Sunday, July 31, 2011

Wikimania Goes Ahead in Haifa

In spite of the calls by anti Israel forces to have the 2011 Wikimania conference cancelled in Haifa, the organisers have not succumbed to the pressure and this week sees the start of a very full program.

Over 480 participants have registered of which 360 are very 56 different countries. Wikipedia has today over 18 million entries on the web in 270 different languages and typically has 400 million hits a month.

On Tuesdsay and Wednesday there will be preliminary sessions prior to the main event starting on Thursdsay with over 125 presentations.

The event will conclude on Saturday night with a big beach party and I can imagine the boadwalk being crowded as it it is also the time of the community folk dancing which draws big crowds and takes place eveey week both on Saturday night and Tuesday evenings.

Finally on Sunday there are a number of tours available which will give the visitors a chance to see a country of the type not normally portrayed in the mass media.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

60,000 Palestinian tourists to visit Israel in 2011

More than 60,000 Palestinians are expected to visit Israel as tourists by
the end of 2011, at least twice as many as last year, a defense official

Israel is planning to double the number of permits issued to Palestinians
this year, due to the improved security in the West Bank, the source said.
However, if the situation deteriorates in September following the
Palestinians' UN bid for statehood, it will be harder to issue permits, he

The permits are not usually issued to individuals or families, but mainly

to schools and summer camps wishing to take children to visit beaches
and mixed Jewish-Arab cities in Israel.

In 2010 28,000 Palestinians were given permits to visit Israel. The

permits are granted specifically for touring, as opposed to other permits
given for employment, medical treatment or prisoner visitation.

"We want Palestinians, especially young ones, to see another kind of
Israeli, not only soldiers and settlers. Anything that can help them blow
off steam and relax. Perhaps instead of demonstrating in September

they'll go to the beach," the source said.

Most of the Palestinians visit Arab and mixed towns such as Haifa,

Jaffa and Acre, among other things, because of their beaches. "For
many of these youngsters, this is the first visit to the beach," says an
Israeli guide of West Bank groups.

Another popular destination is the Ramat Gan Safari, which has prepared
Arab-language tours to accommodate the numerous Palestinian visitors.

"They see things differently from Israeli children. They've never seen wild
animals like those in the safari," says Adam Yakobi, one of the safari
guides who works with Palestinian groups.

"In addition to ecologic explanations, we try to convey a message of
coexistence, between animals and human beings, and among people as

well. Politics does not come into it. It's a completely different atmosphere
and they're engrossed in looking at the animals," he said.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Wikimania Comes to Haifa

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales will mingle among hundreds of people from 52 countries in Haifa from August 4-7, at the annual Wikimania conference, held for the first time in Israel.

Started in 2005 and growing each year, the conference attracts people interested in free and open content/software, global development/education and new trends in the field of knowledge sharing in the Internet age. But mostly, it is a gathering place for those involved in Wikimedia Foundation projects -- primarily the world’s most popular source of information, the Internet-based encyclopedia, Wikipedia available in 279 languages.

A coup for Haifa

The multicultural Mediterranean seaside city – Israel’s third largest, after Jerusalem and Tel Aviv -- won out as the conference venue over Barcelona, Montreal, New York, Tokyo and Toronto. That’s a major feather in the cap of Deror Lin, an Israeli lawyer who is one of about 20 members of the three-year-old Wikimedia Israel group. Lin spearheaded the drive to bring Wikimania to Haifa, along with several other Wikimedia Israel volunteers eager to host Wikipedians from countries including India, China, Macao, Nepal, Uzbekistan, Bolivia, Venezuela and Chile.

“I was born in Haifa, and I think it’s a great city to show what the Middle East should be like, with all religions living and working together,” says Lin.

“This is the first time there will be a beach party at a Wikimania conference, and we have organized free tours for participants to Jerusalem, the Galilee and around Acco [Acre] and Haifa as well.”

The event at the Haifa Auditorium will include 125 sessions as well as workshops dealing with free content, open source, Internet-age copyrights, web communities and networks, education and knowledge acquisition.

Wales will deliver his annual "State of the Wiki" address. Deans from the University of Haifa and Bar-Ilan University are planned speakers along with Prof. Yochai Benkler, professor of law at Harvard University, and Joseph Reagle, a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard and author of Good Faith Collaboration: The Culture of Wikipedia.

For more information on this fantastic event see

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Israel Immediately Sends Help to the New State of Sudan

As South Sudan’s Independence Day on July 9th was declared, the international community watched the birth of its newest nation. The situation in the country is harsh. Illiteracy reaches nearly 90%, there is little or no infrastructure in the country, and most of the people have no access to basic clean water and security. In recent months over 117,000 people were displaced and almost 1,400 killed following the conflict between the South and the North and across Sudan 4.27 million people are still internally displaced.

