a different side of Israel

Category: Jewish Life (page 8 of 15)

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The Missiles Are Not Sophisticated, Israel is Simply Miniscule

For the first time ever, Palestinian rockets have reached the city of Be’er-Sheva. Until today, Be’er-Sheva was never being regarded as a “border town”. If you look at the map of Israel, it sits right at the center of the map. It is also the seventh largest city in Israel.

Beer Sheva

But the truth is Be’er Sheva is less than 40 KM (25 Miles) away from the Gaza Strip (situated to the left of the map, by the sea). That’s all: 40 KM. In a country so small, the “home front” is merely a tiny bubble — one that is liable to burst anytime.

On the other side: if Israel is only a tiny line on the global map, well, Gaza is an invisible dot, where there is no “home front” at all.

When 2 hostile nations are packed together inside a tiny patch of land, the conflict affects everyone, anywhere.

Qassam Range by the Home Front Command

Qassam Range by the Home Front Command

1000 Dead or Wounded in 2 Days

It’s been 48 hours since the Air Force began pounding Gaza with “Operation Cast Lead”, and already more than 1,000 people have been killed or wounded.

While the heavily populated Gaza Strip is now under attack from both the air and the sea (Israeli Navy joined the offense), civilians who tried to flee the tiny Strip into Egyptian territory have been fired on by Egyptian forces. Surviving in Gaza is a very claustrophobic ordeal.

News reports claim 300 casualties on the Palestinian side, along with 700 injured. Hospitals lack supplies and blood units. And these early numbers are probably going to rise dramatically in the coming days.

On the Israeli side, 2 men have been killed by separate rocket attacks, while a dozen others were wounded. Hundreds of thousands of residents in southern Israeli towns are compelled to stay in or near available shelters all throughout the day. Indeed, there’s enough claustrophobia to go around on both sides of the fence.

I refrain from commentary at the moment. These are simply the dry facts.

Qassam Rockets — Until When?

These numbers don’t include statistics from December 2008 (this month).

Can you imagine the US, France, or India being hit by several hundred rockets a year? Can you imagine them being hit by even a single one?!

I’m not saying I have a solution for this situation. I’m just saying it’s unthinkable.

Think Twice Before You Forward

Three babies died in Israel in the past week. Although this is a very rare coincidence, these tragedies appear to be unconnected to each other.

However, a virtual chain letter that gained momentum in the past few days has claimed that Bamba consumption caused all three incidents. THIS IS FALSE. Bamba, the yellow peanut butter snack, has nothing to do with the death of these 3 babies.

But thousands of people who received an email cautioning them to stay away from Bamba, didn’t think twice before forwarding the email to all their contacts. The rumor spread out, and this caused the Osem stock to plunge down yesterday morning (Osem is the company that manufactures Bamba).

Today I read that Osem wants to file defamation lawsuit against the original author of this hysteric Email. So I guess sending Emails can be a risky business.

Athens 08 vs. LA 92

Greece is burning in flames. Anarchy is everywhere in Athens and in other large cities. The reason? A teenager who was shot dead by the police.

The 1992 riots in Los Angeles began in similar circumstances. Rodney King was beaten to death by the LAPD, and this is was the underlying cause of the riots.

Yet despite the similarities, the LA riots began only after the jury acquitted the defendants, while the riots in Greece began immediately after the shooting. This is a very important distinction. It says that the Greek don’t have any faith in their Juristical System. They would not even wait to see how this may fold out in court. Apparently, corruption and disbelief in bureaucracy is even greater in Greece than it is in Israel.

Yiddish Techniques

How to Play The Dreidel Game — powered by

Bank Hapoalim Where Art Though?

In the last 2 days Bank Hapoalim has been basically off the air. It started with a temporary glitch and quickly turned into a full blown “Holy Crap!” type situation (would not want to be the head of IT right now!!!).

Anyway today the error message on the website was more personal and included a personal letter from the CEO, Zvi Ziv, where basically he explained that the brand spanking new IBM machine had a rare failure in its operating system. According to today’s message the error was found and they are reloading the whole system back up during the day today…..


I am hoping the update will add at least 3 zeros to my balance total. In any case the customers are getting no fees for transactions made yesterday and today.

Ticking Tunnel

We’re all familiar with the term a “ticking bomb“. This morning I learned a new term: a “ticking tunnel“.

Apparently a ticking tunnel was the reason behind the operation in Gaza last night. The Israeli intelligence community warned Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his cabinet that the Palestinians are keen on abducting more soldiers and that they already have a tunnel (or several) in place underneath the border.

