Jerusalem Celebrates, Gaza Burns


FILE PHOTO: A worker on a crane hangs a U.S. flag next to an Israeli flag, next to the entrance to the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem, May 7, 2018. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun/File Photo

On the night of May 14, the leading headline of The Washington Post said, “More than 50 killed in Gaza protests as U.S. opens its new embassy in Jerusalem.” Headlines of other newspapers were not much different.

There is no doubt the headlines were factually accurate. But so would a headline saying, “More than 50 killed in Gaza as the moon was a waning crescent,” or “More than 50 killed in Gaza as Arambulo named co-anchor of NBC4’s ‘Today in LA.’ ” Were they unbiased? Not quite. They suggested a causation: The U.S. opens an embassy and hence people get killed. But the causation is faulty: Gazans were killed last week, when the United States had not yet opened its embassy. Gazans were killed for a simple reason: Ignoring warnings, thousands of them decided to get too close to the Israeli border.

There are arguments one could make against President Donald Trump’s decision to move the American embassy to Jerusalem. People in Gaza getting killed is not one of them. A country such as the United States, a country such as Israel, cannot curb strategic decisions because of inconveniences such as demonstrations. Small things can be postponed to prevent anger. Small decisions can be altered to avoid violent incidents. But not important, historic moves.

At the end of this week, no matter the final tally of Gazans getting hurt, only one event will be counted as “historic.” The opening of a U.S. embassy in Jerusalem is a historic decision of great symbolic significance. Lives lost for no good reason in Gaza — as saddening as it is — is routine. Eleven years ago, on  May 16, 2007, I wrote this about Gaza: “The Gaza Strip is burning, drifting into chaos, turning into hell — and nobody seems to have a way out of this mess. Dozens of people were killed in Gaza in the last couple of weeks, the victims of lawlessness and power struggles between clans and families, gangsters and militias.” Sounds familiar? I assume it does. This is what routine looks like. This is what disregard for human life feels like. And that was 11 years to the week before a U.S. embassy was moved to Jerusalem.

A legitimate country is allowed to defend its border. A legitimate country is allowed to choose its capital.

Why were so many lives lost in Gaza? To give a straight answer, one must begin with the obvious: The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has no interest in having more Gazans killed, yet its mission is not to save Gazans’ lives. Its mission — remember, the IDF is a military serving a country — is to defeat an enemy. And in the case of Gaza this past week, the meaning of this was preventing unauthorized, possibly dangerous people from crossing the fence separating Israel from the Gaza Strip.

As this column was written, the afternoon of May 15, the IDF had achieved its objective: No one was able to cross the border into Israel. The price was high. It was high for the Palestinians. Israel will get its unfair share of criticism from people who have nothing to offer but words of condemnation. This was also to be expected. And also to be ignored. Again, not because criticism means nothing, but rather because there are things of higher importance to worry about. Such as not letting unauthorized hostile people cross into Israel.

Of course, any bloodshed is regretful. Yet to achieve its objectives, the IDF had to use lethal force. Circumstances on the ground dictate using such measures. The winds made tear gas ineffective. The proximity of the border made it essential to stop Gazan demonstrators from getting too close, lest thousands of them flood the fence, thus forcing the IDF to use even more lethal means. Leaflets warned them not to go near the fence. Media outlets were used to clarify that consequences could be dire. Hence, an unbiased, sincere newspaper headline should have said, “More than 50 killed in Gaza while Hamas leaders ignored warnings.”

So, yes, Jerusalem celebrated while Gaza burned. Not because Gaza burned. And, yes, the U.S. moved its embassy while Gaza burned. But this is not what made Gaza burn.

It all comes down to legitimacy. Having embassies move to Jerusalem, Israel’s capital, is about legitimacy. Letting Israel keep the integrity of its borders is about legitimacy. President Donald Trump gained the respect and appreciation of Israelis because of his no-nonsense acceptance of a reality, and because of his no-nonsense rejection of delegitimization masqueraded as policy differences. A legitimate country is allowed to defend its border. A legitimate country is allowed to choose its capital.

Latest Gaza Riots: One Dead, 170 Injured As Rioters Set Fire to Gas Lines


Screenshot from Twitter.

The latest round of Hamas-led riots at the Israel-Gaza border resulted in one Palestinian dead and 170 injured as rioters set gas lines ablaze.

The May 11 riots had the usual features of violence from the prior riots: rocks, burning tires, and pipe bombs were hurled at Israel Defense Force (IDF) members. Kites that were ablaze in flames were flown toward the Israeli side of the fence, causing fires.

Additionally, for the second week in a row, rioters set gas lines on fire at Kerem Shalom, where humanitarian goods are transferred from Israel to Gaza, meaning that the rioters have been engaging in actions that harm the people of Gaza.

The IDF issued a statement saying they were using “riot dispersal” measures that are “in accordance with the rules of engagement.”

“The IDF will not allow any harm to the security infrastructure or security fence and will continue standing by its mission to defend and ensure the security of the citizens of Israel and Israeli sovereignty, as necessary,” the IDF said.

Here are some scenes from the riots:

Around 15,000 Palestinians took part in the May 11 riots.

These latest riots are the last of Hamas’s weekly riots protesting the displaced Arabs from the 1948 War of Independence. However, this was just the opening act to the riots expected to occur on May 14 and 15, when the United States unveils its new embassy in Jerusalem.

Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar declared on May 10 that he hopes that Palestinians are able to penetrate the Israel-Gaza fence during the upcoming riots, which is essentially an admission that this has been Hamas’s goal all along.

“What’s the problem with hundreds of thousands breaking through a fence that is not a border?” Sinwar said.

Third Generation of The Holocaust, a former soldier in the IDF


I am a third generation of the Holocaust, and a former soldier in the IDF.

I was born in a small town in the center of a well-developed country. My most vivid memories from my childhood are music, laughter and quality family-time. My worst experience as a child was when I crashed my bike at the age of five, getting scratches on my knees. My parents gave me everything I wanted and needed, and my night’s sleep was tight and calm.

Since a very early age, my fellow classmates and I were taught that all of this was made possible thanks to our grandparents. At first by our parents, then by our Kindergarten teachers, our teachers, our commanders in the army and now – our professors at the University. When my grandparents were my age, they did not have a comfortable life or a calm night’s sleep. They woke up every day to the scenery of sand, mud and swamps and often to the sound of gunfire. They fought hard, every day, with the dream in their heart that their children and children’s children would have a normal life and safe happy, safe childhood.

My mother’s parents were native Israelis, because their families were smart enough to escape to the swampy state-to-be from Poland, before it was too late. Not all of their relatives were that alert, and were brutally murdered by the Nazi killing machine.

My father’s parents came from Iraq in the 1950’s, and lived in a transit camp until there was a place for them to live in at the newly established State of Israel. Many of my friends’ grandparents are Holocaust survivors, some of them are still unable to talk about those dark times. Together, natives, survivors and patriots from east and west, joined forces for us, their descendants.

Now, as they become older, it is our time to step to center-stage and do our part, as the third generation of the Holocaust. We are the last generation to hear about “those days,” where the country was built after the nightmares of the Holocaust, from first hand. We are the last generation to speak to the heroes who built this country and the heroes who survived the worst, and our life- mission of commemorating and educating will soon begin.  If I heard a testimony from a Holocaust survivor every year from first to 12th grade, and could ask my grandparents questions every day, my children would not have that privilege. They will have to rely on the stories, documentaries, and recorded testimonies. 

It is our mission to keep the memory alive, and in this time of the year it becomes clearer than ever. This special week of the year reminds us all the story of Israel, which is often being described here with the sentence: From Holocaust to Revival (free translation from Hebrew- משואה לתקומה).

With the memory of the Holocaust, we carry constant personal and public grief of the people we lost while fighting to keep our home in Israel – soldiers and civilians, brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, who died protecting our country, or during a normal day that ended in a tragic terror attack.

This story of Israel, which is still being written, is told every year, during one week in April or May (The Hebrew months Nissan and Iyar). On the 27th of Nissan, we mention the national Holocaust Day; on the 4th of Iyar we mention the national Memorial Day; on the 5th of Iyar we mention our Independence Day. Those three dates tell the story of Israel, in order: we survived the Holocaust to build the state of Israel. From having nothing, we got to have everything, but sadly, this “everything” had its toll, when we lost many in our never-ending battle for our home.

During these days of remembrance, schools change their itinerary and people are allowed to skip work. Ceremonies are held in every public facility, and a grand nation – wide ceremony takes place in Jerusalem and is aired on national television. During these three days, stores are closed, and the entire nation is committed to the essence of the special day. During these days, for a brief moment, everyone stops everything and bow their heads down in grief as a siren is heard throughout the country. During those three days, the television and radio broadcasts are altered, and are dedicated to tell the story, for everyone to know.

With time, the reasons to fully commit to those days could become vaguer and it would be our responsibility to remember and cherish them, making sure our children would not forget them either. In times of Holocaust denial, growing anti-Semitism, growing indifference and threats from our neighboring countries, those reasons must burn in our guts and be our guiding light.

I am a third generation of the Holocaust and a former IDF soldier. Israel was given to me on a silver platter, with the promise to remember those who handed it to me, 70 years ago, and every single day since.

I promise to always remember and never forget. I promise to remember and remind my past, so that my children would be able to create the future.

For more updates about the day-to-day life in Israel, you can follow Israelife on Facebook here.

One Dead, Hundreds Injured in Latest Hamas-Led Gaza Riots


Palestinian demonstrators take part in a protest demanding the right to return to their homeland, at the Israel-Gaza border, in the southern Gaza Strip, April 13, 2018. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

As expected, the weekly Hamas-led Gaza riots continued on April 13, with one Palestinian rioter dead and hundreds of others injured.

The Times of Israel is reporting that a 28-year-old Palestinian man was killed by Israeli gunfire, and over 122 others were injured, per Hamas’ Gaza Health Ministry. Two of the injured Palestinians were reportedly journalists.

The April 13 riots featured protesters burning tires – which they had done the week prior – in addition to Israeli and American flags. The rioters also threw explosives and rocks toward the Israeli side of the border and attempted to fly a kite over to the Israeli side that had a firebomb attached to it.

Additionally, an explosive that the rioters were planning to use against the Israelis accidentally went off, resulting in potentially numerous Palestinians being injured.

Here are some of the scenes from the riots:

The IDF cracked down on the violent riots with riot control methods and firing snipers at the ankles of violent rioters.

