Monday, September 15, 2014

18 questions for Hamas leaders in wake of Gaza war

Had the IDF not prohibited Israeli journalists' entry into the Gaza Strip and had the leaders of the Islamic movement agreed to be interviewed in the Israeli media, this is what Amira Hass would have asked.
By Amira Hass, Haaretz

A Hamas militant and supporters celebrate what they claim was a victory over Israel, in Gaza City, August 27, 2014.Photo by Reuters

1. Are you still insisting that the past war ended in a victory for you?

2. A Palestinian victory or a Hamas victory?

3. You managed to confuse the strongest army in the region. Is that the victory?

4. Israeli tourism suffered losses. The Israeli education budget will be cut. The defense budget will increase. Residents of the “Gaza envelope” communities are frustrated, and feel betrayed and insecure. If that is the victory, was the price paid by Gaza and its inhabitants worthwhile, and why?

5. You knew in advance that the West would hasten to promise to bear the cost of rehabilitating Gaza and its inhabitants after the destruction caused by Israel. That’s what it has been doing since 1994 
(in the West Bank as well), partly for humanitarian motives, and mainly for political calculations: In order to keep the Palestinian Authority in place (in the role of the agent of rehabilitation) in order to guarantee that the system of balances with Israel will not be overly shaken. Had you not known that the West and the United Nations would mobilize for rehabilitation – would you have acted exactly as you did?

6. You preserve the right to choose the path of war (the armed struggle) for the Palestinians. But for every civic task that must be carried out you reply: That’s the job of the reconciliation government. Isn’t that contradictory and hypocritical?

7. The cost of rent in the Strip has increased, due to the decline in supply (houses demolished by Israel) and the fact that at least 100,000 people have become homeless. The rates of poverty and unemployment have also increased. What is your plan for reducing them?

8. The combat skills of your fighters improved as compared to 2008-2009 (although at the time you boasted of such skills, and didn’t convince anyone except for Hamas followers). Clearly you learned from your mistakes and devoted a great deal of time to military exercises. Have improving your combat skills and developing your arsenal become an end instead of a means, and therefore when they were achieved – you consider that a victory?

9. You said that the cease-fire agreement with Israel is a great achievement. What exactly does it include that makes it such an achievement? We laymen fail to understand. Meanwhile the closure has not been lifted and Israel has no intention of lifting it, the Israel Navy continues to fire at Gaza fishermen and to arrest them when they sail out to make a living from the sea, and the inhabitants of Gaza are still living in the same prison that Israel created for them about 20 years ago.

10. Why did you give up the original demand for international guarantees to ensure that Israel would abide by its commitments?

11. The Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research found in its last survey that Palestinian support for you has soared. Do you think that the outcome would have been similar had you not managed to exempt yourself in advance from the burden of responsibility for civic rehabilitation and to impose it on the reconciliation government, which emerges very poorly in the sampling?

12. Your status before the war was at a nadir. Is that your victory – that support for you has soared?

13. When you were deliberating whether to begin a military escalation (in my opinion both you and Israel chose the direction of military escalation, not only Israel), did you have in mind the reasonable chance that your public status would be rehabilitated, as is always the case after military campaigns?

14. According to the survey, 43 percent of the residents of the Strip under your rule want to emigrate (as compared to 20 percent who want to emigrate from the West Bank). Are you shrugging off responsibility for this high rate of potential emigrants?

15. You presented the disengagement (the evacuation of the settlements in the Strip in 2005) as a victory for your military track. But what has happened is that Gaza has become totally cut off from the West Bank, a goal that that has been the pillar of Israel’s policy since 1990. Your military track only helped to realize Israel’s original intention of imposing a regime in Gaza that is different and separate from that in the West Bank. What is your reply to that?

16. Due to the disengagement, Israel permits itself to disseminate the lie that the occupation of the Strip is over (which it doesn’t permit itself to claim regarding the West Bank). Therefore, just as it did in its attacks against sovereign Lebanon, in the Strip too it is crossing borders and red lines: destroying, crushing and killing indiscriminately. Isn’t it your obligation to take into consideration the fact that the occupier that pretends to be attacked has no God?

17. You claim (rightly, in my opinion) that the path of negotiations chosen by the Palestine Liberation Organization and Palestinian Authority President Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas) has proven its futility and its failure. The World Bank screams that without Area C there is no Palestinian economy, and Israel could not care less. It continues to rob land, to demolish Palestinian homes. The army and police do as they wish: They kill young and older demonstrators who do not endanger the lives of their armed men. East Jerusalem is one huge slum. What do you propose to do instead of negotiations?

18. The military path and the militarization that you have chosen since the 1990s is older than the years of negotiations. What has it accomplished? During the first intifada you pushed for the use of firearms and explosives, but only in the occupied territories. After the massacre perpetrated by Dr. Baruch Goldstein in Hebron in February 1994 you began your suicide attacks against civilians in Israel. During the first decade of the millennium you greatly increased your militarization and began to improve your rockets. And still everything is worse than it was: The Palestinian territory is more fragmented. Not only have the settlements expanded, so have economic gaps among the Palestinians. There is great despair. So perhaps the conclusion is that your armed resistance has also proven its failure and futility?

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Israel holds first conference for 'gingers'

Children attend a redhead convention at the Kibbutz Gezer (Hebrew for carrot), Aug. 28, 2014. (photo by Yuval Avivi)

Israel holds first conference for 'gingers'

"Having a conference for redheads on Kibbutz Gezer [Hebrew for carrot] is like having a conference for the elderly in Kfar Saba [literally Grandpa’s Village]."

“Next year,” Ofri said at the end of the event, “we’ll organize a gathering that is open to everyone.”With that joke, Ofri Moshe, a sweet 9-year-old redhead, opened Israel’s first conference for gingers, an event that she initiated and organized. Some 200 redheads from across the country registered in advance — a requirement made by the Home Front Command — to participate in this special event on Aug. 28.

Then, all 942 people who expressed their desire to attend on the event’s Facebook page could actually show up. This year, most didn’t make the 200-person cutoff. Even after the cease-fire was announced on Aug. 26, the limit on the number of participants was not lifted, much to the chagrin of many redheaded Israelis. “Is there any chance that the event will be open to everyone now that there is a cease-fire?” wrote Nir Amichay on Facebook. “There are a lot of disappointed redheads out there who would love to take part.”

Ofri was inspired to launch this special convention after hearing about the famous conference for redheads in the Netherlands. She was unable to attend, so she decided to organize a similar event in her home of Kibbutz Gezer. “I said to myself, that's a great idea,” she said, and then, “I bugged my parents about it until they realized I was serious.”

In the end, Ofri’s project took off and became a reality. Yes, the event was amateur, but the mood was polished and refined. Given Ofri’s energy and charisma as event moderator, it was obvious she enjoyed the attention.

It was a lively event, and often funny. Together with her mother Meirav, Ofri led the artistic session, which began, of course, with the popular Hebrew children’s song, “I’m a Redhead.” From there it continued with the “Giness World Records,” which Ofri explained was “like the Guinness Book of World Records but for gingers.” It included the redhead with the longest hair (measured using a carrot); the person with the most freckles; the oldest redhead (Esperans, 82, who was born in Iraq, and who excitedly told the audience, “Never dye your hair!”); and the youngest redhead (David, 1, named after the most famous biblical king and redhead, of course). Then there was a carrot-sharpening contest, using a special sharpener, and a bagpipe performance as a tribute to Scotland, home of the redheads.

One young woman said that she came to the gathering “to find a redheaded Jewish husband, preferably a Chabad [Hasidic movement] follower.” It’s hard to imagine that she found one, if only because so many of the participants were children. Some parents explained, “We wanted them to see other children who looked like them, so that they’ll be like everyone else for a moment.” Those children, however, don’t seem to be suffering because of their red hair. Sure, there are stereotypes and insulting nicknames, but most of the kids there said they were proud to be redheads. It is actually their parents who have the painful memories.

The Koniak family brought three generations to the event. Grandma Malka, who encouraged everyone to attend, said, "I suffered a lot. In school they called me ‘Malka the Ginger’ [in Hebrew, 'ginger queen'], with a negative connotation. After years of being looked down on, I wanted them to have an experience that will strengthen them instead." When her grandson Tom, 9, said he is called “Red Tom,” his mother Sharon was quick to add, “I think it’s a nice nickname.” Tom changed the topic: “The only thing I agree with is that redheads get angry easily. I really do get angry too quickly.”

Plenty of parents actually do complain about a frenetic energy. Ayelet Helerman, the mother of Alon, 10, said that in their house they often use the code words, “Danger! There’s an angry redhead in the house.”

Mirit, 17, and Sigal, 15, are redheaded sisters from Jerusalem. “It’s true. We really do get angry,” they said, but note that despite their hot tempers, they aren’t bothered by all the red in their lives. “People will always reference the color, but it should be taken with a grain of humor and good fun. My nickname is ‘Sweet Ginger,’” said Sigal. “And mine is ‘Beloved Ginger,’” said Mirit.

Tom, Sigal and Mirit are the only redheads in their schools. Statistics show that redheads are becoming increasingly rare, which may be why they are showing so much pride. Alon Helerman, for instance, is very proud of his orange hue. “I raised him to take pride in it,” said his mother Ayelet. “It’s true that I always tried to hide it about myself, but when Alon was born, he liberated me.”

