Honouring one of our greatest – Shimon Peres 1923 -2016

This blog is currently featured by The Israel Forever Foundation:

http://israelforever.org/interact/blog/honoring_one_of_our_greatest_shimon_peres_1923_2016/

He was a pioneer, and a founding father. He was both hawk and dove, warrior and peacemaker. He was an innovator and mediator. He was a Nobel laureate and visionary. He was a leader whose personal and political history was deeply woven with the story of Israel and the Jewish people.

Today Israel is in mourning. We bow our heads for our beloved Shimon Peres z”l, who has passed away at 93.  He was the last of our original founding fathers and a true icon.

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Shimon Peres z”l, was the eternal optimist, a rare quality in this world. He had transcended a decade’s long career in politics where he held many of the top portfolios in government including the office of Prime Minister twice. His relationship at times with the Israeli public was very complicated. He had suffered many political losses and at times was deeply unpopular, more so after the signing of the Oslo Accords.  He endured a lot of criticism for his role in the signing of these accords. Many had held him and Prime Minister Rabin z”l, responsible for the terror that followed in its wake.

Despite this, Peres remained ever hopeful that peace is possible in our very volatile region.

But he transcended politics and in 1996, founded the Peres Centre for peace with the intention of furthering his vision of people in the Middle East working together to build peace through socio-economic cooperation and development and people-to-people interaction.

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He was a great unifier and amongst his many accolades, received both a Knighthood from her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II and honorary title of Sheikh by Bedouin dignitaries in the Negev for his work on behalf of the people of the Middle East.

A true Statesman, he shook the hands of Presidents and Popes, Kings, Queens and movie stars.  Every celebrity who visited, wanted an audience with our ebullient, eloquent and warm elder Statesman. His love for technology was legendary and I sheepishly admit that he was probably more proficient than I am. Who can forget his final message to the world on Facebook– “Buy more Blue and White” or his infamous job hunting clip on YouTube?

Former President Peres goes job hunting….

I was immensely privileged to meet President Peres when I participated in the Ministry of Foreign Affair’s Young Jewish Diplomats course in 2007. Hearing that young leaders had come to hear him speak, he came over to meet us. He took his time greeting all of us and shaking our hands. When it was my turn he asked in his deeply accented English that had never lost its Polish inflection “where are you from?” This was at a time when South African President Mbeki has made such sweeping statements like HIV does not cause AIDS and expressed support for Iran. I responded (trying not to giggle like a teenager at a One Direction concert) “South Africa Mr President”. After a very short exchange he was on to the next person but left a lasting impression with me who was extremely star struck.

As I write this, tributes are pouring in from all over the world as Peres continues to unite the most unlikely folk.  There will be many, many more for a man truly deserving of tribute and honour.

There will be only one Shimon Peres – and from a grateful nation who bows our head in mourning we say Thank you Mr President, for all you gave us, in the good times and bad, in times of strife and peace. May you look down on us one day as we achieve your dream – of a lasting peace.

May your memory be forever blessed.

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When two great Statesmen met…..

Talking Tachlis Episode 4: Michael Dickson, Stand With Us.

Welcome to another episode of Talking Tachlis. We were so excited to sit down with the executive director of Stand With Us, Michael Dickson and talk about how to be pro-active on social media, how to help the next generation of students and leaders feel more confident and empowered and a whole lot of other topics.

Don’t forget to visit: http://www.standwithus.com and follow on Facebook and Twitter.

 

Interview with Michael Dickson: Click here

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Talking Tachlis Episode 2: Yigal Palmor – Director of Communications, Jewish Agency for Israel

Last week, I was delighted to chat with Yigal Palmor,  former Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman and Director of Communications for the Jewish Agency for Israel, about growing anti-Semitism and what you can do in your country to be a pro-activist for Israel. To all my French and Spanish speaking friends, Yigal recorded special messages for you as well.