“The IDF will not permit damage to the security fence or infrastructure that protects Israeli citizens and will act against the violent rioters and terrorists involved,” the IDF said, per The Times of Israel.

There were around 10,000-15,000 rioters at the April 13 riots, a marked decline from the 20,000 the week before. Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman hailed the decline in rioters as a victory for Israel.

“Each week there are fewer rioters on our border with Gaza,” Liberman tweeted. “Our determination is well understood on the other side.”

Report: IDF Fears Hamas Is Training Terrorists to Kidnap IDF Soldiers During Border Riots


An undated image released on March 21, 2018 by the Israeli military relates to an Israeli air strike on a suspected Syrian nuclear reactor site near Deir al-Zor on Sept 6, 2007. IDF/Handout via Reuters

A new report from an Israeli news outlets states that the Israel Defense Force (IDF) is deeply concerned that Hamas is training its members to kidnap IDF soldiers during the border riots.

The Israeli news outlet, Walla, is reporting that the IDF has feared ever since the riots started that the protesters would be used as human shields by Hamas to breach the Israel-Gaza border fence and launch terror attacks against Israel. They are concerned that Hamas will use Molotov cocktails to cause fires on the Israeli border, which would presumably help lead them toward their goal of penetrating the fence and then start kidnapping IDF soldiers.

The IDF is preparing to keep the April 13 rioters as far away from the border fence to ensure that the Israeli border isn’t struck by Molotov cocktails.

Hamas certainly has a track record of kidnapping IDF soldiers, most notably the kidnapping of three IDF soldiers in the summer of 2014 that ignited an armed conflict between Hamas and Israel. There has been at least one Hamas plan to kidnap an IDF soldier foiled by Israel.

The Hamas-led Gaza riots started on March 30 to protest the displaced Arabs from the 1948 War for Independence and are expected to continue and escalate until May 15, the day after Israel celebrates its independence. Multiple people have died in violent clashes in these riots, most of which have been confirmed to be terrorists.

H/T: Algemeiner

Israeli Defense Minister Claims Gaza Journalist Killed By IDF Was Part of Hamas


Mortally wounded Palestinian journalist Yasser Murtaja, 31, is evacuated during clashes with Israeli troops at the Israel-Gaza border, in the southern Gaza Strip April 6, 2018. Picture taken April 6, 2018. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman claimed on April 10 that Gaza journalist Yasser Murtaja, who was killed by the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) during the Hamas-led Gaza riots on April 6, was a member of Hamas.

Lieberman told reporters that Murtaja was “a member of the military arm of Hamas who holds a rank parallel to that of captain, who was active in Hamas for many years.” David Keyes, a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, tweeted, “Turns out the “photographer” killed in Gaza was an officer in Hamas, a terrorist org that seeks Israel’s destruction. On Hamas’ payroll since 2011. Used his drone to collect intel on Israeli positions. Countless reporters called him a ‘journalist.’ Will they correct the record?”

Lieberman made it clear that Murtaga had put “himself in danger” by using a drone at the border.

“We’ve seen dozens of cases where Hamas terrorists used ambulances, dressed up as Red Crescent personnel and disguised themselves as journalists,” Lieberman said. “We won’t take any chances.”

Anonymous Israeli defense officials had told the Israeli news site Walla! on April 10 that Murtaja “was active in the [Hamas] security apparatus’s work on a daily basis and did much to help them.” The IDF has said that they are still investigating the matter.

Mutasem Murtaja, Mutaja’s brother, told the Associated Press that Lieberman was spreading “lies” about Murtaja.

“Yasser was filming the protests with simple cameras to show they are peaceful,” Mutasem said.

Per the Times of Israel, “family members, eyewitnesses, and fellow journalists repeatedly denied that” Murtaja was using a drone that day.

Murtaja co-founded a TV production company called Ain Media, which had received a $11,700 grant from the State Department shortly before Murtaja’s death. Murtaja had also been working for a Norwegian Refugee Council.

Back in 2015, Polish journalist Wojciech Cegielski wrote in a column for Haaretz that Hamas used journalists as human shields during the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict. Cegielski cited an instance when a rocket was fired from between two Gaza hotels that housed “foreign press and some NGOs.”

“It was obvious that we journalists became a target,” Cegielski wrote. “If the IDF would strike back, we all would be dead. What would Hamas do? It would not be surprising to hear about the ‘cruel Zionist regime killing innocent and free press.'”

IDF Kills Palestinian Terrorist Who Breached Gaza Border Fence


A Palestinian holds a fire during clashes with Israeli troops at Israel-Gaza border, in the southern Gaza Strip April 3, 2018. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

The Israel Defense Force (IDF) killed a Palestinian who breached the Gaza border fence on April 3 during protests along the border.

The Gaza Health Ministry, which is run by Hamas, announced that the Palestinian, 25-year-old Ahmad Arafa was shot in the stomach. The Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) claimed that Arafa was a part of their organization.

According to the Times of Israel, surveillance shows two of the men using the hole to enter the Israeli side of the fence, only to go back to Gaza as the IDF fired warning shots. The footage then ends, but according to the Jerusalem Post, Palestinian media is suggesting that the shooting of Arafa was related to that breach.

The IDF told the Times of Israel that they did fire shots at protesters who broke through the fence.

“The IDF will not allow security infrastructure and the fence, which protects Israeli citizens to be damaged, and we will take action against terrorists who are involved,” the IDF said in a statement. “We again warn against approaching the fence.”

The border riots have been ongoing since Friday, as part of Hamas’ six-week “March of Return” campaign to protest the Arabs that were displaced in Israel’s 1948 War of Independence. At least 16 Palestinians have died in the protests, 11 of whom have been identified by the IDF as terrorists.

Palestinian Terrorist Murders Two IDF Soldiers, Injures Two Others in Vehicular Attack


Screenshot from Twitter.

A Palestinian terrorist used a vehicle to murder two Israel Defense Force (IDF) soldiers and injure two other soldiers on Mar. 16, which was designated as another “Day of Rage” for Palestinians.

The terrorist, identified as 26-year-old Allah Kabhha, drove his vehicle into the four IDF soldiers stationed at an observation post just outside of the Mevo Dotan settlement in Judea and Samaria. Kabhha attempted to flee but was caught by the IDF shortly thereafter. He was injured from his attack but it’s not believed to be serious.

One of the two IDF soldier deaths occurred at the scene, while the second death occurring not much later. The two other IDF soldiers are being treated at Petah Tikva’s Medical Center for “moderate to serious” injuries.

Kabhha, who is from the Baarta town, had previously been imprisoned for “terror-related activities” and was on the IDF’s radar.

Palestinian terror groups responded with glee to the attack. Hamas spokesperson Hazam Kasam declared, “This attack makes it clear that the intifada is continuing for the Palestinian people.” Islamic Jihad called for more attacks like Kabhha’s.

Multiple Palestinian groups encouraged Palestinians “to confront IDF soldiers and settlers” on Mar. 16, a “day of rage” to commemorate the 100th day since President Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The riots that have occurred since are becoming increasingly “violent,” per the IDF.

Palestinian Bitten By Dog While Throwing Stones At IDF Soldiers to Sue Dutch Dog Breeder


Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

A Palestinian who was bitten by a dog after throwing stones at Israel Defense Force (IDF) soldiers is now suing the Dutch dog breeder who supplied the dog to the IDF.

According to Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA), 19-year-old Hamze Abu Hashem was bitten by an IDF dog in 2014 as he was throwing stones at IDF soldiers. Abu Hashem is suing the Dutch dog breeding company Four Winds K9 for $13,500 in emotional damage he sustained from being bitten.

“My client bears serious scars that will remain with him for the rest of his life,” Liesbeth Zegveld, Abu Hashem’s Netherlands attorney, told a Dutch newspaper. “He is also deeply traumatized by the attack. He shakes when he hears dogs barking, he is too afraid to sleep and suffers from sleepwalking.”

Zegveld is also hoping for a Dutch court to prevent dogs from being sold to the IDF. Four Winds K9 defended itself by claiming that they’re not liable for what their dogs do once they’re given to the IDF.

The 2014 riot where the bite occurred stemmed from “a pre-approved ambush to catch firebomb throwers,” according to Haaretz. The IDF investigated the incident and concluded “that while the use of dogs in confrontations could be justified, in the case in question, the youth could have been arrested using other means.” Abu Hashem was jailed for three months following the incident for his stone-throwing.

Abu Hashem is not the first Palestinian to be bitten by an Israeli dog; in 2012 during a riot in which Palestinians threw stones at IDF soldiers a German shepherd bit Ahmad Satwi in the hand. The IDF eventually decided to only use dogs for ambushes.

The Israeli Way


There is something different about making energy and water policy when 100,000 rockets are pointed at your family.

I went to Israel last month to exchange strategies on water and clean energy. I came home with an entirely new perspective on lawmaking.

In 2014, California and Israel signed a Memorandum of Understanding to collaborate on energy and water innovation. The mission of our California delegation to Israel was to put muscle behind the memo with funding and technical expertise.

Just as we were getting started in our clean energy lab at the Milken Innovation Center at the Jerusalem Institute, in a room packed with some of the top energy minds in Israel, a news alert sounded on my phone: “BREAKING: HAMAS TERROR TUNNEL EGYPT-ISRAEL DESTROYED.”

Israel Defense Forces had struck a tunnel only a short distance away by California standards. The news shook me silent. My mind went blank. I looked around the room for guidance.

This is what Israel does, day after day. No paralysis. It  just moves forward.

The Israelis at the conference didn’t skip a beat. People looked down at their phones for a moment. Nodded. And dived right back into the work at hand.

Every conversation in Israel is under the Iron Dome. In the fierce urgency that necessarily, although quietly, weaves itself into the texture of daily life, of relationships, of governing, one cannot help but be humbled by Israel’s fortitude.

Where did this strength come from? I would submit that its origins are ancient. And that it lives in all Jews. As the Midrash relates, when the Jews made the Exodus from Egypt, their faith was shaken at the shores of the Red Sea, where they were trapped like sitting ducks, bracing for the oncoming Egyptian army, with no water and a range of bad options.

As some Jews attempted to micromanage Moses, one group suggested they turn and fight. Another thought to simply surrender and return to slavery. A third argued that ending it all would be more just, and they should just hurl themselves into the sea and die. And a fourth disagreed with all the others; the answer to their quandary was to pray for salvation from God.

Moses rose above his stutter, as he did in these moments, to deliver to the Jews a message from God: Let’s just go through the sea, faithful, unafraid, eyes on Mount Sinai. Rather than anticipate, plan or resist the seemingly impossible challenge ahead, the Jews just went through it.