Alon really is proud. He first learned of the event just a day before it was supposed to take place. When he heard it was invite-only, he didn’t give his parents a moment’s rest until they managed to finagle him an invite. On the morning of the gathering he made special shirts for himself, his mother and Ofri, with the slogan, “Redhead is a state of mind.” He plans on celebrating his bar mitzvah three years from now at the redhead conference in the Netherlands.

Danielle Nayer grew up in the United States, where, she said, she was subjected to nasty names. Some of these were unpleasant. “I’m not worried that it might happen to my children, too. I’m sure it will happen to them. It’s the first thing that people will notice about them. That’s what they’ll laugh at. But there’s also something good about it. It means that people won’t laugh at anything related to their true inner beings.” Her children, Nes, 4, and Max, 3, are fourth-generation redheads and absolutely beautiful.

As the event came to an end, some shouted, “Redhead selfie! Who’s in?” Ofri closed the conference with a brief speech, saying, “Let’s hope that this becomes a tradition.”

“Hold on a minute,” someone shouted from the audience. “When do we take over the world?”

Read more:

Monday, July 28, 2014

Open letter to the Atlanta Journal Constitution

As a citizen of this glorious country, a member of the Atlanta community, and a proud Jew, my heart ached when I saw the cartoons that your prestigious newspaper (what I consider The Voice of Georgia) published on July 15 and July 22. These cartoons were created by Mr. Mike Luckovich.

The cartoons portrait a State of Israel which takes advantage of the American society through its friendship and loyalty (July 15), and Israel’s view on the Two State Solution incarcerating the people of Gaza sieged by barbed wire.

Let me understand these two images and remind Mr. Luckovich that one image or picture speaks more than a thousand words.

I would not challenge Mr. Luckovich's creative mind in regard to his ability to draw, but let me clarify his ignorance regarding geopolitics.

Let me elucidate the erroneousness conveyed in his cartoons:

1. The relationship between the State of Israel and the United States of America is strong and steady because the values of this country based on democracy, freedom of speech, patriotism, progress, intellectual stimulation and spiritual growth are values that prevail in the State of Israel, a land that welcomes all the religions and embraces its inhabitants. The unwavering bond between these two countries is based on mutual trust and loyalty (referring to the cartoon on July 15).

2. As far as Israel’s attitude towards Gaza is concern after the Disengagement in 2005, let me tell Mr. Luckovich that Israel provides assistance to the Palestinians living in that area. Allow me to quote Israel’s UN Ambassador Don Prosor back in 2011 when he spoke about myths and facts

“Myth: there is a humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip. In fact, numerous international organizations have said clearly that there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza, including the Deputy Head of the Red Cross Office in the area. Gaza 's real GDP grew by more than 25% during the first three quarters of 2011. Exports are expanding. International humanitarian projects are moving forward at a rapid pace. There is not a single civilian good that cannot enter Gaza today.

Yet, as aid flows into the area, missiles fly out. This is the crisis in Gaza.

And that is what keeps Gaza from realizing its real potential. It is a simple equation. If it is calm in Israel, it will be calm in Gaza. But the people of Gaza will face hardship as long as terrorists use them as human shields to rain rockets down on Israeli cities. Each rocket in Gaza is armed with a warhead capable of causing a political earthquake that would extend well beyond Israel 's borders. It will only take one rocket that lands in the wrong place at the wrong time to change the equation on the ground.

If that happens, Israel 's leaders would be forced to respond in a completely different manner. It is time for all in this Chamber to finally wake up to that dangerous reality. The Security Council has not condemned a single rocket attack from Gaza. History's lessons are clear. Today's silence is tomorrow's tragedy”.

Israel has been offering humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza: food, medicine, cement to build their own infrastructure and to teach then “how to fish”, but they are victims of their own government, the terrorist organization Hamas has robbed them of their own future.

The people of Gaza run for their lives and are treated in Israeli hospitals because our Jewish values do not discriminate on race, religion, color and social status. Israel nurtures them, heals them, cures them, while their own regime uses them as shields to protect their weapons, Israel uses its weapons to protect the human beings.

As a Rabbi involved in interfaith events in Georgia and nationwide, my soul cries when I see these cartoons, they destroy tireless constructive hours of honest dialogue and mutual understanding. As a medical doctor who finished her fellowship at the Hadassah Medical Hospital in Jerusalem my heart aches to witness these cartoons while I remember that 40 percent of my patients were Palestinians treated in Israeli hospitals with the same efficiency and professionalism as the Christians and the Jews who live in Israel.

I truly hope that Mr. Luckovich publicly apologizes for these cartoons.

I don’t expect him to counterbalance these cartoons with one that shows terrorists from Hamas hiding in the tunnels and getting to their “Promise Land” while attacking a kindergarten of the Kibbutz on the other side of the border, or thanking the Iron Dome for protecting the American citizens that just landed from a safe Delta flight.

It’s time, Mr Luckovich to get informed, to get your facts right, to stop repeating deceptive myths.

We will welcome your public apologies.

Shalom, Salam, Peace!

“The Lord detests lying lips, but delights in people who are trustworthy” Proverbs 12:22

Rabbi Dr. Analia Bortz

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Which will come first: A siren, Gaza invasion or my first grandchild?

When my children were born, I allowed myself to think that by the time they grew up, all the fighting would be over.

By Amy Levinson

Patients and their families in a shelter at Barzilai Medical Center. Photo by AP

Surreal. There is no other way to describe it.

I am waiting in the delivery ward, down the hall from the room where my daughter is about to give birth to our first grandchild. I am waiting for the happiest, the best of all possible news, while the country is becoming more embroiled by the moment in a military operation in the Gaza Strip that threatens to spiral into chaos, paralyzing our lives, stopping our hearts, causing untold damage, injury and death.

Heart-rending screams. Gut-wrenching groans. Women are giving birth here, after all.

It occurs to me, in a fleeting moment of clarity, that this is the only place in the world where pain is natural and moans of anguish are, well, the norm.

I follow the doctors, nurses and midwives scurrying about, with tired and droopy eyes.

My stomach is churning.

My sons, the uncles of this as-yet-unborn child, are both Israel Defense Forces officers. They are not with us in the waiting room here, as we’d hoped. They will not share in the exquisite euphoria we will undoubtedly experience in those precious moments after the birth.

The two of them, one in the regular army and one in reserves, have been called down south, along with tens of thousands of their comrades-in-arms in advance of a possible incursion of ground forces.

Dazed by a peculiar mix of anxiousness and excitement, I can’t help but be struck by the irony: Here I am sitting in the labor ward of Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer. Just a stone’s throw away is the main IDF induction base, where each of my three children was brought on the very first day of their military service. I had kept joking with the boys until the very last minute about how it still wasn’t too late, they could still ask for desk jobs.

For my part, I have consoled myself and my liberal conscience over the years with the thought that the IDF will be a more human and humane place with officers such as my two sons serving in it. My apprehension was diluted by pride. Now it’s returned with full force.

At this particularly poignant juncture, I also recall the long-standing, familiar Israeli mantra whereby we – along with all Israeli mothers and fathers – deluded ourselves into thinking and declaring, upon the birth of our sons, that by the time they grew up and turned 18, there would be peace, there would no longer be a need for them to fight.

American-born and Israeli-by-choice, a person who describes herself as belonging to the so-called and sometimes-maligned left wing, I was always particularly good at deluding myself. I have always clung to the naive idea that problems can be solved by means of dialogue and compromise.

And I have a Peace Now sticker on my car along with the insignia of my son’s infantry unit.

Now, above me on the muted waiting-room television, the latest headlines and images flash – warning sirens sounding simultaneously in four Israeli locales, death and destruction after an aerial attack on Gaza. My throat constricts. Tears well up. Where are my sons, I wonder.

I catch a glimpse of some nurses and doctors going in and out of my daughter’s room. Why is the delivery taking so long, when we thought she was going to give birth over an hour ago?

A phone call from my son-in-law, summoning us to the delivery room. We rush in, hearts pounding.

“Do you see her?” my daughter asks, eyes glistening. “She’s perfect.”

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Where are the Palestinian Mothers? A culture that celebrates kidnapping is not fit for statehood.

Where are the Palestinian Mothers? A culture that celebrates kidnapping is not fit for statehood.

By Bret Stephens
Updated July 1, 2014 2:35 p.m. ET

In March 2004 a Palestinian teenager named Hussam Abdo was spotted by Israeli soldiers behaving suspiciously as he approached the Hawara checkpoint in the West Bank. Ordered at gunpoint to raise his sweater, the startled boy exposed a suicide vest loaded with nearly 20 pounds of explosives and metal scraps, constructed to maximize carnage. A video taken by a journalist at the checkpoint captured the scene as Abdo was given scissors to cut himself free of the vest, which had been strapped tight to his body in the expectation that it wouldn't have to come off. He's been in an Israeli prison ever since.

Abdo provided a portrait of a suicide bomber as a young man. He had an intellectual disability. He was bullied by classmates who called him "the ugly dwarf." He came from a comparatively well-off family. He had been lured into the bombing only the night before, with the promise of sex in the afterlife. His family was outraged that he had been recruited for martyrdom.

"I blame those who gave him the explosive belt," his mother, Tamam, told the Jerusalem Post, of which I was then the editor. "He's a small child who can't even look after himself."

