a different side of Israel

Tag: News (page 2 of 17)

This month in Video – News Podcasts – Courtesy of HooQs Logo

The Naked Truth

Assi Dayan is a renowned Israeli actor, writer, and director. In recent years he is most associated with the character of Reuven Dagan, the therapist in the midst of the hit drama “Be’Tipul” — which has been adapted to the American audiences by HBO, titled “In Treatment”. Assi Dayan is a long-time drug addict and he doesn’t hide this fact. In fact, he likes to talk about it.

T ShirtLast week, Dayan was twice viciously exposed in the media: First, he gave an interview to Yediot Ahronot, Israel’s leading daily newspaper in the Hebrew language, and was featured naked on the weekend edition. In the interview, he compared his hairy belly to the state of Israel, saying they’re both in terrible shape. Then a few days later he made a phone call to channel 10’s entertainment correspondent Haim Etgar and invited him to come with a film crew to document his messy apartment and his messy life. The piece, aired on primetime TV during the evening news, bluntly exposed Dayan snorting white powder

These sensational interviews brought much outrage on the media affiliates that apparently weighted ratings over ethics, while Haim Etgar defended himself by saying that Dayan was pleading for help and that the primetime exposure was meant to divert public attention (and support) to his ill condition. Needless to say that Dayan granted full permission to both these interviews — He initiated the whole affair.

Dayan’s cousin, the author Yonatan Geffen (who was once a drug addict himself) published an article in Ma’ariv — the second largest Israeli daily newspaper — in which he blames the media for exploiting his cousin’s condition, and reminding us that Dayan’s so-called consent is morally and legally invalid, since he was not thinking clearly at the time. He accused the media of “tenderly” pushing Dayan towards his death, comparing his cousin to Britney Spears, who has also been suffering from intrusive media reports. Although perhaps an Amy Winehouse comparison is more fitting in this case.

We all have demons of self-destruction; they are not the sole property of celebrities. I wonder why the camera loves them so much.

Post Optimism

An Israeli-Palestinian cease-fire “sort of” began today; Iran agrees to discuss the West’s anti-nuclear incentives; Exchange of prisoners with Hezbollah is rumored to take place any day now; Bureaucrats at the Ministry of Finance stand together with the Histadrut (the federation of labor) against the Minister’s plot to tax the Study Funds; It’s summer…

There are lots of things to be optimistic about, it seems.

Question Mark

Well, I don’t think anyone’s really excited about these news. It’s good that things start to roll, but it may be too little, too late.

1. The truce may enable Hamas to smuggle Gilad Shalit out of the Gaza Strip and into Egypt, turning this tragedy into a much longer affair. In addition, there are no illusions about this cease fire. In the meantime, Hamas supplies itself with new ammunition and new rockets, and the flames could be back in a matter of days.

2. Iran stalls time. After all, Mr. Bush is about to leave office, and Ahmadinejad knows that while Bush is keen to attack, Obama (which polls project him to be the next US President) is keen to avoid any such confrontation. “So it’s Okay to show signs we’re ready to enter the diplomatic path. These things take months and years, and we only need to stall Mr. Bush for five months”.

3. Yes, after almost two years, we may finally know what happened to Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev. However it’s highly estimated that they’re dead, and in exchange for their release, Israel will let go of Samir Kuntar, the last bargaining chip we have when it comes to extracting information from the Hezbollah regarding the missing pilot Ron Arad.

Sun4. It’s “common knowledge” in recent years that the state of Israel is actually controlled by the Ministery of Finance bureaucrats. The Ministers come and go every two-or-so years, but the bureaucrats are the ones who sign the papers and release the money, while having the chance to push forward their agenda over long periods of time. They have practically privatized any thing imaginable in the last decade, and make this country unbearable for more and more people: Students, the elderly, single moms, etc. Now they’ve done something truly exceptional — entirely out of character — and stood up against the Minister when he suggested striking another blow at the average citizen. Honestly, this is the only report that actually excites me.

