Videos for Erev Tisha B’Av

Although it is nearly Shabbat, this is not the time for a Good News Friday installment, since today is the day before Tisha B’Av. This year, since the 9th of Av falls on Shabbat, the fast day itself will only start at sundown on Shabbat night, and Shabbat itself is a normal day. Nevertheless since we are now at the height (or depths) of the 9 days (the 9 days from Rosh Chodesh Av until Tisha B’Av where we increase our mourning for Jerusalem), now is not the time to cheer up with good news. That will wait till after the fast is over.

But I also don’t want to leave you with depressing thoughts for Shabbat, so here are a couple of moving videos which I have posted before, but they are favourites of mine.

Here is Yaakov Shweki with אם אשכחך ירושלים – if I forget thee O Jerusalem:

And here is the song written in memory of the three teenagers Gil-Ad, Naftali and Eyal, who were kidnapped last summer and whose murder set off the chain reaction culminating in the war known as Operation Protective Edge (Tzuk Eitan).  This beautiful song was written by popular Israeli performer David D’Or, and was performed jointly by several singers including David D’Or, Avraham Fried, Kobi Aflalo, Yishai Ribo, Yonatan Razel and David Broza.  Other singers include Liad Fisher, Amir Ben Gal, Gavriel Lederman, Chanan Einstein, Yedidia Yosef and Yehuda Malka.

The lyrics are so emotional they bring tears to the eyes, and are so poetic in the way they pick up on the boys’ names and use them in reference to Biblical verses which describe the travails we all went through last summer. (h/t Reality).

Here are the words in Hebrew on the right, with my English translation on the left.

Song for the #EyalGiladNaftali

May these songs inspire you for these difficult days.

Wishing you all Shabbat Shalom. May we hear only good news.

Posted in Judaism, Slice of Israeli life | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

Guest Post: Hate begets hate, love begets love, a timely message for the 9 days

This reader guest post was written by Y.J. Draiman.   YJ Draiman is the President of AFSI (American Friends for a Safe Israel) in the Greater Los Angeles area and was a candidate for mayor of LA 2017.   He also blogs at the Jerusalem Post.

Jerusalem rainbowSome Arabs-Muslims declare ‘Death to the Jews’ in their Facebook profiles. This is not anti-Zionism. This is extreme racist anti-Semitism. If you replace “Death to the Jews” with “Death to the Buddhists”, or “Death to the Catholics”, or “Death to the Pagan worshipers” or “Death to the Kenyans or the Japanese”, what would these words mean other than menacing hate based in evil? This is a macabre, pure Nazi statement that these people gladly promote with the moronic mob mentality that they embrace. This brings only promises of chaos and fear and not respect, or a possible evolution toward a solution of coexistence.

If the world destroys the Jews, which will never happen with the help of the Almighty, the impact of losing the Jewish contributions to the world will be significant and catastrophic.

The advances made in medicine, science, technology, law, philosophy and every corner of higher learning and progressive humanity as a direct result of Jewish contributions are etched in history and cannot be denied.

Worldwide advances and progress will always be a reminder of what the Jews did and accomplished, unlike any other group in history. Non-Jews always have and continue to wonder how we did all that advancement.

We the Jews being such a minute percentage of world population have been successful, and will continue so because we do not allow words, feelings or attitudes of hate in our children. Our children, and the generations to follow always come first. We raise our children with love of our traditions and cultures, and respect toward others who may differ. Our women mold the souls of our children and educate them in love and compassion, not hatred.

Another factor of our success is we promote education as essential in the upbringing of our children. In addition, we lift ourselves up by hard work, dedication and innovation, not by taking others down.

The Jewish people have survived and prospered even after thousands of years of unwarranted hate and persecutions throughout history. The world at large over the centuries has forced the Jewish people time and time again to liberate themselves from constant discrimination, hate and persecution in the Diaspora. We rose and responded by bringing about the rebirth of modern Israel in its ancestral land in order to survive, strive, thrive and control our own future and destiny.

Remember, when the Jews and minorities were persecuted, killed and violated in the Arab and Islamic lands, (over a million Jewish families and their children expelled and all their assets confiscated), those countries never recovered from the loss.

