The Camel Corps rides again

Britain’s Foreign Office came about its moniker honestly. Since the days of T.E. Lawrence, aka Lawrence of Arabia, it has held a romantic, idealized view of the Arabian way of life and a fondness for Arab culture. This view has barely diminished despite the deadly civil wars and terrorism wreaked by the likes of Al Qaeda and ISIS. This goes a long way towards explaining the anti-Israel position of the Foreign Office, even when this clashes with the view of the prevailing government.

This is the situation that we find ourselves in today once again. The current spat between Israel and Britain comes against the background of Israel being the one country that has never been honoured with an official royal state visit by the British Royal Family. State visits have been arranged in a one-way direction only – with Israeli leaders being welcomed by the Royal Family, but never in the other direction.

In recent days there has been talk that Prince Charles was to make an official visit to Israel.  However that has apparently been scuppered by our ever-faithful Camel Corps, aka the Foreign Office, as who “pandered to Arab dictators, according to The Sun:

The heir to the throne was set to become the first Royal to carry out an official state visit to Israel since it was created in 1948.

Prince Charles was set to travel to Israel to honour thousands of British war dead at the centenary of the WW1 Palestine Campaign and the historic Balfour Declaration.

Prince Charles at President Shimon Peres’ funeral in Jerusalem in 2016

But insiders say the controversial trip – unofficially pencilled in for later this year – has now been binned.

It is feared the decision may have been taken to avoid upsetting Arab nations in the region who regularly host UK Royals.

Col. Sir Richard Kemp, former Commander of the British Forces in Afghanistan, and a stalwart supporter of Israel, condemned the Foreign Office’s interference, calling it an insult to British war dead as well as to the State of Israel, as the Jewish Chronicle reports:

Although the trip was never officially announced, it was rumoured to be under consideration after Israeli president Reuven Rivlin issued an invitation during a meeting with Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson in Jerusalem in March.

Colonel Richard Kemp, a former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, told the Sun the decision was an “insult to British war dead”, and accused the Foreign Office of being behind the decision.

Mr Kemp claimed the FCO were “pandering” to Arab dictators by allegedly blocking the trip.

No Royal has ever been on an state visit to Israel since it was founded in 1948, although there have been official visits to Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, UAE, Oman, Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya and Qatar.

According to the Sun, the decision was made by the Royal Visits Committee – part of the FCO – and there is no suggestion the Prince of Wales was involved in the cancellation.

The invitation reportedly never reached the office of Prince Charles.

If the Foreign Office were indeed involved in the cancellation, or rather the non-actualization of the royal visit, because of their kowtowing to Arab dictators, this would hardly make sense in the current climate. Since the rise of Iran, plus the rapid expansion of ISIS’s influence in the Middle East, not to mention the meddling of Russia in Syria and the withdrawal of American influence under the auspices of the Obama administration, Israeli and Western-oriented Arab regimes have drawn closer together than at any time in the past.  Although all sides would vehemently deny it, there is a fair amount of agreement and quiet cooperation between Israeli and Arab governments.

Is it possible that the British Foreign Office is “more Catholic than the Pope”? More anti-Israel or maybe more pro-Arab than the Arabs themselves?

I think we are all owed an explanation, especially Israel and Prince Charles himself.

Posted in Defence and Military, International relations, Mideast news | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Good News Friday

Friday has come round once again, and this week and since we are still in Yom Ha’atzmaut mode, there is plenty of good news for a Good News Friday post.

Considering where Israel was a mere 69 years ago, it is incredible to see that Israel’s economy is surging against all odds, as Yoram Ettinger writes:

155 Israeli hightech companies raised $1bn during the first quarter of 2017, compared to $1bn during the 4th quarter of 2016, $933mn – 3rd quarter, $1.7bn – 2nd quarter and $1.1bn – 1st quarter of 2016 (Globes, April 29)

Fitch credit rating reaffirmed Israel’s credit rating at A+, based on the stability of Israel’s economy, balance of payment surplus, expansion of foreign exchange reserves, decline of debt-GDP ratio from 95.2% in 2003 to 62.2% in 2016, decrease of budget deficit, natural gas potential, etc. (Globes, April 26, 2017).

