Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Fixing the schisms within Israeli society


While Eran Schwartz was serving as a pilot in Israel Air Force, he became worried about the inner fabric of Israeli society. “I was protecting the outside fabric, but I saw we need to protect the inside too,” he tells ISRAEL21c. “I decided to focus on social change and education, which I think is the key.”

Schwartz moved to the Galilee with his wife, a French immigrant. For the last six and a half years, he has been CEO of Yigal Allon Center at Kibbutz Ginosar near the Sea of Galilee (Lake Kinneret).The site also houses a popular tourist attraction, the 2,000-year-old Galilee fishing boat (“Jesus boat”) found in 1986.

 “When I arrived, my vision for this place was to focus on the future of the state and not the past. I had to persuade the board to completely change the orientation to one of education, mostly in the periphery, to advance leadership,” says Schwartz. “I had zero knowledge, but I had a vision. And I was lucky enough that the board followed me into this vision,” says the 38-year-old father of three.

The center runs educational programs, post-high school preparatory courses for Jews and Arabs, a program for integrating ultra-Orthodox Jews into society, and more, all with the goal of promoting equality and coexistence throughout Israel.

“We work with a huge variety of people, a microcosm of what I wish Israel looked like: soldiers, commanders, officers, police officers, Arabs and other populations that in my view are crucial to work with in order to have a strong state,” says Schwartz.

To walk in someone else’s shoes

One innovative program was created four years ago with the Jewish Agency — a seven-month residential leadership academy for boys and girls after high school, in which half the members are Muslims, Christians or Druze and half are Jews of varied backgrounds, “to set an example of mixed leadership,” says Schwartz.

Living together 24/7, along with their counselors and educators, gives members of the Allonim academy an impactful foundation before the next stage of life, which for many of them will be military or civil service.

 “At the beginning and end of the seven months you saw different people. They were both amazing girls before, but they gained the ability to understand the other –not to change her own identity but to walk in someone else’s shoes,” says Schwartz.

Each invited the other to spend a weekend in her family home, truly cementing the friendship. The Jewish friend is now in the military and the Arab one is doing civil service. They sometimes come back to Allonim together to interact with the current cohort.

“You can imagine that politically they are on opposite sides, but it doesn’t matter,” says Schwartz. “When they are leaders, and I hope they will be, they will act differently because of this experience.”

Secular and religious rapprochement

Schwartz, who has a master’s degree in Jewish studies and culture, and another in political communication, is now studying toward a master’s degree in political science focusing on democracy.

“I am secular, but I am starting a new program with a haredi [ultra-Orthodox] friend from Jerusalem to help elite haredi kids who want to join special forces units in the IDF,” says Schwartz.

“Until today they have not had that opportunity. We want to create new leadership in the haredi sector and help them participate more in Israeli society.”

The disconnect between secular and haredi Jewish Israelis is no less an issue than it is between Jewish and Arab Israelis. The corona crisis only exacerbated a mutual lack of trust due to highly publicized violations of mass gathering and social distancing rules.

“I see a breaking point in this,” says Schwartz. “We can’t build walls between ourselves. We are forced to find a way to live together despite the many obstacles.”

Yigal Allon Center, with a permanent staff of about 20, gets a third of its budget from the government, a third from program fees and a third from tourism. Of course, the latter third has suffered during the pandemic.

Schwartz is not fazed by the difficulty of his mission. “If it’s simple, it’s not interesting,” he says with a smile.

For more information, click here

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Vaccines for 2022

 Israel signed an agreement with Pfizer for the acquisition of millions of vaccine doses for 2022. Israel and Pfizer also agreed on an option to acquire additional millions of vaccine doses.

The supplement that was signed will ensure the continuation of Israel's ability to deal with the coronavirus in an optimal manner at least until the end of 2022.

The Prime Minister stated " we have recently with the CEOs of Pfizer and Moderna. There were several obstacles in Israel that we needed to overcome, and we found a way to do so. If there are no surprises such as coronavirus variants that the vaccines cannot overcome, then we have signed for the acquisition of millions of additional Pfizer vaccines. I very much hope that we will also sign soon with Moderna. 

