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New Sderot Magen David Adom Station

American Friends of Magen David AdomI got this today from Robert of the American Friends of Magen David Adom – thank you..

Just days after the Sderot area experienced the its latest brush with terror from a Qassam attack when a rocket slammed down near a neighborhood kindergarten, the city received a much needed upgrade to its essential services with the opening of a brand new Magen David Adom Emergency Medical Station.

The new facility, built by American Friends of Magen David Adom (AFMDA), replaces a makeshift building built over 30 years ago that had recently been condemned for structural problems. The lead gifts were made in memory of Judy Kaplan of New York City and Esther and Hyman Rapport of Cleveland, OH.

Eli Moyal with American Contributors SderotBeneath cloudy skies and the always present threat of renewed Qassam strikes, an enthusiastic audience of dignitaries, including Minister of Health Yaacov Ben-Yizri, Sderot Mayor Eli Moyal and Cultural Attache for the US Embassy in Tel Aviv Efraim Cohen, marked the opening alongside local Sderot paramedics, the leadership of Magen David Adom in Israel and friends of Magen David Adom from around the world.

In his remarks, Ben-Yizri said the day was a cause for both celebration as well as sadness, “We are excited that we can open such a grand and impressive facility, yet we are saddened by the knowledge that, at least in the near future, it will be called upon to treat the wounded from the surrounding areas,” he said. “When we see the work of these paramedics, we see examples of excellence where despite the situation and the dangers, they always perform remarkably.”

Sderot Mayor Eli Moyal spoke of his city’s sincere appreciation for the goodwill that has been shown to them by the international community saying, “While it may be that life is difficult here, the fact that people on the other side of the world care for us and support projects such as this new MDA station, this is what gives us strength to continue on and I can promise you today that this city will never fall.”

Prior to the official ribbon cutting of the new station, Daniel R. Allen, Chief Executive Officer of American Friends of Magen David Adom, saluted the donors who made the project possible and said the new facility would permanently enhance the already dedicated level of care MDA is able to provide Sderot and the surrounding areas. “What we have done is follow the instructions of Rav Kook. What was old we have made new and what is new we have made holy. We have been able to take an old station desperately in need of repair and make a new one that is both holy and of which all the people of Sderot and Israel can be proud. This town is a true symbol of courage and conviction and we as American Jews feel it is important to say that when the people of Sderot are under attack, we too feel their pain.”

The new Sderot station combines a large ambulance bay area with a dispatch facility, offices and multiple rooms for crews to rest during shifts. The building was constructed to updated standards that make much of it protected against rocket attacks, allowing crews to easily move to safety when hearing the “Tzeva Adom”alert.

Other dignitaries in attendance included Sderot resident and former Minister of Defense Amir Peretz, Professor Yehuda Skornick, President of MDA Israel, Dr. Noam Yifrach, Chairman of MDA Israel and Eli Bin, Director General of MDA Israel. Veteran Israeli broadcaster Haim Yavin served as the master of ceremonies.

American Friends of Magen David Adom – ARMDI is the authorized organization supporting the life saving efforts of MDA in Israel and representing Magen David Adom in the US. Magen David Adom (MDA) is Israel’s only government-mandated ambulance and emergency medical responders, serving as the nation’s second line of defense with medical, disaster, ambulance and blood services. Thanks to AFMDA/ARMDI supporters, more than 700 MDA ambulances and Mobile Intensive Care Units are on call 24/7, operating from over 100 Emergency Medical Stations and 11 dispatch stations throughout Israel, logging more than 6.75 million miles and taking care of more than 700,000 patients annually. Acclaimed for their heroic role in rescuing the wounded, coordinating activities with the IDF and Home Front Command and raising morale in Israel’s north during the Second Lebanon War, MDA also provides 97% of Israel’s blood needs and has launched the MDA Israel Cord Blood Bank.

In Sderot and the surrounding western Negev region, MDA remains on high alert, racing to the scene of every Qassam rocket and mortar attack to protect and care for Israel’s people.

