Listen to the reasons why Israel is so fabulous.
My thanks to Chai FM: http://www.chaifm.com
Listen to the reasons why Israel is so fabulous.
My thanks to Chai FM: http://www.chaifm.com
This blog is currently featured in the WIZO Lapid Newsletter:
Happy 65th Birthday Israel and may we just say that you have never looked so fabulous! You are becoming more attractive as you age and this year as we celebrate a milestone year; let us look at some of the things that make you as special as you are.
65. Israeli “chutzpah” – there is nothing quite like it in the world. Plucky for your size, Ms Israel, you never take no for an answer.
64. Fantastic Israeli summer – yes it is hot but it brings Israelis out of their winter hibernation and the beaches are dotted with sun worshippers. And dogs.
63. Israel is pet friendly – Tel Aviv has parks, a beach and even restaurants have a ”Dogs Allowed” policy. Where else can Fluffy chill and drink water while his or her owners’ network and catch up on the latest news.
62. Coffee Shop Networking – some of Israel’s best business deals are done in her coffee shops. Israeli’s are very particular about their coffee and with Java like this; it is easy to see why some of Israel’s greatest deals are clinked over a cuppa coffee.
61. Bakeries to die for – forget the threats posed by Hamas and Hizbullah – the greatest threat to Israeli society are the calories provided by our fantastic and diverse bakeries.
60. Incredible diversity – over 82 different kinds of ethnic communities call Israel home. On any given day you can bump into several of them. It adds colour and life to our wonderful mosaic of people.
59. Cities with very distinct personalities – Israel’s cities each have very istinct personalities. Jerusalem appeals to our spiritual side and one can be forgiven for displaying signs of “Jerusalem syndrome” while Tel Aviv throbs with energy and excitement and other cities like Haifa or Safed are more laid back or speak of the esoteric…
58. Where ancient meets modern – Where else can you walk in the same footprintsas King David, Jesus or the prophets and at the same time marvel at modern architectural buildings like the AzrieliTowers with their three distinct shapes in Tel Aviv?
57. The ingathering of exiles- Over the last 65 years, Israel has gathered in Jews living in exile from all over the world, doing her best to offer a sanctuary and safe haven. Her remarkable achievements in many fields have made Israel a sought after destination for Jews in addition to Zionist ideology.
56. Size does count – Israel is a tiny country, in fact one can barely see her on a map but the energy that is contained in this tiny space is not relative to her size, Israel has achieved disproportionately. The statistics are impressive! More academic papers published than any other country, more patents registered than any country, and many more.
55. A start up nation – Israel has definitely learnt that necessity is the mother of all invention. When you are under permanent threat, the best thing you can be is innovative. As a result of our army service we have learnt to be super inventive, we have absorbed so many cultures that have brought their own intellectual and creative strength and we are a people who thirst for knowledge. Don’t take my word for it – read the book!
54. A country filled with children – children are Israel’s national treasure. They are our greatest hope for our future and as a result are nurtured, adored and invested in. But is not just our children that matter – Israeli NGO Save a Child’s Heart has been bringing children from Africa, Iraq, the Palestinian Territories and other Arab countries, some who are hostile to Israel, to the country for life saving heart surgery.
53. Education Nation – Did you know that Israel is the second most educated nation in the world? I guess we really are the people of the book.
52. People of the Book – This is the land of the Bible and this holy book is studied,remembered and pored over. Since ancient times until today, the bible is revealing more and more of its hidden secrets.
51. Army of volunteers – There are so many incredible organisations for people to join up as volunteers. My choice is WIZO! So just do……something!
50. A healthy respect for animals – There is another community that is a huge part of Israeli society. Feral cats. These felines enjoy a purrrrrfectly relaxed life, patrolling the streets and keeping a careful eye out for vermin. They are the epitome of catitude!
49. Where everybody knows your name – and they are always glad you came -Israelis are a curious bunch. We love to know more about you and where you come from. Of course we will also poke into your personal business and offer unsolicited advice. Hey we are Mishpacha! Maybe you know someone we know in your area and then Jewish geography takes over. This really impedes gossip but we are always glad you came.
48. Unsolicited advice – Need legal or tax advice? How about medical or parenting advice? No? Doesn’t matter, we will give it to you anyway. Unsolicited advice is our way of showing we care. And demonstrating our fantastic ability to access useful information at any time.
47. Hidden gems – you can turn a street corner and disappear into an Aladdin’s cave,hidden restaurant or stumble upon an ancient archaeological relic.
46. An army for the people – The brave men and women who make up Israel’sDefence Forces. On land, sea and in the air, this army made up of all her citizens keeps a watchful eye over our country. They are the defenders of our freedom and our safety. We are always grateful for their presence. Despite fierce criticism from Israel’s detractors they live up to their impeccable Code of Ethics that many western armies are modeled on.
45. Seasonal eating – You can tell the seasons apart just by observing supermarket shelves. If it is summer, an abundance of exotic fruits abound, if it is spring, Oznei Haman (Hamentaschen or Haman’s Ears) signal that it is Purim and time for the weather to warm up. Fall/Autumn is heralded by Crembo, delicious mounds of chocolate covered goo and winter is the season for donuts or sufganiyot. As we count the nights of Chanukah, so we also count the mounting calories from these delicious oil enriched delicacies.
44. Eating as an art form – Food is central to Israeli culture. No matter what the situation is or the mood, everything can be solved over some Hummus. Or gefilte fish. Or anything from the kaleidoscope of cultures that form the Israeli palate. We do love our food. We like it fresh, simple and in abundance. B’teavon!
43. The National Sport – Forget footballs or basketball – arguing is the national sport and all Israelis could qualify as Olympic champions. It is a simple question of mathematics: Two Israelis = 4 opinions. No subject is off limits and one can have as many players as possible. Everybody, no matter what your skill level is can join in.
42. A free press – The purpose of the press in a democracy is to shine a light on all those dark corners and expose any inefficiency committed by the government. The Israeli press are great at doing this so much that they are often criticised for being anti-Israel. Freedom House, an NGO that monitors democracy and freedom indices across the world rated the Israeli press as free, democratic and open stating in their report that the media is “vibrant and independent and freely criticize government policy.”
