Tuesday, July 30, 2013 Monday, April 15, 2013

We will not forget, even for a moment.

— Shimon Peres

(All photographs are the sole property of the author.)

Thursday, November 15, 2012
And the pillar of the cloud went from before their face, and stood behind them: And it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel; and it was a cloud and darkness to them, but it gave light by night to these: so that the one came not near the other all the night.

Exodus 14:19-20, a demonstration of the origins of the term “Pillar of Cloud”, the Hebrew name of the IDF operations in Gaza. As Yair Rosenberg explains excellently in a post for Tablet:

For a campaign intended to halt the barrage of rockets currently raining down on southern Israel, “Pillar of Cloud” is thus a particularly apt title. Just as the cloud protected the Israelites from Egyptian projectiles, so to does the IDF hope to protect Israel’s citizens. However, a literal translation of עמוד ענן—i.e. “Pillar of Cloud”—fails to convey the meaning of the biblical allusion to a lay audience. As such, the IDF chose “Pillar of Defense” as the campaign’s English designation, a conceptual translation which makes clear the intended meaning of the Hebrew.

I have been learned.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Masada (and vistas from its summit)

(June 25, 2012)

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Aliyah and the Revitalisation of Israel

Note: An edited version of this article appears in The Jerusalem Post, entitled "On making aliyah", June 5, 2012

EIN HA’SHOFET, Israel – The State of Israel is hurtling toward pensionable age, having turned 64 this past April, and the numbers of new migrants being absorbed has declined dramatically since the exodus which followed the vanishing of the Soviet Union. But year upon year, thousands of young people continue to make aliyah, in order to take advantage of all a nation with a dynamic economy and cultural scene has to offer: to attend university; to learn Hebrew; to work on a kibbutz; to join the army; to begin life anew.

This may sound like cliché but the statistics show it to be a truism – there is a clear generational bulge amongst new olim, between the ages of 18 and 30, and they journey to Israel from around the world. The newest Ulpan– a five-month intensive Hebrew course – here has just commenced, and its attendees find their origins in the United States, Russia, the Ukraine, Finland, and Hungary amongst others.

Kyle [pseudonym] made aliyah in April of last year from South Africa, aged only 19, following his in brother’s steps. Though Jewish by the Law of Return on his father’s side, he was in fact raised Christian, his father having converted from Judaism some years prior to marriage. His paternal lineage extends back to Europe: to Poland, Lithuania, and Russia. When his brother wished to move to Israel, he was required to prove this heritage by of way photographs of the graves of family members who had perished in the Shoah.

In making the leap, Kyle felt both the pull of Israel and to a certain degree of push out of South Africa. In a nation where 50% of citizens live below the poverty line, “a girl is more likely to be raped than finish [secondary] school”, he noted, citing a report in Time published in March on the issue of ‘corrective rape’.

Almost twenty years since the first universal elections there, South Africa struggles with chronically high unemployment (presently at 23.9%) and a low GDP per capita of only $11,000 per annum, in addition to as Kyle noted systemic problems with crime and governmental corruption. Contrast this with Israel, where the economy is growing at just under 5% a year, unemployment is below 6%, and the GDP per capita stands at $31,000 p/a, and the journey from South Africa to the Promised Land is made to same all the more understandable.

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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

In Israel, Considering Life After The Tal Law

Everyone knows the old joke, right? In Israel, a third of the country works, a third pays taxes, and a third does military service. It just so happens that it’s the same third.

The Tal Law — which has been ruled by the Israeli Supreme Court to be unconstitutional — was designed to correct at least part of this societal imbalance. Prior, Haredi men who entered into a yeshiva for religious instruction were exempt from military service. The Tal Law presented a pathway for the ultra-Orthodox to enter into the army. Torah students were permitted to take a year out for work or non-religious study. Following that year, haredim could then make the choice of whether to return to the yeshiva, or join the workforce and serve in the army in accordance with his marital status, or perform national service for a year and a half.

The number of haredim in service did in fact increase, but not to the extent hoped when the law was introduced some ten years ago. According to Israel Defense Forces figures, 1,282 haredi men enlisted in the army in 2011, up from 898 in 2010 and 729 in 2011.Of course, most of them served in special male haredi units, where the kashrut standards are higher and there is no mixing with women.

Nonetheless, the vast majority of young yeshiva student continue to receive exemptions without recourse, a situation widely deemed untenable given that the Haredi community is expected to double its numbers in the next decade. The Supreme Court ruled that “the wholesale exemption of yeshiva students from military service, authorized by the defense minister, did not conform with basic constitutional standards of equality”.

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Saturday, January 7, 2012

The hilltop youth, those wacky young settlers, have been in the news quite a bit of late – the number of price tag actions is on a constant rise. Yet, we rarely get to see who these “kids” really are.

Last week, Channel 2 gave us a rare glimpse into the minds of some of the hilltop youth leaders. I just couldn’t miss the opportunity to bring it to you.

This translation goes out to my homies in AIPAC, and to the national religious rabbis of the world. Without you, these racists would not be possible.

With thanks to Ami Kaufman for the English translation.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011 Friday, May 27, 2011

ronbarak asked: international force (such as the UN, or the EU, or the Quartet or whatever) or a multinational Israeli/Arab unit made up of Jordanians, Egyptians, Palestinians and Israelis. The IDF on the Jordan river is not the answer.

When we look at the situation in Gaza after the pull back of the IDF, we are forced to accept that it's the only answer.
A platestinian State which is allowed to be directly armed by Iran and Syria will become a larger version of Gaza today, only it will be 3 KM from Ben Gurion Airport, 15 KM from the Mediterranean at Tul Karem, and 19 KM from Tel Aviv.

Thank you for clarifying your proposals with regard to the Jordan Valley. To summarise, you suggest that the Jordan Valley (which is a stretch of land 120 kilometers long and 15 kilometres wide that runs from Lake Tiberias in the north to northern Dead Sea in the south) become territory of the State of Israel and not of the future Palestinian state in any peace agreement. Moreover, you suggest that Israel keep a large force there, as to prevent arms and other tools that could be used against Israel from entering into the West Bank.

This idea is untenable for a number of reasons. First of all, such a move would be unfair on the Palestinians, since it would involve the annexation of a large chunk of the West Bank. Second, it would be an encirclement of the West Bank with Israeli territory, and would remove its border with Jordan (which, on last look, was a state friendly to Israel and to the West). Third, 45pc of the West Bank’s water supply comes from the River Jordan - this would be cut off if this land is given to the State of Israel.

Such an annexation would be undesirable for Israel too. Such a thin strip of land would be indefensible. Holding onto this territory would make Israel less safe, and less secure, not more. I would take umbrage too with the suggestion that arms from Iran and Syria would automatically flow into the West Bank if Israel did not defend this border. Fatah politically are no friends of Assad or Khameini, make no mistake. Further, there is nothing about the character or composition of the West Bank which makes it suspectible to Iranian influence, such a faltering economy, a lack of education, and so forth. (Hamas - of course - is an Iranian proxy, and dealing with them is a separate issue entirely.)

Thus, all in all, I must reject your proposal, and instead restate that it would be far better for Israel’s long term security to encourage the development of a cogent and stable homeland for the Palestinian people in the West Bank and in Gaza, with feasible borders, than to keep building and chipping away at Judea and Samaria via concrete and armaments as is the policy today. President Obama is correct: Israel’s security is sacrosanct. As such, those who care about such things ought to be campaign for a two-state solution that can work, and not one - as you’re suggesting - that can’t.