Hope that station stays so empty they start doing Bingo night there…

Govt Continues Not To Deal With African Refugees

Hundreds of African refugees were evacuated yesterday from a bomb shelter in South Tel Aviv. In the last few months, about two hundred and fifty refugees have faced inhuman conditions. They have been staying in over- crowded, deserted structures often flooded with no drinking water or electricity. They receive no medical care and are frequently harassed by the immigration police.

Israel tried to deport some of the refugees back to Egypt but could not stop the thousands of refugees who crossed the Southern border into Israel.

Israel has so far failed to find a solution for dozens of refugees who seek political asylum in Israel. Since Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East, these desperate people have no where else to go. Tel Aviv municipality officials have recently complained that government provided almost no help in finding solutions. As a result, these hundreds of refugee have been relying on the kindness of a few representatives by Tel Aviv municipality and some local volunteers.

I was very disappointed with the government’s policy on this issue. Everyone is now talking about Israel’s 60th Independence Day. But the 60 years that have passed seem to erase our collective memory. Considering Israel’s history, we have a moral responsibility to help these African refugees. The government should let the refugees work so they can provide for themselves and regain their human dignity. Israel’s ideology forces us to demonstrate more solidarity than that.

The Square Centimeter Dream

In a way, one might feel sorry for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as his weekend Arab Summit in Damascus was rampant with “no-shows”, including Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah II of Jordan, and Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki of Iraq all boycotting it, to name a few. Some leaders, who did show up, including Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Libyan President Muammar al-Gaddafi seemed more interested in getting photographed, rather than making any outstanding contributions to improving things in the region.

Dumb DumbFor his part, Bashar al-Assad used the meeting to express his willingness to enter into talks with Israel, as long as Israel is willing to return to the June 4, 1967 borders, which includes the entire Golan Heights “down to the eastern shore of the Kinneret”. Assad emphasized this point that saying he is not willing to compromise “on even one square centimeter of the Golan Heights” which as far as most Israelis are concerned, puts the situation of a possible peace deal with Israel’s eastern enemy back to shit’s creek.

Despite Assad’s hard stance, it was revealed that Syrian officials are saying that a “line of communication” has been opened between Damascus and Jerusalem, and that they, the Syrians, now say that the ball is in Israel’s court in regard to actual negotiations between the two countries. The two day Summit ended with a call for Israel to accept an Arab sponsored peace initiative, most of which is completely unacceptable by Israel.

No high ranking American officials were present at the Summit. Meanwhile, Israeli government officials, meeting with visiting U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, have agreed to make life a bit easier for West Back Palestinians by proposing to remove as many as 50 roadblocks to make traveling by Palestinians within the West Bank as well as to Israel itself more easier. It has also been disclosed that Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and other Israeli officials have been meeting with Palestinian officials like Abu Allah in secret locations in and around Jerusalem; the purpose of which is to reach a peace deal by the end of this year.. These meetings, however, have not included any Hamas leaders, who are still confined to Gaza by both Israel and West Bank Palestinians.

Assad obviously has more than just national pride in mind in wanting to regain his lost territory. Like most other countries this region, Syria has a chronic water shortage that makes one of Israel’s main sources of fresh water look exceedingly attractive. The streams on the Golan, many fed by melting snow from Mt. Hermon, are one of the Kinneret’s important water suppliers. Syria would like to have the lake’s eastern shore back in it’s possession so it can simply pump water out of the lake like it did prior of June 4, 1967. With the present lake level already reaching the critical “redline,” even Israel may soon not be able have this important water supply available, let alone Syria.

So in the end, any proposed peace talks are not likely to have much chance of succeeding, unless Syria and Israel are willing to compromise.

