OneJerusalem.com

a different side of Israel

Tag: Palestinian (page 8 of 12)

Kidnapped, or “guests” of the Palestinians?

Kidnapped or guests of the Palestinians? Breaking news reports of Fox News journalists Steven Centanni and Olaf Wiig being released by their Palestinian captors, after the two were forced to convert to Islam, was greeted with a sigh of relief today by their Fox News colleagues, as well as by the world media in general. Centanni, Fox’ news anchorman for the Middle East, and Centanni, a Fox cameraman, had been held in captivity for two weeks by a previously unknown Palestinian “splinter group” who made to two not only make remarks against both America and Israel, but to undergo a forced conversion, under gunpoint, to Islam. Though the abduction of Centanni and Wiig were the longest of its kind by the Palestinians, it is definitely not the longest kidnapping of foreigners in this part of the word. News media staff members, and other people as well, have been kidnapped and held by similar insurgent groups in Iraq for months, before being either released of killed by their captors.

Though these two men are now greatly relieved to be free, and will soon be reunited with their families, other captives, Israeli Army corporal Gilad Shavit, and reservists Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev. These three are still the ‘guests’ of either the Hezbollah or of the Palestinians, and their fate is still unknown as no one in Israel has actually seen them since their abductions (Gilad has been missing for nearly six weeks now). Converting to Islam, as Centanni and Wiig are alleged to have done, is a phenomena that has been common throughout Islamic history. What makes this appear to be the norm in the Islamic world is especially true when heard about by Western Society. It’s very simple. Throughout Islam’s colorful history, many Muslims are the product of forced conversions; just like conversions to Christianity were in Spain, Italy, and Portugal during the time of the Inquisition. Though Mr. Centanni and Wiig’s conversions will most likely be disavowed by both, this wasn’t the case in Muslim countries, and many Muslims living today in the Middle East once belonged to other religious faiths.

The three Israeli captives have not been heard from, and no video tapes or DVD’s have been made with their statements, and was the case with the Fox Newsmen. This reality always presents a worrisome picture, as whether the three men are being treated decently; or whether they are even still alive. Hezbollah has so far never released any live Israeli captives, except for Elkanah Tanenbaum. And Tanenbaum’s silence during the entire 34 day ‘Lebanon II” conflict makes many wonder exactly what his real situation might have been during his three years as a ”guest” of the Hezbollah. Will the three captive IDF soldiers, all Jewish, also be given the ‘opportunity’ to convert to Islam as well?

Only with the release of the three Israeli soldiers will their tale be known to both Israel and the world at large. And that is providing they live to tell it.

(Photograph courtesy of AP.)

Our Three Stooges?

Ehud Olmert

Amir Peretz

Dan Halutz

They sit and stand in the park across from the Knesset; the words on their signs, in several languages, and evident to all: Olmert, Peretz, Halutz – Go Home! As the momentum builds and more and more people are now coming to the forefront, including even Yom Kippur and Six Day War Veterans, the message they are trying to convey is being displayed by news media all over the world.

The three personalities noted on the signs, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Amir Peretz, and Army Chief of Staff Dan Halutz, must be having a lot of sleepless nights regarding the uncomfortable positions they now find themselves in: Olmert for his weakness and indecisiveness; Peretz for gross inexperience and being put into a position he had absolutely no qualifications for; and Halutz for his arrogance and egocentrics. Their roles during the 34 day war against both the Hezbollah and Palestinians might be comparable to the antics of a popular American comedy team, The Three Stooges, who entertained movie audiences from the late 1930’s to early 1950’s.

For our purposes, we might compare Ehud to Mo, the leader of the group, Dan to Larry, who always tried to be aloof from the others, and Amir to Curley, the simpleton who always got hit on the head by the other two. A possible beginning war scenario involving this new ‘comedy team’ might have gone like this:

Mo: Hey, we’re being attacked by ‘Hummus-Grubber’ (Narsrallah)! The people want action! What should we do?

Larry: I think we need to attack them ‘big-time’! Like, send them all back to the Stone Age (actually said by Halutz)! What do you think, Curley?

Curley (Remember, he’s the simpleton of the three) yelling into his bullhorn: Yeah, yeah yeah! Woo woo woo Woo woo!

And with that last remark, the other two proceed to hit poor Curley on the head – as the Stooges used to do!

As the war progresses, the ‘Three Stooges’ might even be seen hitting each other with sticks as they blame one another for the mistakes that occur.

And what about all the people who suffered physical injury and property damage during the war? They now sit for hours in the reception rooms of the Property Tax Authorities, in order to present their claims for eventual compensation. Their wait for their number to be called has been so long that many of them either gives up or find that the tax office personnel have gone home for the day before they have to chance to talk to anyone.

Well, the Three Stooges’ have an answer for them as well: “Don’t worry it’ll turn out all right”! With that remark, and for everyone’s sake, let’s certainly hope so!

(Photographs courtesy of Wikipedia.)

Sulha 2006

Israel’s 33 day war with the Hezbollah, now in the midst of a well appreciated cease fire, has created a number of casualties; and not merely ones caused as a direct result of military actions. Scores of scheduled events and happenings, usually slated to take place during the summer holiday period were post phoned or cancelled altogether. One of these events, and one which has made a growing contribution to creating more understanding between peoples inhabiting this region, is known as the Sulha Peace Project, or by its often posted name: Meta Sulha.