Differences in human composition and dedication are what make the Jewish people stronger. George Washington stated during his comments to the American people about appreciating how Haym Solomon, a Jew, helped in financing the American revolution, that the cultural differences are what make a nation stronger. Israel is the thriving America of Jews worldwide.

After over 2500 years of persecution in the Diaspora, Israel through hard work, determination to succeed, and dedication to survive with control of its own destiny was reborn by the Jewish people against all odds. It took extreme faith, dedication, hardship and consistent toil to rebuild Israel one grain of sand at a time, inch by inch, foot by foot, and mile by mile. The Jews of Israel never quit until all the swamps were gone and the land flourished; until the infrastructure and housing was built. Most importantly, all of these accomplishments by the Jewish people were achieved with limited resources, a hostile environment and Arab and British impediment to our freedom and independence. Nevertheless, we have succeeded in making the desert bloom and flowing with green valleys; we have turned the desert into a land of milk and honey.

Furthermore, Jewish innovations and advances in all fields keep coming on a consistent basis. We built educational institutions and research facilities that are the envy of the world. Furthermore, overcoming the harsh treatment by the nations of the world, and to ensure we, or any other people are never again led as sheep to the slaughter of the Nazi gas chamber, Israel has morphed into a world military might to rightfully defend its people. Contrary to the efforts of many nations of the world, the State of Israel is alive and thriving! (“the nation of Israel lives”)

History has proven hate begets hate, and nations built upon a premise of hate have all failed. If all the Jews were gone (not likely), the anti-Semitic promoters and facilitators would need to feed their hate, and would turn on each other. History has proven as such to always be the end result of hate.

I challenge you. Try love and understanding, compassion and kindness, embrace and respect the differences, it will make living a celebration of life, it’s all very beautiful and content, furthermore, you will find the real true success and accomplishment. It will be hard to change the narrative, but go ahead, accept the challenge to heal instead of hate, to tolerate instead of intolerance, to endure instead of abhor.

If you follow these ideals, narratives and behavior, you may finally see some success like many of the Jews and forego your jealousy and intolerance!

This will bring about a harmonious and thriving coexistence that will benefit society and humanity for generations to come.

Posted in Antisemitism, Judaism | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Inviting reader guest posts

While I take great enjoyment in writing this blog, finding the time (and sometimes the energy) to keep writing is becoming an increasing challenge. I am thankful to my prolific contributor Brian Goldfarb who has written many guest posts and I always look forward to his further contributions.

But I’ve now decided to widen the field and therefore I have great pleasure in inviting guest posts from you, my loyal readers.

You can find the guest post submission form on the top menu in the black menu bar below the header picture. The instructions are simple and easy to follow (I hope!).  Make sure you fill in all the required fields. If you have any queries, please contact me at anneinpt at gmail dot com. (Replace “at” and “dot” with the appropriate characters of course).

When you submit your post I will review it and edit it if necessary. I will then email you to let you know if and when it will be published.

I look forward to much fruitful collaboration and thank you for your cooperation.

My cat's contribution to this blog

My cat’s contribution to this blog

Posted in Blogging | Tagged , | 6 Comments

The lighter side of the Iranian bomb

If you look hard enough you can find a lighter side to almost anything. Yes, even to the Iranian bomb (and I’m not talking light or heavy water here).

In a case of art imitating life – or rather, as the Times of Israel puts it, “life imitating art imitating life“, just as the P5+1 negotiations with Iran were reaching a crescendo, an Israeli film crew almost caused an international incident whilst filming an exceedingly silly advert for an Israeli phone company in Kiev, an advert whose theme, funnily enough, was “Stop the Bomb!” (h/t cba).

Here’s the story (which has been doing the rounds for a couple of weeks now). Try to keep up. Wide Smile Smiley  Smiley Face, Emoticon .  And note the name of the production company. Smiley Crying With Joy Smiley Face, Emoticon

A new commercial for the Bezeq phone company in which actor Gidi Gov flies to “Tehran” and faces off against the ayatollahs, which premiered on Israeli TV two weeks ago, just as world powers were finalizing their nuclear accord with Iran, appeared to be a case of art imitating life. Turns out it was actually a case of life imitating art imitating life.