Hamas On The West Bank

Hamas's Ismail HaniyehOn the eve of U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s send visit to Israel so far this year, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has expressed fears that Ismail Haniyeh’s radical Hamas organization could wind up taking control of the West Bank from Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah faction, either by force or arms, or by democratic election. Barak, who was meeting with a U.S. envoy to the Middle East, said that he is afraid that all of the efforts that the Israeli government is trying to make in giving support to the Abbas led section of the Palestinian Authority will be for naught, should this happen, and Israel will then be in even greater danger, with hostile Hamas militiamen on Israel’s most vulnerable sections, ready to launch even more Qassam and Grad type rockets into Israel’s most populated areas.

With Palestinian general elections not far away, many disenchanted Palestinians may see Hamas’ victories as reason to elect them to be the political entity in the West Bank as well, as Abbas’ Fatah organization has not really done much to satisfy the people, and is about as corrupt as it was in Gaza. Hamas, on the other hand, is known for giving social assistance to its constituents, even though it has been much harsher on the lives of most Palestinians, including forcing them to live according to strict Shaari Islamic law. West Bank Palestinians, on the other hand, have much more individual social and religious freedoms, which even includes am FM radio station which plays the latest popular Western hit tunes. The West Bank is also the home of approximately 200,000 Jewish residents, many of whom live in well established towns and settlements which include large sections of northern and eastern Jerusalem. This number is a far cry from the 9,000 settlers, who were evacuated from 21 settlements in Gaza back in August, 2005.

Judging from the experience of the Gaza disengagement, which many Israelis now blame for the continuous launchings of rockets into Israeli cities and towns like Sderot and Ashkelon, it will be more difficult to stage massive evacuations of Jewish settlers from the West Bank, as doing so could result in Qassam rockets striking cities like Kfar Saba and Grad-type rockets hitting Tel Aviv. Of course, it is more difficult to smuggle large quantities of arms and explosives into the West Bank as compared to Gaza (with its numerous tunnels on the border with Egypt). This wouldn’t stop resourceful terrorists from making their own rockets, however, and fueling with ammonium nitrate fertilizer as is now being done in Gaza.

Hamas has recently been increasing it’s activities in many West cities and towns, and for this reason, Barak and other Israeli officials fear that it might not make much for a weakened Abbas led government to be defeated either at the ballot box or by a coup. These fears have been advised to American and European government officials, and will be discussed with Secretary Rice during her visit.

60 Minutes of Darkness in Tel Aviv

Picture Hat Tip: Anat Mosberg Ynet
700,000 light bulbs were turned off yesterday on a Tel Aviv night between 8 and 9 o’clock as part of the Earth Hour, a global campaign to fight energy waste. Launched last year in Sidney Australia, the Earth Hour campaign has recruited aboard many major cities across the world. The citizens of Tel Aviv showed solidarity with the green cause and demonstrated that they care about global warming. Many of the city’s main business centers turned of their lights, and residents were encouraged to do the same. Coffee houses served their customers in the dark by sparkling candlelights. Customers discovered that saving electricity can actually be quite romantic!

Dark Tel Aviv for 60 MinutesUntil 8 o’clock in the evening no one could predict how many citizens would be participating. But according to statistics, thousands of households turned off their lights turning the campaign a success. As the cultural heart of Israel, the Tel Aviv campaigners hope that the message will inspire the rest of the country.

You may not believe the extent of impact of this seemingly small scale act. One hour of blackout saves dozens of thousands tones of emitted greenhouse gases that damage the environment. The message of this campaign is straight forward – you can and should control your electric consumption. It is our individual and collective responsibility. We cannot trust governments to take it on because they simply won’t . At least not without our encouragement, and in many cases -protest. Politicians take action following public pressures and lobbying. Public support will push the Parliament Members to address these issues and enforce environmental regulations. We can be part of a large, global scale solution just by shutting off the lights when we don’t need them.

“Microwave Baby” Father Faces Life

Microwave Baby Father on TrialStrange and often gruesome things happen in this world, but one of the strangest occurred in May, 2007, in the city of Galveston Texas. It appears that a young man named Joshua Mauldin put his own baby daughter into a microwave oven, and turned in own full blast for about 20 seconds. The child lived, but suffered 2nd and 3rd degree burns over her body and has to have several skin graphs performed as well as losing part of her left ear.