Adam Reuter, the Founder & CEO of Israel’s Financial Immunities: Against all odds Israel’s aggregate economic growth since 2008 – 35%, almost twice the OECD average; Israel’s GDP per capita is almost $36,000, 24th in the world (while population is much younger than all advanced economies); Israel’s foreign exchange reserves exceed $100bn, one of the highest per capita in the world; debt-GDP ratio reduced substantially; unemployment decreases below 5%; higher participation in the labor market (more ultra-orthodox and Arab participation); Israel is the global leader in research & development investment per GDP (over 4%), employing 140 per 10,000 in research & investment (the US is second, employing 85 per 10,000); Israel is one of only eight countries developing, manufacturing and launching space modules; Israel is a global co-leader (with the US) in the area of unmanned aerial vehicles and second global power in cyber technology; over 350 global companies operate research & development centers in Israel, which has become the largest industrial global laboratory; Israel’s economy benefit from the highest fertility rate among advanced economies and net-positive-migration (no need to import labor force, in order to sustain economic growth); Israel’s income tax is one of the lowest among OECD countries; Israel’s technology transformed the country from inherent irrigation deficit to surplus (almost 90% of sewage is recycled – drinking water standard – for agriculture); offshore natural gas development is already bolstering the economy; etc

There is much more at the link. Read it all and be proud of our little country with the great people. We have to thank G-d as well as our financial leadership who has kept our (not so little) ship afloat throughout the turbulence affecting the rest of the world.

Since we’re on economic news, here’s quite a shocking item (in a good way): A Swiss court has ordered Egypt to pay Israel $2 billion for breaching their contract with Israel (as I reported here in 2012):

A Swiss court ordered Egyptian natural gas companies to pay Israel’s state-owned electricity provider $2 billion in fines for breach of previous contracts, a step that could complicate chances for the two nations to sign future gas deals as Israel seeks to become an energy exporter.

A blown up gas pipeline from Egypt to Israel

The Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland said Egyptian General Petroleum Corp. and Egyptian Natural Gas Holding were liable for the damages caused by repeated attacks on a pipeline through the Sinai Desert that supplied gas to its neighbor, Israel Electric Co. said in a text message Thursday. The Egyptian companies had appealed a previous ruling from Dec. 2015 that imposed a $1.73 billion penalty.

It’s about time too! But who would ever have thought that justice for Israel would come via Switzerland? Kol hakavod to the Swiss courts who ruled in our favour at last. Interesting too that the tables have turned, and now Israel is the one exporting gas to Egypt, instead of the reverse. That is one of the huge benefits of Israel’s natural gas finds.

Going back to Yom Ha’atzmaut, as I reported in my Yom Atzmaut post, Israeli Arabs are very happy to rejoice with Israel on its independence. Here (from Israelycool) is how some Israeli Arabs celebrated:

Commenter Reality mentioned on my post that the Arabs at her place of work also wished the Israelis chag same’ach on their holiday. This is not even unusual any more. We just have to show the rest of the world what our reality (no pun intended) is really like.

Talking of showing the world what Israel is really like, and not what the propagandists would have you believe, watch this incredible video made by CAMERA on Campus:

In the past few years UC Irvine has become synonymous with anti-Israel activities: BDS votes, petitions against Israeli speakers, boycotts on Israel-related events and more.

Students on campus don’t even get to meet Israelis or visit Israel, but they constantly hear how bad it is.
So these students decided to bring the REAL Israel straight to the campus – and the results were amazing.
See for yourselves!

Kol hakavod to CAMERA! This initiative should be replicated across the world in every college and school. Only this way, by direct contact, can the evils of BDS be vanquished.

And I’ll close with a cute video “What does it mean to be Israeli?”, made by Im Tirtzu and funny girl Renny:


And with these happy thoughts I wish you all Shabbat Shalom!

Posted in energy sources, International relations, Israel news, Lawfare and Delegitimization, Slice of Israeli life | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Guest Post: On the approaching centenary of the Balfour Declaration

This is another guest post by frequent contributor Brian Goldfarb. The timing of this article is perfect, coming as it does a day after Yom Ha’atzmaut when Israel celebrated its 69th anniversary. That anniversary was possible due in very large part to the Balfour Declaration, which the Palestinians – as is their wont – are trying to undo.  (They are in the business of undoing history after all). At the very least the Palestinians are demanding an apology from the British for the Balfour Declaration and are threatening to sue if they don’t get their apology – which the British assure them they will not receive.

This demand would be hugely laughable if it were not so dangerous and if it did not occur against a background of constant delegitimization of Israel. Just see what happened yesterday at UNESCO!

So let Brian take us back in history to the very beginning, and have a look at what the Balfour Declaration is all about.

As we approach the centenary of the Balfour Declaration, although it is six months away (see below), it seems to me that it is important to start talking about it and what it does say and what it doesn’t say, as well as trying to make clear its status and impact.

The actual Declaration itself is but one sentence in a letter sent to Baron Rothschild: brief to the point of being easy to miss. As Wikipedia notes:

The Balfour Declaration was a single paragraph in a letter dated 2 November 1917 from the United Kingdom’s Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour to Walter Rothschild, 2nd Baron Rothschild, a leader of the British Jewish community, for transmission to the Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland. It read:

His Majesty’s government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.