While filming the ad, in and around a sports stadium in Kiev, the crew was confronted by three Iranians who said they were from the embassy, wanting to know why the stadium was decorated with huge posters of ayatollahs Khomeini and Khamenei and other Iranian signs. The Israelis responded by claiming they were working on a Polish, rather than, heaven forbid, a production for the state commonly described by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei as the “Zionist entity”.

Bezeq approached Tel Aviv company Mullah Productions, [ :-) ] which hired veteran Rani Carmeli to direct the 90-second ad. They settled on locations in Kiev that could be set up to resemble Tehran’s international airport, an Iranian street market and a nuclear facility.

Actor-singer Gov was cast as an asthmatic salesman flying into the airport, tensely clearing passport control, grabbing a taxi and stopping for a bite to eat, before arriving at an Iranian nuclear control center just as the ayatollahs are about to detonate a device.

The ad was filmed on a one-day shoot, with more than 80 extras playing customs officials, flight attendants for Iran Air, military officers, and ayatollahs. The production designers transformed Kiev’s Olympiyskiy National Sports Complex into the Imam Khomeini International Airport, complete with the leaders’ photos, Iranian flags and Farsi signage.

All was going smoothly until mid-afternoon, when the crew was close to finishing its filming at the stadium. That’s when the three men who identified themselves as staffers from the Iranian embassy approached one of the producers and asked why the bustling location was so extensively festooned with Iranian regalia.

The Iranian trio were pretty intimidating, Gil Boraks, a producer for Mullah Productions who was at the shoot, told The Times of Israel.

“They wanted to know, What’s going on? Who is filming? And what is this about?” added Aviram Cohen, a spokesperson for PR 360, which represents Bezeq. (Cohen wasn’t in Kiev, but was filled in on what had happened when the crew returned.)

The team thought it might not be prudent to acknowledge that they were Israeli nationals filming an ad satirizing Iran’s nuclear program.

I suddenly felt like the film and reality were being mixed,” ad director Carmeli told Ynet. “Suddenly the local producer comes over, sweating and anxious, and whispers that policemen and people from the Iranian embassy have arrived. The Iranians asked for details about what we were doing there, and for everyone’s names.”

A Ukrainian co-producer was sent to defuse the potential conflict. He was instructed to tell the Iranians that they were working on a Polish production, and gave the trio the name and number of a Polish producer with whom Mullah had worked in the past.

This Polish colleague was then quickly contacted, and warned to expect a call.

The rest of the crew were told to finish up at the stadium pronto, and move on to their next location, a few hundred yards away.

Watch the (really very silly) ad here:

Unfortunately the Hebrew and pidgin-English are hard to translate accurately, but you get the picture. The final scene has actor Gidi Gov saying “Plan B: 2 Persians walk into a restaurant….”. The rest is left to our imagination.  :-)

The ToI article concludes with life catching up with the art that is imitating life:

The ad has been broadcast frequently on TV in the past two weeks, including during Channel 2 and Channel 10 nightly news broadcasts — intermittent companion to Khamenei’s “Death to America” and “Death to Israel” rhetoric, and the efforts of officials from the P5+1 powers to assure Israelis that their nuclear deal will make Israel safer.

Sometimes life is truly stranger than art, even the crazy surreal art produced by cheesy Israeli adverts.

Posted in Culture, Arts & Sports, Iran, Slice of Israeli life | Tagged , , , , , | 7 Comments

And now the bad news: the anti-Israel ICC; terrorists released in the Shalit deal return to terror

Sadly but unsurprisingly, there has been no shortage of bad news lately and I suspect that this situation will continue.

The International Criminal Court, the ICC,  has gone against all precedent and broken any kind of law rule-book, in order to reopen the case against Israel regarding alleged war crimes committed in the Mavi Marmara incident, a case which had already been closed by the ICC’s own prosecutor Fatou Bensouda:

In a shocking 2-1 decision, the International Criminal Court on Thursday ordered its chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to consider opening a full criminal investigation into war crimes allegations against IDF personnel relating to the 2010 Mavi Marmara flotilla, just seven months after she had closed the file.

