Thursday, July 19, 2018

Israeli 7 Year Old Becomes Chess Champion

In an international competition, an Israeli 7 year old beat all competitors in her age group

Monday, July 9, 2018

Israelis Speak About Living with Hamas Terror

Hear the stories of Israelis who survive the ongoing threat of Hamas terror. 

Rockets, mortar shells, infiltration attempts, fire kites and balloons – this is reality for Israelis who live near the Gaza border in the shadow of Hamas’ terrorism.

Living in a constant state of war, with up to five seconds to find shelter before a mortar launched by Hamas explodes near them, these Israelis face the constant menace of  Palestinian terrorists based just a few miles away.

While these attacks mostly fail to cause bodily harm, the emotional scars they 
leave are indelible.

Ensure that the entire world hears their stories!

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Arab officials: US peace plan to focus on Gaza ‎first, circumvent PA ‎

Initiative seeks to alleviate the crisis in Gaza while allowing Arab world to adjust to the fact that a comprehensive peace plan may exclude the Palestinian Authority • PA President Abbas "has to wake up before it is too late," Ramallah official says.

Arab officials confirmed to Israel Hayom over the weekend that the regional peace plan being devised by the United States will focus on resolving the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip prior to dealing with the other cardinal issues involved in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

U.S. President Donald Trump, who has billed the plan as the "deal of the century," is determined to push it through with the help of the moderate Arab state ‎‎– Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates – even if it means going over Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' head, the officials said.

Abbas declared that he would not engage with the U.S. on peace talks after Trump officially recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital in December and subsequently relocated the American Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

The Palestinian leader maintains that these moves clearly demonstrate Trump's pro-Israel bias and therefore the U.S. cannot act as an impartial peace broker between Israel and the Palestinians.

The officials noted that the American plan to solve the crisis in Gaza was also the reason why, despite the growing tensions on the Israel-Gaza border, both Israel and Hamas are trying to avoid escalation.
Senior Arab diplomats familiar with the plan as well as top Ramallah officials, said that Cairo, Amman, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi have repeatedly urged Abbas to meet with U.S. officials and discuss the plan but to no avail.

Given Abbas' prolonged rejectionism, moderate Arab leaders see no other choice but to go over his head and have decided to back Washington's plan to present the peace plan to the Palestinian people directly, the diplomats said.

A high-ranking Jordanian diplomat told Israel Hayom that during senior White House adviser Jared Kushner and Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt's recent visit to the region, they explained the tenets of the plan, which focused on "neutralizing the Gaza issue."
Hamas ousted Abbas' Fatah movement from the Gaza Strip in a military coup in 2007, essentially splitting the Palestinian Authority in two. The Western-backed Abbas and Gaza's rulers have signed several reconciliation deals over the past decade, most recently in 2017, but all have collapsed before the ink was even dry, mostly over Hamas' adamant refusal to disarm.

The 2007 coup prompted Israel and Egypt to place a blockade on Gaza, so as to thwart Hamas' efforts to smuggle terrorists and weapons into the enclave. But a decade of Hamas rule has brought Gaza to the brink of disaster, and the ongoing rift between the rival Palestinian factions has also been clouding domestic and foreign policies in moderate Arab states, whose leaders are now pushing for a solution that would alleviate Gazans' distress.

According to Arab diplomats familiar with the details of the plan, the American scheme includes a long-term cease-fire agreement between Israel and the Gaza-based terrorist groups, which would be mediated by the moderate Arab states.

Once the cease-fire agreement takes effect and proves lasting, a series of economic programs will be implemented to improve the situation in Gaza, where unemployment nears 50%. These projects, as well as a series of infrastructural rehabilitation plans – including the construction of a special Palestinian port in Cyprus – will be sponsored by the international community.

"A regional peace plan would be viable only if it includes the changing reality in the Gaza Strip," a senior Jordanian official told Israel Hayom.

"The blockade on Gaza cannot continue. The Strip is on the brink of a humanitarian disaster and if that happens, both Israel and the moderate Arab states would be made to pay a price, and especially the Palestinian leadership.

"Unfortunately, by refusing any diplomatic move mediated by the U.S. and declaring he will boycott the Americans' efforts, Abu Mazen [Abbas] is excluding himself from the negotiations over the arrangements in Gaza," he said.

A senior Egyptian official also confirmed that resolving the Gaza crisis would be the first step in the U.S. peace plan.

"Trump and his people have proven that they can think outside the box and suggest creative solutions. … Abu Mazen and the Palestinian Authority have not ruled Gaza for over a decade and the bottom line is that any deal involving Gaza will ultimately be in the hands of those controlling it on the ground, meaning Hamas," he said, stressing that Cairo would back the U.S. plan even if it meant sidelining Abbas.

Other Arab officials said that the idea behind the "Gaza first" initiative seeks to both alleviate the crisis in the enclave while allowing the Arab world to adjust to the idea that a more comprehensive peace plan would exclude the current leadership in Ramallah.

"This will ease the blockade and allow for the implementation of dozens of projects that have already been approved and funded," one official said.

A senior Palestinian official told Israel Hayom that "there is great concern in the rais' [Abbas'] office over Trump's move. Obviously, neither Trump nor anyone else can make Hamas and the other groups in Gaza disarm, but unless Abu Mazen rethinks his steps he may find himself as irrelevant as [Yasser] Arafat was at the end of his days.

"Trump pursues unconventional diplomacy – something that North Korea and Iran have come to realize – and it seems that the Arab states and the Europeans have come to accept it," he continued. "Only Abbas remains obstinate and the Palestinian people will end up paying the price.