IsraAID: The Israel Forum for International Humanitarian Aid with the support and partnership of The Jewish Federation of Greater Toronto, AJC and local agencies on the ground will be sending a humanitarian aid cargo to assist the people of South Sudan on behalf of the Israeli and Jewish people as a goodwill gesture between both communities.

The IsraAID teams have already begun assessing the longer term needs on the ground for a long term aid mission that would benift children, women and elders in the most affected communities in the country.

“As a small and relatively new born country Israel has gained experience in various factors of water, agriculture, post trauma, education, migration and others that would be valuable to the people of South Sudan who are now building their country. It is our mission and Jewish commitment to reach out to our new friends in any way we can” stated the founding director of IsraAID.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The dangers in premature recognition of a “Palestinian state”

In addition to the on-going flotilla stories, the attempt by the Palestinians to avoid negotiations with Israel will take another turn in September at the UN.

Whilst any supporter of Israel will give a thousnad reasons why the Palestinians are wrong in this attempt, it is interesting to note that many Arab sources are also saying the same thing.

One example of this is an article by a Kuwaiti journalist published recently and I attach the translation below by Abdallah al-Hadlaq, 22nd June 2011

(Translated from Arabic newspaper “Al Watan” in Kuwait) Original Arabic article

International agreements dealing with peace in the Middle East must be respected

The Palestinian side is flaunting UNSC Resolutions 242, 338 and 1850 and the Road Map to Peace, all of which call for agreed solutions for disputes to be reached by direct talks, rejecting unilateral acts that undermine internationally accepted parameters for reaching peace, and defining basic principles for bilateral peace-making.

The Palestinians strive to obtain premature recognition for a “Palestinian State” this September despite the danger of derailing the peace talks, which is implicit in a unilateral declaration.

International agreements dealing with peace in the Middle East must be respected.

Israel indeed upholds them, as well as the principle of direct negotiations as being the only way to solve the dispute, while the Palestinians have long since abandoned direct peace talks, and now act unilaterally, trying to impose a fait accompli on Israel, using international pressure.

The Palestinians want to realize their dream of obtaining international legitimacy (which should be based on finding the agreed solution so necessary for peace) through the forcible imposition of an international diktat on Israel . A unilateral declaration will not conclude the conflict but only make matters worse, making it more intense instead of ending it. The Palestinians seem to have lost their keen interest in negotiation aimed at a reaching a deal, and now only want to act unilaterally in ways that will never solve key problems in the current impasse - which can only be tackled through direct talks between the parties concerned. Continued Palestinian obstinacy just complicates the conflict.

As the Palestinians press on unilaterally for premature recognition of their ”State”, they ignore Israel’s right to exist peacefully as the state of the Jewish people, recognized and living within its borders. The division of the Palestinians themselves between the Palestinian Authority that controls only parts of the West Bank, and the terrorist Hamas movement (loyal to the Persians of Iran) that holds the Gaza Strip negates legal criteria for the establishment of a state in form and character. Added to which, the Palestinian Authority has no authority over the Gaza Strip (which as noted is dominated by Hamas), the recent conciliation agreement between the warring factions notwithstanding.

Premature recognition of a Palestinian State means recognition of a terrorist entity - because Hamas openly intends to destroy Israel and wipe it off the map. Hamas rejects the terms of the international community for its own recognition that would make Hamas into a legal and accepted player in the region. These terms are: recognizing the right of Israel to exist, acceptance of existing international agreements, and an end to violence.

We must not forget that the international community still defines Hamas as a terrorist organization which is banned in Europe and the USA. How then can a terrorist body become the model for a Palestinian state?

Israel has for a long time made strategic concessions for peace, proving her desire for peaceful negotiations. She gave up Sinai in exchange for a peace treaty with Egypt, and withdrew from Gaza and South Lebanon. But the response she earned in the latter cases of Gaza and South Lebanon was a hail of rockets and barrages of artillery. Her towns and villages in the north and south of the country were attacked and many civilians were killed.

That should serve to warn of the dangers she faces from the terrorists of Hizballah and Hamas, and underlines the need for peace through solutions that will answer the needs and interests of all parties to the conflict.

Clearly, a premature recognition of a Palestinian state will negate the negotiating process and shatter the lofty idea of a modus vivendi attained through dialogue.

All those who hope for real peace in the region must reject these reckless unilateral Palestinian moves that block the negotiation process. The Palestinians must be made to understand that the only way to a permanent peace treaty will be through direct talks.