Sunday, November 28, 2010

180,000 Palestinians Treated in Israeli Hospitals This Year

Thanks to efficient cooperation between the Israeli and the Palestinian sides, tens of thousands of Palestinians patients benefit from treatments in Israeli hospitals each year Humanitarian dilemmas are a recurring issue in the Judea and Samaria region. A terrorist fires at IDF soldiers, is shot and gets wounded. Is an IDF medic to be called to treat him? A building is about to collapse in the heart of Ramallah. Does the IDF enter? Does it jeopardize its soldiers’ lives, or does it call the International Red Cross and risk losing precious time?

To Israel, the answer to these questions is clear. According to its Division Medical Officer “The treatment of the Palestinian population is first and foremost a moral and professional obligation for every one of us. Do we treat them? There is no question about it. But what happens in the long run and how? Where do international organizations fit in? How will an independent Palestinian medical body be established and how does coordination between bodies happen in life? These are the real questions.”

“Up until September 2000, a Ramallah resident could have taken his car and driven to a hospital in Israel, but from September 2000 there has been a state of terror. Hundreds were killed, Jews and Palestinians alike. The battles took place in the heart of the cities, in places where enemies stood side by side with civilians, with difficult conditions and limited ability to evacuate. It was not possible to practice medicine beyond the minimum. In those days, the situation was on the verge of a humanitarian crisis.”

But today, he says, the situation is different. Thanks to many efforts on both sides, stability has been restored. “The political leadership is able to make decisions not in the context of buses exploding. And now, along with direct military activity – patrolling, arrests, crossings – a new kind of routine has started. Medicine is an integral part of it. In today’s reality, it is an obligation to do a lot more than the minimum. The addressing of the situation should be as wide ranging as possible,”

“The Palestinian security system is composed of two centers: that of the Palestinian government and that of international organizations. It is unclear whether it could function if it was based on just one. In the sector, 25 hospitals from the Health Ministry and 30 hospitals from various organizations are operated. Along with patients treated in these hospitals, there are many people who can only be treated in hospitals outside the sector, starting with those located in East Jerusalem.”

The major challenge for medical service is accessibility.. As the Division Commander said, the days when one could drive freely to an Israeli hospital are over. “We face difficulties in transferring patients, personnel and medical equipment. In too many cases moving freely is not possible. But despite these difficulties, there are also many successes.” He cites as an example of patients coming from Gaza, treated in Jerusalem sometimes over a period of three to four months. They receive a special permit from the director allowing them to stay in Israel so they won’t have to go back and forth and are housed in a special hotel in the Mount of Olives. “All these things are ultimately coordinated by the Israeli Civil Administration.”

The medical coordinator of the Civil Adminstration. is the link to everyone who deals with medicine in the territories. In today’s lectures, her name has been mentioned repeatedly, always with respect. In an interview she says pleasantly, “A bond of mutual trust has been created between us. I always tell them the truth. When the Palestinians don’t do what they’re required, I don’t ignore their behavior; but with that, I will always listen. I hear them. I understand their problems.”

The work is twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. There will always be medical incidents. Health is not something one can impose a curfew on or demand to freeze. “I am available around the clock. Even on Shabbat, even at 3 a.m. if needed. There is a constant contact between me and the doctors on both sides, the ambulance drivers and the patients themselves.”

And, unbelievable though it may sound, because of desire and will, it is working. Last year, 180,000 Palestinian citizens entered Israel to receive treatment. 3,000 emergency patients were transferred from Israeli to Palestinian ambulances using the “back to back” method, without warning. “Ultimately,” said the coordinator, “this is a rewarding experience. There is frustration, of course there is. But on the other hand, there are people who see me on the street or in hospitals, hear my name and say ‘You saved my son’s life’. When you get home in the end of the day and examine your life, you know that you saved lives. You know you did a lot of good.”

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Finally, a Christian Reaction

Anglicans, Methodists and numerous other Christian organisation are jumping on the band wagon to bash Israel. The comments made in their articles are so far removed from truth that one wonders just what does the Christian religion stand for.

