Israeli soldier entertains Palestinian kids at the border. Who says soldiers aren’t humane?
Israeli soldier entertains Palestinian kids at the border. Who says soldiers aren’t humane?
He sits alone in a wheel chair in one of metropolitan Tel Aviv’s many “parent’s houses”, otherwise known to Westerners as nursing homes. The man, Abie Nathan, who formerly dedicated his life to promoting peace between Israel and her neighbors as well as helping to alleviate the suffering of fellow human beings the world over, recently “celebrated” his 80th birthday as a sick and crippled pensioner. His main wish, as sadly noted in a feature article in last Friday’s Yidiot Ahronot newspaper: to be provided with a pistol in order to end his personal suffering.
How could his have happened to a man, a former IAF and El Al pilot and Tel Aviv restaurant owner, whose AM/FM radio station broadcasted daily for so many years from “somewhere in the Mediterranean”, and whose good deeds became known by many unfortunate and disaster stricken people who had long given up hope – until he entered their lives? Abie Nathan was simply a very unique human being during the years that he invested so much of himself and his limited resources into trying to make the world a better place. These efforts were especially prevalent during the 1970’s and 80’s when his Peace Ship sat anchored less than a mile offshore Israel’s largest city, and whose bright and breezy radio broadcasts brought not only the latest pop tunes to his adoring listeners, but messages of hope, peace, and reconciliation to everyone in the eastern Mediterranean: From Greece to Egypt.
Abie could have made a sizable profit from the advertising revenues he received, as well as various donations to his various causes. Instead, he spent his entire revenues not only to promote his message of peace, but to provide food, medicines and other assistance to people as far away as Biafra Africa, Mexico and Nicaragua, whenever a natural or man-made disaster struck and caused so many to suffer. News clips of him walking among children, passing out toys, candy and other items to their smiling faces, often brought smiles to many. His philanthropic projects were in fact so numerous that it eventually bankrupted him and forced him to shut down his radio station and even scuttle the very ship where his crew had mostly been made up of young volunteers who often put in 16 hour days without any financial compensation.
Abie Nathan’s efforts to promote peace between his adopted country and her hostile neighbors often got him into trouble with various Israeli governments, who viewed his clandestine meetings with Palestinian and other Arab personalities as seditious and even traitorous; and prevented him from receiving any formal recognition from his own country. These rejections resulted in him being prevented from nomination for such prestigious awards as the Israel Prize, and that “jewel in the crown” that is awarded annually in the city of Oslo, Norway, the Nobel Prize.
For many people, particularly we “Anglos” who gave up the comforts of Western countries to settle in Israel, Abie’s daily broadcasts from the Peace Ship made our lives more tolerable and helped us to persevere in spite of being so far away from our former way of life. Whether it was listening to the latest rock and roll and other pop music hits, or to the VOP’s evening Twilight Time mellow renditions of earlier more tranquil years, Abie Nathan’s comforting voice was appreciated by all who listened to his message.
And now, near the end of his long life, Abie sits alone and dejected; a forgotten crusader for humanity, unable to function, and barely able to speak after two paralyzing strokes – his only wish now is to be able to die with what little dignity still remains still remains in his aged, frail body in a country that has passed him and his dreams by in this ‘brave new world’ of religious and secular extremism that is now threatening to engulf us all.
Is this a proper and fitting end for a man to whom so many owe so much, and whose tireless efforts are only now beginning to be appreciated? Surely someone in the world, especially in Israel, will finally decide to give this great man the long delayed recognition he deserves – and hopefully while he is still alive to receive it.
Israel prepares to honor its war dead and those killed in acts of terror at Remembrance Day 2007, also known as Yom Hazikaron. Coming just months after last summer’s Lebanon II war, the people of Israel have those killed in this unfortunate episode to add to many others who have fallen in battle or were killed by acts of terror since the founding of the state. Also to be remembered are the three captured Israeli soldiers: Eldad Regev, Ehud Goldwasser, and Gilad Shalit. Shalit was captured in late June when his patrol unit was attacked on the border with Gaza; Regev and Goldwasser were captured by the Hezbollah July 12 on Israel’s northern border with Lebanon – an act which sparked a war that ended more than a month later with more than 150 Israelis killed, including 38 civilians from 4,000 Katyusha rocket attacks.