This means that soon we will have more than enough vaccines for both adults and children. Israel will again lead the world in the fight against the coronavirus. There will be no more lockdowns; we have exited this."

Hopefully we are seeing the end of lockdowns and at least here in Israel we can get back an almost normal pre pandemic lifestyle.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Some Fun Facts about Israel

(With thanks to Israsel 21C)

1.     Israel has the highest number of altruistic kidney donations per capita in the world: 1,005 in the past 11 years, and counting.

2.     The oldest tree in Israel is a jujube tree in Ein Hatzeva on the road to Eilat, which is thought to be between 1,500 to 2,000 years old.

3.     Scientists in Israel managed to grow fresh dates from sixth-century seeds found at Masada and Qumran.

4.     At the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, an old wooden ladder has been propped up against a window since the 18th century. No one can move it because the building is managed by six different churches and none can agree on who owns the ladder.

5.     The Mount of Olives is the oldest continuously used cemetery in the world. It’s been in use for over 3,000 years.

6.     85 percent of Israeli households get hot water from rooftop solar heaters, compared to less than 1 percent in the United States.

Monday, April 12, 2021

So the ICC Wants to Investigate Israel

 ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda announced she was launching an investigation against Israel for alleged crimes committed in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague is supposed to be a court working according to international law. So how does it have the authority to launch a war crimes investigation against the Jewish state.

The government decided to adopt the recommendations of the inter-ministerial team led by the NSC which recommended not cooperating with the international court but also not leaving the prosecutor’s letter unanswered and responding and making it clear that the court is acting without authority.

In the response letter sent to the ICC, it will also be pointed out that Israel “absolutely rejects the claim that it has carried out war crimes.”

“Israel reiterates its unequivocal position according to which the court in The Hague lacks the authority according to its own laws to open an investigation against it,” the letter will note.

This position was also made clear to the court by other countries and noted experts in international law.

“The unacceptable interference of the court lacks any legal basis and contravenes the goals for which it was established. The State of Israel is committed to the rule of law and will continue to investigate any accusation against it regardless of the source and expects that the court will refrain from violating its sovereign authority,” the statement said. "there is no other word to describe this other than hypocrisy.”

“A body that was founded to defend human rights has become a hostile body that defends those who trample human rights,” he added.

The Attorney General restated his position that the ICC lacks any jurisdiction on this matter since no sovereign Palestinian state exists nor does any territory belonging to such an entity.

Israel has not joined the ICC.

Anne Herzberg, Legal Advisor at NGO Monitor, who authored the organizations; amicus brief to the ICC, and has been involved in the ICC’s Israel-related dealings as far back as the initial efforts in 2008, stated that Bensouda’s decision was “expected,” and her claim that she and her office have consistently engaged in a “principled, non-partisan approach” is “utterly laughable.”

“From the very beginning of her tenure she encouraged the Palestinians to join the Court, has repeatedly relied upon claims from and engaged with Palestinian terror-linked NGOs, and invented out of whole cloth an attenuated legal theory to go after Israelis. And there are many other indications of bias,” she charged.

“It is unclear if the new Prosecutor will be able to undo the considerable damage she has done to the institution’s credibility,” she noted.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Israel, Greece, and Cyprus Forming Eastern Mediterranean Alliance


 Israel, Greece, and Cyprus continue to establish a long lasting alliance in the Eastern Mediterranean. This week they agreed to build a $6 billion undersea cable, running from Israel through Cyprus, and reaching Greece.

While the excitement about the growing security and economic partnerships between Israel, Greece, and Cyprus can be felt in those countries’ leaderships, Turkey is not happy about what appears to be an alliance designed to thwart its dreams of Ottoman expansion.

