A Taste of Israel

A Taste of Israel

© David Burton 2012

JNF Day 2012

     To get a real feel the very unique land of Israel, one must visit it and meet its people. The contrasts are great and there are many apparent differences, but there is also a most definite unity, especially when there is a threat to the nation. The following are excerpts taken from the English-language Jerusalem Post of 3 February 2012. Maybe it will provide a taste of Israel. To begin to get the whole flavor, go and visit this holy land.

Economic Development: Israel is used to being on the defensive at the United nations, where it is outnumbered by its foes, but on Thursday its delegation at the UN headquarters in New York scored a rare victory.
     For the first time, Israel took a seat on the executive board of the United Nations Development Program, a top UN agency with a budget of about a billion dollars, according to the Israeli mission in New York.
     “This is a milestone in Israel’s integration to the global agenda of the UN,” Israel’s Deputy Permanent Representative Haim Waxman said. “Furthermore, this is the expression of a journey that we have taken from being a developing nation born in adversity to becoming a developed nation, a member of the OECD and now a full member of the UNDP as a representative of the West.”

Iran: The west believes the Islamic republic {of Iran} is pursuing nuclear weapons, and last week the European union joined the United States and Britain in implementing biting sanctions against its oil trade. Given Tehran’s record of denying or belittling the Holocaust, the classic anti-Semitic motifs of its rhetoric and incessant threats to eliminate the Jewish state, it was altogether expected that no topic would pack the conference halls {of the Herzliya Conference} more than the Iran-Israel war of words.

     {Harold Rhode, formerly an analyst in the office on the US secretary of defense said,} “The outside world talks, talks, talks, talks about Iran – but enough talking.” … “You don’t want to show your cards to the Iranians; you want to use your cards to win.” … Any successor regime, he said would be preferable to the current theocracy.

     According to Rhode, Iran’s current leaders “believe that if they provoke a conflagration, the hidden imam, the mahdi, will return to save them. So Mutually Assured Destruction – MAD – that we used effectively with the Soviets is an incentive and an inducement, not a deterrent.”
     Characteristically politically incorrect, he views the Iranian threat as too consequential for niceties. Contextual misunderstanding, he said is leading the West to profoundly misunderstand the culture – the mindsets, religious sensibilities and the ways of life – of Iran and the wider Islamic world.
     “The Iranians think the way they do. Whatever we do, we have to use their context in which to understand it – they don’t think like the Chinese or like Americans,” he said. “It is dangerous when you apply your mentality to try to understand another culture.”
     In the Middle East, he said, “until you win, you show your enemies no mercy. But when you have them at your mercy, you must be magnanimous. There’s unfortunately no such thing as a win-win situation in the Middle East. You talk after you’ve won: if you do so beforehand, it is seen as weakness.”

     “We talk about shalom and salaam and figure they mean the same thing. … But in Arabic, ‘salaam’ is generally viewed to mean the joy one gets from submitting to Allah’s will through Islam. That’s not what peace is, to the best of my knowledge.”

Political Correctness: At first glance, a recent Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court decision appeared reasonable enough. Police officers should be allowed the discretion to prohibit certain public acts because they could lead to a disruption of public order and violence. Sometimes … an individual’s right to expression must be subordinated to public order and security. … {The judge} ruled that police can, when they see fit, forbid Jewish worshipers from blowing the shofar because doing so might incense Muslims and lead to violence.

     On the second day of Rosh Hashana, which fell in 2006 during Ramadan, police ordered … a young yeshiva student to stop blowing shofar {near the “small wall” in the Muslim Quarter of old Jerusalem}. {The yeshiva student}, who was in the middle of prayers, did not respond and continued to blow. Police then dragged him away from the area.

     The tendency to cave in to the bullying techniques of religious radicals has its roots in the Israeli judiciary.
     In May 2003, the High Court of Justice, in a 5-4 decision, ruled that Women of the Wall could not pray out loud at the Western Wall. The court based its argument on the premise that the women’s prayer endangered public order.

     In both cases, the court decisions are problematic. First, they encourage extremism. If every time Muslims or {the Jewish ultra-orthodox} haredim use violence to get what they want – namely restrictions on the religious freedoms of their foes – they will be encouraged to stage additional riots to exact more gains. The irrationality of some Muslims, haredim and other religious fanatics should not be accommodated and rewarded. Police and the courts should make it clear that blowing a shofar or praying out loud are not forms of incitement, but simple acts of faith that must be tolerated.

     … The clear message that the Israeli law enforcement authorities should send out is that violence of any kind is an illegitimate form of protest. Instead, a different message altogether is being relayed.
     Bullies are being accommodated because they resort to violence while those who don’t have seen their religious freedom infringed. The inevitable conclusion to be drawn is that irrational behavior and intimidation pay.

Discrimination: One of {the} highest priorities should be the improvement of the Arab population’s standard of living and a campaign for an end to ethnic and religious discrimination in the employment sector, especially regarding the Israeli Arab’s right to a fair share of the government jobs at all levels.

Israel and the United States: Today, the bonds between America and Israel are stronger than ever, yet they have never been more threatened.