This is what Israel does, day after day, no matter how many tunnels are discovered or rockets are stockpiled. No paralysis. It just moves forward.

And move forward we must. Energy and water are not just critical environmental challenges. They impact the security of Israel and California, and our respective states’ abilities to compete economically on a global stage, where self-reliance and sustainability are rewarded. Israel’s energy strategy currently relies heavily on fossil fuels — only 2 percent of its grid is renewable.

California, on the other hand, has a cleaner grid but a sea to cross when it comes to water. Israelis capture and recycle about 85 percent of the water they use. California wastes about 85 percent of all stormwater, failing, unlike Israel, to capture this valuable resource before it dumps into our coastal waters.

Israel is a nation at constant risk. Yet, Israel’s leaders find a way to diligently proceed with the work to modernize their nation.

Our joint efforts to secure a cleaner, more sustainable energy and water future for Israel and California must proceed, with California imagination and market power, and that deep fortitude that is ancient in origin, and alive and well in Israel today.


State Sen. Henry Stern (D-Canoga Park) is an environmental attorney and educator. He represents the 27th District, which includes parts of Los Angeles and Ventura counties.

Palestinian Wearing Fake Explosive Belt Stabs IDF Soldier


Israeli border policemen stand away after shooting a Palestinian man with a knife and what looks like an explosive belt near the Jewish settlement of Beit El, near the West Bank city of Ramallah. December 15, 2017. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic/File photo

A Palestinian man wearing a belt that appeared to be laced with fake explosives stabbed an Israel Defense Force (IDF) soldier on the shoulder and was shot as a result.

The man, identified as 29-year-old Mohammed Aqal, was reportedly at a riot in Ramallah that became violent to the point of IDF intervention. Aqal allegedly stabbed an IDF soldier twice in the shoulder. Law enforcement officials responded by shooting Aqual and then shooting him again when they noticed the apparent explosives on his belt.

Aqal died from his gunshot wounds. The Hadashot newspaper later reported that the belt didn’t contain actual explosives. The IDF soldier who was stabbed is currently in stable condition.

Aqal was one of four Palestinians who died in riots in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem on Friday in response to President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Another 250 were injured and a total of 2,500 Palestinians took part in the riots, a decline of “thousands” from the week prior. According to the Times of Israel, “Demonstrators burned tires and threw rocks at Israeli troops, who fired back at them with tear gas and rubber bullets.”

A 30-year-old Israeli who has yet to be identified was wounded when some Palestinians chucked rocks at his vehicle. His injuries are not believed to be serious.

Video from the riots can be seen here.

The flare-up in riots come as Vice President Mike Pence is set to visit the Middle East at the beginning of next week. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is refusing to meet with the vice president due to Trump’s Jerusalem move.

Israeli Soldier Murdered by Palestinians in Likely Terror Attack


Screenshot from Twitter.

An Israeli soldier has been murdered by Palestinians in what is believed to be a terror attack.

The 20-year-old soldier, who has yet to be identified, was fatally stabbed in his upper torso at a bus stop outside a mall in the city of Arad at approximately 9:30 pm on Thursday. The soldier proceeded to try and get help by stepping in front of a car, where he began vomiting blood.

“He was conscious and tried to say something but couldn’t,” the driver of the car told Ynet News. “We tried to help him, he fell to the ground. We called Magen David Adom and put a towel on him.”

By the time paramedics arrived, the solider was no longer breathing and didn’t have a pulse.

“We provided life-saving medical care and performed advanced resuscitation techniques, but we were ultimately forced to declare him dead at the scene,” said MDA paramedic Ziv Shapira.

Video footage of the scene of the attack can be seem below:

There are two Palestinian suspects connected to the murder and they are still at large. The police, Shin Bet and Israel Defense Forces are all working together in trying to find them, even going as far as setting up roadblocks and sending out a helicopter.

The preliminary investigation suggests that the attack was “nationalistically motivated.” Arad Mayor Nissan Ben-Homo said, “The working assumption is that this was a terror attack.”

You need to listen to what these 2 IDF soldiers have to say


What would you do if you were given the chance to change one of the world’s most disturbing misconceptions and deceptions?

StandWithUs’ (SWU) tenth “Israeli Soldiers Tour” (IST) recently came to conclusion, when six teams of two reservist IDF soldiers returned home, after touring throughout the United States from October 22 – November 5.  These twelve reservists spoke at more than 170 campuses, high schools, synagogues, churches and community centers, reaching tens of thousands with their stories and millions through conventional and social media.

Israeli Soldiers Tour” puts a “human face” on the IDF uniform. The main purpose of this tour is to give people a perspective about the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and the reality of living in Israel by relating their personal experiences during Israel’s Operations against Hamas in Gaza, interactions with Palestinians in the West Bank and serving on checkpoints and on the Gaza border, protecting Israel’s southern cities from rocket attacks.

They also share their backgrounds, struggles, successes, describe life in Israel and answer questions, the tougher the better.  Their stories have never been heard before and their last names are withheld for security purposes.

 

Because Israel has to constantly defend itself, military service is mandatory here, and young 18 year olds must enlist once graduating high school; men serve for 3 years and women for 2.

“Israelife” caught up with Itamar, who toured the South and Shir who toured the Midwest after the tour to gain their insights about speaking in the U.S.

Itamar, 25, is from Pardess Hana-Karkur, a small town in Northern Israel. Now living in Kibbutz Magal, he studies Education and Political Science at Oranim College. For the last 4 years, Itamar has worked in informal education on a Kibbutz, and has served as Head of the At-Risk Youth department in the Menashe Municipality.

Itamar served in the intelligence forces of the IDF in a classified unit. During his military service, Itamar consistently dealt with the complicated encounters between soldiers and Palestinian civilians

Together with Ilan Lopez, director StandWithUs Latin America, Itamar met with the Jewish community in Mexico prior to touring the South. Ilan joined the southwest team.

Shir, 26, grew up in Gush-Katif settlement in Gaza until the disengagement in 2005. Today she lives in the southern Israeli village of Beer-Ganim, and studies Law at the College of Management Law School.

Shir served in the Israel Defense Forces as a First Lieutenant in the ground forces as a “war room” operator on the northern border with Gaza, where she continues to serve as a reservist.  Shir took part in two operations against Hamas in Gaza as an officer – “Pillar of Defense” in 2012 and “Protective Edge” in 2014.

Shir volunteered in Africa with children, as a part of the Colman Student Union delegation.  She works as an Administrative-Legal Director at “Tmura center – The Legal Center for the promotion of equality” – representing victims of discrimination and various biases.

Why do you think it’s important to tell your stories as IDF soldier on campus?

Shir: It’s important to let people hear information that is different from the information they’re used to receiving. People should be able to choose what they think about certain issues, and in order to do so they need to have different opinions. In addition, students on campus struggle in a difficult arena in which they hear about Israel in negative contexts – we are there to show a different, more positive side.

Itamar: I believe that telling our stories in campuses can create a dialogue, especially when sometimes people are given only one side and not the full picture. Things are more complicated than the media sometimes portrays.  I think that the opportunity of sharing our own personal experience, will encourage students to explore and ask more questions. It will help them realize that although the reality in our region is complex and despite everything Israelis have been through, we believe in education which is the key that can make a difference for the future.

 

What is Israel to you, and how do you pass this message to students abroad?

Itamar:  Israel to me and to my family is a safe haven. My family arrived here from Europe and from Morocco and Yemen after suffering from persecution. I always knew, that in the state of Israel we’ll be safe.

My country is a place where each population can feel safe, no matter where they are from or what religion they practice.  Israel to me is a place where I can express my opinions, and where I feel that if I need anything, everybody will help me.

Shir: My heart and the craziest and yet sanest place I know.

 

Share one of the most memorable moments from your recent tour.

Itamar: One of the most exciting events that we had, was in Houston, Texas.  We met Pastor Becky (Keenan) of Gulf Meadows Church and spoke to a combined Spanish and English Israel class she conducts weekly.  We then joined congregants and volunteers and helped people who are still recovering from Hurricane Harvey. It was an amazing experience; we met a community that loves Israel, supports the Jewish community there and prays for Israel.  I wish we had more time to stay with them.

Here is Kayla and I:

 

Shir:  When we spoke with law students at one of the universities. In the last row sat four anti-Israel students with laptops who attacked us with masses of twisted and misinformation about the conflict, and the way that Israel behaves.  My tour partner Carlos and I calmly, fluently and professionally answered all the accusations – until they had no words left. I felt that we didn’t need to hide behind a computer and masses of information – I have the truth by my side, and that’s all I need.

What is your advice for people reading this interview, who also want to join the battle against the Israel delegitimization campaign currently taking over social media? 

Shir: Know the facts, research the subject you are talking about, know the twisted narrative of the other side – and always be critical towards any information you receive. If you are not an expert in a particular field or unsure of the facts – just say so. Correcting a wrong and false statement is more difficult than holding back.

Itamar:  My advice is to share as much as you can.

Unfortunately the social media campaign is huge, but on the other hand, it’s up to us to share and educate for the truth. Some people just see the headline or a short video without seeing the bigger picture. I think it’s our responsibility to have the answers and explain what it really means to boycott Israel – the technology that everyone uses, factories that hire Palestinians, and more important, our values as a democracy.

 

Seeing the growing wave of anti-Semitism, do you believe history can repeat itself? 

Itamar: I believe that if something happened once, it can always happen again. But I know that the only way that it won’t, is if we keep remembering and never forgetting what happened to the Jewish people throughout history. We need to educate the next generation that keeping our country safe, and learning about history is the key for saving our people.  It will also help us be responsive to people around the world who need our help because we’ll be able to identify with them.

Shir: Depends on what aspect. Could the Jews be threatened at this level again? Probably. Will we reach a situation similar to the Holocaust?  Never, because we have a country and a strong moral army. Such a situation could never be repeated.

 

How do you believe the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can be resolved?

Itamar: I believe in dialogue. We don’t have a partner for peace because they don’t educate for hope or for co-existence. When I watch how the summer camps in Gaza teach children to fight Israel, it’s hard to believe it. But we have to. I want to believe that the Palestinian leadership we’ll decide to stop this, and will prepare its people for similar values of peace and hope. I know that I will keep educating the kids I work with for hope. We should not give up. I believe that the next generation will find a solution, and it’s our job and their job to educate in a way that will allow a true dialogue.