Yet asked how she would have felt if her son had been a bit older, she added this: "If he was over 18, that would have been possible, and I might have even encouraged him to do it." In the West, most mothers would be relieved if their children merely refrained from getting a bad tattoo before turning 18.
I've often thought about Mrs. Abdo, and I'm thinking about her today on the news that the bodies of three Jewish teenagers, kidnapped on June 12, have been found near the city of Hebron "under a pile of rocks in an open field," as an Israeli military spokesman put it. Eyal Yifrach, 19, Gilad Shaar, 16, and Naftali Fraenkel, 16, had their whole lives ahead of them. The lives of their families will forever be wounded, or crippled, by heartbreak.

In Tel Aviv, a woman holds a sign with the images of the three Israeli teenagers who were kidnapped. Their bodies were found on June 30. Reuters

What about their killers? The Israeli government has identified two prime suspects, Amer Abu Aysha, 33, and Marwan Qawasmeh, 29, both of them Hamas activists. They are entitled to a presumption of innocence. Less innocent was the view offered by Mr. Abu Aysha's mother.

"They're throwing the guilt on him by accusing him of kidnapping," she told Israel's Channel 10 news. "If he did the kidnapping, I'll be proud of him."

It's the same sentiment I heard expressed in 2005 in the Jabalya refugee camp near Gaza City by a woman named Umm Iyad. A week earlier, her son, Fadi Abu Qamar, had been killed in an attack on the Erez border crossing to Israel. She was dressed in mourning but her mood was joyful as she celebrated her son's "martyrdom operation." He was just 21.

Here's my question: What kind of society produces such mothers? Whence the women who cheer on their boys to blow themselves up or murder the children of their neighbors?

Well-intentioned Western liberals may prefer not to ask, because at least some of the conceivable answers may upset the comforting cliché that all human beings can relate on some level, whatever the cultural differences. Or they may accuse me of picking a few stray anecdotes and treating them as dispositive, as if I'm the only Western journalist to encounter the unsettling reality of a society sunk into a culture of hate. Or they can claim that I am ignoring the suffering of Palestinian women whose innocent children have died at Israeli hands.

But I'm not ignoring that suffering. To kill innocent people deliberately is odious, to kill them accidentally or "collaterally" is, at a minimum, tragic. I just have yet to meet the Israeli mother who wants to raise her boys to become kidnappers and murderers—and who isn't afraid of saying as much to visiting journalists.
Because everything that happens in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is bound to be the subject of political speculation and news analysis, it's easy to lose sight of the raw human dimension. So it is with the murder of the boys: How far will Israel go in its retaliation? What does it mean for the future of the Fatah-Hamas coalition? What about the peace process, such as it is?

These questions are a distraction from what ought to be the main point. Three boys went missing one night, and now we know they are gone. If nothing else, their families will have a sense of finality and a place to mourn. And Israelis will know they are a nation that leaves no stone unturned to find its missing children.

As for the Palestinians and their inveterate sympathizers in the West, perhaps they should note that a culture that too often openly celebrates martyrdom and murder is not fit for statehood, and that making excuses for that culture only makes it more unfit. Postwar Germany put itself through a process of moral rehabilitation that began with a recognition of what it had done. Palestinians who want a state should do the same, starting with the mothers.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Third Mother

July 1, 2014

Today I defer to an Israeli poet, Natan Alterman, who wrote the
following poem titled The Third Mother:

Singing mothers, singing mothers.
A thunder's fist is pouring, a strong silence
In the empty squares marching in rows
Red bearded street lights.

A dire autumn, a weary inconsolable autumn,
And rain with no end or beginning
And no candle in the window and no light in the world
Three mothers are singing

Says the first, I have just seen him
I shall kiss his every little finger and nail
A ship is passing in the silent sea
And my son is hanged from the topmast sail

Says the second, my son is tall and silent
And for him a holiday gown I am sewing
He walks in the fields, he is coming back
He bears in his heart a lead bullet.

And the third mother, her eyes wander,
No one was as precious to me as him
How can I shed tears for him and I don't see
I don't know where he is.

Then the tears bath her lashes
And maybe not rested, and maybe
He measures with kisses, as a devoted monk,
Your worldly path, my God

Anat Hoffman

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

June 23, 2014

When I count the many perks of my job, "encounters with extraordinary women" is one of the prominent ones. In recent years I have become an ardent admirer of four Orthodox women from Beit Shemesh, Nili Philipp, Eve Finkelstein, Miriam Friedman Zussman, and Rachely Yair Schloss. Last Tuesday they gave their testimonies in our court case against the municipality of Beit Shemesh for failing to remove the modesty signs that are lining the streets of Beit Shemesh.

Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein has issued a report that declares such signs discriminatory and illegal. Nevertheless, the municipality continues to give excuses for why the signs have yet to be removed.

Mati Chuta, the city's Director General was questioned on the stand by our lawyer, Orly Erez Likhovski:

Orly: Why are you not ordering the city inspectors to take down the signs?
Chuta: “The city has to be managed with great sensitivity towards the different communities, removing the signs is not a priority for us at all…it causes unnecessary disquiet…when I weigh these issues, I put the signs aside… There's no point in removing the signs. As soon as we take one down another comes back. It's a very expensive endeavor…We have no way to deal with it."
Orly: "What steps have you taken to implement the Attorney General's report?”
Chuta: “I haven't seen the report, I haven't done a thing”

The city's spokesperson Matti Rosenzweig was also questioned. He claimed “Women can alleviate the insult caused to them by simply removing it from their agenda. The minute women turn the signs into a symbol, they aggravate things."

The four women were given the opportunity to tell the judge how the signs affect them. Their testimonies showed that to avoid causing offense and to respect religious sensitivities, women are asked to relinquish far more substantive rights. These women demand to know why they should they be the ones to bear the cost of the religious needs of a group of extremist Haredi men. They are asking the judge, the municipality and Israeli society to take notice: the placing of signs in public spaces demanding that women observe extreme modesty standards is hurtful, it's illegal and it should be stopped.

In a Bat-Mitzva we bless the young girl, May you be like the foremothers of Israel who built our nation. There are many ways to build the sovereign Jewish state of Israel. Nili, Eve, Miriam, and Rachely are the foremothers on the front lines of the struggle for a sane Beit Shemesh. There will, one day, be a sign in Beit Shemesh commemorating their audacity, sisterhood, and unique contribution to their home town.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Pluralist Newsletter

May 26, 2014

Jenny Baruchi challenged the Israeli economic system. She matriculated to Hebrew University and, in doing so, lost many rights afforded to her by the state as a destitute single mother. The state assumed that if she could afford university, then she did not need financial help. Jenny questioned whether if she was a poor yeshiva student instead of a single mother, would she still receive economic stipends for her studies? These types of questions inspired a series of landmark decisions by the Supreme Court, culminating yesterday when IRAC won an important victory against this kind of preferential treatment.

Jenny was right. Some 10,000 yeshiva students who fit specific economic criteria receive stipends from the State of Israel paid directly from the Ministry of Education to their pockets. Such payments are supposed to be given, according to Israeli law, only to people who are unable to work, and therefore students are not eligible because they choose to study rather than to enter the workforce. However, for decades the State has continued to pay these stipends to yeshiva students even though the Supreme Court ruled the payments to yeshiva students illegal. The payments were subsequently limited to 5 years for each student under the age of 29. In January 2011, IRAC filed a petition at the Supreme Court stating that this practice is discriminatory.

The government argued in the court that these stipends were helping economic integration of the Haredi community, but the reality was the exact opposite. The stipends encouraged Haredi men, who have the highest unemployment rate in Israel, to remain in yeshiva instead of learning hard skills and joining the workforce. Usually by that point in the yeshiva student’s life, he has a large family and would be unable 
to earn a living in any other way. Even if he wanted to enter the workforce, he would be trapped in 
self-imposed poverty.

Yesterday, a panel of 7 judges unanimously ruled in IRAC's favor stating that economic assistance for yeshiva students is illegal and will be ended by 2015. As Justice Rubinstein stated in the court's decision, this is a critical step both for the Haredi sector and for the society as a whole. What makes this victory significant is the historic step in the direction toward all members of society contributing equally and having the opportunity to benefit equally from the state.

Combining Torah study with real world experiences is as old as Jewish learning itself. The great sages of the Talmud could all have been found in the Yellow Pages of their time. Maimonides was a physician, Hillel a lumberjack, and Yochanan ben Zakai was a cobbler. They all had professions and worked for a living, and they were all models of Torah scholarship. Our Israeli Torah scholars are capable of doing the same.

Anat Hoffman

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Israel - Day One: The story of the Day of Independence

Israel - Day One: The story of the Day of Independence

On that day, the British Mandate ended and David Ben-Gurion read the Declaration of Independence. As the Arab armies attacked, he rushed to the command center to take charge of the war.

By Elon Gilad

The High Commissioner of British Mandate Palestine, General Sir Alan Gordon Cunningham started the day early on May 14, 1948. It was his last day on the job, which was to keep the land under his control in order.

This order was unraveling. Even as he was ceremoniously inspecting a guard of honor at 8 A.M. that morning before leaving Government House, his home and office since his arrival in November 1945, elsewhere in Jerusalem Jewish and Arab militants were shooting one another, vying for control of the city he was about to leave.

The small ceremony ended and Sir Alan left in a car to an airport north of Jerusalem, where he would board a flight to Haifa.