Mauldin, who claims he is insane (obviously) is now on trial for the grisly act, and his daughter, known only as “Baby Ana” is in a foster home. The mother of the child is now in seclusion in another state. So far, the jury which is hearing Mauldin’s case has not been able to reach a verdict which could result in imprisonment for Mauldin for anywhere from 5 to 99 years. A court appointed psychologist, Dr. Harry Faust, met with Mauldin several times following the incident and said that the young man is “a bit strange, but not actually insane”. Mauldin reported bit himself on the wrist and hands several times during these sessions with Dr. Faust, which resulted in the opinion that Mauldin has impulsive and destructive tendencies.

When asked by police why he did such a thing to his own child, Mauldin’s reply was that “she wouldn’t stop crying – so I shut her up!” And indeed he did. Mauldin’s Mother, Joanie, testified that in her opinion, her son does have severe psychological problems and should be considered to be criminally insane. “I would do anything to turn the clock back and keep this horrible thing from happening”, Mauldin’s mom testified in court. The baby’s foster mother, Heather Croxton, testified that she would like very much to adopt the baby and give her the love and support needed to cope with her injuries. They baby will no doubt have emotional trauma to deal with in later life, even if she fully recovers from her physical injuries.

This kind of incident is just another example of scores of abuse incidents that happen to children by parents who really shouldn’t be taking care of children. Even here in Israel, numerous child abuse cases reach the media, including a recent one involving an ultra orthodox couple who are being investigated over allegations of severe child abuse over the years to their 12 children which included whippings, electric shocks, and even incest. Babies and young children have also been literally thrown out windows and from balconies of apartment buildings by their parents, often resulting in the children’s death. Although nothing as bizarre as the “micro-waved baby incident” has happened here yet, other tragic events, too numerous to mention, have resulted in the conclusion that countries like Israel are definitely not immune to cases of child abuse. It’s a sad reality, but all so true.

Noam Shalit to Olmert

Gilad ShalitYesterday Noam Shalit, father of the kidnapped soldier Gilad, passed a harsh critique of the government’s recent actions. Shalit is pointing a blaming finger at the Prime Minister Ehud Olment for not taking instant initiatives to release his son from Hamas captivity. According to Shalit, his son is paying the price for Olmert’s hesitation.

“I ask the prime minister, who said he would personally address the issue of the kidnapped soldiers, why out of the entire chain of command that is linked to the kidnapping fiasco should Corporal Gilad Shalit be the only one to pay the price?”, said Shalit.

Olmert failed to convince Gilad’s family that he is doing everything in his power to rescue Gilad Shalit. If the public believes that the government has forsaken the kidnapped soldiers, it will hurt the public support of the government’s actions, and will also hurt the motivation of the soldiers and those who are about to be enlisted. The morale has already been seriously damaged following the consequences of the second Lebanon war.

It is safe to say that almost every Israeli soldier is ready to put his or her life at risk, but only if the soldier knows the government will do its utmost in case something terrible happens. Olmert must work harder to gain the family’s trust. Olmert has complained that he is an unpopular prime minister. But to become a popular leader he must become a leader first, and to do that Olmert has to work harder to gain the public trust. In the meantime, he is not likely to win a popularity contest just yet.

The Oil War?

Oil WarPicture: The Washington Post

In a mode that could clearly say: “I told you so”, critics of America’s involvement in Iraq are now saying that the U.S. Administration sent the troopers there for one primary reason: to shore up a reliable source of crude oil that would keep flowing into American storage facilities, and hence into American citizens gas tanks for at least another 15 to 20 years. With Iraqi petroleum reserves estimated to be at least 10% to total world supply, and if major American oil companies like Exxon-Mobil and Amoco controlling the pumping of fossilized, primeval Earth in most of Iraq, then it would be a win-win situation; the winners being Uncle Sam and Co. of course.

