Thursday, November 27, 2008

Israeli Medics Again Ready to Help

Although sitting here in Israel, the news of the latest terrorist tsunami in Mumbai gives rise to very personal feelings. It is just under two years ago since my wife and I were in Mumbai to celebrate a wedding in the family of a good friend of ours.

Having enjoyed the wonderful sights of Mumbai (and many other places) it is brought home in stark reality what must be going on in the minds of the Indians at this time with their version of 9/11. Having sailed to Elephant Island from the
Gateway to India opposite the Taj hotel one can vividly imagine the panic amongst the throngs of people that are always in the area.

As always Israel is prepared to help with such tragedies and medical staff from the Israeli Red Cross (
Magen David Adom) is already preparing to fly to India to bring their expertise to bear on this dreadful scenario.

It is a little too early for these medics to use a new technique of welding rather than sewing in safe way to close incisions in the skin that inventors say could also be used on cuts inside the body.

The team was led by Prof. Abraham Katzir, announcing the new technique , who explained how a way was to maintain laser heat at the correct temperature so that the incision is sealed to minimize the risk of infection and scars and speed healing.

Katzir says the development is "a groundbreaking medical technology" and could also be used quickly and easily by medics on the battlefield and at road accidents, as well as by plastic surgeons and other surgical specialists.

The breakthrough has aroused world interest and is presented on the Web site of the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (

Monday, November 24, 2008

Gaza Operation Soon?

I believe that it is now a matter of a short time before Gaza explodes once more. The uncertainty that pervades this interim period prior to elections is bound to be exploited by Hamas. Close to 100 90 rockets have been launched from the Gaza Strip, including 35 on Nov 5, since the June tahdiyeh (calm) was announced between Hamas and Israel.

According to a blogger at
pajamasmedia a recent analysis, terror groups in Gaza have undergone a massive buildup in training and arms, and have expanded their tunnel networks for smuggling.

One representative for the Palestinian Popular Resistance Committees told the London newspaper Asharq al-Awsat that terrorists have used the tahdiyeh “to train in the abduction of [Israeli] soldiers and martial arts,” and he threatened Israel with “unpleasant surprises.”

It is quite clear that just as Hizbollah has been rearming under the noses of the UNIFIL there is now a massive stock of rockets in the hands of Hamas.

So, as our blogger goes on to say “renewed conflict draws nearer”.

One option being considered for defending the citizens is the Iron Dome defensive missile shield seems irrelevant in the scheme of things until, maybe next year or even into 2010.

A reestablishment of the tahdiyeh (period of calm) could be considered after it officially expires on December 19. However, an extension of the ceasefire, much like the development and deployment of Iron Dome, would only provide temporary security and would not end Israel’s rocket problem.

Gaza operations: The third option is for Israel to launch a ground offensive in the Gaza Strip. This option would be very unpopular among the Israeli public, as it would be dangerous and almost certainly result in many casualties.

Public sentiment notwithstanding, both sides of the political spectrum seem to agree that a military offensive in Gaza should be undertaken if rocket fire persists.

Yuval Steinitz surmised earlier this year, “The only way to eliminate rocket attacks is for Israel to launch a military operation.” He added that because Gazans elected Hamas, this gives Israel “the full right and duty to react.” In May, Labor leader [15] Binyamin Ben-Eliezer agreed, stating that Israel has “no choice but to destroy all the nests of terror.”

Let us not forget that Hamas’ charter, never changed, states that the aim is to destroy the Jewish state. This is repeatedly called for in the Islamist group’s speeches and sermons. Hamas sees its struggle with Israel as a zero-sum conflict. Thus, Israel can employ the first two options to temporarily protect civilians living in the south, but the attacks will almost certainly continue. While it is the least appealing, the third option will ultimately be necessary for Israel to experience a lasting quiet on the Gaza border.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

More Media Manipulation (the 3 M's)

In a dispatch from the Israeli mission at the UN, they express shock to read the High Commissioner's utterly shortsighted press release regarding the humanitarian situation in Gaza. Most disturbing is the way she casually refers to Palestinian aggression in the very last sentence of her statement, as almost an afterthought. Unfortunately, Israel does not have the option of being so casual in its response to rocket and mortar attacks on its civilians, attacks which violate the most fundamental right of all, the right to life.

