a different side of Israel

Tag: News (page 5 of 17)

Israel Launches Air Attacks on Gaza

Are recent Israeli air strikes on Gaza militants an alternate solution to launching a large scale ground attack? Many military strategists think so; and perhaps with good reason. With the southern town of Sderot and several smaller settlements under an almost constant barrage of Palestinian launched Kassam rockets and mortar shells, something had to give in regards to Israeli government patience so soon after the summit meeting in Annapolis. And although the attacks on Israeli communities appear to be solely carried out but groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad, the IAF air attacks seem to be a veiled warning against others as well, including West Bank Palestinians.

Targeted assassinations, as these attacks appear to be- especially against higher-up members of the Islamic Jihad – are nothing new and have been carried out for years. Some of Hamas’ top people, including Sheikh Ahmed Ismail Yasin and Dr. Abdel Aziz Rantisi, have been carried out with the hope of delivering a strong message against terror attacks on Israelis. These attacks have only been partially successful, however, and the recent ones in which at least 13 Palestinian militants were killed, including 2 senior Jihad military officials, will probably wind up the same way.
Israeli Prime Minister Olmert (pictured) may also want to let the militants know that the IDF is prepared to carry out these attacks even during one of the holiest periods on the Muslim calendar – the Hajj.

Speaking at a meeting of his Kadima political party in Jerusalem, Olmert said that Israel “will continue to seek out the heads of terror organizations and get all those responsible for firing rockets at us”. While this may seem like a “get tough” statement, it also may be an indication that the government believes that this tactic is a better alternative than launching a large armored force into Gaza, which could result in a number of IDF casualties. As in former air operations, it’s much easier, and safer, to launch air to ground missiles against selective targets. It is also believed that better security intelligence has enabled the IAF to target more senior terror commanders, such as the two Jihad military wing commanders who were killed.

These attacks are not without the potential for deadly reprisal operations by Palestinian militants against Israelis; as was cautioned by Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who said that Israelis “must be prepared for possible reprisals from the other side”. These “tit-for-tat” attacks, coming so soon after the 20th anniversary celebrations for the founding of Hamas, appear to be sending out a message to Gaza Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh who may be actually getting the gist of the message. Haniyeh made a statement in which he expressed the desire for “the shedding of our blood to stop”. That statement should be welcome news to people living in Sderot and other communities adjacent to the border with Gaza. Past “experience”, however, make most people believe that Hams and other militant groups are not likely to agree to any long lasting peace agreements with Israel.

Bada Bing Israeli Style

Bada Bing Israeli StyleThe American Home Box Office series The Sopranos may now be finished, but in Israel anyway, a number of criminal “wannabes” are trying to imitate the series star, Tony Soprano, in a number of unsavory activities. Several recent incidents, including threats against judges, municipal officials, and even managers of sporting clubs, are reminiscent of things that Tony and the gang did during the six season TV series that wound up wining several Emmy awards.

Israel has no shortage of colorful crime bosses, some of whom seem to constantly be appearing on television and in the newspapers. But what worries the police even more is that a lot of these “Soprano incidents” are being carried out by unknowns and even by juveniles who appear to have been more than impressed by the way Soprano characters like Tony, Vito, Christopher and Uncle Bob dealt with either rival gang members, people who owed them money, or simply got in their way. Even members of the police themselves have been targeted, as was noted recently in the news when a police car was torched in the southern city of Dimona.

The recent “firecracker incident” at a Hapoel Holon basketball game is also said to be tied to this phenomena. But the most “fitting” example, as far as a Mafia-type intimidation goes, was when the coach of the Tel Aviv Maccabee football team received a telephone call in which the caller threatened to do him “harm” if his team didn’t begin to improve on an otherwise lackluster Premier League season. Although the caller, a 17 year old fan, later confessed to being the one who made the threat, the police are worried that incidents such as this may become more frequent in the aftermath of an Israeli television reality program entitled: “Who wants to replace Tony Soprano?”

As a result of this and afore-mentioned incidents as the car torching and the threats against a judge and the Mayor of Rishon LeZion, there has been talk in favor of forming a law enforcement organization in Israel similar to the American FBI or England’s Scotland Yard. Israel does not have an elite organization to deal with serious criminal behavior, and at present, everything is handled by divisions within the police department itself. America has had some kind of elite law enforcement organization ever since the Pinkerton Detective organization was formed during the Civil War. The FBI came into being following a wave of serious criminal activities during the Prohibition era of the 1920’s.

The police admit that they are “losing the war” against organized crime; but they and government officials have not yet decided if the time has come for an “Israeli FBI” to become a permanent part of Israel’s law enforcement organizations. With all that is currently going on by both crime bosses and by lesser personalities, perhaps a blue and white “G-Man” bureau is an idea whose time has finally come.

Ahmadinejad Clear For Take Off (The Great Escape)

Iran PresidentThe just published US Government reports, that Iran scrapped its nuclear weapons program in 2003 has brought elation to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and consternation to US Administration officials, most notably US President Bush. Israeli government and military officials are more than disturbed by the report which means that any American military plans to attack Iranian nuclear facilities have been scuttled, and that the Iranian government has now come out of this affair smelling like a rose.