Sulha, which means reconciliation in Arabic, is a word often heard, especially in Arab communities, in regards to making peace between families or clans after some kind of dispute which often results in violence. Due to the continuing problem of conflicts and misunderstandings between the people living in Israel, Palestinian populated areas, and in surrounding countries as well, the Sulha Peace Project was formed in the 1990’s to try to bring peoples of various cultural and religious backgrounds together for a few days with the purpose of making an attempt of solving differences by sharing experiences; and just taking to one another in a peaceful and friendly atmosphere. Starting from very humble beginnings, the Project has grown into an annual event that often attracts several thousand participants; not only from Israel, and the P.A., but from abroad as well. Held in different locations each time, last year’s event was held in Park Afek, outside of Tel Aviv; enabling scores of local people to attend who otherwise might not have had the opportunity. Nearly 3,000 attended this event, and a well written article on the affair, including photos of participants, appeared afterwards in the Jerusalem Post.

A number of well known personalities, including government officials, religious leaders such as Rabbis, Muslim and Christian Clergy, and those of other religions as well (Hindus, Buddhists, etc.) have attended past Sulha events and shared their joys and sorrows with one another. One of the Projects organizers, Boaz Ben Yitzhak, has now had to notify all persons planning to attend this year’s Sulha Conclave that it has been cancelled due to the double crises of both the Israel – Palestinian conflict and the renewed one with the Hezbollah as well.

This year’s event, originally scheduled to take place next week in Latrun, might have had an even larger draw than the 2005 Park Afek one. Latrun, being almost midway between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, and with the new city of Modiin nearby, was an ideal spot for his kind of affair, especially considering Laturn’s historical significance in both the War of Independence and the 1967 Six Day War. Even though officially cancelled, Boaz is organizing a special event where Sulha friends and participants will visit northern Israel communities: Jewish, Muslim, Christian, and Druze, to offer whatever assistance possible to help these communities recover from the effects of the almost continuous missile bombardment.

In the aftermath of what is now being called by Israelis as the country’s worst military fiasco since the founding of the state, a lot of human suffering was inflicted to both sides. With all the ‘finger pointing’ now trying to place the blame on both governmental and military leaders ‘from the top on down’, it might be a good idea to admit that there should be a collective responsibility for the way the entire tragedy was handled; and find a way to go forward and repair the inflicted damage, not only the physical, but spiritual and psychological as well. Not only Israelis suffered in this war, but also tens of thousands of Lebanese. As a result, any real chance of peace between Israel and Lebanon has been set back for years, if not forever.

Well, forever is a long time; and people can forgive one another – eventually. What we need now is a healing Sulha of an even greater scale to bring ALL PEOPLES of our region together for a lasting healing and understanding of each other’s differences – and hopefully, eventual peace.

Q&A With A Beirut Resident – Part 3

In this second letter, VJ, a Lebanese Beirut resident, continues with his discussion with our correspondent, of what has caused, and continues to cause, the ongoing conflict between his country and the State of Israel. As in Part I, his comments are posted in his own words.

Hi ………;
Thank you for your reply. True, there are many grey shades over the Middle East conflict ever since it first began, especially that there are many historical narratives to it. To some, Israel is an illegal state that was founded on the basis of deportation and wars. To others, Israel is a fully legal state that was properly and lawfully established, just like the rest of the countries in the world.
As for me, I am totally with an independent, sovereign and LEGAL Israeli state for all its people to live in peace. I am aware of the historical overview that you mentioned, and let me add by saying that the Arab governments and leaders at that time were not that smart or wise in dealing with the Palestinian problem.
However, the Arab mistakes do not justify the Israeli brutality. And the Arab mistakes, do not rule out the fact that Israel did and still does violate International law just like I explained before.
My main point from my previous e-mail is that Israel, by violating international law and acting too aggressively over all its neighbors over the many decades, has generated the hate, the fanaticism and the terror which Israel itself is fighting against today. And I gave you the example of how Hezbollah was born. I’ll say it again in those few lines:

In 1978 the Ambassador of Israel in London is shot and wounded. 6 hours later, 28,000 Israeli-soldiers invaded the Lebanon. They occupied 20% of Lebanon for the next 22 years.
In 1982 Israel re-invaded the Lebanon and occupied another 43% of it. That is when and why, Hezbollah was born………
Israel’s “claim” that this war was against the PLO was false: Everything in Beirut was destroyed, from civilians to infrastructure to hospitals. Nothing was spared. And for what? For an Israeli “ambassador” in “London” that was “wounded”. So, for that ambassador, Israel killed thousands in Lebanon. It violated international law, the PLO got more support, and other groups started popping up, like Hezbollah.
Do you think it was a smart move from Israel?
So again, every time you hate Hasan Nasrallah, remember that it was your government’s present and previous wrong and unjust strategies that made Hasan Nasrallah powerful, making him by far the most popular man in Lebanon and the Arab world today.
I know the justifications about Israel’s occupation of Lebanon and other violations. But the fact remains: it is a violation of international law, and it remained not 1 or 2 years (like 1559), but 22 consecutive years. And what made things worse, is that it was an occupation of a residential land, where people live. Schools, hospitals, mosques, churches and homes were around the place. I am sure those people would praise and worship Hezbollah when they know that Hezbollah is fighting an occupation which has been in their land for so, so long.
As for the suicide bombers; first of all I do not support them. I am against all sorts of violence that targets civilians.
But many, many Palestinians were put in situations like this:
House destroyed.
Parents killed.
No job.
No school.
No future.
People around are still being targeted

How do you expect them to react?
They lost everything, and have no hope in a future. They have a “living body”. That’s it. That’s all what they have. And all of that are because of Israeli policies.
How do you expect such humans to react?
Again, I do not support suicide bombings…but once again, try to analise “why” are they happening and continuing to happening and even being taught in schools. Be careful. I’m not “justifying”. I’m simply trying to “explain” why. I might be totally, totally wrong.
To me, those are the root causes, behind Hezbollah, Nasrallah and a lot of the terrorism in this region.
I hope you would agree with me somewhere. Unless you believe violating international law is justifiable, and that it has no consequences.
Regards.
V.J

Q&A With A Beirut Resident – Part 2

The following is continued from part 1 of the series, in which a Lebanese Beirut resident expresses his candid and very frank views with one of our writers. The issues are both the Israeli-Lebanese conflict, and Israel’s historical role in the region; which he feels has contributed to events as they are today.