Using harsh language, the ICC told Bensouda she should have considered more seriously the possibility that the deaths of those killed by the IDF in the incident were “systematic or resulted from a deliberate plan or policy to attack, kill or injure civilians.”

The decision puts the ICC the closest it has ever been to intervening directly in the Israeli-Arab conflict and places the court in the position of potentially being harsher on Israel than Bensouda, who herself has been criticized by Israel for recognizing a State of Palestine.

Israel is furious:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lashed out at the decision. “At a time when, in Syria, [President Bashar] Assad slaughters hundreds of thousands of his own people, Iran sends hundreds to death, and Hamas uses children as human shields in Gaza, the court has chosen to deal with Israel for cynical political reasons,” Netanyahu said.

“In the face of this hypocrisy, our soldiers will continue to guard us from the front and we will defend them in the international arena,” he added.

Mention of hypocrisy is superfluous.  With their built-in Muslim majorities, all international institutions on principle ignore Muslim violence and are automatically anti-Israel, and are therefore by definition hypocritical.

Bensouda very well may close the file again, but the court’s order means there is a very serious chance Israelis will face a full criminal investigation – something that has not yet occurred even regarding the 2014 Gaza war, Operation Protective Edge.

Until Thursday’s decision, most thought the flotilla incident and the lawfare surrounding it were in the past.

The ICC’s reasoning on Thursday was also harsh with regard to Israel and more general legal issues.

Regarding the Gaza blockade, the court appeared to suggest that the fact that the IDF’s action maintained the blockade and controlled the passing of humanitarian supplies by land somehow added to the gravity of potential war crimes by the IDF. Next, the majority put heavy emphasis on alleged inhuman treatment, torture and cover- up of war crimes by the IDF in how it handled Mavi Marmara passengers after they were detained.

The court said it had wide latitude to order a prosecutor to reopen an examination and that Bensouda’s discretionary authority did not require substantial deference from the judges.

The two judges in the majority were presiding Judge Joyce Aluoch of Kenya and Judge Cuno Tarfusser of Italy.

Judge Peter Kovacs of Hungary dissented, rejecting the majority ICC decision on several grounds.

First, he said, the majority had not been sufficiently deferential to Bensouda’s wide discretion as prosecutor to decide when to open and close investigations.

Next, Kovacs criticized the majority for mixing allegations of inhuman treatment of flotilla passengers after they were detained with alleged war crimes of murder during the IDF’s taking control of the Mavi Marmara.

Effectively, Kovacs said the majority was taking upon itself to add new alleged war crimes into the mix for analyzing how grave the incident was, instead of reviewing the existing alleged war crimes.

Ultimately, Kovacs found that the killing of 10 passengers in the flotilla incident was not grave enough for the ICC to get involved, especially when compared with a parallel situation such as in Kenya where 1,220 people were killed by Islamists, in six of eight Kenyan provinces.

Crucially, Kovacs added that even if the prosecutor had made a mistake in defining the case as not grave enough, he wrote that the IDF had issued warnings to the ship to turn around and acted in the face of “violent resistance” from passengers.

Law professor Prof. Avi Bell weighs in on the subject, saying that the ICC has declared war on Israel:

The Pre-Trial Chamber of the International Criminal Court, for the first time in its history, has ordered the ICC Prosecutor to pursue an investigation she has decided to close. The Chamber ruled that the Prosecutor was wrong to close the preliminary investigation into war crimes charges against Israel for crimes allegedly committed in boarding the Mavi Marmara and other vessels during the flotilla incident of 2010.

The ruling of the Pre-Trial Chamber is remarkable.

It holds that the Prosecutor should have taken into account facts and actions that are outside the jurisdiction of the court in deciding whether to bring charges.

It holds that the Prosecutor should assume the truth of even the wildest accusations in deciding whether to bring charges; in other words, there should be an irrebuttable presumption of guilt in the preliminary investigation stage.

And most shockingly, it holds that crimes have sufficient gravity to interest the court, even if they have very few actual victims, as long as they are widely covered by the media, and are subject to a lot of political activity at the UN.

Needless to say, none of these holdings are accompanied by any citation to precedent. That’s because they are without any precedent.