After reading a number of articles and commentaries on this subject over the weekend, including reactions by all “interested parties” concerned, I have made the following conclusions:

1. That this report isn’t real, but is in the same light of reports given to the U.S. Administration prior to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, regarding WMD’s and nuclear capability of now executed Iraqi president Saddam Hussein. In this episode, Bush and Co. wanted to take over Iraq for both the oil and as a promise made by Bush Jr. to Bush Sr.(to kick Saddam’s butt) following the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf War. The US is not at all capable or willing to “kick Ahmadinejad butt” and needs a way to bow out gracefully from any planned attack.

2. That the report is real and the Bush’s hands are tied because of it. It also makes him look a bit like the kid who fell into a mud puddle on the way home from school.

Whatever answer is correct, Israeli military officials hope to convince the U.S. Joints Chief of Staff head, Admiral Michael Mullen, otherwise when he visits Israel on Sunday. The Iranian president, for his part, feels like the cat who swallowed the canary, and is making no bones about how he has figuratively emasculated both the Americans and Israelis following this bit of news.

This intelligence report, that supposedly came about by members of the US National Intelligence teams, could not have come at a worse time for both the Republican led Administration, as well as Republican US presidential candidates. Democratic candidates like Hillary Clinton and Barak Obama are having a field day in using this revelation in their campaign rhetoric.

However convincing this report may be, anybody to really believes that the Iranians have no intention on building a nuclear bomb is even stupider than British Foreign Minister Neville Chamberlain was in 1938 when he called his country’s acceptance of Nazi Germany’s takeover of the Sudetenland and Czechoslovakia as “peace in our time”.

The Iranians, Mahmud Ahmadinejad anyway, want only one thing; and that is the complete elimination of the State of Israel. If that “elimination” requires the use of a nuke, then so be it; as far he is concerned anyway. Israel, for all the IDF’s intelligence gathering and planning, cannot take on the task of destroying Iran’s nuclear facilities on it’s own as Iran is simply too large and it’s nuclear facilities too scattered around, with many of them far underground.

The only thing that may prevent that country from becoming a nuclear power by 2009 (or earlier) it’s own people deciding that “enough is enough” concerning their government’s Islamic hard stance, especially that of Ahmadinejad and Supreme Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. It would be even better if the Iranian people come to the conclusion that they have had enough of the Ayatollahs themselves.

At this state in time, however, this isn’t likely to happen, and Mr. Ahmadinejad and his Mullah religious leaders seem to be definitely on the (nuclear) horse.

Our Lovely Little Apartheid State

Ethiopian students segregatedPicture: Shaul Golan
Very few people in Israel appear to be shocked by the recent disclosure that a religious girls school in the city of Petach Tikvah keeps it’s Ethiopian students segregated from others. The disclosure was noted in local news papers as well as on television, and reported that the school not only separates the girls in a separate classroom, but schedules separate play times for them and even pays to have them taken home by tax in order that they not mix with other students.

This is not the first time this kind of problem has been encountered. A school in the south was reported to have a similar problem in which the students themselves avoided any contact with Ethiopian classmates and even comments by other kids were recorded in which they said that they didn’t want to pay with Ethiopian kids because “they have black skin”. Israel’s Ethiopian community now numbers more than 200,000, due to including groups such as Falasha Murahs who are not considered Jewish according to Halacha religious law. Though the community is scattered over much of Israel, they are more concentrated in cities such as Dimona, Lod, Ashdod, and Netanya. Many of them, especially older males, have great difficulty in finding employment, and those who do find work usually wind up in lower paying jobs such a security guards, cashiers and produce workers in supermarkets, and as street cleaners.

Many Ethiopian families have been split up due to men leaving the house because they cannot find work to support their families. Incidents of crimes such as rape and murder have also been all too common news items since adjustment in Israeli society is difficult for men who used to be farmers and shepherds in their former country, and were considered as “kings of their castles”,

And now, to make matters worse, Ethiopian children are made to feel they are unwanted in a country that used to pride itself in its ability to absorb immigrants from all over the world. Although the situation isn’t like it was in America’s South, or in South Africa in the 1960’s to 1980’s, Ethiopians most often wind up on the short end when it comes to opportunities in The Promised Land. Even those who manage to get an education, and even a profession, have a much harder time advancing than other Israelis. One good example is an Ethiopian lawyer named Yitzhak Dessie who said that he is often mistaken for a security guard when he is seen wearing a white shirt and dark trousers (after a day in court) in a supermarket or department store.

Some Israeli parliamentarians have suggested placing Ethiopian kids in regular public schools instead of the religious ones. After all, it was argued, why should these kids be put in religious schools when other immigrants, particularly those from the former Soviet Union are not. Labor MK Ophir Pines-Paz commented that it’s as if the religious establishment is trying to shove religious doctrines “down their throats” while other immigrant kids are left alone.

For the little girls in Petach Tikvah, their formative years are going to wind up with a very bad impression on their lives, not unlike a lot of American blacks growing up in American southern states during the 1950’s and ’60s. A lot of changes have to be made in Israeli society in order for people to become more tolerant. Otherwise, the problem of absorbing Ethiopian Jews will get worse before it gets better.

Our Low Profile Environmental State

With all the fanfare and publicity dealing with finding a solution to the ongoing political divide between Israel and the Palestinians, not enough attention is being given to solving what may be the country’s most serious problem; that being the environment. Yet, this issue seems to be popping up all too frequently; whether it be concerning our rivers and streams, beaches, parks, forests and green spaces, or the very water we drink and air we breathe.