That morning British installations around the country were finishing their packing, holding small ceremonies and starting their way in convoys to Haifa, where they would board a ship for home. One such force was the Scottish garrison of Jaffa, which at 6 A.M., to the sounds of bagpipes, lowered the Union Jack from the Jaffa police station. By 11 A.M. the last British soldier had left the city, which was bracing itself for occupation by their Jewish neighbors to the north. The Arab leadership of Jaffa had already agreed to surrender the day before and much of the Arab population had fled. Late leavers could be seen packing their belongings and going.

Meanwhile, in Tel Aviv, the streets were decked with blue and white flags with the Star of David. The excitement was palpable, but one man - soon to be Israel’s first prime minister and then the leader of the Yishuv - was extremely concerned. David Ben-Gurion started off his day meeting with the heads of the Haganah forces, which would soon become the Israel Defense Forces.

At first the news was good: Israeli forces had taken the Arab part of Kfar Sava and the recalcitrant village of Kfar Brir. But later, at 11 A.M. the news that Gush Etzion had fallen to Jordanian forces came in.

The feared Arab invasion had begun.

By 9 A.M. Sir Alan was already in Haifa presiding over the ceremony ending the mandate. At the Haifa Port, the general lowered the Union Jack and folded it ceremoniously, then proceeded to a boat that carried him to the HMS Euryalus as a 17 gun salvo roared. The ship would remain in Palestine waters until midnight, when it will set sail for Britain.

At noon, Ben-Gurion was at a meeting of the temporary government of the Yishuv in Tel Aviv, where some final changes were made to the text of the Declaration of Independence. The text itself was prepared by a legal team. At 1 P.M. the final draft was approved.

A bit to the south in Tel Aviv, Rothschild Blvd. between Herzl St. and Allenby St. was closed to traffic. It began to swell with a large crowd of people in the afternoon, as did cafes and balconies along the boulevard. People were waving little flags and singing. At 3 P.M. journalists from around the world started filing into the Tel Aviv Art Museum. Then the dignitaries joined, to the applause of the crowd.

At exactly 4 P.M. Ben-Gurion started the ceremony with a gavel.

Outside and around the country people were listening to the ceremony in the first broadcast of Israel Radio. In Ma’aleh Hahamisha, a kibbutz in the Jerusalem hills, a group of Haganah combatants were recovering from the last night’s hard-fought battle and were listening to Ben-Gurion speak. One of them was their commander, Yitzhak Rabin. But then a combatant huddled in one of the room’s corners opened his eyes and shouted “Guys! Turn that off. I’m dying to sleep...We’ll listen to the declaration tomorrow.” The radio was shut off and the room went silent.

Ben-Gurion read the declaration, which opened with a historic prologue delineating the Jews’ connection to the land. Then it went on to describe what kind of nation Israel was to be.

“Thus, we, the members of the People’s Council assembled, the representatives of the Hebrew Yishuv and the Zionist Movement, on the last day of the British Mandate over the Land of Israel, and in light of our natural and historic rights and on the basis of the United Nations’ resolution, we hereby declare the establishment of a Jewish state in the Land of Israel, named the State of Israel,” Ben-Gurion read.

When Ben-Gurion was done reading, he called the visibly moved Yehuda Leib Maimon to speak. With cracked voice, he read the ancient prayer, “Blessed are You, Lord our God, Ruler of the Universe, who has granted us life, sustained us and enabled us to reach this occasion.” The crowd shouted “Amen!”

Then Ben-Gurion announced that the British restrictions on Jewish immigration were void and the crowd responded with enthusiastic applause. Ben-Gurion signed the declaration and then the members of the People’s Council were invited one by one to come up to the stage and sign the declaration alphabetically. The ceremony ended with the singing of “Hatikva,” the national anthem.

As they sang, Ben-Gurion was rushing to the command center. While the people celebrated, he would write in his diary, “I was again a mourner among celebrants.”

Ben-Gurion’s commanders briefed him on developments he missed while he was busy declaring independence: Jaffa was occupied with no resistance, his forces in Jerusalem had taken all the key strongholds in the city deserted by the British. Ominous reports of Arab forces making their way from Jordan, Syria and Egypt were coming in.

While crowds were out celebrating in the streets, the new Israel Police made its first arrest - a book thief was placed in custody. The courts were in session that day. The first court case to be filed under free rule was opened that day - a man sued his neighbor for three pounds, which he said claimed should be returned to him from a donation he made in 1942.

In the cities, young men and women lined up at military bases to be drafted. Everyone knew the war was about to enter a new, deadly phase.

At 1 A.M., Ben-Gurion was woken up and informed that U.S. President Harry S. Truman recognized the State of Israel. Before dawn, Arab jets bombed Tel Aviv’s airport and power station.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

With Passover attendance down, U.S. Jews are still in Egypt, new data indicates a dramatic drop in U.S. Jews attending a Passover Seder. They are missing a vital opportunity to enjoy their religious freedom.

With Passover attendance down, U.S. Jews are still in Egypt, new data indicates a dramatic drop in U.S. Jews attending a Passover Seder. They are missing a vital opportunity to enjoy their religious freedom.

From Haaretz

A Ukrainian 19th-century lubok representing the Seder table./
By Rabbi Dan Dorsch / Jewish World blogger

According to alarming new data, this year only 60 to 70 percent of American Jews attended a Passover seder.

As late as the 1990s, 90 percent of U.S. Jews in the national population survey reported attending a seder. But various studies from 2013, reported in The Jewish Week, show that only twenty years later the number has gone down dramatically.

I find this troubling for many reasons. Unlike other holidays whose language may seem distant to modern Jews, Passover is a holiday whose themes speak to modern values. So much so, that the Seder has continually been used now, and historically, as a platform to connect the story to contemporary issues such as the Holocaust , feminism, the release of Soviet Jewry, etc. Unlike the Haggadah's famous all-night Seder in Bnei Brak that lasted all night, attending a Seder these days also does not require as much of a time commitment as it used to (unless of course, you are hosting). There are websites that tout a Seder as short as thirty minutes.

So if American Jews are unwilling to sit down for Passover, what hope is there that they will connect to anything else?

I recently attended a Torah study with Dr. Erica Brown, the scholar in residence of the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington. She reminded me of an oft-quoted teaching of the biblical commentator Rashi about the number of Jews who left Egypt. The Torah teaches us that the Israelites left Egypt chamushim, with weapons. But, why supposes Rashi, would this have been necessary? Wouldn’t they have assumed that God would fight on their behalf? Rather, Rashi teaches us that chamush is linked to the wordchamesh, which means a fifth. The Israelites, it turned out, did not all leave Egypt. Only one-fifth of the Jewish people left, while Rashi tells us that the other 80% died in the plague of darkness.

Here, I would like to suggest that we can read Rashi metaphorically. Throughout Jewish history, there have always been Jews who have refused to leave Egypt because they were, as we would say today, "left in the dark." Rashi reminds us that this, in some sense, is the real definition of what it means to be a slave. Slavery for Jews living relatively comfortably in the Diaspora is not about a cruel Pharaoh or about government oppression. It is not simply about being offered an opportunity to be free, as modern society offers us. It is about choosing willingly to walk through a door that has been opened.

For me, the fact that so many people failed to attend a Passover Seder this year, no matter what its level of ritual, points out the degree to which so many Jews remain in slavery by failing to walk through the door to freedom. Passover remains a vital opportunity to practice our religious freedom, and as a grateful American who is appreciative for the religious freedom he enjoys, I find it frustrating and sad that so many Jews will fail to walk through that door.

This Passover, let us remember that no Jewish person deserves to remain in slavery. Now that the data has been called to my attention, as an American Jewish communal leader I understand how much work we still have to do. Rashi reminds us that even in the worst of circumstances only 20% of Jews ever left Egypt. In America where we are "free," it seems we still have much more work to do.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

When Israel’s high-tech guru turned the tables on me

When Israel’s high-tech guru turned the tables on me

How an AIPAC interview turned into a comedy improv, and a Times of Israel lovefest, in front of 14,000 people

Yossi Vardi and David Horovitz at AIPAC 2014 (photo credit: AIPAC video screenshot)

What you are about to see is unquestionably the funniest interview I’ve ever conducted or, more accurately, been involved in.

And that’s coming from someone who’s spent time with Jack Lemmon (for younger readers: peerless and brilliantly witty “Some Like it Hot” actor, who was starring in a play in Israel many years ago) and with Yuval HaMevulbal (for older readers: manic, gravel-voiced Israeli kids’ comedian).

At AIPAC’s annual conference in Washington this week, I was invited to publicly interview a series of prominent Israelis, including several politicians and nonpareil photographer David Rubinger. Some of the interviews took place in sessions attended by “just” a couple of thousand participants; others in the vast main hall, where all 14,000 AIPAC attendees gathered.

The last of these interviews, before the full AIPAC crowd on Monday night, was with Yossi Vardi, the guru of Israeli high-tech.

Yossi Vardi at AIPAC 2014 (photo credit: AIPAC video screenshot)

We’d chatted informally and briefly through a few questions beforehand, for what was intended to be a relatively short conversation, but the running order and timing of the carefully scheduled session was changing all the time. And once we got out on stage, the numbers on an electronic clock that only we could see, telling us how long we had left to talk, kept defying the natural order of things by going up instead of down.

