected the notion of a “hostile, Judenrein Palestinian state.” Even if the entire world supports it, the campaign for a West Bank free of Jews is based “not on justice but on injustice,” he argued at the time.

Amid the widespread criticism Netanyahu’s latest video elicited, many are wondering about his motives. Ethnic cleansing is widely considered a crime against humanity; the clip can thus be seen as a premeditated slap in the face of the Americans and indeed the entire international community for demanding that Israel agree to such a practice, some pundits said.

Others blamed the polls. Over the weekend, a second survey within a week showed Netanyahu’s Likud trailing the centrist Yesh Atid, indicating that for the first time since 2012, Likud would no longer be the country’s biggest party if elections were held today. Several analysts argued that Netanyahu provoked the ethnic cleansing drama to deflect criticism over his handling of last week’s train crisis and galvanize his right-wing supporters, relations with the US and the rest of the world be damned.

But the fact that Netanyahu and his aides have made the “ethnic cleansing” talking point before appears to discredit this theory. It is more likely that Netanyahu and Keyes — who, before he entered the Prime Minister’s Office, was known for his unorthodox style of political activism — released the clip as just one more of their ongoing series of hasbara (pro-Israel advocacy) videos, not expecting it would lead to such outrage.

The point of these videos, … is to make Israel’s case directly to the masses via social media, thus circumventing the ostensibly biased mainstream media.

Ahren then embarks on a Talmudic pilpul dissection of what constitutes “ethnic cleansing” – as if Bibi’s words are devoid of anything but political showboating:

Notwithstanding the emotions Netanyahu’s use of the term “ethnic cleansing” evoked this weekend, and the fact that Palestinian activists often use it to describe Israel’s actions in 1948, is the description factually sound?

Golden Oldie from 1994: Ethnic cleansing of the Jews

Golden Oldie from 1994: Ethnic cleansing of the Jews

There is no clear legal definition of “ethnic cleansing.” The Cambridge Dictionary describes it as “the organized, often violent attempt by a particular cultural or racial group to completely remove from a country or area all members of a different group.”

A commission of experts examining the war in Yugoslavia in the 1990s — when the term was invented — established ethnic cleansing as a “purposeful policy designed by one ethnic or religious group to remove by violent and terror-inspiring means the civilian population of another ethnic or religious group from certain geographic areas.”

On the face of it, the forced evacuation of Jewish settlers from the West Bank for the benefit of Palestinian Arabs appears to fit the bill. Palestinian leaders have been adamant that “not a single Israeli” will be accepted in their future state.

On the other hand, proponents of an Israeli withdrawal are not calling for the violent removal of settlers by Palestinians, but rather for a coordinated evacuation of settlements in the framework of a peace agreement.

As previous Israeli withdrawals from Sinai and Gaza have shown, a proportion of ideologically and religiously motivated activists would likely have to be evacuated by force — though hardly by “terror-inspiring means.”

That is absolutely not the point. See the Dry Bones cartoon from above, still accurate after over 20 years. The point remains that the Palestinians refuse to have one single Israeli in their midst, as Palestinian “President-for-Life” Mahmoud Abbas himself declared.  Keeping a territory “pure” for one ethnicity only, and demanding the expulsion of other nationalities, in however peaceful a manner, remains ethnic cleansing. This “word-washing” of the Palestinians’ rejectionism has to stop if we are ever to arrive at any kind of non-violent accommodation with each other.

As an aside, Abbas even rejects Syrian Palestinians, fleeing for their lives from the civil war, heartlessly telling them to “go to Israel or die in Syria”. So much for brotherly love.

Dennis Ross

Former US Mideast envoy Dennis Ross

In a further reminder, if any were necessary, of the dangers of the US Adminsitration’s exacerbating the problems in the conflict, here comes Dennis Ross asserting that if Hilary Clinton is elected she should seek more Israeli concessions.

If Hillary Clinton is elected US president, she should launch a behind the scenes initiative to bring about changes in Israel’s policies, according to former Clinton adviser and US Mideast envoy Dennis Ross.

Ross’s remarks came during a panel discussion at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service on Thursday.

Ross said that “even though negotiations with the Palestinian Authority won’t work now,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should take steps of his own. “He should, at a minimum, announce an official policy that there will be no further Israeli construction east of the security barrier,” Ross said.

Numerous Israeli settlements would be affected by such a policy, including the communities in the Jordan Valley. Ross said such unilateral concessions would be consistent with “the traditional Zionist way of shaping your own destiny.”

