Thursday, May 16, 2013

Learn About Israel by Bicycle

Rami, a former Biotech Doctor decided to make a great change in his lifestyle. He became a founder of a bike tour company.

The goal is to give bike riders from around the world, an unforgettable adventure that will expose them to the beautiful side of Israel.

So, if you know of  bike riders who want to experience something special, go to

Sunday, May 12, 2013

An Israeli peacenik meets the reality of Palestinian Arab intransigence

Lital Shemesh is a young, liberal Israeli journalist, considered a rising star in the Israeli media who openly expresses her political aspirations.
Peace? From the Palestinian Standpoint, There is a Past, No Future 

by Lital Shemesh

I participated in the Dialogue for Peace Project for young Israelis and Palestinians who are politically involved in various frameworks. The project’s objective was to identify tomorrow’s leaders and bring them closer today, with the aim of bringing peace at some future time.

The project involved meetings every few weeks and a concluding seminar in Turkey.

On the third day of the seminar after we had become acquainted, had removed barriers, and split helpings of rachat Lukum [a halva-like almond Arab delicacy] as though there was never a partition wall between us, we began to touch upon many subjects which were painful for both sides. The Palestinians spoke of roadblocks and the IDF soldiers in the territories, while the Israeli side spoke of constant fear, murderous terrorist attacks, and rockets from Gaza.

The Israeli side, which included representatives from right and left, tried to understand the Palestinians’ vision of the end of the strife– “Let’s talk business.” The Israelis delved to understand how we can end the age-old, painful conflict. What red lines are they willing to be flexible on? What resolution will satisfy their aspirations? Where do they envision the future borders of the Palestinian State which they so crave?

We were shocked to discover that not a single one of them spoke of a Palestinian State, or to be more precise, of a two-state solution.

They spoke of one state – their state. They spoke of ruling Jaffa, Tel Aviv, Akko, Haifa, and the pain of the Nakba [lit. the tragedy – the establishment of the State of Israel]. There was no future for them. Only the past. “There is no legitimacy for Jews to live next to us” – this was their main message. “First, let them pay for what they perpetrated.”

In the course of a dialogue which escalated to shouts, the Palestinians asked us not to refer to suicide bombers as “terrorists” because they don’t consider them so. “So how do you call someone who dons a vest and blows himself up in a Tel Aviv shopping mall with the stated purpose of killing innocent civilians,” I asked one of the participants.

“I have a 4-year-old at home,” answered Samach from Abu Dis (near Jerusalem). “If God forbid something should happen to him, I will go and burn an entire Israeli city, if I can.” All the other Palestinian participants nodded their heads in agreement to his harsh words.

“Three weeks ago, we gave birth to a son,” answered Amichai, a religious, Jewish student from Jerusalem. “If God forbid something should happen to him, I would find no comfort whatsoever in deaths of more people.”

Israelis from the full gamut of political parties participated in the seminar: Likud, Labor, Kadima, Meretz, and Hadash (combined Jewish/Arab socialist party). All of them reached the understanding that the beautiful scenarios of Israeli-Palestinian peace that they had formulated for themselves simply don’t correspond with reality. It’s just that most Israelis don’t have the opportunity to sit and really converse with Palestinians, to hear what they really think.

Our feed of information comes from Abu Mazen’s declarations to the international press, which he consistently contradicts when he is interviewed by Al Jazeera, where he paints a completely different picture.

I arrived at the seminar with high hopes, and I return home with difficult feelings and despair. Something about the narrative of the two sides is different from the core. How can we return to the negotiating table when the Israeli side speaks of two states and the Palestinian side speaks of liberating Palestine from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea? How can peace ever take root in a platform which grants legitimacy to terrorism?

This is not the first time a group of Israelis who pine for peace have met with their liberal Arab counterparts - only to find that they have no counterparts at all. 

Disabled Gaza toddler lives at Israeli hospital

Abandoned by his parents and the Palestinian government, 3-year-old Mohammed has been at Tel Hashomer Hospital all his life

RAMAT GAN, Israel (AP) — In his short life, Palestinian toddler Mohammed al-Farra has known just one home: the yellow-painted children’s ward in Israel’s Tel Hashomer Hospital.