IsraelDuring the summer beach season, barely a week goes by when announcements are made, either on TV or in the newspapers, that certain beaches in Tel Aviv, Haifa, or other coastal cities are closed to the public for either bathing or fishing. Pollution caused either by industrial wastes, raw sewage, or other contaminates are found to be literally pouring or seeping into the Mediterranean, now considered one of the most polluted bodies of water in the world. While this is a big concern for most people living in Israel, not enough is being done to alleviate this problem, and despite posted warnings, people still enter the water and eat fish caught from the sea. Tel Aviv’s Yarkon River, the same river where four Australian athletes died from exposure to pollutants a number of years back, dumps it’s polluted contents into the sea right next to one of Tel Aviv’s most popular entertainment areas, the old Tel Aviv Port. Scores of fishermen sit near the entrance to the old port and fish for species that have been found to contain dangerously high levels of E-Coli bacteria and other contaminants. And what they catch probably winds up on their dinner table later on.

Another body of water, the Kinneret, Israel’s only natural fresh water reservoir, is also becoming dangerously polluted, and not only by what our “friends” the Lebanese dump into the Litani river, one of the major sources of the Jordan, the Kinneret’s main water supplier. Recently, a number of bathing beaches on the lake have had to be closed for swimming due to high pollution counts, much of which was found to have come from either the city of Tiberius or Kibbutzim located near the lake shore. The Kinneret probably supplies more than 60% of the country’s fresh water, much of which is carried inland via the National Water Carrier. Small rivers that feed into the Jordan, such as the Dan, Senir, and Hermon (where the Banias nature reserve is located) are no longer the clean streams they used to be, and aquatic and animal life normally found in and near these streams have been greatly affected.

Of course, what is happening to the Kinneret, and to the streams feeding it is nothing compared to other streams and rivers, which like the Yarkon are so heavilly polluted that some of them have been literally called disaster areas. These include the Kishon (near Haifa), the Hadera, Alexander and Poleg streams on the Coastal Plain, and the
Sorek, which “kisses” the Mediterranean with it’s smelly contents near the city of Rishon le Zion.

Another area with threatened natural streams is the Dead Sea area with streams like the Ein Gedi and David, where the biblical David hid out from King Saul before he became king. These streams, considered one of the country’s treasured beauty spots are also mildly polluted, with much of the pollutants coming from seepage into the Negev’s region’s aquifer due to waste disposal sites like Ramat Hovav.

With the water issue noted, other environmental issues, including some of the worst air pollution problems in Israel’s major cities, and of course Ramat Hovav itself should be mentioned here as well. Haifa, Israel’s third largest city has an air pollution problem that is so bad that scores of deaths from respiratory ailments as well as cancers have been blamed from the state of the city’s air. Tel Aviv, the country’s largest city, often has an air inversion or smog problem that rivals the U.S. city of Los Angeles. And in the country’s southern regions, the problem of contamination from Ramat Hovav and other waste disposal sites has become so serious, that cities like Beer Sheva have had many deaths and illnesses caused by diseases linked to soil and ground water contamination.

What the outcome of these problems will be is still to be determined by the government’s Ministry for the Environment (yes, this ministry does actually exist). But what has been done so far is very little in comparison to the problems we all face; problems which are far more critical than global warming – that other well publicized environmental issue. The public simply has to get more involved, as these issues simply will get worse until the day will come when our most basic elements for survival, air and water, will be the most scarce and most sought after things around. After all, without them we simply cannot survive.

Basketball Carnage In Jerusalem & Shitty Sportsmanship

Sports Carnage in Malcha
Picture: Ynet News – Chaim Tzach
Israeli athletes and sportsmen may be making big gains abroad, but recent miss-conduct occurrences on the home front is beginning to give local sporting events a very bad P.R. image. Sunday, November 11 was one of the worst days, from a conduct standpoint, in Israeli sporting match history. And coincidentally enough, both incidents involved teams sponsored by the Haopoel Sports Organization.

The first incident occurred during a derby match between the Hapoel and Macabbee Tel Aviv football teams. While always a bit of a bedlam series, Sunday’s match, in which several Haopoel fans ran onto pitch and a variety of smoke bombs and other objects were thrown at the players, ended with Hapoel winning by one point. This might have been end of that problem at this annual rivalry match, except that later that evening, another and even worse incident occurred at a basketball game between Hapoel Jerusalem and Hapoel Holon. With less than two minutes left to play a large firecracker suddenly exploded next to the Hapoel Holon bench, wounding a security guard and blowing off three fingers in front of a shocked stadium. The event was captured on film and plastered on all the major newspapers this morning.

The game was stopped instantly and the outcome of it has been placed in suspension, even though the Jerusalem side was ahead 94-89. Haopoel Jerusalem’s chairman, Danny Klein was furious and announced later that his club will not play another match until the perpetrator is found. Klein even went further and said that if the ones responsible for this act are Hapoel Jerusalem fans he will quit his position with the club. A 20 year old suspect from Holon was arrested on Monday.

Hapoel’s conduct woes don’t stop here. In a football game played in Croatia earlier in the season, Hapoel fans created a disturbance in that match which resulted in the team being censured by the FA Football Federation. The Hapoel organization is not the only one being plagued by problems of gross misconduct on the part of the fans. Only a week ago, fans from the Beitar Jerusalem Football Club created a disturbance during a pre-game memorial ceremony for assassinated Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. This incident was so disturbing in the minds of many Israelis that the clubs owner, Arkady Gaydamak appeared later on television to try to make amends for the occurrence. For that incident the Beitar team was censored by the Israel Football Federation and forced to play their next two games without spectators.