Unfortunately, for President George Bush (an oilman himself) and his assistant, Vice President Dick Cheney (of Halliburton Corp. fame); things didn’t work out the way they wanted them to. Now that Iraqi and (presumably) US forces are staging an operation against Shiite militiamen in the oil rich Iraqi city of Basra, this oil war doctrine seems to be more relevant than ever. Iraqi oil production has been plagued with a scores of problems in both Iraq’s southern region as well as in the northern, Kurdish controlled sector.

Maybe this explains why so many top American officials have made so many “surprise visits” to Iraq in this 2008 election year.

Ever since the invasion of March, 2003, production and exports of Iraqi crude oil have been beset by a combination of old production equipment in bad repair, as well as countless incidents of sabotage by Iraqi insurgents and foreign elements who simply do not want Iraqi oil to fall into the hands of “The Great Satan”, no matter what the price to Iraq’s own economy. As oil has been this country’s major export (and was used by Saddam Hussein to fleece his pockets during his 30 year reign) not being able to produce and export sufficient quantities has resulted in the country’s economy becoming an international basket case.

Now, more five years later and 4,000 American way dead, this precious resource seems even more distant from American and other Western automobile gas tanks. Countries like Israel, who once feared possible attacks from Iraq with weapons of mass destruction, called WMD’s for short, now fear another oil rich country, Iran, whose leader, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has often called for Israel to be “wiped off the face of the map”. Despite the fact that the U.N. Headquarters is still located in New York City, American governmental officials, and especially New York City officials should have been more prudent than to let this man come twice to address the opening of the U.N. General Assembly, as well as speak before such a pristine academic institution as Columbia University. For it is Iran’s sponsored militiamen who are now fighting Americans in southern Iraq, as well as providing training and arms to Hamas militiaman in Gaza and to the Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Oil is now fetching more than $100 a barrel, and the U.S. Dollar is even weaker than currencies like the Israeli Shekel. It appears that the time has come for some serious stock-taking in regards to just why American forces went into Iraq in the first place, instead of simply letting Saddam Hussein and his cronies remain there as a possible buffer against the real world enemy – Iran.

Nasrallah’s New Game Plan

With the official 40 day mourning period for assassinated Hezbollah terror leader Imad Mughniyeh now over, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah hasn’t wasted any time renewing his rhetoric concerning his organizations plans to take revenge on Israel, whom he say’s are responsible for Mughniyeh’s death. In addition to the regular manner of reprisals, such as additional cross border attacks and kidnappings, possible renewed Ketiusha rocket launchings and the like, the Sheikh now has an additional new “game plan” up his black sleeves. And that plan is to literally saturate Israel with hard line narcotics such as heroin.

Nasrallah’s plan is really nothing new as opium and heroin have been smuggled into Israel for years – even with the “assistance” of the once Southern Lebanese Army which was closely allied with Israel. Raw Lebanese opium originates in the Beka Valley, especially near the town of Baal Beck. From there, it is sent to various “processing centers” where the raw opium is made into heroin and then sent to Kfar Roger on the border with Israel. After being smuggled across the border, it finds its way to Israel’ center, especially Tel Aviv and Lod, where the drug is sold to addicts through holes in the wall, called “Kaspomats”, which is the same term used by ATM machines. Other major cities, including Jerusalem, where large numbers of “users” live, also are eventual recipients of Lebanese narcotics.

The Sheikh plans to literally flood Israel with the hard stuff hoping to demoralize people and increase the number of addicts due to the availability of cheaper heroin. What he fails to realize is all he will be doing is helping to line the pockets of Israeli drug dealers, both Jewish and Arab, who will be happy to handle this new influx of dope, no matter what it’s origin.

To give one an idea of how much money can be made on the stuff, a kilogram of processed heroin brings $20,000 in Lebanon. In Israel, the price skyrockets to $100,000 after final processing in Israel. Illegal narcotics laboratories in Israel dilute the dope so a kilo of Lebanese “H” winds up as 4 to 10 kilos of diluted drugs when finally sold on the “street”. This also doesn’t take into account the risks that the addicts take by using heroin with talcum powder and other “additives” mixed in.