The text of the letter was published in the press one week later, on 9 November 1917. The “Balfour Declaration” was later incorporated into both the Sèvres peace treaty with the Ottoman Empire, and the Mandate for Palestine.” [Wikipedia]

The Balfour Declaration

It was, of course, the culmination of a long campaign by the Zionist Federation (ZF) (and by Chaim Weizmann in particular). Weizmann was especially influential in this, largely because of his scientific work, as a research chemist, and especially his development of the extraction of acetone (vital for the munitions industry) from maize during the First World War on behalf of the Allies. This meant that the British Government of the day was particularly beholden to him, and Weizmann used this influence wholeheartedly on behalf of the Zionist Federation. (The Encyclopaedia Britannica entry on Weizmann is particularly informative on this period of his life.) It is important to note developments such as the San Remo Conference of Allied Powers (1920), which confirmed the Balfour Declaration and awarded the Palestine Mandate to Great Britain (Britannica, ibid).

It is as important, at this point, to remember that phrase from the Declaration that “nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.” This will be returned to below.

To move on, it is possible to argue that the Peel Commission recommendations of 1936 come close to allocating much the same territory to each side as did the 1947 UN Resolution on the ending of the British Mandate. Remember: I said “much the same” not exactly the the same, though it’s a moot point, as the Arab side rejected the Commission’s recommendations outright, despite earlier agreements between at least some Arab leaders and the Jewish Agency.

All that said, the British Government failed, consistently, to live up to the wording of the Declaration. From the San Remo Conference onwards, despite that Conference’s agreement that

Britain was charged with establishing a ‘national home for the Jewish people’ in Palestine [although] Terroritorial boundaries were not decided until four years after (,

Britain did nothing to establish any boundaries, then or later, including after World War 2 and, indeed, after the 1947 UN Resolution ending the Mandate. The British didn’t even take steps to establish Transjordan, although they much favoured its creation. As a result, it is hardly surprising that the Arabs, both those in the Mandate territory and the independent nations outside it, utterly rejected the 1947 Resolution.

This background is important because of what happened next. We know that, as Weizmann later said, (paraphrasing his words) the Jews would accept any state, even if it was only the size of a tablecloth, whereas the Arabs (Palestinians weren’t invented until the early 1960s) rejected the whole idea of an Israel of any size at all. What happened next has been well written about by Benny Morris in “1948: The First Arab-Israeli War” and I have summarised it several times in these pages: the Arab militias, from the passing of the ’47 resolution until May 1948 attempted to throw the Jews into the sea, and failed miserably, losing land and men. Then the armies of 5 surrounding Arab states (Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq), from the Declaration of Independence on, attempted the same and also failed (except for the Jordanians, who took the land the Resolution assigned to them, more or less. If you go back to Morris, he notes, more than once, that it was never policy, official or unofficial, of the Jewish Agency (the Sochnut), effectively the government of Israel in waiting, to deliberately displace the Arab population of what became Israel. The most public “expulsion”, that of Deir Yassin, was carried out by Irgun, never an official part of the Israeli state.

It is only the anti-Zionists who wish us (and themselves) to believe otherwise.

However, for the Israelis, the cost was horribly high, despite the cost to the world-wide Jewish population of the Holocaust:

4,000 Israeli soldiers and 2,000 Israeli civilians lost their lives fighting for Israeli independence. That number amounted to one percent of the Israeli population at the time. Considering the size of the Israeli population back then, this number amounted to triple the percentage of American causalities during World War II.  (

Note that this quote says “casualties” for the USA, not deaths.

All this history is, for many, and, I’m sure, the vast majority of visitors to this site, well known, so why visit it again? For a very simple reason: with the approach of the centenary of the Declaration, many of those who oppose the very existence of Israel are demanding an apology from Britain for the Declaration, as though, were this to be provided, all would, in their eyes, be put right.

In their dreams.

It’s not going to happen, probably ever, because even if Labour under Corbyn were to win the election on June 8 ( a remote possibility), a majority of the MPs in the House of Commons would reject such an apology being delivered. As it already has. Just note the following, from Honest Reporting’s Israel Daily News Service (IDNS) of 26/4/17:

After Britain refused to apologize for the Balfour declaration, the Palestinian Authority threatens legal action.

Manuel Hassassian, the Palestinian Authority ambassador to the UK, said on Tuesday that unless Britain apologized, canceled planned celebrations and recognized a Palestinian state, the Palestinians would go ahead with plans for a lawsuit against the British government for issuing the Balfour Declaration.

The British government are in fact proud of their role in the Balfour Declaration (from the ToI link):

“The Balfour Declaration is an historic statement for which HMG (her Majesty’s Government) does not intend to apologise,” the response began. “We are proud of our role in creating the State of Israel. The task now is to encourage moves towards peace.”