Hi ….;
Well, it was a good initiative from you to start the discussion with your views about the conflict, especially Hezbollah.
Allow me to share my views as well. I will be as comprehensive and objective as possible.
Let me begin by expressing my sorrow and sending my condolences for all the innocents who died as in this conflict on your side. I hope this nightmare ends soon.

So, looks like your people and your government are very much angry at Hezbollah. You might be right, you might be wrong. I will not go into the argument of whether Hezbollah is a terrorist organization or not, or whether they should exist or not… since this wouldn’t form a fruitful discussion. Instead, I’ll tackle the issue from this question:

Why was Hezbollah created in the first place?

Hezbollah was founded in the early 80’s, backed by the Iranian revolution, and motivated as a direct response to the Israeli invasion of 1982. Ever since then, Hezbollah had the main target of resisting the Israeli aggression, and then went on and “tried” to implement the “Islamic State” target in the Lebanese Civil war, yet did not succeed in doing that. After the civil war, Hezbollah spread, and got strengthened, supported from so many sides, greatly motivated, and most importantly got very popular in Lebanon as a result of the continuing Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon. All through the 90’s and until now, Hezbollah has been known to be a “resistance” group more than anything else. I am not denying their ambition to form an Islamic state (which is no longer their priority anyway) and neither denying their strong ties to Tehran both ideologically and militarily. Rather I am explaining what made them become sooo popular, strong and even legitimate with Lebanon and even around the Arab and Islamic mainstream: It was the long Israeli aggression on Lebanese lands. This is what gave Hezbollah its ultimate legitimacy in Lebanon and its number 1 reason to obtain weapons of all kinds, take control of the south and have an overwhelming unprecedented public support…until it became an actual part of the society itself. And all those are facts, not views.

So, in other words, if you hate Hezbollah that much…do realize that it is your country’s ILLEGAL and BRUTAL actions are the main reasons behind what Hezbollah is today. Those actions 1) created a motive for Hezbollah to start 2)made Hezbollah popular 3)gave it legitimacy 4) made it more and more powerful.

Regardless of what justifications you might give for Israel’s actions in Lebanon, by an undeniable fact they were 1) illegal 2)brutal. And those two adjectives are more than enough to generate so much hate for Israel and its people (unfortunately) and so much support for Hezbollah, Hamas and other similar groups. Hezbollah did not become popular all of a sudden, or out of the blue sky. Neither was it created for no reason in the first place. There were driving forces for that, and the Israeli actions in the region and Lebanon in specific were the biggest driving forces.

I’ll quote one southern citizen as I heard her scream out loud:
” Israel destroyed my house!! killed my children! I’m homeless and injured! What did I do?! MAY GOD PROTECT HEZBOLLAH! MAY GOD BE WITH THEM! HEZBOLLAH SHALL BE VICTORIOUS!”
(pay attention to the first parts of the quote, and you’ll find out why she praised Hezbollah in the end of it)

So to conclude, Hezbollah in Lebanon is a natural, public reaction of resistance and revenge towards the Israeli long-term-aggression on Lebanese land. Does that mean that if Israel did not occupy Lebanon, Hezbollah wouldn’t be there?? No. Not necessarily. Probably Hezbollah would’ve been founded anyway, but it would have definitely been in a different form and with no such public support as it has today, not at all. It would be nothing more than some Shiite political party just like other parties in the country.

So what’s the root of the conflict? Simply put:
Israel’s continuous violation of International Law. Here’s how:
Ever since the early 40’s, Israel, unfortunately, has consistently, and repeatedly violated UN resolutions, Geneva conventions, Humanitarian laws and a lot more. This has resulted in more and more hatred, rejection and desire for revenge among the public against Israel and whatever it represents. And this all started happening before Hezbollah, before Hamas, before Aqsa, before Al-Qaeda…before them all.

In case you don’t know, there are up to 68 UN resolutions were announced against Israel. 68! Big number isn’t it? Can you name me ONE other country that had such a big number of UN resolutions against it? I can’t think of any. This, without mentioning the many UN resolutions that were VETOED by the Uncle Sam. The most recent one was in this war.
Currently Israel violates many UN resolutions, and I will limit my focus on two main ones: resolutions 194 and 242.

194: The return of the Palestinians that were deported.

They were deported out of their own homes…you expect them to accept it as a fact and shut up? No. It’s their home. Their shelter. I mean if you kick an animal out of its shelter, it will react by attacking you. How do you expect humans to react?

Now you might tell me, “it’s impossible to implement 194. It’s unrealistic. There are far more Palestinian refugees around the region than the whole Israeli population.” I’ve heard those arguments lots of times. But no matter what, this doesn’t change the fact that Israel mainly made this problem, and Israel should be responsible for its consequences, no one else. You can’t make 4 million Palestinians return, at least DECLARE their right to return, acknowledge it, affirm it, confess that they have the right to share land with you, and that would be better than denying them their rights.