Shir: Through education. By bringing the two peoples closer together, by stopping being afraid of the other side. Through more programs that bring the two peoples together, and that enable a dialogue with the other side, rather than distance and separation.

 

 

Letters to the Editor: Harvey Weinstein, IDF Destroys Hamas Tunnel, Pickles


Harvey Weinstein: Disgrace to Judaism

I picked up a recent copy of the Journal, which I always look forward to reading. However, when I saw the photo of Harvey Weinstein on the cover, I was stunned. His picture, if in the Journal at all, should be small and on the last page of the paper, declaring that he shamed himself, his family, and that he is a disgrace to everything Jewish. The cover of the Journal should have someone we respect and emulate, who lives an exemplary life and makes this world a better place. I am sure you can choose more wisely the next time you prepare the paper.

Marion Lienhard, Thousand Oaks


A New Look, New Direction for the Journal

Congratulations on the new format, type, layout and the change in focus.

The new parsha commentaries show the variety of possibilities in interpretation.

The political differences are best shown when focused side by side on a single topic. The expansion of writers gives voice to many other topics of interest.

Mazel tov!

Enriqué Gascon, Los Angeles

When I lived in Baltimore I told people I read their Jewish News and they responded by saying, “Honey, no one reads it, we just look through it.”

One cannot say that about our Jewish Journal.  Its content is rich, diverse, readable and good enough to be savored.  All of that in addition to learning new things, human interest stories, and opinions that do not require you to want to tear your hair out.  OK maybe a little hair-tearing.

Don’t you just love change?

Sherri W. Morr via email

The Journal’s profound new tone and writers continue to amaze. In “A Deeper Feminism (Oct. 27),” Karen Lehrman Bloch’s assertion that freedom requires “thoughtfulness, a need to recognize reality and human nature” is a breath of fresh air. Although Bloch considers herself politically neutral, the media are so predominantly leftist that she seems to speak for the right. Her observation that “Women are equal to men but … different,” and “We should take pleasure in the differences,” is a mature, common-sense response to the growing, misguided progressive dogma that there’s no difference between the sexes or that it’s all cultural indoctrination. She’s a real delight!

I’ve even started reading Marty Kaplan’s column again. For a while, he was just trashing President Donald Trump every week, but his fascinating Oct. 27 rumination, “When Bad People Happen to Good Art,” explores the age-old enigma of profound art created by immoral, self-indulgent people. I wonder if it struck Kaplan that all the abusive artists he cited are likely Trump-haters, and that every Weinstein associate and political crony is a Democrat. Is the contempt some leftists have for Christianity and traditional Judaism eroding their consciences? I’m not suggesting Republicans aren’t sinners, but unlike secularists they don’t just rationalize bad behavior away. I’d love to hear Kaplan’s thoughts on this.

Rueben Gordon via email

What a great editor’s note: “Can Jewish Journalism Aim to Please?” (Oct. 27)! Note, that reveals a great journalist’s mind! Mr. Suissa, you have found that “sweet spot” already. By asking questions, you provoke thought, and by remaining true to yourself, you avoid triggering anger. The three insights you write about are excellent ways to reach out to as many readers as possible.

I am not a Jew, but I really enjoy the Journal, now more than before, finding those insights applied on all the pages. In my opinion, it is impossible to please each and every reader, but it is fully possible and necessary for journalists to be true to themselves when reporting the facts. Then let the readers be the judge! That’s how we, the readers, will be challenged to open our minds to new ideas and to “look beyond our own customs and traditions.”

Svetlozar Garmidolov, Los Angeles


Put the Brakes on Those GPS Satellites

Your interview with Barry Barish (“Barry Barish on His Nobel Prize — and Why He Never Wrote That Novel,” Oct. 27) contains an egregious error. He is quoted as saying that the GPS satellites travel at 1/4th of the speed of light. They actually travel at 14,000 kilometers per hour (kph) relative to Earth, which is 0.001 percent of the speed of light. The relativistic offset of the space-borne clocks is 38 microseconds/day relative to a stationary clock on Earth, which would cause an Earth-bound user to make a 14-centimeter position error.

As a mere PhD in engineering I hesitate to correct a Nobel Prize winner. I suspect the interviewer misunderstood him.

Myron Kayton via email


Israel’s Destruction of Hamas Tunnel

I would like to thank Aaron Bandler for the story he wrote on the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) destroying a tunnel built by Hamas (“IDF Destroys Hamas Tunnel,” Oct. 30). I 100 percent agree with what Bandler wrote about what the IDF did. Not only did I agree with it but I also completely [endorse what] the IDF is doing. In this story, I discovered that the IDF destroyed a tunnel made by Hamas. The tunnel spanned from Khan Younis in Gaza toward Kibbutz Kissufim in Israel. The reason I agree with this is because Israel warned that Hamas digs over six miles of tunnel a month toward Israel and that members of Hamas can travel through the entirety of the Gaza Strip underground through their network of tunnels. So if Israel lets this continue to happen, then many will probably die.

Nathan Tabibi via email


Israel and the Politics of Pickles

In the column “We, the Pickles,” Shmuel Rosner discusses many things. For the most part, I agree with his statements, although he wrote that Israeli President Reuven Rivlin meant that we all no longer care about the country or the people, but rather maintaining the government. But isn’t that what Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is doing? No matter what Netanyahu does, the critics grumble. He does well and he gets no credit, but as soon as something bad happens, he is to blame. As I see it, if Netanyahu is just thinking about the government, he is doing the right thing to please the critics and the country.

Avner Shamtoub via email


The Cause and Cure for Terrorism

When terrorists attack, they tell us very clearly why they are killing (“8 Dead, 12 Injured in Manhattan Attack,” Nov. 3). They yell, “Allahu Akbar” (Allah is the greatest) — a jihadi battle cry. Yet we ignore it. We wring our hands and lament. We send teddy bears to the victims. That will not stop the next attack.

What will stop Islamic terror is simple but not easy. Imams, Muslims — all who practice Islam — must begin citing the many specific passages of the Quran, the Hadiths of Muhammad and sharia law that tell their flock that jihad, killing infidels and Jews are holy acts, and then denounce these passages as wrong, despite their appearance in holy texts. Unless and until this happens, we will continue to have more deaths. This is not bias. This is common sense.

Not all who practice Islam will commit jihad but some are doing so. We see their bloody work on an almost weekly basis.

Islamic and all religious leaders should stand together and denounce these passages.

Some examples: A command in the Quran: “Fight against those to whom the Scriptures were given [i.e. Jews and Christians] … until they pay tribute out of hand and are utterly subdued.”

Ginette Weiner, Scottsdale, Ariz.

Israel to Hamas: Give Us Back Our Soldiers’ Remains, and You’ll Get the Tunnel Victims’ Bodies


Screenshot from Twitter

Israel has issued an ultimatum to Hamas: if you want the bodies of the terrorists that died in the tunnel blast, you’ll have to give us the bodies of our soldiers.

On Monday, Israel blew up a partially built Hamas tunnel, resulting in the death of seven terrorists, two of which were senior commanders of Islamic Jihad. Hamas requested that the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and Israel retrieve the bodies of five terrorists believed to be buried underneath the tunnel.

Israel has signaled that they will not accept Hamas’ request unless they return the bodies of Israeli soldiers Shaul Oron and Hadar Goldin they kidnapped and killed in 2014 Hamas-Israel conflict. Hamas is also believed to have kidnapped three Israeli civilians.

“Israel will not allow search operations in the area of the security barrier in the Gaza Strip without progress on the issue of Israelis kidnapped and MIAs,” Israel Major General Yoav Mordechai reportedly told the ICRC in Gaza.

The families of the missing soldiers agreed.

The family of Shaul Oron told the Times of Israel, “We hope that the Israeli government will not dare to comply with Hamas’s request as long as they do not return Oron. Oron was kidnapped through a tunnel that Hamas dug, and for more than three years has been held by them in Gaza, and yet they do not allow the Red Cross to check on his condition.”

Goldin’s family echoed Oron’s family, stating: “Any Israeli humanitarian gesture toward Hamas must be contingent on bringing our boys home. If Israel responds [positively] to Hamas, it would be a moral injustice and a sign of political weakness.”

The Simon Wiesenthal Center is also on the side of the Goldin and Oron families.

“Hamas has violated the basic norms of humanity by holding hostage the remains of two Israeli soldiers,” Rabbis Marvin Hier and Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center said in a press release sent to the Journal. “We learned first-hand of the anguish of the family of Hadar Goldin, who visited the Simon Wiesenthal Center a few months ago.

“The International Red Cross should immediately launch an effort to release all the remains to their families, without delay.”

Israel has been working to retrieve their kidnapped citizens and bodies of their soldiers, to no avail. In September, Egypt ceased its mediation between Israel Hamas on the matter, making the prospects of an agreement between the two even more remote.

“We are not giving up on this mission – including over the last few days – until we successfully carry it out,” Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in July.

An Apologetic No-Apology in Gaza


Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

When Israel found a terror tunnel crossing the border into its territory on Oct. 30, it did what every country would do: It destroyed it. The tunnel was not there for peaceful purposes, and Israel did not use peaceful means to destroy it. It bombed it. And as the tunnel crumbled, Islamic Jihad operatives were killed — no great loss for those wanting peace and security for Israelis and Palestinians.

Those killed were not the target of the operation; they were collateral damage. But being who they were, you would not expect Israel to feel overcome with sorrow over their unplanned deaths. Still, when Israel Defense Forces (IDF) officers were speaking about the incident, they sounded almost apologetic about the killing. Boastful remarks were rare — the military was proud of the new technologies that enabled the operational achievement, yet refrained from counting the killing of terrorists as part of that achievement. Politicians were asked by the prime minister to keep their thoughts to themselves — and did.

Why?

Pragmatism.

Left-wingers more easily accept Israel’s decision in this case.

Israel is a pragmatic country with pragmatic policies — and this is no less true when it has a right-wing government headed by a hawkish prime minister. It does not need an eruption of violence in Gaza. It does not seek confrontation with Hamas. It does not want to give the impression that its goal is to disrupt the process of Hamas-Fatah reconciliation. Of course, this does not mean that it will turn a blind eye when a terror tunnel is discovered. But it does mean that a small price, such as faking an apologetic response about killing very bad people, is not out of the question.

Or is it?

Some Israelis on the right, most notably Education Minister Naftali Bennett, did not easily accept these rules of overly restrained Israeli response. “We should not apologize for succeeding in eliminating terrorists,” Bennett said. Politicians in Israel — much like in the United States — see apologies as unfashionable and unnecessary. President Donald Trump does not apologize, but Bennett can take credit for having had a no-apology policy even before Trump. Maybe that’s the reason for his gut reaction to the IDF’s half-hearted celebration of victory.

