Healing Bodies to Healing Relations

Nurses From Gaza Train In Israel

By David E. Kaplan

In the first week of January 2020, five nurses from the Gaza Strip, joined eleven fellow Palestinians from the West Bank who arrived in Israel for four days of intense but innovative medical training.

It was conducted by Israeli physicians through a collaboration between Physicians for Human Rights Israel (PHR) and the Medical Simulation Center (MSR) at Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer.

image007 (58)
Top Training. Israel’s Sheba Medical Center, the hospital training the Palestinian nurses is one of the finest hospitals in the Middle East, treating over 1,500,000 patients annually from around the world.

The training programme proved a revelation to all sixteen participants, particularly to those from Gaza.  “It’s different than I thought,”  Akram Abu Salah, a nurse from the Gaza Strip told The Jerusalem Post. “The people are very nice. You have Jews and Palestinians working together. It minimizes the gaps between us.”

Clearly, there is no substitute for direct contact as Salah reveals.  “I could not imagine how this country would be or how it works.”

While there has been collaboration between MSR and PHR for a number of years training Palestinian physicians and ambulance drivers, this was the first time that training was extended to nurses.

The sixteen participating nurses learned new practices in the field of primary medicine, focusing on skills they might require in emergency situations such as how to  stop bleeding, intubation  – the placement of a flexible plastic tube into the trachea to maintain an open airway – and chest drains. A special session was held on advanced cardiovascular life support.

image001 - 2020-01-07T152834.601
Training To Save Lives. Palestinians, Farid Mustafa from Nablus (left) and Akram Abu Salah from Gaza train on a high-tech mannequin at Sheba Medical Center in central Israel. (photo credit: Marc Sellem)

This ‘life-saving’ training would end each day at 5.00pm whereafter in the evenings, the Palestinians engaged in social activities with their Israeli counterparts.

Four out of five of the Gazan participants had never been outside of the Gaza Strip, so the trip had been quite an experience.

All were amazed by the size of Sheba and the sophisticated training available through MSR.

The 2,400-square-meter Medical Simulation Center was founded in 2001  to lead a nationwide effort to introduce new standards and innovative approaches in health care training and patient-safety education for the benefit of the people of Israel. A press release on the center describes the facility “as a virtual hospital” that “encompasses the whole spectrum of medical simulation modalities – from role-playing actors for communication and clinical-skills training to cutting-edge, computer-driven, full-body mannequins that enable team training for challenging and high risk clinical conditions.”

MSR1
Medical Simulation Center (MSR) at Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer.

 

It was “action stations” – close to real live situations. Teamwork is essential. One of the participants carefully placed an oxygen mask on the $100,000 blonde-haired dummy while another started to perform CPR as a third set a pulse oximeter around the dummy’s finger.

Communicating in English to each other, the Palestinian nurses continued to attempt to resuscitate the mannequin, as their Israeli instructor observed them. Minutes later, the “patient” woke up from ‘its’ cardiac arrest – ‘its’ condition stabilized.

MSR2
MSR – Simulation of Emergency Department Sheba.

Exposure to this kind of intense and innovative simulated training is invaluable.

Amitai Ziv, the founder and director of the Center for Medical Simulation, said that the courses at the facility aim to allow the health professionals to learn in a safe atmosphere.

image005 (13)
Visionary. Amitai Ziv, the founder and head of the Israel Center for Medical Simulation.

With a third most common cause of death worldwide being medical errors – estimates show 250,000-400,000 people die annually in American hospitals because of them – Ziv, a former pilot in the Israeli Air Force, explains:

The message embedded in the programs here is let us err and reflect on our errors in a safe environment.”

Working Together

“I am very happy for the chance to attend this advanced trauma course. In Gaza, we have plenty of problems, and there is so much we can learn from Israel,” said Abu Salah.

He was clear that the  Gazan Ministry of Healthwants to me to absorb this experience in Israel and bring it back to Gaza.”

Salah reveals that hospitals in Gaza are often understaffed and lack basic necessities and medications, including chemotherapy drugs.

image006 (67)
No Fuel, No Services. An employee of the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza at the Beit Hanun hospital in the northern Gaza Strip, after it stopped its services on January 29, 2018, when it ran out of fuel. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

However, because of the fluid security situation, it is quite a complicated mission bringing the participants from Gaza into Israel. It takes persistence and perseverance.

Despite advanced application and pre-approval, the Gazan nurses were nevertheless delayed entry for a day for reasons of security.

Abu Salah only received the call at 11 p.m. from the Gazan Ministry of Health the night before he was granted entry and told, “tomorrow, you will travel to Israel.”

He was sleeping when he received the call, “but I packed my bag and prepared to go,” he told local media. “My wife knows I am here, but my extended family does not know. I can only tell them when I get back.”

While Salah said in Israel his visit was supported by the Hamas-run health ministry, he admitted to being unsure how he would be received upon his return and uncertain of the  questions he might be asked by Hamas officials.

image001 - 2020-01-07T152834.601
Heartwarming. Together with Israeli instructors, a group of Palestinian nurses from the West Bank and Gaza Strip huddle around a high-tech mannequin that for the sake of the exercise has gone into a cardiac arrest

Going To Gaza

However, its not only Palestinian medical professionals coming to Israel but Israelis professionals traveling to Gaza.

MSR3
Professor Raphael Walden. Deputy Director of the Sheba Medical Center, in charge of Risk Management, Quality Assurance and Medical Education and recipient of France’s  “Officier de la legion d’Honneur”.

Israeli president for Physicians for Human Rights Israel, Prof. Rafi Walden, reveals how nearly every month he helps arrange missions of Israeli doctors to Gaza to perform advanced surgery and provide training to Gaza physicians by Israeli experts in the realms of gastroenterology, oncology and more.

It’s appalling,” Walden said of the situation in Gaza. “Just terrible conditions. The main hospital in Gaza has empty shelves; they are missing critical medications. There was a time they did not have the liquid needed to clean the skin before surgery. Everything is missing. It is a real humanitarian disaster there.”

Walden believes that despite the challenges, PHR is creating “a microcosm of goodwill and understanding in this crazy situation of conflict. Beside the medical aspect of the work, another aspect no less important is the opportunity to meet with people and establish common ground. It’s a peace building activity – and a little light and the end of the tunnel.” 

Physicians for Human Rights Israel covered the costs of the programme as well as the attendees’ expenses including hotel rooms, transportation and meals. Ran Goldstein, the executive director of the organization, said the total cost was approximately NIS 90,000 ($26,000).

Ziv explains that while the courses for the Palestinian health participants aims to substantially upgrade their standards of professionalism, there is also the invaluable benefit of building bridges between Israelis and Palestinians.

Since Israelis and Palestinians often meet on the killing and battle front, we strongly believe it is important that they meet on the health and education front,” he said, adding that he holds that “professional relationships among human beings can bring about trust and friendliness.”

One 42-year-old nurse from Nablus, Farid Mustafa, said that medicine is a field that transcends political and national divides.

It does not matter who you are — an Israeli or Palestinian, Jew or Muslim, local or foreigner,” he said. “In health, we see and treat everyone as a human being. We take this approach in our interactions with sick persons and our colleagues here and elsewhere.”

Supporting his sentiment, Farid recounted an incident when he had personally provided first aid to Israelis involved in a car crash near Ramallah in the West Bank two years earlier.

I saw that two vehicles had collided. I pulled over to the side of the road and helped them,” he said. “When I did that, the identity of the injured persons made no difference to me. All I saw were people in need of aid.”

So too for Ayman Ibrahaim Amaya, a 43-year-old nurse from Qalqilya , who said he hoped he would be able to return to the Center for Medical Simulation in the future.

This is my first time doing a training in Israel and it has been very beneficial,” he said. “So I wish that it will not be the last.”

Future lives depend that “it will not be the last.”

With the goodwill of people on either side of the divide, it will not be.

לבריאות  and  صحة جيدة (“To health!” in Hebrew and Arabic)

 

Winds of Change

Warming ties between the Arab world and Israel

By Rolene Marks

If someone has said to me a few years ago that the Arab world would start opening up to the State of Israel, I would have thought that they are losing their minds. But an amazing new phenomenon is taking shape in the Middle East. The frosty relations between Israel and Arab countries are starting to thaw and warm up significantly over the last couple of years and this has been demonstrated by a series of overtures from Arab countries towards Israel.

winds of change2
The Israeli and Bahraini flags (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

 

It is no secret that one of the key issues that has influenced the warming of ties between Israel and Arab states is the threat to the region posed by Iran. The hegemonic regime poses a massive threat to Gulf States who have aligned themselves more with the USA and has created a corridor via Syria and proxies in the north with Hezbollah, and South with Hamas to further encroach on Israeli territory.

image009 (38)
Change Of Climate. Foreign Minister Israel Katz at the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, during a UN climate conference in the city, in late June, 2019. (Courtesy Katz’s office)

One positive side effect of the Iranian threat is the realization that the tiny state of Israel is more of a potential friend or at least ally, than enemy. There is growing concern that relations between Israel and various Arab states have been somewhat covert but there have been rumours circulating that the Jewish State may be close to signing non-aggression pacts with several of these countries.

Israel has peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan but formal bilateral relations with other Arab countries would contribute greatly to stability and economic growth in the region. In fact, Israel will be exporting natural gas from the lucrative Leviathan gas field to Egypt within the next few weeks. Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz calls the permit a “historic landmark” for Israel. He says it’s the most significant economic cooperation project between the countries since they signed a peace deal in 1979.

image006 (66)
“Time Are A’Changin”. The same Arab world that once laid on Israel an energy siege is now buying gas from the Jewish state with Egypt and Jordan the first customers from the Leviathan gas rig off the coast of Israel.

In 2019, the Trump Administration revealed part of its much anticipated peace plan with the “Peace to prosperity” proposal that shared how the administration, with the backing of Arab states, intends to build Palestinian civilian and cultural infrastructure that would lead to job creation and lead to the foundations of a future state. This plan was presented in Manama, the capital of Bahrain and while Israel did not send an official delegation, representatives from the business sector were present – and warmly welcomed! Palestinian businessmen, who despite the invitation to participate in the conference being spurned by the leadership, attended and were promptly arrested by the Palestinian Authority for daring to engage the US administration and Israel on possible commercial solutions. Also significant, was the invitation to six Israeli media outlets to cover the event.

image003 - 2020-01-05T003938.374
Friendly Exchange. Posted on Twitter, Israel’s Foreign Minister Israel Katz and his Bahraini counterpart Khalid bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa (R) pose for a photograph at the State Department in Washington on July 17, 2019 during a groundbreaking public meeting.

Since the Manama confab, the Foreign Minister of Bahrain, Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, and his Israeli counterpart, Israel Katz, met in the United States and in October 2019, an Israeli official, Dana Benvenisti-Gabay, attended the “Working Group on Maritime and Aviation Security” in Manama. In December 2019, Jerusalem chief rabbi, Shlomo Amar, visited Bahrain for an interfaith event. There is hope that this has helped create the climate for future official ties.

image002 (98)
Open Door Policy. Jared Kushner concludes the 2019 Manama Conference in Bahrain assuring that the doors remain open to the 50 billion dollar plan to revive the stagnant economy of the Palestinian people.

Bahrain is not the only state that is welcoming Israeli visitors. The United Arab Emirates is preparing for Expo 2020, where countries will showcase the best of their offerings for six months and Israel will be included.

UAE Tourism Minister announced that not only would Israeli passport holders be welcome at the event, a phenomenon that was previously unheard of, but that he hoped citizens from the Jewish state would continue to visit long after its conclusion. The real Chanukah miracle was a tweet from the UAE Embassy in London sending warm wishes to Jewish friends celebrating Chanukah.

CaptureUAE.PNG

And if Twitter is the platform where friendships are revealed, then this one between Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Emirati Foreign Minister sure says a lot:

CaptureEmirati.PNG

It is not just the Emiratis or Bahrainis that are showing Israel some love. Recently, 7 bloggers from Saudi Arabia visited Israel and the results have been quite extraordinary. The bloggists have taken to their social media platforms to speak quite openly of their newfound fondness for the Jewish state.

image011 (32)
Meeting Of Minds. “The people of the Middle East want peace with Israel and for the leadership to promote it,” says Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem Rabbi Shlomo Amar (bottom, center) at the interfaith conference in Manama, Bahrain, on Monday, December 9, 2019.

There is no problem with Israel. It is important because of Jerusalem that is holy to Jews and Christians, while Islam’s holy places are Mecca and Medina,” Sultan said via the social media platform.

Is this the yearning of the younger generation to have normalization of ties or is there some indirect influence from Saudi officials? Saudi Crown Prince, Mohamed bin Salman is trying to change the image of his country and perhaps the best way to do this is modernizing attitudes towards countries like Israel and recognizing that there is more to be gained bilaterally and regionally through warmer ties.

It may still be a while until formal ties are recognized but the winds of change are blowing in the Middle East and this time, they are rich with promise.

 

A Burning Issue, Doused

Israel ingenuity proves  ‘Light’ Years” ahead with its ‘Light Blade’ laser, ready to counter Gaza’s burning kites and fire balloons

By David E. Kaplan

Having repeatedly tried to devise life-saving responses to counter existential threats from Gaza – most notably the ‘Iron Dome’ that intercepts missiles and sophisticated technology to thwart terror tunnels – next up for Israel inventiveness was a solution to deal with the threat of kites and balloons.

Kites and balloons?

While kites and balloons would conjure up in most parts of the world images of ‘kid’s stuff’, not so in Israel’s Western Negev where for local residents, they are associated with death, devastation and destruction.

A Burning Issue1
Play With Fire. A battery of young Gazans directing their lethal kites to Israel.

These balloons and kites have caused over eight thousand acres of Israel farmland, forests and nature reserves being reduced to burnt-black swaths across a once verdant landscape.

However, what a difference a year makes in the “Start-up Nation”!

In October 2018, a writer in Ynetnews penned an article titled ‘Kite, Balloon Terrorism Continues Scorching Israel’s Land’.  Lamenting that despite the IDF’s efforts following 100 days of kites and balloons terrorism, which caused massive damage to agricultural produce and destroying Israeli land, the writer noted that “the threat was only increasing.”

image003 - 2020-01-01T193122.331
Field Of Fire. An IDF soldier runs in a field near Kibbutz Mefalsim, which was set on fire by balloons from in Gaza. In 2018, the Mefalsim was the first location set ablaze by a fire balloon. (photo credit: REUTERS/AMIR COHEN)

The article further noted that while the IDF was operating a system able to detect and track the balloons and kites, they were however, still “not being intercepted while in the air.”

Rising to the challenge, Israel has come up with an answer.

It was revealed in The Jerusalem Post this past 2019 Christmas Day that  “Israeli security forces have unveiled a new laser-beam system designed to take down incendiary aerial devices which have burned countless acres of land over the past two years as well as drones infiltrating into Israeli airspace.”

Dubbed the ‘Light Blade’, the system was developed by engineers in the private sector along with researchers from Ben Gurion University  of the Negev (BGU) and technological departments within the Israel Police and IDF.

image001 - 2020-01-01T192748.166
Blade Runner. Eagle eye ‘Light Blade’ ready to laser any income incendiary balloons or kites.

Trial ‘Balloon’

Successfully tested by the police, it is believed the Light Blade system is the world’s first system to destroy deadly “fire kites and arson balloons”. Not only is this a game-changer to counter the balloon and kite threat from Gaza, trials optimistically further  indicate that the Light Blade would also neutralize armed drones – a threat mostly emanating from Iranian-sponsored terrorists in the north.

The Light Blade is a laser system that looks much like a miniature Iron Dome – the more familiar anti-missile defense system that protects Israel from short-range rocket attack. The Light Blade tracks the suspicious airborne object, locks onto it, and blasts it with a unique laser beam. If the incoming projectile is a balloon loaded with flammable material, it will explode in the air. If it is a drone, its motor will be ZAPPED forcing it to crash.

The result – another major threat to Israel neutralized.

image008 (48)
Taking On Terror. Israel’s new Light Blade laser-defense system set to neutralize the balloon and kite threat from Gaza. (Credit: Israel Police)

The Charge Of The Light Blade

The Light Blade can work night and day and has a two-kilometer (1.2 miles) range. It is also relatively inexpensive to produce which will enable the security forces to equip themselves quickly with a large supply.

The system was developed over the past year by three experts in electro-optics and lasers: Prof. Ami Yeshaya, Dr. Rami Aharoni and Dr. Udi Ben Ami. They established a company called OptiDefense to create the technology, signing a cooperative agreement with the police led by Border Police chief, Yaakov Shabtai.

image007 (57)
Leading Light. Leading the ‘Light Blade’ project, Border Police chief, Yaakov Shabtai.

According to Israel’s Channel 12 News that witnessed a string of tests, the Light Blade passed with flying colors.

The system provides an almost complete response to the threat of balloons and kites and provides an effective and safe solution to the drone threat,” a beaming Shabtai proudly told the network.

Hopefully this will  mean the end of the arson balloon and kite threat that have caused millions of dollars of ecological damage in the south, burning thousands of acres of cropland and forests.

Who knows what new threats may emerge that will forever require Israeli ingenuity to neutralize!

C’est la vie

 

Remembering the Forgotten

Former Miss Iraq speaks out at UN about Jewish

refugees

By David E. Kaplan

While focus on the Palestinian refugees of 1948 has remained steadfast, there has been scant global interest of the massive plight of Jewish refugees. There were over 850,000 Jews living in Arab countries and Iran at the time of Israel’s independence. Some scholars even think the number is closer to one million and yet few in the Arab world talk about why Jews suddenly left lands  they had lived in for over  2500 years.

One Muslim Arab who talking about it, is Sarah Idan (Arabic: سارة عيدان‎), an Iraqi beauty queen who represented her country at the Miss Universe pageant in 2017. A self-described “secular Muslim”, Idan received death threats after she posted a selfie with Miss Israel, Adar Gandelsman, and then had her citizenship revoked.

image006 (62)
Peace and Love. Miss Israel Adar Gandelsman (left) and Miss Iraq Sarah Idan pose for a picture at the Miss Universe pageant in 2017. Idan fled Iraq with her family following the fallout after taking a selfie with Miss Gandelsman during the Miss Universe competition which she captioned ‘peace and love’.

On the 4th December 2019, the former Miss Iraq  spoke at the United Nations headquarters in New York City about Jewish refugees from the Middle East “being largely forgotten”, and that there needs to be more awareness of their plight. The UN event was held in coordination with JIMENA (Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa), and was attended by ambassadors from around the world and UN officials.

It’s about time,” Idan  told JNS. “That decision should have happened many, many years ago. We always talk about Palestinian refugees and other countries, but we never talk about the Jewish refugees.”

Idan’s native Iraq once boasted a large community of Jews having lived there for over 2600 years.  That came to a tragic and traumatic end with  the exile of 135,000 Jews during the 1940’s and 1950’s. Few outside the Jewish community recall the violent riots known as the Farhud that erupted in June 1941 – mainly in Bagdad – targeting the Jewish population. Dejected soldiers of a failed coup took advantage of a power vacuum and swarmed into Jewish communities together with a bloodthirsty mob, murdering 179 Jews, injuring more than 2,100, and leaving 242 children as orphans. This act of violence was celebrated across the Arab world and in Nazi Germany.

image002 (93)
Revelations About Refugees. Former Miss Iraq Sarah Idan speaking in support of Jewish refugees at a Dec. 4, 2019 event at U.N. headquarters in New York. (Photo: Israeli Mission to the United Nations)

Similar tragedies unfolded across Muslim lands over the same period , which Idan was bold enough to speak about  and at the very forum that perennially attacks Israel – the UN.

While familiar with the plight of the Palestinians, it is doubtful that the esteemed diplomatic representatives to the world body are as familiar that in the North African region:

– 259,000 Jews fled from Morocco

– 140,000 from Algeria

-100,000 from Tunisia

– 75,000 from Egypt

– 38,000 from Libya

Or that in the Middle East, apart from the 135,000 Jews exiled from Sarah Idan’s Iraq:

– 55,000 fled from Yemen

– 34,000 from Turkey

– 20,000 from Lebanon

-18,000 from Syria

– 25,000 from Iran

In most of these country there were pogroms resulting in the mass murder of Jews.

The forgotten Jews2.JPG

 

In her speech, Idan, spoke about the history of Iraqi Jewish refugees, the kinship she has always felt for them, and how she could personally relate to the struggles they faced by being expelled from Iraq.

She also spoke about her trip to Israel in 2018, where she met Iraqi Jewish refugees in Jerusalem and connected with them. She said they welcomed her “with open arms and with so much love, even though my country treated them unfairly.”

image004 (95)
The Beauty And The Peace. The two former beauty queens, Sarah Idan (left) and Adar Gandelsman toured Jerusalem together and uploaded a video of themselves in the Holy City. They added the caption “Salam and Shalom” – the Arabic and Hebrew words for “peace”.

When I saw Iraqi government stamps on their passports saying, ‘one-way exit—not allowed to return,’ I started crying,” she said.

“I told them I was utterly ashamed. Not because of dirty politics, which led to the ethnic cleaning of 135,000 Jews from Iraq, but by my own people, who watched this happen and didn’t have the courage nor sympathy to stand with the Jewish community.”

She also stated how antisemitism paved the way for the expulsion of Jews from Iraq.

As an Iraqi, I learned so much from parents and grandparents about how the Jews played a pivotal role in the development of our country. What I always heard from my family was that they had such good hearts, were well educated, respected and loved. Sadly, a 3,000-year chapter of Jewish life in Iraq, along with the larger Middle East and North Africa, came to an abrupt and traumatic end — and much of this is the result of antisemitism.”

The Baghdad-born model and human-rights activist concluded by saying:

 “It is only by recognizing and facing the historical injustice endured by the 1 million Jewish refugees from North Africa and the Middle East that we can move forward to a better place of humility and healing.”

image005 (85)
Food For Thought. Miss Idan went for a tour of Jerusalem before dining at an Iraqi-Jewish restaurant in the city, saying: “I do not believe Iraq and Israel are enemies.”

Correcting The historic Injustice

Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon announced that Israel will submit a resolution to formally recognize Jewish refugees from Arab countries. He aims to “put Jewish refugees in the right place in history and change the narrative so in the future, one day, when the issue of the Palestinian refugees will be brought up, we will be able to bring our issues as well.”

The ambassador is all too familiar with the history  as his late father, Joseph Danon had been a Jewish refugee from Egypt who moved to Israel shortly after the establishment of the Jewish state.

During the 1948 War of Independence, thousands of Egyptian Jews were put into internment camps, forced from their jobs, and arrested. Jewish synagogues, homes, and businesses were bombed, and many Jews were killed and wounded. Between 1948 and 1958, more than 35,000 Jews fled Egypt. Danny Danon’s father arrived in 1950.

Like the Iraqis that Idan met in Jerusalem, Joseph Danon was among the 850,000 Jews who were expelled or fled from their homes in Muslim lands during the mid-20th century.

Recognising that Jewish communities existed in Arab countries for more than 2,500 years, Ambassador Danon lamented  that “Every time the U.N. talks about the refugees of Israel’s war of Independence, they speak only of the Palestinian refugees!”

What about the Jewish refugees?

The ambassador emphasized that Jewish refugees should not be forgotten; denying the rights of Jewish refugees and attempting to erase them from the narrative is an antisemitic historic injustice. “We must work to correct the historic injustice that has left the Jewish refugees out of the narrative of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” he said.

From Iraq With Love

Kudos to Sara Idan in speaking out at the UN despite the threats to her life and those of her family who today live in the USA. She remains undaunted.

When snapping and posting online the first photo with Miss Israel, Adar Gandelsman at the 2017 pageant in Las Vegas, Idan added the caption:

Peace and Love from Miss Iraq and Miss Israel“.

But some people in Iraq did not see it that way and sent her death threats.

“When I posted the picture, I didn’t think for a second there would be blowback,” she told CNN at the time. “I woke up to calls from my family and the Miss Iraq Organization going insane. The death threats I got online were so scary.”

The intimidation did not stop the beauty queen reuniting with   Gandelsman the following year in Israel, when she again posted fresh pictures online. Idan posted a photograph and a video on her Instagram page, with the caption: “Sisters reunion

Despite the pressure from the Miss Iraq organisation, a defiant Idan refused to remove the selfie, and added a follow up post saying:

I would like to apologise to anyone who considered the photo to be offensive to the Palestinian cause as this was not the aim behind the post, it was merely a call to peace and hope for a solution to the crisis.”

image007 (12)
Shuk’ing Experience. Iraq’s representative at the 2017 Miss Universe pageant, Sarah Idan, (left), animatedly engaging with Israelis at Jerusalem’s Mahane Yehuda market, June 2018. (photo: Hadashot)

Like most visitors to Israel, Idan toured Jerusalem’s famed Mahane Yehuda Market where she was warmly received.

 “It actually felt weird,” she wrote. “The people look like my people. And the city looks like Damascus, like Syria, and I’ve been there, so everything seems familiar to me.”

She believed that “there are a lot of Iraqi people who don’t have a problem with Israel or with the Jewish people. There are a lot of Iraqi people on my side, and I believe they are happy I am here.”

If only the sisterhood developed between the former Miss Israel and Miss Iraq could evolve into  a brotherhood  of their respective countries.

 

 

*Feature Picture: Miss Iraq Sarah Idan—recently designated as an Ambassador for Peace by UN Watch, which invited her to the United Nations—took the floor at the United Nations to support peace with Israel. Following two speeches to the UN’s highest human rights body, the Iraqi Parliament’s Security and Defense Committee reportedly called for her Iraqi citizenship to be revoked, labeling her advocacy a “crime.”

Israel And The Southern Coexistence

Exploring the complex relationship of Jews and Muslims in southern Israel

By Ziv Israeli

For many people around the world, Israel’s southern district is probably imagined as a combination of Arab villages mixed with Jewish settlements and towns in the middle of the desert where it constantly rains missiles.

Luckily, this harsh and unrealistic image that we often get from people that are depending on mainstream media mostly, has nothing to do with reality.

In this article I will try to explain some surprising facts about Israel’s southern area – a region that for over ten years has been exhausted by almost constant warfare; but is also surprisingly flourishing, developing and refusing to abandon its natural coexistence and hope for peace.

image003 (95)
Border Crossing. Crossing more than physical boundaries, Palestinian residents of the Gaza Strip pray as they wait on the Israeli side of the Erez terminal to cross back into Gaza. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov, File)

So let’s start, shall we?

First, here are some basic facts:

  • Israel’s southern district is the largest of all six, spreading around 14,185 square kilometers (approx. 5,476 squared miles).
  • The district is populated with approximately 75% Jewish, 20% Muslims and 5% other religions.
  • The largest city is called Ashdod, but the district’s capital city is called Be’er Sheva (“the seventh well” by loose translation!)
  • Even though the town of Sderot is usually a news star because it is the closest city to the Gaza Strip and usually the first in the line of fire, it’s actually one of the smallest towns in Israel.
  • Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians work in Israel on a daily basis, and thousands of them come from the infamous area called the Gaza Strip.

Wait, what?

Gazans working in Israel?

Yes! You are reading it right.

Let’s try to explain this awkward fact – and understand what it means, from both sides.

Despite the fact that the Gaza Strip is being held hostage by Hamas and other terror groups committed to the destruction of Israel as part of their jihad against the Jewish state, there is another side to the story!

Hardly known and never appearing in the foreign media, Israel hands out permits allowing the entry of thousands of citizens from the Gaza Strip to provide them with work on a daily basis.

As reported in The Times Of Israel on November 1st, It appears “that Israel has expanded a program in which it had long provided hundreds of permits to business owners to travel to Israel and the West Bank for commerce. Palestinian officials say it is now providing some 5,000 so-called merchant permits and awarding them to Palestinians working as laborers in construction, agriculture and manufacturing.”

image006 (56)
New Israeli Tech, Old Bedouin Ways At Wadi Attir. A revolutionary sustainable agriculture, dairy-farming and tourism initiative is taking root in the Negev Bedouin community

This is positive news of improving relations for the benefit of all.

Sadly, before Hamas took over Gaza, there was a time when around 60% of Gaza’s work force was employed in Israel. Then came Hamas and with it –  executions, wars, unemployment and despondency. Today there are older brave voices from Gaza revealing the truth  – how people are missing the “good old days” of working in Israel. Peace, security, employment and trade with Israel has given way under Hamas to frustration and misery.

However, all this does not detract from  the coexistence of Jews with over 300,000 Muslims in Israel’s southern district.

Here are some lesser known facts:

  • Most of the Muslims in our southern district are Bedouin living a traditionally pastoral nomadic lifestyle.
  • Israel is investing huge sums of money any resources in opening doors and closing gaps for the Bedouin, including, but not limited to – funding education, health care, affirmative actions and ease of entry to higher education.
  • As a result, an ever-increasing number of Bedouin students are attending Israeli colleges and Be’er Sheva’s Ben Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) – the only university in the south of the country.

    image004 (89)
    Bedouin Education Conference. Bedouin students on January 3, 2018 at the Teach First Israel (TFI) conference at Ben-Gurion University’s Jusidman Science Center for Youth on TFI’s work with the Bedouin community in Israel. The conference brought together educators, civil society and government leaders to share knowledge about improving quality and access to education in Bedouin society at large.
  • In 2016, the Robert H. Arnow Center for Bedouin Studies and Development, dedicated a special student center serving Bedouin women students. It was the first of its kind, a social center and “warm home away from home” for Bedouin women students who study at the University.
  • Bedouin are employed in all type of professions and jobs from doctors, lawyers, pharmacists to working in education and the police force.
  • Another cool fact is a city named Rahat. With a population of approximately 70,000 – Rahat is the largest Bedouin city in the entire world!

With the city of Beersheva  in close proximity to Rahat, most Bedouin students from Rahat study at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, some also at Sapir Academic College in Sderot.

image005 (82)
Revelations In Rahat. Not only the largest in Israel, Rahat is the largest Bedouin city in the world.

And where in the entire western/eastern/Muslim world would you find such a city?

Only in Israel!

But what about the military?

Can you find Bedouin in the IDF and are they allowed to join?

Yes!

Although Bedouin are not obligated to join the IDF, many choose to join voluntarily!

And they’re a huge asset.

They’re some of the world’s best trackers, and an Israeli combat soldier will tell you that they trust them even if they were blindfolded.

Many soldiers have stories of military operations that would’ve gone completely wrong without their Bedouin commerades-in-arms.

image012 (29)
Education & Empowerment. A Bedouin student at Sapir College, Sderot, Israel, March 6, 2018. Although their number is still low in comparison to the general public, the number of Bedouin students enrolled in undergraduate programs in Israeli institutions has doubled over the last decade, according to data from the Council of Higher Education.

Wait, Muslims that are being integrated completely in Israel?

Isn’t Israel supposed to be an apartheid state…?

Well, now you know that the facts on the ground tell a different story.

But is it all sweets and roses besides for Hamas?

Unfortunately it is not.

Let’s look at a more complex example, shall we?

Take for example a small Palestinian town called Idna.

Just a few minutes’ drive from my hometown, called Qiryat Gat.

Many people from Idna have work permits, because they’re living on the other side of the Green Line border, which means that they are actually under the jurisdiction of the Palestinians.

As a result, many Palestinians are working with us every day – for years – in our area that contains mainly agricultural fields, farms and various types of factories.

image007 (48)
Turning Desert Into farming Land. Project Wadi Attir’s ecosystem restoration initiative is combatting desertification. (Photo: courtesy)

We know them well, and deep friendships have formed over the years.

There’s even a local hero in my town – a guy that works as a construction contractor from Idna inside Israel that became famous for pulling a woman out of a car after witnessing a car accident. There was an article about him in our local newspapers!

I know him and his sons personally.

Wait, what?

Palestinians working in Israel again?

Relationships?

I Bet you didn’t hear that on any mainstream news channel!

Although you should have.

You should probably be asking yourself:

“Why didn’t I?”

But that’s a different topic again.

So what happens to the coexistence when horrible incidents actually happen?

Beside barrages of missiles from Gaza that may indiscriminately kill everyone, that is.

Well, to be honest, it’s not easy.

It’s never easy, the feelings are heavy on both sides.

Let’s describe a real incident that actually happened – right outside my house.

One Friday night, my wife and I were watching Lord Of The Rings for the who knows how many times.

Suddenly I heard something that sounded like a woman crying.

I put on my shoes, told my wife that I’ll be right back and went outside.

I found two women – one in her 20’s and one in her 40’s, wearing jogging clothes, sitting and crying, holding their necks. They had been stabbed.

What would you do?

I ran back to my house, told my family to lock the doors, that there’s a terrorist around somewhere and went to assist the two victims, not knowing who’s the attacker and where he was. I just hoped that he wouldn’t return.

Since we’re still talking about Israel, in about five minutes the place was swarming with armed people.

Policemen, soldiers on vacation, other security forces – my quiet neighbourhood turned into a war zone in minutes.

And all because of one brainwashed young man from Idna.

Yes, Idna.

The same town we have trusted to send him in from, with a permit.

About 30 minutes later they captured him hiding in my neighbour’s yard.

Because that specific terrorist chose to surrender when the security forces found him and since Israel is a law abiding democracy, he was arrested.

Unfortunately, even in towns like Idna, extreme Jihad brainwashings by radical Muslims may affect people, usually the young ones.

But how did this incident influence the coexistence between the folks in Idna and in Israel?

Well, the first few days were hard, especially for the workers that came from Idna.

Israel did the right thing to allow them in despite of that incident.

But the feelings were difficult.

Most of them looked ashamed, the moment we started talking about it they’d start sounding apologetic, and that kept going for about 3-4 days.

That’s it.

Anyone surprised?

After all, most of the people on both sides don’t want or care about any wars.

Certainly not about a made up lie about Israel being an apartheid state or another lie – that all Muslims want a pointless Jihad.

image010 (31)
Star Material. Winners of the Desert Stars’ 10th grade social entrepreneurial challenge. Desert Stars is a not-for-profit organization developing a cross-tribal network of young Bedouin leaders in the Negev. (Photo: courtesy)

To sum up this tip of the iceberg article about the incredibly resilient coexistence in Israel’s southern area,

Let me ask you one thing:

Is anyone still surprised why our southern district, even after years of horrible terrorist attacks and barrages of missiles is refusing to lose hope in peace?

And why should we?

When the other side still has hope as well?

Missiles, Jihad, air raids, violent demonstrations and terror might be a part of our lives here – but it’s definitely not the only narrative in our area.

Every obstacle to our coexistence with our neighbors, as cruel as it may be, is only a milestone in our continuous striving for peace and normalization.

Israel will never lose the hope for peace,

And nothing will change that.

 

About the writer:

Ziv Israeli1.pngZiv Israeli is a family guy from Israel,

A proud Zionist with a passion for accurate journalism.

 

 

Heroes of Israel

By Andi Saitowitz

Life coach, Andi Saitowitz, shares her thoughts and feeling about what life is like under bombardment of rockets and how ordinary people are the heroes of Israel.

Heroes of Israel1.jpgToday I gave an intensive workshop and presentation to a team in a nearby city. Just before I left, Code Red alarms were still blaring on the app on my phone as our brothers and sisters in the south continued to be bombarded with rockets. As I picked up my phone to check the address I was going to, I suddenly realized that I was going to street called גיבורי ישראל  (“Giborei Israel”) – translated into the “Heroes of Israel”.

image005 (80)
Seeing Red. The Red Color (Hebrew: (Tzeva Adom) is an early-warning radar system installed by the Israel Defense Forces in towns surrounding the Gaza Strip to warn civilians of imminent attack by rockets. Outside of areas serviced by the Red Color system, standard air raid sirens are used to warn of rocket attacks.

 

I couldn’t help but pause and think about all those families who are living within such a close radius to the line of fire. I couldn’t help but think about our armed forces, who risk their lives daily to protect our nation and homeland. I couldn’t help but think about the heroes who have fallen – and the injured and the hurt and the scared. I couldn’t help but think of the past heroes who in their merit and honor, we have a state and a home. I couldn’t help but think about the first-responders and the defenders of Israel around the world who with such pride, courage and resilience, stand for Israel against all odds. I couldn’t help but think of all the people who choose to make Israel their home. I couldn’t help but think of all the people who pray for Israel, from near and far. I couldn’t help but think of the friends of Israel who want to see her grow and blossom. I couldn’t help but think of the unity we manage to hold together, even when everything around us seems to be falling apart.

So as I drove to The Heroes of Israel Street for a jam-packed day of personal development, growth, team building, training and leadership – I thought of the real heroes of Israel:

Every person who prays for peace.

Every person who fights for peace.

Every person who finds the resilience to keep the faith when times are tough.

Every person who holds Hatikva in their heart when all hope sometimes seems lost.

Every person who lives the values and ideals that we hold so dear.

image003 (93)
Heroes In Uniform. Protecting the people, Israeli police sappers remove a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip in farmland near the Israel Gaza border, November 13, 2019. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)

Every parent who has a few seconds to run for shelter with small children.

If you are already here, you are a Hero of Israel.

If you love and protect us, you are a Hero of Israel.

If you dream of being here; you are a Hero of Israel.

If you pray for us wherever you are, you are a Hero of Israel.

Israel Palestinians
Sirens In Sderot. People take cover during a rocket warning siren in Sderot, southern Israel November 12, 2019. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)

If you represent us with integrity, you are a Hero of Israel.

If you spread truth about us, you are a Hero of Israel.

If you want us to thrive, you are a Hero of Israel.

If you stand with us, you are a Hero of Israel.

image008 (42)
Anguish In Ashqelon. Adults assist children running for cover as rocket alarms sound in the Israeli city of Ashqelon, on Wednesday, November 13, 2019.(Ilan Assayag)

If you want to live with us and beside us and close to us and in peace with us: you are a Hero of Israel.

And it doesn’t matter who you are.

 

image001 (19)
Resilience Under Rockets. A woman in the southern city of Ashkelon injured by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip is treated by paramedics on November 13, 2019. (Screen capture: Twitter)

 

Heroes of Israel4

Andi Saitowitz, a mom, wife, sister, daughter, friend, published author and lover of inspiration. Also a Personal Development Strategist, Life Coach, Mentor and Transformation Leader.

 

Refusing to ‘Cave’ In

Aussie Rocker Nick Cave UpSTAGES BDS

By David E. Kaplan

Good on ya Nick!”

No matter the opposing odds and tough terrain, Aussies charge ahead. They did it over a 100 years ago in 1917 in Beersheba in helping to boot the Ottoman Turks out of Palestine and they will be doing it again in July 2020 when Australian singer/songwriter Nick Cave and his band, The Bad Seeds, will be returning to Tel Aviv.

“Bad Seeds” is a misnomer if ever there was one. We need more of these ‘seeds’!

And may they flourish.

The show will take place at Bloomfield Stadium, as part of a world tour promoting Cave’s album Ghosteen, which deals in part with the tragic death of his 15-year-old son in 2015; after a fall from a cliff.

When he takes to the stage in Tel Aviv – he will again be giving the finger to BDS.

image004 (86)
Pulsating Performance. Nick Cave captivated his Tel Aviv audience Sunday night, November 19 2017. (Courtesy Orit Pnini)

When last appearing in Israel to a packed Nokia Arena in Tel Aviv in 2017, Cave defied pressure from the BDS movement and said he came to Israel  “not despite of” but “because of BDS.”

What did he mean?

Calling  a press conference, the rocker said “After a lot of thought and consideration, I rang up my people and said, ‘We’re doing a European tour and Israel.’ Because it suddenly became very important to make a stand against those people who are trying to shut down musicians; to bully musicians, to censor musicians, and to silence musicians.”

He went on to say that he “loves Israel,” and that he wanted to take “a principled stand against anyone who tries to censor and silence musicians.” He concluded by inferring the BDS Movement’s strategy is backfiring.

So really, you could say, in a way, that the BDS made me play Israel.”

On his website last year, Cave slammed ongoing efforts to impose a boycott on Israel, calling them “cowardly and shameful.”

And this is not to say that he is a supporter of the government of Israel. He is clearly not.

“I do not support the current government in Israel, yet do not accept that my decision to play in the country is any kind of tacit support for that government’s policies. I am aware of the injustices suffered by the Palestinian population, and wish, with all people of good conscience, that their suffering is ended via a comprehensive and just solution, one that involves enormous political will on both sides of the equation.”

image007 (47)
Dare To Dream. The 2019 Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv

This kind of balanced understanding is a far cry from the venomous position of Roger Waters the most visibly public advocate and roving ambassador of BDS that openly promotes – not the “Two State Solution”  – but the dissolution of the state of Israel.  Cave would have none of it from the Pink Floyd cofounder  with his giant-size inflated pig-shaped balloons emblazoned with a Star of David alongside fascist symbols customarily released during concerts.

If his ancestors took on the Ottoman Turks over a 100 years earlier, Roger Waters  and hid BDS cohorts prove they are no match for this principled rocker.

image008 (41)
A Night Where the Stars Appeared In Heaven and Earth. Madonna performing at the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv.

Cave Connecting

Prior to his 2017 concert, Cave had previously performed in Israel ’93, ’95 and ’98 and enjoys reflecting that  when “we came to Israel 20 years ago or so, did a couple tours of Israel, I felt a huge connection. Not just ‘people-talk’ of loving a country, but I just felt on some sort of level, a connection that I can’t actually really describe.”

“At the end of the day,” explained Cave in Tel Aviv in 2017, ‘there are two reasons  why I’m here: one is that I love Israel and I love Israeli people, and two is to make a principled stand against anyone who tries to censor and silence musicians. So really, you could say, in a way, that the BDS made me play Israel.”

Waters can remain at the ‘Dark Side of his Moon’ as there has been no letup of artists touring Israel from pop queen Jennifer Lopez, to the 2019 Eurovision Song Competition  held in Tel Aviv.

image005 (79)
Go Figure. Stunning J-lo at Tel Aviv beach in August 2019.

In keeping with the lyrics of Rhianna who has performed numerous times in Israel:’:

Don’t Stop The Music

 

 

 

*Feature picture: Australian musician and writer Nick Cave has elaborated on his stance regarding the Israel-Palestine conflict. https://www.irishtimes.com/ (Photograph: Anne-Christine Poujoulat/AFP/Getty Images).

Key Takeaways from the Supreme Court’s Omar Shakir (HRW) Decision

*Courtesy NGO Monitor

On November 5, 2019, the Israeli Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling, rejecting the appeal of Human Rights Watch (HRW) “Israel and Palestine Country Director” Omar Shakir. Shakir and his employer asked the courts to overturn a decision of the Israeli Ministry of Interior not to renew Shakir’s work visa due to his BDS activities. The Supreme Court, like the district court, referenced NGO Monitor’s amicus brief.

omar shakir3
Omar Shakir at the Jerusalem District Court on September 16, 2019. (Credits: Emil Salman, Haaretz.com)

The judges did not relate to the constitutionality of legislation that denies entry to major BDS activists. (The constitutionality of the law is being challenged in a separate case, Prof. Alon Harel v. the Knesset; a hearing in this case is scheduled for November 11, 2019.)

Nevertheless, the Supreme Court decision makes important contributions to the factual record regarding Shakir’s BDS activism and helps clarify the distinction between BDS and human rights advocacy.

Why HRW Director , Omar Shakir has been expelled?

Like the lower court, the Supreme Court paints a clear picture of Shakir’s BDS activism, from when he founded a pro-BDS student group in 2006 through his present employment at HRW. During this time, he has been a consistent and ardent supporter of BDS (see NGO Monitor’s extensive material submitted in its filings and which was cited in the courts’ decisions). In the words of Justice Yael Wilner (in a short addendum to the main decision), “The statements [made by Omar Shakir and presented] above are definitely calls to boycott entities that operate in Israel and Judea and Samaria, only because of their connection to Israel or an area under its control — each one (statement) individually, all the more so when taken together. It seems to me that there cannot be a substantive argument about this.”

omar shakir1.jpg

 

Pro-BDS activists often use the rhetoric of “human rights” and “international law” to justify their discriminatory campaigns, but such rhetoric does not legitimize the boycotts. The Entry into Israel Law, Amendment 28 (2017) applies specifically to boycott calls that are based on a company’s connections to Israel or an area under its control, not to circumstances when the company in question has undertaken problematic activities.

Even though the judges recognize there can be gray areas, Shakir’s activity unquestionably falls within the criteria of the law. Shakir rejects in total the presence of Israeli entities in the West Bank, and his calls for BDS are in opposition to their identity as Israelis, not because of any specific human rights violation.

 Contrary to claims from Shakir’s lawyers and Amnesty International (which joined the case in an amicus capacity), denying Shakir’s work visa will not adversely affect human rights NGOs that want to send representatives to Israel to criticize Israel’s policies. This is because Shakir’s involvement in BDS is so egregious.

The Court firmly rejected a key argument from Shakir’s lawyers. They tried to argue that Shakir’s personal BDS activity ended upon his employment at HRW, at which point all his expressions should be attributed to HRW as an organization. Since HRW is not on the Israeli government’s list of “BDS organizations,” Shakir’s activity as an HRW employee should be granted “immunity” from the Entry into Israel Law. In sharp contradiction, the Court determined that he is responsible for his public statements, especially those on his private Twitter account.

Shakir’s BDS is insufficient to trigger a listing of HRW as a “BDS organization” because HRW is a large international NGO with myriad activities having nothing to do with Israel. This is not a reflection on Shakir’s status as a BDS activist or HRW’s anti-Israel advocacy.

Click Here for Resource Page on Omar Shakir (HRW) Court Case:

https://www.ngo-monitor.org/omar-shakir-resource-page/

 

 

 

Feature Image: Israeli Supreme Court (credit: Yossi Zamir/Flash90)

Who loses when you boycott Israel ?

By Rolene Marks

The BDS (Boycott, Divestment and sanctions) movement sure is noisy. While lacking cerebral substance, they understand the veracity of symbolism and language that is provocative, emotive and emotional. They understand that gratuitous use of the word Apartheid is guaranteed to get an emotional reaction from people.

who loses from BDS2
BDS tries to intimidate shoppers by inferring that if they buy Israeli products they are responsible for the deaths of Palestinian children. This is indicative of BDS tractics of threats, intimidation and libellous accusations.

I use the word gratuitous intentionally because BDS have no respect or understanding of the crime that was Apartheid and the trauma of its victims. To them it is simply evocative, sexy packaging that can be used to market their agenda and make it appealing to the masses who maintain they are concerned about human rights.

If you wrap up hatred and sell it in an emotional package, then surely you must be on the side of good, right?

Wrong. There is a more nefarious agenda at play here and it needs to be exposed again and again.

A wolfish agenda in sheep’s clothing

Why is BDS so hell-bent on the accusation of Apartheid?

The motivation is simple. They want to paint Israel with the same colours as that of Apartheid South Africa in order to undermine Israel’s legitimacy as a State in the hope that global opprobrium will lead to isolation of the Jewish State. In fact, the stated end-goal of BDS is the complete eradication of the Jewish nation state – they have been so bold as to announce this on their website. It’s not going to happen because Israel is not Apartheid South Africa, like BDS advocates want people to believe.

who loses from BDS3
The BDS agenda of the de-legitimisation of Israel disguised as concern for human rights is wolf in sheeps clothing tactics.

BDS would have you believe that boycotts and sanctions contributed to the downfall of Apartheid in South Africa and that the same kind of well strategized campaign can do the same to change Israeli policies. There are very clear differences – in Apartheid South Africa, the minority white population had dominion over the majority black population and eventually, it was the citizens of the country who spoke out overwhelmingly in a referendum that the time had long passed to do away with this heinous regime.

The situation between Israelis and Palestinians is far more complicated. Rather than a loveless marriage, the parties prefer an amicably divorce in best enjoying their national aspirations. It is extremely presumptuous for South Africans to impose their “one-solution-fits-all” to one of the most complex political conflicts in modern history.

Destruction rather than Construction

Did boycotts and sanctions contribute to the fall of Apartheid?

The idea of boycotts and sanctions was debated in the 1960’s but only really gained traction in the 1980’s. In November 1962, the United Nations General Assembly passed Resolution 1761, a non-binding resolution establishing the United Nations Special Committee against Apartheid and called for imposing economic and other sanctions on South Africa. All Western nations were unhappy with the call for sanctions and as a result boycotted the committee.

Fast forward to the 1980’s and the height of the regime and it can be said that while sanctions did effect the economy, the credit for ending Apartheid once and for all was the sterling efforts of Nelson Mandela and FW de Klerk who took great – sometimes unpopular risks – to ensure a better future for South Africans based of the democratic principles of equality and justice for all.

who loses from BDS4
Brave compromisers – South African leaders, FW de Klerk and Nelson Mandela ended the painful years of racist Apartheid rule through compromise and leadership – not as a result of boycotts.

In South Africa, nobody ever questioned the country’s right to exist as a nation state which is precisely BDS’s endgame. It says so openly and unashamedly – “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”. This means that Israel is dealing with a malevolent movement that aims – contrary to the democratic principles that played a part in the South African process – to destroy of one of the main players, namely – Israel.

The German Bundestag voted earlier this year to declare BDS and antisemitic movement and Austria is poised to do the same.

Who stands to lose the most?

It is easy for activists on both sides to play armchair politicians but there are lives at stake and for the most part, Palestinians have more to lose. With an Israeli economy that is booming, the impact of boycotts on the lives on Israelis is minimal – mostly psychological.

For Palestinians on the other hand, boycotts are likely to affect their livelihoods.

One such casualty was SodaStream.  SodaStream, an Israeli company manufacturing soda company  shut its West Bank factory and moved it to southern Israel. This cut hundreds of jobs for Palestinians that reportedly paid between three and five times the local prevailing wage.

who loses from BDS5
CEO of SodaSteam, Daniel Birenbaum

SodaStream’s CEO Daniel Birnbaum denied the move was BDS-related, though its profits plunged after BDS activists got involved.

“It has nothing to do with politics; we’re relocating to a modern facility that is three times the size,” Birnbaum told The Independent. “But if it was up to me, I would have stayed. We showed the world Arabs and Jews can work together.”

Soda Stream had the last laugh though when it was bought by Pepsico for $3.2 billion, proving that Israel is a hot investment destination – and even more so when there is possibility to create jobs for Palestinians.

Should the boycott be successful – who are the beneficiaries and who are the losers? The losers invariably are the Palestinians while the beneficiaries are BDS and their ilk who by their actions, demonstrate that they are anti-normalisation between Israel and her Palestinian neighbours – and anti-peace.

Does BDS really care that their strategies may affect the very people they purport to help?

Of course not; nothing must get in the way of destroying Israel.

Palestinian lives are the sacrificial lambs in a BDS campaign that is about demolishing bridges rather than building bridges.

See how esteemed human rights Palestinian activist explains how the BDS movement and their boycott campaigns impacts ordinary Palestinians in this video clip:

If BDS truly cared about the lives of Palestinians, they would champion for a second Singapore or Start-Up Nation like their neighbour Israel, rather than promote murderous and genocidal incitement. They would engage in dialogue, not deception.

Peace will be built from the ground up. It will start with spirited, committed people – individuals and communities, business people and investors. Boycotts create barriers and discourage positive discourse.

While the situation in the Middle East is a challenge, let us promote positive tracks of building and promoting commerce that will create a thriving economy rather than the destructive path of boycotts!

This way, everybody benefits.

 

Two Faiths, One Direction

By Sarah Ansbacher

I saw him from across the road, his eyes darting towards the entrance to the Aden Jewish heritage museum in Tel-Aviv . I could tell he was thinking about coming in for a visit even before he stubbed out the cigarette he was smoking; and crossed the street.

From his unhurried gait he didn’t appear like a tourist, but neither did he look like a local. He greeted me in accented English – Australian, as it turned out to be.  He told me that he is posted here for a year, working for an international organization. But I could tell his origins weren’t from Australia, as he confirmed, while I answered his questions about the history of the Jewish community in the region of Aden and Yemen; and he told me his family was from around that region.

“From Yemen?”,  I asked.

“Nearby. My father is from Sudan and my mother from Egypt.”, he replied.

He grew up in Australia. One foot in the west, the other in the east – retaining something of the heritage and Islamic faith of his family, and speaking both English and Arabic. But he also surprised me with a few sentences in Hebrew which he’d learnt at university in Melbourne.

I took him around the museum, telling him about the exhibits. And I pointed out a couple of pictures that I thought would be of particular interest.

“That was the synagogue in Port Said, Egypt. There was once a large community there, many of whom came originally from Aden.”

‘What happened to them, did they eventually integrate into the rest of the population?’ he asked.

‘No,’ I whispered. ‘They were all forced to leave in 1956 – along with most of the Jews living in Egypt.’

synagogue in port Said - Ohel Moshe
The “Ohel Moshe” synagogue inaugurated in 1911 in Port Said Egypt (Photo courtesy: Dr. Rudolf Agstner, Vienna – Beth Hatefutsoth Photo Archive)

The shock was evident on his face. And so he came to learn something of the history of the vanished communities all around the Middle East.

As we continued, he asked if he, as a Muslim, was allowed to visit a shul (synagogue). In all his time in Israel, he hasn’t yet done so. I told him of course he could and took him up to visit ours. He donned a kippa, and he gazed around in wonder, admiring everything. I explained the  various features to him. For example, that the person who leads the services faces the same direction as the community.

‘Just like in a mosque,’ he replied.

The reason why you won’t find any depictions of our prophets or pictures of Rabbis there.

‘Just like in a mosque,’ he said.

We talked about how the problem isn’t all the different religions, but those who come and turn it to their advantage – and as something to use against others. There was no dispute, just agreement.

I pointed out the Aron Kodesh (the ark in a synagogue that contains the Torah scrolls) and explained to him, ‘Every synagogue around the whole world faces in the direction of Jerusalem. Just like every mosque faces Mecca.’

Aron Hakodesh1
Aron Kodesh – the ark in a synagogue that contains the Torah scrolls facing toward Jerusalem

‘I never knew that,’ he replied.

He gazed up at the stained glass windows and to my surprise he then said a Hebrew phrase about God. Contemplating, we stood in silence for a few moments. Two people from different worlds, backgrounds, religions but who pray to the same God.

We stood there, facing Jerusalem.

 

picture-sarah (1).jpg
Sarah Ansbacher is a writer and storyteller. She also works at the Aden Jewish Heritage Museum in Tel Aviv.
*Feature picture: Two faiths, one prayer: Muslims and Jews come together to pray. (Photo:Jewish Journal)