October 22, 2018

Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: New-State or Pre-State Solution?

When it comes to the complicated Israeli-Palestinian conflict, there’s one simple fact that pretty much everyone agrees with: The attempts at a “two-state solution” have been a stunning failure.

It’s certainly not for lack of trying. Since the famous handshake in 1993 that launched the Oslo Accords, it’s safe to say that no global conflict has taken up more political and diplomatic energy.

It’s astonishing that after the investment of so much energy, the parties are even further apart today than they were 25 years ago.

For many Israelis, this status quo is unacceptable. Last week, I met two activist groups with distinct initiatives for breaking the logjam.

My friend Dan Adler introduced me to the first initiative, called The New State Solution (NSS). I had heard and read about them, and knew that their idea was starting to gain some traction.

The basic premise of the New State Solution is to focus on what’s possible. Since making any kind of deal in the West Bank has proved virtually impossible, why not focus on Gaza first?

“The basic premise of the New State Solution is to focus on what’s possible. Since making any kind of deal in the West Bank has proved virtually impossible, why not focus on Gaza first?”

Their idea is to take advantage of the renewed cooperation between Israel and Egypt to create an expanded Palestinian state in Gaza, using parts of the Sinai that now are controlled by Egypt. Their plan calls for implementing a massive humanitarian and economic build-up in Gaza that would shift the center of gravity of the conflict and create a “win” for all parties.

The co-founders of the initiative, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) veterans Benjamin Anthony and Brigadier General (Ret) Amir Avivi, believe that what the conflict needs, more than anything, is a “paradigm shift.” They know their idea is not perfect and faces challenges (among them: Will Egypt agree to give up land?), but they believe it is the most realistic of many bad options. You can see all the details on their website (newstatesolution.org).

The second group I met is the Israel Policy Forum (IPF), which was founded in 1993 and “works to shape the discourse and mobilize support among American Jewish leaders and U.S. policymakers for the realization of a viable two-state solution consistent with Israel’s security.”

Like most American and Israeli Jews, the IPF has not given up on the two-state solution, for the oft-stated reason that staying in the West Bank threatens the future of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. In recent years, the IPF has teamed up with Commanders for Israel’s Security (CIS), a nonpartisan movement of retired IDF generals and security experts that works to “extricate Israel from the current impasse” as a first step toward an eventual agreement. 

The IPF approach is the reverse of the NSS approach. Instead of avoiding the incredibly difficult problem of extricating Israel from the West Bank, it is doubling down. It believes its comprehensive “security first” approach will manage the security risk and offer an acceptable trade-off.

What has added urgency is talk of “annexation” among current government coalition members. In a recent study, CIS concluded that “as a determined political annexationist minority accelerates moves toward annexation — both creeping and legislated — the ensuing shockwaves threaten to undermine Israel’s security, its Jewish-democratic character, its relations with its neighbors, its relationship with the Diaspora, and the attitude of the international community toward the country.”

All of this reminds me of the most honest and concise description I’ve ever heard of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, from my friend Yossi Klein Halevi: “Staying in the West Bank is an existential threat to Israel; leaving the West Bank is an existential threat to Israel.”

Notwithstanding the complexities, these two groups are charging ahead to try to break the status quo. Whether by focusing on Gaza or doubling down on the West Bank, they realize that a dark clock is ticking louder and louder. 

“In the absence of negotiations, is there anything that Israel can do on its own immediately to help preserve its future?”

The fundamental problem in recent years has been an inability to get the parties to the negotiating table and a general sense that any potential deal would be dead on arrival.

Maybe this is why the IPF has been promoting “interim steps” that Israel can take to safeguard the viability of a two-state solution, such as limiting settlement construction in the main settlement blocks and improving the economic and humanitarian situation on the ground.

When I met the representatives from IPF, I glibly suggested that their interim plan would be like a “pre-state solution.” I have no idea whether they will use that term, but the point I was making was this: Many of us are simply exhausted with waiting for the parties to get together and negotiate. As the years go by, the price of waiting keeps getting higher. We can’t wait forever.

So, the question becomes: In the absence of negotiations, is there anything that Israel can do on its own immediately to help preserve its future?

I heard two distinct answers last week. Whether it’s the New-State Solution or the Pre-State Solution, they both said the same thing: We’re tired of waiting.

At Least Three Palestinians Dead in Latest Gaza Riots

Screenshot from Twitter.

Hamas-led riots at the Israel-Gaza border on Friday resulted in at least three Palestinians dead and 124 injured, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry.

However, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) announced in a tweet that “10 armed terrorists” breached the border fence, but the IDF stopped them and then launched retaliatory strikes against Hamas:

According to the Times of Israel, one of the Palestinians that breached the fence threw a grenade, but no Israeli soldiers were injured in the riots.