One of the latest diatribes comes from the Rev Edwin Arrison, an Anglican priest and Board member of the Centre for Christian Spirituality in Cape Town, South Africa. Such were the irrational claims staed by Rev Arrison, that Malcom Hedding, the Director of the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem ( )was motivated to write a considered reply.

His letter below puts the record staright from a Christian perspective about life for the Christian community here in Israel. This is a community that is growing consistently year on year, with full freedom to practice their religion unlike any other country in our region.

Dear Rev. Edwin Arrison

I recently read your article in the Mail and Guardian. Living in Israel and deeply engaged in these matters I was consequently amazed that you could so easily blur the line between fact and fantasy. We all believe in a free press, but this also means that we should protect this freedom by also believing in and ensuring a factual press!

Many, if not all of your assertions were untrue and at best sweeping generalizations. For instance Jesus was not born in Palestine, according to the biblical record, but in Bethlehem of Judea. He was consequently never a Palestinian with an identity other than Jewish. To suggest otherwise is to contradict the clear biblical record. Actually, the Bible nowhere refers to the region of Jesus' birth and ministry as Palestine. You should know this. Jesus was born to a Jewish family, is of the line of David, was circumcised on the eighth day, had a Bar Mitzvah, lived under the law and was acknowledged as a Rabbi. You can't be more Jewish than this and consequently Paul asserts that our faith has Jewish roots. Palestinian? I think not!

Your furthermore assert that Christian tourism to Israel is Israel centric to the detriment of Palestinians. Where is your burden of proof? Some of the biggest tour companies in Israel are Arab Christian owned. They have Arab/Palestinian guides and specialize in Holyland Pilgrimage. If you know anything about the tourist industry here this is a term for tours that do not emphasize Israel, but specialize in Christian sites and the relevant Christian communities in the land. This is a huge sector within the travel industry of which, apparently, you know nothing!

I am responsible for organizing Israel's biggest annual tourism event. This involves an eight day event that brings thousands of evangelical Christians from over a hundred nations to Jerusalem. There is nothing bigger in Israel. We also bring Christians to Israel throughout the year, so we know something about this market. At the annual event in the Jerusalem Convention Center we have plenary sessions that introduce our participants to Arab and Palestinian Christians. We also arrange bus tours to their respective communities so that our participants can meet them personally and learn to know their struggles and hopes. Therefore your assertions are not based on fact but sadly propaganda!

Essentially your difficulty is that you don't live in Israel and therefore you have no understanding of the facts on the ground. You therefore express real concern for the Palestinian Christians but totally ignore the fact that they have been and are brutally persecuted by their Arab/Palestinian Muslim neighbours. In Gaza the Muslim/ Palestinians lynched them on the streets and beheaded the Director if the Bible Society there. The remaining Christian leaders fled to Bethlehem where they are now in hiding. Bethlehem itself, once a Christian village, is entirely Muslim. The very small Christian community is treated with disdain and disrespect and some of their courageous leaders have been shot. Of course you write nothing of this and will not because it does not suit your narrative. We know all of this because we are engaged with them and have poured millions of Shekels into their communities to help them. I wonder how much money you have invested in their well being?

You further write that Jesus is on the side of the weak. You also imply by this that Israel is their oppressor. On what factual grounds do you make such a sweeping statement? I travel all through Israel and the Palestinian Authority and I have yet to see the poverty levels one witnesses in South Africa. Millions of people live in shanty towns, 40% are unemployed, crime is out of control and the country is the rape capital of the world. It appears that you have a bigger problem on your doorstep. Didn't Jesus say something about taking the plank out of your own eye? For sure IsraelIsrael? has made mistakes and there are serious issues to be addressed, but to highlight the plight of the Palestinians without reference to Muslim persecution against them is dishonest. Why would one do this? Because it is both politically correct and popular to bash
Actually, when I last read the Bible, I discovered that Jesus is no respecter of persons and He loves us all the same. Indeed, if anything, He calls on all men, rich and poor, regardless of race, creed or national affiliation to repent and warns that failure to do so will lead to destruction. (John 3:16) I suppose this annoying part of the Bible is reserved for evangelical Christians like me who still believe in the 39 Articles of the Anglican Church!

