Countering Coronavirus

Deadly disease “Made in China” and Israel responds

By David E. Kaplan

Dominating the news theses days is a mysterious virus emanating out of China that has a passenger ship quarantined, flight routes suspended, international conferences cancelled and people panicking – where is it going to strike next?

Most disquieting is the ‘surprise factor’ – that something unknown one day, can be so feared the next. While there have been no reported cases so far in Israel – although three Israeli passengers on the ‘Diamond Princess’ cruise ship docked in Japan have been diagnosed with coronavirus – the first US citizen to be diagnosed with the illness died in Wuhan, China, where the mysterious respiratory ailment began.

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Will Israel’s Protective Gear Prevent The Spread? Seen here, a medical worker attends to a patient in the intensive care unit at Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University in Wuhan in central China’s Hubei Province (Xiong Qi/Xinhua via AP)

As the world grapples with this crisis, and in particular to find an antidote, joining the proverbial cavalry is an Israeli startup, Sonovia Ltd.,that says it may have a solution to help stop the spread of the new deadly coronavirus “through novel technology for an anti-pathogen, anti-bacterial fabric.” It has sent the product over to labs in China for testing, notably the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing and a medical lab in Chengdu.

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Stop The Rot. Israel’s Sonovia Ltd. uses nanotechnology to create fabrics that have been shown to be effective against bacterial and fungal infections. The firm’s lab in Ramat Gan.

The co-founder of the Ramat Gan based Sonovia that was founded in 2013, Shay Herscovich, explains:

 “We have identified the methodology to determine the fabric’s ability to eliminate viruses and bacteria. We sent a number of fabrics to China and it would require a few days to colonize the coronavirus on the fabric and evaluate if our technology can destroy it.”

Infusing metal oxides nanoparticles into textiles, Sonovia’s patented technology was developed as protective gear –  to see if the textiles would prove highly effective blocks against bacteria and fungi. Upbeat with the positive results following tests at laboratories at Israel’s Bar Ilan University, the relevant question today is whether Sonovia’s bacteria-fighting fabric can protect against the spread of coronavirus?

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Process In Motion. Sonovia’s machine propels antibacterial nanoparticles onto fabrics at tremendous speed.

According to the company, the technology can be used on masks, protective clothing, hospital bedding and gowns, and other apparel to stop hospital-acquired infections. The enhanced textile “is able to maintain its anti-pathogen activity at up to 100 washes at 75° Celsius (167 Fahrenheit) and 65 washes at 92° Celsius (197 Fahrenheit),” says Sonovia scientist Dr. Jason Migdal.

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Action Stations. Sonovia Chief Technology Officer Liat Goldhammer-Steinberg in the company’s facility in Ramat Gan.

The company, says Migdal, has tested the fabrics against a variety of infections, notably a pilot study in a European hospital that showed that when the textiles were used in protective clothing, there was a significant reduction in infections.

Migdal firmly believes that the same technology could be used to block viruses and potentially stop the spread of the deadly coronavirus.

In a company statement sent out to newsrooms Migdal said “In response to the global concern regarding the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCOV) in China, which has since spread to several other countries, we would like to accelerate the development of our technology.”

Now it is in the hands of the Chinese who according to Migdal, will follow a European protocol to test the fabric’s anti-viral activity.

A further advantage of the ‘face masks’ are that they are designed for repeated use and “could be distributed effectively where they are needed most in China,” says Migdal, “as well as being more sustainable to the environment.”

At the time of writing, there were officially 67,192 Coronavirus cases – the vast majority in China –  and 1,527 deaths.

More people have now died from the coronavirus than during the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) outbreak in 2002-2003.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the outbreak a global emergency and has warned governments to prepare for “domestic outbreak control” if the disease were to spread in their countries.

Last Flight To China

As China grapples with the current outbreak –  over and above the efforts of an Israeli start-up like Sonovia – there are other Israeli non-profit organisations responding to the region’s request for aid by donating sanitary masks, medical supplies, and protective gear.

Israel’s Magen David Adom (MDA) national emergency network has contributed 2,000 masks and 200 full protection kits to help prevent the spread of coronavirus in China.

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Next Stop China. A Magen David Adom worker packing protective supplies to send to China, February 2, 2020. (Photo courtesy of MDA)

Also, the humanitarian aid organization IsraAID sent a shipment of emergency medical supplies and protective gear to the Chinese Ministry of Health on the last flight from Tel Aviv to mainland China. This project was done with partners Israel-China Chamber of CommerceINNONATION and David Ashkenazi of ICCB Capital.

Yotam Polizer ,the Co-CEO of  IsraAID,  said his organisation “will continue to monitor the situation and may launch a secondary response including Mental Health and Psychosocial Support for humanitarian aid workers and first responders working in the area, focusing on stress relief.”

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From Tel Aviv To Wuhan. IsraAID preparing to send medical supplies to China from Tel Aviv to aid in the fight against the Wuhan coronavirus, 2019-nCoV on February 3, 2020

The late Israeli humanitarian, peace activist and founder of the ‘Voice of Peace’ Abie Nathan would be impressed. I recall in an interview with him in the late 1990s when he said, “My aim is that whenever there is a humanitarian crisis in the world, I want an Israel team there among the first  to bring relief.”

Today, Israel has a heightened sense of humanitarian awareness and responsibility with aid teams and private enterprise poised to respond to natural or man-made disasters anywhere in the world.

Israel is proud to respond to the call from China.

 

Nano Textile fights against infections during hospitalization by providing a revolutionary solution in the production of antibacterial factories which prevents the spread of bacteria between patients and staff.

