Special Salute: Israel’s sisters are doing it for themselves!

This blog is currently featured in the SA Jewish Report:

http://www.sajr.co.za/news-and-articles/2016/03/08/israel-s-sisters-are-doing-it-for-themselves

It is a glorious irony that International Women’s Day falls smack bang in the middle of Israel Apartheid Week which a pathetic excuse for anti-Israel activists to gather on university campuses around the world during different  weeks in March every year and engage in some horrific Israel bashing.

Naturally, women’s rights are a favourite target for those wishing to paint Israel as a discriminatory, pariah state.

Israeli women have enjoyed equal rights since the birth of the state in 1948. Women’s rights are enshrined in the Declaration of Independence which states ““The State of Israel will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex.”12524120_480487425480525_3667246504756580585_n

Women are very much part of the fabric of Israeli society and have been involved in many sectors including politics, the military, social welfare, education and many others. Who can forget trailblazers like former Prime Minister, Golda Meir, or Alice Miller, a civilian pilot and aeronautical engineer who successfully petitioned the High Court of Justice to take the Israeli Air Force pilot training exams, after being rejected on the basis of gender.  She was originally from South Africa…

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Israeli women have never been shy to use our voices. Although things are pretty good, there is still a lot of room for improvement. Gaps in income still exist, even though according to research published just before Women’s Day; Israeli women are more educated than their male counterparts. While women are well represented in government and hold extremely high portfolios, there is still a lot of work to do but because Israel is the thriving albeit flawed democracy it is, we have the right to express our discontent and lobby and campaign for improvements. I am proud to be a member of WIZO (Women’s International Zionist Organisation) that works tirelessly to improve the status of women among our many, many other projects. We do this through a variety of programmes that include empowerment courses and leadership skills training, through activism and even have a permanent lobbyist in the Knesset.

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Israeli women are pioneers, having built a country with very little natural resources. We are trailblazers in business, politics, volunteer organisations, the arts and sciences and so much more.  We are religious and secular and everything in between. We are warriors and defenders of our country on land, sea, air and airwaves and we are homemakers, entrepreneurs and creative genii. We are Jewish, Arab, Christian and Druze. We are changing the political landscape and we represent over 80 different ethnicities. We can vote, drive, and own property and businesses. We can make decisions that govern our bodies and our communities and if we want to, raise a little hell.

We are free to be who we are, free to choose and free to fight for our rights. In communities where religious doctrines are sometimes prohibitive towards gender rights for women, we are slowly making changes.

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We can even be Wonder Woman!

So how is this relevant to Israel Apartheid Week?

During the Apartheid years in South Africa, women did not enjoy the rights and protection they have in this new democratic era.  Under Apartheid, non-white women suffered both gender and racial discrimination.  Jobs were often hard to find and many women worked as agricultural or domestic workers. Wages were extremely low, if existent. Children suffered from diseases caused by malnutrition and sanitation problems, and mortality rates were high. The controlled movement of non-white workers within the country through the Natives Urban Areas Act of 1923 and the pass laws separated family members from one another, because men usually worked in urban centres while women were forced to stay in rural areas. Marriage law and births were also controlled by the government and the pro-apartheid Dutch Reformed Church, which tried to restrict non-white birth rates.

Women became the major source of resistance to the Apartheid machine. The remarkable Helen Suzman was the lone voice of opposition in parliament. Did I mention she was Jewish and a strong Zionist?

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Women in other parts of the Middle East are subject to gross discrimination. In this part of the world, girls are married off before they reach puberty or are killed because they have ‘dishonoured” their families. In this part of the world, women do not have the right to own property, vote and receive an education or even drive. Gender Apartheid is rife and the unprecedented rise of Daesh (ISIS) with their deathly brand of medieval barbarism is sending women’s rights back to the stone-age.

Now shouldn’t BDS and all who claim to be concerned about the rights of Palestinians be more interested in campaigning for gender equality in the territories?

