An open letter of apology to the media:

My letter to the world media:

This is currently featured in The Times of Israel:

http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/my-letter-of-apology-to-the-world-media/

A letter of apology.

Dear Editor

Please allow me to apologise on behalf of all the citizens of the State of Israel. I humbly apologise to you and your readers and to the world for our leaders defending our right to live. Here in Israel, we consider living a basic human right.
The indignation of journalists, commentators and your readership has prompted them to spew forth some of the most vile invective we have seen other than that of Der Sturmer circa 1940’s and the letters and op-eds posted in your publication have educated me in a new level of hatred.
I apologise that it is left up to our army to make sure that the citizens of Gaza are evacuated from dangerous zones safely through pamphlets, text messages and roof knocking. I guess my text message and pamphlet were lost due to Hamas being on strike. Literally.
I apologise that we have not racked up those large numbers of Israeli casualties you were hoping for. I apologise for a government who values my life and those of my fellow citizens so much they do anything in their power to protect it. Whatever internal squabbles we may have or policies we agree or don’t agree on, life is valuable. I am sorry for our defense forces, made up of representatives of all sectors of Israeli society, who both prepare us and defend us with their lives. I am sorry for our Iron Dome batteries that intercept the rockets aiming for our death and destruction. For those of you calling Israel an Apartheid state, Iron Dome makes no distinction between Jew, Christian or Arab. We are all targets.
I apologise that our government has made sure that we are equipped with bomb shelters and know how much time we need to take cover. I am sorry that Hamas prefer to build weapons smuggling tunnels instead of protecting their citizens but the “death industry” (their words not mine – google it yourself) has proven more lucrative than saving lives.
Most of all, I am sorry that this upsets you so much that in countries across the world you choose to take out your frustration on members of the Jewish community, attacking people physically, in the media and in barely disguised hateful press releases.
Please accept my humble apologies for any inconvenience we may have caused you.

Rolene Marks
Modiin
Israel

Rain of Terror

By the time you finish reading this blog post, sirens would have sent Israeli citizens running for safety into their bomb shelters. Hamas terrorists have been firing hundreds of rockets into Israel and every civilian is a target. In the 15 seconds it took you to read these few sentences, citizens of our southern communities had to run for cover. Imagine living your life in 15 second increments. Think about what you can do in 15 seconds….

It has probably taken you a minute or so to read the whole paragraph. This is how much time those of us in Modiin, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and surrounds have to get into our shelter. Sobering isn’t it? This is a conflict we do not want, invited on us by Hamas terrorists who are hell bent on the destruction of Israel.

Yesterday Israel launched its military campaign to end Hamas rain of terror on Israel. Dubbed “Operation Protective Edge” the IDF are targeting Hamas’ terror infrastructure which is largely sponsored by Iran.

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Hamas have no compunction of hiding their missiles and rockets amongst their civilian population. Using Mosques, schools and apartments as launching pads, these cowardly terrorists hide behind their civilians who unwillingly become human shields.

Enough is enough. Hamas don’t only hold Israelis hostage with incessant rocket fire but also children in the Gaza Strip who are caught in the line of fire. The IDF tries to minimize as many casualties as possible by releasing leaflets and phoning residents, warning of impending attacks. Guess my leaflet from Hamas must have gotten lost in the mail…?

Many, especially those in the international press moan that Israel uses “disproportionate response” or “collective punishment”. Um, excuse me? What would be proportionate response and isn’t firing rockets that cover the whole of Israel “collective punishment”? Many deride Israel’s lack of casualties. This is not a zero sum game and here are some of the fundamental differences:

• Hamas use their civilian population as human shields. If you don’t believe me, listen to Hamas leader, Ismail Haniya boasting about this:

• Israel builds shelters for her civilians. Hamas build weapon smuggling tunnels. As part of this Operation, IDF soldiers uncovered a tunnel where terrorists were working with explosives for a planned attack against Israel. They were dispatched to the next world . Perhaps instead of castigating Israel for Gaza fatalities, the world should hold Hamas accountable for endangering their civilians?