Born in Gaza with a rare genetic disease, Mohammed’s hands and feet were amputated because of complications from his condition, and the 3½-year-old carts about in a tiny red wheelchair. His parents abandoned him, and the Palestinian government won’t pay for his care, so he lives at the hospital with his grandfather.

There’s no care for this child in Gaza, there’s no home in Gaza where he can live,” said the grandfather, Hamouda al-Farra.

“He can’t open anything by himself, he can’t eat or take down his pants. His life is zero without help,” he said at the Edmond and Lily Safra Children’s Hospital, part of the Tel Hashomer complex in the Israeli city of Ramat Gan.
Mohammed’s plight is an extreme example of the harsh treatment some families mete out to the disabled, particularly in the more tribal-dominated corners of the Gaza Strip, even as Palestinians make strides in combating such attitudes.
It also demonstrates a costly legacy of Gaza’s strongly patriarchal culture that prods women into first-cousin marriages and allows polygamy, while rendering mothers powerless over their children’s fate.

Mohammed was rushed to Israel as a newborn for emergency treatment. His genetic disorder left him with a weakened immune system and crippled his bowels, doctors say, and an infection destroyed his hands and feet, requiring them to be amputated.
In the midst of his treatment, his mother abandoned Mohammed because her husband, ashamed of their son, threatened to take a second wife if she didn’t leave the baby and return to their home in the southern Gaza Strip town of Khan Yunis, Farra said. In Gaza, polygamy is permitted but isn’t common. But it’s a powerful threat to women fearful of competing against newer wives.

Now Mohammed spends his days undergoing treatment and learning how to use prosthetic limbs.

His 55-year-old grandfather cares for him. Mohammed’s Israeli doctors, who’ve grown attached to the boy, fund-raise to cover his bills, allowing him and his grandfather to live in the sunny pediatric ward.

But it’s not clear how long he’ll stay in the hospital, or where he’ll go when his treatment is complete. As a Palestinian, Mohammed is not eligible for permanent Israeli residency. Yet his family will not take the child back, the grandfather said. His parents, contacted by The Associated Press, refused to comment.
As his grandfather spoke, Mohammed used his knees and elbows to scamper up and down a nearby stairwell, his knees and elbows blackened and scarred from constant pressure. He used his arms to hold a green bottle he found in a stroller. His prosthetic legs with painted-on shoes were strewn nearby.

He crawled toward his grandfather’s lap. “Baba!” he shouted, Arabic for “daddy.” ”Ana ayef,” he said — a mix of Arabic and Hebrew for “I’m tired.”

Dr. Raz Somech, the senior physician in the Tel Hashomer pediatric immunology department, attributes Mohammed’s genetic disorder to the several generations of cousin marriages in his family — including his parents.

In deeply patriarchal parts of Gaza — not in all the territory — men believe they have “first rights” to wed their female cousins, even above the women’s own wishes. Parents approve the partnerships because it strengthens family bonds and ensures inheritances don’t leave the tribe.
Repeated generations of cousin marriages complicate blood ties. It’s not clear what affect that has had on disability rates in Gaza; but Somech said a third of patients in his department are Palestinians and most have genetic diseases that were the result of close-relation marriages.

Further worsening the situation, disabled children are often stigmatized.

Some families hide the children, fearing they won’t be able to marry off their able-bodied children if the community knows of their less-abled siblings. And they are seen as burdens in the impoverished territory.

Some 183,600 Gaza residents — or 10.8 percent of the 1.7 million Gazans — suffer some kind of disability that affects their mental health, eyesight, hearing or mobility. Some 40,800 people suffer severe disability, the Palestinian bureau of statistics reported in 2011.
According to the bureau, two-thirds of young disabled Gazans are illiterate and some 40 percent were never sent to school, suggesting either their parents kept them home or did not have the means to educate them — a likely scenario in the territory, where about two-thirds of the population live under the poverty line. Over 90 percent of the disabled are unemployed, the bureau said.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

He came, he saw, he posted, now he's branded a racist!

It is not unusual for people to change their perceptions when confronted with reality. A recent visit to the Negev by a local TV personality has created waves following the posting of his views after returning from a visit to the Negev - with thanks to Ari Briggs of Regavim.