 

The Business of Antisemitism

By Rolene Marks

I was asked recently if it would be possible to appear on an international news channel and be a “neutral” commentator on the announcement by the United Nations Human Rights Council of a blacklist of 112 companies doing business “related to settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory,” which for the UN includes the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem. This is an issue that defies neutrality for so many reasons. As Israel’s President, Reuven Rivlin said, it recalled one of the darkest periods of our history, a time just before the outbreak of World War II, when Jews were forced to wear yellow stars, denoting us as different – and Jewish owned business boycotted, looted or destroyed.

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It defies all rationale when countries like Sudan, Venezuela, Algeria, Bahrain, Bolivia, Chad, Cuba, Djibouti, Ecuador, Egypt, Libya and others form part of the bloc that sponsored the March 2016 resolution that led to the publishing of the blacklist. After all, these are not countries that enjoy good records on human rights.

There must be many victims of conflict wondering why their cries fall on deaf ears.  The United Nations prove time and again that when it comes to Israel, they have a focus that has become an obsession. Resolution after resolution time and again, single Israel out for opprobrium but gross human rights violations like those in Iran, Venezuela, Syria and many other places barely elicit a response.

 

The publishing of this blacklist also plays right into the hands of the BDS (Boycott Divestment and sanctions) movement whose desired end goal is for Israel to not exist, a desire expressed clearly on their website and in their rhetoric. BDS is anti-normalisation – they are against any discourse and interaction between Israelis and Palestinians.  For many who believe that peace will be built from the interaction between ordinary people and the provision of jobs and opportunities, a campaign like this deals a decisive blow to any efforts towards sustainable peace.

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According to NGO Monitor, an organisation that monitors the often murky activities of non-governmental organisations, many of whom are associated with the BDS movement, not only was this list made in conjunction with pro-BDS and PFLP-linked NGOs, but these companies have done nothing wrong and many are involved in providing goods and services to Palestinians pursuant to the Oslo Accords.

These companies help create employment and opportunity for many Palestinians, who stand to lose the most. The decision to create a blacklist of companies not only threatens Palestinian employment opportunities but blocks access to the much needed humanitarian aid and infrastructure that these companies provide. The blacklist also hearkens back to times when Jews were singled out and put on exclusionary lists and today, the growing practice of labelling products manufactured in the West Bank is tantamount to wearing a modern day yellow star. Why is Israel singled out for this treatment but other countries with conflict situations are not?

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(photo credit: REUTERS,JPOST STAFF)

 

A few weeks ago, I attended a conference where the CEO of SodaStream, Daniel Birenbaum, was a featured speaker. SodaStream is a well-known Israeli brand, sold to PepsiCo for a whopping $3.2billion, faces threats by BDS because their factory was situated in the West Bank.  Birenbaum addressed the discriminatory practice of labelling goods produced in the West Bank by saying “if they want labels, we will give them labels” and promptly displayed the label found on all on SodaStream products.

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SodaStream CEO Daniel Birenbaum addresses a conference the issue of labelling.

Perhaps it would behoove the UN to learn from examples of co-existence and not pander to campaigns that are anti-Semitic and fall into the trap of questioning Israel’s legitimacy as a sovereign state. Blacklists, boycotts and labelling campaigns are harmful to sincere peace building efforts.

The timing of this could not be more bizarre. The release of the blacklist comes against the background of the release of the Trump Peace Plan. Although the Palestinians have roundly refused to even look at the plan, it has been endorsed by countries like Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Egypt and other Arab countries.

The Arab world is slowly opening up to the realization that recognition of Israel and the potential mutual business potential only bode well for the people of the region – and helps stave off the massive threat posed by Iran, a country not exactly lauded for its record on human rights.

This move by the United Nations Human Rights Council is a dark day for the institution, for Israel and the Palestinians and gives a tailwind to anti-Semites. It is a failure of the power of an agency charged with the mandate of protecting global human rights.

For the United Nations that is fast losing credibility and the regard the institution once held, the publishing of this blacklist, coupled with the obsessive focus on Israel at the expense of other conflicts and human rights issues around the world prove that or this once venerable body, antisemitism is just business as usual.

Shifting Sands

Saudi Writers To Palestinians: Accept Trump’s Peace Plan Or “You’ll Regret It Later”

By David E. Kaplan

While British Prime Minister Boris Johnson lavished praise on Donald Trump’s vision for Middle East peace during the PM’s question time in the House of Commons, far more telling was the ‘Shifting Sands’ responses from Saudi Arabian intellectuals and journalists.

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In 1960, a British Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan spoke of a ‘Wind  of Change’ blowing across the continent of Africa. Could it be that in 2020, another such transformative shift  could be blowing across the Middle East, emanating from the Arabian Peninsula –the birthplace of the Islamic prophet Mohammed?

While and to be expected, there is no change of the solid Saudi support of the Palestinian people and their quest for statehood, nevertheless, the official Saudi position on U.S. President Donald Trump’s “Deal of the Century” was one of support, albeit qualified.

The Saudi Foreign Ministry reaction was clearly revealed in the Riyadh-based, pro-government Saudi daily newspaper, Al-Riyadh  in the January 29, 2020 edition:

the Kingdom appreciates the efforts made by President Trump’s administration to develop a comprehensive Palestinian-Israeli peace plan, and it encourages the start of direct peace negotiations between the sides under U.S. sponsorship, in which any dispute regarding details of the plan will be settled. This, in order to advance the peace process and arrive at an agreement that will actualize the brother Palestinian people’s legitimate rights.”

This is a marked shift in attitudes from the past and a clear indication to move the process forward.

To  encourage the Palestinians and offer reassurance that they were not being abandoned by the kingdom’s “qualified” support for the plan, the Saudi press reported in Al-Watan that King Salman spoke with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas by phone, assuring him of “the Kingdom’s steadfast position vis-à-vis the Palestinian cause and the rights of the Palestinian people.”