242: The return of the occupied 1967 territories (Golan heights)

Israel even has settlements in the Golan Heights. How legal is that? I mean it’s not just a violation; it’s a manifestation of a totally new existence on an occupied territory. Of course, Israel has bunch of justifications for that, mainly strategic: Access to the Tiberias lake and the strategic locations of the Golan Heights are vital for Israel’s future security. So, it’s Israel’s security on Syria’s expense? To you it might sound right, but to me, and the international community, it is ILLEGAL. i.e., no excuses are ever valid.

Above all that, in each and every war, Israel makes sure to violate all sorts and kinds of humanitarian laws. Bombing civilian areas, using forbidden weapons, mistreating prisoners, occupying land…and the list goes on.

So it’s violation after violation…and not any kind of violation…MAJOR violations that are related to the people’s safety, land, dignity and existence. And Israel does all that, with pure, blunt, ever-existing, continuous American support. This explains the root cause of the widespread anti-Americanism in the Arab and Islamic world.

So with all those obvious violations to what matters the most to humans: their land, their home, their security, their future and well-being. How do you expect the people to react??
I’ll tell you how they reacted:
Hamas. Fatah. Hezbollah. Al-Qaeda. Al-Aqsa Birgades..and more.
Yes, those groups are fanatics, sometimes evil, have goals beyond justice and are politically oriented. But what kind of result would you expect after decades and decades of no justice? of humiliation and aggression? They did not materialize from nowhere.

Resolution 425: Wait! Israel implemented that. That’s true..but only after 22 years.
When Israel stays 22 years in Lebanon. On Lebanese land. Violating international law. How do you expect the people to react? Sit and watch? Never. Even if not 1 bullet was fired by Israel (like in the Golan Heights), the people have every single right to hold a weapon and fight every single Israeli soldier on their own land. 22 years is a long time. During that time, hatred was being accumulated, tension was rising, and fanaticism looked to be the most effective way of sorting out the problem…and you wonder why Hezbollah is so strong and popular and still legal in Lebanon? Well to the Lebanese, it wasn’t diplomacy that forced Israel to withdraw, and it wasn’t a truce. It was Hezbollah.

You may tell me “well, Israel needed to secure its borders from Palestinian militants and other terror organizations, so we had to remain in Lebanon for security reasons”. So you violate international law? And for 22 years?

You want to secure your borders, secure your borders WITHIN your borders, not on somebody else’s land. It’s common sense. So, this “security excuse” that Israel declared for its occupation of Lebanon actually backfired on its own security by making Hezbollah so popular and strong until it became the biggest threat on Israel’s borders so far.
And here I’m only dealing with the Israel-Lebanese side of the conflict. I won’t go much through the Palestinian-Israeli part of it, because it has the same story: violations, violations, occupations, occupations, humiliations, humiliations and the same result: Hamas, Al-Aqsa, terrorism and so on. It saddens me that Israel is the only country in the world that does not have fixed borders.

It is the only country in the world that has made so many wars with its neighbors ever since it was created, and still does so 55 years later. It also saddens me that Israel is the greatest violator of various sorts of International law. And then..it declares itself a “democracy” ?

Talking about Qana…which is the second massacre by the same aggressor in the same village in 10 years, I’ll just say this: It is such massacres that put an eternal end to peace. It is such massacres that plant deeply rooted feelings of hatred and revenge in the hearts of children as they grow. It is such massacres that make peace unachievable.
It’s more than just a “mistake” by the IAF. It has long, long, long lasting effects.
Well…. The air-strikes cease-fire (which didn’t take effect by the way) is about to end in a few hours. So I’d better head to bed. Though I’m not sure it will be safe.
Sorry for the too-long e-mail. But I had a lot to say, and I hope it wasn’t a waste of your time. What I mainly want to tell you is this: Don’t simply narrow it down to Hezbollah and Iran. The conflict is far beyond that. It is your government’s persistent illegal and inhumane policies that are making this big mess, and I showed you how, based on international law. Not Lebanese law and not Iranian law, rather a law that you and I and the civilized world should abide by. And this did not start in July 2006. It started long, long ago…and would last for as long as your government continues to plant seeds of violence among the people of this holy land.
I would be more than happy to receive your blunt and honest feedback and criticism.

Be good;
V.J

Letter to a concerned Lebanese

The following letter was written in reply to receiving a rather frank discourse as to who is responsible for both the Palestinian and Lebanese conflicts with the State of Israel. Although names have been omitted. I am sharing it with all of you:

Dear…………,

Your comments were a lot more direct than mine will ever be; but there are a lot of ‘shades of grey’ in the entire conflict of Israel and her neighbors. Well before Islamic extremism even came to the forefront, the simple reality was the Israel’s Arab neighbors, including Lebanon, simply have not wanted a Jewish State within their midst. This goes back even before the British Mandatory period ended. Better still, let’s go way back into history, when Jews were driven from the land called Palistinus Provinvicius by Imperial Rome, and made to wander in many lands, often subject cruel and tyrannous kings and emperors. Even in Muslim lands Jews were forced to be on a much lower social level than their Muslim neighbors.