Additionally, Ynet News reported that there were at least seven fires that were ignited from the incendiary balloons that were launched, but they all appear to have been doused out.

Twenty-thousand Palestinians participated in the riot.

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman tweeted a warning to Hamas, who are believed to have been escalating the riots as talks of a long-term ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas have deteriorated.

“We got through the High Holy Days just as we had planned, without a war erupting and while exacting a heavy price from the rioters on the Gaza border,” Lieberman wrote. “But the holidays are now behind us, and I tell the heads of Hamas: ‘Take that into account.'”

Hamas responded by saying, “These are empty words against the Palestinian will to break the blockade on Gaza. The March of Return will intensify. Our people pay no attention to this broken record of the Zionist leadership”

Putting Krav Maga on the Map in L.A.

There are many martial arts, but somehow Krav Maga, the self-defense and fighting discipline created by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), has emerged as a huge hit worldwide. 

Amir Perets, a 44-year-old self-defense and defensive-tactics expert who holds a fourth-degree black belt in Krav Maga, is the man who has been instrumental in popularizing the discipline in Los Angeles. 

Perets, who has lived here for the last 22 years, told the Journal that despite Krav Maga literally meaning “contact combat,” the description is misleading.

“[It’s] a self-defense system that lives by a very simple, basic rule: Don’t get hurt,” he said. “It doesn’t matter whether you are a civilian, a law enforcement officer or a soldier. [Krav Maga] doesn’t promote violence; it’s just the opposite. It’s so one can walk in peace.”

According to Perets, 80 percent of Krav Maga is preventative measures, while 20 percent comes down to tactics should you come under attack. In order to protect yourself without ever going into combat mode, Perets said it’s important to be situationally aware. “A little bit of awareness can be the difference between life and death,” he said.

“Krav Maga is a self-defense system that lives by a very simple, basic rule: Don’t get hurt.” 

— Amir Perets

That awareness can include simple things like not looking at your phone when you’re walking to your car. When you do, “you’re distracted and oblivious, and that makes you an easy target for an attacker,” Perets said. “If instead you come out, eyes up, you are better able to recognize potential threats.” Also, he said, the attacker is more likely to realize you’re not an easy target and move on.  

Perets said he became interested in how people protect themselves at an early age.  “I didn’t like the whole concept of being in a position of disadvantage,” he said. “It spiked my curiosity about the concept of well-being. It started with interest in [general] life-enhancing methods and then it went through life-saving methods.”

In 1992, at the age of 18, Perets became Israel’s full-contact heavyweight martial arts champion and received awards of distinction for physical education. That same year, he began his compulsory IDF training, where he excelled in Krav Maga and combat fitness. He then went on to instruct infantry and special forces, honing and reshaping the Krav Maga training that we see today in local studios.  

After completing his military service, Perets spent a few months in Thailand, where he learned Thai boxing. When he moved to the United States in 1996, Perets began teaching Krav Maga and gradually started to build a name for himself. 

“Always in my mind was, ‘What are the best answers to the threats of today? How can someone keep himself safer?’” he said. That, he added, was coupled with the bigger picture of well-being: “How do you overcome emotional and physical hurdles? How can you grow and form a better version of you?”

Today, Perets is called on to train those in the military, federal agencies and law enforcement. 

“[Krav Maga] boils down to balancing the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual concepts that constitute the person,” he said. “I call this the philosophy of four horses. Imagine you are tied to four horses and each horse is running in its own direction, so it pretty much tears you apart. But if you are disciplined and they are all running in the same direction, then you can run full force and do your tasks in a more efficient way.”  

Israel Defense Minister Calls on Gazans to Overthrow Hamas

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman is using the recent calm between Israel and Hamas to urge Gazans to overthrow the terror group, arguing that the “peace and quiet” is preferable to Hamas’ constant state of warfare.

According to the Jerusalem Post, Lieberman announced that the Kerem Shalom crossing and a fishing area near the Gaza coast were going to be re-opened, saying that it shows Gazans that “peace and quiet are worth it.”

“The residents of Gaza have much to gain when the citizens of Israel enjoy peace and security, and much to lose when quiet is disturbed,” Lieberman wrote.

Lieberman added that he hopes Gazans realize “that Israel is not the problem, but rather the solution.”

“The problem is the Hamas leadership, which uses civilians as live ammunition and as human shields,” Lieberman wrote.  “We hope for you, the residents of Gaza, that all of the budgets of Hamas and the international community will be channeled towards your welfare and to the development of the Gaza Strip, instead of to terrorism.”

After a recent escalation between Israel and Hamas, there has been relative calm on the border of Israel and Gaza Strip, although a long-term ceasefire agreement has yet to be reached.