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So on this International Women’s Day I salute women everywhere  and to my  Israeli sisters, from all sectors of society,  who are pioneers and mothers, entrepreneurs and trailblazers, leaders and lobbyists, students and homemaker, survivors and thrivers, soldiers, bereaved and volunteer activists. To the leaders and the volunteers and the women who are fighting against the odds I salute you as well as the Olim, and the ambassadors, the young and those that survived the unthinkable. Israel is not perfect but I defy anyone to call us an Apartheid state. That diminishes the hurt and suffering of those who really endure persecution and discrimination.

We deserve a salute – and a fabulous pair of shoes!

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  • Reference: Wikipedia

Left, right and the safe spaces between them

This blog is currently featured in The Algemeiner:

http://www.algemeiner.com/2016/02/16/on-israel-no-tolerance-at-college-campuses/

I have never been a great fan of labels. Well, shoes notwithstanding….

The propensity to label people according to what their perceived political persuasions or affinities are and pigeon-hole those into boxes labelled “leftist” or “right winger” is slowly killing off constructive discourse. With smug assuredness, those who propagate ideas of liberalism and pluralism boast about inclusion and “safe spaces” for those of diverse opinions.

Nowhere is this more prevalent than on university campuses around the world. Once bastions of free thought and expression, university campuses have now become hotbeds of incitement and exclusion. Certain groups have become virtual pariahs and have found themselves increasingly excluded from representation and discourse.

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BDS Event Poster

Yup, I am talking about Jewish students.

Anyone who is seen to be supportive of Israel is automatically labeled as right wing and this comes with the ubiquitous dangerous connotations of being “intolerant” “prejudice” and in the case of Israelis, accused of being “war criminals”. On some campuses, Jewish student organizations are not even invited to participate in debates on certain subject because the cause du jour is to oppose Zionism and everything related.

Kings College in London erupted into riots against an Israeli speaker – view BBC report here

Universities are very fond of flinging out statements that they have created “safe spaces” for students to engage and debate issues. Except if you are Zionist. The tent does not expand that far. Often what is seen as leftist or the Palestinian narrative is deemed important and truthful information but if you work in Israel advocacy or are a staunch Zionist, you are perceived as spreading propaganda or “hasbarah”. Anti- Israelists love to throw the word Hasbara around with self-righteous indignation. While I congratulate them on knowing a Hebrew word, they are completely ignorant about Zionism. Having relegated it to the unwanted pile of “isms” (read fascism, Nazism, Communism); these self-proclaimed know-it-alls don’t have the faintest idea about Zionism, how it has evolved over the years, how it is manifested in Israel, the very country they level their vitriol towards and how broad the tent is. Zionism has grown from just the simplified version of being the right of the Jewish people to have a country in their national and historical homeland to a broad and wide encompassing ideology that celebrates gay rights, promotes the rights of woman, is the very definition of human rights and of course, is identified with the technically savvy start up nation. This is just the tip of the iceberg of definitions. In truth, Zionism is very, very sexy.

Instead, Zionism has been vilified not only by student groups but also by professors seeking to promote their own agendas. This has allowed for a climate of fear and intimidation to spread through a lack of respect for the dignity of the individual and for the rights of others to hold and express different intellectual positions.

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Professors touting their own agenda

Israel Apartheid Week is the epitome of this. This festival of Israel bashing and flagrant anti-Semitism makes its annual world tour in March every year, starting in South Africa, the ground-zero of the BDS movement and then onto the USA, Europe and South America. Masquerading as the defenders of Palestinian rights, the BDS movement is nothing but an anti-Semitic wolf in human rights clothing. My apologies to wolves everywhere but you get the point.