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Over and above the royal position, most illuminating is the support the peace initiative has received from the Saudi media, as well as telling tweets by intellectuals and journalists.

Noting the famous line by famed Israeli diplomat, Abba Eban that “The Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity”, a number have been calling on the Palestinians not to miss “this opportunity” and to approach the plan with a positive mindset.

The articles and tweets recall that every plan offered to the Palestinians has been worse than the one preceding it and that if they reject the ‘Deal of the Century’ now, they may well long for it in the future.

Hereunder are extracts from articles and tweets:

Ibrahim Al-Nahas in the Saudi daily Okaz

Hasten not to reject and examine the plan carefully is the advice to the Palestinians from Political Science lecturer at King Saud University and Saudi Shura Council Member, Ibrahim Al-Nahas.

In an interview with the Saudi daily Okaz, Al-Nahas expressed that “Trump’s Peace Plan,’ or, as media call it, the ‘Deal of the Century,’ is an important stage in the Palestinian-Israeli peace process in particular, and in the peace process in the Middle East in general.” While this “does not mean that it should be accepted without discussion of its goals and objectives,” he added that “all the Palestinian elements must examine the plan carefully, and especially while keeping in mind past experience [with previous proposals]. ……”

He advised that Palestinian decision-making should not be linked “to regional elements [such as Iran, Qatar, or Turkey], as some Palestinian factions and movements do,” and “cease the accusations of treason voiced by some of the Palestinians and Arabs against Arab countries that maintain advanced ties with the U.S.”

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Ahmad Adnan in Okaz

Saudi journalist Ahmad Adnan wrote in his column in the Saudi daily Okaz located in Jeddah.

The PA has made negative statements against the deal. I maintain that at this stage it needs a friend to be honest with it, telling it and advising it: Sign the deal and then curse it as much as you want, day and night. The Palestinians have in decades past specialized in missing golden opportunities because of [their] mistaken assessment of their capabilities and of the crisis.”

After listing a number of examples of these ‘missed opportunities”,

Adnan writes that “In actuality, the Palestinian cause is no longer the Arabs’ main cause – not because the Arabs have given up on Palestine, but because this matter [i.e., the Palestinian plight] is mirrored in all Arab states, as we have seen in Syria, for example. The Palestinians will hear the merchants of the Palestinian cause creating a great uproar and will discover too late that this uproar is aimed at exploiting them in order to take over and destroy the region.”

Perhaps the merchants of the [Palestinian] cause will manage to torpedo the Deal of the Century, and, as we today bemoan the [missed opportunity of the] Arab peace initiative, we will tomorrow bemoan the Deal of the Century – while the Palestinians, unfortunately, descend towards the fate of the [American] Indians…”

 Khaled Al-Suleiman in Okaz

Concerned that if the Palestinians reject the deal that they will be compelled to relinquish even more, Khaled Al-Suleiman wrote in his column in ‘Okaz:

The history of the Palestinian cause has proven that reality is the greatest enemy of the Palestinians. The price of Palestinian and Arab rejection of every peace plan was [only] more concessions, beginning with the partition plan through the Clinton plan to the Trump plan.

It should be noted that the Palestinian decision-making has always been subject to pressure and control by  Arab regimes that harmed the Palestinians as much as Israel did, if not more.

Today, the Palestinians again find themselves facing a peace plan that gnaws away more of their rights and sets them against options even more bitter than those in the past. But rejecting [the plan] this time does not mean that the [next] will carry a lower price-tag. International reality is now presenting the Palestinian cause  with the worst possible scenario, since it is weak, isolated, and ignored. Therefore, the Palestinians’ options today are more limited, and cannot tolerate unrealistic positions.

“The Palestinians must calmly examine the reality of their struggle with Israel and of their relations with the Arab [regimes], so as to draw up a position that will serve their interests, not the slogans of others. All the Arab regimes that have in the past traded in their cause, and that continue to do so, live within their own independent borders, far from any state of war with Israel. Their support for the Palestinians consists of nothing but hollow slogans and incitement, for which the Palestinians pay with their spirit, blood and money.”

Muhammad Al-Osaimi in the Saudi daily Al-Yawm 

Noting that  the Palestinians have missed many opportunities over the years, columnist Muhammad Al-Osaimi in the pro government Arabic daily newspaper Saudi Al-Yawm daily, argues that had they grasped them, they would have been better off today. He therefore counsels they should not be quick to reject the ‘Deal of the Century’:

Who knows how many opportunities [for peace] the Palestinians have had in the past 30 years? Had these opportunities been realized, they could have been today in a better situation as a people and as a country …… Now they face another opportunity that they are rejecting, and that they may  long for in another five or 10 years.”

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Al-Yawm daily

 

Truth On Twitter

“The Day Will Come When The Palestinians Yearn For It” is the message from Saudi intellectuals on Twitter.

Saudi intellectual Turki Al-Hamad tweets:

The Palestinians are making a big mistake by not agreeing to the American peace plan. I mean, what’s the alternative? The Palestinians have missed numerous opportunities because of slogans that led [them] astray and strategies of ‘all-or-nothing.’ The end result was nil: continued occupation, loss of Jerusalem, erosion of large parts of the West Bank, and an internal Palestinian struggle harsher than the conflict with Israel.”

He followed with this further tweet:

Previous opportunities were better than this one, but their answer was always no. This was when the Palestinian issue headed the global agenda. Today, the Palestinian issue has been cast into oblivion, and the Palestinians have no other alternative – unless the chaos of Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad or the powerlessness of the PLO can be considered options.”