5. Oh, and I’m also excited about the summer.

Picture by Lucky Oliver

Right Wing Extremists pour boiling water over Meretz party representatives

The four Knesset members who currently represent Meretz (a left wing Israeli political party) paid a visit to the city of Hebron this morning, after the Supreme Court (Ba’Gatz) ordered that the city be made accessible again for organized tours. This privilege had been previously stripped from “Breaking the Silence” — a veterans’ organization that aims to draw public attention to the tense Jewish-Arab relations in Hebron — due to security concerns.

And indeed there were security concerns to be dealt with this morning. A wild demonstration by right wing extremists ended when they sprayed boiling water at the Meretz representatives, injuring the party spokesman, a foreign journalist, and a policeman.


Source: Walla! News

Desperate times bring about desperate spins

PM Ehud Olmert knows his time in office is coming to a close. He knows he doesn’t have a political backing to push forward any peace accord with the Palestinians. He knows he could end up in jail, or alternatively merely end up as the most-corrupted Israeli PM (to date) in tomorrow’s history books. This is a desperate period for Mr. Olmert, and he’s got nothing to lose.

DJ OlmertIn recent years, the Israeli media is steadily growing more and more cynical. Leading commentators (both on air and in print) have become accustomed to label practically any move by Israeli politicians as a “spin” — i.e., a statesman’s attempt to distract the public attention from his wrongdoings by generating an alternative “buzz”. As a result, the Israeli public now takes the regular use of “spinology” for granted. We’ve become indifferent, and many of us won’t bother to even cast our vote next time.

Yesterday it was published that Olmert’s delegates and Abu Alaa (the head of the Palestinian negotiation team) have begun to formulate a draft of the basic agreements made by both sides regarding the minor issues of the peace process. There is yet no discussion regarding the core issues, such as Jerusalem and the permanent borders. Nevertheless, many politicians, such as Avigdor Liberman, were quick to point out that this draft is meaningless, and wouldn’t gain the Knesset’s support. Most Israeli people clearly see this as a “spin” — But if so, why do the Palestinians play along… Abu Mazen certainly has his own reasons to spin the Palestinian public opinion.

If this wasn’t enough, Olmert made sure to issue a second spin: He offered Abu Mazen to send the IDF back into the Gaza Strip in order to conquer it again(!!) and remove the Hamas militants, who carried out a military coup against Abu Mazen’s Fatah movement exactly a year ago. Accepting such a move would obviously be a political suicide for Abu Mazen, and it has the potential of igniting an all-out civil war among the Palestinians. Olmert’s completely aware of this, of course, and still he suggested this outrageous offer — maybe as an attempt to court his right-wing opponents.

Nevertheless, Olmert wasn’t the first spin-doctor in modern history, nor will he be the last. For example, still another outrageous public statement made yesterday (that’s already three in one Shabbat) belongs to the Minister of Transportation, and former IDF Chief of Staff, Shaul Mofaz. He told the media that Israel will have no choice but to carry out a military strike on Iranian nuclear facilities. Besides this statement being strategically stupid and diplomatically harmful, it was issued as if Mofaz’s opinion is the official Israeli stance. Could it be that both Olmert and Mofaz play “who has the biggest balls”?

Are we too cynical? Do our political representatives genuinely only care about their own survival? I’d like to think we live in a true democracy and not in a Spinacray… but in the meantime, I might just turn off the news and watch the Euro Cup.

Picture by Galatz

Why would anyone want to be a politician – Part 1

As Israel stands on the verge of possible general elections, and America is nearing the end of its primary season, each of us — as private citizens — has to make up his mind, and pick his favourite candidate. How should we tackle this crucial task? Should I choose to vote solely on the basis of the candidate’s promises? Her past record? And what about personality? It’s a proven fact that personality plays a critical factor in this decision.

Hollow PoliticiansBut then, what aspects of personality should I take into account? His family status? Do I find it significant whether she displays herself as a warm and open character, or as a bold and intelligent person? And finally, what about his motives? Should I care why he made it into politics in the first place — Would it imply how good of a politician he might play out to be?

I want to list the major factors that drive different people into the violent fields of the political game. I don’t think we could ever really know what motivates a certain person — mostly, he doesn’t fully know it himself. Nevertheless, defining these possible motives is something I would like to attempt here today.