The Times of Israel reports that the re-opening of the Kerem Shalom crossing and the fishing was part of a temporary ceasefire between Israel and Hamas negotiated by Egypt and the United Nations.

However, Israel maintains that no long-term ceasefire agreement can be reached until Hamas agrees to releasing the four Israeli soldiers they have held captive since 2014, two of whom are dead.

Two Palestinians Dead in Gaza Riots

Screenshot from Twitter.

August 10 marks the 20th week of the weekly Hamas-led riots at the Israel-Gaza border, prompting a riot that has so far resulted in two Palestinians dead and more than 300 are injured, according to Palestinian media.

According to the Israel Defense Force (IDF), there were 9,000 Palestinians rioting and hurling projectiles at IDF soldiers, as well as attempting to breach the Israel-Gaza fence:

Per usual, the riots featured Palestinians launching fiery kites into Israel, according to the Times of Israel (TOI).

The Jerusalem Post reports that the rioter who attempted to breach the fence “immediately backtracked into the Gaza Strip. According to TOI, Hamas’ Gaza Health Ministry is claiming that one of the dead Palestinians was a 25-year-old journalist.

The riots began in March and was dubbed by Hamas as a “March of Return” to protest Israel and to bring attention to the Palestinian cause. But Hamas’ intentions seem to be more sinister than that.

“The march has two distinct strategies,” the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) website states. “The first, through the outwardly peaceful, civilian elements of the demonstration, is to raise international awareness of the plight of Gazans and Palestinians. The second, through the militants who are attempting to approach and attack the border line, is to use the demonstrators as human shields for the group’s terrorist ambitions, as well as to provoke a strong Israeli response that will garner headlines and support for their efforts.”

Iran, a Hamas ally, is also reportedly funding the riots.

Hamas has vowed to continue to incite such riots, even as they are claiming there is a ceasefire between them and Israel.

Israel Shoots Down Syrian Plane

REUTERS/Ammar Awad

Israel shot down a Syrian jet fighter on July 24 after the plane entered Israel’s airspace.

According to the Times of Israel, the jet fighter was speeding toward the Golan Heights, prompting Israel to launch two Patriot missiles at the plane, causing it to crash in southern Syrian Golan Heights. One of the plane’s pilots, Col. Amran Mara’e, was killed by the strike. The condition of the other man in the plane is unknown.

“Our air defense systems identified a Syrian air force plane taking off from the Syrian T-4 airbase and penetrating into Israeli airspace,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement. “This was a blatant violation of the 1974 separation agreement between us and the Syrians. We will not accept any such penetration of, or spillover into, our territory, neither on the ground nor in the air.”

Israel Defense Force (IDF) spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Concricus told reporters, “We issued numerous warnings through numerous channels and in various languages to make sure that no one on the other side violates Israeli airspace or threatens Israeli civilians or sovereignty.”

According to Hadashot television news, the Syrian jet fighter flew into Israeli airspace by mistake. The Syrian government is claiming that they were weeding out ISIS terrorists from the area.

Hamas Shoots At IDF Soldiers, Israel Responds With Airstrikes

REUTERS/Ahmed Zakot

The Israel-Hamas conflict continues to escalate. On July 20, Hamas shot at Israel Defense Force (IDF) soldiers, prompting Israel to respond with airstrikes against the terror group.

The shooting took place at the Israel-Gaza border, where Palestinians began shooting at IDF soldiers during a Hamas-led riot at the border. Israel retaliated by striking eight Hamas posts throughout the Gaza strip, killing at least three Hamas terrorists.

The IDF tweeted the following about the situation:

The day prior, Israel launched airstrikes against Hamas in response to the terror group’s repeated use of incendiary kites and balloons against Israelis, which killed one Hamas terrorist. Hamas then launched rockets and mortars toward Israel; no injuries or damage were reported.

Israel has warned that it will invade Gaza if Hamas doesn’t cease its use of incendiary balloons and kites against Israelis.

“Hamas leaders are forcibly leading us into a situation where we will have no choice, a situation in which we will have to embark on a painful, wide-scale military operation,” Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said in Sderot on July 20. He added that such an operation could result in a longer, more painful war than the 2014 conflict.

Palestinians’ Latest Method of Terror: Burning Condoms!

Screenshot from Twitter.

The Hamas-led riots at the Israel-Gaza border that have occurred at least once a week since March have featured Palestinians launching fiery kites and balloons laced with explosives as a means to terrorize southern Israel. Now they have found a new weapon: condoms.

Yes, you read that correctly. No, it is not a joke.

On June 21, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) shared part a Palestinian video on Twitter that a provided a how-to guide on how to create an explosive condom balloon:

Even though it’s incredibly juvenile, it’s no laughing matter.