And it’s a safe bet that last two of these “rules” will never be applied to any non-Jewish, non-Israeli defendant. That’s because the rules, if universally applied, would require the Prosecutor to investigate thousands of non-crimes every year, making the prosecution of real crime impossible. And it would make the Prosecutor throw away legal standards and make her choices based on the most political UN proceedings.

Prof. Bell describes in detail the dissenting voice on the panel of Peter Kovacs, who notes the hypocrisy in the decision (emphases are added):

First, Judge Kovács points out, it requires serious distortion of both the facts and the law to come to the conclusion that Israel committed any crimes at all.

Moreover even if Israeli actions in stopping the flotilla were criminal, they are outside the jurisdiction of the court, because they are of insufficient “gravity.” The “gravity” rule states that the Court should only pursue the largest and most serious international crimes. It is clear that if there were any Israeli crimes here, they were not of that magnitude.

As Kovács writes, “Upon comparison, for instance, between the number of deaths in the flotilla incident with the number of murders and serious injuries which prompted [the] Pre-Trial Chamber [] to authorize, by majority, the Prosecutor to open an investigation into the situation in the Republic of Kenya, one may observe a huge discrepancy. The violence in the Kenya situation resulted in the death of about 1,220 and the serious injury of 3,561 persons in six out of the eight Kenyan provinces.” Kovacs concludes that it is doubtful that “the death of ten persons and the injury of 55 others in the context described in the Prosecutor’s report and the Comoros submission is sufficiently grave to warrant the opening of an investigation into this situation.”

And now we come to the crux of the whole matter – the inherent anti-Israelism and Jew-hatred (let’s call antisemitism by its real name) of the ICC:

The ICC, like altogether too many other international institutions that claim to protect law and justice, is just another political institution. And like all those other political international institutions, it is all too ready to fabricate new and uniquely harsh standards of “law” to apply only to the detriment of the Jewish state, and to fabricate facts to find the leaders and Jewish citizens of the Jewish state guilty of all manner of horrible crimes.

It is now clear where the PLO’s joining the court will lead. Palestinian terrorists and war criminals will continue to enjoy absolute impunity. The ICC will earn its reputation as another failed hope for international law, and another embarrassing institution devoted to persecuting the Jewish state. And Israeli Jews will once again find themselves in a world where it is criminal simply to exist, and where stepping foot in the wrong country means instant arrest.

Israel a country full of excellent lawyers (we are a Jewish country after all) and they must put their heads together to counter this dangerous and disgusting Israel-hating decision. There is also no shortage of lawyers, whether Jewish or not, outside of Israel who have sympathy both with our stance and altogether have a healthy respect for the rule of law. They must be called upon to help us back up our case and take on the biased hypocrites who call themselves judges but who can’t distinguish right from wrong.

Malachi Rosenfeld HY’D

Speaking of right and wrong, sometimes our actions, taken with all good intent, have the most evil of results. This is what has become evident over the years since the Shalit deal when over 1,000 terrorists were released for captured IDF soldier Gilad Shalit. The released terrorists have been returning to their violent ways in increasing numbers. A few days ago the murderer of Malachi Rosenfeld HY’D (who was killed a couple of weeks ago) was caught, and it turns out he was one of the terrorists released in the deal:

Four members of a seven-strong Hamas cell behind a deadly terror attack in the West Bank last month have been detained by Israel, the Shin Bet security service said Sunday. Two others are being held by the Palestinian Authority.

Malachy Rosenfeld was killed, and three others were wounded, when gunmen opened fire on their car near the West Bank settlement of Shvut Rachel, north of Ramallah, as they returned from a basketball game.

The cell also carried out an attack on an ambulance close to the settlement of Beit El on June 27, in which no one was wounded; they had attempted to carry out a separate attack on June 6.

The four men were detained in a joint operation between the Israel Police and the Israel Defense Forces, according to the Shin Bet. Two other cell members, including its operations leader, are being held by the Palestinian Preventive Security Services.

The Shin Bet said Sunday that the seventh man, Ahmad Najjar, who orchestrated and funded the shooting attack from Jordan, was among the prisoners released by Israel for captured Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit in 2011. He has not been apprehended.

Israeli news site Ynet reported that Najjar was previously imprisoned for several shooting attacks, including one that killed six Israelis during the Second Intifada.