It was only at the turn of the last century when the idea of a “Juden Stadt”, or Jewish Homeland, moved from a mere dream to possible reality thanks to people like Theodore Herzl. What has transpired since Israel became a state in 1948, you must be aware of, including the combined Arab armies of Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Iraq, and others who attacked the fledgling Jewish state form literally all sides vowing to ‘push the Jews into the sea”. That’s why the Arab refugee problem began, and continues to this day. No set borders were established, only ‘armistice lines’. The U.N Partition Plan of 1947 proposed the divide Palestine into two states, Jewish and Arab; and the Arab part was actually larger and included most of the Galilee! That was turned down by the Arabs by waging way against Israel. The 1967 ‘occupation’ resulted from Egyptian President Nasser choking off Israel’s outlet to the Red sea and threatening to attack Israel (Israel just decided to beat him to the draw). Many people, including myself, admit that a lot of problems were created by letting all the settlements be built in both the West Bank and in Gaza, especially with the peace treaty with Egypt including a phrase involving dealing with the Palestinian problem “in all its aspects”.

Various Israeli governments, especially the ones run by the right wing Likud Party, catered to the wishes of groups who considered the West Bank as part of the Land of Israel (Gaza never was, despite some trying to convince us otherwise). Palestinians, by the way, consider the ENTIRE piece of real estate as theirs. Their children have always been taught this, as well as hatred for the ‘Zionist enemy’ and how glorious it is to be a Shaheed and commit Holy Martyrdom for Allah. Jewish kids have never been taught this and (hopefully) never will.

Regarding Lebanon, Israel only ‘occupied’ the ten km ‘security” belt in southern Lebanon to prevent the Palestinians (who used to shoot the Katyushas into Israel as well as send terrorists over to attack Israeli towns and settlements) from being too close to Israel’s border. The Palestinians were later replaced with the Hezbollah. As I wrote before, Israel doesn’t have any territorial interests in Lebanon, except small border areas like the Shabaa farms, and those only for security reasons (not for homesteading). Following Israel’s pullout from Lebanon in May 2000.a recognized border was agreed upon through the U.N., Unfortunately, Hezbollah didn’t accept this, and kept intimidating Israel towns and settlements along the border, as well as creating incidents such as the kidnapping of 3 soldiers, whose remains were only returned 3 years later, along with a so-called ‘Businessman” named Elkanah Tannenbaum ( his business interests weren’t too ‘kosher’ to say the least).

Hezbollah is not only involved in southern Lebanon, but in other places as well (Just like Hamas and Islamic Jihad are). And Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah definitely does want to create an Islamic Republic with your country, Israel, Jordan, and Syria as its territory; with other countries to be added later, including Egypt, who have plenty of Islamic extremists; quite willing to lend a helping hand. If you want to ask the good Sheik if all of this is true, go visit him in his reported suite at the Damascus Hilton, loaned to him by Syrian President Bashar al Assad; and where he probably has tea regularly with Hamas leader Khalid Mashaal, and consults daily with Mahmud Ahmadinejad over in Teheran.

I feel a lot of sadness for the people of Lebanon, including ones like the example of the Lebanese woman who lost her entire family from the bombing. I also feel sadness for Israelis who have lost THEIR entire families to terror attacks (it’s happened numerous times as well).

At this moment, we all must do what we can do to stop the bloodshed by both sides. My question is how, as Kofi Anan and the UN don’t seem to have the ability to do anything, except draft resolutions.

Take care,

……………………..

There is a Time, and there is a Season

The 9th of Av on the Hebrew calendar, has had ominous connotations for the Jewish People, throughout their long history on this planet. Beginning with the destruction of the First Temple in 586 BCE, the fast day of “Tisha b’Av”, for the faithful anyway, has been considered as a day of deep mourning and lamentations, with many restrictions placed on the lives of religious Jews for a three week period leading up to the actual fast day, when many people would don the traditional ‘sackcloth and ashes’ and recite verses from the biblical Book of Lamentations. In Jerusalem, the day has been marked with literally thousands of ultra-orthodox Jews gathering in front of the Western Wall, known to the faithful as “The Kotel”; and considered to be the only remaining vestige of the Second Temple, destroyed by the Romans in the year 70 of the Common Era.

On this 9th of Av, 22 days since the beginning of the conflict in Lebanon, large numbers of Jews, both religious and non-religious will gather at the Kotel or Wailing Wall, reputed to be the last remnant of the Temple in Jerusalem’s Old City. Security will undoubtedly be high as the present situation has resulted in warnings of possible terror attacks.

As people gather in front of the “Kotel” to lament the Temple’s destruction, even Israel T.V. channels change their programming to conform with this solemn date, showing dark events in Jewish history, including pogroms, events during the Holocaust (by far, the darkest period in recent Jewish History – if not in Judaism’s entire 4,000 year history), and events leading up to the destruction of both the First and Second Temples themselves.

Many ultra-religious Jews, including those of deceased Lubbavitcher Rebbe, Mehachem Schneerson, believe that only when the actual Moseach of Messiah comes will the true Messianic Age begin, requiring all the faithful to come and dwell in the Land of Israel.

Rabbi Schneerson never came to Israel during his long lifetime, as he believed that only when the actual Moseach did arrive would it be possible to return to dwell in the Land of Israel. As many of Rabbi Schnneerson’s followers believe that he really was the Messiah, the rebuilding of the Third Temple is a dream that many of them retain to this day.

Israel is now in the midst of a continuous struggle against the Palestinians, Hezbollah, and most of the Islamic world for that matter, and as both the Al Aksa and Omar mosques located on what is known as the Temple Mount , or Kareem al Shariff to Muslims, this site is even more fraught with tensions, especially now.

On tomorrow’s Tisha b’Av fast day, even though more and more secular Jews are disregarding what is known as the blackest date in Jewish History, including dining out in ever increasing numbers of restaurants and pubs who defy the official ban on places of entertainment being open during the fast; an ever increasing number of ‘Temple Mount Faithful’ continue to dream and plan for the rebuilding of the Third Jewish Temple and the heralding of the New Messianic Age.

