Thursday, August 30, 2007

Rock and Stroll

One sign of the summer holiday coming to a close is the annual rock concert organized on the Haifa student beach. For the average Haifa citizen to go down to the beach for some rest and relaxation, the outing is fraught with difficulty. Driving to the beach area is frustrating with bottlenecks making a 10 minute journey turn into a 30-40 minute one.

Rock concerts are also taking place in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv in the next week with artists coming from overseas supplementing the local ones.

Now the Haifa concert is completed and the beach area is returned to all the citizens. With the temperature and humidity dropping a little, my wife and I drove to the beach for the first time in a few weeks for some exercise along the promenade. (We have been walking around the air conditioned shopping mall for our daily exercise in the extremes of temperature and humidity that we have been having.)

At the beach people are swimming, surfing, sleeping, BBQing, playing, building (sand models), walking, jogging and the hundreds of things one does there. Two brides, to be married that evening were posing for photographs against the backdrop of a multi colored setting sun and the whole atmosphere was one of peace and enjoyment.

Hard to think that around 7 minutes flying time from Beirut or Damascus can bring our enemies planes to this area of tranquility and 40 seconds for a katyusha.

Monday, August 27, 2007

“Summertime and the livin' is easy”

Well the “easy” life of the summer holidays (for the children) is drawing to a close, not so easy for the parents. The shopping malls are regaling the shoppers with all the books, accessories and school bags required for the new school year. It is reported that parents are spending around $2 billion on their children on back to school items. Ahead of the new school year, local industries have invested heavily in the design and development of new orthopedic back packs and school bags in a sector that employs over 5000 people.

Meanwhile in the south, in Sderot parents are apprehensive about the new school year because of the incessant barrage of mortars and kassams being fired from the Gaza strip. Palestinian infiltration attempts from Gaza are increasing. The Israeli army reports almost on a daily basis on the attempts at infiltration. Over the past three weeks, 10 gunmen have been killed while trying to plant bombs alongside the security fence. "Our goal is to stop anyone who approaches the fence; sometimes it's civilians, sometimes it's terrorists and sometimes it's terrorists pretending to be civilians," said a military official. "We have no intention of harming civilians, but it's often impossible to ascertain the intent of each individual infiltrator.

Here in the north we cannot be complacent as Iran helps to build a presence in Lebanon. Media reports are full of what is happening in Southern Lebanon under the noses of UNIFIL,0,4226946.story Along the roadways of southern Lebanon, thousands of banners festoon street lights and utility poles. They feature a distinctive symbol, a red inscription from the center of Iran's flag, protectively swathing Lebanon's iconic green cedar. The emblem belongs to the Iranian reconstruction organization. Its presence delivers a message that is not lost on those who have watched cratered roads filled in, damaged school walls resurrected, and life return to some semblance of normalcy over the last year.

Iran is a Shiite Muslim majority country that sees itself as the patron of Shiites around the world, including those in Lebanon, who make up a third to half of the population. Whenever the Lebanese government, nonprofit organizations or other donor nations have faltered, Iran and its ally Hizbullah, which dominates most of the municipal governments of the south, have quickly swooped in. For example, when Qatar slowed reconstruction efforts several months ago because of corruption worries, Iran quickly upped its contribution.

As the summer peaks it ain’t going to get any easier

Friday, August 24, 2007

Education for Peace??

We are used to seeing excerpts from the children’s programs on TV in the Palestinian areas which advocate jihad and the destruction of the State of Israel. Now the children of southern Lebanon are also being indoctrinated through the use of computer games.

A local TV news program reports that a new computer game allows the players to raid Israel to capture soldiers, battle tanks in the valleys of southern Lebanon and launch Katyusha rockets at Israeli towns -- the game puts players on the frontline of war with the Jewish state. "Special Force 2" is based on last year's 34-day conflict between the Lebanese guerrilla group and Israel.

"This game presents the culture of the resistance to children: that occupation must be resisted and that land and the nation must be guarded," said a Hezbollah media official. But the Israeli Foreign Ministry responded by saying: ''It should come as a surprise to no one that Hezbollah teaches children that hatred and violence are positive attributes.''

Designed by Hezbollah computer experts, players of "Special Force 2" take the role of a Hezbollah fighter, or Mujahid. Weapons and points are accumulated by killing Israeli soldiers.
The game, launched on Thursday, recreates key phases of the conflict, which was triggered when Hezbollah forces raided northern Israel and captured two soldiers, saying they wanted to negotiate a prisoner swap.

Hezbollah, a Shiite Muslim group backed by Iran and Syria, declared the outcome of the conflict a "divine victory." "Through this game the child can build an idea of some of ... the most prominent battles and the idea that this enemy can be defeated," the spokesman said.

