Monday, September 24, 2007

Haifa Planning for Boom

With one hotel already having undergone a major refit to bring it to 5 star rating and up to 600 other hotel rooms to be built, the Haifa municpality is expecting a boom in visitors.

Last year over 920 conferences or congresses were held in the city putting the hotels under great pressure to accomodate everyone. This is certainly encouraging news but tourists to this beautiful city are still a small proportion of the total tourist trade. Of course, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv have their attractions but it seems to me that few really know the splendour and beauty of Haifa. . The beaches, the forests, the nature reserves, the bars and pubs and the cultural life offer something for everyone.

Whilst last year's war is fading in the memory of some, according to a business report by the local chamber of commerce it indicates that 41% of business owners say that the businesses have suffered as a result of the war whilst 49% say it has been unaffected and 4% actually say that business has improved.

Overall, things are looking up for the city with a record number of jobs on offer, up over 70% from last year. It really isn't a bad place to live!!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Forthcoming Peace Conference?

With the comments made by Mahmoud Abbas recently, one has to wonder if there is any way he can take part in the November “Peace Conference”. As a negotiator between employers and trade unions in a former life, the success of any negotiation involves give and take. From all the comments by Abbas in the media there seems to be no way that he is able to negotiate anything with the agreement of all the Palestinian factions.

As Khaled Abu Tomeh of the Jerusalem Post reports this week “The shift in the PA's position toward the conference is largely attributed to Abbas's failure to persuade the majority of the Arab countries to take part. The Saudis, Egyptians, Jordanians and Qataris are said to have informed Abbas that they see no point in attending under the current circumstances, especially in light of the ongoing power struggle between Hamas and Fatah”
So where do we go from here? It seems to me that neither Olmert nor Abbas has the backing of their electorate but neither wants to be the one to call the conference off. Each seems to be playing “chicken”, leaving the decision to the very last minute.

Abu Tomeh goes on to say that “Abbas is also reluctant to participate in a highly controversial conference held under the auspices of the US at a time when the Palestinians are more divided than ever. He knows that any deal he brings back will be severely criticized by Hamas and many other Palestinians, who will accuse him of succumbing to American and Israeli pressure.“

Meanwhile the Palestinian population is still being bombarded with jihad messages on their TV’s and in the sermons in their mosques. The last film to be seen from Palestinian TV shows a 2 year old planning for his personal jihad, yes a two year old!!
And from this we must go to peace? It seems to me it will take more than a generation to switch the present mindset, or am I being pessimistic?

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

New Year Resolutions??

Following the New Year holiday, the news broke about an Israeli overflight of Syrian territory with the usual condemnations by Syria and then North Korea. For once the Israeli press was tight lipped (most unusual) and it seems prepared to adopt the line of the government of non disclosure.

In a country where everyone has a relative or knows someone who has access to information, it is rather rare to find such self control in censorship. The fact that, apart from Syria and North Korea, no European or Arab country has condemned the action suggests that whatever action was taken over Syrian territory, it met with general approval. Of course there is conjecture by many of the overseas media outlets but since Sky News felt it more important to take a "flesh look" at Israel on TV and on its website.,,30200-1284368,00.html , it is an indication of their priorities!

Meanwhile, Sunday was a fast day for Jews (it needed to be after all the food eaten over the New Year holiday) and, of course in the middle of Ramadan. It was reported that members of the government hosted an Iftar dinner on Sunday evening (16 Sept) at the King David Hotel to break the day's fast. Forty guests participated, among them Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, Information Minister Riad al-Maliki, Egyptian Ambassador Mohamed Assem Ibrahim Mohamed, Jordanian Ambassador Ali al-Ayed, and Mauritanian Ambassador Ahmed Ould Teguedi. Other guests included Israeli public figures and Muslim and Druze mayors and council heads.

Foreign Minister Livni welcomed the guests and commented that the evening's significance went beyond merely breaking the Muslim fast of Ramadan and the Jewish Fast of Gedaliah. The event, she stated, symbolized co-existence and common values based on the belief that joint efforts can bring peace.

Livni added that the religious tolerance demonstrated by Jews, Muslims and Christians sitting and eating together emphasizes the need to denounce the extremists who misuse religion in order to spread their radical ideology.

At the dinner, speeches were also delivered by the Palestinian prime minister, the Egyptian and Jordanian ambassadors and some of the Israeli leaders.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Is It Getter Hotter or Cooler?

Weather wise I wonder if we are over the worst of the summer heat. Although the days have temperatures in the upper 80’s, the evenings are starting to be a bit more pleasant. We actually haven’t switch on the air conditioner on the last two evenings.

Another week and the clocks will go back as we go off summertime and on to wintertime. Meantime the country is preparing for the New Year holiday, shops are bustling with shoppers stocking up for the 3 day weekend, this being an unusual occurrence in Israel, 2 days of the New Year holiday and 1 day for the Sabbath.