41. The Rainbow Nation – Israel proudly recognises the rights of her Gay citizens.Gay rights in Israel are considered to be the most progressive in the Middle East and Asia and the Gay Rights Parade in Tel Aviv is one of the most anticipated dates in the annual event calendar and enjoys an enormous amount of support.
40. Everyone is family – This means that everybody has a right to meddle in your business. But they also have a right to worry about you, fuss over you, and make sure you are eating/drinking enough. And make sure that you are wearing a sweater just in case THEY feel cold!
39. Don’t sweat the small stuff – Really is it worth worrying over insignificant issues when there are far greater things to worry about like our neighbours in the North and South, Iran and just how much weight we will gain over the Chagim? It is all small “Stuff”. I know we are Jewish and worrying like over feeding is in our genes but sometimes you just have to prioritise and not sweat it. Besides, the summer weather makes you work up enough of a shvitz.
38. In times of strife – We are all family right? This is so evident in times of strife. When we are under threat or in a state of security escalation or war, there is no more cohesive, tight knit and united nation than Israel.
37. And in time of remembrance – There are sacred days when we are united in grief and remembrance. Sirens wail their mournful cry as we remember our 6 million heroes and martyrs who perished in the Holocaust. And we remember those who paid the ultimate price in defence of our country in Israel’s wars and military campaigns as well as victims of terror attacks.
36. A reason to celebrate! – Happy 65th Birthday Israel! We have a lot to celebrate! Achievements beyond our wildest dreams in so many areas and the triumph of our plucky little state against all those who hope for her failure. L’Chaim Israel – to life!
35. Punching above our weight – For a teeny country, Israel punches above her. weight. Nearly always the first to respond to any kind of trauma or natural disaster around the world, Israel doesn’t let size impede her in any way. Israel has even offered help to countries she has no diplomatic ties or hostile relations with. Now that packs a punch!
34. Green is the hot new colour – It is no secret that Israel is a leader in cutting edge technology. This also includes environmental or “green” technology. A leader is sewage recycling, water purification and concentrated efforts to encourage people to recycle and lessen their carbon footprints, makes environmental issues an important priority.
33. Hebrew speak Hebrew – Hebrew is an ancient language that has been revived with the birth of the new state. With the influx of Olim, some interesting hybrids that include hebrench, hebranish, heblish, hebrussian and hebritalian amongst others.
32. Democracy at its best – Elections in Israel bring with them much excitement. And a steady raise in blood pressure. But it is democracy at its best. All facets of Israeli society are represented, despite what some may say and results are almost always surprising. The 2013 elections put new party, Yesh Atid firmly on the map – surprising even them! Viva la democracy!
31. The “cottage” revolution – The humble tub of “cottage” is the little dairy product that could. An essential part of the Israeli diet, the rising cost of “cottage” inspired a revolution for social justice in the summer of 2011 and one could hardly pass a park without the ubiquitous protest tents. Viva la revolution!
30. A very Nobel people – We have already discussed that Israel punches above its weight but did you know that she has a disproportionate amount of Nobel laureates in fields that include literature, science, medicine and peace? Now that is worth raising a glass to!
29. When in doubt sing – Israelis love to sing. In the car, in the shower, in the post office and in the middle of the mall. Hey why not?
28. Watch us on TV – Some of your favourite TV shows are based on shows created in Israel The award winning “Homeland” and “In Treatment” are just two of Israel’s stellar small screen offerings.
27. No censorship (within reason) – Most radio stations around the world steer clearof dropping F bombs. In Israel you can enjoy your morning radio with a liberal smattering of profanity. The F word has little or no impact here. Just don’t swear in Hebrew – now THAT is disrespectful!
26. Museums – You can lose yourself in a myriad of different kinds of museums. From the historical to art, to our Zionist history and honouring our precious lost, Israel offers something that appeals to everyone no matter what your interest is.
25. Protecting the endangered – Israel is home to no less than 25 special programmes aimed at protecting endangered wildlife. Here, rhinoceros who are hunted all over the world thrive in breeding programmes, endangered birds and other threatened species are cared for and under stress free conditions, happily multiply.
24. A nation filled with Jewish mothers – Everyone’s a Jewish mother. Don’t be surprise if a total stranger offers you something to drink in the blistering heat or something small (okay so we all suffer from Jewish woman’s gene to overfeed) to nibble on.
23. Living by the Jewish calendar – You can always tell which Chag, national holiday is coming up by what is on sale at the supermarket. If the shelves are lined with boxes of matzah, it must be Pesach, if pomegranates abound, Rosh Hashanah approaches. Is it just coincidental that most of it is food related?
22. Do you read me? – Israel has more books published per capita than any other country. And while we may be the people of the book, we are also the people of the book week.
21. Home to the three monotheistic religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam were all born in this region. Where else in the world but Jerusalem can you pray (and slip a note)into the Wailing Wall while hearing the Imam call the Muslim faithful to prayer and the church bells peal all at the same time?
20. Freedom of religion – The freedom of ALL religions is protected in Israel While we may be the Jewish State and home to the three Abrahamic religions, we also protect the rights of Baha’i, Hindu, Buddhists and any other sacred religion that our citizens choose to observe.
19. A world in one country – Israel offers a world in one country. If you are hankering for the Alps, you can ski in the north, swim with the dolphins in the south and feel like you have toured several different countries thanks to the mix of cultures and personalities of our towns and cities.
18. An investment darling – Israel is attracting a fortune (literally!) of investment from major international brands such as Apple, Google, Microsoft and others. Not to forget earning the praises and investment from Warren Buffett. and others.
17. All the world loves an Oscar – Israel has had a presence in the Best Foreign Film Category at the Academy Awards ceremony nearly every year. And the Oscar goes to….
16. Women’s rights – Women in Israel enjoy a much higher status than their counterparts in many other countries around the world. One of the first countries to have a female Prime Minister and with a strong representation of women in our new Knesset, Israel is demanding that the status of women continuously improves.
15. Cultural hub – Opera? Theatre? Live music? Mime? Art exhibition? Book reading? Whatever cultural activity you feel like indulging, you can bet that you can find something that tickles your fancy…
14. Defying the odds – With no clearly defined borders, constant threat of war and hostile neighbours, how is it that this tiny Oasis continues to defy the odds? Perhaps we are a miraculous country….