Please note that the human psyche is a very complex phenomena. Accordingly, each person may accommodate a range of different — and even opposite — motives at the same time, at different ratios. These ratios may change over time. Yes, (some) people do change.

Okay, enough with the chit-chat… let’s start: We can divide the factors that drive a certain person into politics to three distinctive categories: Pragmatic Reasons, Psychological Deficiencies, and Moral Imperatives.

A. What Pragmatic Reasons are there?

1) A person who isn’t especially good at anything discovers that the political arena doesn’t require special skills or a university diploma. He has to make money somehow, and it’s the only place where he could find a job.

2) Another person ventured into politics to make a change. He’s in the game for twenty-thirty years. He’s already lost the spark many years ago. Cynicism covers him as he lies in bed, and indifference walks beside him as he enters another lobbyist’s gathering. But it’s now a habit. It’s too late to change profession after so many years.

3) A third person tried to make money in the private sector. Then he realized that nepotism is the name of the game; that without publicity, you’re nothing in this world. So he offered himself as president… This way, he could befriend a lot of rich moguls, who would line up to invest in his new business when he resigns office. Or he’ll be invited to sit in a corporate board of directors. Or he’ll travel the world and charge $1,000,000 for a single lecture. There’s also a book deal around the corner… But seriously, even if he isn’t one of the lucky few who exit politics straight into the tight embrace of Capitalism, he can still arrange a nice job for his niece, or have the bureaucratic leverage to receive a delicious bribe or two. (In short: Politics is a way to develop business relations, and to earn a high Market Value for oneself.)

Tomorrow I will continue this post.

Breaking News — Israeli politics on the verge of a microphone

Breaking News

Ehud Barak gathered a dramatic press conference, and for the fourth time in the past year, told the media that he’s serious this time: “Olmert should resign”.

Another member of Barak’s “Avoda” party, Danny Yatom also went on air today, being overly solemn, and announced that he’s considering… yes, he’s seriously considering… to decide something in the future. What exactly? To leave the Avoda party? To call on Olmert to resign? To demand from Barak to dismantle the government? He wouldn’t say. But just like Barak, he promised to stop talking and start… Well, he’ll talk about it in the future.

Indeed, the political scene in Israel is in turmoil. More details to come as soon as available!

If Only Cancer was a Sign of Progress

A report published by the Ministry of Health a few days ago determines that the new leading cause of death in Israel is cancer. Previously, this dubious title was reserved for heart disease. The report explains the change by citing the development of new methods for the treatment of heart disease. At first glance, it sounds like good news. Here we are, a tiny country in the Middle East, able to defeat one of Death’s servants. Now we could move on to focus on its “lesser” sibling: Mr. Malignant Tumor.

Alas, if only this was a sign of progress, or a tribute to Israeli medicine.

As a child growing up in Israel, I was always taught that road accidents is the leading cause of death in Israel. Whether a proven fact or not, it had been ingrained into our brain. Teachers used to cite the appalling numbers of car victims, and the fact that these numbers exceed by far the number of Israeli war casualties. Well, it is true that the Israeli driver earned the reputation of being snappish and restless — a rather accurate description, which could only be rivaled by the Italian driver’s reputation. And getting into my car and onto the road is sometimes like entering a battlefield. On the one hand, it’s a stressful experience for many, but on the other, the perfect opportunity to vent off some anger — as honks, curse words, and the middle finger do not pose a rare occasion out here.

SerpentAnd what about violent crimes? The numbers are rising, and we hear more and more of young teenagers being stabbed outside of dancing clubs, or of old folks being brutally beaten and robbed. Crime families, such as the Alperon family, or the Rosenstein’s, have gained celebrity status, and appear to dodge the police time and time again with the help of their fancy lawyers. Domestic violence is also a phenomenon that declines to recedes, despite massive awareness.

Terror and rockets continue to claim their victims, although the numbers are have drastically fallen in recent years, thanks to the government’s firm approach. But even so, as peace is constantly lingering, conflict is likely to cause more sorrow for Israeli families in the future.