No Mr. Ross! That is NOT the Zionist way. The Zionist way is to take our own destiny in our own hands, to settle our own land any way we wish, and not to kow-tow to foreign meddlers who most definitely do not have our own interests at heart.

The Zionist way is to reject the Exile, to reject the ghetto way of living where we had to be afraid of the powers that be. The Zionist way is to reclaim our own narrative, our own history, our own land and our own destiny.

Posted in indigenous rights, International relations, Lawfare and Delegitimization | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

9/11 Fifteen years on

The Al Qaeda attacks on the World Trade Center, 11th September 2001

It’s hard to believe that fifteen years have already passed since that terrible day in September 2001. How much has happened in those fifteen years, both on the personal level and at the macro, national and international level.

Five years ago I wrote a post “9/11 Ten years on” and it is depressing to realize how much worse the world situation is now compared to 2011.  The war in Iraq has surged even as democracy tried to take a foothold, the Arab Spring sprung and shrank, and then mutated into the ongoing civil wars and sectarian wars (not the same thing) in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and beyond. Europe is flooded with Middle Eastern refugees and is reacting by turning in on itself. The European right is strengthened, Britain has Brexited, and looks like it will be followed by other European countries. Iran is empowered, Russia is on the rise, and America is badly weakened – and a lot of it is thanks to President Obama’s inaction and inertia in the Syrian crisis.

My opinion is backed up by Ben Lynfield’s Jerusalem Post analysis that the ill-fated “War on Terror” has taken the region from bad to worse:

“Things are worse,” says Gabriel Ben-Dor, a Middle East specialist at the University of Haifa. “ISIS is far worse than al-Qaida. And there has been a process of degeneration of the political culture in the region.

“We’ve seen the collapse of regimes, endemic civil wars, lack of stability, lack of trust in leadership, and lack of a stable political culture needed to sustain the kind of states needed in the modern world. The terrorism part is a symptom of this general process of degeneration.”

If one looks just at the results, clearly things have gone wrong in the struggle against radicalism. And although not all of the above can be traced back to Washington’s response to 9/11, including the ill-fated invasion of Iraq, critics of US decision- making over the last 15 years say that US policy misperceptions and miscalculations and the lack of a coherent strategy have plagued the region.

“The invasion of Iraq, despite the horrors of the Saddam regime, unleashed a range of destructive forces that have played out in escalating fashion ever since whether it be the fueling of sectarian confrontation, state failure or broader regional war of the Saudis versus the Iranians,” said Barnes-Dacey. “All of these can be traced back to the 2003 invasion, and that in turn is directly linked to 9/11 in terms of how the Bush administration chose to respond.”

Hindsight is easy, but it is now abundantly clear that not enough forethought was given to the consequences of creating a vacuum by removing Saddam Hussein’s rule, or the fallout from unleashing Iraq’s sectarian animosities and marginalizing the country’s Sunni population.

The failure of the Iraq intervention, in turn, has had fateful implications for the conflict in neighboring Syria, causing the US to be unwilling to risk even a more limited intervention there despite the enormous and unrelenting death toll, which the UN put at 400,000 in April.

The US “lacks the resolve, the determination, the willingness to pay the price of engaging and in a sense they are also indifferent,” says Ben-Dor.

“They don’t really care enough to commit the necessary resources.Syria is a good example of this.”

“I don’t necessarily mean sending hundreds of thousands of troops on the ground, but the US should have been more assertive in restraining Assad from doing what he’s doing, in retaliating in response to the use of chemical weapons, and in engineering a lasting settlement by supporting the democratic and liberal forces in a more meaningful way,” he said, adding that perhaps a US air campaign against regime military targets should have been launched.

We have also seen antisemitism rearing its ugly head with greater strength throughout the world, most notably in Europe (particularly the British Labour Party) and – unbelievably – on American campuses.

The links in my 2011 post are worth a revisit, particularly the dramatic photos posted at The Conservative Kitchen Table and the video of Palestinians celebrating the 9/11 attacks.

Yaakov Lappin in the Jerusalem Post tells how Jihadist terrorism is entering a new stage 15 years after 9/11:

Jihadist terrorism is first and foremost an idea, and like a virus, the idea spreads, infecting minds, while thriving under certain conditions.

In 2006, the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) was formed, and it launched a series of brutal attacks on Iraqi Shi’ites and moderate Sunnis who did not share its goal of creating a jihadist state.