It is easy to identify with Bennett’s reluctance to accept these rules of restraint. After all, these terrorists were coming to kill us, and we killed them right back! It is also easy to understand why the IDF is being so cautious. After all, the military would be the one having to deal with any eruption of violence. And if such violence can be avoided by having a low-profile celebration of this small victory, why not try this approach?

Politics, as always, stands in the way.

Right-wingers are lukewarm about playing down their response and wonder whether the IDF’s action indicates it is guilty of a defeatist apprehension of Hamas. The Israeli right-wing has developed a bad habit of constantly looking for signs of weakness in others, always suspecting that Israelis other than right-wingers do not have the stomach to do what it takes to keep this country safe.

Left-wingers more easily accept Israel’s decision in this case. Their instinctive preference is for Israel to always be restrained and always be considerate of the sensitivities of the Palestinians. But as they praise Israel for this measured, calculated response, they fail to notice other aspects of this exact same realism. Taking things as they are and not as you’d want them to be, accepting small humiliations so as not to complicate an already complicated situation — these explain both Israel’s limited celebration this week and Israel’s averse response to peace processing.

Sober realism, pragmatic attitude, a results-driven approach — all these have benefits and a price that cut both ways. They can make us curb our enthusiasm when terrorists — our most-detested, most-radical enemies — are killed. They also can make us curb our enthusiasm when a pipe dream of peace is offered.

Female Soldier Wouldn’t Take No For an Answer


Photo from Facebook.

“When you grow up in America, the DMV and all the red tape involved is the absolute worst. Then you make aliyah and you realize that [Israel’s Ministry of Interior] is definitely the worst. But then you get to the army and you know, without a shadow of a doubt, that there can be nothing worse than this.”

So muses Sariba Feinstein — and she should know. At 25, Sariba was seven years past Israel’s conscription age when she knocked down the doors of the recruitment office in Tel HaShomer and demanded to be drafted. But like the requisite rejection from rabbis to a potential convert, they turned her away — multiple times. Unflinching, Sariba insisted she wasn’t moving until she could speak to a higher-up.

“I’m stubborn like that,” she said.

Her tenacity about getting into the army ultimately prevailed. Getting into a combat unit, however, was out of the question — until it wasn’t.

“It was a fight to get into the army and a fight to get into a combat unit,” she said.

Sariba ended up being drafted into Caracal, the first co-ed combat battalion of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), named for the eponymous cat with sexes that appear the same. That didn’t stop the catcalls she and her army buds received from Egyptian soldiers stationed a stone’s throw away across the border, though.

Her two-year service, which now has concluded, consisted of intense training, even more intense tête-à-têtes with commanders several years her junior, and plenty of struggles with the language. During idle times, Sariba took to social media using the hashtag #WatchMeCrackle to recount tales of her service and aggregate lists of things she loved about serving in the IDF, such as the dining hall PSAs announcing when the food is spicy — for the benefit of the Ashkenazi soldiers — or the fact that she doesn’t actually remember the last time she saluted anyone.

This proved to be a rather different experience compared with that of two of Sariba’s brothers back home who chose to serve in the U.S. Army, one in the 10th Mountain Division and the other in the 101st Airborne Division. That half of the Feinstein children chose to serve in the military at all is a curious fact given their upbringing in a Chasidic home.

The recent Netflix documentary “One of Us,” which follows the lives of three individuals who chose to leave their insular Chasidic sects, encouraged Sariba to share her own experiences as an OTD — the somewhat dubious slang given to people who are “off the derech (path)” and who abandon religious observance.

She’s quick to point out that the Chasidic sects portrayed in the documentary have vast differences from the Chabad lifestyle that Sariba’s parents espoused, which, among other things, encourages interaction with nonobservant Jews while other sects reject any dealings with people outside of their communities.

Sariba ended up being drafted into Caracal, the first co-ed combat battalion of the IDF.

Until the age of 11, Sariba lived in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights in New York, the Chabad movement’s epicenter. Her family then moved to Postville, Iowa, where her father took a job as a registered nurse in a hospital. The small town’s Jewish community was largely religious but not exclusively Chabad, with most people affiliated with the town’s kosher slaughterhouse.

When asked if there was any pivotal experience that turned her off religious observance, Sariba demurred, chalking it up to a general feeling of disconnect that just intensified over the years.

“I just stopped feeling like it was my place, like it was mine,” she said without a trace of bitterness in her voice.

After several years in New York and halfway through an online degree, Sariba made plans to move to Southern California. But an impromptu trip to Israel — her first — with Birthright in January 2013 threw a wrench in her plans for the next half-decade, and counting.

“I kept making excuses to stay longer,” Sariba said of her choice to extend her trip.

Ironically, it was on July 4 when Sariba, who now is studying at Bar-Ilan University, finally made the decision to make aliyah.

“I could explore life and live life as I wanted,” she said. “And I just felt that I was at home here.”

IDF Won’t Apologize for Killing Terrorists in Hamas Tunnel Blast


Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) will not apologize for killing terrorists while blowing up a Hamas tunnel on Monday.

IDF Spokesman Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis said that the explosion, which killed seven terrorists, wounded 12 others and left five terrorists missing wasn’t meant to harm any Palestinian. Education Minister Naftali Bennett used Manelis’ statement to claim that the IDF was apologizing for killing terrorists.

“These were terrorists involved in digging an attack tunnel inside Israeli territory with which they intended to kill Israeli women and children,” Bennett tweeted.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman fired back on Twitter, writing that “comments like this seriously damage the security of Israel and the IDF.” Yesh Atid MK Elaza Stern, a former IDF general, issued a statement denouncing Bennett’s comments and stating that the IDF in no way apologized for the killing of terrorists.

“It is a shame that government ministers, instead of backing the IDF after an incident like this, chose once again to use it to score political points at the army’s expense,” said Stern.

Two of the terrorists killed in the tunnel explosion were senior commanders for the terrorist organization Islamic Jihad.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) has responded to the tunnel explosion by accusing Israel of using poison gas to kill the terrorist, who they referred to as “martyrs.”

“We call on all of the international organizations to stop these materials that the Israeli occupation is using against our unarmed people,” PA Health Ministry Spokesman Ashraf Al-Qudra said to the PA’s news outlet.

Hamas has called the explosion “a dangerous escalation against our people” and Iran referred to Israel as the “blood-sucking Zionist regime” in response to the explosion.

IDF Destroys Hamas Tunnel


Hamas militants take part in a military parade in Gaza. Suhaib Salem/ Reuters

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) destroyed a Hamas tunnel on Monday that was still in the process of being built.

The tunnel spanned from Khan Younis in Gaza toward Kibbutz Kissufim in Israel. The IDF was able to detect it through an unspecified technological advancement and then destroyed the tunnel through a controlled explosion.

The explosion resulted in nine dead Palestinian terrorists, one of which was the senior commander of Islamic Jihad’s al-Quds Brigades, according to the Jerusalem Post.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed the tunnel’s demolition as how Israel is “developing breakthrough technology to deal with the tunnel threat.”

“Today, we located a tunnel and we destroyed it, and we will continue doing so,” Netanyahu declared. “We will continue to protect Israel’s borders.”

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman stressed that the explosion took place on the Israeli border and that the Jewish state isn’t interested in another armed conflict with Gaza. However, Lieberman noted that “despite Palestinian unity, the Gaza Strip remains a terrorist kingdom.”

“There is no doubt Hamas, which controls Gaza, is responsible,” said Lieberman.

Hamas called the tunnel’s explosion a “Zionist crime” that “is a dangerous escalation against our people” to halt “efforts to restore Palestinian unity” in a statement.

“We affirm that resisting the occupation in all its forms and by possessing its various forms is a natural and guaranteed right of our people,” the statement read.

Iran, which funds Hamas and the Islamic Jihad, also denounced the tunnel’s destruction by referring to Israel as the “blood-sucking Zionist regime” that “wants to weaken the resolve of the oppressed Palestinian nation through the massacre of Palestinian youth.”

This is the third Hamas tunnel that has been destroyed by Israel since Hamas first started using the tunnels in the 2014 conflict. In 2016, Israel warned that Hamas digs over six miles of tunnel a month toward Israel and that they can travel through the entirety of the Gaza Strip underground through their network of tunnels. There have been some instances in which the tunnels have collapsed on Hamas members.

Former IDF Soldiers Start U.S. Speaking Tour


Members of the El Camino Metro congregation in Sun Valley offer a blessing to former Israeli soldier Iyyar Schwartz. Photo by Eitan Arom.

While the rest of the crowd raised its hands toward the ceiling of the middle school auditorium, an olive-skinned woman in a knee-length black dress shifted on her feet in the front row, her hands folded in front of her.

Iyyar Schwartz, 28, visited the bilingual congregation El Camino Metro in Sun Valley on Oct. 22 as part of a United States tour by former Israeli soldiers, organized by the pro-Israel education organization StandWithUs. She and her traveling companion, Ilan Lopez, make up one of six teams touring the country until Nov. 5. On this morning, Schwartz addressed the English-language service of the nondenominational Christian congregation while Lopez spoke at a larger Spanish-language service at a high school.

Schwartz shared her experience as an artillery officer in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), including the time when a rocket went off as she was patrolling the border of the Gaza Strip during Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012. Dropping to the ground, she lay prone in a muddy field. “I won’t forget that,” she said. “I had mud in my nose and my mouth, and I was thinking, ‘Would I rather lose my arms or my legs?’ ”

Before the rocket landed, it was intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system — but the incident served as a touchstone for her to talk about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the need for dialogue.

“We need to put ego, money, politics — we need to put that aside, and we need to listen to each other,” she said.

After Schwartz’s remarks, Pastor Cruz Navarro called on the approximately 100 people in attendance to raise their hands and bless Schwartz and all of Israel. “Today, we bless through Iyyar not just her, but the entire nation,” he said.

“They love Israel but they still need connections to what’s going on today.” – Ilan Lopez

The visit to El Camino Metro marked the beginning of the nationwide tour that will bring former IDF soldiers to more than 150 audiences in churches, synagogues, high schools and other venues. Schwartz traveled to California from Israel with Lopez, the director of StandWithUs Latin America. The pair also will travel to Colorado, Nevada and Arizona.

The visits are meant to expand Americans’ understanding of Israel, and to counter negative attention Israel receives in the media.