Because of this profound thought, many Jews the world word over will spend time to remember and reflect on the true significance of what is often called Judaism’s Darkest Day.

Shalom Peace Salam Video

Okay so here is something a little different from a Palestinian visitor that asked we post this.

Calling it like it is

Israel’s present conflict in both Lebanon and Palestinian ‘ruled’ areas adjacent to it is being called by a number of terms, including: Crises in the Middle East (CNN’s favorite), Armed Conflict with the Palestinians and Hezbollah, military reprisal operation, etc. All of these terms appear to be a way of glossing over what the ongoing events have really become; and that the correct term is really that age-old, three letter word: WAR. Most dictionaries, including time tested Webster’s Dictionary, define the conflict as follows:

War: Open armed conflict between countries or between factions within the same country. Another definition: Any active hostility, contention, or struggle. And a third definition: Military operations as a profession or science.
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Who’s Winning

Claims and counter claims by both Israel and the Hezbollah organization makes you start wondering who really is coming out ahead in the conflict, now in its 14th day. Both of the major players have suffered property damage and casualties; and though it’s easy to track Israel’s casualties, 39 dead soldiers and civilians at last count, it’s virtually impossible to have any idea how many Hezbollah fighters and family members have been killed as they rarely divulge these statistics, and even make great efforts to remove their dead in order not be photographed and displayed by foreign news medias. Property damage in Israel has also been graphically shown; and although this has occurred even more so in many parts of Lebanon, it has been done mostly for PR purposes, to try to drum up sympathy for Hezbollah’s cause.

In warfare, there are very seldom complete winners, as the price paid, in human lives and property damage is almost always more costly than benefits derived by victory. WWII was an exception to this, however, as had Nazi Germany and their Pacific allies, the Japanese Empire forced America and her allies to agree to an armistice, our world would be a much different planet, not to mention what might have happened to virtually all Jews living outside the United States.

Determining the victors in warfare also has to do with who has the psychological advantage as well. For example, following the 1991 Gulf War, Iraqi president Saddam Hussein actually declared himself the winner of the conflict, as his still being in power was considered by himself as a major victory. All that changed twelve years later, however. In what now appears to be showdown “knockdown, drag out” conflict between Hezbollah’s Secretary General and spiritual leader, Said Hassan Nasrallah, and Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Olmert; both are either claiming or predicting victory without fully realizing the implementations of the word. Concerning property damage suffered, Israel’s loses are mounting in the tens of millions (of dollars), but losses to both Hezbollah and the country of Lebanon run into the billions with the unfortunate victims being the Lebanese people themselves. From an economic standpoint, it will take the people of Israel a couple of years to fully recover from damages sustained. The Lebanese, however, will need a decade, if not longer, to return to where they were just a month ago.

Nasrallah, in his speeches and interviews during the conflict, says that his organization will help the Lebanese people rebuild their shattered country (with the help of outside parties, of course). The Sheikh had better find out just who will be willing to help in this process, which will also mean dedicating billions of dollars or Euros to rebuild his organization as well. He must believe that his very continued existence is enough of a reason to claim that he and Hezbollah are coming out on top. Reality will soon begin to paint a different picture though, as even long-time benefactors like Iran may not be so willing to open their treasury for Nasrallah’s benefit. Iran, in economic difficulty itself, and due to be levied partial sanctions by the U.N., had trouble enough giving a much smaller sum to the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority .

So who’s really winning this conflict? It all depends on who you are, and where you are.

In Spite of it all

Aliya People Still Coming to Israel With Israel still immersed in its second major war in Lebanon, and a continuing conflict with the Palestinians in both the south and the West Bank, one bright light still shines to give people here encouragement and inspiration. That ‘light’ is the continuing Aliyah of North Americans due to a very successful program known as Nefesh b’Nefesh. Originating a few years ago, following the Second Intifada Palestinian uprising and the September 11 2001 terror attacks in the USA, Nefesh b’Nefesh, a joint immigration venture of both American and Israeli organizations, landed it’s first group of North American Olim in Israel in July, 2002. Since then, more than 8,000 people, both families and individuals have come to try their luck at living in the Jewish State.

Even during the heat of the present conflict, two El Al jumbo jets full of Olim arrived a few days go, and are now beginning their Aliyah experience in various absorption centers and other locations around the countries – including locations in the northern areas of Israel.

Nefesh b’Nefesh participants do receive some special benefits to help ease them into the mainstream of Israel society, including a basket or “sal” of grants and other special items, a one-way complimentary fight ticket, and certain tax reductions on purchases, rental and mortgage subsidies, etc. One of the prominent American supporters of the program, Tony Gelbart, who is president and CEO of CPM Worldwide, a Florida based investment company was quoted as saying: “We don’t care if you are Ashkenazi or Sepharadi, right or left winged, religious or non-religious. If you’re Jewish and want to try living in Israel, we’re going to help you!”

Special loans, which become grants if the participants stay for at least three years, run from $ 5,000 to 7,000 for singles to $15,000 – 22,000 for families.

Once the new arrivals get settled into adjusting to living in Israel and learning Hebrew in various ulpanim (Hebrew language schools) they begin to look into finding work in order to support themselves, the assistance they receive does have a time limit attached. Those who do not have sufficient knowledge level of Hebrew to allow them to find Hebrew speaking work positions, have a number of English speaking opportunities in tel-sales and telemarketing, High tech soft ware and internet related jobs, as well as outsourced customer service positions, dealing with clientele in “the old country”. In addition to the American based companies, local ones who deal with these foreign entities, have numerous work positions available, allowing people to find work in their native ‘mother tongue’ level of English while still learning Hebrew.