Then there is your smear against the American Church. You unashamedly imply that they serve mammon and thirst for Armageddon. You further assert that this group is in the millions. I actually have a home in the USA and have preached in all Christian traditions throughout that country. I have rarely found this theological position. I do not deny that this theology exists, but only a tiny minority hold it. You demean the Body of Christ in that great country by suggesting that they live for mammon and long for conflict. Shame on you! Indeed no other nation has invested in world missions to the extent that American Christians have. The official statistics prove that they have been and are the most generous people on earth!

And then concerning the weak: Over the last ten tears the Muslims of North Sudan murdered two million Christians in the South. These dear Christians, many of them Anglican, endured a genocide that is unspeakable. Many of them were actually crucified! They produced a DVD called, "we thought God forgot us." The question is why? The answer is simple, because the wider Church left them to die and to die alone! Most Christians are not bothered and know nothing of it. These are the weak and we have all neglected them and have not stood up or done anything to defend them. What have you done? The problems of the Palestinian Christians pale into insignificance compared to this and this, friend, is where you need to find your prophetic voice, or is it more comfortable to bash Israel?

Actually, we are deeply involved in South Sudan. We have poured millions of Dollars into their well being and, as of writing, my daughter, who lives in Israel, is in Juba the capital of South Sudan. She tells me that there are only four other agencies there; three evangelical aid groups from America and a Jewish relief organization. Isn't that interesting?

I would very much like to know the relief programs that you have put in place to help these weak Christians. After all you are deeply concerned for Christian spirituality, you live in Africa and you are looking at the wholesale murder of the Church. Today, the Christians of Egypt have been plundered and murdered. It's all over the media. I sincerely trust that you equally stand up for them. After all these Christians are the ancient Coptic Church that goes back to the early Church. Who will be their voice?

Best regards,

Malcolm Hedding

South African born Minister of the Assemblies of God of Southern African and outspoken critic of the Apartheid regime and presently serving as the Executive Director of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Maximising the Use of Waste Water

We are now in the middle of November and are still waiting for the first serious rains of the winter. The Sea of Galillee is fast approaching its black line, the line at which serious damage to the eco system will occur.

Desalination plants are coming on stream one by one, but the need to recycle waste water is paramount.

Out of a total of 500 million cubic meters (MCM) of sewage produced in Israel in 2008, about 70% of the effluents were reclaimed, a figure not many countries can claim to reach.

Local authorities are responsible for the treatment of municipal sewage. In recent years new or upgraded intensive treatment plants were set up in municipalities throughout the country. The ultimate objective is to treat 100% of Israel's wastewater to a level enabling unrestricted irrigation in accordance with soil sensitivity and without risk to soil and water sources.

Some Facts and Figures

500 MCM of wastewater were produced in Israel in 2008

31% MCM of the effluents underwent tertiary treatment (155 MCM)

55% of the wastewater underwent secondary treatment (275 MCM)

92% of the wastewater was adequately treated (460 MCM)

8% of the wastewater remained untreated.

We still need to pray for rain and after the current hot spell with temperatures in the 90's is due to end tomorrow, we have been told by the forecasters to expect rain. Let's hope they are right.

Friday, November 12, 2010

"Would We Go To Israel?"

From the Jerusalem Post this week is an interesting observation by an Arab journalist, urging his colleagues to visit Israel. I have not been able to find the article on the internet version of the newspaper and have therefore reprinted it here.

The journalist claims that it is hard for an Arab to find a safe place to visit in the Middle East... except for the State defined as "the alleged entity".

He writes:-

I have been haunted since early boyhood by an infat­uation with Bilad al-Sham, or Greater Syria — the territories of Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Palestine. For me, this fascination started with recognizing the voices of singers like Syrian Sabah Fakhry (born 1933) belonging to the al-Sham region.

I conjured up these images and feelings as I was boarding a plane heading for the "land of beauty," dreaming of soirees in Aleppo, touring Damascus's old marketplaces and hanging around its cafes. Such daydreams were flashing through my imagi­nation until the "blessed" plane landed in Syria, when all dreams faded away within half an hour at Damascus Airport.