Israeli police officials are already used to having to deal with this kind of problem, which began in earnest following the 1982 Lebanese war. At that time, the border with Lebanon was so “porous” that literally everything, including AK-47 assault rifles and other weapons was brought in by Israeli soldiers and others who were in Lebanon following Israel’s invasion of that country. In the 18 year occupation of the southern “security zone” narcotics, including large quantities of hashish, was also smuggled across into Israel.

Police officials take Nasrallah’s new threat very seriously; and will have to be more vigilant as to these new quantities of “imported” merchandise, courtesy of the Hezbollah.

The Palestinian Shelter

Who thought Israel would serve as a shelter for a Palestinian from Jenin?

This week Israel has granted a residency permit to a 33-year old gay Palestinian who asked to stay with his partner in Tel Aviv. This is not the first time that a Palestinian gay man asks for residency permission, claiming his life is threatened in their hometown.

Under the Hamas regime, the lives of Palestinian gays and lesbians have become more difficult than ever. According to the Palestinian law, homosexual sex is a serious offense punishable by law. The accusations lead to further charges such as spreading the HIV virus. Ten years ago, a Palestinian officer was executed for having sex with a younger man. Next to that, any act of homophobia in Israel looks like a walk in the park!

The lives of gays who live at the West Bank continue to be in constant danger. As part of Israel’s strict security policy, applications on the basis of sexual orientation are typically denied. The Defense ministry does not allow Palestinians to formally unite with their Israeli partners within its territories. This policy applies to both heterosexual and gay couples.

Peter Lerner, spokesman for the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories says: “In this case the man’s lawyer said his life was in danger because of his sexual preference. On this basis we issued the temporary permit”.

Why the apologizing tone? Finally we can say that we have something to be proud about! There is nothing wrong with showing human decency in front of our neighbors and the rest of the world.

IDF Wants You Women!

Women in the ArmyMajor General Elazar Stern protested yesterday against girls who falsely claim to be religious to evade the military service.

According to enlistment rules, girls who identify themselves as religious are not required to join the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), a service that is otherwise mandatory to every young men and women who have turned 18. However, Stern mentions that according to the IDF statistics about 30 percent of the young women who are fit for service declare themselves religious in order to avoid the two-year term. Stern states that the Israeli army needs the female soldiers as much as it needs the men.

Stern draws attention to a troubling trend within the Israeli youth. Young people avoid military service with various excuses, especially those who feel that the IDF policy not to enlist orthodox Jews or young religious women is unjust.

The general feeling is that the attitude of the young generation has changed – many young Israelis are turning indifferent or no longer believe in the ideology of serving one’s own country. More seriously, dodging the army has gradually become a socially acceptable norm.

According to Stern, one’s choice to avoid the military service says a lot about the person’s character. Stern urges employers to ask their candidates about their past experiences in the IDF. “Don’t they deserve to be asked about the two or more years they contributed to their nation? The universities take personality into consideration. Doesn’t the military service say anything about personality? Why can’t we ask about it?”, says Stern.

An important question that IDF seems to pose is what would be the point of enlisting people who have no desire in serving. Would it not turn out to be a disadvantage to the military institution if it is run by unmotivated people?

On a positive note, it is good to hear that the role of women is finally recognized by a major military figure, unless of course Stern means that women are needed to make coffee for their officers.

Picture is part of the article about Ashkan Sahishi of Women in the IDF

Et tu, Cheney?

Cheney in RamallahNo sooner had the fine china been put away for German Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. Presidential candidate John McCain at Jerusalem hotels like the Kind David at Jerusalem hotels like the King David, when U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney came to town. Cheney, also back from a quick trip to beleaguered Iraq (where U.S. forces have just suffered their 4,000th war casualty) stopped off in Israel to visit both with Israeli and Palestinian officials.