So we’ve been left with Cancer to be our biggest foe. Personally, I find the prospect of cancer terrifying. I know too many people afflicted by it, friends and family. In addition, the fervent sun in Israel is relentless in summer, and the presence of antennas and satellite dishes is always on the rise. It seems the world turns more and more radioactive by the day, and not only in Israel.

Finally, I want to address the reduced percentage of heart-related death in Israel. It is indeed a positive mark, but it’s something we can see across the Western world, and it is not unique to Israel. We have the privilege of placing advanced technology in our hospitals and cutting-edge drugs in our pharmacies, but less and less people can afford these — as poverty is spreading, while medical care is being progressively privatized.

Dear Government Officials, we may have won a single battle, but the war is still waging, and there is much more to do. Death is a tricky serpent.

Source: Haaretz ; Picture by My Pets

Anthem to Israeli Artists in Europe

Elad Keidan - Israeli FilmmakerLast week, an Israeli student film won first prize in the prestigious Cannes Festival in France. The short film “Anthem” (Himnon) was directed by Elad Keidan, a young student director. The movie tells the story of a man from Jerusalem who walks along the streets of a famous neighborhood in Jerusalem.

Keidan was exhilarated during the post-win press conference. “I imagined that we might win one of the prizes, but I didn’t expect the first prize,” he told the media. “On my first night in Cannes I dreamt that I had won the competition, and the truth is I was pretty stressed out. Now that it’s already happened, it’s very exciting. I am proud of the fact that the judges, who are highly respectable filmmakers, liked the film — Particularly Hou Hsiao Hsien, who chaired the jury, and is an admirable filmmaker. It’s a real honor.”

Still, we can’t always win first place. On Saturday, in another part of Europe, Israel came ninth in the Eurovision song contest – the annual display of Europe’s worst pop music and its most tasteless fashion. Israel was represented by Boaz Mauda who delivered his best performance so far. The song “Ke’Ei’Lu Ka’N” (As If Here) was written by famous singer Dana International, the winner of the 1998 Eurovision. Well, coming ninth is quite an achievement compared with our embarrassing score at last year’s contest.

Source: Y-NET ; Picture by Festival De Cannes

Hurray! Peace with Syria – Political Commentary by Ashley

Guest Commentary

Wait a second – Weren’t we at war with them? What does it mean to announce peace talks with a regime that we vastly outgun in military matters and totally humiliate on an economic level (Israel’s per capita GDP is $30,000 and climbing; Syria’s is just scraping $4,000)?

Israel recently entered Syrian airspace after disabling Syria’s “latest and most advanced” Russian-made air defense systems and then destroyed what’s thought to have been a nuclear weapons facility. Even during the Lebanon War — that mismanaged, mangled, and relatively pathetic display of Israel’s military capabilities — Israeli warplanes were able to buzz “President” Assad’s palace without so much as being shot at.

So, clearly, Syria is a major threat to Israel and we should scramble to give up the ultra-strategic Golan Heights (where Syria attacked Israel from when it actually was a threat) in order to quell the potential “shit-storm” that Syria might like to serve us.

What’s really going on here? No sane nation in today’s geopolitical world, and none in the history of nations, would ever sit down to give away land — strategic land — to a bordering country that not only has limited power but also constantly calls for the destruction of the first, more powerful country.

All I can say is: Welcome to Israeli domestic politics.

We’ve seen this before, many times. The parallels are actually frightening. Let’s rewind back to the winter of 2000, when Ehud Barak led Israel through a number of failed, disastrous policies. In February of 2000, Barak, according to The Economist, was accused by the state comptroller of corruption and “shenanigans over election financing.” Barak, as skillful and slippery as any Israeli politician, managed to sway the public focus away from him by doing something “bold”: he removed Israeli troops from their strategic position in southern Lebanon where they had been keeping Hezbollah (and their likes) at bay.

After the troop withdrawal, Hezbollah had the opportunity to casually saunter into southern Lebanon. In effect, Barak’s wily plan worked — he was praised by the left-wing media for his dovish actions and his campaign imbroglio was largely forgotten. He also, by the way, wiped out more than a decade of hard-won gains in Lebanon that kept terrorists out of firing range of Israel’s population centers. Six years later, we got a terror war from the south of Lebanon in which Israeli soldiers and civilians were murdered.