I was quickly singled out by a security officer, who checked my passport. He reviewed a list, and asked me to stand aside until he had dealt with a "routine problem" that would not take time. Ten minutes later, a grim-faced officer in plainclothes came and told me to follow him. When I asked if I should bring my luggage, he pointed to an office and said it was already there. It was a government office affili­ated with a security department whose name was not disclosed to me.

Two or more hours now passed, with me sitting on a very bad seat inside a vault not much bigger than a jail cell. A third officer then presented himself. He hammered me with questions, starting with my "dubious" profession (journalism) and including my favorite brand of cigarettes, Marlboro Red. I answered with composure and calmness, trying in vain to alleviate the sharp tone he was using. "Your case is under examination," the officer said disgustedly, adding that he would let me know the result "shortly."

An hour later, a fourth officer arrived, no less grim-faced than his predecessors. Addressing the would-be "ambassador of the devil," he told me I was not wel­come in Syria. It was "a sovereign decision," accord­ing to him, and he said he was not obliged to give any explanation. So I had to carry my luggage (which had clearly been subject to a stormy search) back through the airport.

Now, on board a plane heading to Cairo, I recalled all the opinion pieces and TV interviews in which I had been critical of the policies and remarks of some senior Syrian officials. That was the reason for what had happened! My expulsion from Syria took place almost 18 months ago. I preferred at the time to turn a blind eye, as I believed it wasn't worth making an issue out of it, particularly with a regime ruled by a man who had inherited his power.

Yet I cannot help smiling in bitterness whenever I listen to Syrian officials par­roting the Ba'ath Party's famous slogan: "One Arab nation with a timeless message." I have now become totally aware of what that one nation and timeless message stand for!

I thought about visiting Beirut and attending a concert by Lebanon's iconic diva Fayrouz that was scheduled at the Al-Bayal hotel, and actually began to prepare for this once-in-a-lifetime event. I phoned a Lebanese friend and fellow journalist. He was terrified by my daring thought, and taken by surprise by my naivete-merely thinking about visiting Lebanon with my record of dire assaults on Hizbullah (I had once dubbed the powerful Shiite group a "war contractor" and a proxy for Iran's regional aspirations).

I was even oblivious to the fact that Hizbullah men are in de facto control of Beirut Airport – another source of amazement for my colleague, who feared for my safety.

Although it was once a part of Egypt, I don't even feel safe visiting Sudan, due to my verbal attacks on the regime of Omar Bashir, who insists on presiding over a collapsing state.

I am sure that Muammar Gaddafi's Revolutionary Command Council will not deny me access to Libya. Yet I am almost as certain I would never come out again, just like many others. RCC "knights" would not be any more merciful to me than they were to my late Libyan colleague, Lon­don-based journalist Daif al-Ghazal, whose body was found off the coast of Benghazi on June 2, 2005, more than two weeks after his disappearance. He had been tortured almost beyond recognition, according to Reporters without Borders.

No one assumes to know what kind of suffering the 32-year was subject to when he was taking his last breaths, the words he uttered when the electric saw was cutting through his fingers or his screams upon being burnt with mineral acids. Nobody knows. Rather, nobody cared to know about his suffering, and Arab newspapers didn't highlight Ghazal's case; the story was covered only by Western papers, rights groups and some websites.

I remember that I published many reports and opinion pieces on the incident, recalling notorious precedents by the Libyan regime. This is not all; I also commented more than once on Gaddafi's weird, comic remarks, particularly during Arab summit conferences. That's why I couldn't risk going even to Salloum, the Egyptian city bordering Libya.

Being one of those in the Middle East who refuses my assigned role as a regime loyalist, I sometimes face charges of seeking normalization with Israel, apostasy from Islam or designation as an American agent.

Failing to find a glimpse of hope across the greater Arab world, we must concede that Israel has become the only "safe haven" where one can be sure of his life and dignity. Yes, Israel, the state our demagogues continue to call “the alleged entity”.

Just like the Palestinian Helles family who fled Hamas “Jihadist” in Gaza to Israel, I foresee a time when millions of Arabs might stand humbly in front of IDF soldiers, begging for protection.