Since the early 1980’s and the war known as Operation Peace for Galilee, or Lebanon I, a number of Israeli soldiers have been reported as either missing in action or captured. So far, none of these soldiers have returned alive, and many, including Air Force Flight Navigator Ron Arad, have been missing for years. It was only in the Yom Kippur War that some captured prisoners were returned alive, many after spending several months as prisoners in either Egyptian or Syrian jails or prison camps.
The reality of this past and recent scenario is that Israeli soldiers captured alive do not appear to have much likelihood of ever coming home again to their families; alive that is.
Recent optimism concerning a prisoner exchange with the Palestinians for the release of Corporal Gilad Shalit seems to be constantly frustrated as demands made by the Hamas dominated Palestinian Authority for the inclusion of prisoners with “blood on their hands” are just not acceptable by Israel. In regards to the other two being held by the Hezbollah, their spiritual leader, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, knows how to play on the emotions of concerned relatives as they did several years back when the remains of three Israeli soldiers, and a reserve officer named Elhanan Tenenbaum, were exchanged for more than 1,000 Lebanese and Palestinian prisoners.
On Sunday night, April 22, Yom Hazikaron will begin in Israel with a special memorial ceremony at Mt. Herzl in Jerusalem. While special remembrance flames will be lit there, and at numerous ceremonies around the country, we must all pause to say a prayer for the three captive soldiers and hope that they will soon be released and back with their loving families.
That’s what Yom Hazikaron is all about: not just to memorialize the dead, but to pray for the living as well.
The furor over Balad Party leader Azmi Bashara’s political future makes many Israelis wonder if he may be the beginning of other Arab Israeli Knesset parliamentarians going over to “the other side”. And that ‘other side’ may be Israel’s enemies, including radical Islamic countries like
Syria and Iran.
Mr. Bashara’s radical political views in respect to being a member of the Israeli Knesset have often gotten him into trouble with the Israeli government, particularly among the more right wing political spectrum, including the Likud and other parties who take a dim view of such actions. Bashara’s frequent trips to neighboring Arab countries, resulting in his hob-knobbing with such people as exiled Hamas leader Khalid Mashal and Syrian leader Bashar Al-Assad, has resulted in many Israelis calling for his ouster from his parliamentary seat as well as indictment for seditious anti-government activities. Other Arab Knesset political leaders, including Taal Party leader Dr. Ahmad Tibi seem moderate in comparison to Bashara, who has been advocating the disillusion of the Jewish character of the state in favor of a secular one.
Presently “languishing” in a posh Amman Jordan hotel suite, Bashara is now pondering both his political as well as personal future. Carefully weighing his options, he is considering returning to Israel and coming into the line of fire by an unfriendly, Jewish parliamentary majority; who seem bent on kicking him and possibly his political party of Israel for good. Or, to voluntarily give up his Knesset seat and show his true personal and political “spots” by officially emigrating to either Syria, Lebanon, or Jordan.
Syria, and possibly other countries unfriendly to Israel may want to use Bashara as a propaganda tool against the Jewish State by having him send a clear message to other Arabs holding Israeli nationality that the time has come for them to decide as with whom their loyalty really lies. For Bashara himself, it’s becoming more and more evident regarding where he wants to be; and that place is not within a Jewish dominated and governed republic. One might wonder if Bashara would consider becoming involved in Palestinian politics; but most likely, even he is not that stupid, judging from the current state of anarchy which is tearing the Palestinian Authority apart and which almost led to civil war.
Most Israelis would like to see Bashara exit Israeli politics and the country as well. His continued presence in both has been damaging to all, to say the very least. Other Israeli Arab politicians, many of whom live very comfortable lives in the Jewish Republic, must now decide who really butters their bread; for life in most neighboring Arab countries, including Egypt and Jordan, may not be nearly as pleasant as life within the ‘confines’ of the State of Israel.
At the end of the day, many Israeli politicians may decide that they have never had it so good, Bashara included.