Ariel Sharon provides another instructive example. Just after he became prime minister, Sharon began to deny accusations of campaign finance violations faster than he could gobble down Shwarmas. Boomerang, a book written by left-wing Israeli journalists and based on extensive interviews as well as on the examination of declassified documents and use of archival material, had made the case that Sharon used the withdrawal from Gaza to distract the Israeli public from his misdoings.

It seemed to work — except for the small annoyance that some call “daily terror attacks”, in the form of Qassam and Katyusha rockets fired from the recently withdrawn-from Gaza Strip. (There have been roughly 8,000 rocket strikes on Israeli ground from Gaza to date since the withdrawal.)

Of course, not a problem for Sharon — then and now — who sleeps with a clear conscience.

Olmert, who, some scientists speculate, may actually be amphibious, has set off on the same mission. A quick browse of today’s news headlines and you can see all the pieces coming together: Olmert announces his new peace plan with our seriously threatening enemy, Syria. At the same time, he wrangles with the police and the justice department officials, in an attempt to delay the testimony of the American financier, Morris Talansky, which could put him behind bars. Delay it just long enough for the peace-crazed public to forget… Forget what, again…?

Olmert may have gone too far this time. But then again, we in Israel like to draw lines in the sand, never remembering that the desert’s political winds blow hard.

Sex and the Orthodox City

An Israeli Billboard company demands to take out the sex from the “Sex and the City” posters displayed in Jerusalem and Petah Tikva.

The new and highly anticipated film is now being promoted throughout the country to the delight of many of its fans that have waited for this moment impatiently. But the billboard company Maximedia is fighting the ad campaign of this popular movie under the premise that the citizens of these two predominantly religious cities are not interested in the word “sex” printed all over their town.

You really don’t know whether to get angry or just laugh at the ridiculousness of this whole thing. Once again we are confronted with the absurd reality where the interests of the secular population in mixed cities are not taken into account.

“We have treaties of commerce with the municipalities which grant us the right to install signs and advertise within them, and there are certain understandings as to the substance advertised”, said Meir Shamir from Maximedia. According to Shamir, the officials in the municipalities of Jerusalem and Petah Tikva have requested not to put up the word “sex” simply because it bothers them.

“We asked Forum Films to leave out the word and place three dots instead, so it’s not exactly as they have been telling the press,” said Shamir. “If we don’t leave out the word it’s likely that the past will repeat itself and our signs will be defaced. It certainly bothers a certain population.”

To See or Not to SeeTo See or Not to SeeThe removal of the word sex from the title “Sex and the City” is absurd! It is also a blatant expression of censorship in what is supposed to be progressive and modern society. Well, let’s just rename the film with something less provocative, like “The Encouragement of Natural Reproduction and The City”.

So for the time being the two cities remain sexless, and frankly they’re better off. After all, what logical arguments can possibly appeal to those who think they can stay protected from the obscenities of this world by never leaving town or watching television?

Source: YNET

Channel 10 — the true Survivor

Up until 2002, there was only one commercial broadcasting television channel licensed to operate in Israel. There were already many niche channels transmitting via the cable networks (which have meanwhile merged into the “HOT” network) or the satellite network “YES”, but up until that point, Channel 2 was the dominating force of commercial TV in Israel, and considered to be the mainstream option for the average Israeli TV-goer.

In 2002 businessman Yossi Meiman made the bold move and initiated the creation of Israel 10 (known simply as Channel 10 in Israel), infusing huge amounts of cash into this media adventure. At the beginning, it seemed that he threw away his money in vain, having to face many bureaucratic obstacles and initial low rating levels. Despite shameless purchasing of Channel 2’s main news anchors, Ya’akov Eilon and Miki Haimovitz, Israel 10’s future remained uncertain for the first 3 years or so. All changed when new investors jumped onto the wagon, and when Israel 10 had decided to claim its share of the lucrative pie known as Reality TV…