Honest Reporting notes:

But why stop with Balfour? The PA should also sue Britain and France (for the the 1916 Sykes-Picot agreement), Britain and the Husseini family (for the 1922 Cairo Conference, which created an independent Transjordan), and the UN (for the 1948 Partition Plan). The Palestinians can even sue themselves for signing the 1993 Oslo accords . . .

The UK government’s announcement was made on a petition page where Palestinian activists seeking an apology are collecting signatures.”

The British Government, under the leadership of Theresa May, is, of course, quaking in its collective boots at this threat.

Anne adds: Brian, thank you for this comprehensive look at the historical context of the Balfour Declaration. It is of the utmost importance that Israel and her supporters stress over and over again the historical background to the Declaration and to Israel’s ensuing Declaration of Independence. So many people, even well-meaning ones, labour under the impression that Israel was created as a result of the Shoah, or that the Jews suddenly turned up and “stole Palestinian land”, when nothing could be further from the truth.

I’m sure the media and airwaves will be laden with articles on this subject in the coming 6 months, even more so because of the 50th anniversary of the liberation of Jerusalem in the Six Day War. We have to be on our guard and keep on message.

On this subject it is worth reading “Could the Palestinians actually sue the UK for the Balfour Declaration?” from Jews Down Under. (Hint: The answer is “probably not”).

Posted in History, indigenous rights, Lawfare and Delegitimization | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Outrage: UNESCO denies Israel’s sovereignty over Jerusalem

Whenever UNESCO seems to have hit bottom, it starts digging again. Not only has this despicable organization, led by a bunch of tyrants, despots and benighted third world dictatorships, condemned Israel’s sovereignty over the Old City of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, yesterday it outdid itself by passing a resolution condemning Israel’s sovereignty in Jerusalem – the entirety of Jerusalem.

the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization — passed a resolution called “Occupied Palestine”  by a vote of 22-10, with 26 countries abstaining or absent, on Tuesday.

The resolution calls on Israel to rescind any “legislative and administrative measures and actions” it has taken to “alter the character and status” of Jerusalem. It rejects the idea of a “basic law” in Jerusalem, based off of a 1980 Knesset law, which implies that the city is one unified whole and governed solely by Israel.

Submitted by Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Qatar and Sudan, the resolution also sharply criticizes Israel’s construction in eastern Jerusalem’s Old City and “deplores” the Jewish state’s “continuous” closure of the Gaza strip.

The vote was taken on Israel’s Independence Day and follows a highly controversial UNESCO resolution passed last October that ignored Jewish ties to the Western Wall and Temple Mount sites.

And what timing! It surely was not coincidental that this bunch of bigots chose Israel’s Independence Day to hold this vote that by extension essentially denies the Jews’ right to their own homeland. After all, if Israel has no right to its capital, how could it have any right to the rest of the country?

Tens of thousands of Israelis visit the Kotel and the Old City of Jerusalem on Yom Ha’atzmaut 2017 (by Reality)

This vote took place despite the demand by US senators that UNESCO stop delegitimizing Israel, a demand that was utterly ignored by the hypocritical UN institution.

The resolution would be utterly risible if it weren’t so dangerous. It gives cover to the Muslims’ claims to the Temple Mount and the Old City and denies any Jewish connection to Jerusalem at all throughout history. This in turn is a key source of the constant friction, incitement and violence by Muslims against Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount.

By Moshik Gulst (on Twitter

Yes, Israel did score a “moral” victory in that almost all the civilized Western countries voted against the vote or abstained – BUT it still was not enough to prevent the resolution from passing.

Hillel Neuer, who heads the watchdog group UN Watch, tweeted that despite the outcome, Israel won a “moral victory” in the voting process. He noted that the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, Greece, Italy and the Netherlands all voted no, and that India abstained.

I say “almost” all Western countries because as you can see from the table above, one Western country did vote for the resolution: that most enlightened of countries, Sweden.

It is gratifying to note that the US rejected the biased UNESCO resolution. And Culture Minister Miri Regev was entirely correct to demand that the Israeli government shut down UNESCO’s offices in Jerusalem and return the land to the state. But until the institution changes the makeup of its membership and governing committee, nothing is ever going to change.

The resolution also has almost no practical effects on the ground – BUT it will be a source of more incitement and more anti-Israel hatred amongst those who are looking for any excuse to fight not only Israel but the Jews.

Posted in Antisemitism, Incitement, indigenous rights, Lawfare and Delegitimization | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Chag Atzma’ut Same’ach! Happy 69th Independence Day Israel!

Yom Atzma’ut Same’ach! Happy Independence Day Israel!