The 3-D game forces players to think and use their resources wisely, reflecting the way Hezbollah fights. "The features which are the secret of resistance's victory in the south have moved to this game so that the child can understand that fighting the enemy does not only require the gun.
"It requires readiness, supplies, armament, attentiveness, tactics."

And this is the way forward to peace???

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Rhetoric, like the Weather, is Hot

We are heading for another heatwave by the end of the week with temeratures here in Haifa heading for 37C (100F). The Palestinians in Gaza are suffering again at the hands of their leaders as the supply of electricity is the latest subject of conflict between Fatah and Hamas, while the European Union has frozen payments due to Hamas syphoning off some of the money for its own agenda. Meanwhile, some 600,000 citizens have little or no electricity.

Also a "hot" subject is the renewal of UN Security Council Resolution 1701, following the second Lebanon war last year.

Has it helped? I feel like most of my friends, very sceptical. Without getting into the siscussion of who won or lost, the fact is, that this resolution, like so many others has been only partially implemented, and the vital provisions have been left unattended :

1) South Lebanon was not demilitarized and Hezbollah and the other terrorist organizations remained and were not disarmed

2) Iran and Syria continue replenishing Hezbollah's arsenal and rehabilitating its military force

3) The arms embargo has not been effectively enforced and weapons are steadily smuggled into Lebanon from Syria

4) No significant progress has been made in the issue of the abducted IDF soldiers.

Further, Hizbullah is buying up large tracts of land owned by Christians and other non-Shias in southern Lebanon as the militant group rebuilds its defenses in preparation for a new war with Israel. The forested wadis, or valleys, north of the Litani River make ideal terrain for Hizbullah's brand of guerrilla warfare and, just 10 miles from the border, are within rocket range of Israeli cities.

"Christians and Druze are selling land and moving out, while the Shia are moving in. There is an extraordinary demographic shift taking place," said Edmund Rizk, a former Christian MP for the area. Wealthy Shia businessman Ali Tajeddine, who made his fortune trading diamonds in Sierra Leone, is said to be using Iranian funds to buy land from destitute villagers at up to four times the going rate.

Critics fear a grand scheme to create a strip of Shia-controlled land connecting southern Lebanon to Hizbullah's other power center in the Bekaa Valley. "It is part of Hizbullah's plan to create a state within a state," said Walid Jumblatt, a Druze leader. He also pointed to the four-lane road being built to connect the Hizbullah stronghold of Nabatiye in the south to the western Bekaa. Banners openly proclaim the source of the road's funding: "510 km of new roads paid for by the Iranian Organization for Sharing in the Building of Lebanon."

Yes, there is cause for concern not just here in the north but throughout the whole country

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Holocaust Education in the UK

Much has been written and misreported on the subject of Holocaust education in UK schools. I have also received many letters claiming that the UK government has stopped the teaching the Holocaust in its schools. The Guardian in the UK pointed out that "Teaching of the Holocaust is expected to become compulsory under the new national curriculum from next year". It only quotes the report as giving examples of two schools, which makes the opening paragraph that says that "Schools have avoided teaching the Holocaust grossly misleading”

A teacher who has written to me, has been teaching history since 1981 and has taught Holocaust studies throughout in a variety of schools, including one with a substantial Lebanese population has worked very closely with the Dept. of Education who funded the Historical Association --- the association of historians in the UK --- to produce a report called "Teaching emotive and controversial History 3 – 19" In his opinion, "the report is an excellent, well researched piece of work that in no way justifies the way the Guardian have sensationalized a tiny part of its observations on what has happened in a couple of schools. If the content of this report and its recommendations were acted upon", he believes, “we could all sleep at nights”.

To quote from the intro on their website :The National Curriculum for History and GCSE and A-level History qualifications often include areas of study that touch on social, cultural, religious and ethnic fault lines within and beyond Britain. Such areas of study include the Holocaust and aspects of Islamic history. These areas are sometimes avoided by teachers to steer away from controversy in the classroom.

The teacher goes on to say that this avoidance is not a government policy but a misguided example of local choice being exercised in some schools. The report has specific recommendations on how to support teachers working in sensitive subject areas.The way such past events are perceived and understood in the present can stir emotions and controversy within and across communities.

The Historical Association's report will gather examples of effective teaching that deals with emotive and controversial history in schools across all key stages from the ages of 3 to 19. This will allow teachers to obtain a comprehensive view of current best practice in teaching these and similar issues. It will recommend proven and successful approaches that enable teachers to tackle these issues in ordinary lessons through rigorous and engaging teaching while at the same time challenging discrimination and prejudice.

I hope this information will finally put this issue to rest.

Monday, August 13, 2007

The North last Year, the South for a Year Plus

Whilst some of the world’s media do occasionally report a Kassam or mortar attack on S’derot in the south of the country, no-one (to my knowledge) seems to cover the daily trauma experienced by the residents of the area. This is an exact repetition of last year’s war in Lebanon, when you were hard pushed to find any reports on the trauma facing the northern population.