A friend of mine when discussing the situation at the University of Cape Town told me that when she asked supporters of Israel Apartheid Week about the conflict she was told, “I had people telling me that “When they get Palestine back, the Jews must go. “When I asked where to, they answered “back to where they came from”.8 million people? And when I asked if the countries some of them came from such as Europe, Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt etc. didn’t want them back then where must they go? People replied…”they can be killed “Or “I don’t care what happens to them”. This is not just unique to South Africa. Some of the universities in the USA and UK are known for speech that easily matches or surpasses in venom.

Former Israeli Ambassador to the US, Michael Oren, harassed on campus

Chants of “Palestine will be free from the river to the sea” which in essence means the destruction of a country as well as the death of 8 million women, children and men, is commonplace and Jewish students are often terrified to be identified. Some prefer not to attend classes and other remove their Kippot (yarmulkes) or any Jewish insignia. . This is hate speech, not a freedom movement that incites anger, leads to hate and culminates in violence as is evident in the rise of anti-Semitic attacks worldwide.

During the Apartheid years in South Africa, any voices of criticism and dissent were silenced. Today anyone who vouches their support for Israel on campus is effectively silenced. This is reverse apartheid.  Bully-boy tactics used by these nouveau fascists who proudly proclaim themselves liberals mean that any attempts to share Israel’s records with regards to human rights often means accusations of “pink-washing” or “war criminals “as well as “they are settlers and deserved it” follow suit.

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Poster advertisng gay rights event defaced

These are not fair-minded, liberal and/or pluralistic people, by any stretch of the imagination.

Gone are the liberal tenets that include freedom of speech, dignity for all human beings regardless of color, religion, creed and ethnicity, respect for others perspectives and the right for everyone to live in security and safety. Israeli speakers should be able to speak on campus without near riots erupting. Supporters of Israel should be able to debate the facts and give their opinions without being physically threatened or intimidated.

BDS supporters disrupt Col. Richard Kemp – University of Sydney

This is no longer student activism but rather a free-for-all to vent any latent anti-Semitic prejudice. Major donors to some universities have pulled funding from projects that have been exploited to push a one sided agenda. Perhaps more of this needs to happen or students need to do something quite radical – visit Israel and get the facts on the ground.

It may be the smartest class they ever take.

Weapons of words

This blog post is currently featured in the SA Jewish Report:

http://www.sajr.co.za/bloggers/rolene-marks/rolene-marks/2016/01/27/weapons-of-words

Today is International Holocaust Memorial day. On this solemn day, we mark the tragedy of all human tragedies, the Holocaust. We remember the 6 million Jews marked for death and destroyed. We remember the millions of Homosexuals, Gypsies, political dissidents and others who were deemed “undesirable” by the Nazi killing machine.

The 27th of January is the date that coincides with the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp by the Soviet Red Army and it is the day that the United Nations has designated in memorium.

Hatikvah “The Hope” sung at Bergen Belsen

As the world became aware of the immense atrocities of the Holocaust, it must be noted that the shattering of glass on Kristallnacht that accompanied the destruction of holy synagogues and the looting of stores and homes started with words. The gas chambers of Auschwitz and other death camps and the crematoria were built on incitement.

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Whole communities, brilliant scientists, educators, artists, musicians and potential future finders of cures to disease and contributors to the world were wiped out because of an idea, fueled by words and perpetrated by an educated mass that were whipped into a frenzy of hatred.

Today, 71 years later, I fear that the world has not learned anything from the past. A wise man once said that those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it. Sadly, we are seeing alarming levels of anti-Semitism rise all over the world, often resulting in violence and death.  For the past four months Israel is enduring a wave of terror, perpetrated by terrorists between the ages of 17-25 and some as young as 13.

Motivated by the daily diet of incitement and anti-Semitic vitriol and spurred on by their political and religious leaders, these young terrorists, armed with their knives and their venom, seek to kill as many Jews as possible.

In the last two weeks we have buried two young women and prayed for the speedy recovery of another pregnant mother to be, stabbed because she is Jewish. These women are a small snapshot of the now over 30 murdered and countless injured.