It’s Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day, and, as remarked upon by both local and foreign observers, the country swings in a schizophrenic kind of way from the mourning, sorrow and remembrance of Yom Hazikaron to the flag-waving patriotism and general merry-making of Yom Ha’atzmaut.

Prayers marking the transition from the mourning of Yom Hazikaron to the celebrations of Yom Haatzmaut were held in synagogues throughout the country.

As I did last year, I attended the festive prayer service in the central square of my daughter’s community of Karnei Shomron; the square was packed and people sang the psalms and prayers with great gusto. The highlight of the service was the blast of a Shofars followed by a rousing rendition of “Next year in Jerusalem!”.

The prayers were followed by some dancing and the presentation of awards to honoured citizens (יקירי הישוב) who had excelled in their field. We had huge nachat and a very big surprise when our daughter was called to accept an award for her voluntary work on a committee which helps families in crisis. Kol hakavod Hadassah!

This was then followed by the highlight of the evening – a very entertaining show put on by the town’s residents. Every age group took part, from kindergarten to grandparents. The production was most impressive, the community singing loud and with gusto, and the fireworks at the end were beautiful.

Here’s a link (via Reality) to the festive prayers at Bet El Yeshiva. If you look carefully and spot a redhead – that’s my nephew! 🙂

Update: Here’s the video itself (I hope you can watch it).

The central Yom Ha’atzmaut ceremony took place at Har Herzl in Jerusalem with torch-lighting, parades, music and more.

Mournful and somber speeches gave way to fireworks, concerts and parties across the country, with flags promptly raised back from half-staff. At the military on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, the transition was marked with an extravagant state ceremony featuring a speech from Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein, the lighting of torches by 12 people who are seen to have made an outstanding contribution to society, and much singing and dancing.

The Yom Ha’atzmaut torch-lighting ceremony on Har Herzl

The torch-lighters were all extraordinary people:

Eli Amir, 79, a Baghdad-born author and civil servant who immigrated to Israel in 1950, lit the first torch on behalf of all those who immigrated to Israel from around the globe.

Yaakov (Yaki) Hetz, who served in the Paratrooper Brigade during the campaign for Jerusalem in 1967, lit the second torch. He dedicated it to the families who lost relatives in Israel’s wars.

Miri Ehrental, 67, who along with her husband, Chaim, founded Zichron Menachem, a children’s cancer support center set up in memory of their son Menachem who died of the disease at the age of 15, lit the third torch on behalf of those who choose to do national service outside the IDF.

Michael Steinhardt, a 76-year-old American philanthropist who co-founded Taglit-Birthright Israel along with Charles Bronfman, and Rabbi Marvin Hier, the founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in the US, lit the fourth torch together, the first non-Israelis ever to light a torch as part of the official celebration.

US-born Rabbanit Chana Henkin, a trailblazing educator of religious Jewish women, whose son Eitam was murdered by Palestinian gunmen in October 2015 along with his wife, Naama, dedicated the next torch to the scholars.

Eli Mizrahi, 65, owner of one of the best-known coffee shops in Jerusalem’s iconic Mahane Yehuda market, lit his torch on behalf of the shopkeepers of Jerusalem.

The seventh torch was lit by Professor Ahmed Eid, head of Hadassah Hospital’s Department of General Surgery. He dedicated his lighting to the shared future of Jews and Arabs in Israel.

Betar Jerusalem soccer player Uri Malmilian, 59, dedicated his torch lighting to his neighbors, family and friends, the people of Jerusalem.

Professor Amnon Shashua, co-founder of the Mobileye and OrCam startups, dedicated the ninth torch to the start-up nation and technological advances of the Jewish state.

Dina Simata, 19, a new immigrant from India who is a student in Jerusalem’s Jewish Institute for the Blind, recited her speech while reading it in braille.

Yehoram Gaon, a 78-year-old Jerusalem-born singer, actor, director, producer, and TV and radio host, dedicated his torch to the spirit of Jerusalem, “which spreads throughout the world,” and to poets, singers and artists across the globe.

The final torch was lit by two soldiers: Ethiopian-born Major Yarus Yerushalayim, 30, who came to Israel when she was 4-years-old and serves in the Education Corps, and Lieutenant Dean Argil, 22, a third-generation Israeli serving in the Paratroopers. His grandfather served in the Paratrooper Brigade during the campaign for Jerusalem.

There is so much to be thankful for and so much to be proud of as Israel turns 69. Its population has grown to 8.68 million! And look at the rest of the astonishing statistics:

According to the report, the Jewish population represents 6.484 million residents – 74.7% of the total population – and the Arab population stands at 1.808 million people, 20.8% of the country’s inhabitants.