Meanwhile, isolated yet devastating mass-casualty attacks rocked Madrid and London. In 2011, the Arab world experienced an earthquake of instability, setting off a domino-like collapse of states. ISI forces began spilling into the imploded Syrian state, filling a power vacuum, and joining the civil war.

ISI became the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria – the infamous ISIS. It split off from al-Qaida, and in 2014, it began a new stage, forming a “caliphate.”

The vision of a radical dystopian jihadist dictatorship became a reality. ISIS turned into a hybrid entity: a regime with its own army and international terrorist network.

Now, a new stage appears to be looming.

ISIS will soon lose most, if not all of its territory in Iraq and Syria. It looks set to turn into an international network, much like al-Qaida was after the fall of the Taliban, but one that is far more menacing.

Those brainwashed by its ideology in Western cities may be more likely to attack at home, setting the stage for an increase in terrorism. In the Middle East, the chaotic and violent conditions that now characterize so many areas mean that ISIS’s ideology will continue to have receptive ears. Its leaders will seek to regain a territorial base, while doing their best to destabilize the Arab regimes they seek to replace.

The new and approaching stage does not, unfortunately, represent a victory over the threat.

Some words of comfort are necessary at this point to counter the depressing and alarming forecast above.

The Times of Israel describes how 9/11 is seared into New York’s memory:

In the last 15 years, New York has sought to craft a balance between remembering the victims and the carnage, and doing what it does best: endless regenerating, rebuilding and looking toward the future.Downtown Manhattan is today one of the most fashionable parts of New York, packed with luxury hotels, boutiques and smart restaurants.

The World Trade Center site has been totally rebuilt, home to the National September 11 Memorial and Museum, the world’s most expensive train station, a performing arts center and offices.

he new PATH terminal in the World Trade Center at night, viewed from across the 9/11 memorial plaza. (Wikipedia/Antony-22/CC BY-SA 4.0)

The new PATH terminal in the World Trade Center at night, viewed from across the 9/11 memorial plaza. (Wikipedia/Antony-22/CC BY-SA 4.0)

“People come to this site from all over the world. It is something that now is a symbol to people around the world of resilience,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio.

The jewel in its crown is World Trade Center One, or Freedom Tower, which at 1,776 feet (the year of US independence), or 541 meters, is the tallest building in the Western hemisphere, its lights visible for miles.

Like Israel who suffers untold terror attacks on an almost daily basis, and like other western democracies, New York has finally emerged, bloodied but unbowed from those horrific attacks.

The Coffee Shop Rabbi has a comforting memorial post from a Jewish perspective:

Remember what Amalek did to you on the way as you came out of Egypt, how he attacked you on the way when you were faint and weary, and cut off your tail, those who were lagging behind you, and he did not fear God. Therefore when the Lord your God has given you rest from all your enemies around you, in the land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance to possess, you shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven; you shall not forget! – Deuteronomy 25: 17-19.

This is the teaching we will soon read as part of our weekly Torah reading. Amalek was the ancient enemy of the Israelites, and we are commanded both to “blot out the memory of Amalek” and “not forget.”

We succeed in keeping these twin commandments when we refuse to allow the pain of the past to transform us into those who have done evil to us. We must not allow ourselves to be infected by the hatred that drives a terrorist, by the racism that drove the Nazis. Those senseless hatreds are what we must blot out forever. At the same time we must strive to remember what it is to suffer, to remember what terrorism and genocide really look like.

When we manage both to blot out evil and yet to remember, we persist in lives of Torah, which means caring for our own needs as well as caring for the well-being of the stranger among us. Only when and if that stranger proves to be an enemy may we treat him or her as such.

Remember? Forget? We must do both. It is not easy, but the memories of all the dead deserve no less.

May the memories of the dead be for a blessing and may the injured and sick have a refuah shlema.

Five years ago I concluded my post with the words “let’s hope and pray for better days ahead, but be prepared for worse.” I had no clue it would be so much worse.

On today’s anniversary I intensify my prayers for better times ahead.

Posted in Mideast news, Terrorism | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Good News Friday

Thank goodness it’s Friday again and time for another Good News Friday installment.

My first item is quite astounding: archeologists have managed to recreate the floor of the Bet Hamidkash, the Holy Temple, by piecing together fragments of floor tiles that were dumped by the Waqf during their illegal and outrageous excavations on the Temple Mount:

Hundreds of lavish stone floor tiles believed to have decorated the Second Temple in Jerusalem have been identified in rubble removed from the Temple Mount, archaeologists announced Tuesday.