Yigal Palmor English

Yigal Palmor French

Yigal Palmor Spanish

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Talking Tachlis Episode 1: Interview with HonestReporting

How can you best respond to biased media against Israel?
For the first ‘Talking Tachlis’ interview, Rolene Marks, World WIZO Public Diplomacy & Hasbara Chair, sat down with HonestReporting‘s managing editor, Simon Plosker, to get tips and tools.
HonestReporting has launched a Brazilian affiliate and has one in Spanish as well.
For more information visit: www.honestreporting.comtwitter.com/honestreporting
Your comments and feedback is always welcome: rolenemarks@yahoo.com

TalkingTachlis with HonestReporting

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A voice for our children

This blog post is currently featured in Israel Forever:

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

The summer school holidays in Israel should be a time of lazy morning lie-ins, fun with friends and driving parents crazy trying to find activities for their children to do.

For sweet Hallel Yaffa Ariel, asleep in her bed, this was not the case.  Last week her safe sanctuary, the one place that was sacred, was brutally invaded when a 17 year old terrorist broke into her room and stabbed her multiple times. She passed away from her wounds. Hallel was just 13 years old.

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Hallel Yaffa Ariel, z”l

Raised on a steady diet of hate, from breast to school, her murderer was glorified as a martyr by his mother who celebrated his act of terror. “My son is a hero. He made me proud. My son died as a Martyr defending Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa Mosque. …Allah willing, all of them will follow this path, all the youth of Palestine. Allah be praised.” What kind of society is this that a mother encourages her son to die, preferably killing a Jew in the process? This is not symptomatic of being deprived, it is depraved!

Another family decimated, plunged into mourning for a child gone too soon. A little girl who will never become a woman, bear children of her own, manifest her joy by dancing. Hallel had performed in a dance recital the night before she was killed.

When will it end? When will there be a time when Israeli parents don’t eulogize and say kaddish over the graves of their children?

Israel’s most vulnerable, her children are a target. There is no sanctity amongst terrorists for young lives. What can you expect from those who hide weapons in schools and use their own children as human shields?

This weekend, terrorists fired rockets from Gaza, hitting a family therapeutic centre in Sderot. This is particularly personal as it hit one of our beautiful WIZO facilities, a place where children feel safe and secure. Thank G-d for the miracle that the centre was closed and nobody was hurt. Buildings can be repaired but lives can never be replaced.

Damage to our WIZO Margaret Thatcher Therapeutic Centre from rockets

Sderot is the most bunkered town in the world with bomb shelters every couple of metres for the safety of its citizens. As you read this, please try to imagine what life has been like for the citizens of Sderot who do not know what it is like to live without the firing of rockets onto their town.  The warning “Tzeva Adom” (code red) is as part of their lives as going to school or work.  Imagine what it is like to have 15 seconds to find shelter, to live your life in increments of 15 seconds.

WIZO works tirelessly to help Israel’s citizens and was the first to build a completely rocket proof daycare centre in Sderot. The wellbeing of children in all of our facilities is of paramount importance and we work very hard to ensure their emotional and physical safety.  For children to be fired upon so indiscriminately because they are Jewish (by the way we have children from all sectors of Israeli society in our facilities!) is unconscionable.  This centre,  provided much appreciated therapy and coping skills for parents and children in Sderot who live with the constant trauma of rockets and mortars.

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While Hamas uses its people as human shields, IDF soldiers protect a little boy during rocket fire on Sderot in southern Israel

What chance is there for peace when Palestinian children are raised on hate and martyrdom from the incitement of their leaders, teachers and even their parents? This is flagrant child abuse and I am bewildered at the silence of the world that is indifferent. If there is to be peace, children should have the benefit of being taught that they can be doctors, lawyers, teachers, dancers and nation builders!

Stabbing sleeping children asleep in their beds or firing on day care centres is NOT an act of resistance – it is barbarity, pure and simple.

I write this on the day where the Jewish world and indeed humanity, has lost one of our most beloved sons.  Elie Wiesel z”l, a gentle, humble and wise soul, Holocaust survivor and Nobel Laureate, who passed away at 87. He was a voice for the voiceless 6 million. His legacy was to bring light to a world of darkness, to bear witness and give a voice to those who are suffering around the world. As he is welcomed back into the bosom of his family who perished during the Holocaust, let us learn from one of his most famous quotes “the opposite of love is not hate – it is indifference”.

My appeal to everyone who reads this blog is to please speak up for our children. Help us tell the world what the media will not – tell the stories of Hallel, of Gilad, Eyal and Naftali and of the children who are in the sights of rockets fired on their schools. If we do not give our children a voice, who will? Let us not be indifferent.