And in a subsequent tweet::

Politics is the art of the possible, and what is possible today is the proposed American plan. Should the deal be rejected, the alternative will be the continued erosion of the West Bank territories. Then the Palestinians will say ‘If only we had agreed’ – just like with the previous plans.

It’s time for the Palestinians to change their behavior so that it serves the interests of their people…”

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Saudi Intellectual Turki Al-Hamad who earlier criticised the Palestinians for forfeiting an important opportunity by boycotting the Bahrain Economic Workshop in 2019. (Watanserb.com, March 10, 2019)

A former columnist for Okaz and the Al-Arabiya website , Saleh Al-Fahid, tweeted:

The Palestinians’ rejection of the Deal of the Century reminds me of their rejection of the 1947 Partition Plan and of all peace plans proposed to them since then. Each time they were offered less, and they pointlessly yearned for the previous plan. I am worried that if they reject the Deal of the Century, the day will come when they yearn for it …”

Another Okaz columnist, Abd Al-Rahman Al-Lahim tweeted criticism of the Palestinian organisations opposing the deal:

Imagine you had a hen that laid golden eggs. Would you relinquish her? Never. You would make an uproar so as to fill your pockets. This is the situation of the Palestinians who trade in the Palestinian cause and reject peace…”

Changing Landscapes

Away from Saudi Arabia, no less illuminating of changing perceptions on Israel was Al-Jazeera presenter Faisal al-Qasim tweeting that “Zionism was the most successful project in the twentieth century.” Despite risking the wrath of his 5.5 million followers for “his kind of praise for the Zionists”, al-Qasim was not deterred.

He tweeted:

Who are the most advanced, developed, democratic and successful … Israel or the Arab regimes?

…..The majority of Arabs, if they want to insult you, they describe you as ‘Zionist,’ knowing that the most successful project in the past century and the present is the Zionist project, while all projects of the Arabs, especially Arab nationalism, have failed. Before you use the word Zionist as an insult you must first reach the shining sole of Zionism.”

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Al-Jazeera presenter Faisal al-Qasim.

A Far Cry

These words reveal changing mindsets.

They represent a far cry from the crazed anti-Israel rhetoric of the 1960s fueling Egyptian strongman, Gamal Abdel Nasser to unite the fractious Arab states behind him leading to the Six Day War. Now, in 2020, that anti-Israel fanaticism has begun to dissipate, and a new somewhat more positive attitude toward the Jewish state has begun to emerge not only among rulers eager for allies in confronting Iran, but also among segments of the Arab populace across the Middle East eager for peace and prosperity.

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Fueling mass hysteria against Israel in the sixties, President Gamal Abdul Nasser is seen here delivering a speech in Aleppo on February 17, 1960

The Israel Brief- 10-13 February 2020

 

The Israel Brief – 10 February 2020 – Netanyahu threatens large scale operation in Gaza. Abbas at the UN. Israel to meet Saudi?

 

 

 

The Israel Brief – 11 February 2020 – Palestinian UN flop. Hamas leader fears assassination. Did Likud app leak vital info?

 

 

The Israel Brief – 12 February 2020 – Showdown at UN. Qatar Former PM says there may be a regional non aggression pact. Hamas and Netanyahu trade blows.

 

 

 

The Israel Brief – 13 February 2020 – UN blacklist. UAE want Israeli investment. Israelis not allowed off Diamond Princess Cruise liner.

 

 

 

 

 

My journey as an Olah (Immigrant)

By Justine Friedman

To make Aliyah in the literal sense of the world is a process of going up. Going up from a place that would assume to be on a “lower level” up to the land of Israel which is therefore assumed to be on a “higher level”. And while this is true for the most part, and I imagine the ultimate result will be one of ascension, this process of going up sometimes feels a lot like a long slide down a snake in a game of snakes and ladders.

I may still be very fresh and green in this process as I have only recently arrived from South Africa in November of 2019, but already I see a trend that I can imagine will continue to emerge no matter how long the period from my actual date of Aliyah.

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Living in the land of Israel still feels quite surreal. I can’t believe I am actually here. I feel that from the time my husband and I decided to start the process towards making this monumentous change in our lives until today, that there was always another force at work ensuring that once we got on board that Aliyah train there was not a single exit stop on the way until we disembarked at Ben Gurion airport.

All olim (immigrants) have their own story to tell and some sound and seem more glamorous than others; but the truth at the end of the day is that we all want to be here and we all miss and mourn the loss of what we have left behind. No matter where in the world you have come from, what we gain has come at the cost of a loss as well.

For me one of my biggest losses was walking away from the private practice I had built up over 17 years in Johannesburg as a dietician. I had just started giving more talks and using coaching in sessions to help my clients with the skills and tools they needed to make lasting lifestyle and behavioural changes. With the ability to work online I am so lucky to still be able to connect and help some of my clients. However, to practice in Israel I need to convert my degree and sit an exam. Imagine after 20 years going back and studying an entire syllabus all over again! So each day, I sit down with my new brand of coffee and my water from my mehadrin water machine and tackle the next chapter of nutrition.

As I slowly settle into a new home, culture, language, grocery store, foods, driving on the opposite side of the road, medical system, the list goes on… my desire for the familiar screams out to me. Having a sense of humour is definitely a priority when countless times I have to remind myself which side of the car to get into if I want to be the driver. The first few times I reached for my seat belt over the wrong shoulder and every time I am in the passenger seat it feels weird that I can’t look up at the rear view mirror and see what is behind me.

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Waze (the GPS navigation app) has become my best friend.  I really don’t know how people made Aliyah before this incredible app existed. A small victory for me is when I am able to get from one point to another without needing to use this super intelligent driving buddy!