Erdogan is now claiming that the route of the undersea cable runs through Turkey’s territorial waters. The problem with that theory is Turkey views Cyprus as part of its territory. Thankfully, no one else in the world actually agree

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Archaeology in Israel is more exciting than ever before

 ‘Archaeology in Israel is a popular movement,” Amos Elon wrote in his 1971 book The Israelis: Founders and Sons. “It is almost a national sport. Not a passive spectator sport but the thrilling, active pastime of many thousands of people, as perhaps fishing in the Canadian Lake Country or hunting in the French Massif Central.”

Those words published a half-century ago, reverberated this week as dramatic archaeological finds hit the front pages of the newspapers, and squeezed into prime-time television and radio news shows.

Last week, the Antiquities Authority (IAA) announced a trove of finds from a wide-scale archaeological operation ongoing since 2017 in hidden caves in the Judean Desert, in cooperation with the Civil Administration’s Archaeological Department.

Among the finds were an ancient woven basket, believed to be some 10,500 years old, and the 6,000-year-old skeleton of a child. Those were the “universal” finds. Of more particular Jewish interest were the discovery of fragments of ancient scrolls of the biblical books of Zechariah and Nahum, as well as coins dating to the Bar-Kochba revolt in 132 CE.

And these findings come just a week after another archaeological story was highlighted in the media: an 11-year-old boy hiking with his family in the Negev discovered a figurine, believed to be a fertility amulet, dating to the First Temple period.

The findings announced from the Judean Desert were not just stumbled upon this week. The findings were announced on Tuesday, but the artifacts themselves were discovered over a year ago.

Why is that important? Because the IAA seem to have made a decision to announce the findings together – both those of a universal character and those particularly Jewish.

And why is that significant? Because Israeli archaeologists have often been accused of focusing on finds that would validate Jewish claims to the Land of Israel, at the expense of highlighting discoveries – such as the 10,500-year-old basket and 6,000-year-old skeleton – that do not have an “Israeli angle.”

It is only natural that a people, accused far and wide of being interlopers in a land not its own, would find comfort in artifacts testifying to its presence in that land going back more than three millennia.

From Masada to the City of David to Tel Shiloh, whenever Israeli archeologists make a startling discovery shedding light on biblical or Jewish history, they are accused of searching for and finding only Jewish artifacts in an attempt to whitewash the history of other peoples that historically roamed and resided in this land.

But finding Jewish artifacts – or even focusing on the discovery of Jewish archaeological sites – does not deny the presence of other civilizations here. What those finds are able to do, however, is to refute the arguments of those who deny that Jews were among all those people who did roam and reside here, including in Jerusalem.

By unveiling both Jewish and general archaeological discoveries on the same day, the IAA made a statement: we are interested and focused on both Jewish and general discoveries.

More on this at

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Palestinian Activist Slams World For Lying About Israel And Vaccine

There is no better place to be an Arab in the Middle East than the State of Israel. Israel supplies all of the best medical care to all Jews and Arabs alike. One can argue that Arabs who claim to be part of a “Palestinian nation” should be able to set up their own State. One can even argue that the “Palestinians” have been oppressed. In my opinion, there was no such thing as a “Palestinian Nation” until the recent decades when the concept was created as part of a salami strategy to weaken the State of Israel and then fight to destroy it.

However, no rational person who lives or visits the State of Israel and walks into ANY hospital, would think that Israel does not take care of the medical needs of Arabs. Actually, hospitals are the best example of coexistence in the entire State of Israel. Not only hospitals, but emergency vehicles traverse the entire State of Israel every day and save Jews and Arabs alike. Who are the ambulance drivers and medics? Jews and Arabs alike. Who are the wounded? Jews and Arabs alike. Who treats them in hospitals? Jewish and Arab doctors alike. So, the entire argument of Jews not treating Arabs or vaccinating Arabs has absolutely no connection to reality. It is not just fake news. It is the exact opposite of reality.

As a matter of fact, when I recently was vaccinated, an Arab medic vaccinated me while right next to us, a Jewish medic vaccinated an Arab, and there was nothing odd about this. It happens every day, all across the State of Israel. Don’t believe the lies. Israel has been and continues to be the best place for an Arab to be in the Middle East, even if a fringe of the population complains about it.