Marble floor tile fragments that archaeologists from the Temple Mount Sifting Project say are from the Herodian Temple in Jerusalem. (Temple Mount Sifting Project)

Marble floor tile fragments that archaeologists from the Temple Mount Sifting Project say are from the Herodian Temple in Jerusalem. (Temple Mount Sifting Project)

The bits and pieces of 2,000-year-old marble flooring were found in fill removed from the contested holy site in the late 1990s when the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf, the institution overseeing the al-Aqsa Mosque compound on the Mount, carried out excavations as part of the construction of a subterranean mosque in an area known as Solomon’s Stables.

Since operations began in 2004 to recover artifacts from the tens of thousands of tons of dirt dumped outside the Old City, the Temple Mount Sifting Project has found some 600 colored stone floor tile fragments that the organization’s director contends came from the temple built by King Herod.

“This represents the first time that archaeologists have been able to successfully restore an element from the Herodian Second Temple complex,” Zachi Dvira, co-founder and director of the Temple Mount Sifting Project, said.

Of the 600 floor tile fragments, “more than 100… definitively dated to the Herodian Second Temple period” because of their style, the organization said in a statement.

Frankie Snyder holds restored marble floor tiles based on fragments found in fill from the Temple Mount that archaeologists from the Temple Mount Sifting Project say are from the Herodian Temple in Jerusalem. (Temple Mount Sifting Project)

Frankie Snyder holds restored marble floor tiles based on fragments found in fill from the Temple Mount that archaeologists from the Temple Mount Sifting Project say are from the Herodian Temple in Jerusalem. (Temple Mount Sifting Project)

If their provenance is confirmed, the floor tiles would be among a small handful of artifacts definitively from the Second Temple, including the Temple Warning Stone and the trumpeting place inscription, both at the Israel Museum.

Arutz Sheva adds fascinating historical details:

Recently a researcher from the sifting project, Franki Schneider, an expert on decorative ancient floors, succeeded in reconstructing some of the magnificent examples of tiles from the Temple Mount courtyards.

Schneider, who began her work at Emek Tzurim as a volunteer 9 years ago, has a background in mathematics and Jewish studies and used her broad professional knowledge to make a precise reconstruction of the tiles.

She says that “This type of flooring was called Sectilia, which means ‘Act of cutting’ and was extremely prestigious, being preferred to the regular mosaic floors.”

Schneider says that she has discovered seven potential patterns of floor tiles which decorated the Temple Mount. She says that these floorings were probably set by foreign artisans sent by the Roman caesar Augustus to his friend Herod, who rebuilt the Temple Mount in the first century B.C.E.

The patterns include interlaced squares, triangles, stars and other shapes which have been meticulously cut in a way that they correspond perfectly to one another so that “even the blade of a knife would not fit between them,” says Schneider.

Tzachi Devira, the joint director of the sifting project, says that no previous research had focused on the types of floorings which existed on the Temple Mount.

The concept of floorings being done through the Sectilia method first emerged in a publication by Asaf Avraham, an archeologist who today supervises the national park surrounding the walls of Jerusalem and the Emek Tzurim national park via the Parks Authority.

Assaf based his ideas on Josephus’s depiction of the courtyard as “tiled with stones of various different colors” (Wars of the Jews, 5:2).

The Talmudic tradition also tells of stones on Temple Mount built of different types of colored marble (Sukkah 51b; Bava Batra 4a).

Our outrage at the Waqf’s deliberate destruction of Jewish history notwithstanding, this discovery is almost miraculous, because despite the disgraceful way it was carelessly excavated and dumped, the stones were found, matched together, and then formed into a beautiful pattern. We can easily imagine that fabulous flooring in such a grand setting.

Kol hakavod to all the excavators and researchers from the Temple Mount Sifting Project who recreated this marvellous piece.

If only we should merit to see the Temple rebuilt in our days!

My next item is also connected to Judaism, but in a more updated form. Chabad of Tel Aviv decided to go for a Tefillin-wrapping record in Israel’s most secular city – and the results were very surprising!

On a sweltering August day in Tel Aviv, a group of dedicated young men from around the world set out to challenge conventional thought—and perhaps make history in the process. They were going to record themselves wrapping tefillin with as many Jewish men as possible in a single day and send the results to the Guinness World Records.