Not exactly “Mr. Personality”, Cheney reiterated previous remarks by both McCain and Sec. of State Condoleezza Rice (who was also here recently) in respect to American support of a two state solution and a full partnership with Israel. Cheney also pulled no punches when he mentioned that Iran was not only a danger to Israel but to America and the non-Islamic world at large. This also was not anything new as both Senator McCain and Sec. Rice had made similar remarks.

In respect to relations between Israel and the Palestinians, Cheney said that in order for peace to be achieved, “some painful concessions need to be made”. Now, here is the kicker question in this remark: painful for whom? Israel, the Palestinians (the West Bank Palestinians, that is ) or for those nasty people called Hamas who nobody wants to deal with, except people like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hassan Nasrallah, that is. And we might as well throw in people like Ayman al-Zawahiri, Al Qaeda’s No. 2, and even more nasty than Osama bin Laden, so they say. Cheney’s visit with Palestinian President and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas was also a bit lackluster, but what could one expect, since any rational person knows who the most powerful Palestinian leader really is.

Cheney has been behind much of America’s five plus year Iraq experience that is being “commemorated” today with the announcement of the 4000th slain U.S. combat soldier. Not as bad as Vietnam, which had at least 40,000 dead GI’s after the same 5 year period. But these new war dead are bad enough for a much scaled down professional military that requires it’s thinly spread-out troop contingents to spend at lest two duty tours in either Iraq or Afghanistan – take their choice.

As for Cheney’s short trip here, it will most likely be his last to the region, although his boss, President George W. Bush plans to be back in Israel to help celebrate the upcoming 60th Independence celebration. Busch better not plan to be here at the same time that former Beatles greats Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr plan to be here too, as they will surely upstage him.

Oh what the heck. The fact that he’s still alive with half a heart left feebly beating is a triumph in itself! Dick Cheney doesn’t need to worry about such things as upstaging the Beatles, since he won’t be attending the party.

Israeli Tennis Duo Wins Again

Israeli Duo Wins TennisIsraeli doubles stars Andy Ram and Yoni Erlich have done it again by winning the men’s doubles championship at the 2008 Pacific Life Open in Indian Wells California. Ram and Erlich, virtually repeated their Australian Open feat by winning in straight sets over Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic 6-4, 6-4 to achieve their second important Masters tennis title so far this year. When interviewed afterwards, Ram said that he and Erlich have been concentrating more on improving their game concentration, and that they “have been playing very solid tennis since last summer”.

“We are concentrating more on improving our game, match by match, and giving 100% concentration, rather than trying to win titles”, Erlich added.

The two Israelis are feeling more confident and this is apparently evident in their game performance.

The tournament, also known to many as the Indian Wells Tourney, saw a number of surprises in semi-finals individual matches on Friday, when American No. 1 ace Ron Federer was beaten by another American, Mardy Fish. Another star, Russian Maria Sharapova, was beaten by fellow Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova. Coming into this match, Sharapova had 18 straight wins to her credit.

Mardy Fish, who was beaten by Federer at the same tournament four years ago, was ranked number 98 going into this tournament, and if he wins the championship Sunday will regain much ground he has lost since being ranked number 17 four years ago.

As for Ram and Erlich, they are now in a very good position for advancing in world rankings, and are considered by many as the top male doubles team in professional tennis.

Israel’s female star, Shahar Peer, lost out to Indian female tennis star Sania Mirza in the third round of the competition. Mirza has dominated in previous encounters against the18th ranked Israeli player.

Israeli athletes are making good gains in both amateur and professional competitions, and this is especially so in sports like tennis. It only goes to show that Israelis are capable in holding their own against other players, and hopefully, they will perform as well in singles tennis competitions as they do in doubles matches.

A new Israeli comedy about suicide bombers?

The Tel Aviv Cinematheque is showing a new 30-minute comedy called Bombshell about a young Arab female suicide bomber who fails in her terrorist attack.