So I urge you, dear fellow Arab, to visit Israel.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Zichron's Internationally Acknowledged Wines

Zichron Yaacov, situated just 30 mins south of where we live is a great place to visit. There is so much history, great waqlking trails and now the prestigious Carmel Winery, Israel's first and largest winery founded in 1882, in September which has now been awarded the prestigious 2010 Decanter World Wine Award trophy

"It was a big, big honor for us and we're still somewhere up in the clouds," says Valerie Hecht of the Carmel Center for Wine Culture. She's referring to the recent decision by the prestigious Decanter World Wine Awards to grant a Carmel specialty Shiraz the Decanter International Trophy in September, describing it as "the sensation of this year's competition."

The town of Zichron Ya'acov sits on the sunny slopes of Mount Carmel, overlooking the Mediterranean. It is the undisputed home of Israeli wine, dotted with a number of boutique wineries, but most importantly, the site of Israel's largest winery, Carmel Mizrahi, producing more than 15 million bottles a year.
Founded in 1882 by 200 Jewish families from Romania, it was French Jewish philanthropist Baron Edmond de Rothschild who discovered that the area around the town was perfect for growing grapevines.

He put the town on the map by agreeing to send over grapevines from France and lay the groundwork for the country's first winemaking operation since biblical times. It was also the first industry in Israel to have telephone and electricity.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

And the Terror Attacks Continue

Although the month of October showed a significant decline in the number of attacks: 44 attacks as opposed to 88 attacks in September, that is still more than 1 per day. Following are some of the statistics but let's realise that there is a steady consistancy of attacks. One can never know when or where attacks are likely to occur and thus it is amazing that trauma and stress levels do not seem to be increasing. Can you, dear reader, imagine living in this type of environment? It certainly does not seem to bother the international human rights network.

The decrease in the number of attacks is prominent in the area of Jerusalem (6 attacks as opposed to 31 in September) and the Gaza Strip (18 as opposed to 38 in September). The Judea and Samaria area maintains a similar number of attacks (20 compared to 19 in September).

With regard to casualties in terror attacks, there were no fatalities in October, much like in September, except for one Israeli (a security officer) who was injured (October 14) as a result of a firebomb in Jerusalem, contrary to September which resulted in 6 Israeli casualties.

The Judea and Samaria area and Jerusalem where most of the attacks (25 out of 26) were in the form of Molotov cocktail throwing (43 out of 50 in September).

Following is a profile distribution of attacks in October according to regions:

The Gaza Strip – 18 attacks (38 in September): 3 rocket launchings, 10 mortar shell launchings, 4 small arms shootings, and 1 AT launching.

Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem – 26 attacks (50 in September): 1 small arms shooting, 25 Molotov cocktail throwing (6 in Jerusalem).

High-trajectory launchings from the Gaza Strip
Throughout October 2010, 3 rockets and 20 mortar shells were launched towards Israel (in 13 attacks) - 1 every 2/3 days - compared to 16 rockets and 23 mortar shells in September (in 30 attacks).

Monday, November 1, 2010

A Theraputic Music Garden

Following on from an earlier blog "Drumming on Heart Strings" telling a story about Aleh Hanegev, a village caring for the disabled , now comes a lovely story of the installation of a therapeutic Music Garden. a gift to Aleh Negev from Colin and Pamela Wagman and Allan and Carole Wagman, in memory of their parents.

The garden features instruments that are easily accessible to mobile and wheelchair bound residents from a variety of positions. A mix of sounds, colours, shapes and textures encourage sensory interaction, and the instruments can be played by a simple banging of the fist or sweep of the hands – perfect for people who have limited mobility but who nonetheless enjoy creating music just like the rest of us.

In the year since its dedication, the Musical Garden has proven to be a smashing success from a therapeutic perspective, and has earned ringing endorsements from the diverse population who make use of it every day. The sounds of music emanating from the garden have provided hours of enjoyment and benefit for the cognitively and physically disabled residents of the village, offering a relaxing environment that encourages contact with nature and the outdoor world, while also stimulating the senses of sight, hearing and touch.

Much more can be read at