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• Israel does everything possible to protect and prepare her citizens. Well briefed and prepared by our IDF Home Front Command, Israelis know where to go and what to do and how to help our most vulnerable citizens. In the clip below, children are taught in a song what to do when they hear the Code Red siren.

These are difficult times for Israel as we face yet another conflagration with our neighbours. Israelis are a people who value life above all else, they may fire at us but we are strong, resilient and we will prevail. They may try to break us but will never succeed. They may try to destroy us but we will survive and thrive. We will continue to build, innovate, revolutionize, inspire and help those who need assistance.

Rockets may rain and sirens might wail but we remain strong.
We are Israel and I couldn’t be more proud!

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Our Shattered Hearts

This blog post is currently featured in Israel Forever:

http://israelforever.org/interact/blog/our_shattered_hearts/

Where do I even begin to find the words to describe what we in Israel are feeling right now? We are in shock. We are angry. We are grief stricken. Our collective heart is broken. We are demanding vengeance.

It has been almost three weeks since Eyal Yifrach 19, Gilad Shaar 16 and Naftali Frankel 16, were kidnapped by Hamas terrorist on their way home from yeshiva. Today, our worst fears were confirmed. Two Hamas terrorists (not militants, fundamentalists or extremists but TERRORISTS) kidnapped these three boys, two who were still minors and shot them to death within minutes of their abduction and hid their bodies under a pile of rocks in an empty field.

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For almost three weeks we have hoped and prayed that these three boys would be returned to the bosom of their families.  How to we even begin to imagine or understand the pain that these families are feeling?  They have been beacons of strength, dignity and unity for all of us and we have taken succour from their example. On many occasions they have spoken of feeling like they are being held in a tight embrace by all of Israel.  Today we embrace you even tighter, we grieve with you, we mourn your loss. Tonight Israel weeps.

For almost three weeks we have been a nation united in solidarity and hope. Today we are united in grief.

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We have come to know Eyal, Gilad and Naftali personally. Over the last three weeks we learnt that Naftali was a good student and taught himself to play guitar. Eyal volunteered with children less fortunate than himself and was committed to advocating for the release of former kidnapped soldier, Gilad Shalit .  Gilad was a youth counselor who loved to bake and spend time with his grandparents.

These three young men had no vengeance in their hearts. These three young men for the last weeks have become our brothers, our family, our sons. These three young men we hoped with all our might would return home safely.

We ask why but we know the answer. The oldest hatred in the world.  The oldest hatred in the world does not know an age limit or a border.  What kind of monster slaughters children like this? Our Jewish children.  In Israel, children belong to all of us and these monsters know that we value our children above all else. These monsters know that to hurt our children rips at our very core. We are our Brother’s Keeper.

Eyal, Gilad, Naftali. You represented the best of us. You united us in hope and now we unite in our grief for you.  We will hold your families in our tight embrace. We pray they are comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem. We will never forget you.

Eyal. Gilad. Naftali. May your memory be a blessing.

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Bring Back our Boys!

This post is currently featured in the SA Jewish Report:

http://www.sajr.co.za/news-and-articles/2014/06/15/massive-idf-hunt-for-3-kidnapped-israeli-teens

Gilad Shaar (16) Naftali Frenkel (16) Eyal Yifrach (19), are just like every other Israeli teenager. They are concerned about school, play sports and have the same issues. Except that Gilad, Naftali and Eyal are not like every other Israeli teen. While most students are trading World Cup soccer cards, thinking about what mischief they can get up to during the long summer break, Eyal, Gilad and Naftali have been kidnapped.  They have been taken by terrorists to an unknown destination.

Once again Israelis feel the icy grip of worry and fear on our hearts as we are all too familiar with this scenario. It brings back painful memories of Nachshon Wachsman and the tragic outcome of his attempted rescue. Across solemn Shabbat tables in Israel this weekend, we kept Eyal, Gilad and Naphtali in our prayers and thoughts. Children are being hugged a little tighter, watched a little closer.

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The IDF and security forces are conducting a massive manhunt.