BombshellThis is a story of a young female terrorist who plans to blow herself up on an Israeli bus. Her plan takes an unsuspected turn when she is running late and misses the bus. Meanwhile another woman, an Israeli, is on her way to a Leftists’ protest. Her name is Gali Fahima- a parody of Tali Fahima, a radical left-wing activist who has been accused of aiding a well-known terrorist leader Zakaria Zubeidi.

Terrorism and comedy – sounds like a paradox? Not to the creator of the film, Atar Offek: “A good satire, as I intended to make it, does not make fun at the expense of the weak ones but at the expense of the powerful forces in society.” “So here, too, the movie does not ridicule terror victims, it ridicules the terrorists and the (Israeli) army,” says Offek.

The movie satirizes the two sides of the conflict- Jews and Arabs who are both depicted as comical and absurd. The movie trailer introduces the audience to the “IDF absurd theater,” showing a Hamas woman with a gun who tells the viewers: “whoever doesn’t come to watch me is a smoked egg.”

This black comedy offers a different perspective on widely debated Jewish-Arab conflict. The relatively quiet period of the last four years has allowed this movie to pass under the sensitivity radar without raising too much public objection. Yet it managed to invoke considerable attention with its provocative outlook. But will people actually buy tickets to watch it?

Many Israelis look for escapism while others might not be so open to humoring this sensitive subject. An important quality of humor in our lives is that it acts as a great equalizer between people of different groups by bringing them to the same level of entertainment for the masses. Perhaps this is the recipe for making the enemy more of a human being and for normalizing life in the shadows of a violent conflict. After all, the basis of comedy is people and their human faults.

Tacking such a sensitive issue with black humor may seem out of line. But what is the purpose of art if not to provoke, shock and give a unique and unexpected perspective on life? The view taken in this film offers an attitude we may consider adopting though perhaps not to such a radical extent – despite the harsh reality we live in we should not loose sight of our humanity and our brilliant ability to make silly mistakes.

The Heat Is On

To everyone in Israel who woke up this week expecting a regular winter day, a big surprise waited at the door. In the last few days Israel has been experiencing an unusual heat wave. Winter is not over, and yet, temperatures keep soaring and soaring. The source of the heat wave is southern winds coming from Africa, causing an increase of 10 degrees Celsius above average. Still in the grip of drought yesterday surpassed the heat wave record of more than 50 years. Some areas in Israel have seen temperatures rise to as much as 38 degrees Celsius. You could have sworn it was a boiling day in August!

KinneretDuring the entire day firefighters dealt with frequent blazes around the country. Fortunately, no injuries were reported at any of these cases. A dangerous fire also broke out yesterday in a pesticides shed in Sade Moshe, a small southern community. Residents of the area were evacuated from their homes because of the toxic chemicals that spread around the area. The fire department still does not know for sure what started this fire.

The weather seems to be going crazy! Do we witness the effects of global warming? Possibly. At any rate, this winter provided us with poor rainfall. Our major problem is not so much the moist, the sweat, or dangerous fire breakout. Israel’s major concern at the end of winter 2008, is [or should be] the Kinneret Lake, better known as the Sea of Galilee, which is Israel’s largest source of drinking water. The Sea of the Galilee has not sot seen such a severe drought in years, and has recently reached its lowest level in five years. The long period of poor rainfall has resulted in the lake dropping few dozens feet below its “red line”. If this drought situation continues, Israel’s primary source of fresh water is at risk. At this low sea level, toxic substances can dissolve in water and pollute this most precious resource.

Israel’s Water Authority has recently launched a big campaign urging Israelis to save water at home. It seems though, that the Israelis do not take this water crisis too seriously, and this statement applies to both citizens and politicians. At the peak of Sunday’s heat, a group of young green activists chose to protest against the general lack of public interest, creating a human chain that demonstrated the extreme low level of Lake Kinneret. Indeed, not enough is done. Summer is on the way. So when you turn your air conditioner on, take a moment to think about these greater effects of the current weather. We should take actions now, before we have to pay the high price of losing one of our finest resources.

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