Our women are being attacked – in their homes in front of their children, shopping in supermarkets and walking in the streets. Today, Daphna Meir (38) z”l a mother of six and Shlomit Krigman (23) z”l, a young student, lie buried side by side on a peaceful Jerusalem hilltop.

We are burying our mothers, our daughters, our most promising students. We are burying our sons and our fathers. But we are not burying our hope.  The father of the 16 year old boy who killed Daphna Meir said that he was “proud of his boy” who admitted that it was after watching Palestinian television that he was motivated to kill.

In a twist of bitter irony, Secretary-General of the UN, Ban Ki Moons stated “it is human nature to react to occupation”. This would be offensive on any night but on the eve of International Holocaust Memorial day it is purely repugnant. This is not a society that is deprived. Palestinians receive more aid than any other people in the world. The question we need to ask is where is the aid going to? The financing of hate education and incitement is more depraved than deprived and global NGO’s, especially those in Europe who donate money under the guise of human rights projects needs to be questioned and examined more closely.

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No matter what your personal views on settlements or the disputed territories are, there is no justification ever to kill. Are the lives of our women less valuable because their address where they live is deemed undesirable? Is it not a policy of Apartheid instigated by the Palestinian Authority to say that Jews cannot live on any inch of a potential Palestinian state?

If you want to speak out on behalf of Palestinian human rights, it is incumbent on NGO’s, world leaders, human rights organization, the media and individuals to condemn the incitement of hatred that pervades this society and is tantamount to child abuse.

Today, as we reflect on the Holocaust and honour the memory of those we have lost and who have survived, as we watch the footage and listen to solemn, heartbreaking testimony and vow NEVER AGAIN, we need to ensure that this does not become an empty platitude. The theme of this year’s Holocaust Day is “bystanders”. We have a duty to those we lost and future generations to ensure that we do not become bystanders to hate. We have a duty to ensure that we do not repeat history.

Never again means never, ever again. Am Yisrael Chai.

El pasado para no olvidar el presen_

Dear Golda

This post appears in the WIZO Lapid magazine “Women taking the lead”. The magazine is not available online.

This blog is also featured on the Telfed website: http://www.telfed.org.il/rolene_dear_golda

I have often wondered what I would say to you if I ever was to meet you. What would a relatively new Olah say to one of the greatest leaders of all time? You were Israel’s fourth Prime Minister and remain an inspiration to this day. You give the impression that even though you were a formidable leader, you were still savta Golda, with your trademark bun and cigarette, an approachable bubbe who we could count on for advice.

It is 2016 and the tiny little country that you helped birth is a thriving, cosmopolitan and beautifully flawed democracy. Women’s rights have grown in leaps and bounds since you paved the way for us to realise we can become so much more than we ever thought we could. We are pioneers and trailblazers, entrepreneurs and home makers, politicians and doctors, ballerinas, soldiers and teachers. We are nation builders. In a neighbourhood where women are silenced, persecuted, raped and denied basic human rights, Israel’s women are the backbone of our great state.

A lot of this we owe to you.

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You mentioned in your memoir of how emotional it was to sign the declaration of Independence next to another great woman, Rachel Kagan. She was a WIZO woman and today, we have over 800 projects across the country where we work very hard for an improved Israeli society. Daycare centres and battered women shelters, leadership programmes and schools, Golda, what naches you would feel!

Dear Golda, Israel has always been the birthplace of ideas. You were so proud of this fact and always encouraged education and now we are world leaders in science, medicine, agriculture and technology. We have been renamed “The Start Up nation”. You would be amazed at the incredible creativity bursting from our young, innovative citizens. We never lose hope that our neighbours will choose to educate their children to become members of the start-up generation instead of educating them with hate filled rhetoric.

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One of your most memorable quotes was that there would be peace when the Arabs love their children more than they hate us. Golda, it breaks my heart to tell you that this has not changed. You wrote in your memoir “My Life” that you worried about preparing the next generation of 9 and 10 year old for the army. As I write this, we are enduring a horrendous wave of terror. Sadly, the same incitement and terror that you worried and opined about has not stopped and we have had to fight several more wars and endure two “Intifadas” as a result of such hostility. But you know we are a stubborn people and we sanctify life and will never lose our hope for peace.