However as the weather may be cooling down, the political areana is heating up. Last week, the official Syrian Arab News Agency began to report a claim that Israel Air Force jets had flown over northern Syria the previous night, and had been spotted and engaged by Syrian air defences. According to the initial reports, the Israeli planes broke the sound barrier and dropped munitions over uninhabited areas of northern Syria, before leaving Syrian airspace. The claim of dropping munitions was later changed to a claim that the Israeli jets had jettisoned fuel tanks which had landed on Syrian soil. Subsequently, the Turkish authorities showed photographs of what was purported to be the fuel tanks on Turkish soil.

The fact is that in spite of resolution 1701, the Hizbollah have threateningly announced that they have now rearmed and have 20,000 missiles available for attacking Israel. Last year before the war they had 14,000. In spite of the evidence, the United nations force seems unwilling or unable to stem the flow of weapons from Syria.

Meanwhile missiles galore rain down on Sderot and terrorist attempts continue unabated. A Palestinian teen detained by an IDF force at a checkpoint near Nablus Sunday was found to be carrying three pipe bombs meant to be used in a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv. IDF officers said terror organizations in Nablus, including Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front and Fatah, were making intensive efforts to launch attacks into Israel.

In the midst of all this we read that Hamas security forces wielding clubs on Friday beat protesters, hurled stun grenades and fired into the air to disperse open-air prayer meetings held by Fatah in defiance of a Hamas ban on such gatherings. Medical officials said 20 people were treated in hospital. Hamas men had set up checkpoints Friday morning throughout Gaza to prevent Fatah supporters from reaching the prayer sites. Demonstrations against Hamas were also held throughout the West Bank.

On the other foot, Palestinian security allied with the Fatah rulers of the West Bank beat Hamas protesters with clubs at a demonstration Sunday outside Hebron University. PA security forces forbade journalists from taking pictures, confiscating the camera of one photographer. Some journalists were also beaten. The Tel Aviv-based Foreign Press Association issued a statement condemning the behavior of Palestinian security.

Let’s hope the New Year will bring us peace.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

A New School Year

The new school year in Sderot got off to a fiery start with a bombardment of Sderot and its educational institutions by Hamas using Kassams and mortars. The Israel army struck several rocket launchers in northern Gaza soon after, saying” it refuses to allow Hamas to guard its rockets by placing them in populated areas.”
Hamas claims that three teenagers and children were killed in the air strike. What they did not say, however, was that these children had been sent by Hamas terrorists to adjust the launchers. The army identified five launchers with suspicious figures moving among them and launched the strike.
An army correspondent is quoted as saying that “this is not the first time this has happened. This phenomenon of Hamas paying ten shekels ($2.50) to children in order to retrieve the launchers has become the norm. The terrorists launch the rockets from afar via remote control and know that if they approach the launchers they will be hit, so they send young children.”
An army statement said: “As part of the ongoing defensive activity to protect Israeli civilians from terror threats this afternoon, the IDF targeted several Kassam launchers in the Beit Hanoun industrial area, which were placed by Palestinian terrorists and aimed at Israel. Several Palestinians were identified handling the launchers at the time. This area is often used to fire Kassam rockets at Israel.”
Nearly 300 rockets and mortar shells have been fired at Israel from Gaza in the month of August alone.
The previous night, soldiers intercepted a 15-year-old suicide bomber dispatched from northern Gaza.
This cynical use of children is, in my opinion, a direct consequence of the on-going indoctrination of Palestinian children. Now every Monday afternoon Al-Aqsa TV, the most important medium in Hamas’ media empire, broadcasts a children’s program called “Brilliant Children,” on which child experts in various fields are interviewed. The September 3 episode, a special for the beginning of the school year, featured a child named “Ahmad” (a name symbolizing all Palestinian children), whose field of expertise was defined as jihad (holy war). Such programs are meant to indoctrinate the younger generation of Palestinians with Hamas’ radical Islamic ideology, at the core of which is jihad. Such ideology is indoctrinated through Hamas’ educational system (kindergartens, schools and universities) and other means as well. It is all part of Hamas’ long-term strategy to train new generations of brainwashed Hamas operatives who will participate in the violent campaign to destroy Israel and wipe it off the map in accordance with its charter.

Monday, September 3, 2007

A Toast to the New Year (Rosh Hashonnah)

Today I attended a gathering at the Haifa City Hall ( of new immigrants to Haifa over the last few years togther with those families that give assistance to these new immigrants in the form of providing advice, a shoulder to lean on, assisting in finding employment or introducing them to the social scene.

The purpose of this gathering was to raise a glass of wine to toast the imminent New Year (Rosh Hashonnah, ) and to give the new immigrants the opportunity to relate their experiences starting a new life in Haifa.

A representative of the council informed the participants that the City council policy was to coordinate the activities of the immigration organisations and to provide as much practical assistance as possible. Although the number of immigrants reaching Haifa is small compared to other cities in Israel, the numbers are, nevertheless, increasing. With the growth in the economy showing a healthy increase over each of the last 5 years, the number of job opportunities in Haifa and its environs are increasing.

Immigrants from France, USA, UK, South America, South Africa were present giving a truly international flavour and the musical interlude was provided by a harpist, also an immigrant from the former Soviet Union