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If I can reflect on the last 3 months my highlights have been davening  (praying) at the Kotel (Wailing Wall) , seeing our container drive up to our front door and offloading our possessions from home, receiving my permanent Teudat Zehut (identity card), receiving my Israeli drivers licence and my children finally telling me that they are enjoying being here and that it is starting to feel like home.

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I know I have a long way to go.  A doctor recently told me, after 25 years I will feel settled, but I am so grateful to be where I am with the incredible community of olim (immigrants) around me who make friends feel like family. There is a process to the rungs up this ladder of Aliyah that I need to climb and I will learn to embrace the slides down the snakes as well because in my heart I know that I am finally home.

 

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Justine Friedman (nee Aginsky) made aliyah from Johannesburg, South Africa in November 2019 with her husband and their two children. In Johannesburg she was a successful clinical dietician, coach and speaker who ran her own private practice for 17 years. Justine is passionate about helping people, and women in particular, achieve greater degrees of health in their mind, body and soul. She achieves this with her own blend of a holistic approach which includes nutrition, skills and tools for improving thoughts and healing emotions and energy healing which includes visualisations, meditation and hypnosis. All consultations that she offers can be done both face to face or online. She is based in Modi’in and loves the challenges and successes that living in Israel has to offer.

 

 

Feature Picture – Credit : RONEN ZVULUN / REUTERS

 

Delight in Diversity

Israel is a country of minorities and this will show again on stage at 2020 Eurovision

By David E. Kaplan

Following her win in Hakokhav Haba (The Next Star) aired on Israel’s Channel 12 with the  Beyoncé’s mega-hit Halo, 19-year-old Eden Alene will be the first Israeli of Ethiopian descent to represent the state of Israel at the Eurovision Song Contest – watched by over 180 million –  when she takes to the stage this May in Rotterdam.

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Hands Up. Victory for Eden Alene, Israel’s 2020 Eurovision representative and winner of the reality show “The Next Star” during the final in Neve Ilan studio near Jerusalem on February 4, 2020. (Shlomi Cohen/Flash90)

There have been other Israeli FIRSTS for minorities in the Eurovision Song Competition. In 2009, singer Mira Awad, an Arab represented Israel together with Jewish singer Achinoam Nini with their entry that had a message – There must be another way.  The lyrics did not reveal what that “other way” should be, but merely representing their country together – on stage – was already indicating their “way”.

Israel won its first Eurovision way back in 1978 with Izhar Cohen, the first entry of an Israeli of Yemenite descent, and in 1998, Dana International, who won the coveted competition with “Diva”. Dana is a transgender singer who identifies as female.

Diversity is ingrained in Israel’s DNA as sometimes frustratingly exposed in Israeli elections where there are 17 parties represented in the Knesset and another 30 parties contesting to join them.

Is it any wonder there were no results in the two elections in 2019 and the Israeli electorate is going back to the polls for a third election soon dreading that there might be a fourth!

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The Face Of Israel. To represent her country at the 2020 Eurovision Song Competition, Eden Alene.

On becoming the first Israeli of Ethiopian descent chosen to represent the country at Eurovision, Eden told Channel 12’s Nadav Bornstein following her victory, that “This is my country, and it is amazing that an Ethiopian will represent the country for the first time.”

Alene was raised in Jerusalem’s Katamon neighborhood by a single mother who immigrated from Ethiopia, and later moved with her family to Kiryat Gat. Said her mother Zehava, “Eden represents pride for all Ethiopians. Everyone is behind her, supporting her and loving her.”

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Mother And Daughter. An emotional Eden Alene hugs her mother Zehava, after she was announced the winner of ‘HaKochav Haba,’ making her Israel’s representative to the 2020 Eurovision (Courtesy HaKochav Haba)

Road To Rotterdam

My poor mother, she had a hard time taking it in. She collapsed in my arms,” Alene said on the Chadshot Haboker (The Morning News) show.

It was all too evident onstage as Eden, surrounded by judges, presenters and other contestants, clutched a small Israeli flag under her arm while she wrapped her other arm around her mother and hugged her tight. Singing again as the winner that will take her to the 2020 Eurovision in Rotterdam, her perfect voice suddenly broke slightly, as she looked into her mother’s eyes.

It has clearly been a long road for this mother and daughter pair.

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Singing Her Heart Out. Eden Alene, winner of the 2020 “The Next Star to Eurovision.” Photo by Shlomi Cohen/FLASH90

On hearing the name Eden over and over again as the present pride of the Ethiopian community in Israel, I thought back to another Ethiopian young woman by the same first name – Eden – who I had interviewed some years ago as a 26 year-old-student at the IDC Disciplinary center Herzliya.

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Making Of A Star. Alene performing at Israel’s 70th Independence Day at Karmiel in 2018.

Eden Senai was one of the many in the mass ‘exodus’ of Ethiopian Jews rescued by Israel from Ethiopia as part of Operation Solomon. She arrived in Israel aged six in 1989 with her mother.

A diminutive child, Eden’s journey ‘out of Africa’ was almost entirely on her mother’s back. She relates a traumatic experience when they were robbed by brigands on route to the Sudan. “They started shooting and threatened to kill us, but my mother pleaded for our lives and somehow, they let us go.” Arriving in the Sudan, they fell under the protection of a rebel militia.

For four months while we waited for the trucks to fetch us, I was separated from my mother and the rest of the Jews. My mother was insistent; she felt that if the camp was attacked, at least I might survive.”

When the trucks finally arrived, “we climbed in and they covered us with straw in case we were stopped and searched. They drove us by night to the plane which brought us to Israel.” Arriving in Israel, “I was diagnosed as suffering with malaria and the doctors thought I had little chance of surviving.”

Eden survived!