We have mourned together and suffered loss as a nation. Our heads have been bowed but our spirits have never been broken.  Our defiant love for life sustains and motivates us to carry on. At a time when stones are weapons of war, we use ours to build homes. When barbaric terrorists behead their victims, we use ours to look for groundbreaking solutions and at a time where women are maligned and mistreated in our neighbourhood, we endeavor to follow in your trailblazing footprints.

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Dear Golda, you raised the ire of some but I reckon if people applaud every single thing you do, you probably aren’t doing your job effectively enough. You sometimes made decisions that were not always popular but as a true leader, always had Israel’s best interests at heart.

Africa held a special place in your heart and you believed that many of the countries shared a similar history and yearning for statehood that we did. You would be delighted to see the contribution Israel is making on the continent in helping with sustainability and growth. We pride ourselves in living up to the tenet of tikkun olam and wherever there is a crisis or natural disaster, you will find Israel leading the way. Our enemy Syria has been engaged in a civil war for four years and despite this, Israel has saved over 2000 lives.

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You would be amused that some of your most awe-inspiring quotes are used by us, generations later, to effectively communicate how much we love our country and how we share the same frustrations you did. You had a way with words and in today’s technologically driven world I cannot help but wonder what you would have thought about social media and its importance in telling Israel’s story? You even created some controversy lately when a media watchdog site posted a picture of you with one of your legendary quotes.  Today we will not be silent in the face of adversity and anti-Semitism and even though you are no longer with us, your words continue to inspire us and give us fortitude.

Dear Golda, we may not share the same taste in shoes but I would so love to join you in a celebratory glass of your favourite Israeli wine and toast to Israel, to her pioneering women and to you, a venerable leader who burst through the ceilings, raised the standards and blazed a glowing trail. L’Chaim!

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I recently discovered that my copy of “My Life”, written by Golda Meir was signed by the great lady herself!

Suffer the children

This blog is currently featured in the SA Jewish Report

 

In a conflict situation or time of war it is always the children who suffer. Our hearts have broken over the images of refugees from Syria or starving African children and who can forget the harrowing image of 3 year old Aylan Kurdi, whose lifeless body washed up on a Turkish beach?

I have been sitting in front of my computer wondering how to write this. Would my words do enough justice to express what we are feeling right now as Israel endures a wave of terror that some are calling the “Knife Intifada”?  Several days ago we had 5 attacks before 15h00.

Many of us are writing. We are trying to come to terms with the brutality and futility of it all. Barely a day has gone by without breaking news of yet another stabbing, car ramming or shooting. So far 28 lives have been claimed and many more injured.

I have felt a range of emotions. Rage. Rage at the mistrust this is causing between Jews and Arabs and the ever widening chasm that is growing between our two communities. Disbelief.  Utter shock that while this is happening, the world is silent yet again. Jewish lives do not seem to have the same value as others.

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Showing love for the greatest city in the world!

The longer I live here, the more I love this country and her people. The more protective I feel over each life. The harder I feel each loss. Terror will not stop me from going to Jerusalem, Tel Aviv or Ra’anana. Terror will not stop me exploring Modiin. I may be more vigilant but not deterred. Terror will not stop me from celebrating life and if anything, makes my spirit more determined to serve, to speak out and to have gratitude for a blessed life.

Many have failed to acknowledge Israeli victims of terror. It is like we do not exist. Addressing the UN Conference on Climate Change in Paris recently, Secretary General Ban Ki Moon mentioned everyone – except Israelis. Well, no great shocker from the Useless Nations .