“There’s a divine mandate in the Bible to bless Israel,” said Pastor Josh Tolle, as he introduced Schwartz.

Nonetheless, Lopez said it was important to introduce Spanish-speaking congregations like El Camino Metro to a “human face to relate to” that was connected with Israel. In downtown Los Angeles on Nov. 5, Lopez is scheduled to visit Tabernaculo Biblico Bautista Amigos de Los Israel, a Hispanic church.

“They love Israel,” Lopez said in an interview, “but they still need tools [to support it] and connections to what’s going on today.”

After Schwartz’s appearance, Lopez took the stage across the street at El Camino Metro’s Spanish service with about 1,000 people, mostly immigrants from Mexico and Central America.

Lopez spoke in Spanish about his upbringing as the child of a Jewish mother and Christian father in Venezuela, where, in 2009, a mob overpowered security guards at a Sephardic synagogue, then tossed the Torah scrolls across the room and spray-painted anti-Semitic graffiti. A year later, Lopez moved to Israel and enlisted in the IDF.

He spoke about his humanitarian work as an IDF soldier, relating a tale about how he helped move a boy from a Palestinian hospital to Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem, where Israeli doctors treated the boy for burns suffered after an accident at his home.

After Lopez spoke, the Salvadoran-born Navarro reminded the congregation about an upcoming church trip to Israel in February.

“If there are pupuserias in Israel,” Navarro said, referring to Salvadoran stuffed tortillas, “I’m moving there right away.”

Bernie Sanders sponsors event supporting Palestinian village of Susiya


Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 13. Photo by Yuri Gripas/Reuters

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is sponsoring a September 19th briefing on Capitol Hill to highlight the cause of the Palestinian village, Susiya, which is designated for demolition by the Israeli Army, a Senate staffer confirmed to Jewish Insider.

[This article originally appeared on jewishinsider.com]

While the briefing marks International Peace Day which is September 21, due to the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah, it has been moved to the 19th to allow those celebrating to attend, according to a copy of the invitation. The organizer Rebuilding Alliance declined to publicize Sanders’ sponsorship in its invitation.

The California-based Rebuilding Alliance is slated to fly-in children from the West Bank villages of Susiya and Al-Aqaba along with Gaza. “It is our hope that upon hearing their presentation, members of Congress will personally make calls to the Israeli Embassy to express concern, stop the demolitions, recognize Palestinian planning rights, turn on the lights, and assure due process,” the event explains.

The Israeli Supreme Court ruled that Susiya is an illegally constructed outpost near Hebron and “are continuing to build in defiance of a court order.” Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) has written multiple letters to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calling on Jerusalem not to demolish the contested village.

Earlier this year, Sanders was one of four Senators to send a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson highlighting the case of Palestinian activist Issa Amro, who is charged by the Israeli military for obstructing soldiers. The Vermont lawmaker also delivered a harsh critique of Israel’s conduct in the 1948 war at the J Street conference last February. “Like our own country, the founding of Israel involved the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people already living there, the Palestinian people. Over 700,000 people were made refugees,” he said.

The September 19 briefing will be the second pro-Palestinian event on Capitol Hill this year. In June, Representative Mark Pocan (D-WI) sponsored an event titled: “50 Years of Israeli Military Occupation & Life for Palestinian Children.”

Greenblatt’s Gaza proposal leaves more questions than answers


Jason Greenblatt in Israel. Photo from Facebook

Towards the end of Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt’s trip to the Middle East this week, he visited the Israeli-Gaza border with IDF Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories. “It is clear that the Palestinian Authority must resume its role in managing the Gaza Strip,” Greenblatt declared and explained, “since Hamas has severely harmed the residents and failed to meet their most basic needs.”

[This story originally appeared on jewishinsider.com]

Yet, Middle East experts questioned how realistic Greenblatt’s proposal is and urged more clarity from the Trump administration in how they would implement the return of PA rule in Gaza. “I think it is good that the Trump Administration expressed support for PA governing Gaza,” explained David Makovsky, a Senior Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “The question remains how to make this happen. Abbas missed a moment to establish the PA back in Gaza after the 2014 war. The PA has yet to put forward a plan that would make Gazans believe they care about them. For Abbas to win back Gazans, he cannot speak in generalizations but he needs a plan. The US cannot want the PA back more than the PA itself.”

Following the 2014 Hamas-Israeli conflict, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas rejected a United Nations Security Council resolution supported by the United States, France, and Jordan to return PA forces to Gaza, Walla News reported.

“Absent any strategy or structure, it’s a pipe dream today,” said Grant Rumley, a fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD). “There are no incentives for Hamas to relinquish control of Gaza when it can have (Abdel Fatah) Sisi or (Mohammad) Dahlan and the U.A.E. bail it out, and there are no incentives for Abbas to risk troops and political capital without guarantees that a repeat of the 2007 civil war won’t happen. Re-inserting the PA into Gaza will require a framework, regional buy-in, and a leadership in Ramallah that is willing to take risks — I see none of those on the horizon today.”

A White House spokesman declined Jewish Insider’s request for comment on the White House’s proposal.

Conditions in Gaza remain dire. Power in Gaza has declined to approximately four hours a day after the P.A. reduced fuel payments to the impoverished enclave. Unemployment in the impoverished enclave has spiked to 42% and among youth it’s at 58%. Hamas and Israel have fought three bloody wars resulting in thousands of casualties between 2008-2014.

Khaled Elgindy, a Brookings fellow focusing on Palestinian politics, cautioned, “Various Palestinian officials have said in one form or the other that they will not go back to Gaza on the back of Israeli tanks. The fact that this statement is coming from the Trump administration may not be helping things. People in Hamas may be looking at it: ‘Wait a minute, Is this an attempt to try and impose something on Hamas?’”

The timing of Greenblatt’s statement supporting the return of Fatah rule in Gaza is noteworthy in light of a senior Israeli government official’s comments to Yediot Achronoton Tuesday clarifying that Jerusalem is “interested in the stability of Hamas rule in Gaza.” Elgindy asked, “Does that mean the US and Israel are not on the same page when it comes to Gaza?”

While backing the Trump administration’s focus on the challenge of Gaza, Rumley concluded, “Unfortunately, absent any parameters or way forward, the Trump administration is likely to reach the same dead-end as the Bush and Obama administrations.”

Israeli soldier asks army chief for leniency after losing appeal in shooting of downed Palestinian


Former Israeli soldier Elor Azaria, middle, waits to hear the ruling at an Israeli military appeals court in Tel Aviv on July 30. Photo by Dan Balilty/Reuters

Israeli soldier Elor Azaria, convicted of shooting a downed Palestinian terrorist, has asked the head of the Israel Defense Forces for leniency.

Azaria made the request of Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot days after a military appeals court upheld both the conviction and the 18-month prison sentence, which the prosecution had called too lenient. Azaria reportedly will not appeal the decisions to Israel’s Supreme Court.

In the letter, Azaria reportedly repeated his defense that he believed the Palestinian attacker was planning a suicide bombing from his prone position after he was shot and injured by other soldiers.

Azaria has not expressed remorse for his actions; regretting them could help him obtain leniency, observers say.

Azaria’s attorney, Yoram Sheftel, attacked Eisenkot in a television interview Monday, saying the chief of staff “is fat and doesn’t project a soldierly image in his appearances.”

Following the verdict, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and several other Israeli government ministers called for Azaria to be pardoned. Netanyahu also backed a pardon following Azaria’s conviction in January.

Azaria also noted his mother’s reliance on sleeping pills and his father’s stroke in the wake of the case, The Times of Israel reported.

Azaria, who was sentenced in February, has been under house arrest since leaving the military last week. He had been confined to the closed Nachshonim military base since being arrested in March 2016.

A medic in the elite Kfir Brigade, Azaria came on the scene following a Palestinian stabbing attack on soldiers in the West Bank city of Hebron on March 24, 2016. One assailant was killed, and Abdel Fattah al-Sharif was injured. Minutes later, while Sharif was lying on the ground, Azaria shot him in the head in a shooting that was captured on video by a local resident for the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem.

Azaria was arrested the same day and indicted nearly a month later. Autopsy reports showed that the shots by Azaria killed Sharif. Prior to shooting Sharif, Azaria had cared for a stabbed soldier.

250,000 To Be Evacuated By Israel From Potential Northern Border War


The Home Front Command declared that it has a special contingency plan in place in Israel to evacuate up to a quarter of a million residents living close to the Lebanon border. This was confirmed by a senior officer in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Around 1 million live in Israel’s North and in the event that a war starts with Hezbollah, evacuations can start. According to the officer:

“In the past we didn’t think of needing to evacuate whole communities, but now we understand that we will have to evacuate hundreds of thousands of people. “

This is mainly because of the fact the battlefield experience and technological abilities of Hezbollah are growing “thanks” to the fighting happening against Syria. Regional changes that the military did not expect happened. Israel’s borders witness changes and the IDF has to get ready for war against various groups instead of country armies.

While students from other countries do not have to worry about much except where to buy essays and similar, those living in northern Israel should be aware of the potential of war breaking out. The Home Front Command evolved though and it is ready to protect Israeli citizens. It was said that the army did always think about whether or not it is prepared or relevant. That is not just because of the Hezbollah rocket barrage threat that became a possibility in the past few months. The real reason is the possibility of faced with ground attacks carried out by terrorist groups against the civilian communities.

Israel is listening to everything that Hassan Nasrallah says and the threats issued are taken seriously. Civilians were told in the past that they simply need to go to the special bomb shelters but this needs to be changed as having civilians in front lines is not at all a good idea.

Unfortunately, it is close to impossible to evacuate all the residents in the area. However, it was stated that the army is working with communities and emergency services in order to prepare people that live in the northern communities for a mass evacuation scenario. Evacuated communities would eventually be housed in guest houses, schools and hotels in Jerusalem, Eilat, Jordan Valley and West Bank. The goal is to take people away from the North front lines. Whole communities can end up being housed together based on the experienced situation.

IDF believes that Hezbollah will most likely not attack Israel soon. The border with Lebanon is the one that is highly explosive and it is possible that the very next conflict is going to be truly devastating. Hezbollah did rebuild the arsenal it had since the 2006 Lebanon War, having access to over one hundred thousand short range rockets and even thousands of other missiles that would be able to reach the middle of Israel. This does include Tel Aviv.

The news broke out as Nasrallah issued a warning that Israel has to think “a million times” before a war with Lebanon would be started as the fighters he has will not have “Red lines” in the following conflict.