These and other incidents seem to indicate a disturbing trend in spectator sporting events in Israel. A survey made of people who watch these games, either at the actual match or on television, seem to agree that violence at these events is on the rise and that football matches in particular are no longer considered to be family participation sporting events. It’s a real shame that this appears to be what is unfortunately occurring; and it appears to mirror a personality trend that is happening among a growing segment of the general public. This “trend” is evident from incidents like fights in nightclubs, some of which have resulted in death and personal injury, increased traffic accidents, and increasing use of alcohol and narcotics by minors; just to name a few.

While there may be many reasons for such goings on, that they also have to happen at sporting matches is a very sad and unfortunate thing. If we can’t behave ourselves at these events, how can we behave ourselves in normal day to day activities as well?

U.S. Economy and Us

Wall Street in turmoil, American real estate loans going into foreclosure, oil nearly reaching $100 per barrel, and the Dollar dropping like a penny thrown into a bottomless pit. All of this news is bewildering for many Israelis, and even good news for others – especially who plan trips to the U.S. or plan on purchasing American good such as computers, cars, cosmetics, and other consumer items. With the New Shekel now pegged at a rate of around 3.92 to the Dollar, those who switched from Dollar based to Shekel based investments have profited. This includes many have purchased properties where purchase prices were linked to the Dollar; and for those in the middle of long term Dollar linked rental contracts the Greenback’s softening has been especially helpful.

In the long run, however, what is going on in America will have a big effect on the economic situation in Israel. And that effect will not be one to many peoples’ liking.

For years, the Israeli economy has had a close relationship with the American economy. Ever since Israelis were finally allowed to invest in stock exchanges abroad (under strict restrictions, of course); and with the success of many Israeli companies on stock exchanges such as the NASDAQ whatever happens in the U.S. economy is eventually felt over here. If the Dow Jones or NASDAQ on Wall Street takes a tumble, as it has recently, Israeli securities that are listed on these exchanges also head “south” instead of “north”. From a consumer standpoint, Israelis still purchase a considerable amount of goods from European countries, and thousands of Israelis travel frequently to Europe on either business or pleasure. With the European Union’s adoption of a standard currency, the Euro, not matter where one travels to on “the Continent”, and not matter what the economic situation may be in the country of destination, with very few exceptions the currency in use there will be the Euro, now trading at an all time high of 1.47 US Dollars. Some Scandinavian countries still retain their old currencies, but even so, the Euro is still the unofficial currency of choice in counties like Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. Other countries like Switzerland and the U.K. have strong local currencies, making goods and services more expensive in US Dollars are converted into Pounds Sterling or Swiss Francs

The Dollar’s weakness is pushing up the price of Oil, which is affecting everyone. Airline tickets have become more expensive and fuel surcharges more dear; due to the high price of oil. Fuel prices in Israel have risen significantly due to rising oil prices and this has resulted in an interest in purchasing the new ‘hybrid’ cars which have both an electric and gasoline engine. Many Israelis are also purchasing smaller, more fuel efficient cars, and this also applies to companies that provide a lease car to their employees as part of an overall salary package. The cost of using one of these vehicles has also gone up sharply with the government levying increased taxes for this privilege.

Where all of this is going to end is still not entirely clear. But one thing is for certain; and that in regard to those who live in Israel on fixed, Dollar based pensions, or are here in relocation or diplomatic assignments and receive sums in U.S. Dollars, the money they receive will go less further than before. Many people also wonder if rents and other prices presently linked to the Dollar will now be linked to the Euro instead.

There is a bright side, especially for people coming here from Europe or the U.K. and are purchasing flats and other real estate. They are getting the deal of their life. All I can say to them is “enjoy it while you can”!

Black Gold

Black Gold World crude oil prices are now on the verge of reaching and even surpassing the $100 per barrel mark. Supply chain problems, a weak U.S. Dollar, and high demand has resulted in an international energy crises that threatens to plunge the world economy into a virtual tailspin. Countries which consume a high amount of petroleum, including the U.S.A. and China are trying to secure enough supplies to satisfy an almost unquenchable energy thirst. Many commodity traders and market strategists are predicting that the price of crude oil will go even higher, especially when the state of U.S. energy supplies are expected to be announced soon.

What is currently happening was actually predicted by fiction writers such as Ray Bradbury nearly 40 years ago. In fact, Bradbury, a renown science fiction writer during the 1950’s and 60’s wrote a surreal account of what might be the result of a world energy crises around the year 2000 with oil reaching the above price per barrel and remaining reserves so low that what is available is only for the military, and for operating farming equipment used to produce to food to feed a world population topping 8 billion. Bradbury wrote that the result would be Americans having to revert to lifestyle, transportation wise, that their great-grandparents had; i.e. back to the days of the horse and buggy.

Though this hasn’t exactly happened as Bradbury hypothesized, petroleum supplies are not meeting world demand, and the result is the current price situation. A truly frightening scenario of what might be coming down in only two years time was noted on a popular television news channel when a group of people which included former US Army commander in Iraq John Abuzaid, and a top former member of the Treasury Department were involved in a ‘what if’ dramatization occurring in the year 2009 – only two years from now. In this scenario, crude oil is now priced at $145 per barrel and gasoline is selling in America at more than $5.00 per gallon, with long lines at gas stations reminiscent to the oil crises of the mid 1970’s. The American economy has been plunged into a deep recession and unemployment is hovering at the 12 percent mark. To make matters worse, Iran, estimated with possessing close to 15% of total world oil reserves, has just announced that it now possesses nuclear weapons and is cutting off its oil exports to most countries, especially ones like the U.S. which have been “unfriendly” to the Islamic Republic. As a desperate measure, gas rationing has been introduced on a scale not seen since World War II.