The cell members admitted that they had intended to carry out additional shooting attacks in June.

Arutz Sheva reports that terrorists from the Shalit deal have killed 6 Israelis so far:

Opponents of the 2011 deal that freed captured soldier Gilad Shalit in exchange for 1,070 terrorist prisoners are experiencing a sad vindication as more and more Israelis are being murdered by terrorists freed in that deal.

The three kidnapped and murdered teens, from left to right: Naftali Fraenkel, Gil-ad Shaar and Eyal Yifrach

News of the arrest of the terror ring that was responsible for the recent murder of Malachi Rosenfeld includes the information that the cell was directed from Gaza by Ahmed Najar, who was freed in the Shalit deal.

Col. Baruch Mizrachi HY’D

Col. Baruch Mizrachi and Danny Gonen were also murdered by terrorists freed in the Shalit deal, and the terrorists who murdered the three youths – Naftali Frenkel, Gilad Sha’ar and Eyal Yifrah – in 2014 were also directed from Gaza by a terrorist freed in that deal.

Danny Gonen HY’D

“The terrorists freed in the Shalit deal are murdering us,” said MK Moti Yogev (Jewish Home) Sunday.

The psychological pressure on Israelis to accede to that mass release was enormous:

Channel 2 TV political reporter Amit Segal wrote Sunday in his blog that Israeli society had reached a state of insanity by 2011, when the Israeli government convened to approve the release of the terrorists, who had murdered 619 Israelis in total.

Anyone who opposed the release was perceived as “a cold hearted cynic, who supports Gilad’s death,” wrote Segal. “The final, winning argument that was presented before the prime minister and ministers was – ‘and what if it was your son?’”

That argument can now be answered, wrote Segal, with: “And what if Baruch had been your father? And what if Malachi was your brother? And Danny? And Naftali, Gilad and Eyal?”

And now we see the terrifying possibility of more such pressure with the recent news of 2 more Israelis being possibly held by Hamas. We must stand firm this time.

The lessons to be learned from the two stories in this post are clear: none of our goodwill gestures, whether to NGOs, to international institutions, to enemy civilians or to terrorists are ever repaid in kind.

Posted in International relations, Lawfare and Delegitimization, Terrorism | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

First the good news

This post is to make up for the missed Good News Friday installment last week. (I should note at this stage that this coming Friday too I won’t be publishing a Good News Friday post since it will be erev Tisha Be’Av, the eve of the Fast of the 9th of Av, the most sombre and sad day in the Jewish calendar.)

But for the moment, let’s at least start this week with some good news before the onslaught of bad news overwhelms us.

A busy bee at work pollinating flowers

Israeli bee-breeders are sending huge swarms of bumble-bees to Japan following the mass death of local hives (h/t RRW):

( Whole colonies of Israeli Bees are being sent from Israel to Japan to help farmers overcome the damage caused by the Japanese bees shortage, which has worsened due to the use of pesticides in rice fields.

The Bees making their way to Japan flew in airy hives, each including a fertile queen accompanied by fifty drones who takes care of all her needs.

Members of Bio-Bee, in Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu in northern Israel, some two miles south of Beit She’an, who nurture and ship the bees, take care of the queen and the workers to ensure comfortable, first class flight conditions. Each hive is equipped with a small bag of sugar water in a special drinking facility, a delicious alternative to airplane meals.

The bees make only one fast connection in Moscow, but do not enjoy duty free store privileges.


Upon their arrival in greenhouses across Japan, the Israeli bees get busy pollinating vegetable crops. Without bees, it is nearly impossible to raise some crops. And, contrary to what people think of Israelis, the Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu bees are renowned for their mild temperament and are not quick to sting, so farmers can work alongside them without fear.

Bio-Bee bumblebees do not produce honey, they only pollinate. They have been bred to carry out their work even when the weather gets cold, cloudy and rainy, when honey bees turn inactive and prefer to gather inside the hive.

What a wonderful and fascinating story! Kol hakavod to Bio-Bee for breeding this very useful and harmless insect, and kudos to Japan for recognizing Israeli excellence in this field. May the bumble-bees continue buzzing their way to greater cooperation between our countries.