13. Amazing national institutions – Before we had a formal government we had incredible organisations like the Jewish National Fund (KKL), Keren Hayesod, WIZO, the World Zionist Organisation and the Jewish Agency who prepared and nurtured the country in anticipation of the ingathering of her exiles.
12. Literary gifts to the world – Award winning authors Amos Oz and David Grossman are just some of our writers who enjoy international support.
11. Protecting our civilians – in times of strife, every citizen knows that the processes are in place to make sure we are protected. Whether it is bomb shelters or rocket proof centres, our safety is paramount.
10. One of the world’s natural wonders (Dead Sea) – Have a float or enjoy some pampering at one of the earth’s most spectacular wonders, the Dead Sea. It is enough to soothe away your stress.
9. Israeli NGO’s – From fighting Israel’s media war to helping animals and children. Israel is home to many NGO’s who are working hard to protect and defend our nation. Our very special WIZO works for an improved Israeli society. Now that is something to be proud of!
8. Support systems for Olim – What other countries makes sure that its new immigrants are well taken care of and have a soft landing? While we don’t promise you a rose garden, we can pad your arrival a bit just to help you. The processes are in place to advise you and help point you in the right direction. The rest is up to you.
7. The right to criticise – Israel faces a lot of criticism from the international media but the irony of it all is that nobody is more critical of the country than its citizens. The right to voice our approval or disapproval is one of the greatest benchmarks of a democracy and our democratic right to complain and criticise is fiercely defended.
6. Working with our neighbours – one of Israel’s best kept secrets it projects with our neighbours. While stories of mutual cooperation in this volatile region may not sell newspapers, they do in fact happen. We sow the Seeds of Peace and improve water supplies used by both people. Peace will be built through these initiatives.
5. Superb medical innovation – From teeny cameras that you can ingest to an external carapace that will enable paraplegics to walk, Israel is not only saving lives, we are helping people start new ones.
4. Exporting our know-how – So we weren’t blessed with a fortune of natural resources. Until recently with the founding of natural gas reserves, so what is our key export? Technical know how! In a sphere of different industries and arena, Israeli products are changing and shaping the world.
3. Diaspora community – Our wonderful communities around the world support us and while we know that a strong Diaspora = a strong Israel, we welcome you here with open arms.
2. Don’t worry – be Israeli – Really, don’t worry, everything will be okay. Kol yihye b’seder. That is the Israeli motto and over the years I have learned to not worry or question how things get done, they just do.
1. An absolute reverence for life -There is nothing more sacred and worth celebrating than life. Israelis were voted one of the happiest nations in the world and it is easy to see why. Let’s all raise a glass and toast to 65 spectacular years and many many more. L’Chaim!
This article is part of a supplement for RJ Magazine, sponsored by the Israeli Ministry of Tourism: http://reformjudaismmag.org/Articles/index.cfm?id=3262
Nation of Innovation: Cuisine
by Rolene Marks
Left to right: Firing up a signature North African dish at Dr. Shakshuka, Jaffa; a hafla
(Bedouin-style gathering) in Kfar Hanokdim, Arad; entrance to Arcadia, Jerusalem.
Photos by Merav Maroody, courtesy of Kfar Hanokdim, and Daniel Layla
Unique and innovative, Israeli cuisine draws from the culinary traditions of Jewish immigrants from 80+ countries, and spices them with Middle Eastern and Asian accents. Here’s just a sampling of the inventive venues and menus.
Yakimono—9 Rothschild Street, Tel Aviv; Hilton Hotel, Tel Aviv; 7 King David Street, Jerusalem
If you’re a sushi lover, you’re not alone in Tel Aviv. With 1,000 sushi restaurants, the city has the world’s third highest sushi consumption rate per capita. One of the city’s most innovative sushi spots is Yakimono, where you can order such original dishes as Inari, a sweet tofu pocket filled with spicy raw fish: salmon/tuna/yellowtail.
In the past, Tel Aviv sushi restaurants tended to employ Asian chefs with highly trained skills, but there are growing restrictions on the number of foreign workers allowed to work in the country. And so an innovative way has arisen to meet market demands for perfectly prepared sushi: the Israeli government has allocated funds to teach demobilized soldiers Asian cooking skills.
At Yakimono, however, the award-winning sushi masters remain Japanese.
In 1995, owner Shalom Maharovsky opened Mul Yam (Across the Sea) in what was then a largely neglected area of the city. Today it is one of Israel’s most trendy restaurants, recognized for its award-winning chefs who have studied the world over.
Executive Chef Yoram Nitzan says he is “constantly looking for new and innovative ways to combine cutting edge cooking techniques with the freshest ingredients—the ingredients being the true star.” Israelis, he says, are open-minded about avant garde cuisines, and therefore happy to try out his ravioli made with squid ink or sea urchins.
Max’s—Tel Aviv Shouk
You’ll find Max’s on Tikvah Street in Tel Aviv’s oldest outdoor food market—Shouk Hatikvah. Food and hospitality are the passions of Max’s ebullient owner, Max Bar Lev, who’s trained some of Israel’s top chefs and culinary students. He offers original takes on traditional ethnic dishes, such as jachnun (a Jewish Yemenite pastry traditionally served on Shabbat morning), sweetening it with date syrup instead of sugar. “You could say we are going back to basics,” Max says, “but finding new spins to make it modern.”
In Jaffa, a multicultural seaside suburb of Tel Aviv, one of the most popular eateries is renowned for innovative twists on Libyan cuisine, which fuses North African flavors peppered with Italian and Arabic influences. The restaurant’s specialty is shakshuka, a traditional North African dish consisting of eggs baked in a sauce of peppers, tomatoes, and chilies that Dr. Shakshuka has distinctively modified by adding mushrooms, eggplant, chicken, and/or merguez sausage. The small, quaint space is reminiscent of Aladdin’s cave; copper pots and pans intermingle with photographs of customers, including Israel’s glitterati and IDF warriors.
Bouza—Corner of HaShuk Street and Ma’aleh Ha Misgad, Ma’alot-Tarshiha
Since Adam Ziv, a Jewish kibbutznik, and Alaa Sawitat, an Arab Muslim, opened Bouza (Arabic for ice cream) last July in northern Israel near the city of Nahariya, they’ve attracted a steady stream of customers who came out of curiosity and then returned for the innovative ice cream made from fresh ingredients grown by local farmers. The menu includes some uniquely Middle Eastern flavors— pomegranate, pine nuts, even hummus. Yes, hummus. Hey, this is Israel and hummus is a staple!