And Israel, which itself has to import more than 98% of it’s petroleum supplies, has just announced that unless other nations become involved, it would have no option other than stage a “first strike” attack against Iran “with all necessary military options on the table” (meaning the possible use of it’s nuclear arsenal against the Iranians).

While this scenario hasn’t yet become reality, what is frightening is that is could occur as early as two years from now. A new president will be occupying the White House and most likely a foreign policy agenda that could be quite different that what has emanated from Washington since the invasion of Iraq in March, 2003. The new Administration, especially one controlled by the Democratic Party, might be more willing to compromise with countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia for the sake of obtaining more petroleum supplies. And that compromise might be one that would force Israel to pursue a military strike option against Iran.

Alternative energy measures, including using more hybrid automobiles, solar energy, hydrogen and fuel cells will eventually reduce world dependence on “black gold”. But these measures may take several more years to become viable enough to push petroleum into the background as a major energy source, and relegate it to being more important for use in the petrochemical and related industries. After all, fuel cells have been talked about for over 40 years. This is also true of developing cars and other vehicles that would run solely on electricity – possibly even powered by solar panels. The technology is currently available, but the major oil countries have shelved many of these innovations in order to continue making high profits.

The rising price of oil is also pushing up the price of gold, now above $800 per ounce. And while gold has much less ‘practical use’ than oil, it is a yardstick measure of inflation and financial crises.

The profits of the oil companies may be coming to an end, however. To reinforce this stark reality, an appropriate quote was once made by the famous American comedian and actor of the 1930’s, Will Rogers, when he said in respect to petroleum: “they ain’t making it anymore”. And sure enough, this is so true.

Circumcism or Cataclysm

It appears that convicted assassin Yigal Amir has got the best of it after all. Despite not less than 3 petitions to the High Court of Justice, and a crowd of angry protestors outside of Ayalon Prison where Amir is incarcerated, he and a select group of family members were allowed to consecrate his son into the covenant of Israel. Though the ceremony was supposed to be “minimal” with Amir showing up for it in handcuffs and wearing prison garb, the fact that Attorney General Meny Mazuz refused to interfere only validates Amir being granted this privilege which comes on the heels of being allowed to perform his “marriage right” with his wife, Larissa Trembobler, which resulted in her becoming pregnant with his child.

When interviewed early Sunday morning by an Israel Radio news reporter, an unnamed prison official said as follows: “Yes, damn him; we will open a small section of the prison hospital for this event. But it will be as brief and as minimal as possible!”

Saturday evening, on the eve of the date that has now gone down as one of the most tragic in modern Jewish history, at least 150,000 people gathered in Rabin Square to mourn together the 12th anniversary of that fateful night, November 4, 1995. What makes the entire affair so tragically meaningful to many in the State of Israel is that not only a great leader was slain on that night; but Israel’s claim to be a moral ‘light unto to nations’ was severely challenged as well. Democracy and religious tolerance has been challenged by religious fanaticism in a manner not unlike that of countries in medieval Europe, or here in the Middle East. Reports circulating around the country say that at least half of world religious Jewry. In fact, more than 120,000 copies of an inflammatory CD have been circulated throughout both Israel and the religious Jewish world calling for Amir’s release from prison.

What this amounts to, along with groups fanatically opposing any kind of peace deal with the Palestinians, is a division among the people themselves – a line drawn in the sand as the old saying goes. Either one steps over it and joins that element dedicated to instituting their way, or choose to take another path which might lead to peace. This was the path that Yitzhak Rabin so reluctantly chose to stride on. And that “path” resulted in his paying the ultimate price at the hands of a religious Jew who had formerly worked for a government sponsored religious studies program and was studying to become a lawyer. Anyone who has studied or practices law knows that a lawyer must agree to uphold the laws of the state of country in which he or she practices. Obviously, Amir chose to walk a different path altogether.

When Amir’s son reaches an age when he can confront the issue of what his father did, what will be feelings about it, and how will his fellow Israelis feel about it? If already hundreds of thousands of Israelis feel that Amir should be pardoned for his crime, how many will feel this way in 13 years when the boy will be Bar Mitzvah age? What is justice, or someone’s interpretation of justice? Is Civil Jurisprudence to be usurped by religious fanaticism as it has been in countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia? Western countries like America or even Gt. Britain would now have allowed Yigal Amir the concessions he has received. Why has this country’s officials chosen to do so?

Hezbollah Fully Rearmed

Hezbollah Ready
A UN intelligence report has revealed that not only has the Lebanon based Hezbollah fully rearmed itself, but they also have long range rockets capable of striking anywhere in the central Dan Region. The report, which was turned over to Israeli military officials, disclosed that much of the arms have been smuggled over from Syria and that the rockets include ones capable of reaching more than 250 km – more than enough distance to reach any target in central Israel. The report said that by smuggling arms in from Syria, and by rearming their forces in areas south of the Litani River, Hezbollah’s actions were in violation of UN resolution 1701, which was approved by the Security Council following the 2006 war with Israel.