Israeli Survivor 10Yesterday 36% of Israel’s TV screens were tuned “10” — mine including — on the occasion of a “good-trash” celebration, known as the Survivor 10 Live Finale, taking place in a major basketball arena, no less. After 16 successful seasons in which the reality show Survivor has been a definite “hit” in America, it was high time for the gold-laying chicken to learn how to speak Hebrew. Still, it wasn’t a simple case of a format purchasing and localization. Israel 10 went several steps ahead and has grossly altered the known format, turning the fast-paced reality into a semi-scripted soap opera. Countless magazine articles have published multiple claims of game manipulation by the Israeli production, ranging from the supply of groceries to the castaways, and up to changing the rules on-the-fly in order to keep their preferred characters inside the game, when these faced an imminent threat of dismissal by their fellow tribe members. Personally, I have no idea if these claims have any truth in them; the production certainly denies such allegations. One thing is for sure, the show fulfilled its purpose as a major rating magnet, and provided Channel 10 with a widespread buzz, that is normally the exclusive property of Channel 2.

Three finalists came on top after 52 days on the island: Dan Mano, the young Haifa attorney, whose uncle owns the wealthy Mano Cruise company. Dan has been painted as the manipulative mastermind, who managed to irritate most of his fellow castaways, and a great proportion of the viewers. At one point, when Dan was about to be voted off the island in the following tribal council, the production suddenly transferred him into the women’s group, virtually “saving his ass”. He always claimed to simply playing the game, and personally I must admit that he was my favourite pick for taking the one million shekels prize. Next to him, we had Na’ama Keisary, the new mom, who left her one-month baby, and her dying father, in order to challenge herself in this dire experience. She hadn’t won even a single contest on the island, yet came across as a strong and independent woman. Last but no least, the third finalist pleading the jury for a check last night, was Noam Tor, the humble bee-keeper, who was elected Israel’s sexiest man alive by a major magazine. Noam was voted off the island relatively early in the game, but survived a secondary game in what was called “the Island of the Dead” — a serious deviation from the original format.

Despite being filmed in the Caribbean Islands, the winner wasn’t chosen on-site, as done in the original version, nor was the decision free of public influence. The castaways arrived at the Nokia Arena while already enjoying a celebrity status, and have had many weeks to influence the members of the jury after leaving the island. In addition, the TV finale included an SMS poll, in which the audience was asked to pick its favourite finalist — and these results would have been considered the tie-breaking vote if such a scenario was materializing. In the end, after an excruciating evening that included 3 weary finalists, and many emotional breakdowns, Na’ama Keisary was chosen the ultimate Survivor, surprising everyone believed strongly that Noam was signaled by the production as the suitable winner.

Now that the first Israeli season came to an end, Channel 10 is losing its first rating monster, and leaving many viewers with a bad taste in mouth. Nevertheless; it was fun, it was hot, and it was addictive. Expect a second season heading your way next year….

Spunky News

Israeli people are known for their sauciness and their “spunk”. They have the boldness to strive for success and to invent breakthrough enterprises. A good example for this would be the large amout of Israeli entrepreneurs, especially in the high-tech domain. And an even better example would be the state of Israel itself! I mean, it took major spunk for the first Jewish immigrants to disobey the Turkish and British authorities in Palestine, and to claim their place in the world. Whenever they were told “No”, they did not waver, and came up with saucy ideas such as the “Tower and stockade” operations.

Yesterday we saw a good example of that spunk on TV. As a prelude to his second visit of Israel (which began today), gave George W. Bush an exclusive interview to Israel’s Channel 10 News, conducted by front anchormen Yaakov Eilon and Gil Tamari. They sat down for an open, apparently unscripted, conversation with the US President. He seemed amused by their questions and attitude, and they came across as naughty kids who enjoy pushing the envelope ever more.