Once again Hamas is playing the “poor down trodden and misunderstood Palestinian” and once again the world is falling for the media campaign being orchestrated by Hamas

How come 70% of Gaza is blacked out when 75% of the electricity to the Gaza strip is supplied directly from the Israel Electric Corporation? The fuel to the power plant in Gaza only can supply 25% of the needs. Why not stop production of weapons and use the electricity for the civilians – what a silly idea!!!

Better still why not stop the bombardment of missiles on the civilian community in Israel or is that just too simple?

Even the Palestinian Authority officials in Ramallah accused Hamas of staging the latest blackouts in the Gaza Strip in a bid to win sympathy and incite the Palestinian public against Israel and the PA.

The officials said that contrary to Hamas's claim, there is no shortage of basic goods, medicine and fuel in the Gaza Strip, largely thanks to the many underground tunnels along the border with Egypt.

The mission at the UN continues that “overall responsibility for the situation in the Gaza Strip lies with Hamas, which invests all of its resources in arms and terrorism instead of providing for the civilians that it brutally controls. It is disappointing to see the High Commissioner fall victim to Hamas' cynical manipulation of the media, and reprint blatant misinformation in her press release.

Rather than engaging in the political game being promoted by the Palestinians, Israel expects the High Commissioner to investigate the facts before issuing one-sided statements about the humanitarian situation in Gaza, and to begin by forcefully condemning the perpetrators of terror.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Haifa's Future Prosperity

With all the talk of gloom and doom in economic circles, it is good to read that the pundits are forecasting that following on from Israel’s Hightec boom, the next boom is going to be in the Biotech field. In this regard Haifa is well placed to take advantage with the new park be specifically established for this purpose. The park will compliment the Hightec MATAM park which contains such famous names as Intel, Google, Microsoft, GEC, Elbit, Phillips and IBM.

Among the newest arrivals at the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange are a group of small biotech firms which launched their IPOs beginning in late 2005.

Israel's famous information technology (IT) and electronics industry originally got its head start from a project called "Yozma," where the Israeli government, in the early 1990s, guaranteed venture capital investment in hi-tech to the tune of some $100 million. The investment more than paid off, with the sector now generating some $10 billion a year.

With no major project financing in this new industry, the sector turned to "technology incubators," small companies supported by the Chief Scientist's Office whose goal was originally to nurture the start-up ideas of Russian immigrant computer scientists. As those began to mature and find independent means of financing, the incubators looked for another resource to develop - and the life sciences fit the bill.

In the plans for an economic package to stimulate the economy and to maintain research and development activity of start-ups, the Treasury is expected to double the budget of the Chief Scientist's Office from NIS 1.3 billion in 2009 to about NIS 3b. This can only be good news for this young industry in general and Haifa in particular.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Childen Education and Parenting in Haifa

As mentioned in the previous blog, I have been “on the road” with my Taiwanese journalist friend, this time visiting an Early Childhood Education and Parenting Center, part of the Leo Baeck Education Center

Between 1989 and 2007, 69000 new immigrants have settled in Haifa including 3000 from Ethiopia, swelling the population to 270000 and changing the face of Haifa society.

The Early Childhood Education and Parenting Center, Beit Yitzhak was started in response to the needs of the new Ethiopian community but has now widened its outreach to include not only immigrants from the former Soviet Union but also native Israeli families that are underserved in their areas.

It is however, the Ethiopian community whose family structure and social order has gone through the most dramatic of changes. Families were used to an agricultural lifestyle where the father figure was the dominant person and the mother busied herself with the home and the children. Children respected their elders and followed their father’s footsteps. Now in Israel, the former head of the family faces an uncertain future, has difficulty with the language and thus finding work. The mothers usually fare better with the language and are in most families the wage earners.

The children are quickly absorbed into the Israeli culture and learn the language and so become the leaders in the family which creates many tensions.

The manager of the center explained the programs offered and the psychologist informed us why there are issues of trauma in many children. Although the Lebanese war of 2006 finished over two years ago, post traumatic stress disorder (PTST) is only now in some cases being diagnosed. In addition to the war, trauma is also derived from abuse at home and the center offers help to these children.