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Um….forgetting somebody? Map of recent terror attacks around the world neglects to mention Israelis. (courtesy, Eyewitness News)

Every day we are reminded how precious and fragile life is in this tumultuous region. The fundamental difference is that Israelis cling to and celebrate life with a defiance that leaves you breathless. Jihadists in the Palestinian territories extol the virtues of martyrdom, the lure of the 72 virgins or to live in infamy as a street name or stadium seems to be more valuable than building a strong, sustainable society. This has nothing to do with desperation and everything to do with a death worshipping ideology.

Who is perpetrating these violent attacks? Veteran terrorists? No. Hardened criminals? No. The average age of those that are carrying out these heinous attacks ranges from 17-24. The youngest was just 13 years old and law makers are in a conundrum about the best way to respect the law and ensure justice.

Palestinian children grow up fed on a steady diet of hate incitement. From their mother’s breast until university, they are taught that Jews are “usurpers of the land” the “descendants of pigs and apes” and also a large chunk of Hamas approved drivel that reflects the tenets of their genocidal charter. Of course the ubiquitous “Jews control the world” canard is also a hot favourite.

Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, addresses the issue of incitement

Recently, Israel’s Shin Bet bust a Hamas terror ring from the West Bank who were planning suicide and car bomb attacks. These were young men were students who attend Birzeit University.   They are educated individuals and certainly not desperate as some leaders and the media would have you believe. Not all the perpetrators are Palestinians, some are Israeli Arabs who enjoy the greatest living standards in the region and not all victims are Jews as was the case with Palestinian, Shadi Arafa.

Educating children to hate is blatant child abuse. Instead of being groomed to be part of the start-up generation or nation builders, Palestinian youth believe that martyrdom is the ultimate goal to aspire to.  This is what they are steadily indoctrinated with.

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“Jihadi dolly” – is it healthy for little children to play with toys like this?

Instead of expressing much needed outrage, the media both in the Arab world and the West, places blame on Israel by drawing a moral equivalence between terrorists and Israel.

In my opinion, so called human rights organisations, self-righteous hand-wringing, finger pointing folk  and the media who fail to condemn these attacks and express their outrage at the abuse of Palestinian children through hate education are just as complicit as the terrorist who plunges the knife into the victim.

What chance do we have for peace when the failure to educate for peace on the other side remains a greater obstacle than anything else?

Children on both sides ultimately suffer. The results of this are attacks that leave babies like little Yotam Sitbon, just a little over a year old who started to take his first steps, an amputee. His little leg was crushed in a car ramming attack.

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And it is not just physical assaults. It is intellectual assaults like the exchange below between a Cambridge professor and a 13 year old Israeli girl (courtesy of Elder of Ziyon).

Exchange between Professor and 13 year old Israeli girl

Wow. Oozing sanctimonious self-righteousness, this so called human rights activist is so consumed with self-importance she cannot answer a 13 year old child’s question just because she is Israeli?

In as much as certain news agencies, countries and organization eliminate Israel off global maps, so too are Israelis as humans, eradicated from human consciousness.

Israelis are people too. Far be it for me to quote from Shakespeare’s the Merchant of Venice but hath we not eyes? Do we not bleed?

Israel’s Speaker of the Knesset, Yuli Edelstein, recently addressing Germany’s Bundestag, expressed his concern about product labeling guidelines in Europe. He went on to question if there will come a time when people are labeled.  Israelis already feel labeled and yet we seem to be excluded from the family of humanity in terms of being included as victims of terror.

It all starts with the children. Peace will be built from the ground up. If there is a failure on the part of the global community to recognize and address this soon by stopping the funding of nefarious NGO’s, UNRWA and holding Palestinian leadership responsible then we will be burying more children. If we do not speak up for our children, who will?

Suffer the children no more.

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Hebron, Hershey’s for Heroes …..and Hanukah!

Chanukah (or Hanukah – depends how you prefer to spell it) is my favourite Chag. It is about light, joy and the miracle of triumph over insurmountable odds. Okay, so it also all about sufganiyot (donuts) and we have all tried our hardest to fight the annual assault of calories that come in every imaginable flavor!