David Horovitz at AIPAC 2014 (photo credit: AIPAC video screenshot)

So we kept talking, with me, the supposed host, torn between terror at what might happen if we ran out of things to discuss and fascination at what Yossi was saying. Increasingly, as you’ll see, I stuck to feeding Yossi lines for what became a (seated) stand-up comedy performance by a very smart, articulate, 
self-deprecating and likable man.

While I’d been watching the clock, however, I didn’t realize that Yossi had been too. So this gets really surreal 24 minutes in, when he turned the tables and started asking me questions. That’s also when it gets seriously lovely for The Times of Israel. Anyway, enjoy.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Oldest Holocaust survivor, Alice Herz-Sommer, dies at 110

Oldest Holocaust survivor, Alice Herz-Sommer, dies at 110

Prague-born pianist who knew Kafka and lived in Israel for 40 years, dies in London.
By Ofer Aderet

Alice Herz-Sommer, now 110 and pictured here on her 107th birthday, 
is the subject of an Oscar-nominated documentary. Photo by Polly Hancock

Alice Herz-Sommer Photo by Family archive

The world’s oldest Holocaust survivor, Alice Herz-Sommer, died Sunday at the age 110 in London. 
Herz-Sommer, a pianist, born in Prague, was the subject of a documentary “The Lady in Number 6: 
Music Saved My Life”, nominated for an Oscar this year.

“Young people take everything for granted, whereas we, the elderly, understand nature, “ Herz-Sommer told Haaretz in an interview at age 106. “What I have learned, at my advanced age, is to be grateful that we have a nice life. There is electricity, cars, telegraph, telephone, Internet. We also have hot water all day long. We live like kings. I even got used to the bad weather in London,” she said.

Besides her twin sister, Mariana, she had another sister and two brothers. She discovered a love for music at the age of 3, and it has remained with her to this day. Her family home in Prague was also a cultural salon where writers, scientists, musicians and actors congregated, among them Franz Kafka, who she remembers well. He was the best friend of the journalist, author and philosopher Felix Weltsch, who married her sister Irma.

“Kafka was a slightly strange man,” Sommer recalled. “He used to come to our house, sit and talk with my mother, mainly about his writing. He did not talk a lot, but rather loved quiet and nature. We frequently went on trips together. I remember that Kafka took us to a very nice place outside Prague. We sat on a bench and he told us stories. I remember the atmosphere and his unusual stories. He was an excellent writer, with a lovely style, the kind that you read effortlessly,” she says, and then grows silent. “And now, hundreds of people all over the world research and write doctorates about him.”

When World War I broke out, she was 11. Five years later she enrolled in the German music academy in Prague, where she was the youngest pupil. Within a short time she became one of the city’s most famous pianists, and in the early 1930s was also known throughout Europe. Max Brod, the man who published Kafka’s works, recognized Sommer’s talent and reviewed several of her performances for a newspaper.

In 1931 she married Leopold Sommer, also a musician. Six years later their only son, Rafael, was born. In 1939 the Nazis invaded Czechoslovakia.

This was a very difficult time for Sommer, who had stayed behind. The Nazis forbade Jews to perform in public, and so she stopped holding concerts and participating in music competitions. At first she was still able to make a living by giving piano lessons, but when the Nazis forbade Jews to teach non-Jews, she lost most of her pupils.

“Everything was forbidden. We couldn’t buy groceries, take the tram, or go to the park,” she said.

But the hardest times of all still lay ahead. In 1942 the Germans arrested her sick mother, Sophie, who was 72 at the time, and subsequently murdered her.

“That was a catastrophe,” Sommer said. The bond between a mother and her child is something special. I loved her so much. But an inner voice told me, ‘From now on you alone can help yourself. Not your husband, not the doctor, not the child.’

And at that moment I knew I had to play Frederic Chopin’s 24 etudes, which are the greatest challenge for any pianist. Like Goethe’s ‘Faust’ or Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet.’ I ran home and from that moment on I practiced for hours and hours. Until they forced us out.”

In 1943, Sommer was sent to the Terezin-Theresienstadt concentration camp, along with her husband and their son, who was then 6 years old. The Nazis allowed the Jews to maintain a cultural life there, in order to present the false impression to the world that the inmates were receiving proper treatment. Sommer thus performed there together with other musicians.

“We had to play because the Red Cross came three times a year,” she recounts. “The Germans wanted to show its representatives that the situation of the Jews in Theresienstadt was good. Whenever I knew that I had a concert, I was happy. Music is magic. We performed in the council hall before an audience of 150 old, hopeless, sick and hungry people. They lived for the music. It was like food to them. If they hadn’t come [to hear us], they would have died long before. As we would have.”

In September 1944, her husband Leopold was sent to Auschwitz. He survived his imprisonment there, but died of illness at Dachau shortly before the war ended. His departing words to her at Theresienstadt saved her life, says Sommer: “One evening he came and told me that 1,000 men would be sent on a transport the following day - himself included. He made me swear not to volunteer to follow him afterward. And a day after his transport there was another one, which people were told was a transport of ‘wives following in their husbands’ footsteps.’ Many wives volunteered to go, but they never met up with their husbands: They were murdered. If my husband hadn’t warned me, I would have gone at once.”

In May 1945, the Soviet army liberated Theresienstadt. Two years later Sommer and her son immigrated to Palestine, where they were reunited with her family: her twin Mariana, who had meanwhile married Prof. Emil Adler, one of the founders of Hadassah Medical Center (their son, Prof. Chaim Adler, is an Israel Prize laureate for education), and with Irma and her husband Felix (their grandson is actor Eli Gorenstein).

I don’t hate the Germans,” Sommer declared. “[What they did] was a terrible thing, but was Alexander the Great any better? Evil has always existed and always will. It is part of our life.”

In 1962, she added, she attended the Eichmann trial in Jerusalem: “I have to say that I had pity for him. I have pity for the entire German people. They are wonderful people, no worse than others.”

For almost 40 years Sommer lived in Israel, making a living by teaching music at a conservatory in Jerusalem. “That was the best period in my life,” she recalls. “I was happy.”

In 1986, Sommer followed her son, a cellist, and his family to London. She continued playing and teaching; to this day she devotes three hours a day to practicing. She speaks lovingly of her two grandchildren, whose father, Rafael, died of a heart attack in Israel in 2001, at the end of a concert tour. He was 64.

His birth was the happiest day of my life, and his death was the worst thing that happened to me,” she notes, but manages to find a bright spot even here. “I am grateful at least that he did not suffer when he died. And I still watch my son play, on television. He lives on. Sometimes I think it will be possible someday to postpone death through technology.”

When asked in 2006 what the secret of her longevity was, she answered: In a word: optimism. "I look at the good. When you are relaxed, your body is always relaxed. When you are pessimistic, your body behaves in an unnatural way. It is up to us whether we look at the good or the bad. When you are nice to others, they are nice to you. When you give, you receive. My recommendation is not to eat a lot, but also not to go hungry. Fish or chicken and plenty of vegetables.”

The topic Israelis are talking about

The topic Israelis are talking about

By Michael Oren

The beachfront of Tel Aviv, Israel.


Michael Oren: Israel sits in a region bristling with conflict and hostile to its presence
He says one topic stirring attention is number of streets named for women in Tel Aviv
Israelis have always lived with the threat of war, and put it in perspective, he says
Support for a two-state solution is strong in Israel today, he says

Editor's note: Michael Oren is the former Israeli ambassador to the United States. His books include "Power, Faith, and Fantasy: America in the Middle East: 1776 to the Present."

(CNN) -- Like Americans, Israelis begin their day by watching one of several television news shows. These highlight the pressing issues facing the country. But Israel, of course, is not just any country, but a contested and often controversial Jewish state situated in the epicenter of an overwhelmingly Muslim and constantly roiling Middle East.

One would expect, then, to hear commentators on these shows discussing the latest glitch in the peace talks with the Palestinians, the recent terrorist bombing just beyond Israel's southern border with Egypt, or the revelation of more advanced rockets in the arsenal of Hezbollah in Lebanon. But the topic on Israel's leading morning show this week was none of these. The top issue, rather, was the percentage of Tel Aviv streets named for women.

Turns out that women's studies scholars and feminist activists have examined Tel Aviv street names and discovered that the overwhelming majority of them are named for men. While preparing for work, I kept one eye on the television and listened, fascinated, as representatives of women's rights groups argued passionately for gender equality in Tel Aviv street-naming. They made a compelling case and even the show's hosts, who are generally testier than their American counterparts, were convinced. I, too, was impressed, and not only by the discussion, but also by the very fact that it was taking place.

Michael Oren

From Tel Aviv it is roughly a two-hour drive to Mafraq in Jordan, the temporary home of tens of thousands of Syrian refugees, making it the country's second-largest city.

From Tel Aviv, one can drive three hours north — less than the distance between New York and Boston — and arrive in Damascus, in the thick of the Syrian civil war. Or one can drive east from Tel Aviv and in eight hours reach Iraq, where an estimated thousand people are being killed each month by suicide bombers.

A similar excursion of about nine hours concludes in Tahrir Square in time for the latest confrontation between Egyptian protesters and police. A veritable firestorm is engulfing the Middle East, and Israel's Tel Aviv is just a short commute from its flash points.

Yet it was women's rights, not the upheaval encompassing Israel on all sides, which highlighted the morning news. One explanation, certainly, is that Israelis need diversion from the chaos closing in on them, and what could be more distracting than a debate about signposts?