As an added bonus, Ziv and Sawitat serve up conversation along with their scoops, believing that delicious ice cream can smooth the way to talking peace.
Here in the ancient city of Safed, the birthplace of the Kabbalah movement, visitors from allover the world flock to Mr. Lachuch (also called Ronen at Azamra) for a taste of lachuch—thick, richly textured Yemenite-style pancakes made from semolina and white flour—which the chef/owner, whom everyone knows as Ronen, flavors with strips of fresh peppers, eggplants, zucchini, chilies, and secret spices from the old country.
Ronen immigrated to Israel with his parents in 1949 during “Operation Magic Carpet,” when the majority of Yemenite Jews were airlifted to the newly established Jewish state, and later started the kosher restaurant as a homage to his heritage. Now the quintessentially Yemeni-looking man, sporting a bearded smile that meets dark, twinkling eyes, is instantly recognizable as a fixture in Safed, dispensing Jewish wisdom along withlachuch.
“I want every Jew who walks in here to see that God is walking with them,” Ronen explains. “I want them to feel pride in their heritage, and the connection that a Jew has to Israel.”
Mukhtar—Usafiya Village in the Galilee
Not much is generally known about the customs and beliefs of the Druze people, except that they are fiercely loyal to their host countries. Here, in the village of Usafiya in the beautiful, mountainous Carmel region, visitors can catch a glimpse of their culture through the sharing of food.
A Druze guide meets arriving visitors and leads them on the “El Carmel” culinary tour. As you walk along thealleys of the village, passing the prayer house, the deserted church, and the ancient olive press, you’ll hear stories about Druze beliefs and customs. The tour ends in a Druze home, where you’ll converse with family members around the taboon (traditional oven) and relax in the madpa (guest room) while tasting authentic Druze food prepared by village women. Be sure to try the knafeh (also known as kunafeh), the Middle Eastern answer to cheesecake, combining goat milk cheese, shredded philopastry soaked in sweet syrup, and rose water.
After immigrating to Israel from Ethiopia, Chef Elem Akuba was inspired to “lift the lid off of Ethiopian fare,” introducing the citizens of her new nation to such specialties as wat, a spicy meat stew served on injera (a traditional Ethiopian flatbread made with fermented teff flour).
One of Shegar’s specialties is lamb cooked in onion and green peppers. Elem points out that “Every extra second it is kept on the heat makes it come out completely different. Always, I have to choose when to take the food off the fire.”
Dining here, you’ll enjoy a feast fit for the Queen of Sheba.
Israel also offers the adventurous traveler an opportunity to partake in a hafla, a Bedouin-style gathering. At Kfar Hanokdim in the Negev Desert town of Arad guests can enjoy spiced Bedouin tea and Turkish coffee while relaxing on soft, colorful sofas in a carpeted goat’s hair tent. Tribal elders regale visitors with tales of their tea/coffee ceremony, including how every cup of tea or coffee tells a story. The first cup is the welcoming cup; the second is the cup of fun.
Traditional Bedouin dinner fare—lamb garnished with parsley, skewered tender chicken, and homemade all-kosher kebabs—is placed atop a giant homemade pita bread that serves both as a platter and utensils (cutlery is available upon request). Seasoned Bedouin rice, stuffed vegetables, and sweet corn round out the offerings. Here a traveler can truly dine like a chic sheikh!
“Mediterranean food is smiling food,” says Ezra Kedem, executive chef and owner of this high-end French-Mediterranean eatery hailed by Frommer’s as “the finest restaurant in Jerusalem.” He believes that “the fresh flavors of our sun-grown produce make Israel the world’s next kitchen to explore. We combine our wonderful produce in ways that give a modern twist to traditional foods.” Israelis, he adds, “are open to culinary innovations; they’re well traveled and have adventurous palates.” For example, after he pioneered eggplant carpaccio—eggplant with tahini and spices—it became such a hit, it is now served in other fine restaurants.
The culinary innovations one finds throughout Israel say a lot about the society itself—culturally diverse, passionate, spicy, inventive, and fearless.
Rolene Marks, a frequent commentator on Israel radio, is part of Media Team Israel, an advocacy body that fights for balanced coverage of Israel.
This blog post is currently featured in the Algemeiner:
‘Tis the season to cause folly? Hot off the trail of Israel Apartheid Week, a global festival of anti-Israel invective that appears on University campuses around the world that extols the “virtues” of boycotts, has come a flurry of anti-Israel activity, compliments of the BDS movement.
Perhaps the most vocal of all has been former Pink Floyd front man, Roger Waters. Waters has forsaken writing rock classics to concentrate on his campaign of endorsing cultural boycotts against the Jewish State. He felt the bite of the American Jewish community when his plans for a public interview at the Theresa L. Kaufmann Concert Hall was cancelled following outrage from officials at religious group JCC Watch. Waters has done some serious back peddling. He is quoted in the Huffington Post, “I am considering my position. The letter asking my fellow musicians to boycott Israel has never appeared. I am thinking all of this through extremely carefully and I’m thinking it all through extremely carefully because I care more about the outcome, because I care about the people involved, than I do about the moment.” A mea culpa or has sanity prevailed?
While Waters’ previous stance had been comfortably dumb, he is realising that there are repercussions….
While anti-Israelists do have a democratic right to voice their opinions do they have a
right to be belligerent and disruptive? BDS supporters have taken their right to protest as meaning a right to do harm. This week, three out of the four Jewish students forcibly removed from an event on campus hosted by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) at ColumbiaUniversity formally lodged a complaint. The rationale for their removal? A “plausible inference can be drawn that the removal of the four students was motivated by their political viewpoint.”
Who can forget BDS poster boy, George Galloway, storming out of a debate at Oxford University because he doesn’t “recognise Israel or debate with Israelis.” Tsk Tsk Georgie, perhaps “Respect” is the wrong word for your political party.