     Israel and the United States … share a common enemy in radical Islam, an ideology whose stated purpose is the destruction of Israel, and the subjugation of the United States and America’s way of life. Our common enemy knows no national borders. It fights without uniforms, and readily targets our civilian populations.

     Israel continues to be threatened by the onslaught of secular Muslim leaders appearing in volatile, unstable nearby nations. The “Arab Spring” has resulted in Islamists led by the Muslim Brotherhood obtaining a 75 percent majority control in Egypt, with a stated goal of overturning the 1979 Camp David Accords.

     Iran has already shown a steady march to nuclear armament, while threatening to close the Straights of Hormuz if a planned European Union oil embargo disrupts its export.
     Now, more than ever, America must demonstrate unwavering support of Israel. Instead, though this {Obama} administration shows a weakening commitment to our staunchest ally in the Middle East. Recently, the US cancelled the largest-ever joint military exercise with Israel.
     This decision was made just two days before we learned US President Barack Obama sent a secret communiqué to Iran’s supreme leader requesting talks. Apparently, the president did not wish to “offend” Iran.

     … radical Islam understands and respects only one thing: strength. … While we {the U.S.} can, and should, assist with negotiations, we must not adopt a posture of “evenhandedness” between our ally and other parties. … In the Middle East, the sands of power are shifting under a harsh wind of change, with dangerous and frightening possibilities.

Palestinian Incitement: Incitement against the Jewish people is not new. … The NGO Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) highlighted on its website that this week, official PA TV reported from a Fatah celebration in a refugee camp in Lebanon. One part of Fatah’s message was that their children are created so that their blood will be “fertilizer” to saturate the land.
     Apparently, dying for the sake of “Palestine” as an ideal, even for Palestinian children and youth, remains part of Palestinian discourse.
     So much for the Palestinian Authority being “moderate.”

     Appearing in Ramallah on the Palestinian Authority’s Shaheed (martyr) Day, Knesset {Israeli Parliament} member Ahmed Tibi proclaimed that “nobody is more admirable than the shaheed … the ultimate source of pride … the symbol of the homeland … who blazes the trail for us and paves the path to liberty with his blood.”

     … in everyday Arabic, suicide bombers and perpetrators of any bloodcurdling atrocity in Allah’s name are popularly dubbed shaheeds. The Palestinian Authority’s media, schools and mosques – all under professed moderate Mahmoud Abbas’s control – glorify shaheeds as models of emulation for all, from pint-sized preschoolers onward.

     Tibi isn’t alone. Jerusalem-based Muhammad Hussein, the PA’s mufti (appointed by no other than the aforementioned Abbas, a.k.a. Abu Mazen) declared at Abbas’s own Fatah faction’s 47th anniversary rally in Jerusalem that religious salvation is impossible without first eliminating the Jews. … The logical conclusion is that killing Jews is a hallowed religious commandment.

Religion: Jews in Israel are becoming more religious, but the tradition they are embracing is increasingly open and flexible – contrary to the impression created by the fanatic fringe.

     While 22 percent of us {Israeli Jews} define ourselves as haredi or Orthodox, somehow only 14% say they adhere meticulously to tradition. At the other end of the spectrum, no less surprisingly, a full 35% of those who say they are anti-religious still observe tradition to at least some extent, as do a full 62% of those who proclaim themselves secular! Two-thirds of us light Shabbat candles, the same number who watch TV or listen to the radio and believe that cinemas and restaurants should remain open throughout the week. And though 80% believe it is important or very important to be married by a rabbi, that doesn’t prevent half of us from believing that civil marriages should be an option for those who don’t. Finally, while 80% believe in God, at least 61% understand it is legitimate to welcome Her/Him into our lives in different ways, stating that Reform and Conservative Judaism should be given equal status in Israel to that of the Orthodox.

Ecology: {Palestine under Arab/Muslim rule} “Palestine sits in sackcloth and ashes… desolate and unlovely.” - Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad (1869)

     “But where were the inhabitants? This fertile [coastal] plain, which might support an immense population is almost a solitude… Day by day we were to learn afresh the lesson now forced upon us, that the denunciations of ancient prophecy have been fulfilled to the very letter – ‘the land is left void and desolate and without inhabitants.” – The Reverend Samuel Manning, Those Holy Fields (London, 1874)

     {Palestine since the return of the Jews} {Today a traveler finds} field after cultivated field, town after town topped with red terracotta roofs, and uncounted hills dense with the green of shrub and tree … {and the traveler finds himself surrounded} on all sides in a wash of color unseen and unheard-of in this land for the better part of two millennia.
     Israel was the only country on the planet … to enter the 21st century with a net gain in forest growth {since the start of the 20th century}. As activists the world over struggle to save the Amazon, turn back the tide of desertification in Africa and chain themselves to trees in the US, Israel is steadily planting acre after acre of trees.

     Cities such as Beersheba, known as the “capital” of the Negev desert, are surrounded by green belts and hills that once sat desolate and bare.

     While the dry {Arava} desert area blooms with vegetation today, American experts in the 1950’s deemed the area uninhabitable ... {Today} sweet orange peppers grow en masse, lush flowers for European markets blossom in rows, and bright orange-and-white-striped clownfish swim circles inside large round saltwater tubs.


  20 march 2012 {Article 119; Israel_109}    
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