From export to “import”, surely Aliya, immigration to Israel, classifies as our most important import? I mentioned in my last 2 Good News Friday posts about my cousins’ aliya. This week, a plane load of 221 American olim arrived in Israel to much jubilation and fanfare:

Professional lacrosse player Chase Clark was told that there are three keys to survival in Israel — realize that everyone else thinks their time is more important than yours; avoid the crazy drivers while crossing the road; and enjoy yourself as much as possible.

Clark, 25, was one of 221 Jews who moved to Israel on Monday via the 53rd charter flight organized by Nefesh B’Nefesh, a nonprofit founded in 2002 to encourage and facilitate the aliyah process for Jews from North America and the United Kingdom. The organization is funded in part by the Israeli government, the Jewish Agency and private donations.

Professional lacrosse player Chase Clark at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York shortly before his flight to Israel, July 13, 2015. (Courtesy of Shahar Azran/Nefesh B’Nefesh/JTA)

For most of the passengers, who hailed from 14 states and Canada and ranged in age from 4 months to 90 years (Sue Tyler Friedman, grandmother of Knesset Member Rachel Azaria of the Kulanu party), the flight was an epic mix of celebration, unease and hope for the future.

A Nefesh B’Nefesh flight is always bookended by two ceremonies — a measured one at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York and a raucous celebratory one at Ben Gurion Airport, near Tel Aviv. On Tuesday morning, the olim — the Hebrew word for “new immigrants — were greeted by hundreds of cheering supporters and some Israeli lawmakers, including Azaria and Oren Hazan of the Likud party.

“You are the answer to BDS,” Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Ron Prosor, told the olim at the JFK ceremony, referring to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement that targets the Israeli economy. “You are the answer to anti-Semitism. You are the answer to those who would question the existence of the Jewish state.”

Read all the stories and reasons for Aliya given by the new immigrants. Each one is interesting in its own way. Here is one very moving one:

There were 32 families and 95 children on Monday’s flight, but of the 53 single adult olim, 12 of them will serve in the Israel Defense Forces shortly after they arrive. A former Marine, Elliot Joseph, who did not want to give his last name because of past positions in the military, is 29 and has passed the age of mandatory IDF service, but wants to join nonetheless.

After being injured in Afghanistan in his fourth tour of duty, Joseph took a trip to Israel and remembers feeling connected to the country on his first day.

“I remember watching a Holocaust survivor sitting in a restaurant in downtown Tel Aviv. He was speaking in German or Yiddish, and he was completely happy, satisfied with his life where it was at,” Joseph said. “I remember seeing that and thinking that after all the horrible things that I saw overseas, I knew that I, too, could be happy like that. It really gave me some hope.”

Note too the difference between the motives behind Western Aliya and that from East European and Third World countries:

Nefesh B’Nefesh cofounder Tony Gelbart said that immigration to Israel from North America is usually driven by wanting to be in Israel, as opposed to emigration from Europe, for which rising anti-Semitism is often the main impetus.

“The truth is, for [European Jews], they’re running away from something,” Gelbart said. “Nobody’s running away from America because of the blatant anti-Semitism there or, God forbid, something worse than that. This is something that they’re running to.”

Watch this video (h/t Hadassah) by Israel Channel 2 TV’s Sivan Rahav as she joins the Aliya flight and accompanies the Olim on their journey. It’s mainly in Hebrew but you can get the drift. Sivan echoes Tony Gelbart’s words above that American Jews make Aliya out of pure Zionism; they have a very comfortable easy existence as Jews in America, there is virtually no antisemitism, and life there is good. But these Jews want to come home, to be a part of Jewish history.

Kol hakavod to Nefesh b’Nefesh on their amazing and tireless efforts to promote Western Aliya. A huge Bruchim Haba’im to all the Olim. May you all have a successful klita (absorption) and may your new lives here in Israel be blessed with success and happiness.

Haredi combat soldiers in training

Since several of the Olim mention their wish to serve in the IDF, there is more good news on the IDF recruitment front: the soaring numbers of haredi combat soldiers:

One of the IDF’s best weapons is the growing number of Hareidi combat soldiers, which is making the army stronger physically and spiritually.