Other kinds of assistance are also available through organizations such as Project Reconnect, an organization headed by representatives of the United Synagogue Conservative movement, with local involvement by such prominent Conservative and Masorati rabbis as Rabbi Paul Freedman, who now lives with his wife Nina in Jerusalem. Rabbi Freedman is one the most active members of this organization, whose purpose is to ‘reconnect’ former members of United Synagogue sponsored youth organizations such as USY, and bring them to Israel of either specially sponsored seminars, as well as permanent Aliyah. Working together with Ms. Devorah Greenberg, the organization’s Shaliah, or Aliyah messenger, their organization alone now has a file of more than 600 potential Olim, many of whom plan to make Aliyah via Nefesh b’Nefesh.

Rice in Jerusalem: No To a Temporary Solution

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice came to Israel yesterday, to open what is called in the media as the “Political stage” of the war. She had a meeting with the foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, and is scheduled to meet the Prime Minister and Defense Minister on Tuesday. Then Rice will move on to Ramallah where she’ll be meeting Mahmoud Abbas (Abu-Mazen), the president of the Palestinian authority. Rice said, “I am deeply concerned about the Lebanese people and what they are enduring. I am obviously concerned about the humanitarian situation.” She added, “We all want to urgently end the fighting. We have absolutely the same goal”. But Rice also repeated our stand as she stated it also in pass references to the war, that the solution to the situation has to be a long-term one, and not just a return to the status quo that was before this conflict. “If we’ll do that then we’ll find ourselves in the same situation in three months or six months or a year, when Hizballa will decide that it wants to disturb the peace” said Rice in a press conference prior to her departure.

During their meeting, both Rice and Livni stressed the importance of the UN resolution 1559 and the G-8 resolutions: The captive soldiers must be set free and Hizballa must be disarmed to allow the Lebanonian government implement it’s authority throughout the entire of Lebanon.

“I want to make it clear that we do not have a conflict between Israel and the citizens of Lebanon” said Livnie, “But Israel has no greater responsibility then that towards its own citizens. This is a moment of truth to the Lebanonian government, and the International Community should work together to help it to implement the resolutions that were decided upon.”

OneVoice Letter of Hope

Saed and Elad I hope your words catch on like wild fire throughout the middle east.

Dear International Friends of OneVoice,

There are rockets flying into Israel’s Northern towns as far down as Haifa as we write this, while the people of Gaza are in fear for their homes and lives, without electricity and running water. People are suffering, people are dying and people are afraid. It’s a crisis. We are writing to tell you though not to give up on us, or to give up on hope for an end to the conflict.

The situation today makes it very difficult to talk about conflict resolution – to see an end to the conflict. Sometimes it is easy to see the light at the end of the tunnel, at the moment the tunnel is dark. But this crisis and this conflict will end, and we say that with sobriety and rationality. As much as we feel helpless today, as rational people we must see any crisis as an opportunity to rise up and overcome the reasons that brought that crisis.

The situation will come to an end, when we do not know. In the meantime both people suffer so badly. Believe us that no-one is happy with this life. We want everyone around the world to know that we, and many friends and colleagues like us at OneVoice, are working to change this situation. We are ready. We are ready to do anything necessary to help end this situation. We have done so many activities and introduced so many people to OneVoice and it always gives them hope and energy. We can not and will not lose all of this however hard it is at this moment. We will strive to improve this life.

A resolution to the conflict may seem like a dream, but let us dream it and keep helping us do whatever we have to do to make it a reality. The day will never come when Israelis and Palestinians are prepared to accept living with this situation. How far we are from the day when we have a situation we will accept is hard to say, but we will work for it, even as the fighter jets and rockets go overhead, we will work for it.

Thank you,

Saed and Elad

Is Israel’s New War Necessary?

Daniel Pipes, a world renowned commentator and author, wrote an article to both the New York Sun and Jerusalem entitled: Israel’s Unnecessary War. The gist of the article dealt with Israel’s past dealings with both the Palestinians and Hezbollah, including pulling out Lebanon in May, 2000, as well as last summer’s disengagement from Gaza. He also pointed out that many think that this new conflict is mainly for the purpose of obtaining the release of two kidnapped soldiers from the Hezbollah, as well as a third from the Palestinians. While the two incidents that resulted in these kidnappings and deaths of 10 Israeli soldiers may have been the “straw that broke the camel’s back”, they are not the main reason for the intense fighting that is now occurring on no less than three fronts, including the West Bank.

Lebanon war 2006Israel has had to deal with entities who want nothing more than to destroy the Jewish State – to “wipe it off the face of the map” as Iranian president Ahmadinejad so graphically expressed it. Even deceased Yassir Arafat, who often proclaimed himself to be Israel’s ‘partner for peace’ gave covert orders and permission for suicide bombers to blow themselves up on Israeli busses, at shopping malls, and at discotheques. On Israel’s northern borders, the Hezbollah were causing problems years before former P.M. Ehud Barak consented to pull Israel’s troops out of the so-called ‘security zone” which had been set up to keep these forces for firing their Ketusha and other types of missiles into Israeli towns and cities. We all now see that what is going on, from Hezbollah’s viewpoint anyway, has in the works for years. Even Nashrallah himself admitted that his organization had been building up their armament for years, getting for such a day. When they well able fill in the vacuum that had been created, following Israel’s pullout, Israeli border towns and settlements suddenly found themselves facing the smiling and bearded faces of Hezbollah fighters, now occupying positions that both the IDF and the SLA (Southern Lebanese Army) had been occupying – even using equipment that Israel, due to lack of time, had not been able to bring back.