Who can forget the trolley jockeys in the French town of Carrefour who removed Israeli produce from supermarket shelves or the flash mob in the USA demanding the removal of Israeli hummus to the tune of Lady Gaga’s song “Telephone”. The irony being that Lady Gaga is a recent visitor to Israeli shores…
And then there is South Africa. South Africa is a very important factor in the BDS movement as it is not just the birthplace of Apartheid but the seaside city of Durban was the venue for the UN Conference against Racism in 2001 where a variety of NGO’s unleashed this nefarious campaign. Some of Israel’s greatest detractors hail from the southern Africans state – Desmond Tutu, UNHRC’s Navi Pillay and John Dugard. South Africa is perhaps the most important country when it comes to BDS trend spotting. Over the last two months, BDS activists in South Africa have taken their protesting to another level.
During Israel Apartheid Week held on the campus of the University of the Witwatersrand, Israeli concert pianist, Yossi Reshef, who lives in Berlin, had his concert interrupted by vuvuzela-blowing, screaming protesters. Reshef had been invited as a guest of Tararam, an Israeli culture initiative to showcase the myriad of cultural gifts that the country has to offer. The concert abruptly ended after a short while with Diplomatic guests being hastily removed by their respective security. Members of the audience were traumatised and manhandled.
His crime? Being born in Israel.
This type of action continued at last week’s Yom Ha’atzmaut (Independence Day) celebrations when BDS protestors threw stink bombs and disrupted a performance by Israeli opera singer Yaniv D’or, in Johannesburg. This time they were in for a surprise because the community fought back. Security officials removed hostile protesters and the concert continued.
Yes, something sure smells rotten. In their haste to prove how concerned they are about Palestinian human rights, BDS activists have trampled on the rights of Jews in communities across the world. Our students have a right to protest just like you. Our concert pianists have a right to perform. Our Opera singers have a right to sing. Our community members have a right to decide for themselves. And we all have a right to celebrate our holy and national holidays without intimidation.
While the BDS campaign may have enjoyed minor victories, they have failed to score a major boycott goal. But here is a message to BDS activists:
It is summertime in Israel and apart from expecting the influx of tourists who visit us every year, we are gearing up to welcome a plethora of famous faces that includes Depeche Mode, Cliff Richard, Alicia Keys, Rihanna and another lady you may have heard of (and in my opinion Jewish royalty) Ms Barbra Streisand. We are the start up nation – a natural investment haven for major technology brands like Apple, Google, Microsoft and others who see this as a R&D haven. But don’t take my word for it – ask Warren Buffett or Stephen Hawking…
Perhaps one of our fabulous start ups will invent some technology that will allow BDS activists to hear the anguished cries of our neighbours who wonder why nobody is paying attention to how their autocratic governments are trampling on their human rights…
Their failure to do so and their singling out of Israel for opprobrium just enforces the fact that they are belligerent, disruptive and downright silly!
When we think of the term “Days of Awe” we usually associate it with the High Holy Days,
Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The week between Yom Hashoa and Yom Kippur are days ofreflection, remembrance and renewal. This got me thinking that in Israel, the days betweenYom Hashoa, when Israel stops to remember the 6 million heroes and martyrs slaughtered during the Holocaust and including Yom Hazikaron when we remember our fallen soldiers and victims of terror, culminating in Yom Ha’atzmaut, Independence Day are also days of awe.
The passing of time reminds us that we have precious little left to hear and gather the stories of Holocaust survivors. Every Yom Hashoa I am not only heartbroken by the magnitude of what we lost but also what could have been. The numbers are too much to bear. It is very hard to comprehend 6 million, including 1 500 000 children. Our families, our future. The pain is still insurmountable so many years later. And as time continues to march on it has become more important than ever to remember and to share their stories with the generations to come. Stories about heroism, individual and organised, personal stories, stories of the great houses of Torah learning, stories of our children whose lives were snuffed out. Stories of bravery and righteous gentiles, stories of those whose lives were saved. Stories of those who made their mark on history and stories of the potential of what could have been. Stories of our families, stories of our history. Stories of the once vibrant
communities who contributed to their host countries. And the stories of how they ceased to
exist. May their memories forever be blessed.
And the story of the creation of the modern state of Israel. Even though Jews have had a
continuous presence in our holy land for thousands of years, we only became a modern state in 1948. On the backs of the brave pioneers, Holocaust survivors who in their frail state became warriors, our fledgling state rose out of the ashes of war to become the miracle it is today.
There have been far too many wars. A week after Yom Hashoa we commemorate Yom Hazikaron, a day of remembrance for our fallen warriors and victims of terror who have paid the ultimate price for our freedom in our beloved land.
These days of awe create an incredible sense of solidarity amongst Jews around the world but it is here in Israel where the emotions are seriously heightened. Soldiers are no longer
uniformed strangers who serve but the children or spouses or lovers of people we know. And they are people we love. Yom Hazikaron is not only a day of remembrance for me but one of gratitude. Few words can express how grateful I am for those who protect us on land, sea and air. Those we see in uniform and those whose identities are secret. These warriors, these lions of Zion who are attacked and denigrated all over the world and threatened with war crimes trials are our guardians and protectors, following an honour code that is their backbone. We are proud of them, we embrace them and we love them. Israelis respect life. We revere life and we revel in it. And it is on this solemn and heartbreaking day that we are reminded of its fragility. We hold the victims of terror attacks and their families in our collective hearts. Their suffering is our suffering and we remember that their lives were cut short because they represented what our enemies tolerate – life.
And as the sun sets on a day of mourning, the mood of the country changes to one of celebration. This year we celebrate Israel’s 65th year of independence. And she has never looked better! Relatively young in the international family of nations, this petite but plucky lady has survived insurmountable hatred aimed at her, UN resolutions detracting her character and her fair share of war not to mention two Intifadas. Yet, she continues to blossom with barely a wrinkle. She has extended her arms to gather in millions of exiled Jews, sent her greatest humanitarian help to the four corners of the earth to help those in need, including countries that plot her demise. She has bloomed the desert, changed the way we practice medicine, received a disproportionate amount of Nobel prizes to her size for science, medicine, literature and peace. She is a hi-tech wonder and is leading the family of nations in contributing to the world. She has and continues to punch above her weight and never takes her eyes of the prize – a lasting peace.
Happy Birthday Israel – long may you grow, achieve and welcome all who seek refuge in your arms.