After all, the question of whether to name a street after Golda Meir is certainly easier than asking if Israel can coexist with a nuclear-armed Iran.

Another claim, one that is sometimes voiced by visiting statesmen, is that Israelis have it too good to think about the hard choices they face in the peace process. In fact, support for the two-state solution is vastly higher among Israelis today—more than 60%--than it was during the years of suicide bombing, when it was close to zero. But the real reason for Israel's interest in women's rights at this time is much more fundamental and reveals this country's secret. The reason is fortitude.

Unique among the world's nations, Israel has never known a second of peace. Since its creation in 1948, and for many years before that, the country has been in a relentless state of war. And yet, in spite of that trauma, Israelis simply refuse to live abnormal lives.

Almost militantly, they insist on normality. Call it a bubble, call it a fantasy, but the fact is that it works. In the midst of regional insanity, Israelis have built several of the world's leading universities, a cutting-edge high-tech sector, a universal health care system, and a wildly vibrant democracy.

Yes, there is controversy. There is still no two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians and no end in sight for the Iranian nuclear program. Israeli intelligence recently reported that terrorists are pointing 170,000 rockets and missiles at the Jewish state. But on the streets of Tel Aviv, quite possibly the most threatened city on Earth, the cafes and cultural centers are packed, the food is superb and people are arguing why more of those streets are not named for women.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

In Rawabi, the brand-new Palestinian city, both sides win

Projects like this bring our peoples closer together, says Bashar Al-Masri, the entrepreneur behind an unprecedented construction project that is changing the West Bank landscape

Civil engineer Shadia Jaradat (center) poses with two colleagues in one of Rawabi's model apartments. 
A third of the project's engineers are women (photo credit: Elhanan Miller/Times of Israel)

A model of Rawabi in the project's visitors' center (photo credit: Elhanan Miller/Times of Israel)

Former Sharon adviser and current Rawabi legal fixer Dov Weisglass (left) stands next to Rawabi managing director Bashar Al-Masri (photo credit: Elhanan Miller/Times of Israel)

A construction site in downtown Rawabi (photo credit: Elhanan Miller/Times of Israel)

Palestinian flags encircle Rawabi's visitors' center (photo credit: Elhanan Miller/Times of Israel)

A view from the balcony of a ninth-floor Rawabi apartment (photo credit: Elhanan Miller/Times of Israel)

The living room in Rawabi's model apartment (photo credit: Elhanan Miller/Times of Israel)

RAWABI, West Bank — If all goes according to plan, this summer 600 middle-class families will begin moving into their new apartments in Rawabi, the largest construction project in recorded Palestinian history.

The city slopes down a hill 9 kilometers (5.6 miles) north of Ramallah, directly between Nablus and Jerusalem, and the Israeli coastline is clearly visible from the balconies of its higher apartments. Rawabi, which is Arabic for hills, is entirely funded by private investment — a joint venture of Palestinian company Massar International and Qatari real estate developer Diar — estimated to surpass $1 billion. When phase A is done, it will be home to more than 25,000 residents seeking to escape the disarray of traditional Palestinian cities.

While the prospects of a positive outcome to negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians seem iffy, Rawabi is a towering certainty. But the shiny new city on the hill is not only a model of Palestinian entrepreneurship, it is also a little-known exemplar of Israeli-Palestinian cooperation.

Bashar Al-Masri, managing director of Rawabi, said that though no Israeli companies have been involved in constructing the city, hundreds of Israeli suppliers provide it with raw materials such as cement, sand, electric components and plumbing. He estimated that Israeli businesses benefit from the Rawabi project to the tune of tens of millions of dollars a month. The only political principle Rawabi holds with relation to Israel is no cooperation with businesses in the settlements.

“We buy from whoever gives us the lowest price,” Al-Masri said. “It makes no difference to us if the company is Israeli, Italian or German.”

“We have no choice but to cooperate with Israel and Israelis, but we also want to do so,” he added. “It is a mistake to separate our economy from Israel’s. Projects like this bring our peoples closer together: Israelis come to the site, they are exposed to Palestinians, and they realize there’s no risk in coming here. There is a sense of comfort.”

A view from the kitchen in Rawabi’s model apartment (photo credit: Elhanan Miller/Times of Israel)

These positions have placed Masri — a native of Nablus who spent much of his adult life living in the US, the UK and Saudi Arabia — under fire in his own society. In 2012, the Palestinian National BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) Committee condemned him for normalization with Israel, accusing him of “advancing personal interests and profit making at the expense of Palestinian rights.”

But despite the BDS efforts, the ambitious project is already a huge blessing for the Palestinian economy. Providing 8,000-10,000 jobs in construction, Rawabi is by far the largest private employer in the West Bank. Once complete, the city is expected to employ 3,000-5,000 people in its commercial and cultural center, said Amir Dajani, the project’s deputy managing director.

A model of Rawabi’s mosque in the visitors’ center (photo credit: Elhanan Miller/times of Israel)

Rawabi materialized remarkably fast; its planning began five years ago and construction just two. Situated in area A, Rawabi lies within full Palestinian jurisdiction, where planning and construction bureaucracy are far less obstructive than in neighboring Israel. A local quarry feeds an on-site stone-cutting factory active 24 hours a day, six days a week. The city will eventually emerge complete with three schools, two mosques, a church, a commercial center including restaurants and cinemas, and an amphitheater that can seat 15,000. With no residents yet, Rawabi already has an appointed mayor, Majed Abdul Fattah.

But cooperation with Israeli authorities has not always been easy. The Civil Administration, an IDF organ entrusted with the civilian governing of the West Bank, objected to the widening of a local road leading up to the city and passing through area C, which lies under Israeli administrative control. And Israel’s national water company, Mekorot, has still not guaranteed a water supply to Rawabi.

Dov Weisglass, an Israeli lawyer and former bureau chief for prime minister Ariel Sharon, serves as the legal and regulatory adviser to Rawabi in its dealings with the Israeli government. He said that while some officials in the Civil Administration place hurdles before Rawabi since they are “no big supporters of the vision of Palestinian development,” the Israeli government has gradually changed its attitude toward the new city.

“A few years ago, when Rawabi was just getting started, the Israeli attitude was harsher and more suspicious,” Weisglass said. “However, today I can state with satisfaction that most Israeli authorities willingly cooperate based on a deep understanding that history is being made here before our eyes, both domestically and — to a certain extent — with relation to Israel.”

Weisglass asserted that the new middle-class city will be the antithesis of violence and extremism.

“Does this project not contribute to normalization, to co-existence and to peace?” Weisglass wondered. “We are doing something tremendous for the State of Israel.”
A new Palestinian concept: The mortgage

Rawabi looks remarkably different from the typical Palestinian community. The city, which markets itself as environmentally sustainable, will have no water tanks on its roofs and will enjoy a centralized TV service to replace the ubiquitous satellite dishes of Arab urban centers. All of its infrastructure is being laid underground.

When planning began for the city, Masri met with renowned Israeli-born architect Moshe Safdie, who took him on a tour of nearby Modi’in.

Bashar Masri at Rawabi’s construction site (photo credit: Elhanan Miller/Times of Israel)

“When searching for a model, we first looked at cities next door,” Masri recalled. “Modi’in has similar topography and a similar climate to Rawabi.”

Rawabi’s planners also learned from Modi’in’s mistakes. The planned Israeli city is still widely viewed as a commuter town due a lack of local businesses, a planning mistake Masri said he was determined to avoid with Rawabi. Rawabi’s center is therefore designed as a commercial hotspot built to attract Palestinians from the surrounding areas.

“Today many Israelis come here to learn from Rawabi,” Masri noted. “Just last week we hosted a group from the Israeli association of planners.”

But Rawabi has also challenged the conventional attitude toward home ownership in the West Bank.

Traditionally, Palestinians build their homes on family land, expanding the house as money becomes available. The Rawabi project has introduced a new concept: the long-term mortgage.

Before Rawabi set up a mortgage company granting 25-year loans, the typical Palestinian loan would entail a five- to eight-year payback period. The Palestinian Monetary Authority used to require a down payment of 20 percent of the property’s value, a rate Rawabi successfully lobbied to lower to 15%.

One beneficiary of Rawabi’s financing system is Shadia Jaradat, a 26-year-old civil engineer who has been working for Rawabi for the past four years (a third of Rawabi’s 300 engineers are women). Through an assistance program in which the project helps its employees on their down payment, the Hebron native recently purchased a four-bedroom ninth-floor apartment for $120,000, a price she said was affordable. Eleven percent of home-buyers in Rawabi are single, like Jaradat.

“I plan to move in as soon as they fit the windows,” she told The Times of Israel.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Wheelchairs of Hope, from Israel with love

Wheelchairs of Hope, from Israel with love

Former Keter plastics executives turn their expertise into a humanitarian project to help millions of disabled children in developing countries get to school.

By Abigail Klein Leichman

This wheelchair is meant to look like a cool toy.

Virtually every household in Israel has a few Keter brand plastic chairs, so why not use a similar seat as a base for lightweight, inexpensive but sturdy kid-friendly wheelchairs?

After 30 years as a Keter executive, Pablo Kaplan decided to do just that. With his life partner and former coworker, Chava Rotshtein, in 2009 Kaplan founded the nonprofit Wheelchairs of Hope.

The couple aims to provide colorful, maintenance-free wheelchairs to the estimated five million children in the world who cannot attend school because of mobility handicaps. Central and South America, Africa, Asia and other Middle East countries are target markets.