Hamas and the Palestinian Authority formed a unity government in the hopes of ending internecine fighting. Hamas celebrated this deal by calling for continued “armed resistance and the kidnapping of Israeli civilians.” If anyone guessed for half a second that Israel would EVER have any kind of negotiating partner with this Unity Government, think again. After the arrest of several high ranking Hamas member, it is official. Hamas are responsible for the kidnapping of Eyal, Gilad and Naftali.

This is the same Hamas whose members Israel had to release from prison as part of yet another painful concession for peace. This is the same Hamas who have fired rockets, blew up cafes and buses, killed individuals, kidnapped soldiers and civilians and who have a charter that advocates the destruction of Israel.

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This is the same Hamas who use their civilians as human shields, build tunnels to smuggle in weapons of destruction and who send their children to summer camps to feed them a continuous education of Jew hatred. No doubt their kidnapping will be justified by anti-Zionists who will rationalize that because they lived or studied in disputed territory, they are fair game. It remains to be seen how the international media will cover this event – one major network referred to them as “three men”. Men? Two 16 year old boys, not legal to vote and a 19 year old?

Eyal. Gilad. Naftali. They are our children. Our collective heart aches for them and their families.

Eyal. Gilad. Naftali, please keep them in your thoughts and pray for their safe return.

What you can do:

* Posting these pictures to your/organisations Facebook page with the hashtag #BringBackOurBoys

* Tweet these pictures with the hashtag #BringBackOurBoys

* Share on your instagram accounts.

Please don’t forget to share this with your mailing lists. Stand in solidarity with Israel as we ask #BringBackOurBoys.

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Mandela, De Klerk and the Middle Eastern Omelet.

This post currently appears in the SA Jewish Report:

http://www.sajr.co.za/bloggers/rolene-marks/rolene-marks/2014/06/15/mandela-de-klerk-m-east-omelette

One of the questions I am often asked is where is the Palestinian and Israeli, Mandela and De Klerk. Where is the Middle Eastern equivalent of these two historic peacemakers and Nobel Peace Prize winners who managed to negotiate a positive outcome from South Africa’s dark Apartheid past?

De Klerk, the last President to hold office during the Apartheid years was in Israel two weeks ago to receive an honorary doctorate from the University of Haifa and mentioned in an interview with Israel’s Channel 2 that the country was not an Apartheid State.

De Klerk is quoted as saying ““you don’t have discriminatory laws against them, I mean not letting them swim on certain beaches or anything like that. I think it’s unfair to call Israel an apartheid state. If [Secretary of State John] Kerry did so, I think he made a mistake.”

This statement obviously sticks in the craw of BDS supporters who use the word Apartheid as their weapon of choice to castigate the Jewish state. We know that their intention is to draw comparisons to South Africa thereby painting Israel as a pariah and calling into question her legitimacy as a sovereign state. Under the guise of concern for human rights, BDS supporters make light of the suffering of Apartheid’s victims and pervert the meaning of the word. De Klerk is not the first South African politician to say that Israel is not an Apartheid state. African Christian Democratic Party leader, Rev Kenneth Meshoe has said, “”As a black South African who lived under Apartheid, in my view, Israel cannot be compared to apartheid in South Africa,” Meshoe wrote in the San Francisco Examiner. “Those who make the accusation expose their ignorance of what apartheid really is.”

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There you have it. The perpetrator and the victims have spoken. But what about Mandela, the greatest anti-Apartheid icon of all time? What was his position on Israel? BDS supporters love to exploit the relationship Mandela had with Arafat, failing at the same time to mention his love for Jews and his commitment to the existence of an Israeli state within secure borders. One famous Mandela quote was as follows, “I cannot conceive of Israel withdrawing if Arab states do not recognize Israel within secure borders.”

De Klerk spoke in his speech about the window of opportunity to negotiate two states rapidly closing. Many expect the solution between the Palestinians and Israel to mirror that of South Africa. There are fundamental differences – first of all, South Africans wanted to do away with the odious Apartheid system and live together as a unified nation. Palestinians and Israelis each have their own national aspirations. We seek an amicable divorce from each other. But for Israel, speaking to the new Palestinian Unity government that includes Hamas who have sworn to the destruction of Israel, how is this possible?