These are the days of miracles and wonders. These are the days of awe.
אם ישראל חיי
This blog post currently appears in the Times of Israel:
Calling all Pink Floyd fans! It is time we demand that the band reunites. It is clear that
Roger Waters needs a hobby besides letter writing and Israel bashing.
Last week former band member, Waters admitted to writing a letter to fellow recording artist and UN Ambassador, Stevie Wonder, asking him to not perform at a benefit for the organisation Friends of the IDF. A jurist on the Russel Tribunal for Palestine, a glorified Kangaroo court, Waters has become one of Israel’s most virulent critics. Water’s favourite target is Israel’s “Apartheid Wall”. Hey, this is a man who has built a career singing about walls so he would know….
No Roger, it is not another brick in the wall, rather it is mostly fence with a small percentage of concrete to keep those pesky suicide bombers out. We Israelis object to being blown up in cafes and on buses. You get the picture.
Now Roger’s pet project is advocating BDS (Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions) against the Jewish State. He has made the switch from writing some of the greatest rock classics to
writing the kind of fictional drivel that should line the bottom of a bird cage. After
targeting Stevie, he has set his sights on Steve van Zandt, member of Springsteen’s E Street Band. This coincides nicely with the campaign Israelis have embarked on to ask The Boss to include Israel in his upcoming world tour. Van Zandt is famous (okay apart from his pompadour he had while playing mobster, Silvio Dante on the Sopranos) for forming Artists Against Apartheid in the 1980′s. Artists against Apartheid advocated cultural bans and boycotts against South Africa which had impact.
What BDS advocates like Waters fail to understand, or maybe they just choose not to, is that the very people that they are trying to help are the ones they harm the most. True peace will only come from discourse and not from boycotts.
The singling out of Israel for approbation at the expense of other conflicts in the world just shows nefarious motivation. Waters and his ilk are comfortably numb when Israel is singled out for rocket attacks from terrorists who target her civilian population. Yesterday remains of a rocket were found in a Sderot kindergarten fired during US President, Barack Obama’s visit to Israel.. By sheer miracle the kindergarten was closed when it fell, sparing the lives of Israeli children.
Waters waxes lyrical (sometimes even literally!) about Apartheid practices but I haven’t heard a word from him about the gender Apartheid practiced by hamas who have instituted gender based schooling or cancelled the Gaza marathon because, heaven forbid, women might participate. Invoking words like Apartheid which are highly emotive and provocative to describe a very complex conflict not only belittles the true victims of Apartheid and makes light of their suffering but shows a great ignorance and dare I say, laziness to investigate the truth.
If Roger Waters and his fellow BDS kangaroo court members are in need of a hobby or wanting to weigh in on human rights abuse, we gladly offer a tour of our Middle Eastern neighbourhood, starting with Syria and moving swiftly on to Iran and the rest. The victims of genocide, rape, persecution and abuse are wondering when their voices will be heard.
One of these days…..?
This article currently appears in The Algemeiner:
With humble apologies and much respect to the fabulous Australian marsupials, it must be said that the Russell Tribunal is nothing more than a kangaroo court. The Russell Tribunal or International War Crimes Tribunal was founded by British philosopher, Bertrand Russell in 1966 with the aim of investigating America’s foreign policy and military intervention in Vietnam. The Russell Tribunal on Palestine was founded in March 1999 with the purpose of investigating crimes committed by Israel against Palestinians. Charges of practising Apartheid have been levelled at the Jewish state. Strange how no investigations have ever been carried out by the Tribunal against suicide bombings or incitement to hate.
This weekend the Tribunal wrapped up four years of “investigations” and members made their recommendation to the ICC to investigate crimes committed by Israelis against Palestinians, simultaneously calling for a boycott on the import of goods from the West Bank.
Let’s examine the credentials of some of the esteemed jurists who serve on the Russell Tribunal for Palestine:
The jury in this particular Tribunal included the late Stephane Hessel, who claimed to be a survivor of Buchenwald Concentration Camp. On closer inspection it was found that the only records of a Stephane Hessel were of prisoner 10033 who entered Buchenwald on 17 August 1944 and died of typhoid. The Stephane Hessel in question died on the 26th of February 2013 at the age of 88.
Former Pink Floyd member, Roger Waters, seems to have forgone bass playing and song writing for political posturing. Fond of commenting on walls, whether it is The Wall or the erm….other wall (we call it a security fence), Waters has made his dissatisfaction and disdain public. On the issue of the rights of Israeli civilians who are targets for rockets and suicide bombers, Waters is comfortably numb.
Former South African Minister of Intelligence, Ronnie Kasrils, is also a card carrying member of the ANC.. Kasrils’ own human rights record is almost farcical. Ask him about the Bisho massacre which resulted in the deaths of 28 people. The Bisho massacre is a serious black mark on Red Ronnie’s record. Investigated by the Goldstone Commission (yes, it is true) Kasrils was severely criticised for his part. Then sometimes Red Ronnie goes green – Hamas flag waving green. For a man who prides himself on his fight against the racist Apartheid machine, one has to wonder what he was thinking inviting Hamas leader, Ismael Haniyeh, he who advocates the destruction of Israel and genocide of the Jews to South Africa. Now that is just not cricket…
John Dugard is a professor of International Law. A favoured UN lackey, Dugard reports to the UN Human Rights Council on “the situation in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since 1967″.In 2001 Dugard was appointed as an unpaid expert by the UN Human Rights Commission to investigate only violations by the Israeli side, prompting Israel and the U.S. to dismiss his reports as one-sided. Now with friends like this….
Alice Walker is one of America’s most celebrated writers. Famous for writing “The Colour Purple”, Walker was active in the civil rights movement and credits Dr Martin Luther King as the catalyst for her involvement. She must have been absent when Dr King, always a strong supporter of Israel and Zionism declared that “Israel is one of the great outposts of democracy in the world, and a marvellous example of what can be done, how desert land can be transformed into an oasis of brotherhood and democracy. Peace for Israel means security, and that security must be a reality.” In an interview in June 2011, Walker characterised the United States and Israel as “terrorist organizations” stating “When you terrorize people, when you make them so afraid of you that they are just mentally and psychologically wounded for life — that’s terrorism.” Walker has banned The Colour Purple from being published in Israel. She dishonours the memory of Dr Martin Luther King and all he stood for.