Another disturbing element was information by the Israeli military noted armaments acquired by Hezbollah include advanced surface to sea missiles for use against enemy naval vessels. This information disclosed Hezbollah now has at least three times as many land to sea missiles than it had at the outbreak of the war in July, 2006. Judging from the fact that an Israeli missile boat was sunk during this conflict, this revelation is not good news. Needless to say, this report was taken as being very serious by both Israeli military officials and UN officials, including Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.

Even without this report, Hezbollah’s renewed presence along Lebanon’s border with Israel has been increasing with yellow Hezbollah flags once again in place in many areas. Hezbollah has even had the “Chutzpah” to display large posters with pictures of the captured Israeli solders, Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser with captions in English relating to all the Hezbollah fighters and other men being held by Israel.

Does this mean that another round of fighting is due to break out along the now peaceful Israel Lebanese border? This is anybody’s guess, especially with the upcoming conference in Annapolis scheduled to take place next month. The recent attack by Israeli aircraft on a suspected nuclear facility in northeast Syria has also added fuel to the fire; and although Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad is not the same character as his father Hafiz was, he might still attempt some kind of conflict to raise his clout in the Arab world. All of this coincides with Turkey’s border conflict against Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq. Turkey and Israel presently enjoy good diplomatic and military relations, which could become aggravated if a new regional war between Israel, Lebanon and Syria should break out.

Why Olmert Doesn’t Give A Piss

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert appears to ‘have let the cat out of the bag on Monday when he announced during a press conference that he has been diagnosed with prostate cancer. Olmert, who has previously tried to show that he is in the best of health, said that the tumor found during a “routine examination” was ‘microscopic’ in size and the once removed he stood an excellent chance of being cured without having to undergo either chemo or radiation therapy.

Olmert, aged 62, told his audience that the surgical procedure, planned to take place next month, and following the scheduled peace conference in America, would not keep him from performing his duties as head of state. The announcement was aired on a number of international news networks, including Sky News and CNN.

Professor Shuki Shemer, a former Health Ministry Director and specialist in treating prostate cancer, said that Olmert’s condition is more prevalent in men over age 60, although it can strike younger men too. The disease is curable if caught in time, i.e., before the malignancy spreads outside the prostate gland, which is located in men between the bladder and urethra.

Olmert thought it necessary to advise his condition to the public, his press aids said. he wanted to assure everyone, especially the general public, that his condition is not life threatening and is 90% curable. Following his return from the Annapolis conference, Olmert will undergo a three hour surgical procedure to remove his prostate gland. Judging from men who had undergone this “procedure” however, recovery is not immediate and is often accompanied with temporary problems of incontinence or inability to hold urine in the bladder. Anyone who has visited a urology department of a major hospital and seen men walking along pulling a bag of bloody urine can testify to the fact that prostate surgery (in the event of a tumor) is no picnic.

Olmert himself had to take over the reins of government nearly two years ago when Ariel Sharon was stricken with a massive stroke in January, 2006. Due to this incident, it is hoped that arrangements have been made for the assistant prime minister to temporarily stand in during Olmert’s incapacity. Though prostate cancer is a much slower progressing malignancy than other forms of cancer, it still must be dealt with in time. French President Francois Mitterand died of this disease several years ago, and Ezer Weizman, a former Israeli President, also contracted the disease.

Despite the fate of Mr. Mitterrand, only 16% of men affected with prostate cancer will have any symptoms, and only 6% will eventually die from the disease due to its slow metastasis or spreading.

Professor Shemer noted that men in their 60’s had a 50 – 60% chance to be stricken by prostate cancer, while men over 70 have an 80% chance. “It’s just something that all men eventually face due to the gland’s designed function”, he added.

Security Fence Out of Funds

Security Fence Out of Funds
Something that will make a lot of Palestinians happy, as well as left wing supporters, was an announcement by the Defense Ministry that the security fence project is running out of funds. Asst. Defense Minister and Knesset member Matan Vilnai noted that there is only about half a billion New Shekels available in the Defense Budget’s funds allotment to continue work on the project which began in earnest following the outbreak of the Second Intifada uprising in September, 2000. The fence, actually a concrete wall in most places where it has been erected, has given some security to populated areas such as neighborhoods in Jerusalem and communities and settlements located adjacent to Palestinian cities like Kal kiliya and Tulkarem.

The barrier, which has literally run through lands belonging to Palestinian farmers, and has caused many Palestinians to go long distances to circumvent it, including those needing medical care, and has become a symbol of separation between the Palestinians and Israelis. It also became a symbol when David Gilmour’s Pink Floyd band played a special concert on lands adjacent to “The Wall”. Gilmour himself wrote a special message on a barrier section against “The Occupation” and the separation which has been called an act of apartheid by international personalities such as former U.S. President Jimmy Carter.

Many Israelis, however, believe that the barrier has prevented many terror attacks, and that fewer have occurred during the past two years may testify to this fact. Many critical security areas have yet to be included within this barrier, including Bethlehem (near the southern Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo), south of Mt. Hebron, the Ariel projection, and many more. Most of the sections in the area in what is known as the Judean section of the West Bank remain to be completed. The entire area to be enclosed by the barrier is shown in red on the included map.

“Until now, the government has invested more than six billion New Shekels ($ 1.25 Billion) on the barrier; but stopping the project now would be like throwing this amount in the trash” a senior security ministry official remarked. The official believes that the government “has gotten cold feet regarding completing the project”.

