Wearing our blue and white

This post is currently featured on the South African Zionist Federation’s website:

http://www.sazionfed.co.za/media/blog/wearing-our-blue-and-white/

I love this time of the year in Israel. The country is transformed into a blue and white celebration as the roads are lined and national buildings festooned with Israeli flags. There is a festive atmosphere as many decorate their balconies with flags and of course, barbeques are sold out. This is all in preparation for the National Holidays.

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My balcony – dressed and ready!

Israel is several thousand years old but the modern state was founded in 1948. She wears the lines of her history with grace and integrity and a certain sense of humour. At times this is punctuated with a deep sadness and if you look a little closer, sometimes you can see a tear in her eyes.

It is no coincidence that the national holidays fall very closely to each other. We are reminded of the pain of our past and the sacrifices of the many that ensure that we continue to live in our vibrant but flawed democracy. I love her flaws – like anyone who focuses on growth, Israelis engage in deep contemplation so that we can improve. There is nothing Israelis value more than life and this is demonstrated with such heart around these holidays.

This year, they are particularly poignant. Rising antisemitism around the world less than a century after the Holocaust which has resulted in violence and sometimes death is a stark reminder about the perils of not learning from history. On Yom Hashoa, Holocaust martyrs and heroes memorial day, Israelis will pause for a minute as the memorial sirens pierces our consciousness. Cars will come to a complete stop and we will bow our heads in silent memoriam. The tears flow freely and our hearts collectively break. But then the siren stops and we open our eyes and look at the country we have built. Built on miracles. Built on innovation. Built on blood, sweat and tears.

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Israel’s citizens stop their cars and bow their heads.

And we will repeat this again the following week for Yom Hazikaron – Memorial Day for soldiers and victims of terror. This year, Israelis will feel this day a lot more acutely. We have endured a wave of terror for the last six months that has cost 34 people (including soldiers, 2 US nationals and a Palestinian) their lives and wounded countless others. Our army and security forces have been working around the clock to keep us all safe. We still feel vulnerable and here in Israel each civilian is family. Sure, we fight and argue amongst ourselves but when we lose one of our own the pain is unbearable! We never take for granted the sacrifices that our soldiers have made so that we can live in peace. On Yom Hazikaron we also remember victims of terror and there is hardly an Israeli family that hasn’t been touched by terrorism in some way. We all know or are related to someone who has been hurt and killed. The sirens will wail and we will remember.

Yom Hazikaron ceremony

We will remember them.

And then the whole mood of the country changes from one of somber memorial to the biggest celebration!

From the north to the south and everywhere in between, Israelis begin to celebrate! Israel erupts into a giant street party with fireworks, celebration, song and of course…..food!

The country wakes up the next day (some nursing hangovers) to the pervasive smell of al ha aish(braai) and many head to the beach and the forests to engage in a favourite pastime – eating! One of the most special moments is the annual fly over of the IAF featuring planes throughout our history.

Israel’s modern day history is entwined with the Jewish tenets of remembering the past, honouring the lost but never forgetting that which the most sacred of all …….LIFE!

Am Yisrael Chai!

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The buildings of the Knesset lit up for Independence Day

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An UNecessary membership?

United Nations – just the mention of these two words is enough to send the blood pressure of Israelis soaring. Israel has a love-hate relationship with the UN – they love to hate us!

This past week, this once noble institute disqualified about a quarter of an exhibition about Israel that opened at their main headquarters on Monday. It seems that they took umbrage about the display on Zionism that was defined as the “national liberation movement of the Jewish people” and two others about Jerusalem as the capital and Israel’s Arab population.

The exhibition was put together by Stand With Us – one of the premier organisations (and one of my favourites) that work very hard to educate and inform the public about Israel while fighting anti-Semitism and extremism. Visit: www.standwithus.com

Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, appealed to Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon saying, “by disqualifying an exhibition about Zionism the UN is undermining the very existence of the State of Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people,”. The decision about the panel on Zionism has since been reversed but this incident once again highlights how Israel is singled out at the UN.

Watch this clip by Stand With Us featuring Ambassador Danon.

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The United Nations was founded shortly after World War 2, with the intention of regulating conflict between nations.  In 1948 former US First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt,  was a driving force in creating the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and was appointed to the UN to champion this cause. The UN was supposed to be the guardian of international human rights and the General Assembly passed a resolution in 2006 creating the UNHRC or Human Rights Council.

My how things have changed! Founded with the most noble of intentions, this international institution has steadily skated downhill to become the theatre of the absurd for hatemongers and dictators.

It is no secret that the UN and in particular the UNHRC are obsessed with Israel.  This unhealthy obsession has resulted in the UN singling out Israel for opprobrium at the expense of many conflicts around the world and leaves many Israelis angry at the appalling double standards. Victims of war, genocide and human rights transgressions in other regions are shaking their heads with hurt and dismay. Don’t their issues and pain count?

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This is institutionalized anti-Semitism at its worst. The flagrant targeting of Israel has left many of us wondering if it is really THAT important to be a member state of the UN and has this international body not passed its sell-by date?

A wise man who was the former Israeli Ambassador to the UN once said that if the haters and dictators continue to point fingers at the tiny state of Israel, we must be doing something right!

Some have opined if it would not be more worth it for Israel to leave the UN and does a country really need to be a member?

“Membership in the United Nations is open to all other peace-loving states which accept the obligations contained in the present Charter and, in the judgment of the Organization, are able and willing to carry out these obligations.

The admission of any such state to membership in the United Nations will be effected by a decision of the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council.”

(Article 4, Chapter 2, United Nations Charter).

Being a member state of the UN allows a country a certain sense of legitimacy. International law does not dictate who becomes a member but the UN Charter does.  Some countries clearly did not receive the memo about being peace loving….

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Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, dismissed the UN’s bias saying Um Shmumm (the Hebrew name for the UN is Ha’Um) and many have followed suit. But the UN still holds a lot of sway in the court of international opinion although even Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon has admitted to the institutions flagrant bias against Israel.

The UN has been silent about Iran’s human rights abuse. They have been silent about rising anti-Semitism that has resulted in violence and death in some countries. The UN fails to condemn those that use their podium to call for the annihilation of the Jewish State. They have been silent about Palestinian incitement which has resulted in a 6 month wave of terror that cost 34 people their lives. But on Israel, they are like salivating, rabid beasts that smell blood. Sadly this unhealthy obsession distracts from any good humanitarian work the UN engages in.

Stand With Us – Kay Wilson shares her story about surviving a terror attack outside the UN in Geneva, March 2016

Many have asked me over the years if Israel does not fight a losing battle with so many odds stacked against her. My answer is the best way to deal with bullies is simply to show up.

We show up. And we fight for our rights to be heard despite the odds because here is the thing – Jews are entitled to human rights as well. We should be unapologetic about this! We are just as much a part of the family of nations as any other. We also have the inalienable right to organize ourselves politically and call it Zionism, in reference to our ancient homeland. We also have the right to a state and to live in it in peace and security. We also have the right to defend ourselves be it against physical attack or institutionalized anti-Semitism. We have the right to use our voices to speak up.

We have shown up. We will continue to be a presence wherever anti-Semitism and bias rear their ugly heads in institutions that are UNethical, UNtrustworthy and their behavior, UNbelievable.

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Israel supporters show their solidarity and support outside the UN in Geneva, March 2016