The name Eden – in Hebrew עֵדֶן – is derived from the Biblical Garden of Eden, meaning ‘delight’ in the book of Genesis. Like the older Eden who is today in all probability a successful practicing lawyer, Eden Alene  today is a young lady with a future of music before her.  When she takes to the international stage  for the 2020 Eurovision Song Contest in Rotterdam on May 16, Eden will have turned 20 only 9 nine days earlier!

With “delight”  being in the meaning of her name, Eden has been delighting listeners in public since “she was in nursery school,” says her mother and later, “at an elementary school talent show.” Today, Eden is a soldier in the Israel Defense Forces and is no novice to winning big competitions.  In 2018, she won Israel’s “X-Factor” reality TV show.

And while dikes hold water back in Holland, nothing holds Eden back as she heads for Rotterdam!

 

 

 

 

Feature Picture: Eden Alene (Photo – Ortal Dahan).

Southern Hope

By Gina Raphael

There has been every opportunity for Gaza to become its own version of the “Start-Up Nation” like Israel, with blooming agriculture and beautiful beaches.  

When Israel disengaged from Gaza in 2005, the farmers of the Gush Katif area (approximately 20 communities with almost 10,000 residents) were responsible for 15 percent of Israel’s agricultural exports. With love, they literally made the sand dunes bloom. The opportunity existed to expand upon this richness when Israel left the Gaza Strip. Instead, the Strip has become an area of misery, despair and hatred.

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Some Other Days – Anita Tucker standing in her greenhouse in Gush Katif.

Hamas, which has been recognized as a terrorist organization by the US, Canada and the EU, has run the Gaza strip for more than a decade, beginning shortly after the disengagement. They have misused donations meant for human aid to enrich their leaders, built terror tunnels to infiltrate Israel, used schools and hospitals as cover to shoot missiles, and have sent explosive balloons across the border to Israel to harm children. Hamas denies their people basic human rights including freedom of speech. Children are taught in schools to hate and to kill.

Tensions Remain High At Israeli Gaza Border
Only For Distruction – Overview of a tunnel built underground by Hamas militants leading from the Gaza Strip into Southern Israel (Ilia Yefimovich—Getty Images)

On an almost weekly basis, Hamas has sent rioters including children to the border with Israel, hoping for them to be shot and provide negative media coverage against Israel.  The cycle of violence and hatred has basically gone unchecked by the public. Gaza has almost two million residents who live under this tyrannical existence. And, Israel on the other side is affected constantly from these attacks.

Where is the outrage against Hamas and the other terrorist organizations operating in the region in addition to the funders of this terrorism for over a decade? We continue to hope for real change and a positive outcome for so many.

We can only advocate and bring light to the truth of the horrors of Hamas.  And, we can work to make a difference in Israel. We can find ways to help those in harm’s way and say thank you to those who keep us safe.

This January, I had the opportunity to meet with Mayor Alon Davidi of Sderot who lives with his family and a community of over 28,000 – literally one mile from the border with Gaza. They have been a target of constant barrage of rockets.

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An Officer And A Gentleman – Mayor Alon Davidi with IDF officers (Photo: IDF Spokesperson’s Unit)

I am so honoured to be part of The Women’s International Zionist Organization (WIZO), who provide rocket proof day care centers and therapy to those affected by PTSD from the constant attacks in Sderot. Not only is Sderot surviving, under the leadership of Mayor Davidi – they are thriving. They continue to build their community despite attacks of Qassam Rockets and mortars from the Gaza Strip.

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Warm Welcome To Special Guests – Sderot Mayor Alon Davidi welcomes a WIZO delegation to his town.

Last month, I also began fulfilling a promise made during the summer of 2019 to an American Soldier serving in the IDF to provide extra assistance to soldiers who face challenges. Unity Warriors, founded by Ben Goldstein, distributes supplies in addition to those provided by the IDF and extra items that are often too expensive for the soldiers to provide for themselves.

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Hope For Peace – The Author with Ben Goldstein , founder of Unity Warriors, on Gaza Border

We decided to bring a gift of high-power flashlights to a battalion of soldiers serving at the Gaza border, a small token to help them see more clearly when they patrol the area at night.

The highlight of my trip was bringing these much needed suppliers of light and thanking these soldiers who fulfill their duty in keeping Israel safe. Day by day they ensure that those of us who live in Israel and in the diaspora will always have a safe haven.

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Viewing Gaza – Author with soldiers viewing Gaza from a border line settlement.

These soldiers face a reality every day at the border that is hard to understand. They do this with grace, dignity and honour amid explosive balloons, missiles, terrorist attacks and civilians looking to flee the misery of Hamas, living in sparse conditions.

I came to thank the soldiers, but they came to thank me. They thanked me for visiting and listening to their stories about their life at the border and their hopes for the future. They inspired me so and gave me a gift of badges of the Israeli flag. Together we got to share our pride of Israel.

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Means It All – Modest tokens that filled the hearts with joy

It was beyond meaningful to walk the border at Gaza and deliver my own prayer for peace for the future.  On the site, I visited “Path to Peace,” a mosaic wall created by thousands who share the same vision. While we stand strong against hatred, we work towards and pray for peace and love.

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Great Hopes – Path to peace in Netiv Ha’Asara

As we literally brought light to the soldiers, we pray for the light of justice to make a difference in Gaza.

 

 

Want to donate to Unity Warriors? Check out the link below:
https://unitywarriors.com/

The Israel Brief- 03-06 February 2020

 

The Israel Brief – 03 February 2020 – Abbas threatens to cut ties with Israel and US. Netanyahu in Uganda. Red Hot Chilli Peppers to rock Tel Aviv.