De Klerk compared the ending of Apartheid to the creation of an “economic omelet” where you could never separate white and yellow again.  How do you make an omelet when one egg is rotten? A proposed Middle Eastern omelet won’t taste very nice when one of the ingredients is bitter.

The comparisons to the South African experience are nothing unusual or new. Many think that the South African experience is the magical solution that can be applied to the issues here. From Israel’s perspective, Hamas’ presence in a partnership for peace negates any chance for productive negotiations. One cannot possibly compare Hamas’ genocidal charter which advocates the destruction of the State of Israel to the ANC Freedom Charter which espouses freedom and equality for all.

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A genocidal charter coupled with ongoing call for “armed resistance” and a stubborn refusal to recognize the existence of the State of Israel not only closes the window, it slams it shut. Realising a policy of sabotage was not going to change the minds of the Apartheid government, Mandela and the ANC decided on more peaceful methods. Can the Hamas leopard change its spots? Highly unlikely!

Looking back at South Africa’s tragic history and almost miraculous birth into democracy, it often begs the question, can the African state help bring about a solution to the problems in the Middle East. Following the transition to democracy, South Africa seemed to be the perfect middle man to negotiate peace but over the last few years, relations between Jerusalem and Pretoria have soured significantly.  South Africa’s overt bias against Israel and the absurd statements against the Jewish State have completely destroyed any hopes of playing mediator in the region. But South Africa is of extreme strategic importance. South Africa is the benchmark by which many, especially European countries, measure the fight against racism. The country that birthed and defeated Apartheid sends its emissaries of hate against Israel on to campuses around the world to participate in the weekly festival of anti-Israel frenzy known as Israel Apartheid Week. This is so counteractive to negotiating for peace and most definitely does not reflect the actions of Mandela and De Klerk.

So where do we go from here? The South African solution is not one-size-fits-all and the situation between Israel and the Palestinians is filled with simplicities and complexities that cannot be taken at face value. This is a nebulous area that has to be negotiated (pun intended) with extreme care and patience. De Klerk issued a not so subtle zinger at the international community when he mentioned that he entered into negotiations with his partner Mandela without the interference of foreign powers. Can Israelis and Palestinians sort out the situation themselves?

Sadly, the situation between Israel and the Palestinians seems more like scrambled eggs than an omelet.

A Call to Arms

This post currently appears in WIZO Lapid:

http://www.joomag.com/magazine/lapid-volume-111-may-2014/0691239001401369255#.U4iLOFcH8fI.facebook

What does it mean to be Jewish? How do we identify as Zionists in a world where to wear this identity loud and proud often means we are vulnerable to attacks? At a time when levels of anti-Semitism are rising around the world and to be anti-Zionist means you support the current cause du jour, do we dare stand out as supporters of Israel.

The answer is a resounding YES!!! A marketing guru once said that the best time to advertise and promote your business is during a recession. The same rule applies for Israel advocacy. Standing up for Israel is imperative when the noise from her detractors gets louder.

Nearly 80 years ago, the Jews of Europe had no voice. They were powerless against the Nazi propaganda juggernaut. Today, all the tools are in place to give us a platform and a voice.

For me, advocating for Israel is just as much a part of my Jewish, Zionist identity as lighting my Shabbat candles and the Israeli flag. It is a part of who I am and I believe that as Jews not only are we responsible for each other but also for the Jewish state. Not everyone is a speaker or a writer – but we are all senders of email, posters on Facebook and disseminators of information.

On occasions when I have been asked to address audiences, the most common question I am asked is “why is Israel’s public relations so bad”. True, there is definitely room for improvement but I am also of the opinion that at a time when levels of anti-Semitism are alarmingly high and budgets to counter this are low, it has become incumbent on us as de facto representatives to be “Ambassadors of Truth”.