“Our wheelchair is specifically designed for children, as we wish to empower education through mobility,” Kaplan and Rotshtein explain. “Mobility from early childhood is a gate to education. By giving access to education we create a new generation with better skills, confidence and hope.”

Last September, the Wheelchairs of Hope founders presented their idea at the opening day of the United Nations General Assembly and were selected to serve on UNICEF’s task force for assistive technologies.

“The task force’s goal is to identify novel technologies to recommend to all member countries,” Kaplan tells ISRAEL21c. “Our product was chosen as one of those innovations.”

A chair, not a medical device

The wheelchair, to be available in bright primary colors, weighs 10 kilograms (22 pounds) and is expected to cost about $50. By contrast, the basic metal wheelchairs currently donated to developing nations by various humanitarian organizations cost at least $150 apiece and weigh 15 to 17 kilos.

“The child sitting in it will weigh a maximum of 25 kilos, so the light weight will make a big difference,” predicts Kaplan.

The first prototype, made in June 2013 on a 3D printer, followed more than a year of fine-tuning in consultation with Naomi Geffen, deputy director general of clinical services at ALYN rehabilitation hospital for children in Jerusalem, and the hospital’s biomedical lab director, Ohad Ga’al-Dor.

“We went over every single part of the wheelchair,” Geffen tells ISRAEL21c. “We were very happy with the results. It looks like something fun and not like a medical device you wouldn’t want to use.”

The Ziv-Av Engineering Group, Nekuda Design Management and patent law firm Reinhold Cohn all donated their time and expertise to make the final product a reality.

Ziv-Av CEO Itzik Taff tells ISRAEL21c that the engineering challenge was to design a “cool-looking,” low-cost product robust enough for harsh conditions such as bumpy dirt roads, yet lightweight enough for a five- to eight-year-old to maneuver easily.

“We also wanted the ability to add on devices for kids with special needs, like to stabilize the neck,” says Taff. “So we had to try to get the maximum out of what plastic can do. We used the minimum amount of material to achieve maximum strength.”

Beit Issie Shapiro, a service and advocacy organization for Israelis with disabilities, also endorsed the project. “We are very impressed with the Wheelchair of Hope, its simplicity, durability and low cost, and we are proud to be a beta site for a project which will give children new opportunities to be independent in their communities,” says Executive Director Jean Judes.

Meanwhile, in the field of adult wheelchairs, Israeli entrepreneur Nimrod Elmish and automation expert Izhar Gafni of I.G. Cardboard Technologies are working toward commercializing a lightweight, maintenance-free product made of less than $10 worth of durable recycled cardboard, plastic bottles and recycled tires.

Pablo Kaplan hopes to make millions of the chairs.

For the sake of doing good

Encouraged by the positive feedback, Kaplan and Rotshtein are seeking seed money to build manufacturing molds and basic infrastructure. Wheelchairs of Hope has the active support of the World Health Organization, and aid agencies including the International Red Cross are interested in helping to get the chairs where they are needed.

“We do a lot of work with children from Israel and abroad, and this definitely will be a low-cost solution for some of the populations we see,” says ALYN’s Geffen. “This chair is accessible to everyone and is made of durable plastic, which is important in third-world countries.”

Kaplan says he got very emotional watching the enthusiasm of a young ALYN patient who tried out the prototype bright green model and didn’t want to get out of it. He and Rotshtein hope to repeat this moving scenario many times over.

“Based on our ability to reach the minimum level of investment, we plan to start a pilot phase involving 2,500 children in four to five different countries by the end of 2014,” says Rotshtein.

The Kfar Saba residents are often asked if they came to this project out of personal experience.

“Chava and I have no relatives with disabilities,” Kaplan says. “Wheelchairs of Hope is just for the sake of doing something good using our knowledge of the plastics industry.”

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The B.D.S. Threat

The B.D.S. Threat
FEB. 10, 2014

Roger Cohen

LONDON — Secretary of State John Kerry caused outrage in Israel recently when he declared:
“For Israel there’s an increasing delegitimization campaign that has been building up. People are very sensitive to it. There is talk of boycotts and other kinds of things. Today’s status quo absolutely, to a certainty, I promise you 100 percent, cannot be maintained. It’s not sustainable. It’s illusionary.”

Members of the Israeli government were indignant. Israel, they declared, will not negotiate under pressure. Advice givers, stay away! But Kerry was only repeating what Israel’s own finance minister, Yair Lapid, had already said: The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (B.D.S.) movement is beginning to bite.

I am a strong supporter of a two-state peace. The messianic idea of Greater Israel, occupying all the land between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River, must wither. Jews, having suffered for most of their history as a minority, cannot, as a majority now in their state, keep their boots on the heads of the Palestinians in the occupied West Bank any longer.

Palestinians must accept the permanence of the state of Israel within the 1967 lines with equitable land swaps. Competitive victimhood should cede to collaborative viability for the nation states of the Jewish and Palestinian peoples. Narratives and revealed truth do not a future make. They perpetuate the imprisoning past.

So, in theory, B.D.S. might be a positive factor. When the largest Dutch pension fund and the largest Danish bank withdraw investments from, or cease business with, Israeli banks because of their operations in the settlements, they send a powerful signal to Israel to get out of the West Bank.

Yet these developments make me uneasy for a simple reason: I do not trust the B.D.S. movement. Its stated aim is to end the occupation, secure “full equality” for Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel, and fight for the right of return of all Palestinian refugees. The first objective is essential to Israel’s future. The second is laudable. The third, combined with the second, equals the end of Israel as a Jewish state. This is the hidden agenda of B.D.S., its unacceptable subterfuge: beguile, disguise and suffocate.

The anti-Apartheid movement in South Africa contained no such ambiguity. As Diana Shaw Clark, an activist on behalf of a two-state solution, wrote to me in an email, “People affiliated with divestment in South Africa had no agenda other than the liberation and enfranchisement of an oppressed majority.”

This is not the case in Israel, where the triple objective of B.D.S. would, in Clark’s words, “doom Israel as a national home for the Jews.” Mellifluous talk of democracy and rights and justice masks the B.D.S. objective that is nothing other than the end of the Jewish state for which the United Nations gave an unambiguous mandate in 1947. The movement’s anti-Zionism can easily be a cover for anti-Semitism.

It would be gratifying if Israelis and Palestinians could learn overnight to live together as equal citizens in some United States of the Holy Land between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River, a binational and democratic secular state that resolves their differences. But it is an illusion to think this could ever happen, the one-state pipe dream. The fault lines are too deep. A single state cannot mark its Day of Independence and Day of Catastrophe on the same date.
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Mary Kay Klassen 20 hours ago

The truth is that the United States in failing to allow unlimited refugees of Jewish descent to emigrate to the United States after World...
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The two state solution is the reasonable alternative but it relies upon one condition to work, trust between the Israelis and the...
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I am sad that my main reaction to reading a thoughtful piece such as this one is to be glad that I am neither Israeli nor Palestinian.
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One state, however conceived, equals the end of Israel as a Jewish state, the core of the Zionist idea. Jews must not allow this to happen. Trust your neighbor? Been there, tried that.

The so-called right of return of the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians driven out in the 1948 war (whose descendants now number in the millions) cannot be exercised, any more than the Jews of Baghdad and Cairo have deeds to return home. There can, and should be, agreed compensation for the dispossessed, but there cannot be a reversal of history. The “right” is in fact a claim.

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A Jewish national home is needed. History demonstrated that. It must now be reinvented. For that, the corrosive occupation has to end and with it the settlement industry.

B.D.S. is a wake-up call. I oppose it because I do not trust it. That does not mean, as Lapid intimated, that Israel can ignore its message.

Israel can only be a state of laws again when the lawless enterprise beyond the Green Line ends. West of that line, Israel is a democracy affording greater minority rights than other regional states (Omar Barghouti, a B.D.S. leader, has a master’s degree from Tel Aviv University). But that is not enough. All citizens should enjoy equality in the Jews’ national home, a state where civil marriage becomes possible, state and synagogue are divorced, and Israelis are permitted to identify themselves as Israelis if they so wish, rather than as Jews or Arabs or Druze — that is as undifferentiated citizens

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

At SodaStream, Palestinians hope their bubble won’t burst

At SodaStream, Palestinians hope their bubble won’t burst
A manual worker at the settlement-based factory that sparked the Scarlett Johansson controversy, 
Nahida Fares of Ramallah earns triple the pay of her husband, an officer in the PA


Sodastream CEO Daniel Birnbaum stands next to Palestinian and Jewish employees, February 2, 2014 [photo credit: Elhanan Miller/TOI]

The SodaStream plant in Mishor Adumim, a former IDF munitions factory, overlooks the Judean Hills (photo credit: Elhanan Miller/TOI)

Soda bottles are assembled at the SodaStream factory in Mishor Adumim [photo credit: Elhanan Miller/TOI]

Palestinian employees package bottles at the SodaStream factory, February 2, 2014 
(photo credit: Nati Shohat/Flash90)

A Palestinian woman works at SodaStream's plant in Mishor Adumim, February 2, 2014 
(photo credit: Nati Shohat/Flash90)<>

MISHOR ADUMIM, West Bank — The SodaStream factory, situated just off the highway leading down from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea, was abuzz on Sunday with journalists from across the globe trying to get a glimpse of the action.