 

 

 

The Israel Brief – 04 February 2020 – Productive trip to Africa for Netanyahu. Hamas threaten to use tear gas. Israel sends aid to China to help with Corona crisis.

 

 

 

The Israel Brief – 05 February 2020 – Israeli children run for shelter from terror balloons. Israelis on quarantined ship. Hamas smugglers caught. 

 

 

 

The Israel Brief – 06 February 2020 – 3Terror attacks in one day. Abbas and Olmert to hold joint press conference. Kirk Douglas 1916-2020.

 

 

 

The WINA Rob Shilling Show – 05 February 2020 – Rolene Marks talks about the Trump Plan and other issues (18:40min – 35:40min).

Hollywood, Hebrew, Holy Land

Winning a Golden Globe, Quentin Tarantino is Glowing– and expecting his first child in Tel Aviv

By David E. Kaplan

While most Israelis sigh over having to be subjected to a ‘ho-hum’ third election in less than one year, Tel Aviv’s celebrated new resident, Quentin Tarantino jokes, saying:

 “I wish we had a third election in the US. Unfortunately there was only one.”

Married to Israeli singer/model, Daniella Pick, who is pregnant with their first child, Tarantino told the Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot  following his 2020 Golden Globe Award for Best Screenplay for his movie ‘Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood’,

he not only feels “at home” in Tel Aviv; but  “this really is my home now.”

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Dynamite Duo. Quentin Tarantino and Daniella Pick attend the “Once Upon a Time … In Hollywood” U.K. premiere in London, July 30, 2019. (Karwai Tang/WireImage/Getty Images)

And when the occasion arises, the award-winning director enjoys breaking into basic Hebrew. Hardly short of such ‘occasions’, so when accepting from the Beverly Hills Hilton in Los Angeles his Golden Globe, he thanked his wife who was watching the ceremony on television from Tel Aviv with:

 “Toda geveret,” meaning “Thanks, Mrs.” in Hebrew.

The birth of his baby, he says, “will inspire him to learn more.  “Obviously, I’m going to learn. I don’t want my boy or girl to speak a language I can’t understand.”

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Tying The Knot. Quentin Tarantino and Daniella Pick exchange vows in a private wedding ceremony.

‘The writing is on the wall’ literally for Tarantino because hanging in his new Israeli home in north Tel Aviv are posters in Hebrew of his movies “Reservoir Dogs”, “Inglorious Bastards”, “Django Unchanged” and “The Hateful Eight”.

Tarantino’s first connection to Israel changed his life and is introducing a new one. How so? It was when Tarantino was promoting ‘Inglorious Bastards” in Israel 10 years ago that he met his future  – now pregnant – wife who is the daughter of the famous Israeli pop singer/songwriter, composer and television personality Svika Pick.

Tarantino and Pick got engaged in July 2017 and tied the knot in November 2018 in an intimate ceremony at their Beverly Hills home.

When he was asked at the time about his daughter’s engagement to the famous director, Daniella’s dad who was  ‘Israel’s Male Singer of the Year’ in the 1970s and penned the song which won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1998, replied, “There is joy in our family.”

Well in a few months’ time there will be more joy.

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Cozy In Cannes. Quentin Tarantino and Daniella Pick were the epitome of true love as they cozied up at The Specials premiere during the Cannes Film Festival.

While it may be hard to imagine Tarantino – whose films tend to spotlight dark violence and bizarre quirks – as a stay-at-home dad, he told Jimmy Kimmel on Jimmy Kimmel Live! that was precisely his “plan”.

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Picture Perfect. Poster of Tarantino’s latest movie for which he won a 2020 Globe Award.

Asked by Kimmel if he was going to play golf, the director said, “I just got married, I want to have kids.” Maybe Tarantino did his homework in family planning too! According to a 2015 survey Israel is one of the best countries in the world to raise a family. InterNations, the world’s largest network for people who live and work as expats abroad, ranked Israel third on their list of 19 countries for raising a family.

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Time Out In Tel Aviv. Daniella Pick and Quintin Tarantino catch a cuddle on sidewalk bench in Tel Aviv.

With the couple living much of the time at their new home in north Tel Aviv, Tarantino says  “I have some short trips back to the US planned for the Oscar awards ceremony. And of course, we’ll be here for the birth and after.”

His new life includes riding his bike around Tel Aviv, going to movies and says, “I love the country and the people are really nice, very nice to me and they seem excited that I’m here.”

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Capital Screening. Attending a special screening in Israel’s capital of a documentary about his work at the Jerusalem Cinematheque on Dec. 14, 2019, Quentin Tarantino and wife Daniella. (Photo: Courtesy/Shaul Weinstein)

 

To a question of any concerns about missiles fired from the Gaza Strip, he replies “I’m not scared at all. Like everyone else here, I don’t really notice it.”

Clearly, very few foreigners do.

In its list of top 20 destinations for 2020, Forbes Travel Guide placed Tel Aviv the 2nd best city to visit in the world.

Maybe one day inspired by his new enriching surroundings we can expect not only more kids but a sequel:

 “Once Upon A Time …in Tel Aviv”

 

 

 

 

Feature picture: American filmmaker and actor Quentin Tarantino in Jerusalem. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

President’s Peace Plan

A Time To Discuss And Negotiate Rather Than Reject

By Allan Wolman

Claiming that the world rejects the Trump peace plan is indeed misleading but in line with the type of biased journalism of those determined to contribute to the vilification of the Jewish State; lying seems to come naturally to some journo’s and commentators given what they claim about the support or rather lack thereof for this latest peace plan.