Personally, I think that’s a very legitimate reason to go out on a mission to demolish the tunnel. However, I find the mentality of a “ticking tunnel” disturbing. It’s a discourse that primes preemptive strikes, and one that broadens our militaristic viewpoint of the world. In other words, are we going to be talking about “ticking towns” and a “ticking instigator” anytime soon?

The action was probably necessary. The language is totalitarian.

Gaza Tunnel - Photo by Alon Golan

Gaza Tunnel - Photo by Alon Golan

Examining King Solomon’s Legacy

As I wrote yesterday, the location of the Solomon Mines may have been finally located. Yet those mines aren’t the only underground achievement attributed to the legendary King Solomon:

Transit Governments

  • Tzipi Livni has decided last night to forego her last attempts in assembling a parliamentary coalition. This means we’re heading into general elections within 3 to 4 months, probably somewhere in middle February 2009.
  • Municipal elections in Israel are slated for November 11.
  • While the US Presidential elections are due November 4.
  • On top of it all, Abu Mazen, president of the Palestinian Authority, is ending his term in office come January. Hamas has already declared that his people will not regarded Abu Mazzen as a legitimate president if the dejected man decides to remain in office despite the deadline. If such a scenario materializes — and there is high probability it will — then the West Bank might turn into a bloodbath between Fatah and Hamas.

Back to Olmert… As the head of a transit government, he has no public mandate to craft new policies or to resume diplomatic negotiations, yet nevertheless he is still Prime Minister for at least 3 more months.

And as of today he has to deal not only with the Iranian threat, the financial crisis, and the possibility of a looming chaos in the West Bank; but also with the growing tensions between the Settlers and the Israeli army.

If you haven’t heard yet, the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) dismantled tonight a tiny unauthorized settlement outside of Hebron — that belonged to far-right-extremist Noam Federman. As a result, several people in the Jewish Settlers community called out to kill Israeli soldiers as retaliation!

Despite his lack of public or parliamentary support, and while several indictments are awaiting him in court, he has to face the threats of both a Palestinian civil conflict as well as a Jewish civil conflict.

For and Against the Cancellation of Acco Festival

As you may have heard, during Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) violent clashes between Jews and Arabs erupted in the northern city of Acco. An Arab driver drove through a Jewish neighborhood during the holiday, offending the local population and igniting riots and backlashes. The driver claims he was driving his family back home, only passing through the Jewish part of town. Other eyewitnesses claim he drove wildly, risking all the children who had been playing out on the road, while listening to loud music in his car.

Whichever version hits closer to the truth doesn’t matter now. He was being highly provocative in his actions, and the anger in well understood. Nevertheless, it’s saddening how the actions of one individual can sweep whole populations into conflict.

As a result of these riots, the mayor of Acco, Mr. Shimon Lankri, decided on Friday to cancel the upcoming “Acco Festival of Alternative Israeli Theater“, which takes place during Succot each year. This annual festival has proven itself to attract a large amount of visitors, and is considered to be one of Israel’s best fringe theater festivals.

I was looking forward to visiting the Acco Festival myself this year, and am very disappointed that it was canceled in the last moment. Many artists and politicians alike have been urging the mayor of Acco in the past few days to call off the cancellation, and use the festival as a way to calm down the tensions.

Port of Acco
Image via Wikipedia

Is canceling this year’s festival the right thing to do? Well, personally, I can understand the mayor’s agenda. He says he cannot guarantee the visitors’ well-being while the racial tensions are running high, and I can certainly agree with this argument. Moreover, even though he did not express it explicitly, I believe that the cancellation is a sort of punishment for both sides. The festival is one of the city’s most successful cash-cows, and postponing it has an immediate effect on many of the residents. It’s as if Mr. Lankri warns his residents, “If you can’t get along, you’ll only be hurting your own livelihood. So next time think twice before you turn this town into a war zone!” And frankly, he’s got a point. Sometimes people need incentives to play nicely together, and this sort of move also puts the pressure on community leaders to be mature and responsible, instead of hot-tempered and provoking.

On the other hand, perhaps resuming everyday life as fast as possible is the best remedy in order to put behind this “incident”. Perhaps the mere act of announcing cancellation has been enough of a warning, and now it’s time to announce the festival is back on track. After all, it’s well known that tourism equals peace.

Economy’s Bloody Sunday

Wall Street recently faced yet another historical Black Monday, and yesterday the crisis has finally traversed both the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, when the Israeli Stock Exchange, located at E’chad Ha’ham Street, encountered its very own Black Sunday.

Israeli Stock Exchange at 54 Ehad Aham St.
Image via

Interestingly enough, although E’chad Ha’ham refers to a specific person in Jewish history, it can also be translated to “the man on the street”. So while America has its Wall Street, we have our Man on the Street Street.