The Israeli Ambassador at the U.N. began, “Ladies and gentlemen before I commence with my speech, I want to relay an old Passover story to all of you …
“When Moses was leading the Jews out of Egypt toward the Promised Land, he had to go through the nearly endless Sinai desert. When they reached the Promised Land, the people had became very thirsty and needed water. So Moses struck the side of a mountain with his staff and a pond appeared with crystal clean, cool water. The people rejoiced and drank to their hearts’ content.
“Moses wished to cleanse his whole body, so he went over to the other side of the pond, took all of his clothes off and dived into the cool waters. The only problem was when Moses came out of the water, he discovered that all his clothes had been stolen.
‘And,’ he said, ‘I have reason to believe that the Palestinians stole my clothes.'”
The Palestinian delegate to the UN, hearing this accusation, jumps from his seat and screams out, “This is a travesty. It is widely known that there were no Palestinians there at that time!”
“And with that in mind,” said the Israeli Ambassador, “let me now begin my speech.”
Announcement of the formation of a Palestinian “National Unity” government hasn’t been positively received by neither Israel nor the United States. Following a state of near civil war between factions led by Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh and Fatah head Mahmoud Abbas, the two groups finally agreed to form a Palestinian version of a government of national unity. Almost immediately after this feat was done, with kisses and smiles by the two sides, P.A. Prime Minister Haniyeh repeated his party’s announcement that the new government had no plans to recognize Israel. Israeli P.M. Olmert countered by declaring that Israel would not recognize the new government, and will continue its boycott as long as current policies were in place.
These policies include continuance of terror attacks against Israeli targets, smuggling of weapons into P.A. territory, and the continued holding of Cpl. Gilad Shalit. Shalit, who has been held captive by Palestinian terrorists (and perhaps formally by Hamas itself) has not been heard from since his capture at the end on June, 2006. The only indication that he may still be alive comes from a letter in January, 2007, which reportedly was written by the captive soldier to his parents.
The new government did enable some commerce to take place between Israel and the P.A. when more than 1,300 tons of strawberries, 18 million flowers, and 1,600 tons of fresh vegetables were allowed to pass from Gaza to Israeli and European markets via the Karni Checkpoint. Even that gesture was shattered on Monday with a Palestinian instigated shooting attack against Israeli transport drivers and electrical workers. When asked about this incident, and how it might effect future relations between the two sides, P.A. government spokesman Naazi Hamed said that despite this shooting incident Palestinian P.M. Haniyeh “will make all efforts to keep the ceasefire in effect between Palestine and Israel”. Those ‘efforts’ apparently haven’t worked though, in light of Monday’s shooting incident. When asked by a Channel 2 reporter if Cpl Shalit’s fate will be decided soon, Mr. Hamed didn’t seem to have any good news either. “We (the new P.A. government) are making all efforts to solve this issue” he continued.
As a side note, it seems that some European governments are agreeing to recognize the new P.A. government as being official. The Swiss government was one of the first to send their ambassador from Israel to meet with both Haniyeh and Abbas. Even the U.S. government, though not officially recognizing the new P.A. entity announced that they would still meet with Mr. Abbas and his ministers. Since they (Abbas and the PLO) are now part of the new N.U. government, this announcement on behalf of the American government is almost like de-facto recognition.
The Israeli military is watching events in Gaza very closely; and despite the shooting incident is showing remarkable restraint. How long this restraint can continue, especially in light of Monday’s terror incident is anybody’s guess.
One might wonder what Yasser Arafat, the founding father of the PLO, and whose call for armed resistance continued throughout his life, would have done in the present situation. With Arafat in charge, it would surely be “business as usual”.
And with Abbas and Haniyeh now running the show, Arafat would have smiled.
This is the OneJerusalem.com Year in Review – just a partial list, things that caught the eye..
Some Pics from the year and our associated posts. Happy New Year everyone!
To the families of the missing soldiers we hope to see them all back home soon.