The Six-Day War, in real time for the first time


Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, Chief of staff Yitzhak Rabin, Gen. Rehavam Zeevi (R) And Gen. Narkis in the old city of Jerusalem. Photo from Wikipedia

Israel’s State Archives has unsealed documents from the Six-Day War after 50 years. They include transcripts of full cabinet meetings and of the Security Cabinet meetings. Here are a few observations.

In Cabinet meetings, people say many things. In tense Cabinet meetings, they say even more things. Thus, when transcripts are released, it is easy to isolate quotes and make big headlines out of them to serve a position or an ideology. If it were up to us, a politician muses, we would “deport the Arabs to Brazil.” Is this a statement that proves Israel’s malicious intentions? Some might say yes. They had the same reaction when Yitzhak Rabin mused about his desire to see Gaza drowned in the Mediterranean.

But you also can see it as a statement proving the sobriety and realism of Israel’s ministers at the time — a statement proving that they realized, on Day One, that occupying a territory in which many Arabs reside is going to be a headache. They did not deport anyone to Brazil. They were stuck with the headache. We still are stuck with it.

Not everything the ministers said seems impressive in retrospect. But what is quite impressive is the ministers’ refusal to engage in desperation in the weeks leading to the war and their reluctance to surrender to euphoria after it. The ministers behave in these meetings as all Israelis did: The period leading to the war was highly worrisome and the country was in a dark mood during the three weeks of “waiting.” The period after the war was one of celebration and invincibility.

The ministers are apprehensive, and they are uplifted — but in a more subdued way. They do not panic before; they do not lose proportion after. Yes, many of their assessments seem naive, misconstrued, even foolish in retrospect. But this is not due to a lack of seriousness.

Reading the debate about the future of the West Bank feels prescient. There are annexationists who want to absorb the territory and believe the demographic challenge of absorbing so many Arabs along with the territory will sort out itself. Menachem Begin, a member of the emergency Cabinet that was assembled prior to the war, argues that within seven years there will be a Jewish majority in the West Bank. There are those for whom demography is the key. Pinchas Sapir, the finance minister, worries about Israel’s future as a Jewish state if so many Arabs will become residents or citizens of Israel.

It is almost boringly familiar, and yet so distant.

I’m reading a transcript of a Security Cabinet meeting from May 26, 1967. Rabin, then the chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), is asked to assess whether Israel can withstand an attack. Look how careful he is: “I think if we have the tactical surprise, there is a possibility … that we will have achievements.”

Here is a question: Was this a rhetorical failure on part of the IDF and Rabin? Consider an alternative scenario: It is the same meeting, but Rabin promises a great victory, then Israel faces a military defeat. What would we say in such a case? Probably that the chief of staff didn’t assess the situation correctly and thus provided Israel’s political leaders with inaccurate information on which they made the wrong decisions.

But no one has the time or reason to ask the exact same question when the assessment of the military commander is inaccurate in a positive sense — that is, a prediction of great difficulty that later proves to be an overstatement.

And there is more. A minister warning defense minister Moshe Dayan that the IDF ought to be reminded to treat the civilian population humanely. Ministers arguing for and against taking East Jerusalem. Concern that overeagerness could prolong the war and occupy more territory because of the victories.

There also are lies that Israel decides to tell. The protocol shows how Israel attacked Syria in the Golan Heights. Minister Yigal Alon calls for the attack, disregarding the possibility of diplomatic tension with Russia because of it. He says he prefers controlling the Heights over diplomatic problems with the Russians.

The director of the Foreign Ministry warns against action — attacking Syria will complicate things for us with the Russians, he argues. But Rabin wants action. “Ending such a war without hitting the Syrians would be a shame,” he says.

Israel tells the world that the Syrians are fighting. “This is not the truth,” argues minister Haim-Moshe Shapira. True, says Alon. “I admit that this isn’t the truth, but these are the kind of lies that we can tell to have peace” — namely, to have the Syrians’ cannons removed from the Heights that overlook Israel.

Some things still feel different, and the most notable of them is the approach of the representatives of Israel’s religious-Zionist sector. Today, they are the most hawkish. In 1967, they famously were the least hawkish. They were the ones preaching for caution and moderation.

Shapira did not want the attack on the Syrians. His friend Zerach Warhaftig cools down Dayan when the defense minister suggests that Israel send its forces to Beirut.

“I would argue that we should have some limits,” Warhaftig says.


Shmuel Rosner is senior political editor.

Why this Filipina is fighting for Israel


Staff Sgt. Joana Chris Arpon on Israeli soldiers saving her grandmother in the Philippines: “I was like, “Whoa, that’s what I want to do.” Photo courtesy of IDF Spokesperson

Staff. Sgt. Joana Chris Arpon isn’t Israeli, or even Jewish. Her service in the Israel Defense Forces is personal.

Arpon, 20, is the daughter of Filipino parents who came to Israel to find work. She said she enlisted as a combat soldier because an Israeli army  team rescued her grandmother in the aftermath of the 2013 typhoon that devastated the Philippines.

“It was amazing to see the soldiers show up and help people. They saved my grandmother when her house was destroyed,” Arpon said. “I was like, “Whoa, that’s what I want to do.’”

On Tuesday, Israel’s 69th Independence Day, Arpon will be one of 120 soldiers recognized by Israel’s president for distinguished service. Later this year, Arpon and her mother will be granted Israeli citizenship thanks partly to her time in the army.

Born in Israel, Arpon always felt like part of the Jewish state. While many Filipinos live clustered in Israel’s big cities, her mother raised her and her older brother in the small town of Mishmar Hashiva, in central Israel. At their high school in nearby Rishon Lezion, they were the only Filipino students.

Arpon’s mother immigrated to Israel in 1988 to work as a nanny, and stayed to raise her children even after her husband left. The vast majority of the some 31,000 Filipinos who live in Israel are female caregivers.

As a rule, Filipinos are only allowed to live in Israel as temporary workers. But Arpon and her brother are among the hundreds of Filipino children the government has granted permanent residency, along with their immediate family members. After the children serve in the army, their families qualify for citizenship.

Arpon long knew she would follow in the footsteps of her brother, who served as a paramedic and is now a citizen. But it was only recently that she decided she wanted to be a combat soldier. Only about 7 percent of Israeli combat soldiers are women, though that number is growing despite opposition from some Orthodox Jews and others.

In November 2013, Typhoon Haiyan made landfall in the Philippines with record-breaking force. At least 6,300 people were killed, and tens of thousands lost their homes, including Arpon’s grandmother.

 

A few months later, Arpon flew with her family to the country to visit her grandmother in the hospital. Israel had sent soldiers and other emergency responders to help, and Arpon learned that its army’s Search and Rescue Unit had helped save her grandmother from her destroyed home.

“People said without the Israeli soldiers, they weren’t sure they would have survived,” Arpon said. “I realized that I wanted to be part of this unit, and definitely this country.”

When Arpon returned to Israel, she fought to enlist in the army as a non-citizen and was granted her preferred placement — in the Search and Rescue Unit. Over the past 2 1/2 years, she has served in bases across the country and responded to domestic disasters, including the wildfires that ravaged Israel in November and the Tel Aviv parking garage that collapsed in September, killing three.

Arpon said she did not know why she was being honored Tuesday from among “so many people with amazing stories.” But she said her mother and brother were proud of her, and would be on hand for the event. She said, too, that her grandmother, who died recently, likely would have approved of her plans for after she finishes her army service in November and becomes a citizen.

After the army, Arpon wants to study architecture — and design houses that will stand in any weather.

“I’m really glad I chose this type of service, where I was able to help the country that helped me,” Arpon said. “I see my future in Israel.”

Fighter jets capture stunning footage of Israel at 69


 

The Air Force’s annual Independence Day flyover Tuesday was an impressive display of Israel’s aerial ascendancy.

But the pilots in the cockpits arguably saw the better show. Cruising at low altitude, they were treated to stunning views of Israel celebrating its 69th birthday at barbecues and beach parties held across the country, from the Negev to the Galilee.

“It was very, very exciting to see these places so close up,” said Lt. R, who piloted an F-15 in the flyover and could only be identified by his first initial because of Air Force security rules. “Our friends and family were waving at us, and we were looking for them.”

R’s fighter jet was one several outfitted with cameras for the event. The footage offers close-ups of the squadrons in action and expansive shots of Israel’s cities, coastline and farmland.

“When I flew over my hometown in the south, I knew where my family was, and they knew how to spot me,” Lt. R said. “My dad always wanted to be a pilot, and he taught me to have the same dream ever since I was a little boy.”

 

The main flyover included a few dozen fighter jets, helicopters, transport planes and trainers. Starting in the south, the aircraft traveled 530 miles and covered much of the country, including the major cities Beersheba, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa. The Air Force also held acrobatic shows above cities and army bases throughout the country, from the morning until the afternoon.

Among the planes on display were three of Israel’s five F-35s, which were welcomed with much fanfare in recent months. Israel — the first country other than the United States to get the state-of-the-art fighter jet — plans to purchase a total of 50 of the fifth-generation stealth aircraft, which Israelis call the “Adir,” or “mighty one.”

“Of course I would like to fly the F-35,” R said. “But I love my plane. I wouldn’t trade it.”

6 Palestinians injured in West Bank clashes with Israeli troops


A general view of apartment blocks under construction is seen in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Beitar Ilit in 2013. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

Six Palestinians were wounded in a series of clashes with Israeli troops in the West Bank, the Palestinian Red Crescent said.

The clashes Friday came amid a so-called day of rage in support of Palestinian hunger strikers in Israeli prisons, The Times of Israel reported.

In the village of Nabi Saleh, near Ramallah, three people were injured by live fire, the Palestinian humanitarian group said. Another three were injured in Beit Omar, near Hebron. All are in stable condition, a spokesperson for the group said.

The Israel Defense Forces did not immediately comment, The Times of Israel reported.

Some 1,500 Palestinian prisoners have been striking for over a week over demands for better medical care and greater access to telephone calls.

Israeli soldier, 20, killed in suspected West Bank car-ramming attack


Israeli security forces and emergency personnel inspect the scene of a Palestinian car ramming attack near the Jewish settlement of Ofra near the West Bank city of Ramallah on April 6. Photo by Mohamad Torokman/Reuters

An Israeli soldier was killed and a second injured in a suspected car-ramming attack in the central West Bank.

Sgt. Elhai Teharlev, 20, from the West Bank settlement of Talmon, was killed in the attack Wednesday morning at a bus stop near the West Bank settlement of Ofra, located northeast of Ramallah. He served in the elite Golani Brigade.