"This is not the leadership Abu Mazen had envisioned and it is definitely not the legacy he wants to leave behind. He has to wake up and come to grips with the plan Trump and the Arab states are promoting, before it is too late," he warned.

The Battle Against Ignorance

‘Our greatest struggle is to combat ignorance,” said the deputy head of the Yesha Council, (Council of Judea and Samaria) recently To illustrate this problem he gave examples of tours on which he has taken other journalists. When he took the senior editor of an important Israeli media outlet to the city of Ariel, the editor expected to find everyone living in caravans, because that was his concept of the “settler” movement. He was unaware that there are also urban areas in the West Bank.
On another occasion, when he took journalists to Eli, where the first Orthodox pre-military academy was founded in 1988 – an academy that now boasts over 3,000 graduates, most of whom have served in combat units, and more than half of whom have been military officers and/or are leading figures in major organizations and institutions – the journalists were again surprised.

Some 100,000 Palestinians earn their livelihoods through Jewish- owned commercial and industrial enterprises, and visitors get a chance to meet some of them when they visit factories, stores and restaurants.
The Palestinians want to work there because even though the salaries are not great, they are in line with Israel’s basic wage, and are twice as high as what they would earn in the Palestinian Authority.

Journalists are not the only people taken on these eye-opening tours.

Groups, large and small, also include people who are brought to Israel by J Street and by AIPAC as well as many other organizations. The Mayor of Efrat, who is also the equivalent of the “settler” community’s minister of public diplomacy, has over the past two years addressed 180 such groups, including American congressional delegations which will not necessarily come to the West Bank but are always willing to meet with West Bank representatives to hear their views and to try to get a better understanding of the complexities in the relationship between them and the Palestinians.

Though not everyone in the “settler” movement believes in giving the Palestinians greater autonomy, there are those that do. While not in favor of the two state solution, they do believe that the Palestinians should have a greater say in running their own lives, and that Palestinian mayors should be able to consult on a regular basis with their Israeli counterparts in order to improve the quality of life of their constituents.

People don’t realize that the “settler” movement is doing more than anyone else with regard to Israeli-Palestinian coexistence, said Dilmoni.
It was also pointed out that one of the most common misconceptions about the “settlers” is that they all belong to the National Religious camp. Only a third of them do, a third are ultra religious, and the remaining third are secular. Not all make their homes in the West Bank for ideological reasons.

Some come for the quality of life, where the environment is less crowded and less polluted, but where all the community services available in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem also exist, though not always as close at hand.

Shiloh, the biblical city which was the capital of the 12 tribes when they first crossed into the Promised Land, is the West Bank’s jewel in the crown, a site visited by pilgrims as well as tourists. It is steeped in history as well as in spirituality, and last year hosted more than 100,000 tourists, including groups from Russia and China.

The visitors who are opposed to the “settlement” movement will not necessarily change their minds, but participating in the visits allows them to experience the reality and not to rely on false media reports, which often tend to demonize the “settlers”. The tours aim to give visitors something to think about.

Friday, July 6, 2018

A wedding in India

I don't normally write about such personal experiences, but our trip to India to attend the wedding of the son of a good friend of ours was so special that I feel I must record the details of the event ...........
So the wedding extravaganza is over, Wow! It began with an hour of dancing to welcome the groom as his car drove him into the hotel guest arrival area (incidentally, the hotel is next door to a very elaborate shopping mall, so you don’t get wet going from one to the other in this, the monsoon season)
Many of the men were dressed in turbans and even I was drawn away to ensure I got fitted with a turban. 
As we generated to the hall where the wedding ceremony was to be held, we were greeted on the stage with the most elaborate “canopy”on a stage decorated with the most beautiful flower arrangements and seating for, we estimate, over 500 people. The “priest” spent the next 30 mins with the bride’s parents on the stage in intense conversation, about what, who knows? Then the groom joined them  where more intense conversation took place. All this was accompanied by music of a decibel level that makes Israeli weddings seem like nothing. Most of the guests at this stage were outside the hall in the entrance area eating.
Finally, some 1.1/2 to 2 hours after the start of the welcome dances for the groom, the bride made her entrance into the hall under her own mobile intricate flower bedecked canopy held by 4 people holding it over the head of the bride as she moved to the stage and this canopy was then removed. At this point it is important to comment on the exotic saris and gowns that so many of the women were wearing, absolutely beautiful.
With the bride and groom now on stage, the exchange of vows started over flaming coals and although we could see some of what was happening, the number of official photographers hid much from the view of the guests. It is important to point out that only the bride’s parents were on stage during this ceremony, the groom’s parents were not involved at all, as the principle is that the bride is being taken from her parents to live with her husband at the home of the grooms parents, where they have their apartment within the apartment of the parents. Whatever the ceremony was that was going on on-stage, no-one could hear anything. The “priest” was not using a microphone, the background music was deafening and most guests were milling around talking.
The whole ceremony was concluded after approx. 3 .1/2 hours after which we returned to our room (the wedding was in the same hotel where we were staying) to “recover” and prepare for the reception. The reception consisted of every guest , approx 700, queuing in a very orderly manner to go up on the stage, in the same wedding hall, to congratulate the bride, groom and their respective families before going up one level to the dinner which was spread over three halls in order to accommodate approx. 700 guests. At this point I was feeling a little of the Indian belly syndrome, so we made our greetings to some of the family and guests and retired to our room at approx. 11:00 pm. (This also gave us the opportunity to watch some of the tennis from Wimbledon!!)
Since the wedding yesterday evening the weather has turned atrocious with lots of rain and flooded roads. It was reported that 131 mm of rain fell in 24 hours. Since we are being chauffeured around everywhere and being dropped off at the required destinations it is not such an inconvenience.