The recent fighting in the Palestinian Territories between Hamas and Fatach prompted some to suggest that a wall be built to seperate the feuding sides. Another one…
The meeting between Olmert and Abu Mazen is in the news. The meeting ended with some hugs, kisses and a $100 Million check. Olmert defrosted the hold placed on the PA’s funds as a gesture of good faith and today was looking for some support to his initiative to release prisoners for the upcoming Id El Adcha holiday.
Both leaders needed this shot in the arm, in Abu Mazen’s case it may literlally be a Shot in the Arm….Hamas is mockingly calling his meeting with Olmert, a call for help. Olmert on his end is trying to explain that these generous concessions are legit despite the fact that Qasam rockets are still hitting Sderot daily and the return of Gilad Shalit (183 days in captivity) is nowhere in sight.
This may be a meeting meant to strengthen Abu Mazen’s position in the PA but the question is who will be the running show in the coming weeks. The US is interested in seeing Abu Mazen in power and Hamas out but is that enough? Didn’t the democratic process in the PA show that this is the choice made by the Palestinian?
Stephen Hawking is in Israel and was just interviewed on the Yair Lapid show. A truely remarkable man. Yair asked him a few good questions. He wanted to know “why Israel?” Hawking was here last time in 1990 and felt that the news wasn’t providing a real picture of what’s going on so he decided to see for himself. He also said he was sad to see the new fence being built. His visits have always included the Palestinian Territories as well as Israel and he feels that things have gotten worse.
He believes that our future here on earth is uncertain and that we need to invest more into exploring space. Space is the future.
Another question that Yair asked him, “did you ever think about ending it all?” – he answered that every person has the right to do with his life as he pleases. He also believes that every person has something he is good at and that where there is life there is hope.
It was a good interview with an inspiring man.
Caricature by Moshik!
The second highest ranking soldier in the country is today warning us of the imminent and growing danger from Iran and Hezbollah. This afternoon General Moshe Kaplinsky provided a grim picture as he went over the future of the Middle East and beyond. He made clear his belief that Iran is stalling and that Hezbollah is getting ready for round Two. Some excerpts from his speech to local government reps today:
“A nuclear capable Iran is a survival threat on Israel that will also have other effects in the Middle East – like pressure on unstable governments in the region. The Iranian threat will extend far beyond Israel and include most of Europe as well.”
“Iran is successfully maneuvering around the political pressure that is supposed to prevent her from getting new arms. Recently Iran received Russian made defense missiles, and there are advanced stage negotiations with China for future weapon deals. There are speculations and discussions about the nuclear capabilities for Iran but it is our understanding that Iran will reach its nuclear capability in the near future.”
“Iran is turning Syria into its protégé and is deepening its involvement in the country. Same as its doing in the Palestinian Authority. The Iranians are helping with money, training, establishing new terrorist cells and arms in Gaza and the West Bank. The Iranians are not excluding any terror group, regardless of religion or ideology, and as the connection between Hezbollah, Syria, Hamas and Iran continues we must be more worried and alert to the widening threat.”
Not commenting directly on the Baker Report released yesterday, the General said that depending on how the US will make its exit from Iraq, providing and answer on the question of Iraqi leadership will effect Israel and the entire Middle East.
The Good news is that as result of the Lebanon war there is a moderate Islamic nations Axis that includes Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and some of the Gulf countries. Together we may be able to find a common ground to work against the radical countries and the “axis of evil”.
The army has been under severe scrutiny in recent weeks starting with the lack luster results of the Second Lebanon War and the public mud slinging between some disgruntled commanders in the army and reserve soldiers. Things got worse recently with the Annual Public report put forward by the “State Controller” (Mevaker Hamedina) that sighted severe deficiencies in the training, logistical management and overall operations control within the Army.
“We are in the middle of a through examination and learning process from the last war. We are not looking to assign guilt, we are looking to learn and improve so that we can address the challenges the future will bring. We are not waiting and we have already began applying the lessons learned to improve and address known deficiencies.”
The caricature shows the Syrian, Iranian and Hezbollah leaders reading the report and asking if there is actually a need for an Atom bomb. Good question….