It is perhaps no coincidence that I live in Modiin, the home of the Maccabees. What could be more special than bringing a little bit more light every night for eight days, especially during these dark times?

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Keeping a watchful eye…and making sure to light Chanukah candles

Last Thursday I was extremely happy to  accept an invitation from Hershey’s for Heroes, an organization that delivers Hershey chocolate bars to soldiers on bases all over the country with personalized notes attached. This initiative, started by Michael Ganoe, from Insight to Israel, has seen Americans from all religions and walks of life demonstrate their love for our soldiers by sending them these delicious chocolate treats. Michael is a passionate Christian advocate for Israel and broadcasts weekly on American Web Radio.

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A view of Hebron from inside the guard tower

I accompanied Michael (and a backpack full of chocolates) in a bulletproof bus into Hebron. One of the four holy cities in Judaism, Hebron is home to the Cave of the Patriarchs (Me’arat Ha Machpelah) a place that is sacred to both Jews and Muslims. Hebron is an extremely volatile city and throughout its history has been the site of a lot of tension between Jews and Arabs. Since the Hebron accords in 1997, the city was divided and today Jews have access to 3%.

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A few facts

Over the last two months, Israel has been enduring a wave of terror that has involved stabbings, shootings and car-rammings. Many of us are opining and expressing outrage. We are trying to come to terms with the brutality and futility. Barely a day has gone by without breaking news of yet another stabbing, car ramming or shooting. So far 23 lives have been claimed and many more injured.  Soldiers seem to be a preferred target for these terrorists, mostly aged 17-24 (although the youngest was just 13!)who have been incited by the hatred they are taught at home, in school and in the Mosques.  Hebron has been home to several of these attacks with two civilians stabbed the day before our visit.

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Cave of the Patriarchs 

The city is dotted with soldiers on patrol and on guard who defend us all against terror. The least I could do was say thank you to all that these modern day Maccabees, who form part of Israel’s citizen army, do every day to ensure our safety and protection.

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I was happy to rock some helmet hair…

To say that our soldiers are grateful for a simple bar of chocolate is an understatement. Their faces lit up with joy as we popped up like gophers in guard towers and distributed our choccie goodness to groups of happy soldiers. Many of them recognized Michael as the Hershey’s for Heroes man and have remarked that he has been with them all through their service, no matter where they have been stationed. He was welcomed like a long lost brother and happily dispensed hugs and handshakes with his sweet treats.  We took great care in ensuring that all warriors got their calorific goodness and were well and truly thanked for their service to Israel.

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Armed…with chocolate

It would be remiss of me to not mention my observations. On Thursday the city was eerily quiet, the kind of silence that could change at any given moment.  Soldiers on patrol took great care to check out the identities of all who were entering the holy site and I must make mention of the fact that as an Israeli citizen who carries a teudat zehut (Israeli identity card) I have also been checked. It is NOT a discriminatory tactic, merely a security assurance. Soldiers were courteous, professional and polite when checking tourists as was on one occasion with a group of Malaysian tourists.  Everybody is checked. At a time when women have wielded knives from their handbags and stabbed soldiers or youth have stuck their knives in the heads of those on guard, all precautions are taken.

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Hershey’s for these heroes

Hebron is a potential tinderbox – one wrong move can change the city from quiet to riot. When I first told people I was embarking on my mission of calorie distribution, they all told me I was crazy.  Well…..

I watched as “observers” from media or NGO’s filmed every move our soldiers made. What are they hoping to achieve? Many of them bait the soldiers, hoping for one wrong move or miss-step that they can bring to media outlets to feed the ifrenzy  of “brutal war criminals”. Having spent a lot of time with these noble and moral young warriors, I defy anyone to call them derogatory names.  These are the best of the best and even I stood a little bit taller (as much a  5foot tall woman could!) in their company.