The Palestinian driver of the vehicle, a silver Audi, was apprehended by other soldiers on the scene and detained. He was identified by the Palestinian Maan news agency as Malek Ahmad Moussa Hamed, 23, from the village of Silwad near Ramallah.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin mourned the soldier’s death.

“We have lost today a dear son, Elhai Teharlev, in the State of Israel’s ongoing struggle to ensure its security, and safeguard its citizens,” Rivlin said in a statement. “We will never allow terror to weaken us. Israeli society is strong, and we must stand firm in defense of our state and our land.”

Hamas praised the attack, calling it “a response to Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian people and a direct continuation of its heroism in the al-Quds Intifada,” the wave of violence, mostly stabbing and car-ramming attacks, that started in October 2015.

Meet the Israelis Who Battle Bigotry and Ignorance


This is the 9th year of the “Between The Lines: Voices From Israel: Stories Untold” tour (formerly the “Israeli Soldiers Tour”.) This project is one of the most significant counter-attacks of the notorious “Israeli Apartheid Week,” where false information about Israel is being spread by haters across North America college campuses.

 

This tour, organized by the pro-Israeli nonprofit organization, StandWithUs, brings 12 reserve duty Israeli soldier-students to thousands on North American campuses, high schools, churches (including Hispanic), synagogues, community events and through the media.

 

During the tour, they related their personal experiences serving in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) upholding its strict moral code, often in the face of an enemy that hides behind its civilians.  Their stories from Gaza, the West Bank and Syria have never been heard before.

 

StandWithUs “Between The Lines” tour puts a human face to the IDF uniform, thus trying to combat the demonization of Israel and Israelis led by anti-Israeli movements, such as the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions.)  Their in-front-of-the-lines-and-behind-the-headlines stories, which have never been heard before, try to depict the more accurate, more balanced, reality in Israel.

 

Itay and Ilan (Last names are withheld for security purposes) have recently returned back home from their tour, and agreed to share their experiences, the good and the bad, with us.

 

Itay is studying political science and communications at Bar Ilan University. He served in the IDF for five years as a human resources officer. His most recent role was in the Medical Corps where he continues to serve in his reserve duty.

 

One of Itay’s roles was to coordinate the construction of a field hospital to treat those wounded in the Syrian conflict. In addition to his studies, Itay works for the Ministry of Tourism as an assistant spokesperson and social media manager. In 2015, he participated in the Israeli delegation to South Korea as a part of the “Intergovernmental Youth Exchange Program.”

 

Ilan extended his Israeli Soldiers tour by speaking to Latino groups in Miami, Florida and then, in Mexico.  Born in Venezuela, he moved to Israel in 2010.  Ilan’s father is a Christian Venezuelan and his mother is the daughter of a Holocaust refugee. His home, education and life have always been an example of multiculturalism and coexistence.

 

Ilan served in the Humanitarian and Civil Affairs Unit in the IDF, also known as COGAT. During his service, Ilan worked with Palestinian civilians and representatives in projects focused on improving the life of Palestinian families.

 

Itay spoke in Northern California and the Pacific Northwest together with Yuval.  Ilan, who is also Director of StandWithUs Espanol and Mark traveled the Southeast.  The reservists were met by inquisitive audiences and an array of questions about Israel and the IDF.  But, every year, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) stage a protest and for the second time, the University of Georgia was the target.  Ilan and Mark persevered and The Atlanta Jewish Times was present.

Israeli-American students in the IAC Mishelanu group at UGA welcome two IDF veterans to campus Feb. 21. Via Atlanta Jewish Times

Israeli-American students in the IAC Mishelanu group at UGA welcome two IDF veterans to campus Feb. 21. Via Atlanta Jewish Times

Why do you think it’s important to tell your stories as IDF soldier on campus?

 

Itay:

It’s important to know what the IDF is REALLY all about: people who are defending their country but at the same time willing to help and treat anybody who needs it –- even people we may consider to be our enemies or they may consider us to be their enemies. The students we address are not necessarily aware of this.

 

The medical corps constructed a field hospital to treat the wounded from the Syrian civil war on Israel’s northern border. Thousands of Syrians received medical care that no one else offered them but Israel. The same happened in 2014 near the Gaza strip, only there Hamas denied its own people access to the hospital and the medical care that was offered to them. They even targeted the hospital with projectiles.

 

It is also worth noting that the IDF provides humanitarian aid not only in Israel’s region, but in the entire world: Turkey, Japan, Philippines and Haiti are just recent examples from the last years where our medical forces combined with search and rescue teams were sent to help in disaster struck areas.

 

Ilan:

I think it’s very important for people to have an opportunity to meet an Israeli and hear the reality from someone who actually lives there.

 

As a Venezuelan, I always wondered what the people from Israel think about the situation. Now, I have the opportunity to share my story – my Israel story – with people in other countries.

 

We realized that pro-Israel students need to hear our experiences, to receive more accurate information, and to build a connection to Israel through them.

 

Who are you aiming for? Who is the target audience you want to reach?

 

Ilan:

During this tour, I had the opportunity to read every kind of audience: Jewish and non-Jewish, students who have never heard about Israel in their lives, anti-Israel students, Christian leaders, community members, etc.

 

I think we have an important message to transmit to everyone, but I was especially excited to address people who were hearing about Israel for the first time in their lives.

 

How do you react to people showing you videos of Israelis criticizing Israel, especially with extreme left organizations like “Breaking the Silence” sharing testimonials by soldiers, which sometimes seem to steer from reality?

 

Ilan:

In Georgia, we had an anti-Israeli protest. Approximately 20 students rejected dialogue after hearing my experiences of cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians. They were so blinded by their hatred of Israel, that they didn’t realized they were violating the memory of their own victims. When we asked them to respect human life and not throw pictures of victims on the floor, they started placing them on tables.

 

To them and every other protester I say: the only path to peace is if we meet and discuss. Groups who decide to take unilateral actions, obstruct justice and eliminate responsibility from one of the parties, are not contributing to peace but encouraging hate.

 

Itay:

Criticism is important for every organization, including the government and the military in order to minimize errors, form new rules, improve for future times and hold people accountable for their actions.

 

That being said, the actions of ‘Breaking the Silence’ suggest nothing of the sort. They are promoting a political agenda under anonymous testimonies which cannot be verified.  Even channel 10 television – which is very critical of the current government policy – investigation revealed that out of ten testimonies, only two were completely accurate. The others were impossible to verify, not true or overly exaggerated. Unfortunately, these testimonies are being used abroad for the sole purpose of smearing Israel and the IDF.

 

Add that to the fact that they are being funded by European countries and organizations with a similar agenda and with an expectation that their money will provide results – it is very hard not to question not only their actions and goals, but the content of their material.

 

I ask you to remember one of Winston Churchill’s finest quotes, “When I am abroad, I always make it a rule never to criticize or attack my own country.  I make up for lost time when I come home.”

 

What is Israel to you, and how do you pass this message to students abroad?

 

Ilan:

For me Israel is an inspiration. It’s a country built by immigrants and minorities, built on the values of multiculturalism and coexistence….a country that helps others.

 

When I sought a way to transmit what I feel, I realized that sharing my daily dilemmas, the decisions and opportunities as an Israeli and especially an IDF soldier, was actually a good way to present Israel, the complexity of the Middle East and the incredible story of achievements of the Jewish people.

 

I think, people relate to Israel today because of its story of overcoming every single obstacle, and growing stronger every time. Our task is to create a connection between people’s every day obstacles, and Israel.

 

Share one of the most memorable moments from your recent tour.

 

Itay:

We were speaking in the Napa Valley, California.  During the Q&A, an 11-year-old wondered why we help those who have hurt us in the past, seek to hurt us today, hate us and view us as their enemies.

 

I explained that first and foremost, we are not fighting the people and we should separate them from their leadership. – even though they are taught to hate us. Why? Because we need to achieve the higher moral  ground. That doesn’t mean there aren’t people who hate or teach hatred, but they are NOT the majority in Israel.

 

The true nature of a society is not determined by its extremists, but by its majority. Unfortunately, that’s the difference right know between the Palestinian and Israeli societies. I hope that one day we’ll see a change within the Palestinian education system. It’s an important element towards achieving peace.

 

Second, to achieve that higher moral basis, our values cannot be empty slogans. While some of our neighbors glorify martyrdom and death,  we say we praise the value of life.  We should transform our beliefs into actions, otherwise they don’t mean anything. This is our message of hope for peace. Yes, you may have hurt us in the past, but we are willing to overcome it even though it still hurts.  Our hand is reaching out for a better future.

 

Ilan:

In Jacksonville, Florida, we shared our story in a school located in a dangerous area.  We talked about the second Intifada and how Israel dealt with violence, and asked the students if they knew or, were ever affected by violence?  Every one of them raised their hands. As sad as that was, we created a connection between them and Israel by how we – and they – overcame violence.

 

How do you react to people showing you videos of Israelis criticizing Israel, especially with extreme left organizations like “Breaking the Silence” sharing testimonials by soldiers, which sometimes seem to steer from reality?

 

Seeing the growing wave of anti-Semitism, do you believe history can repeat itself?

 

Itay:

It is well known that those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Unfortunately, the recent despicable anti-Semitic attacks are not new to our people.

 

Anti-Semitism is almost as old as our religion exists. I cannot foresee the future, but I know that much has changed throughout the years:

 

For one, there wasn’t a Jewish state back then. There is a reason why our army was named “Israeli Defense Forces” – its purpose is to protect the Jewish people in their ancestral homeland. It’s important to understand that Israel is the home for every Jew around the world, even those who don’t live in Israel. It is a part of our responsibility because of the horrific past our people have endured.

 

That leads me to my second point which is: I believe most Israelis and Israel’s government condemn every act of anti-Semitism. We’re encouraging our allies around the world to denounce it and act against it. The Jews in the Diaspora are not alone and will never stand alone. I was moved by the actions VP Mike Pence took when he visited one of the vandalized cemeteries and by British PM Theresa May’s statement about anti-Semitism. Fortunately, they are not the only world leaders who condemn these kinds of actions.

 

Anti-Semitism is an old disease, and similar to many others, it might not perish completely from this world. That doesn’t mean we won’t fight against it wherever we encounter it.

 

Ilan:

I think the ideas that generated the Holocaust are still around us, and the line between an idea and a reality is very thin.  StandWithUs believes that education is the path to peace. I think education is the only way to stop hatred from spreading worldwide.

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