The report cited that at the founding of the state in 1948, there were 11.5 million Jews in the world, of whom 6% were living in Israel. In contrast, in 2015 there were 14.411 million Jews in the world, 43% of whom were living in Israel. The country is rapidly approaching the tipping point where the majority of the world’s Jews will be living in Israel.

The data also revealed that the Jewish state’s population is expected to hit over 15 million by 2048 – Israel’s 100th birthday.

Since last year, the country’s population grew by some 159,000 people, marking a 1.9% increase, the report found.

In addition, the figures showed that 174,000 babies were born this past year, while 44,000 deaths were recorded.

Israeli children celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut

With regard to aliya, some 30,000 immigrants arrived this past year.

According to the report, three-quarters of Israel’s Jewish population are Sabras, native-born Israelis. This figure is more than double the percentage in 1948.

Among the Jews living in Israel, some 44% identified as secular, 24% identified as traditional but not religious and 11% identified as religious, while 9% identified as ultra-Orthodox.

This year’s report also compared today’s Israel and the newborn state in a number of areas.

For example, in 1948 Israel had only one city – Tel Aviv – with more than 100,000 residents. (Jaffa was annexed to Tel Aviv in 1950.)

Today, 14 cities have populations of more than 100,000 residents, of which eight – Jerusalem, Tel Aviv-Jaffa, Haifa, Rishon Lezion, Ashdod, Petah Tikva, Netanya and Beersheba – have more than 200,000 residents.

The report found that in 2016, the GDP stood at NIS 1.2 billion – 46 times greater than in 1950, when Israel’s GDP stood at NIS 25.6b.

An even more astounding revelation in one survey is that Israeli Arabs view Israel more positively than Jews do, as this Facebook photo demonstrates:

From the ToI link:

More among Israel’s Arab community than its Jewish population are satisfied with life in Israel and slightly over half are proud to be Israeli citizens, according to a survey released on Sunday.

The results of the poll, conducted by the Israel Democracy Institute and Tel Aviv University Peace Index, were released ahead of Israel’s 69th Independence Day that falls on Tuesday. The survey sought an appraisal of life in Israel, asking the question: “How’s it going?”

Among Jewish respondents, 43.9 percent said they see Israel’s situation as “good” or “very good” while among Arabs the figure was nearly two-thirds at 66%. As for personal circumstances, nearly three-quarters of Jews (74%) said their situation is “good” or “very good” compared to 57% of Arabs who felt the same way.

Similarly, according to the survey, 73% of Jews and 61 % of Arabs felt optimistic about Israel’s future, but while a majority from both communities were satisfied with Israel’s ability to maintain security in the country, only a small percentage of all Israelis felt that the government is attentive to their needs.

The good appeared to outweigh the bad, however, with some 80% of respondents saying they felt proud to be Israeli (51.1% among Arab respondents, 86.1% among Jewish respondents.)

Optimism was also high with 74% of Jews and 61% of Arabs responding positively to a question about how they feel about the future. The majority of the public (82% of Jews and 58% of Arabs) also feel “to a moderately large extent” or “to a very large extent” a part of the state of Israel and its problems, according to the survey.

The country’s economic stability also ranked well with most Jews (62%) and Arabs (75%), who said Israel’s economic situation was “moderately good” or “good.”

Medicine, health, and education services as well as science, ranked high with 70% of respondents seeing the country’s achievements in medicine and health as “moderately good” or “good.” Some 61% of Israelis felt the same way about achievements in education and science.

I can only nod my head fervently in agreement.

And more item to delight the eye, from Israel 21C: 69 reasons why we love Israel. Just click the link to watch the fabulous slideshow. Here are a couple of samples:

Because we have streets that look like this. Photo of a street in the Old City of Jerusalem by Daniel Santacruz

And because people of all sorts help each other in times of need. Arab and Jewish volunteers for ZAKA prepare to rescue victims together. Photo courtesy of ZAKA.

Happy Birthday Israel! Chag Same’ach! I won’t say עד מאה ועשרים – ad me’ah ve’esrim (until 120) – because I hope you live till thousands of years old!

When you think how far we have come in such a short time, the blink of an eye in historical perspective, we have to thank G-d for bringing us to this day.

זה היום עשה ה’ נגילה ונשמחה בו

This is the day that Hashem made, we will rejoice and celebrate on it.

Posted in Israel news, Slice of Israeli life | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

Yom Hazikaron 5777 – Israel’s Memorial Day 2017

Yom Hazikaron

Yom Hazikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day for fallen soldiers and victims of terror, began this evening at sundown with the sound of the siren, as Israelis commemorated their fallen: 23,544 soldiers and 3,117 victims of terror.