Jerusalem Post May 5th, 2013

Last Thursday TV personality Avri Gilad went on a trip to the Northern Negev with Regavim - an independent, professional research institute & policy planning think tank involved in protecting Israel’s National Lands. So disturbed by what he saw on that trip, he returned and immediately penned the following post on Facebook “I came back from a tour of the Negev conducted by Regavim. I’m appalled by what I’ve seen. There’s no more Negev. The Bedouin have taken it over completely by force”. He continued, “By shameless criminal activity, with insolence met only by fear and submission, the Bedouin have taken over the entire Negev.” He noted that when he previously travelled to Be’er Sheva or Arad, he never went in to Bedouin towns like Laqia, Hura or the others he saw on this trip

Gilad also posted that the Government of Israel has virtually agreed to give Bedouin clans in the Negev over 60 percent of the State Land they have illegally settled on. On top of this, former MK Benny Begin sweetened the deal recently, offering them more land and additional monetary compensation. Avri Gilad, in his post, called on the Government ”to stop the Begin plan immediately,” and that “We have to re-conquer the Negev.”

He concluded by saying “We have to have one law for everyone – both for a Jew who closes in his balcony [without authorization] and for a Bedouin who uses a fence he stole from Omer to enclose five dunams (1.25 acres) of land as his.” Gilad's post went viral. and when interviewed later on Galatz Radio station, he stated that over 450,000 people had seen it.

However, it didn’t take long for the many so-called defenders of Bedouin rights to take whatever land they want, to jump into action. These foreign-funded radical left wing NGO’s, have done a great job training the various Bedouin tribes to always refuse every Israeli Government’s compromise offer, until they are offered 100% of their claims. They came out punching with an opinion piece published in a daily newspaper calling Avri Gilad a racist.

The author of this piece continued with what she called facts. “What is known as the Bedouin diaspora are 35 unrecognized villages in the Northern Negev on an area between Be’er Sheva, Yeruham, Arad and Dimona”. This however is the “big lie” - that only 35 “unrecognized villages” exist. Did she forget that nowadays programs like Google Earth exist, although a tour of the facts on the ground with Regavim is preferable, for a close up look at what is really happening to the area between Beersheba, Arad and Dimona. All can be seen on Google Earth.

Blue Dots mark the "35" settlements referred to by NGO's,
Red areas the land taken by the Bedouin

FACT: There are over 60,000 illegal structures built by Bedouin in the Negev (Ministry of Interior), increasing by 2000 new illegal structures yeary. There are not just 35 illegally built villages on state owned land, this illegal building covers an area of over 800,000 dunam (200,00 acres) and is established in over 2000 residential clusters (towns, villages, hamlets, hilltops & outposts).

How do these NGO’s continue to try to hide the facts when modern means of verification are so accessible? Do they really believe Israelis are that gullible? But she continued to wax poetic, citing folklore rather than history, and claiming that most of these illegal villages were set up before the establishment of the State. Even worse, with their savvy help, the Bedouin of the Negev have been able to successfully petition the UN for status as indigenous people. Even though there are Bedouin throughout the Middle East, the only place the UN has bestowed indigenous status on them is in the Negev. Their fallacious argument is simple and clear: the Bedouin were here before the State was established, and thus before the Jews were ever here.

But as much as these NGOs try to frame and fudge the public debate around the Illegal villages of those 20% of Bedouin who have grabbed State land and claim to have ancestral title to it, Regavim hopes for an equitable solution to the problem. Because of growing public awareness, the Government program to overcome the lawlessness in the South is scheduled for renewed discussion.

It is important to understand that overall, Regavim is not opposed to the Government’s plan, and believes that regulating the Bedouin settlement is vital both for the State of Israel and of course for the Bedouin population. However, unfortunately, the current proposal is very problematic. Regavim wants a program that will achieve its goals, one that will be good for the country, good for the land, the environment and good for all the residents of the Negev. To accomplish this, Regavim has developed some amendments to make the program more efficient, and dramatically increase the chance of its success in practice.

However, even taking into account our new government's effort to refine and improve the program, the basic problem remains. The public both here in Israel and in the court of world opinion must be made aware of the actual facts on the ground as seen by Avri Gilad and understand the urgency for a fair and implementable program, and not just a giveaway of our National Lands. Otherwise, Israel will continue to be painted as the perennial bad guy - the conqueror and the oppressor! This image is successfully perpetuated due in large part to the efforts of the radical left, European government funded NGO’s that have trained the Bedouin in the “accept our position or nothing” strategy and have extensively misled the public using falsifications and mistruths.