I guess there is no end to the madness. A grandmother of 26 and mother of 9 children blew herself up a couple of days ago, wounding 3 soldiers in Gaza. Fatma Najer apparently was a big fan of Hamas and soon after the explosion a tape was released where she is announcing her intention to blow herself as a dedication to Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails and to Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas. The video showed her wearing a black suicide belt and had an M-16 assault rifle slung over her neck. “I offer myself as a sacrifice to God and to the homeland,” she said. (Ynet News).
This is the oldest suicide bomber to date and its some sort of record (new low I guess). No matter how you think about it it’s wrong. Makes you wonder about the idea of “dear old grandma” blowing herself up and the great legacy left behind for the almost 30 grandchildren and children left behind. The name in one of the local papers was “Grandma Inferno”.
Recent concern expressed over the fate of the 5.2 million strong American Jewish Community, the largest Jewish community outside of Israel, may not be as much as a concern as the fate of Israel’s 6.5 million Jewish community due to an increasing Muslim birth rate and an ominous threat by Israel’s apparent No. 1 enemy: Iran. At last weeks United Jewish Community’s “G.A.” conference held in Los Angeles, at which Israeli P.M. Ehud Olmert (pictured) made a guest appearance; there appears to be a mixed message concerning who really needs who. True, the American Jewish aging community, with an average of 42, and a shrinking birth rate, is a big concern to Jewish leaders there. An increasing security threat to the State of Israel, however, by the Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Palestinians in Gaza and the still disputed West Bank, and particularly by Iran’s accelerating nuclear program; the big question now is whether it is a good idea to have such a large Jewish concentration in such a small country as Israel.
American Jews do have a lot to be concerned about as their numbers have been shrinking over the years due to assimilation and lower birth rates. But the problem of an aging population and small families is also a big concern in many Western countries as in Asian countries like Japan and South Korea as well. concerning the American Jewish Community, with Jewish couples marrying at a much later age and having no more than one or two children, it’s very easy to understand why this is happening. From an economic standpoint, American Jewish women, secular ones that is, are simply more interested in their careers than raising families. When they do marry, Jewish couples face the reality what they have to do in order to raise and educate kids in an increasingly more expensive upper-middle class American society. For example, sending two children to a private Jewish day school can cost parents an average of $1,200 to 1,500 per month, per child, not counting additional fees and payments required by these private institutions who generally receive little or no governmental assistance. Being a full-fledged member of a Jewish community, including joining a Synagogue or Temple also cost big bucks these days, including a member’s contribution towards the Rabbi’s annual salary ‘package’ which can be in excess of $200,000 or more.
A shrinking American Jewish community means bad news in respect to continuing contributions to Israel, including the UIA, Israel Bonds, and many other fundraising campaigns, with hard-pressed American Jewish families simply not having the money to donate to Israeli causes. Though more Americans are considering Aliyah to Israel, especially due to receiving assistance from programs like Nefesh b’Nefesh, many such families and individuals find it very hard to live in the Jewish State due to not being able to find suitable employment and affordable housing.
The increasing threat from Iran is also something that more and Jews are having to deal with, both in Israel and abroad. While American Jews, though lobbies such as AIPAC, are trying to bring more attention to the Iranian threat, Israeli Jews will eventually have to face this threat head-on. Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is not pulling any punches concerning his intentions regarding Israel. These intentions, which could become reality sooner than many think, might require a strong American Jewish Community to be ready to offer assistance, and even shelter, to it’s Israeli Jewish brethren, should this be required.
So, who needs who? It’s simply a question of how one looks at it.
Being kept ‘behind the walls’ is no picnic, if you’re a man. But imagine how is for women who are incarcerated in an Israeli maximum security prison. Though far fewer women wind up behind prison walls in Israel, those who do are often repeat offenders who come from bad home environments where they were physically and mentally abused; resulting in their turning to alcohol and drugs as an escape. Their need for money to satisfy expensive drug habits resulted in their turning to committing crimes ranging from theft to robbery to even murder.