One of the assistants in the centers was a young, bright, pretty Ethiopian girl who is studying psychology at Haifa University and is gaining practical experience in dealing with the children.

Yet another feature of life in Haifa

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Come and Join Us

Since I started this blog, I have tried in many cases to give a flavour of life here in Haifa. With my Taiwanese journalist friend we visited, this morning a trauma treament center where she conducted interviews with the staff and filmed some of the children there.

After we had finished and we were discussing future projects for filming in the City, she said to me "Haifa is such an interesting city with such a variety of activities and challenges"

She plans to do a lot more filming in the City.

So to those of you living abroad, (and even to those in Israel not living in Haifa this brings me to the message in this blog WHY NOT COME AND JOIN US IN HAIFA!

The well known Rambam hospital has quite a number of vacancies immediately available and particularly in ONCOLOGY, ANESTHESIA AND GENERAL SURGERY. A great opportunity if you are thinking of coming to live in Israel. you can arrange your work before even setting foot in the country.

Oh, and by the way there is a great support team of Anglos ready to help you settle in

Friday, November 7, 2008

Co-existence in Practice in Haifa

I visited an educational institute this week for the purpose of checking out its suitability for co-existence projects to be filmed by my Taiwanese journalist friend who is based here in Haifa. Se is based in Haifa to film different aspects of life here.

I was amazed at the number of programs covering such a wide field. The education center is called Leo Baeck and has been established in Haifa for 70 years.

In the mission statement, it refers to the need developing the students to the needs of a developing Israeli society, the community and for the individual, also educating for understanding and mutual tolerance.

The center caters for over 3000 students in six different programs. Although the Haifa population has around 20% Arab (of which 13% are Christian and 7% Moslem), there are approx 900 Arab students in the centers various programs representing 30% of the students.

In addition to the direct education programs, there is a community center and social outreach with 11 satellite branches around Haifa. These branches deal with
- serving the Ethiopian community
- reaching out to children at risk
- after school care for children at risk
- a center for the elderly
- Arab Jewish summer camps
and many others

The school has students from all walks of life in the City, Jews, Christians, Moslem and Druze.

I will be visiting the school again shortly and will write in more detail about some of, what I feel, are exciting programs which are varied and promote the concept co-existence in such a positive way

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

What Other Arabs Think of Israel

With a new American president now decided it seems that some have decided to "celebrate" in a less conventional way!!

As a friend wrote this morning from the border with Gaza:-

I can not say that because Obama is elected president of the USA and I wish him well, Because as of 4 AM this morning here in Israel,Kassams are falling again, we are hearing "Color Red" and again at 7:02 AM I have just heard 4 times in the last few seconds and two Kassams I heard fall near the Kibbutz.

Israeli army also found a tunnel being build underground to enable the terrorists to kidnap Israeli soldiers.

I was hoping that I would not have to start relaying to you,what is happening in my area of Israel,about kassams etc. and I hope this is a one day deal but doubt it.

Again I have to emphasize,I wish Obama well and can not say that I blame him for what is happening in my neck of the world. I just hope Obama will let the terrorists know,that he stands with Israel,just as past Presidents have.

It is now 7:11 and just heard an other kassm fall.

The Jerusalem Post expands on this story Rescue services reported a "massive" cross-border Kassam barrage on Wednesday, with three of the rockets landing in the western Negev, damaging several greenhouses

The IDF said at least 20 rockets were fired from the Strip.

No one was wounded in the bombardment from Gaza which came after a night on which three soldiers were wounded by a mortar shell fired by Palestinians during IDF operations in southern Gaza.

Two of the soldiers were in moderate condition while the third was lightly hurt. They were evacuated by helicopter to Soroka Hospital in Beersheba.

According to Palestinian reports, six Palestinian gunmen were killed in what was the first armed confrontation with the IDF since the cease-fire took effect in June

Five of the gunmen were reportedly killed in two IAF strikes south of Khan Yunis, which the army said were carried out against mortar shell launchers.
It came after several mortar shells were fired toward the Eshkol region, one of which landed on the Israeli side of the Kissufim crossing.