Arutz Sheva published a very moving editorial (at the link above). Here is an excerpt:

Yom Hazikaron in Israel is a day of personal mourning, collective grief, and national catharsis. Our historic return to our homeland has demanded a steep toll of human heroism as we struggle to defend our people and stabilize our sovereignty. Jews are no strangers to historical challenge and the suffering it exacts. However Yom Hazkaron provides three very important changes in memorializing our matyrs.

Firstly we mourn as families and communities but for the first time in 2 millennia we mourn as a state. Despite our differences of ethnicity, religion, affluence and political ideology we cluster together and stand as one unified family – both in our collective sadness and in the warmth we try to extend to families who have paid this immense price for our return. Our mourning is collective and institutional rather than local and communal.

Secondly our mourning is both bitter and sweet; we feel clouds of sadness darkening our horizons but we sense an overpowering radiance illuminating the canvas upon which these clouds are sketched. Unlike past tragedies we sense imminent and palpable results and outcomes. We witness the modern miracle of the State of Israel as our beloved country advances in almost every sector and we assume our rightful position as a leader of nations We sense the Book of Tanach reopened as the passages of prophecy literally flutter off the page and into our reality. The ultimate price that so many have paid has yielded an opportunity to re-build our people in its ancestral land and its renewed history. As such the transition from this day to Yom Haatzmaut – which to many may seem foreign – is seamless and integrated.

Finally it is a day not only to remember the heroes who have given their lives for their history. It is also a day to celebrate all those who continue to risk life and limb on behalf of our nation, who bear uniforms with Jewish symbols and who remind us that we are now protected by our own.

We stand at silently at attention as names are recited in prayer for our heroes. We plead with the Almighty to accelerate the final steps of history and ease its passage. We huddle with families visiting the graves of their fallen soldiers and listen to their stories and join in their fervent psalms. Finally we punctuate our pride and pathos with a common anthem, Hatikvah, followed by the steadfast faith of Ani Ma’amin.

We are proud to offer this opportunity for our family across the world to join us in this great day of Jewish History

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu addressed bereaved families at a ceremony in Jerusalem earlier in the day:

The siren marked the official start of the annual Memorial Day, although several events were held earlier Sunday.

Speaking earlier at a ceremony at the Yad Labanim site in Jerusalem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told bereaved families that the sacrifice of fallen Israeli servicemen and -women allowed the Jewish people to live freely in their own land.

“Ever since the dagger of bereavement was thrust into our hearts, our lives were changed forever,” he said.

“We note the mutual responsibility and destiny that binds all parts of the nation with the family of the bereaved. We are one people, and it is clear that if it weren’t for the sacrifices of our sons and daughters, we would not be a free people in our own land,” the prime minister said. “The State of Israel is a historic wonder.”

“We do not show weakness, we do not let the weapons fall from our hands, because we know that this is the only way to repel those evil people who refuse to accept our existence, and only then will we achieve peace with those who want peace.”

It is enormously saddening to consider the large number of Israel’s fallen, and these date back not just to 1948 but to previous centuries:

Since 1860, when the first Jewish neighborhood was established outside Jerusalem’s Old City walls, 23,544 men and women have died while serving in the security services of Israel and the pre-state Jewish community, according to official figures.

In the past year, 97 additional Israelis were added to the list of the fallen, 37 of them disabled IDF veterans who succumbed to their injuries. The tally also includes soldiers who died in car accidents, and of suicide and other causes off the battlefield.

President Reuven Rivlin addressed bereaved families at the ceremony at the Kotel, saying  that the price of our liberty is purchased in blood:

“By this wall of tears and of hopes, this evening, 50 years after the liberation of Jerusalem, we remember: our liberty is sacred, both sacred and hard,” the president says to an audience of IDF soldiers and families of the fallen. “We know that there is a price to be paid for our existence here, for our liberty. There is a price, and we, in awe and terror, are willing to pay that price.”

“Dear bereaved families, we are living that privilege. You paid the price. The price of our liberty purchased in blood,” Rivlin says.

The president also says efforts to return the bodies of IDF soldiers killed in operations outside of Israel must not be abandoned.

“The task of bringing home the missing and the fallen soldiers whose place of burial is unknown has not been completed,” he says. “Our commitment to those boys remains firm.”

This year a new Memorial Hall was inaugurated at Mt. Herzl Military Cemetery:

On Sunday a ceremony inaugurating the new “Heichal Hazikaron” (Hall of Remembrance) was held on Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl.

Binyamin Netanyahu in the new Hall of Remembrance/ Credit: Yonatan Sindel, Flash 90

The dedication comes just a few hours before Israel marks the Memorial Day for the Fallen Soldiers of Israel and Victims of Terrorism.