While the Tribunal enjoys no legal jurisdiction and cannot implement penalties, it can make recommendations as discussed above. In the interest of balance it would behove the Tribunal to allow for pro-Israel jurists or take testimony from victims of terror in Israel.
Anything else is just a witch hunt or in this case, kangaroo court, albeit in smart clothing.
This blog appears in The Times of Israel.
Rabbi Boteach’s blog “Getting the Apartheid-Israel Equation Right” covers a number of interesting if contentious points. He certainly does dispel some of the Apartheid accusations leveled against Israel and raises important issues like the conditions of dhimmitude that Jews lived under in Arab land which were tantamount to Apartheid, but he also makes some unfounded accusations against the South African Jewish community.
As we approach the tour of racism known as International Israel Apartheid Week, South Africa and in particular, the Jewish community comes yet again under the microscope of scrutiny. One of the communal leaders aptly named South Africa the “ground zero” of the BDS movement. This is the country in which Apartheid was born and eventually defeated and it is from South Africa that some of the most vocal detractors of Israel originate – Tutu, Pillay, Dugard et al.
South Africa cannot and should not be ignored or taken lightly because of its lack of
influence vis-a-vis Israel and Palestine. In fact, this is the first place pro-Israel activists should go to, to spot the alarming trends.
In 2001 at the UN Conference against Racism, held in Durban, the voice of the BDS movement really gained momentum. Where else but in the home of Apartheid?. The symbolism of this is not lost or diluted by either side. Over the last few years, relations between Jerusalem and Pretoria have seriously deteriorated, culminating in the push to re-label products originating from the West bank or outside of the 1948 borders, as “goods from the Occupied Palestinian Territories” and finally a resolution adopted by the ruling ANC to start investigating the possibility of sanctions against the Jewish state.
But it is Boteach’s accusations against the community that must be challenged..
As someone who is a veteran of pro-Israel activism in South Africa and still active after my Aliyah, I feel it incumbent to address these accusations.
South African Jews traditionally are fierce Zionists but their voice is becoming
increasingly muted. Faced as they are with a post-apartheid landscape that has changed dramatically in its posture toward Israel, they do not wish to be too out of the step with government and national sentiments.
Rabbi Boteach is correct, South African Jews are fiercely Zionist. This is evident in the number of Olim but also in the incredible efforts made by members of the community, organised and private, to make the case for Israel in the media. These efforts are spearheaded by groups like the Media Team Israel, South African Friends of Israel, the SAZF, the SAJBOD and SA Union of Jewish Students. For Jews in South Africa, Israel = Apartheid is not a week long event that happens once a year but rather a daily occurrence, replete with venom and vitriol. Boteach says that we do not wish to be too out of step with the government and national sentiments. The South African Jewish narrative is far too complex and intricate to understand and sum up in one or two visits. It is a politically delicate situation that requires a great deal of thought and careful manoeuvering. It is a phenomenon that needs to be accurately understood and contextualised before such loaded statements are made. South African Jewish communal leaders have not stayed silent in the face of “government sentiment”. Rather, numerous attempts both in a legal framework and diplomatic framework have been embarked on. Sometimes when one goes to battle the more direct route is not the best, and sometimes alternative tactics are needed. Just because they do not make headlines, doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. At a time when legislation like the Freedom of Expression Act threatens to curtail the democratic right to criticise the ANC government, the community punches above it weight by continuing to voice its dissatisfaction. Loudly.
The Jewish community of South Africa must learn that if they’re not vocal and don’t defend Israel gallantly and publicly with the facts at their disposal, their de facto spokespeople will be journalists like Zapiro who malign Israel and trivialize the Holocaust.
It is very easy to point fingers at South African Jewry but instead of criticising, I invite Boteach and others to hear some of the success stories. A statement like the above is confusing to us who labour so hard to fight the ongoing anti-Israel sentiment. Our Media Team was once told that outside of the Arab world, the South African media is the most hostile. Our answer to that is to continue to fight in the media. Our answer has been to build bridges with other communities and this was evident last year when overwhelming support was shown both for Israel and the community by Christian Zionists, King Goodwill Zwelithini and the Zulu nation, the Shembe tribe and their leadership and the African Christian Democratic Party led by the indomitable Rev. Kenneth Meshoe. Just weeks ago over 250 people participated in an advocacy day for Israel. Most were Christian Zionists. The sterling work done by organisations like the Jewish National Fund and their outreach into impoverished communities builds trust and cooperation. The sheer chutzpah of the community led by its youth who have protested, made demands and embarked on fierce campaigns makes sure that Israel’s side is heard. These efforts are most gallant.
While journalists like Zapiro are controversial enough to warrant column inches and headlines, assuming that the community is not vocal in their defence of Israel is at once insulting and shows a lack of understanding of the situation at hand.
Rolene Marks is a member of the Media Team Israel, a voluntary body associated with the South African Zionist Federation that counters bias against Israel in the media.
Rolene Marks has written numerous published opinion-editorials, addressed groups and has been featured on radio and television countering bias against Israel. Follow Rolemarks on Twitter or read her blog: http://www.rorosrantings.wordpress.com
This article is featured in the WIZO Lapid Newsletter
In today’s social media savvy and fast paced world it seems that the face of anti-Semitism as we traditionally know it is rapidly changing. Modern day anti-Semitism is no longer restricted to the desecration of Jewish graves or the barring of Jews from sports clubs as we used to see in the past. Today we see a shift from attacking the individual to the attack of the ultimate Jewish symbol, the State of Israel. The new anti-Semitism has reared its ugly head in the form of virulent anti-Zionism. On University campuses around the world and in calls for Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions against the Jewish State are increasing.
Attempts to equate Israel with pariah states like Apartheid South Africa and deal out the same treatment that brought the notorious African regime to its knees, seems to be the new modus operandi that forms part of the new assault on Israel’s legitimacy.
March brings with it perhaps the most nefarious event on the anti-Israel calendar, Israel = Apartheid Week. On university campuses across the world “activists” will be staging various forums to attack and vilify Israel. Drawing comparisons by alleging that Israel practices crimes of Apartheid anti-Israel activists are treated like visiting rock stars and Jewish students are feeling the heat as anti-Israel activists use intimidation tactics. Many feel too intimidated or that Universities are complicit in fostering climates of hatred.The other battlefield that is growing in momentum are the calls for cultural, academic and economic boycotts and divestment (BDS).