According to a June 20 Times of Israel (TOI) report, the use of kites, balloons and condoms as weapons are “dead simple and dirt cheap methods” to cause terror, citing one instance where an explosive balloon emblazoned “I <3 YOU” landed on Israeli highway, forcing that section of the highway to be shut down until the police were able to conduct a controlled detonation of the balloon.

Another instance involved a group of balloons that had an explosive on them landing onto a trampoline in an Eshkol backyard.

Meirav Vidal, who lives in the home where this occurred, told TOI, “Balloons on a trampoline in the backyard — that’s a decorative play area and beckons the most innocent ones, and yet our children have lost their innocence because of this phenomenon.”

In the case of the kites, Israeli farmers have been particularly burdened by them since their fields have been wiped out by the fiery kites.

Israel has responded to these actions of terrors by firing warning shots at the encampments launching them as well as launching strikes against Hamas.

Hamas Paid Family to Lie About Baby’s Cause of Death At Border Riots

Screenshot from Twitter.

Remember when critics of Israel’s handling of the Gaza riots pointed to the news of an 8-month-old baby dying at the border to substantiate their argument? It is now being reported that Hamas paid the baby’s family to lie about the cause of death.

According to the Times of Israel, a cousin of the baby, Mahmoud Omar, admitted to Israeli interrogators that the baby, Layla Ghandour, had died of a pre-existing blood disease. Her brother had died from the same disease a year earlier.

And yet, her death was initially reported as being due to tear gas inhalation from Israeli soldiers. Layla’s mother had declared to the media, “The Israelis killed her!” Layla’s death soon became a cause célèbre among anti-Israel activists, although a subsequent report from AFP quoted a Gaza doctor who said that Layla had died from a medical condition.

The reason for the discrepancy: Hamas.

“Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar paid Layla’s parents, Miriam and Anwar Ghandour, NIS 8,000 ($2,206) to tell the media that the infant had died due to tear gas inhalation at the Gaza protests,” the Times of Israel reports.

Such instances of Hamas manipulation are not new. For instance, a video was taken at the border in May of a Palestinian using crutches that somehow found the ability to start running:

Additionally, journalist Matt Friedman revealed in a May New York Times op-ed that Hamas had threatened him into reporting a trumped-up casualty figure in the 2008 Israel-Hamas war.

“Early in that war, I complied with Hamas censorship in the form of a threat to one of our Gaza reporters and cut a key detail from an article: that Hamas fighters were disguised as civilians and were being counted as civilians in the death toll,” Friedman wrote. “The bureau chief later wrote that printing the truth after the threat to the reporter would have meant ‘jeopardizing his life.’ Nonetheless, we used that same casualty toll throughout the conflict and never mentioned the manipulation.”

Friedman added that Hamas was emboldened into this kind of action by a Western media that was hungry for an anti-Israel narrative.

“Hamas understood that Western news outlets wanted a simple story about villains and victims and would stick to that script, whether because of ideological sympathy, coercion or ignorance,” Friedman wrote. “The press could be trusted to present dead human beings not as victims of the terrorist group that controls their lives, or of a tragic confluence of events, but of an unwarranted Israeli slaughter. The willingness of reporters to cooperate with that script gave Hamas the incentive to keep using it.”

IDF Warns That They Could Strike Back Against Hamas for Use of Fiery Kites

REUTERS/Amir Cohen/File Photo

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) warned on June 5 that they may have to launch retaliatory strikes against Hamas for their use of fiery kites against Israel.

According to Haaretz, IDF Brig. Gen. Yossi Bachar gave senior United States military official to opportunity to survey the damage from the kites at the Gaza border, suggesting that the military is preparing for action.

Ever since the riots at the Israel-Gaza border started, protesters used kites that were either lit on fire or had attached explosives on them and flew them into Israeli territory. The result has been 9,000 dunams (approximately 2200 acres) of land destroyed in Israel, according to Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman. Firefighters have had to deal with at least nine fires raging in Israel on June 5 from the kites, most of which were in the Eshkol region.

Consequently, Israeli military officials think they can’t show any more “restraint,” per Haaretz.

“We will settle accounts with Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the rest of the terrorists acting against us from the Gaza Strip,” Lieberman said in a speech in the Knesset.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on June 3 that funds allocated to the Palestinian Authority would instead be diverted to Israeli farmers whose fields were destroyed by the fires.

Farmers have seen their wheat and irrigation lines destroyed by the fires and there has been some serious damage to forests and parks, prompting the Jewish National Fund to sue Hamas for “environment terrorism” under international law.

“It’s not easy, but we have strength and it won’t break us,” Daniel Rahamim, who supervises irrigation at Kibbutz Nahal Oz, told the Jerusalem Post. “We know we are here because this is our mission – to raise children here and live our lives. It is our home and we won’t give up.”

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.”