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In Memorium

Israeli soldiers are our collective sons and daughters. We worry about each of them, we feel any loss of life personally and we take great pride in ensuring that they are well taken care of.  As we waited for the next bulletproof bus that would transport us safely back to Jerusalem in case of Molotov cocktails, rocks or shooting from hostile entities, I watched with a heart full of joy as soldiers lit the Chanukiah for the fifth night of Chanukah while some lay tefillin (phylacteries) with Chabad emissaries who distributed sufganiyot to those needing a delicious fried treat.

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Chag Chanukah Sameach!

My gratitude to Hershey’s for Heroes and the IDF who let me tag along to help bring joy to our soldiers. I have returned safe and sound to Modiin and as I write this, news of another attempted terror attack breaks.  A Palestinian tried to ram his car into IDF soldiers conducting security checks at Hilhul junction near Hebron.

Our soldiers continue to provide humanitarian assistance to Palestinians who need it, allow truckloads of aid into Gaza and man their field hospital near the Syrian border. They spread their light in neighbourhood fraught with darkness. The Maccabees would be proud.

Disclaimer: Any political views expressed by Ganoe or Hershey’s for Heroes do not reflect those of the author. 

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www.idfblog. com

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My Tribute to Maurice Ostroff z”l

This is currently published in the Times of Israel:

http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/tribute-to-maurice-ostroff-zl/

There are giants and legends that walk among us and when they pass on, the void is tremendous. A true giant left us today. Maurice Ostroff z”l, was a man whose contribution to Israel, the Jewish people and humanity was priceless.

Maurice was a legend in Hasbarah circles and beyond. He was the founder of the International Coalition of Hasbarah Volunteers (CoHaV) and more recently, Truth be Told, of which I am a proud member. Long before I made aliyah, I could always count on Morrie for his wise council and he was our Media Team’s (an advocacy body based in South Africa) “go to” guy when we really needed help.

Maurice or Morrie as he was fondly called, had an innate ability to make cogent and rational arguments that set an example for all of us to follow. He was a gentleman and a mensch and completely devoid of ego. His response to Israel’s detractors was never aggressive or mired in accusations but rather like the uncle you were fond of who gave you a firm rebuke that was factually correct and beautifully crafted. In my opinion, it was his well-researched and rational argument that got Justice Goldstone to recant his findings against Israel after the inquiry into Israel’s conduct during Operation Cast Lead. What a shining example he set for all of us he mentored!

Maurice lived a life filled with purpose. He was a MACHAL volunteer and remained a warrior for the State of Israel all his life. Apart from leading the charge against Israel’s detractors, he was a past chairman of the Israel South Africa Chamber of Commerce and an honorary officer of the Chamber. He was a former member of the Board of Governors of the Technion and part of the team which created the Herzliya Medical Center and Beth Protea. Morrie had a technical prowess that could put many of our generation in the shade – he was well versed in hashtag and status update.

Many will be familiar with his prolific blogs in the Times of Israel and many other publications. His salient opinion and analysis was sought after by many and he had infinite patience to comply with all of our requests.

I confess to being more than a little bit star-struck when I met him and I am so blessed to have known him and learnt from him.

I used to call Morrie, Mo. His delight at being an instrumental part of our Truth be Told group was contagious. He was our backbone – keeping us well informed and well fed! He was our “speedy Gonzales” – responding to something or having the perfect reply long before anyone else.  His joy at seeing other people achieve was true testament to a man who needed no approval but was confident in his purpose. On a personal level, his support for me and my work and our countless phone calls will always be treasured. This true gentleman has wielded a profound impact on my life in mentoring me.

Morrie used to end our conversations with a suggestion for a whiskey. I used to say, Mo if you are pouring, I am drinking. L’Chaim Mo – yours is a life worth toasting and celebrating and you will always be remembered and missed.

Rolene  Marks – Member Truth be Told, Chair: Telfed Media Committee

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Mo & Ro at a Truth be Told function.