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This means a call to arms. Arming yourself with the facts to counter the lies and hate filled invective is a great way to not only make the case for Israel but to bring you closer to your identity.  We serve as examples to the next generation, the youth, and they are in the front line of defense.

But we also have to listen to our youth.  In today’s social media driven world where they are bombarded with information and are much more savvy than we are, it is important to engage with them and hear their concerns. University campuses are hotbeds of anti-Israel activity and many, once exposed to the opposing arguments, especially when they are made with such conviction, start questioning their own.

We cannot deny that there is another point of view or shield them from our own transgression but hopefully through knowledge and conviction they can make informed decisions.

This is why it is important to be armed with facts.  We cannot abdicate responsibility anymore by saying it is the work of the government or politicians. We are all responsible for each other.

As WIZO women we have the privilege of leading the charge. Not only are we grooming future leaders but we are educating our global community. Wearing our identity proudly and unapologetically in our name, we wonder women continue to live up to our tenet we care, we share and we dare.

Let us heed the call to arms. Let facts, truth and pride be our weapons of choice.

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What more will it take?

This post currently appears in TLV Faces:

http://www.tlvfaces.com/belgium-museum-attack-will-take/

A recent global study on anti-Semitism has indicated that when all the numbers and percentages are added up, there are over a billion anti-Semites in the world. One billion people filled with hatred and venom towards the Jewish people and their country, Israel. That number is unfathomable, significantly larger than world Jewry who constitute less than 0.2% of the global population. While this is evident around the world with the worst percentages in North Africa and the Middle East, our microscope is fixed on Europe.

Levels of anti-Semitism are as high as they were pre-World War 2. This is not surprising given that Europe is home to extremely large Muslim communities and election results in a variety of European countries are showing an alarming shift towards the right. This shift in European real politik has once again brought Europe’s Jews front and centre as the ubiquitous scapegoat for all the frustration that people may be feeling.

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The incidents are frightening. Thousands of protesters in Paris screaming “Jews, France is not for you”, individual attacks against France’s Jewish citizens that included the beating up of a teacher and the carving of a swastika on his chest and various others, such as the murders at a Jewish day school in Toulouse that left four dead, have spurred the Israeli government to think seriously about encouraging French Aliya.

But France is not the only country seeing flagrant acts of anti-Semitism.  According to the survey, Greece is the most anti-Semitic country in Europe. Hardly surprising given the rise of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party in that country. Hungary boasts the far right Jobbik party, voted in by one in five Hungarians.

Newly minted European basketballs champions, Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv, had their victory greeted with anti-Semitic tweets from disappointed Real Madrid fans that included a post that read “they should all be killed in an oven”. While the Euroleague expressed its “shock and disappointment” and have promised to investigate, this kind of invective is nothing new in sports. Just ask all those footballs clubs from Amsterdam to London whose supporters have chanted “Jews to the gas” or salute with the inverted Nazi salute known as the quenelle.

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Cut to yesterday’s brutal slaying of four people, including two Israeli tourists, who were gunned down in cold blood in the Jewish Museum in Brussels, Belgium.  Belgians go to the polls today in a federal election. Dubbed  “the mother of all elections” it will be an extremely tight race.  It is also the final day in elections for the European Parliament elections. Twenty one EU member countries will go to the polls and 751 MEP’s will be elected to serve for five years.

Platitudes and indignant statements just aren’t enough.  What more is it going to take until something substantial is done? How many bodies need to lie in school yards and museums before Europe realizes that it is fast becoming the graveyard it once was yet again?

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The jig is up. Disguised as anti-Zionism, anti-Semitism has a new face. It is evil, it is vengeful and it is violent. One hopes that today’s EU parliamentary elections that take place just a day after the Brussels massacre will be a wake- up call for Europe’s leaders.

 Since the end of the Holocaust which decimated two thirds of European Jewry we have chanted NEVER AGAIN. This is our rallying call to rise, fight against anti-Semitic invective and teach future generations. Sadly, NEVER AGAIN is becoming AGAIN and AGAIN. What more will it take?