A friend in the south relates his and his wife’s personal experience last Thursday. As he starts his letter “I hope that none of you have to go thru a day like we had yesterday.”

He then goes on to tell how his day went; “we were not hurt nor anything like that but it was just a nerve racking day.

A group of Jewish American media people came to visit our senior center and hear from us and two more people who live in my area on what it is like living under the daily threat of Kassam and mortar shells.

Every thing went well until they were going to leave us when we had 3,yes 3 color red warnings about incoming Kassams. One of the Kassams landings we heard there may have been more booms but that was the only one I heard.

When we got home, we heard two big booms but until now we have no idea of what it was and if there was any damage.

In the evening I went to spinning and then later in the pool I heard a color red warning and I heard one boom from far away and another one close by.

In the mean time at home, my wife heard two large explosions and this time it was Mortar shells falling very close to the living area on the Kibbutz.

She also told me, when I got home, that there was a lot of weapons firing before and after the mortars.

My wife was asked by one of the visitors, why we don't leave S’derot and her answer was simply because this is our home. I glanced around at the visitors and it seemed to me that the answer was enough for them for I saw a few write down the answer and giving the expression of a good answer had been received.

Kibbutz Nir Am, which is going thru a tougher time then we are; they have been hit at least 20 times this last few months with Kassams and a lot of damage to their Kibbutz and like one said ‘many hours without things like electricity because of damage to their electoral supplies and electricians afraid to come to fix it’.

However, to finish on a good note; today, (Friday morning) they invited us and others for breakfast and a chance to show our solidarity with them. A large number of people from the neighboring Kibbutzim and from S’derot were there and a good time was had by all. The only problem was for me is that I ate too much and if you didn't know, I am on a diet!! Ah well back to the first week of the diet for me"

The ongoing trauma of living such a life is telling. Sounds that appear as though a siren is about to sound, still stirs the heart for many people momentarily for others more long lasting.

Just try to imagine a place not more than 5-6 miles away from you home being bombarded by "cheap, inaccurate" missiles, as reporters often report the Kassams

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Co Existence in the Holyland

I am often asked about the schemes for cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians and as usual I believe these are never reported in the International media. Therefore I take the opportunity to publish details of the few of these organisations with thanks to the Israeli foreign Office for the information

The Israel / Palestinian issue is all too often portrayed solely in terms of the conflict, with little coverage of life beyond the politics. But there are many examples of groups and individuals who have taken up the challenge of fostering coexistence between all peoples in the region. They are just the tip of the iceberg, and there are many more organisations which work towards bringing people together, with the shared goal of breaking down barriers and stereotypes, and building bridges and understanding.

The Center for Jewish-Arab Economic Development (CJAED) which is a is a non-profit organisation, established in 1988 by a group of Jewish and Arab businesspeople, with the overarching belief that healthy economic development and relations, are key to peace and stability in the region.

Shemesh, the organisation for Jewish-Arab Friendship and Coexistence in the Galilee. Shemesh works to nurture understanding and respect for cultural differences, and build towards a peaceful future for all peoples.

Givat Haviva, is an institute aimed at educating for peace, democracy, coexistence and social solidarity; to resist racism and all forms of discrimination, crucial to achieving peace between Israel, the Palestinians and the Arab states.

Save A Child's Heart, which provides urgently needed pediatric heart surgery and follow-up care for children from around the world, regardless of race or religion.

The Abraham Fund initiatives work to advance coexistence, equality and cooperation among Israel’s Jewish and Arab citizens by creating and operating large-scale initiatives, cultivating strategic grassroots projects and conducting public education and advocacy that promote its vision of shared citizenship and opportunity for all of Israel’s citizens. Typical programs are
Coexistence Network- A national network of organizations that address Arab-Jewish relations
Police-Community- efforts to improve police - Arab communities relations
Government Training & Advocacy- equal opportunities for Israel's Arab citizens

The Network of Organizations For Jewish-Arab Coexistence In Israel . Its mission is in recognizing the profound need to deepen and develop links between Arabs and Jews in Israel, as well as the immediate necessity to create an equal, pluralistic, just and fair society for all of the country’s citizens, both Jews and Arabs, the Network of Organizations for Jewish-Arab Coexistence in Israel was established.

Peaceworks is a not-only-for-profit company. We have proven that we can build and sustain a profitable company AND do a little good in the world.
Together with people striving to co-exist, we create and deliver unique and exciting specialty foods- only the freshest ingredients, always all-natural, always delicious.
PeaceWorks currently does business with Israelis, Palestinians, Egyptians, South Africans, Turks, Indonesians and Sri Lankans.

Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam is a cooperative village of Jews and Palestinian Arabs of Israeli citizenship. The village is situated equidistant from Jerusalem and Tel Aviv-Jaffa.

Neve Shalom - Wahat al-Salam gives practical expression to its vision of an egalitarian society through pioneering educational work at
The School for Peace, Children’s Educational System and Pluralistic Spiritual Centre. Besides its educational work, NSWAS and its members also conduct other projects such as Humanitarian aid program. Occasionally, summer programs are offered for overseas guests.

Shevet Achim was founded in 1994 with the purpose of helping non-Israeli children receive lifesaving medical care in Israel. Our name is taken from the Hebrew of Psalm 133, which promises that unity between brothers leads to life; we believe this to be true of the troubled relationship between Isaac and Ishmael (Jews and Muslims) in the Middle East.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

The Real of World of Trade Unionism

Recently, the mighty Transport and General Workers' Union in the UK, in order to perpetuate the political agenda of the minority activists in the union voted to boycott Israel. Meanwhile, in the real world, Palestinian and Israeli transport union representatives met to further co-operation.

Israeli and Palestinian transport unions have forged a groundbreaking cooperation agreement at a special meeting held under the auspices of the ITF.

Around 20 Israeli and Palestinian transport union representatives met together in Limassol, Cyprus on 31 July – 1 August as guests of the ITF’s Cypriot affiliate the Federation of Transport, Petroleum and Agricultural Workers. There they discussed common issues such as collective bargaining, delayed payment of wages, loss of union membership and the increasing outsourcing of work to contractors.

They agreed to establish a joint liaison committee to provide a mechanism for dealing with practical problems faced by transport workers in the region and for building trust between Israeli and Palestinian transport unions.

I wonder if these “practical problems” involve the issue of the boycott. It will be interesting to see further developments.

The full report of the special meeting and a video of the signing ceremony can be seen at

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Humanitarian Aid is still getting through to Gaza

There are many misconceptions about the aid the Palestinians in Gaza are receiving. In spite of the many difficulties im[posed by Hamas, various crossing points are being used to get essential supplies into Gaza.
- The Erez Crossing: still operates keeping a low profile. It usually serves for the passage of individuals, and is used by Palestinian civilians and foreign nationals with special advance authorization (primarily for those given humanitarian consideration).
- The Karni Crossing: opens and closes periodically. The volume of merchandise passing through it has decreased significantly. Mostly grain passes through.
- The Nahal Oz Crossing: open. Fuel and gas pass through.
- The Sufa Crossing: open. The crossing continues as the main conduit for merchandise and foodstuffs into the Gaza Strip (2,847 trucks have passed though since Hamas took over the Gaza Strip).
- The Kerem Shalom Crossing: opens and closes periodically. Four hundred and twenty trucks have passed through since Hamas took over the Gaza Strip

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Two More Sides of the Education Coin

Most of this week has been spent with 7 of our granddaughters touring the north to theme parks and organizing activities in the home with play dough, making dolls, clowns and other artistic pursuits plus the traditional visit to the local beach, where finally the jellyfish seem to have given up in the coastal waters making swimming a more pleasurable.

The children enjoyed an occasional video when we needed a rest with such favorites as Bambi, Snow White etc.

This somehow seems so normal and yet not so many miles away, children of another culture are still being brainwashed in the non acceptance of Israel and the need to kill the Jews.

Palestinian Media Watch reports that Hamas’s Al-Aqsa television station recruited a new children’s character to “continue” the legacy of its star martyr, Farfur – the Mickey Mouse lookalike who was beaten to death by an Israeli on the previous program. The new character on the children’s show Tomorrow’s Pioneers, a bee named Nahool, tells the hostess he is Farfur’s cousin and that he wishes to “continue the path of Farfur… the path of martyrdom, the path of the Jihad warriors… and in his name we shall take revenge upon the enemies of Allah, the murderers of the prophets...” The expression "Murderers of the prophets" is an Islamic expression used by the PA religious leaders to refer to Jews. Defining the Jews as the enemies of God is common in PA religious broadcasting.

The following is an excerpt from the program:Hostess Saraa’:

“Who are you? And where did you come from?”

Nahool: “I am Nahool [the bee], Farfur’s cousin.

”Saraa’: “And what do you want?

”Nahool: "I want to continue the path of Farfur, the path of “Islam is the solution”. The path of heroism, the path of martyrdom, the path of the Jihad warriors. Me and my friends shall continue the path of Farfur. And in his name we shall take revenge upon the enemies of Allah, the murderers of the prophets [i.e. the Jews], the murderers of innocent children, until Al-Aqsa will be liberated from their filth.

”Saraa’: “Welcome! Welcome Nahool.” [Al Aqsa TV (Hamas), July 13, 2007]