The budgetary problem has literally put a halt to the project’s construction plans for the entire 2008 fiscal year. The planned government budget for 2008 is in the neighborhood of N.S. 1.3 Billion; but with overall Defense Ministry budget cutbacks along with overall government budget restructuring, at least N.S. 500 Million has still not been given by the government to complete the 2007 construction plan. This means that at lest N.S. 1.8 – 2 Billion will be needed to finish the present construction and including the section planned for 2008.

Does this mean that the entire project has turned into a massive “white elephant”? The length of the still to be competed section of the barrier in 790 kilometers, with only 450 km being so far completed. About 80 km is only partially completed, with another 260 km either still being considered or in disputed areas where various legal in junctions have been filed by both Palestinians and “anti-fence” activists in Israeli courts. Some very critical security areas in the Jerusalem section were recently completed; but other parts have yet to be completed. These sections in particular are ones so often shown on various foreign news medias such as CNN. Despite literally hundreds of thousands of New Shekels spent on making barrier sections, guard posts, and other items for still yet to be constructed areas, the Defense Ministry has issued overall orders to halt further construction until the financial issue is settled – one way or the other.

Why, Larissa?

Continuous media attention of both Yitzhak Rabin’s murderer, Yigal Amir and his wife, Larissa Trimbobler, has made some people to wonder just who is this woman who became so interested in this man who has become Israel’s number one local villain, even twelve years after this terrible act took place. Along with this, why has she jeopardized not only her own personal life, as well as that of her children, but her career as well for a man with such a taint on his personal character.

Many may not be aware that Larissa’s acquaintance with Yigal Amir goes back much further than the aftermath of that fateful night on November 4, 1995. Larissa first met Amir when he was (would you believe) working as a teacher in Russia for the Israeli government. Following Rabin’s Assassination, she began to correspond with Amir as she shared many ideological views with him as they are both ultra orthodox in their religious practice. Larissa was married at the time to a man named Benjamin (last name not published by the media for the sake her children) and had four children from him, the eldest being age 15. Following her immigration to Israel, she continued to correspond with Yigal Amir and also began contact by telephone. Amir is normally allowed only one visit by a family member per week, plus one daily fifteen minute phone call. When their relationship became more intense, Larissa managed to convince prison authorities to allow her more contact with Yigal on the grounds that she was making a study of his behavior. She has a PHD in Medieval Jewish and Islamic History and a MA in Biology, but not a formal background in either psychology or sociology.

Following her divorce from Benjamin in 2003, Larissa Trembobler’s relationship with Amir became even more intense, and in 2004, announced that she and Amir planned to get married by proxy (they were not allowed a formal wedding ceremony). They were married by proxy later that year, with a friend of Yigal standing in for him.

The rest of the story has become more well known to the public due to the intense coverage it has received by the media, both in and outside of Israel. Following legal efforts to have herself inseminated artificially by Amir’s sperm, which they even tried to smuggle out of Ayalon Prison where he is incarcerated, they were finally allowed a 10 hour co-nuptial visit in January, 2007. Larissa has continually campaigned to have more visits with her husband, and her pregnancy with Amir’s child has been followed intensely by the press, including international news agencies like CNN. Since announcing her engagement and subsequent marriage to Yigal Amir, she lost her employment position at Open University, and has had to support herself and her children by undertaking editing and translation work. She also published a book in Russian with her ex-husband entitled: A Mirror for a Prince. She has a web-blog in Russian which is said to be gaining in readership.

At the time of the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, Yigal Amir was a third year law student at Bar Ilan University. He had a girl friend, Maraglit Har-Sheffi who had similar right winged views as he did. Following Rabin’s murder, Har-Sheffi was tried and convicted of conspiracy, due to her alleged knowledge of Amir’s intentions to murder the prime minister. Although she proclaimed her innocence of this crime, she was convicted and served several months in prison. She still claims that she is innocent, and many believed she was framed.

As for Amir himself, a growing movement of right-winged and religious supporters have been waging a campaign to free him from prison. While some of these supporters are saying that he has “suffered enough for his crime” others are saying that he is innocent and did not actually kill Rabin. Larissa would naturally like to see her husband gain his freedom, especially since she is about to give birth to his child – and a son at that. Prison authorities are not planning to grant him any special consideration to attend the ritual circumcision of his son; and both judicial and government authorities alike agree that Yigal Amir will never gain his freedom.

So, why did Larissa do what she did, especially in light of her own children, whose lives will be greatly affected forever by her actions? What’s more, what about the child about to be born? What will his future be, and how will this affect him? Only time will answer these questions, and many will agree that time is often a cruel mistress.

Gaydamak: Why Is Everyone Picking On Me

Like Charley Brown, the unfortunately character in the “Peanuts” comic strip and hit song by The Coasters, billionaire Arkady Gaydamak is once again sparring with Israeli law enforcement officials. This most recent round of verbal and written attacks from Gaydamak stems from allegations that he is involved in a number of illegal activities, including money laundering which stems from a large sum of money which the financier deposited briefly in Bank Hapoalim ($50,000,000), and authorities had said originated from “questionable sources”.

What has made matters even more problematic is that Gaydamak recent placed letter ads in local papers to prove his innocence. These ads lashed out against several top law enforcement officials, including Police Investigations and Intelligence chief Yohanan Danino, State Prosecutor Ella Rubinek, and Justice Ministry employee Yitzhak Blum for severe acts of libel and using their positions for “illegal acts against a private citizen’s civil rights”.