The tour of the carbonated beverage-maker plant was organized especially for curious foreign correspondents on the eve of the Super Bowl, which featured an ad starring its glamorous spokeswoman Scarlett Johansson. The factory, SodaStream’s charismatic US-born CEO Daniel Birnbaum proudly declared, used to produce munitions for the Israeli army. It was bought in 1996 by the fizzy drink start-up, seeking to better the world by doing away with polluting plastic bottles.

A statue at the entrance to the plant, Birnbaum pointed out, encapsulated the company spirit with the immortal words of the prophet Isaiah: “And they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”

SodaStream’s business has grown exponentially since Birnbaum was hired by the private equity firm that bought the company in 2007. Under the previous management, SodaStream manufactured 20,000-30,000 counter-top soda machines a month. Now it produces that number every day.

A Palestinian worker speaks with his Jewish employee at the SodaStream factory in the Mishor Adumim industrial park, February 2, 2014 (Photo credit: Nati Shohat/Flash90)

As SodaStream’s global market expanded, so did its need for manual laborers. Today, the Mishor Adumim plant — the first of eight Israeli locations and 22 worldwide — employs 1,300 workers; 950 Arabs (450 Israeli and 500 Palestinian) and 350 Israeli Jews. Salaries and work benefits — management asserts and workers confirm — are equal for all workers in comparable jobs, regardless of ethnicity or citizenship. The factory secures Israeli work permits for its Palestinian employees as well as rides from their home and back, SodaStream’s Chief Operating Officer Yossi Azarzar told The Times of Israel.

Proponents of the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanction) campaign posit that any Israeli business located beyond the 1949 armistice frontier known as the Green Line is by definition exploitative, in addition to being illegal under international law. They castigated Johannson for representing the firm; she rejected the onslaught — declaring that “SodaStream is a company that is not only committed to the environment but to building a bridge to peace between Israel and Palestine” — and resigned as an ambassador for British-based charity Oxfam when they critiqued her role.

A statue at the entrance to the SodaStream factory conveys the pacifist vision of the prophet Isaiah 
(photo credit: Elhanan Miller/TOI)

Birnbaum, the CEO, was clearly cognizant of the dispute. He spoke of Jewish-Arab coexistence as he stood next to a veiled young Arab woman working on the assembly line across from an older woman with a black head covering who immigrated to Israel from the former Soviet Union in 1993.

Zooming in on Birnbaum and the two women, the camera crews and microphone-holding reporters overlooked another young Palestinian woman standing nearby, fitting plastic valves into a large metal tray. Nahida Fares, 28, graduated Nablus’s A-Najjah University in primary school education. She began working for Israeli companies two years ago, when she could find no work in her field in Ramallah, where she lives with her husband and infant child.

“There are no job opportunities in the West Bank,” Fares told The Times of Israel. “Even the jobs that do exist pay no more than NIS 1,500-2,000 ($430-570) a month.” Fares now earns triple those sums.
Many educated women like Fares were forced to seek work outside the home following the outbreak of the Second Intifada in 2000 to support the household as the Palestinian economy collapsed, she explained.

Palestinians and Israelis work at the SodaStream factory in the Mishor Adumim industrial park, February 2, 2014. (Photo credit: Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Fares’s husband, a first lieutenant in the Palestinians’ prestigious Preventive Security Force, earns NIS 2,000 ($570) per month after 10 years of service. Given the relatively low levels of political violence in recent years, the Israeli Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) has increased the number of work permits granted to Palestinians by some 37% between 2010 and 2012. Still, Palestinian men must be above the age 24 and married with a child to be eligible for work permits within Israel. Israeli workers’ unions do not protect Palestinians from exploitation by employers, critics note.

To work in a settlement, however, a Palestinian man need only be older than 18 and have no negative security record. To work in Israel, Palestinians must apply to the Israeli Population and Immigration Authority; to work in an Israeli settlement in the West Bank (like the Mishor Adumim industrial zone) they must apply to the Civil Administration, the branch of COGAT entrusted with Palestinian civilian matters. A COGAT spokesman told The Times of Israel in a written response that 24,000 permits are given to Palestinians wishing to work in the settlements on average every month. More than double that number (49,250) were allowed to work in Israel in January, mostly in the construction industry.

Palestinian employees at work on the SodaStream assembly line, February 2, 2014 
(photo credit: Elhanan Miller/Times of Israel)

Fares, for instance, first began working at a laundromat in the Mishor Adumim industrial zone (where SodaStream is located), but left because of management mistreatment. At SodaStream she is much happier, working a 12-hour shift from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and receiving a 15-30 minute break for every two hours of work. Food in the cafeteria is great, she said, as she showed me the valve that she boasted is “the most important component of the soda dispenser.”

Another employee, Sa’ida, 28, began studying Hebrew in her hometown of Jericho but only started using it at the plant, where she first came in contact with Israeli Jews. Jews and Arabs mix freely here, she noted; “they even change clothes together,” she said, and blushed.

Scarlett Johansson with Sodastream’s Daniel Birnbaum (photo credit: Mike Coppola/Getty Images for SodaStream/via JTA)

While declining to discuss the political ramifications of her sensitive employment at Mishor Adumim (working in settlements is illegal under Palestinian law), Sa’ida said she and her colleagues were wondering why SodaStream had been singled out by the media from all the other companies in the industrial zone.

“It’s because of Scarlett Johansson,” she was told.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Please misunderstand me

Please misunderstand me

Tal Becker January 22, 2014

Dr. Tal Becker is a research fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute and a member
of the Hartman Institute's iEngage Project.

“Just because I don’t care, doesn’t mean I don’t understand.” – Homer Simpson

Pick a debate within Israeli society, or between Israel and its external critics, and you invariably see the same pattern. Whether on settlements, or Iran, or asylum seekers, or Women of the Wall, people so often seem to be broadcasting on different wavelengths. We may appear to be arguing with each other, but we feel as if we argue across each other. We leave these debates frustrated that we have not been heard, disheartened that we are not understood.

Conventional psychological wisdom tells us of the profound human need to have our feelings and perspectives validated and understood, even if they are not endorsed. Modern psychology places the therapist in the position of “legitimizer” — hearing our voice, affirming our presence. In a world where we can so often feel invisible, the healing power of being understood, of being seen, is considered a critical remedy. A healthy debate, under this approach, is a debate where we genuinely hear the person we disagree with, genuinely engage them; not just wait for them to finish talking so that we can make our point.

But this standard assessment misses something fundamental about the human condition. Alongside the need to be understood is the important function played by being able to claim that we are misunderstood. If we can say that the person we argue against doesn’t “get it,” the problem is not with our position but with their comprehension. We insulate ourselves from scrutiny, blaming the audience rather than the argument.

The capacity to claim that we are misunderstood operates as a kind of fail-safe. Its hidden assumption is that if the listeners understand me, they will agree; if they don’t agree, they must not understand. In so doing, this claim can embody both arrogance and vulnerability simultaneously: it not only assumes the fault is with the unsympathetic audience, but it also fears exposing the argument to the possibility that the audience got your point, but just didn’t agree with it.

This phenomenon was embedded in the idea of hasbara, which implied that all that Israel needed was to explain itself better, so that people would embrace the justice of our cause. The source of the criticism, under this view, was that people had failed to sit down and listen to Israeli representatives speak to them (or at them) for long enough. Exposed to the right arguments, agreement was inevitable.

Israel’s understanding of hasbara has become much more sophisticated since then, and even the term has (rightly) fallen out of favor. But the tendency to blame the listener in our debates has not lost its appeal. One hears the debate about settlements, for example, and the regular refrain remains that the other side just doesn’t understand.

Those who question the wisdom of the settlement enterprise are said to fail to grasp the profound and legitimate connection of the Jewish people to the land, and the dangers of conceding territory under Israeli control. Those who champion the settlements, it is claimed, are oblivious to the costs of this endeavor and to the moral claim of Palestinians to self-determination. Perhaps more attention should be given to a third possible alternative: that those we disagree with have heard our position, and perhaps have some sympathy for it, but have decided that on balance the weight of argument is against us.

There is no doubt much about Israel that its harshest critics fail to appreciate. Some, driven by hatred or deliberate blindness, will likely refuse to listen to anything which undermines their agenda. Similarly, in many of our internal debates, there is usually some measure of truth to the feeling that some across the divide are incapable of grasping the essence of your case. But among those that may potentially be persuaded, the rush to claim that we are misunderstood is too easy, too self-righteous a posture.

More dangerously than that, it is ineffective. Those with whom we are engaged in honest debate will rarely be moved by the mere claim that they have failed to understand us. They are more likely to be influenced by genuinely demonstrating that we have sought to understand them. To effectively and respectfully make our case, we often need to show that we are capable of entering the mindset and worldview of our interlocutors, seeing what they see through the prism of their values and their experience. We need to disarm them of the capacity to claim that they are misunderstood, and hold back on the impulse to make that claim ourselves.

We do no disservice to our positions by recognizing the doubts and costs that may be associated with them. Few of the issues surrounding Israel allow for undiluted conviction or the easy explanation that those on the other side of the debate suffer merely from ignorance or shortsightedness. It is usually more complex than that. Acknowledging such complexity is a measure of integrity, not of weakness. And, at least amongst reasonable people, we are most likely to get others to listen, if not agree, if we demonstrate the capacity to listen ourselves.