A new combat unit of Hareidi soldiers is being established in the Givati Brigade, whose national religious commander Ofer Winter was promoted last week to take over the Central Command and continue his successful program to integrate of Hareidim into the army, as the reported here Thursday.

Approximately 45 Hareidim from the ages of 18-21 already have been drafted for a new Tamar unit, and new positions are being opened for Hareidim in combat support units. The first Hareidi soldiers to operate bulldozers are expected to begin serving in four months.

In the Nevatim Air Force Base in the Negev, Hareidim will take combat support positions and be responsible for equipment for paratroopers.

This year, 2,226 Hareidim have enlisted in the IDF, and the number is expected to rise to 2,700 by next July. More than 100 Hareidi soldiers have passed tests, including hand-to-hand combat, to be accepted as combat soldiers in the Hareidi Netzach Yehuda infantry battalion.

An IDF officer told Haaretz that the new Givati company follows the model that IDF thinks is the best way to integrate Hareidi soldiers into the army. Instead of placing them in units with secular soldiers, where one group might dominate the other, the military thinks that all-Hareidi companies are the best model.

Additional Hareidi combat units are expected to open up in the coming years.

The motivation of Hareidi combat soldiers is extremely high, and the Netzach Yehuda has been praised several times for soldiers’ quick reactions that have prevented or minimized terrorist attacks.

The success of Hareidim as combat soldiers is ironical for the secular scoffers who for years have been accusing Hareidim of draft-dodging.

Yeshiva students often capture headlines when they are arrested for not reporting for the draft, but the hundreds of Hareidim enlisting as combat soldiers is nothing short of a quiet revolution in the army as well as in Israeli society.

This is excellent news on all levels: for the IDF, for the haredim who are beginning to integrate more into Israeli society, and for Israeli society itself which will surely benefit from all the talents of this once-isolated sector. Kol hakavod to the haredi soldiers for going against the grain of their own society, and for the IDF in initiating these special programs.

Adi Kushnir

One last item for today: a blind Israeli teenager has taught the Get Taxi smartphone app a lesson about accessibility:

Adi Kushnir is another iPhone-obsessed teen who likes to download apps and access the web.

But, there’s about a 50-50 chance that the Israeli teen will be able to use the cool new apps he downloads.

Kushnir has been blind since birth, and while Apple has made great strides in accessibility with its VoiceOver screen readers, companies and app developers still forget to bake in accessibility to their code so blind users like Kushnir can use them, he said in a phone call.

When Kushnir wanted to try Gett, the ride-hailing app that’s becoming popular in international markets, because “it sounded cool,” he found that the screen reader he uses couldn’t read anything in the app.

Kushnir reached out to the company — and surprisingly Gett responded.

“There are people who think blind people need special technology. No, we don’t,” Kushnir said in an interview with Business Insider. “We can use regular touchscreen phones today and the iPhone is a good example of that. Usually they just don’t pay attention to the accessibility APIs from Apple or anyone else and they skip it.”

In April, Gett brought Kushnir in to work with its team and to help revamp the app for both Android and iOS. Now if blind users enable the VoiceOver and TalkBack screen readers, they can use the full app’s functionality. Gett also updated their policies to explicitly allow dogs.

This wasn’t Kushnir’s first project with a tech company. The high-schooler taught himself how to code in his spare time and doesn’t have any plans to study computer science or become a developer after he graduates. He said he just wants to improve the world, which also includes the blind community.

“It’s not my mission to make the app accessible for these development companies,” Kushnir said. “It’s my mission to teach these companies how to make their app accessible from scratch. Not just that I make it accessible and the next version comes out and it breaks.”

While Kushnir is still helping Gett out in his spare time, he’s trying to teach other companies the same lesson. He is working with Freedom Scientific to make the Hebrew version of its screen reader for Windows

What an amazing and inspiring young man! Kol hakavod to Adi Kushnir on not letting his disability hinder him, and on the contrary, using his disability as the inspiration for making technology more accessible to the handicapped. We wish Adi continued success in inspiring others and in advancing the cause of the disabled.

On this note I wish you all shavua tov, and may these good news items cushion us from any bad news that we are likely to hear.

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