Their reason was simple.

Just a day earlier, an ad hoc poll of the local population had answered a resounding “No” to the question: “Is Tel Aviv a holy city?”

For Rabbi Eli Naiditch of Chabad on the Coast—the Tel Aviv Chabad House he established with his wife, Shterna Sara, barely 12 months ago—the gauntlet had been thrown. Together with a group of yeshivah students and members of his congregation, including cameraman and poll initiator Daniel Schechter, they set up tefillin booths at four well-trafficked locations in the city: the Azrieli Center and shopping mall, HaShalom train station, Carmel Market (Shuk HaCarmel) and the Tayelet promenade along the beach.

They began at 9 a.m. and went straight until 7 p.m., with only a quick lunch break in between. The results were an astounding 262 pairs of tefillin wrapped in a little less than 10 hours. From businessmen on their morning commute to beachgoers, tourists and everyone in between, the experience proved as moving as it was positive. At one point, four men put tefillin on for the very first time in their lives.

At another location, a grandfather and father recited the priestly blessing to their children while donning tefillin. A video of the event recorded by Schechter—and making its rounds on social media—has already gone viral.

Watch this great video:


In the meantime, record or not, he says it’s just the tip of the iceberg: “This is the greatest proof that Tel Aviv is absolutely a holy city, filled with holy people.”

As for Guinness, “that is one record that I’d love to see broken over and over.”

This whole item has brought a huge smile to my face. What a wonderful idea! And the people of Tel Aviv are simply great! As Chabad say, they underestimate themselves. Kol hakavod to Rabbi and Rebbetzin Naiditch and all their volunteers on bringing holiness to Tel Aviv, and for showing how Judaism is so “user-friendly”.

Changing pace now and theme now, a couple of weeks ago, a group of Israeli students won 2nd prize at an international robotics competition (via Reality):

A group of Israeli high school students came in second place at an international robotics competition in Shanghai, China, facing off against dozens entrants from all over the world.

The students also were granted an “Inspiration Award” in the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology Robotics Competition (FRC), which had 57 teams from Israel, the United States, Canada, Australia, Brazil and China, according to the Friends of Israel Sci-Tech Schools.

In the competition, which concluded on August 14, students had to build robots to complete various tasks, such as balancing on a beam and scoring balls into goals.

The team consisted of 29 students from a science and technology high school in the northern city of Binyamina.

“It was a great honor for us to participate in this event,” said Segev Huly, one of the students on the Israeli team. “We see our participation and win as a big step towards promoting the field of robotics in China, and placing Israel as one of the world’s leading powers in technology.”

Kol hakavod to all those inspiring and clever students! You have made your country and your families proud, and we are proud of you! May you all continue from strength to strength with success in your future studies.

And since such an award deserves a Lechaim, here’s a great report on Israeli wines from the Wine Spectator magazine as Israellycool reports:

The cover of the October, 2016 issue of The Wine Spectator magazine is all over Israeli wines!

Wine Spectator Magazine, October 2016 issue

The issue features a list of recommendations of Israeli wineries, taste testings, a section on kosher wines, and even a travel guide.

The biggest, most pleasant surprise was a feature on the delicious wines of Judea and Samaria:

Israel’s Judean Hills: Ancient Traditions, New Wines: Learn more about the history of wine in Jewish life, the keys to kosher winemaking and what makes Israel’s Judean Hills region distinctive as Eli Ben-Zaken, owner and winemaker of Domaine du Castel, joins managing editor Kim Marcus.

The feature talks about the rich history of Jewish winemaking in Judea and Samaria! In other words it doesn’t deny the strong Jewish ties to the land, as well as the importance of Jewish winemaking in history of the region.

This really is fantastic news! Both the positive descriptions of the wines and the very fact that the magazine gave such positive coverage of Israeli wines, even from areas which many consider “illegal”, gives a great lift to our hearts.

The Elder of Ziyon helpfully plotted a graph of prices vs. quality and and found little correlation between price and quality. Which means you can go out and buy the best wine for Shabbat!🙂

Elder of Ziyon's price vs. quality graph for Israeli wines

Elder of Ziyon’s price vs. quality graph for Israeli wines


With this very cheering thought in mind, I toast a Lechaim to all of you with a glass of good Israeli wine, and wish you all Shabbat Shalom!

I Like Wine Smiley Face, Emoticon

Posted in Culture, Arts & Sports, History, Israel news, Judaism, Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments