The Israel Brief – 01 July 2019 – We are on the move – Iran violates clause in enriching uranium, PA arrest attendees to Bahrain confab and off duty policeman investigated for murder of young Ethiopian.
The Israel Brief – 02 July 2019 – Solomon Tekah z”l laid to rest. Iranian nuclear standoff intensifies. Is this the return of Ehud Barak?
The Israel Brief – 03 July 2019 – Riots in Israel. Netanyahu open to peace plan. Disturbed dedicates Hatikvah to IDF.
The Israel Brief – 03 July 2019 – Tekah family appeals for calm. More Trump peace plan soon and Netanyahu reassures South.
head of Israel Section, SAICC / SA Israel Chamber of Commerce Johannesburg, South Africa.
Time passes, memories fade, events are forgotten. I needed to remind myself of past traumas in Israel, and I did.
In 2001, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Al Aqsa Brigades and other terrorist groups began launching Qassam rockets at Sderot (the small town that lies about a mile outside of the Gaza Strip in the western Negev Desert) as part of the Second Intifada (2000-2005), and have continued intermittently since then.
Not only continued but intensified!
In a single day in November 2018, more than 460 rockets were launched into the south of Israel, cruelly outmatched a few months later when over a 24-hour period in May 2019, 500 rockets were fired at Israel from Gaza.
Back in 2002, the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) installed a radar warning system known as Shakhar Adom, or ‘red dawn’. It operated as follows: an alarm was sounded across the town when the IDF realised that a rocket was inbound. It worked extremely well, and citizens mostly had time – about 15 seconds – to find shelter from the inevitable destruction which followed.
In 2007, a young 7-year old Israeli girl by the name of Shakhar complained about her name being associated with the warning system. In true Israeli style, ensuring that as little discomfort as possible would affect the citizens, authorities changed the name to TsevaAdom – meaning ‘red colour’ or ‘code red’ – and Tseva Adom became known across the Jewish world as ‘15 seconds’ – the difference between life and death.
Seventeen years: 17 years during which the citizens of Sderot, and later those of other cities and towns near Gaza, have lived with the terror of imminent attack, imminent destruction, imminent death. 17 years of treading softly, holding one’s breath, praying that children and spouses have reached safety in time, wondering when the next warning would come. 17 years of angst, of apprehension, of foreboding – how do people live like that?
Three years after the first radar warning was installed in Sderot, it was installed in Ashkelon, a city lying north of the Gaza Strip near the Mediterranean coast, further away from Gaza than Sderot, then also under siege from rockets and imminent death. But aha! Ashkelon did better than Sderot. Why? Because its citizens had 30 seconds’ warning instead of 15 – much more time to find shelter. And did the citizens of Ashkelon cope with that trauma? 30 seconds – the difference between life and death. Not quite shades of Sophie’s Choice, but near enough.
While everyone involved suffered unimaginable horrors, it was the children who really bore the brunt of the attacks. Post-traumatic stress disorders, hyperactivity, problems with sleeping, detachment from friends, from activities, from integration into any social world – that was then, but those children who are now adults are still traumatised, still terrified, still emotionally fragile. Yet because the actual number of deaths caused by the rockets was very low, what happened there has taken a back seat as people continued to live every day and to marginalise their horrific experiences. And as for the media? Of course, there were no stories – there seldom are, when they concern Israeli tragedies.
The New ‘Normal’
Let’s fast-forward 17 years and look at Sderot today, and at Ashkelon, and at the other parts of Israel where breathing is less often taken for granted and instead has become a symptom of apprehension. Sderot is now home to three converted bomb shelters that were adapted to meet the needs of teenagers for space and their own activities. Each can accommodate about 50 teens, and each can expand to make room for at least another 20. The best part of this is that those children are already gathered in bomb shelters: should there be a Tseva Adom warning, it will have no effect either on them or their pursuits, except psychologically and emotionally – does that matter?
According to NGO officials who visited Sderot to show support specifically to the teenagers, ‘We came into this large two-floor bomb shelter and it was like coming into someone’s living room. There are comfortable sofas, a well-stocked kitchen, a giant TV on the wall and downstairs there is a games room and a homework room. Everything is well maintained by the kids.” In this safe environment, the children are given leadership training courses, they are encouraged to interact socially with one another and establish healthy relationships, and they are assisted with their schoolwork.
Almost normal – almost, but not quite. These are tomorrow’s leaders of Israel: passive victims of the worst kind of hatred and enmity. Can their future be predicted? I wonder.
In the latest incident in March this year, Ashkelon was once again targeted from Gaza and Israeli families were woken up once again by the sound of air-raid sirens from Hamas rocket fire. Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad determined yet again to create as much devastation as possible in the city, firing rockets and launching several airborne incendiary devices (including kites); and there was a cross-border arson attack in which Palestinians breached the Gaza security fence and burned whatever they could find in the area.
More of the same trauma, the same anguish, the same shattering blows to the lives of those living there. Unceasing, and now focusing on central Israel, Tel Aviv, other vulnerable cities.
What is life like for those who live under this constant barrage of attack, combined with the hatred that initiates it? How do the people of south Israel, wanting nothing more than peaceful lives and opportunities to enjoy life, cope with these perpetual offensives? And what about those Palestinians who want much the same as the Israelis, but who are held hostage by their corrupt and devious leadership, forced to endure terror and torture for ideologies with which they may well disagree, as seen in the many on-the-ground normal everyday relationships that have developed between them and Israelis in their neighbourhoods?
The sound of the siren – the Tseva Adom – remains terrifying for Israelis in the south of the country, even though the attacks are less frequent than they used to be. When the siren goes off, they must drop everything, run to bomb shelters and ensure that their families are with them. They are often too afraid to leave their homes and venture out to do the tasks any normal family does, because the sirens might go again, at any moment. They fear the slamming of doors, the backfiring of cars and trucks, unusual music being played: to many of them, these strange noises sound like that dreadful sign. They cannot even stop and freeze in panic in case they don’t make it to the shelter in time. These are offensives of wartime, yet the world refuses to believe Israel is in a constant war with her enemies because the numbers of casualties are so low.
Sderot has been described by some of its citizens, with gallows humour, as “the biggest bull’s-eye on the map of Israel”. When the bombing began at the turn of the century, and because of its “proximity to the border and the concentration of Hamas-led amateur bomb-makers on the other side, Sderot has (and has) a unique civic claim: on a rocket-per-head-of-population basis, it is the most targeted town in Israel, indeed the world.” That’s quite a reputation for Sderot: Hamas is making sure that other Israeli towns gain the same reputation.
I remember years back, during the infamous Vietnam war, that one of the most iconic photos to come out of that tragedy was the one entitled “Vietnam Napalm 1972”. The caption read: “South Vietnamese forces follow after terrified children, including 9-year-old Kim Phuc, as they run down Route 1 near Trang Bang after an aerial napalm attack on suspected Viet Cong hiding places on June 8, 1972. A South Vietnamese plane accidentally dropped its flaming napalm on South Vietnamese troops and civilians. The terrified girl had ripped off her burning clothes while fleeing.” That photo, and others from that time, and the explanatory texts, made history. They were distributed widely; the world was shocked and stunned; the anger was palpable.
Israel has had more than its fair share of tragedies, of bombings, of fires, of in-bed murders, of terror attacks, yet whenever these have happened, world opinion has been quiet. Jewish lives – Israeli lives – are far less important than those of many others. We number so few in the world’s population that the thinking probably is that we have no standing. Like putting one’s finger into a glass of water, pulling it out and seeing no difference whatsoever in the level of water, so too with murdering a few Israelis here and there, some children, teenagers and the aged, the end effect is negligible. Not worthy of media attention. Not worthy of comment.
It is what it is….
Bev Goldman worked for many years in education and journalism, and she holds a master’s degree in Feminist Literature. Prior to joining the SA Zionist Federation where she dealt with media and education for 12 years, she was the editor of the ‘Who’s Who’ of Southern Africa; a member of WordWize which taught English language skills to Russian and Polish immigrants in South Africa; an occasional lecturer in English at RAU (now the University of Johannesburg); and Director of Educational Programmes at Allenby In-Home Studies. Currently she runs the Media Team Israel for the SA Zionist Federation; she sits on the Board of Governors of the Rabbi Cyril Harris Community Centre (RCHCC); she is the National Vice-President of the Union of Jewish Women South Africa; she is an executive member of the International Council of Jewish Women (ICJW); and she edits and proofs Masters and PhD dissertations.
In their obviously ill-judged comments about Israel, criticschoose to waste their time at checkpoints on the borders gazing at the brave boys and girls making up the Israeli Defence Force, whose sole job is to protect Jews living in Samaria and Judea who just go about getting on with their jobs, and to provide a strong deterrent that ensures that murderous individuals do not infiltrate into Israel.
When I visit Israel, I look in another direction:
– I see schools and youth villages where at-risk children are given the care that will give them hope and a future in life
– I see Ethiopian children given the means to make that leap across centuries and cultures and find their own excellence.
– I see the Rambam Hospital in Haifa where, when Israel’s enemies decide to destroy lives, they continue saving them
– I see The Bar-Ilan Medical Centre in Safed set up to bring the finest possible medical treatment to Muslims, Christians, and Druze villages throughout the country.
– I see the Laniado Hospital in the Netanya whose founder, a holocaust survivor who lost his wife and 11 children in the Nazi camps of death and there made an oath that if he should ever survive, he would dedicate the rest of his life to saving life
– I see the Wolfson Medical Centre where free, quality, paediatric cardiac care is provided for children from developing countries who suffer from heart disease, and whose dedicated doctors and surgeons have created a programme to create centres of competence in those countries so that they can carry out life-saving surgeries on the spot
– I see caring for every life and notice that every life is sacred, where mind-blowing Israeli technology, and eye-opening developments in medical science are applied to the common good.
That and much more is what I see in Israel, the will to life with its hospitals, schools, freedoms, and rights.
– I see, Christians, Hindus, Sheiks, Muslims, and from my experience, Israel is a source of inspiration to everyone because it tells every single person on the face of the earth that a nation doesn’t have to be large to be great. A nation doesn’t have to be rich in natural resources to prosper.
Israel has been surrounded by enemies and yet it has shown that even so, you can still be a democracy, still have a free press, still have an independent judiciary. Israel is the only country in the Middle East where a Palestinian can stand up on national television and criticise the government and the next day still be a free human being.
Israel’s demonisers would have us believe that they have the best interests of the Palestinians at heart. Quite the contrary – their decisions and actions are far more likely to bring war, poverty and hunger to the West Bank and Gaza.
The only conclusion any reasonable person can come to is that only prosperity, with robust industrial, commercial and even cultural relationships between the Palestinians and Israelis can lead to mutual acceptance and a durable peace. This can be achieved if only the BDS activists would acknowledge the true interests of the Palestinians above their own narrow, political ambitions and shallow priorities, and the Palestinians would recognise Israel’s right to exist.
Some twenty years ago, Palestinian businessmen and workers from the West Bank and Gaza entered Israel without much interference. Security over the years increased commensurate with the increase in attacks against civilians. Approximately 146,000 Palestinians working in Israel at the time accounted for about 20% of Palestinian GDP.
A very successful industrial zone was created at Erez, employing about 5,000 workers in some 200 businesses half of which were Palestinian-owned. This was part of a larger Gaza Industrial Estate, scheduled to provide up to 50,000 jobs. In addition, a joint industrial zone was planned south of Tulkarm intended to provide jobs for more than 5,000 Palestinians. Additional areas were planned for Jenin and the Kerem Shalom area near Rafah in Gaza.
And then came the politicians and BDS for whom such developments meant nothing. They are the true destroyers of peace, jobs, families, development and prosperity.
Israel has much to offer the world. The chairman of the South African Zionist Federation in the Cape, Rowan Polovin recently returned from the 2019 “Our Crowd” Global Investment Summit in Israel where the technological advances were on display to 18,000 delegates from 182 counties who reveled in what 500 vendors had on show and business to the tune of one billion dollars was transacted.
“This makes the destructive tactics of BDS seem irrelevant” said Polovin.
Rather than follow the “destructive” path of boycotts and diplomatic downgrades, why not in the interests of South Africa benefit from Israel’s advances in medicine and the sciences and capitalize on lucrative business opportunities.
Surely this is the better way where all will benefit!
Why an Israeli Hospital is Treating Wounded Syrians
About the author
Rodney Mazinter, a Cape Town-based businessman, writer, poet and author, has held many leadership positions within a wide range of Jewish/South African, sporting, educational, service and communal bodies, and currently serves as vice-chairman of the South African Zionist Federation in the Western Cape
On the Sunday, preceding Yom Ha’atzmaut (Independence day) on Thursday, Israelis could not escape the question:
“Will we be celebrating Independence Day, or will we be at war?”
It was a fair question in light of some 700 missiles fired at Israel from Gaza over a period of 48 hours.
Come Wednesday evening however, bands were playing on open-air stages in cities and towns all across Israel and people were joyously dancing in the streets under a night sky ablaze not from missiles but fireworks!
The quick transition from ‘dodging rockets to dancing in streets’ reminded me of a 2014 interview with the late Yehuda Avner who served as speech writer and English secretary to Prime Ministers Levi Eshkol and Golda Meir, and personal advisor to Prime Ministers Yitzhak Rabin, Menachem Begin and Shimon Peres as well as Israel’s Ambassador to Britain, Ireland and Australia.
Closeted in the very nerve center where life and death decisions were taken, Yehuda was in prime position to record intimately those monumental events and the cerebral machinations that determined the destiny of a nation.
Yet it was Avner’s experience on Israel’s first day – 14th May 1948 – that encapsulated the transition from battle to bliss.
The 14th of May 1948 was a Friday, and unbearably hot. “For three consecutive sun-grilled days and restless nights,” 18-year-old Yehuda Avner from Manchester and his 25 comrades, armed with pickaxes, shovels and a dozen WWI Lee Enfield rifles, had been fortifying a narrow sector of Jerusalem’s Western front, overlooking the Arab village of Ein Karem. They had heard rumors that an Arab offensive would be launched that night from Ein Karem, joined by Iraqi irregulars and a Jordanian brigade but with no communication with the outside world – “no field phone, not even a radio” – they were totally cut off. Needing to find out what was happening – “particularly whether the British had evacuated and whether Ben Gurion had or was going to declare independence or not” – our commander, Elisha Linder, instructed Holocaust survivor, Leopard Mahler to go into town and return “with hard news.”
A grandnephew of the famous composer Gustav Mahler, “Leopard never went anywhere without his grey knapsack from which the neck of his violin protruded.” He had been a violinist with the Berlin Philharmonic until the Nuremberg Race Laws dispensed with his services. Surviving Auschwitz, he tried unsuccessfully to obtain visas to join the Chicago Philharmonic and later the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, and reluctantly settled for an opening in the Palestine Philharmonic in Tel Aviv. “When he finally got his Australian visa, Jerusalem was already under siege and the poor fellow tried to get out to Tel Aviv on a convoy, but it was ambushed, and he had to return to embattled Jerusalem.”
Being a violinist and the obvious concern about protecting his hands, “we were happy that instead of joining us digging trenches in the rock-hard earth, he should be the one to go into town and fish for information.”
He came back close to midnight shortly after there had been a lengthy exchange of fire, crying “I have news; I have news!” He related that “the British had evacuated the country and that our forces were in control of the centre of the city.”
Substantiating his claim, he opened his coat to display a Union Jack tied to his waste. “He then began pulling from his bulging pockets forgotten luxuries – Kraft cheese, Mars Bars, Cadbury chocolate, and a bottle of wine, all compliments from an abandoned British officer’s mess. And then, from his knapsack, came out cans of peaches, jars of Ovaltine and a bottle of Carmel wine.”
But most important was the news that: “David Ben-Gurion had declared independence that afternoon, and that the Jewish state would come into being at midnight.”
There was dead silence, midnight was only minutes away!
“Hey, Mahler!” shouted Elisha Linder, cutting through the excitement, “Our new state – what’s its name?”
The violinist didn’t have a clue. “I didn’t think to ask,” he said.
“How about Yehuda? suggested someone. “After all, King David’s kingdom was called Yehuda – Judea.”
“Zion,” cried another. “It’s an obvious choice.”
“Israel!” called a third, “What’s wrong with Israel?”
Filling a mug to the brim with the wine, Elisha settled it with, “A l’’chaim to our new State, whatever its name.” But before the wine touched the lips, a Hassid whom we all knew as ‘Reb Nusesen de chazzan’ (he was a cantor by calling), shouted “Wait,” It’s Shabbos. Let’s make Kiddush first.”
“That was a Kiddush I shall never forget,” says Yehuda whimsically, and added, “Next day we were relieved to rest up and we went into town where masses of Jews were dancing the horah in the courtyard of the Jewish Agency building. Someone was playing a banjo and another a harmonica and before not too long Mahler took out his violin and joined in, playing HavaNagila (Jewish traditional folk song).” Picking up the beat, he began reworking it into a widely spiraling variations, his notes fluttering this way and that, improvisation upon improvisation, as if a man and instrument were rediscovering each other in shared pleasure after a long separation.”
This was the uplifting feeling of independence after 2000 years; “we were discovering ourselves as a People after 2000 years of separation from our Land.”
Now 71 years later, we were again experiencing days of war and music, and while we braced ourselves early in the week against missiles, we now pleasurably ‘brace’ ourselves for the upcoming 2019 Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv from the 14th to the 18th May.
Israel’s song in the competition to be performed by Kobi Marimiis “HOME”. Having re-established our national homeland 71 years earlier after 2000 years of exile, the last three words of the song resonate:
“I’m coming home”
It’s a mesmerizing melodious message three weeks after Pesach (Passover) where we celebrate delivery from slavery; two weeks after Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Day) where we pledge “Never Again”, and a week after Yom Haatzmaut, where we rejoice of our return to national sovereignty in our ancestral homeland.
The final verse speaks of “standing tall”, “not giving in” and “I’m coming home”.
“I am standing tall not giving in
‘Cause I am someone, I am someone
And now I’m done, I’m coming
Now I’m done, I’m coming
Now I’m done, I’m coming home”
There are 23 741 reasons to bow our heads this Yom Hazikaron. There are 23 741 reasons to express our profound eternal gratitude. There are 23 741 reasons for our hearts to ache. There are 23 741 reasons to be proud. 23 741 reason for the tears to fall from our eyes. There are 23 741 to remember. There are 23 741 names ingrained in our hearts forever. There are 23 741 reasons for the siren to wail its mournful cry.
23 741 soldiers, security forces and police have fallen in defense of Israel since its birth as a modern state in 1948.
We will never forget them.
The stories of unparalleled bravery and selfless sacrifice like Roi Klein, who saved the life of his unit by absorbing the blast of grenade. Risking it all to leave the comforts of home in the US, to serve as a paratrooper like Michael Levine. The iconic warrior like Yoni Netanyahu who fell in Israel’s daring Entebbe operation in 1976 that rescued 102 Jewish hostages from a hijacked Air France passenger aircraft in Uganda’s capital.
The names of the wars and operations are etched in memory – the War of Independence, the Six Day War, the Yom Kippur War, the wars with Lebanon, Operation Cast Lead and so on.
Their names are seared in our hearts.
And there are those whose names we will never know but whose valiant acts of bravery are the reasons that we enjoy the freedoms that we do.
At 20h00 a mournful siren will announce the start of Yom Hazikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day for fallen warriors and victims of terror.
Yom Hazikaron inspires in us a sense of awe and creates an incredible sense of solidarity amongst Jews around the world, but it is here in Israel where the emotions are seriously heightened. Our soldiers are not uniformed strangers who serve but our children, spouses, colleagues, parents, friends and lovers.
They are the people we love.
Yom Hazikaron is not only a day of remembrance, but also one of gratitude. Few words can express how grateful we are for all who protect us on land, sea and air. Our brave warriors, these lions of Zion are our guardians and protectors. We are proud of them; we embrace them, and we love them.
Israelis respect life. We revere life and we revel in it. And it is on this solemn and heartbreaking day that we are reminded of its fragility.
This year is particularly poignant. I write this just days after 700 rockets were fired by terror groups in the Gaza strip into Israel, killing 4 civilians (may their memories be for a blessing) and injuring and traumatizing countless others. We were reminded again that the guardians of Israel neither slumber nor sleep as they worked 24/7 to protect us. We thankfully lost no soldiers but days like this are bitter reminders of the threats we face as a nation and how achingly close we come to situations where this is a possibility.
In recent years, Yom Hazikaron has also included honouring victims of terror attacks.
Victims targeted simply for being Israeli. We remember brave men like Ari Fuld who gave chase to his murderer before succumbing to his wounds. Zidan Saif, a Druze policeman who had come off his shift when he heard of an attack on a synagogue and rushed to assist and paid with his life. We remember teenagers Gilad Shaer, Eyal Yifrah and NaphtaliFrenkel – whose names live on in heartbreaking infamy. We remember the mothers and father, brothers and sisters, grandparents and babies – gone soon, far too soon. This year the number of victims of terror is 3 146.
There are 3 146 reason to remember, to wipe the tears from our eyes, to light a candle.
In an emotional paradox, the sun will set on mourning and Israel will don her best blue and white to celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut.
This year we have 23 741 more reasons to. We celebrate in their names.
They will forever be the watchers on our walls, the guardians of our gates. Their memories will be forever blessed.
“…And so they stand, the light on their faces, and the Lord,
alone passes among them, with tears in His eyes He kisses
their wounds, and He says in a trembling voice to the white