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Pursuing Peace. President Trump unveils his Mideast peace plan with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at his side, but regrettably with no Palestinian representative in attendance at the White House on Jan. 28, 2020. (Sarah Silbiger / Getty Image)

Apart from Israel, the following countries have so far demonstrated support for the US Administration’s plan are Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, I.K., India, Oman, Italy, Brazil, Poland, Australia, Austria, Egypt, Columbia, Morocco, Denmark, Japan and Czech Republic.

Publicly playing support were the ambassadors from Bahrain, Oman and the United Arab Emirates who attended the unveiling of the President’s plan frequently referred to as the “Deal of the Century.” Their attendance was seen as a warming of ties between the Arab world and Israel.

However, no surprise that Palestine, Turkey, Venezuela and Iran are openly against it.

Whilst I am no supporter of the US president and in fact thought that the press conference at the unveiling of the peace initiative was contrived and somewhat embarrassing – not withstanding my personal view – this “deal” is certainly a refreshing beginning to negotiations that could result in a real and lasting peace settlement. Of course, that would depend on the Palestinian leadership agreeing to sit down to discuss and negotiate, as many of her brethren across the Middle East have urged.

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Game-Changer Not Playing Games. Kushner tells Egyptian TV Peace Plan aims to block settlements expansion.

As US envoy Jared Kushner told the Egyptian MBC Masr network in an interview, “If the Palestinians don’t like where the line is drawn, they should come and tell us where they want to draw it.” Further expressing to the Egyptian anchor Amr Adib, Kushner continued that “If the leaders of the Palestinians want to do what is best for their people, I think they will read the plan. They should come to the table, sit with the Israelis and say: ‘Look, We appreciate the gesture you have made. There are some major compromises [in the plan] you have never made before. These are the four or five or six things that we would like you to consider changing. And if you do this, you have a deal.’ That is how people who are ready to have a state make deals,” Kushner said.

However, in line with Palestinian intractability, the plan was rejected even before unveiled!

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OutRAGEious. Palestinians protest as smoke rises from burning tires before the announcement by US President Donald Trump of his Middle East peace plan [Mohammed Salem/Reuters]

The knee jerk reaction from that leadership optimizes the stubborn and corrupt leadership of the Palestinians where the masses have certainly not reacted as violently as expected and in fact the ‘silent majority’ have indeed shown a certain willingness to see where the proposals could lead to. Of course organizations like the BDS, Media Review Network, UNHRC and the Arab League vented their rejection without considering the people most affected by this plan, especially the future wellbeing of the Palestinian people, who too frequently are a political tool of the political agendas of others.

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Antisemitism as a counter action to a Peace plan BDS South Africa posts antisemitic cartoon in response to peace plan

All their efforts are channeled at the destruction of Israel and the Palestinians are simply a convenient platform to achieve this aim. In an ideal world, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would have been resolved, peace secured and the Jew haters – disguised as anti-Zionists – would have had to dig even more deep to come up with other initiatives to further their cause.

American law professor and civil libertarian, Alan Dershowitz, recently asked an audience to consider where were the concerned liberals during the Cambodian, Rwandan, Darfur and Congolese genocides and where are they today with the unfolding genocides in Myanmar, Yemeni and Syria in full view of the world? The simple answer: These liberal folks including the UNHCR, ICC, BDS and others are all too busy castigating Israel than being bothered with the genocide of millions of people. Indeed, many millions of people mercilessly slaughtered and not one single country or human rights bodies not only did / do nothing about such vile acts but hardly voiced any objections in world forums to such carnage. No, the most important item on their agendas was malicious defamation of the only democracy in the Middle East.

Isn’t that more important than a few million people including women and children being slaughtered?

This must raise questions as to the morality of such people who would level their focus at denigrating a country whose human rights record, democratic institution’s, an independent judiciary, a free press and gender equality is not only without equal in the region but can stand head and shoulders with any free country in world. Yet all these attributes fade into oblivion in the face of rubbishing Israel at every and any opportunity.

Where is the ANC so quick to downgrade diplomatic relations with Israel but at the same time have visions of being a peacemaker? Rich indeed given the ongoing hostility that they perpetuate against Israel and digest the fake news and lies being bandied about by those driven by hate. Not surprising given the ANC degeneration into racial ideology having abandoned the vision of racial equality and unity of Nelson Mandela.

The real tragedy is the timing of the “peace deal” debate coming hard on the heels of the two international gatherings one in Jerusalem on World Holocaust Remembrance Day and the other at the site of the infamous Auschwitz death camp commemorating the liberation of that camp. At both events the rise of anti-Semitism took centre stage with world leaders together with Holocaust survivors highlighting this scourge and warning just how today’s hatred could so easily become a repetition of past genocides.

Will world leaders sit up and listen and more importantly will they do anything to counteract this plague?

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Parading Hatred. Despicable display of modern antisemitism when a parade float at the Aalst Carnaval in Belgium featuring caricatures of Orthodox Jews atop money bags in March 3, 2019. (Courtesy of FJO, via JTA)

Events in Belgium last year where caricatures of Jews formed part of a carnival float procession through the main streets elicited hardly any censure form officialdom in that country, with some mielie-mouthed explanation of freedom of speech and expression.

Is that the way countries are going to combat ant-Semitic expression?

 

 

About the author:

Birds of a feather4Allan Wolman is a recent immigrant to Israel from South Africa. Matriculating from Parktown Boys high School in Johannesburg, in 1967, he joined 1200 young South Africans to volunteer to work on agricultural settlements in Israel during the Six Day War. After spending year in Israel, he returned to South Africa where he met and married Jocelyn Lipschitz. The couple have three sons. Allan ran one of the oldest travel agencies in Johannesburg – Rosebank Travel which he still runs together with his son in Johannesburg.

 

*Feature Picture: Ahmad Gharabli/AFP via Getty Images