So stocks are tumbling. What’s next? Presumptive Prime Minister Tzipi Livni and Labour chairman Ehud Barak met yesterday together with top economists to discuss the unavoidable crisis. Livni and Barak are currently negotiating the state’s budgetary constraints, since the Labour party (Ha’Avoda) has many demands it wishes to see fulfilled before it agrees to join Livni’s coalition. But when the economy is shaking and tumbling, can Livni afford Barak’s price tag?

We already know that some the of the major banks in Israel, Leumi for example, were highly exposed to Lehman Brothers and Washington Mutual. How will this affect our saving accounts and pension plans? Leumi executives say it’s too early to tell.

Can the Israeli man on the street handle the crisis at the Man on the Street Street?

Jewish Civil War ?

A pipe bomb exploded this morning on the front door of Prof. Ze’ev Sternhell, wounding the professor’s leg. The bomb had been attached to the doorknob and was activated when Ze’ev opened the door.

Prof. Sternhell is a left-wing commentator and winner of the 2008 Israel Prize in political science. Fliers found in the vicinity of his house promised 1 million shekels to whomever hurts members of the Peace Now organization!

Right-wing extremist Baruch Marzel says his people had nothing to do with the attack, yet refuses to condemn the act.

I don’t know if the purpose of this terrorist act was “only” to intimidate Prof. Sternhell or to seriously hurt him. It doesn’t matter. I expect everyone and anyone in the political arena, from his leftist friends to the most far-right extremists to condemn this attack and to find and prosecute the perpetrator.

Luckily Sternhell only suffers light injuries, but it could easily be a different case if he had opened the door from a different angle, or if his wife had been the one at the door, or one of his two daughters.

There is no one who should speak more loudly against this divisive phenomena than Binyamin Netanyahu. He is the most respected and popular politician from the right of the political map, and by crying out against Jewish terrorism he could quickly diffuse the tensions. The extremists might even actually listen to him. He had been silent before Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated. Now he mustn’t repeat that mistake.


If extreme-left-wing politician Dov Khenin is to be elected Mayor of Tel-Aviv in November, then the contrast between mostly Orthodox right-wing Jerusalem to mostly secular left-wing Tel-Aviv will probably heighten even more.


Paul McCartney’s historic performance in Tel-Aviv is happening tonight! I find it saddening that this memorable day also marks yet another deterioration in inner Jewish relations.

Israel’s economy refuses to be affected by Wall Street crisis

It’s been said to be the biggest economic crisis in America since 1929. So far we’ve seen the collapse of Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, and AIG, and there’s no end in sight.

Obviously, the markets around the world reacted badly, with vast depreciation of rates, especially in Asia. Israel saw a poor day on Monday as well.

But today the Israeli stock exchange begins to recuperates and leaders in the financial system reassure the public and say that a very small percentage of their money was exposed to Lehman Brothers.

The Israeli media loves big headlines, but once those headlines are gone, life goes on as usual, and personally I didn’t happen to see people worried about this whole issue. Maybe it’s too soon. Maybe it will reach the Israeli economy. And maybe not.

State Sponsored Poison

In case you didn’t know, Israel is the only country in the world which intentionally adds Fluorine to its drinking water. Why? Because the Ministry of Health thinks it would help you keep your teeth healthy, whether you’d like it or not. Fluorine is the stuff that’s used to cool down your refrigerator, or to kill pesky insects. Being exposed to too much Fluorine causes Fluorosis.

Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about this:

Skeletal fluorosis is a bone disease exclusively caused by excessive consumption of fluoride. In advanced cases, skeletal fluorosis causes pain and damage to bones and joints. […] Common causes of fluorosis include […] consumption of fluoride from drinking water, and consumption of fluoride from the drinking of tea. […] In India, the most common cause of fluorosis is fluoride-laden water derived from deep bore wells.

Dental fluorosis is a health condition caused by an overdose of fluoride. In its severe form it is characterized by black and brown stains, as well as cracking and pitting of the teeth.

One needs to remember that the amount of fluorine added to our tap water is intended for adults, but small children and breast-feeding women consume it as well, and it affects them more severely.

This is why in Israel there is such huge demand for Mineral Water. In part, we do it to avoid the danger of artificially added fluorine in our water supplies. However, we can’t avoid it completely, because the same tap water is used for irrigation and for breeding edible farm animals.

Now we’ve learnt that the Ministry of Health is bent on poisoning our mineral waters as well. Why? Because many people intentionally choose to avoid tap water, and that might harm their teeth!

Perhaps the Ministry of Health believes in the principles of fascist communism. Or perhaps a top bureaucrat in the Ministry received a hefty envelope from the fluorine industry.

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