Watch a short clip of the interview: Mr. Bush on the Olmert Allegations

You could see them inquiring the president about his vision for the middle east, asking for his opinion as regards to the corruption allegations againt Israeli PM Ehud Olmert, and greeting him on his daughter’s wedding. At one point, they began speculating about a possible Iran attack, and albeit Mr. Bush said he doesn’t like to talk hypothetically, they continued to press the issue. Later, they teased the president about his relative lack of involvement in the middle east, saying it took him 7 years to actually “get started”, and asking whether the next president should start earlier. Yes, it actually happened, and I must say that admired the president’s way of handling the cross-fire. He remained calm, even laughed a bit, and then gave straight and frank answers about what he think that could and couldn’t be achieved by the end of his candidacy.

Finally, these two cheeky anchormen directly appealed Mr. Bush to release Jonathan Pollard — the Israeli spy held prison in the States since 1987 — as a goodwill gesture in accordance with Israel’s 60th birthday. He simply said that his policy on the matter hasn’t changed, and even agreed to reveal that he continually receives such official requests from the Israeli government; a piece of information the Israeli public would find very satisfying.

Maybe it’s the freshness of Channel 10 attitude, or perhaps it’s the lax behavior of a president who’s about to leave office — in any case, this rare interview was a pleasure to watch.

Is israel ready for an earthquake disaster?

Today we’re informed that another major earthquake struck the surface of the earth. This time it’s the people of China who suffer the wrath of the planet. So far we’ve heard of 3500(!!) casualties, and the numbers are expected to rise.

Tel Aviv Urban LandscapeIsrael itself sits on top of the Great Rift Valley, also known as the Syrian-African Rupture. It is a distinct geographical trough that marks the junction of several geological faults. Over the years, many experts warn the Israeli public that they should be prepared for a mega earthquake hitting this tiny country, sooner or later. Now, it is true that several devastating earthquakes ran wild across the planet in the past few years, and that the countries afflicted (Turkey, Iran, Indonesia, to name a few) suffered heavy losses and great economical setbacks, and yet, they managed to recover, able to keep their heads above the tide. This wouldn’t be the case of Israel if such a disaster strikes unexpectedly.

Israel is a small state, only slightly larger than New Jersey, and most of Israel’s population is concentrated on the banks of the Mediterranean shore, in cities such as Tel-Aviv and Haifa. No wonder the Israeli government is so concerned about the Iranian threat — One nuclear bomb is enough to wipe out the state of Israel, and most of its population. Well, Prime Minister Olmert is definitely anxious with the Iranian A-Bomb, but what about the threat of natural disasters, such as earthquakes and droughts?

Numerous panel reports have been presented to the Israeli cabinet in the past decade urging the state authorities to take measures in preparation of a potential natural disaster. It was when the accumulating data persuaded news editors to feature this story prominently on TV and across the written media, that things “started to roll”. As we’ve been accustomed to in Israel, governmental agenda follows editorial agenda. Recently, we do hear about new protocols which the emergency services have prepared for such disasters, and even the government itself set up several web sites in order to educate the Israeli public as to what to do in such situations (so far, in Hebrew alone).

There is definitely much more to do, and I hope to see these official efforts taking one notch up. In the meantime, our prayers are aimed at the people of China.

From celebrations to allegations

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert denies allegations for allegedly accepting bribes worth millions of dollars from US businessman, Moshe (Morris) Talansky. On Thursday, at the end of Israel’s 60th Independence Day, Olmert addressed the Israeli public during his post gag order press conference:

“I was elected by you, citizens of Israel, to be the prime minister and I don’t intend to shirk this responsibility. At the same time, and even though the law does not require me to do this, I will resign from my job if the attorney general decides to issue an indictment against me” , said Olmert.

Prime Minister OlmertOlmert says he will resign if indicted. Dramatic as it may sound, it would be impossible for any prime minister to stay in office if investigation continues.

“I was not born to be prime minister, and I’m not going to stay here until the end of my life. I’m too young for that. Right now, I think it will be a mistake (to leave), and I have a job to accomplish, a vision to realize. This is the great vision of peace which I think is possible this time more than ever”, he said to the American press during the weekend.

Moshe (Morris) Talansky, a key witness in the investigation, is now in Israel.

We will have to wait and see what happens next.

One thing you can say for sure while celebrating 60 years of statehood –there has never been a dull moment!

Sources: Ynet , Haaretz ; Picture by PM Office

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