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Occupier Barbie and the Jewish Jezebel

I am a firm believer of the tome, “promote what you love, do not bash what you hate”. It is with this philosophy in mind that I approach Israel advocacy and my social media activity. It may not be everybody’s cup of tea or approach but I honestly prefer wherever possible, to take a more positive angle.

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Social media is fabulous. Most of us are active on Facebook or Twitter or whatever medium you like to connect with your friends and family or share copious amounts of cat videos. I have found Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to be excellent tools not just to educate people about Israel or show a side to the country that many are not aware of but also to create community. My tribe, if you will.

Most of us who are active in this field have a following who enjoy what we post or engage in robust debate with each other. This is why social media is effective, it creates engagement and is an excellent barometer to gauge what people are thinking.

I have a simple rule for managing debate on my page – you are entitled to an opinion or to disagree with me and each other but play the ball and not the player. In other words, back up your opinions based on facts (even if I disagree) but please do not personally attack each other. Or me. No matter how fruitcake you think the person you are disagreeing with is!

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But social media also has a very, very dark side and bigots, racists and nasties of all kinds use it to spread their vile form of hate. There is very little censorship (have you seen some of the posts in the run up to the US elections? Wow!!) and everybody is an armchair General. Personally I have never experienced this more than during Operation Protective Edge when some really nasty bigots crawled out of the woodwork. It always amazes me how many of them hide behind pseudonyms or mask their true identities

Some of my greatest “hits” include:

“Hitler should have gassed you”

“You are an evil Zionist witch”

“You are nothing but a vacuous bimbo who should change her name to Occupier Barbie”  – my favourite for sheer creativity.

“Jewish Jezebel”

“You have the intelligence of a garden potato”.

“You are a purveyor of pornography” – this in response to an article I wrote about a woman’s right to choose whether or not she wants to watch a seemingly erotic movie. Another woman also told me she hoped I do not have children.  This was particularly personal and painful for me but as someone who is “out there” comments like this are sometimes just par for the course. Haters gonna hate right?

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Thank you foxy Gina Jacobson for this 

There were other comments too disgusting to even mention in polite company and were duly reported and many of my colleagues have received far worse.

Some erected (pun very much intended!) to send me pictures of their nether regions. They were not that impressive and were reported and blocked for violating pornography and my standards.

This brings me to the reason for this rant. One the eve of Ramadan, I wished my Muslim friends, of which I have many and some of whom outwardly support Israel, at great risk to their safety, Ramadan Mubarak. I was not alone in this as many from the IDF to the Tel Aviv municipality as well as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, wished our Muslim citizens the same.

I received the following response:

“I will delete you. You are a radical Muslim with a fake name and picture”.

This has raised my fiery ire because Israelis have just come through a 7 month long wave of terror where social media has been the weapon of choice to indoctrinate young Palestinians and Arab Israelis to become teenorists (thanks Colonel!). It almost gave every latent anti-Semite license to go crazy and post whatever they liked on social media. This is not a game. People have lost their lives and others have been severely wounded, emotionally and physically and in nearly incident, the perpetrators have admitted that they were motivated by posts on social media.

It has been an uphill battle to get social media platforms to better police hate speech as the de fact excuse often give is that “comments or pictures do not violate community standards”. View this sobering experiment conducted by Shurat Hadin, the Israel Law Centre who currently have in excess of 20 000 who have filed suit against Facebook for allowing anti-Semitic hate speech:

Shurat Hadin – Facebook Experiment You Tube

There is a lot of lobbying happening to try and improve the policing of hate speech  as Shurat Ha Din have demonstrated in the You Tube clip above and organizations like Spotlighting who monitor social media and expose racists as demonstrated in the picture below.

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Spotlighting – exposing anti-Semites, one hater at a time

Racist comments from either side once again import racism and conflict into social media. Israel is making major gains in the effort to combat online anti-Semitism. Do not open up another front! It is like the saying goes – if you have not got something good to say, do not say anything at all. There is a huge difference between activism and educating for the truth and personal attacks.

There are some things I just do NOT want to see – beheaded victims of ISIS, tortured or starving animals, abused children, personal attacks on individuals that take nasty to a whole new level. Cat videos and shoe memes are always welcome.

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