At the ceremony, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said “we remember who we are, and what the purpose of our actions is, no less than we remember those who have fallen.”

“Today we are inaugurating the Hall of Remembrance, which gives a memorial to our fallen soldiers,” Netanyahu said. “This is a significant event for all of us.”

“This year marks 50 years since the Six Day War. I know many parents of fallen soldiers are asking themselves, ‘Who will remember our son after we die?’ With this new hall, we promise that the memory of our fallen sons and daughters will remain etched in our nation’s heart for generations to come.

“This hall is not just a place to remember the past. In this hall, we promise to eternalize the past, but we also promise to continue to determinedly build the future.”

Netanyahu continued to speak, but was interrupted by Hadar Goldin‘s father, who said, “Even on this holy day, I do not forgive Leah Goldin’s tears. Her tears demand a response and an immediate apology.”

Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul are two IDF soldiers who killed in action during Operation Protective Edge (Tzuk Etan) and whose bodies were kidnapped by Hamas. They have not been returned to the present date.

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman (Yisrael Beytenu) said, “Israel does not receive international backing in its moments of truth. The world must halt hypocritical and anti-Israel diplomatic initiatives, some of which are anti-Semitic as well.”

“As we speak, like during every other hour of every other day, IDF soldiers and other security forces are working in the air, on the ground, and in the sea, to ensure the safety of Israel’s citizens.

“They do this with courage and determination, along all our borders and sometimes far from our borders. They work to thwart every threat, and to capture everyone who wishes us harm.

The new hall is 18 meters high, and contains over 23,000 bricks – each with the name of a fallen IDF soldier and the date he or she fell. Next to each name is a memorial candle which will be lit on the anniversary of their passing.

The new hall memorializes every fallen soldier, from the earliest Zionists who were killed, to the most recent victim of Israel’s war on terror.

All of the lights will be light on Memorial Day for the Fallen Soldiers of Israel and Victims of Terrorism.

The mezuzah which Israeli President Reuven Rivlin affixed to the hall’s doorway saw Jerusalem’s unification and the IDF forces tearful entry to the city.

Tomorrow morning at 11 a.m. there will be another siren, followed by memorial ceremonies at all the military cemeteries in the country. Every military grave has had an Israeli flag with a black Yizkor ribbon laid on it.

May this coming year see no more additions to the list of Israel’s fallen heroes.

May the memory of our fallen be for a blessing for all of Am Yisrael. Yehi zichram baruch.

יהי זכרם ברוך

To finish this sombre post on a somewhat more upbeat note, here is the post by the wonderful Sivan Rahav Meir, a news broadcaster who has turned into an inspirational commentator on Jewish subjects, almost a female Rabbi. Her Facebook posts are always education and inspiring. Here she writes about Yom Hazikaron – how do we go on from the mourning?

And now again – “Aharei Mot Kedoshim” (literally: After the death of the holy ones) are the Weekly Portions that are going to accompany the Memorial Day for the Fallen Soldiers of Israel and Victims of Terrorism. How do we behave after the death of the holy ones? Two years ago I heard Rebbetzin Yemima Mizrachi speaking on the evening of the Memorial Day in Tel Aviv. The hall was packed to capacity, and therefore another room was opened with a live video broadcast of her speech. And this is what she said:

“It is not a coincidence that these special days, Memorial Day and Independence Day, take place during the double portions of Aharei Mot – Kedoshim. What does Aharei Mot mean? What does the Torah tell us to do after someone’s death? To LIVE! To empower the living. And how do we do this?

“It is no coincidence that it is in this Portion of all portions and in this week of all weeks that we read: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’. These holy souls look at us from above and ask: ‘What were we sacrificed for, if down there they are still fighting over trivial things and hate each other? How come they do not respect one another? How come they do not respect their wives, children, elderly, teachers, combat soldiers, Torah scholars? RESEPCT!'”

And then she asked us to do something: “Let each woman here put her hand on the shoulder of the woman sitting next to her. Come on, don’t be shy, don’t feel embarrassed. Put a hand on another person and say with me: ‘I am hereby prepared to accept upon myself the positive commandment of And You Shall Love Your Neighbor as Yorself. Come on!”. And then 250 women, old and young, secular and religious, those who are in the process of coming closer to Judaism and those who are in the opposite process, those who wear head scarfs and those who do not, those who wear skirts and those who wear jeans – all of them, in the middle of Tel Aviv, on the evening of the Memorial Day, put a hand on the shoulder of someone that they did not know, repeated her words, word for word, and accepted upon themselves to try to love more.

These are stirring words for all of us to live by always, not just on Yom Hazikaron, in order to honour the dead and respect the living, so that we can fulfill the words:

“In their death, they bequeathed us life”.

במותם ציוו לנו חיים

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