Though fewer prisons have facilities for women inmates, one prison, Neveh Tirza, is specifically known for specializing in dealing with a population of 200 women security prisoners, some of whom are also Arab terrorists. Many of these female inmates have run afoul of the law since their early teens, when abusive home environments, and dropping out of school (if they did attend at all) caused them to turn to crime, including prostitution, to earn money for their drug habit. Those coming from lower economic strata are the most unfortunate as their chances of being rehabilitated are nearly nil. Though prison life is certainly no picnic, for many of these women it is much more ‘stable’ than their former environment on the outside. Once released, many ‘ex-cons’ have virtually nowhere to go, as they are shunned by parents and relatives.
Palestinian female terrorists, such as Ahlan Tanimi, involved in the Sbarro pizza parlor bombing, are also kept here, with occasional clashes between them and Jewish prison inmates.
Prison authorities try to offer educational and vocational courses to prepare their ‘guests’ for living in normal society, once they are released. Even if the inmates do learn a skill, such as sewing or even electronics (including computer programming), being accepted for employment by many employers is difficult at best. Finding a suitable place to live outside the prisons walls, especially if one has little or no money; is also a serious problem for these women who also need intensive emotional support as well. Lack of both often results in their returning to the only “security” they may have ever known.
Governmental authorities, particularly social service agencies, need to be more aware of and sympathetic to the needs of these women to prevent them from turning once again to crime and them returning back to prison walls. Many of these women may have much to contribute to society if they are only given a chance to ‘make it’ in the real world. If not given this chance, they have no alternative other than to return to prison life once again.
Israeli political and military leaders seem to the playing a continuing game of brinksmanship amid increasing calls for their resignation or dismissal. The most publicized ones, including President Moshe Katsav, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert,
Defense Minister Amir Peretz, and Army Chief of Staff Dan Halutz continue to be bombarded by public criticism, despite their attempts to appear to be conducting “business as usual”.
President Katsav, for example, tries to keep himself before the public eye, including appearances and events such as the recent ceremony memorializing the 11th anniversary of slain P.M. Yitzhak Rabin, despite many calls for him not to do so. One of his accusers in his sexual misconduct and rape allegations, known to the public as “A”, is still photographed regularly with her lawyer on the streets of Tel Aviv. He refuses to consider stepping down, at least for another six months.
Both Defense Minister Peretz, and Army Chief of Staff Halutz (see photo), are both on the receiving end on increasing flak following the deteriorating situation in Gaza, as well as due to the recent resignation of one of Israel’s top Northern Command officers, Brig. General Gal Hirsch. Hirsch specifically resigned his commission as a result of both Halutz’s handling of the war with Hezbollah, as well as his attempts to ‘white-wash’ the entire affair afterwards. Peretz, due to his lack of military competence and his inability to accept this fact, seems to be bombarded from all sides. This ‘bombardment’ is even becoming more intense due to the continuing launching of Kassam rockets by the Palestinians which caused the death and serious injury today of two Sderot residents. Sderot, being Amir Peretz’ home town, has become his “albatross”, even as much or more so as the recent war in Lebanon. Few, if any Sderot residents want to have anything to do with him.
As for the “guy at the top”, P.M. Olmert, with whom the ‘buck’ is supposed to stop, as U.S President Harry Truman used to say, he continues to try to perform the most brinksmanship acts of all. His current trip to the U.S.A., for example, which was not only very badly timed, but which doesn’t appear to be accomplishing anything, only adds insult to injury to his already shaky position; and makes him in line to be part of the increasing ‘domino effect’ which will accelerate rapidly should Chief of Staff Halutz be the next one to step down.
Olmert didn’t waste any time leaving Washington following his short stay there, including his meeting with President Bush; himself in an uncomfortable position following the Democratic Party sweep of both Houses of Congress. A former aspiring U.S. Presidential candidate, billionaire IBM magnate H. Ross Perot used to say that if elected President he would “take a shovel and a broom and clean up Congress”. While this feat may have partially been accomplished in the recent U.S. midterm elections, it hasn’t been done yet in Israeli politics. And with all the recent goings on in Israel’s current government, especially those mentioned above, one wonders when some of this ‘shoveling and broom sweeping’ will take place in Israel as well.
With all that’s currently transpiring, it’s sorely needed.
Photo: The Jerusalem Post