What was not reported in the international media was that earlier Tuesday night, IDF special forces entered Gaza in order to blow up a tunnel dug by Hamas terrorists for the purpose of kidnapping IDF soldiers.

During the course of the fighting, terrorists blew up a house in which the tunnel surfaced, an explosion which testified to a "large amount of explosives," a military source said.

A military source said the attack tunnel was ready for "imminent use," describing it as a "ticking tunnel" for the purpose of kidnapping soldiers. The IDF accused Hamas of jeopardizing the truce by digging the tunnel and plotting to abduct more Israeli soldiers in the immediate future.

"The tunnel we uncovered was ready for imminent use, forcing us to act immediately," the military source said. "We did not know where the other end of the tunnel surfaced. In light of the intelligence we received about its immediate use, plans for special forces to enter Gaza this evening after sundown were approved," he added.

"The operation will end tonight and soldiers
will head back to Israeli territory," the source added. "We are committed to the ceasefire, but we saw an immediate threat of kidnapping. Hamas placed the ceasefire in jeopardy. We can't ignore a red warning light of a kidnapping attack."

Asked if he believed the cease-fire had ended, the military source told The Jerusalem Post, "I don't think there's any reason for this to happen. We are doing what needs to be done. But if [the] other side forces us, we will take further steps."

Since the cease-fire went into effect in June, Hamas has dug an unknown number of tunnels to facilitate future attacks on Israel and to smuggle large quantities of weapons from Sinai. The tunnels are seen as central to Hamas's terrorist infrastructure in the Strip.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

What Israeli Arabs Think of Israel

So much is written by journalists on the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians that the story of the real Israel is usually ignored altogether. At a recent conference I attended, the results of a survey in two countries, Denmark and India, showed that the average man on the street really knew very little about day to day life of the Israeli citizen.

In a recent briefing 223 by Beyond Images a number of examples are given which report the way the Arab community views their lives in Israel. These are not isolated cases. I will be visiting an institution this week dealing with a number of very successful co-existence projects and will write about this visit shortly.

Case 1 - Arab parent praises the 'equal treatment' of Jews and Arabs in Israel by a charity for disabled children

Keren Malki is an Israeli charity which supports families with disabled children. It was founded in memory of 15 year old Chana Malka Roth, who was killed by a Palestinian suicide bomber in the Sbarro pizzeria in Jerusalem in 2001. An Arab parent recently wrote to Keren Malki praising it for "not differentiating between Jews and Arabs", despite how it came into being, and describing how his requests for support and help have always been received warmly. You can
click here for the briefing 223, where the text of the letter is printed in full.

The key message is that Keren Malki is a great example of how personal suffering (in this case of the Roth family) has become a foundation on which to build hope. Keren Malki shows the highest respect for human dignity, of Jews and Arabs. It is also a massive refutation of the 'cycle of violence' theory.

Case 2. 77% of Israeli Arabs say they prefer living in Israel to living in any other country

This is a startling conclusion from a 2008 Harvard School of Government survey. And this is despite the social and economic challenges which Israeli Arabs face. Not exactly proof that Israel is an 'apartheid state'.

Case 3. Don't leave us outside Israel - 50,000 of us will move "within minutes" - Arab communal leader

The leader of Shuafat, an Arab neighbourhood of Jerusalem, publicly stated in October 2007 (in a Canadian newspaper) that 50,000 Arab residents in and around Shuafat would move to Israel 'within minutes' if they felt they'd be excluded from Israel under a permanent border arrangement agreed between Israel and the Palestinians.

Case 4. Praising the democracy and justice of Israeli society - communal leader in Umm el-Fahm

The Arab mayor of Israel's largest Israeli Arab town, Umm el-Fahm, who is also chairman of Israel's Islamic Movement, stated publicly in 2004 that in his opinion, despite the discrimination and injustice faced by Israel's Arabs, the democracy and justice in Israel is better than the democracy and justice in Arab and Muslim countries.'

Whilst it is true to say that recently, relations with the Islamic movement in Umm el-Fahm have deteriorated, due to the increased radicalisation of many Arab residents in the town, and their association with Hamas. Nonetheless, the underlying messages from the Umm el-Fahm residents is unmistakeable).