An unnecessary war? War in itself is never pleasant, and is always filled with horrors and human suffering. Many wars are necessary, however, in order to defeat forces of darkness who want to shut off the lift of freedom and enlightenment that would set back civilization to a darker era. The recent article comparing Israel’s present plight with that of England in the early days of WWII is a sterling example. Just look what is presently going on in Israel’s north, with more than a million people living in shelters, and with more internal death, injuries, and property damage than any war fought by the Jewish State since the War of Independence in 1948-49. And this destruction is far from being over, with fears that it could reach Israel’s center; and even Jerusalem as well.

A lot of talk about Israel government policies, including the pull out for Gaza, organized by Ariel Sharon, and a possible future one form the West Bank, have been criticized by many, with the belief that is has weakened Israel’s position with it’s enemies. These matters are open to interpretation and discussion and the final outcome will only be known years from now. The question before all of us living here in this new reality is whether we will ever be able to live ‘side by side’ with these people (i.e., the Palestinians) at all. Lebanon is another matter, and though the Lebanese have virtually no kind feelings toward Israel at present, they may change their minds one day when they have their country back – out of the hands of those who want to change it into something that the majority of those Lebanese, who went out into the streets of Beirut to celebrate the withdraw of Syrian forces, would not like to happen. Few if any of them would like to see their country turned into another Islamic republic, like Iran.

And this war, as painful for them as it is, will hopefully help them realize the dawn of a new day.

Open letter to the Lebanese people

Dear People of Lebanon,

Images. Images of wide-spread destruction, of death and human suffering, and of mass exodus of people trying to flee their country for safe havens in Cyprus and other locations. These are the images shown to the world by zealous news commentators from CNN, Sky News, The BBC, and a host of others, including even Israel’s own dedicated journalists and broadcast teams. What has been going in Lebanon, seemingly almost like a re-run of both the Lebanese civil war and the 1982 Operation Peace for Galilee has once again turned the Country of the Cedars into a scene of destruction and chaos. Watching this human drama unfold has become prime-time viewing for us all, particularly for those who feel that those who are involved in creating this destruction (i.e. the Israeli military forces) appear to be overzealous in their pursuit of their sworn enemy, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah and his Hezbollah organization. All of this appears to be going unabated, including the death and destruction that has been rendered upon Israel by the Hezbollah, who refuse to agree to a cessation of hostilities, including the release of two Israeli soldiers being held captive by them, and one of the primary causes for this tragedy to begin in the first place.

Lebanese RefugeesThis situation has unfortunately led to all-out warfare, with hundreds of thousands of innocent Lebanese caught in the middle between the two warring sides. You, the people of Lebanon, composing a variety of religious backgrounds, and living in a land that has contributed much to the history of the region, including a people known as the Phoenicians; whose colorful sailing vessels plied the trade routes of the Mediterranean, and whose people built the mighty City State of Carthage in what is now modern day Tunisia. Your ancestors also helped to build the Israelite Temple in Jerusalem. That is correct; one of your illustrious kings, Hiram of Tyre, was hired by King Solomon to build the Temple; partially made with giant cedar trees cut and brought by sea to ancient Israel in order to be used to construct the innermost chamber of the Temple as commanded by God.

It has been most unfortunate that you, the people of this land with so rich a heritage have not been able to live in peace with the descendants of ancient Israel, as you once did during those glorious days when the combined Phoenician and Israeli commonwealths contributed so much to the cultural and commercial life of the entire eastern Mediterranean. You may not recall, but, before Israel became an independent country in 1948, thousands of Jewish Palestinians used to vacation in Lebanon and go skiing on the slopes of the Souf or Lebanon Mountains during the winter months. Your unwillingness to be at peace with your Israeli neighbors has done you more harm than good; especially due to groups like the Hezbollah being allowed to thrive there and conduct their terrorist operations. No doubt, many of you are not supporters of Sheikh Nasrallah and the Shiite Islamic ‘fiefdom ‘ he created. In fact many of you, especially those of Christian or Druze persuasion, may even live in dire fear of this organization, whose main aim is to turn your country and a big part of the surrounding area into a strict Islamic fundamentalist Caliphate with Nasrallah as its leader.

Nasralla on poster in DamescusI assure you, people of Lebanon, that your neighbors to the south do not want to occupy you, and do not want to be your enemy. They would like nothing better than to be at peace with you; a peace similar to the one they have with another nearby country, which is more than 95% Muslim, i.e. Turkey. In case you not aware of it, more than 400,000 Israelis visit Turkey annually: spending millions of dollars in tourist resorts, casinos, and other attractions offered by a country who decided many years ago that the was a better way to ‘fly’. Why can’t this happen in your country as well, with Israeli tourists skiing once again in the Souf as their great grandparents did, enjoying the casinos, hotels and discotheques of a rebuilt Beirut, and investing capital into your banks and other financial institutions. If you truly want your country to once again be called the ‘Switzerland of the Middle East’, then this is the best way to accomplish this goal, and not by siding with one of the world’s most vociferous terror organizations whose ranks and leader are no less heinous than the Al Qaeda organization and Osama bin Ladin himself.

So, People of Lebanon, the choice is yours. As has been said so correctly by Dr. Phil McGraw, one of America’s most popular television show psychologists: “you either get it, or you don’t”. At this moment, dear Lebanese people, as you watch your country being torn apart once again as your board ships and other conveyances provided for your escape: you apparently don’t get it.

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