This attempted assault on Israel’s legitimacy is the new manifestation of anti-Semitism. It has become the cause du jour for actresses like Emma Thompson or musicians like Roger Waters. These so called human rights activists are also strangely silent when rockets rain down on Israel’s civilians but this just exposes the scary double standard at play. Last year, music icon Stevie Wonder, cancelled his scheduled appearance at the Friends of the IDF benefit after he was inundated with letters and petitions from activists. The sad reality is that the people who stand to lose the most in campaigns like this are the very people human rights activists purport to help.The new tool in the arsenal of hatred is Holocaust inversion or the accusations that the Jewish victims of the worst crime of atrocity known to mankind are now the perpetrators. This was evident in South Africa last week when at an event to commemorate International Holocaust Day (organised by the BDS Movement - oh the irony!), the CEO of the South African Human Rights Commission declared that “The Holocaust survivor has become the War criminal of today.” This nauseating and offensive statement that is meant to give these nefarious organisations the moral high ground only serve to expose their true intent.
Israel has become the favourite scapegoat much to the detriment of other conflicts around the world. Beating up on the Jewish State has become the sport of choice in the world media and in the hallowed halls of the United Nations. One has to wonder how victims of human rights atrocities and genocide in places like Syria or Darfur feel that their suffering is of little consequence when Israel is the focus of so much attention. Sadly when we needed the focus of the world it was lacking. But if the tyrants and terrorists of the world unite against us and use us as a scapegoat, perhaps we are doing something right?Rolene Marks is a member of the Media Team Israel, a voluntary body under the auspices of the South AfricanZionist Federation that counters bias against Israel in the media.
Rolene Marks has written numerous published opinion-editorials, addressed groups and has been featured on radio and television countering bias against Israel. Follow Rolemarks on Twitter or read her blog:www.rorosrantings.wordpress.com
It is an annual event held on university campuses around the world. An anticipated festival featuring clowns and jokers and a whole bunch of magic tricks. The rock stars of hate finely tune their instruments for the tour that covers over 250 cities across the globe and occurs in February and March every year.
The tour will feature its usual playlist – activists spewing venom and vitriol and leveling accusations of the practice of Apartheid at the Jewish State. If you strip away the “glamour” and look at the motivation behind such an event, it is easy to see that although disguised as concern for human rights abuse, these rock stars of hatred and discrimination single out only one country, Israel, and use words like Apartheid to rally support behind their nefarious cause.
On many occasions I have lamented the tragic hijacking of the word “Apartheid” which in essence meant the legislated and enforced laws of racial segregation that classed the black citizens of South Africa as disenfranchised and second class. Instead, this definition has become a sexy way to package, market and sell anti-Israel hatred. The word Apartheid is provocative, emotive and evocative and inspires a variety of strong emotions. The rock stars of hatred are well aware of what people’s reactions to the word Apartheid will be. In their haste to demonize Israel, detractors have forgotten to define what Apartheid was! The black people of South Africa suffered tremendously under the Apartheid regime and by comparing Israel, an imperfect but thriving democracy, to the former South Africa makes light of their suffering. It is an odious comparison to say the least.
This campaign of hatred is nothing more than a scurrilous attempt to assault the legitimacy of the State of Israel. One must note that even in the darkest days of Apartheid, NOBODY questioned South Africa’s right to exist as a country, no matter how much the world objected to its racist policies. Calling into question Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish State or the rights of Jews to organize themselves along political lines and call it Zionism IS racism. By painting Israel as a pariah state that has little right to exist and ignoring true racist states says more about those pointing fingers than our plucky little country. I grew up in South Africa and bore witness to the horrors of Apartheid and I live in Israel and while it is not perfect and yes, racism exists, it is a far cry from the daily humiliation and persecution suffered by the people of South Africa. South Africa is perhaps one of the most important centres for this campaign of delegitimisation because it is the country that not only holds the benchmark for defeating Apartheid but exports anti-Apartheid activists to the above mentioned centres to promote their Boycott Divestment and Sanction (BDS) campaign against Israel and spew forth their vitriol.
And Gaza is the favoured symbol of oppression. It is astounding that some will say that Israel is practicing policies worse than Apartheid in Gaza (an area that Israel completely disengaged from including the uprooting of the dead) while ignoring true crimes of Apartheid perpetrated by Hamas – the guardians of Gaza. Gender apartheid, religious apartheid, restriction of freedom of the press, persecution of political opposition and the persecution of Homosexuals. Should I go on?
Those advocating BDS assume that by “punishing” Israel with cultural, economic, sporting and other sanctions it will bring us to our knees, and we will abandon the idea of a Two State Solution. They assume that by isolating Israel it will result in Palestinians and Israelis living happily ever after in a giant rainbow nation like South Africa and everything will be sunshine, lollipops and roses. Except for one small detail. Palestinians and Jews both have their own national aspirations based on their own ethnic or nationalistic identities.
By advocating a One State Solution, BDS advocates not only patronize Palestinian national aspirations but Jewish as well.
During last year’s on-campus hate fest an attempt was made by an Israeli student to engage with a representative of the BDS movement. His hello was met with a call to F… off. Offensive, appalling and it just proves the point that discourse and engagement is not the aim of these movements, but rather isolation and abuse. It is my belief peace will be built from the ground up and cutting off engagement is contrary to any attempts to broker peace.
It has become trendy to join the anti-Israel frenzy on campus. It saddens me that in order to become pro-Palestinian the trend is to become as anti-Israel as one can possibly be. Academic institutions are supposed to be hotbeds of free thinking so I am going to send this message to students: start a new trend – become rebellious rock stars and buck the system by becoming pro peace and being informed of the realities in this part of the Middle East. Rebel by choosing not to harass Israeli speakers, diplomats and IDF representatives who visit your campus. Look for positive ways to build dialogue and change. Don’t be a supporting act by advocating policies of BDS.
Come on students, this is YOUR time to challenge authority….
Disclaimer: Hate-a-Palooza is in no way a slight or criticism of the highly successful rock tour, Lollapalooza.
This post is featured in The Times of Israel.