Police and other legal spokespersons have responded harshly to Gaydamak’s remarks by saying that nothing he says or does will deter them form carrying out their investigations to determine Mr. Gaydamak’s possible criminal acts. This is not the first time that numerous allegations have been made regarding the billionaire’s business and financial activities; and Gaydamak for his part also placed large ads in the newspapers in his defense. One of the most notable was back in October, 2006 regarding the “Bank Hapoalim Affair”.

Since arriving in Israel a few years ago, Gaydamak has made considerable effort to “legitimize” himself with the Israeli public. His effort have included purchasing the Beitar Jerusalem Football Club and numerous business concerns; and giving assistance to persons in distress during both the July/August 2006 Lebanese war and from Palestinian rockets hitting Sderot and other southern Israel communities. Gaydak’s brief involvement in the Tiv Taam non-kosher food chain turned out to be one of his not so prudent investments, however, as adverse publicity on behalf of the TV Kolbotek consumer program against Tiv Taam, resulted in Gaydamak divesting himself of all of his holdings in that enterprise, the last of it in the aftermath of Kolbotek’s most recent revelations concerning poultry and other meat products left on the loading docks of cold storage plants for long periods without refrigeration. The “Tiv Taam Affair” has cost Gaydamak a considerable amount of money, as he wound up selling his shares for considerably less than the purchase price.

Gaydamak’s political ambitions, which include running for mayor of Jerusalem, have not been helped by these latest police investigations into his numerous business affairs. Though he keeps insisting that his civic rights are being violated, the police and legal officials being named in his ads have now said that Gaydamak’s remarks “border on criminal”. Earlier investigations against Gaydamak, particularly the money laundering one, wound up being dropped with the police saying that Gayda was not guilty of any criminal charges from this matter. If this is so, then why are they still “picking on him” as the old song goes?

Tiv Taam: Strike Three

Tiv Taam CatAhh, Tiv Taam: that non-kosher Israeli supermarket chain that always seems to be in the news these days – from an adverse publicity mode, that is. Once again the chain has been the subject of intense investigation by the Channel 2 TV watch dog program, Kolbotek, narrated by Rafi Ginat. And as in previous investigations, the problem still seems to center around the way the chain’s poultry products are handled prior to sale to the general public.

For some reason, the big ‘beef’ against this chain, which still enjoys high popularity among the Israeli public, especially those from the former Soviet Union, continues to be in regards to how chicken and other poultry products, including eggs, are received, processed, and eventually sold. Kolbotek recently sent several of its secret cameramen to Tiv Taam’s main meat processing plant in Rishon L’Zion, outside of Tel Aviv. What appeared to transpire there is definitely an eye-opener, as it was divulged that boxes of fresh poultry delivered to the location are left sitting in the unloading area for hours before finally taken into the plant’s cold storage rooms. No matter if it rained or shined, the boxes might be left sitting there for a long enough period to ‘culture’ millions of e coli and salmonella bacteria, as well as a host of other creepy crawlies.

What really amazed most viewers, however was the presence of scores of fat cats who wandered around the premises at will and feasted on meals of raw chicken and other meat products. It wasn’t that Tiv Taam employees felt sorry for the cats and threw them tasty tidbits. The cats received their nourishment from the chickens that had been delivered to the plant for sale to Tiv Taam customers! None of cats appeared to be hungry; and in fact, most of them were even a great deal overweight. One cat in particular was photographed near some “food” and didn’t touch it as he (or she) had already eaten more than enough.

Cat and other animal lovers are probably thrilled to hear about how well this company is taking care of its “feline friends” Others, however, are not too happy to learn about this. Rafi and the Kolbotek gang also referred back to previous Tiv Taam transgressions which included ‘doctoring’ up chickens with a vinegar and water solution to remove the spoiled smell from poultry that was ‘way past it’s selling prime’. The excessively large numbers of bacteria found on the poultry at that time (nearly two years ago) was way above the maximum limit for safe human consumption. The cats don’t seem to mind all those ‘bugs’, however.

Throughout all of these investigations, little or not mention of the company’s non-kosher or treiff meat products have been mentioned, other than the fact that these products are sold in large quantities; as well as non-kosher fish products including shellfish and sturgeon. Perhaps the Kolbotek people know that it’s better to keep a “hands off” approach to the non-kosher meats in order to placate religious viewers. All of this adverse publicity has no doubt delighted the religious public, who would like to see the chain, which is open on the Sabbath and religious holidays closed down for good.

It’s too bad that the people running this chain didn’t get the message and clean up their act before the entire problem reached this stage. For many, Tiv Taam has been a nice alternative to many of the regular kosher supermarkets who seem to always have the same grocery products and are even a bit on the boring side. Being open on the weekends has also been a plus, especially when people run out of certain items; especially vegetables, bread and dairy products.

This is the third time that Tiv Taam has been hauled onto the carpet regarding it’s poultry products (the second time involved eggs not under refrigeration and sold long after their saleable date). The company’s owners, who tried recently to unload the food chain on Billionaire Arkady Gaydamak, don’t seem to care about all the bad vibes being received. It may still be a bit premature, but with “three strikes” against them, Tiv Taam may discover that as in the case of an American Major League baseball game, they could be on the verge of ‘striking out’!

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