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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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. 

Nous Sommes Unis

Terror has struck a cruel and devastating blow again. Paris, the city of love, light and culture in a country that brought us the tenets of liberty, equality and fraternity has been wounded and hurt and our hearts are broken for the pain that her citizens are enduring.

Daesh (ISIS) have claimed responsibility for this attack and said that France remains at the “top of their list of targets”. Paris is the latest stop on ISIS world tour of terror. Not satisfied with wreaking havoc on the Middle East in Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Libya and wherever they can cause maximum devastation, these arch terrorists have their eyes set firmly on the west. Beirut was also a target this past week with many casualties, proving that a Muslim country is also in their sites. It is no longer a clash of civilisations – it is a battle for the future of humanity.

And let’s call them what they are. They are terrorists. Not fundamentalists, extremists or militants but terrorists.

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The city of Tel Aviv rallies and stands in solidarity with Paris

No amount of outstretched hands and unclenched fists is going to placate those who have declared war against humanity in the hope of re-establishing their caliphate. It is time to call a spade a shovel. Pussyfooting around the issue by speaking fluent politically correct is not going to solve anything.

Terrorists don’t care about platitudes and overtures. Their goal is to sow fear and cause as much destruction as they possibly can. Until we call them what they are, we cannot defeat them.

Nobody is immune to their ideology of hate. ISIS bring a level of terror and barbarity so depraved that not even your common garden variety terror organizations like Hamas, Al Qaeda or Islamic Jihad want to be associated with them. They have marched through the Middle East using medieval torture techniques, raping, slaughtering and beheading Christians, Yazidis and Muslims who do not subscribe to their particular brand of religion and destroying priceless and holy antiquity in their wake.

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The surrounding walls of the Old city in Jerusalem lit in the colours of the French flag

Terrorists love soft targets. The diners eating in a restaurant. The music fans attending a concert. The person waiting for a bus. The family driving to loved ones to celebrate a special Shabbat. They prey on those who cannot defend themselves.  They are the consummate cowards.

In the weeks to come we will start debating what should be done in the wake of these horrific events. Perhaps Russian President, Vladimir Putin, has a valid point when he says he would rather take the fight to them before they barge through the door and into Russia.

It is a difficult dilemma – how do we provide humanitarian support and assistance to those refugees fleeing the very perpetrators of this terror but are being exploited by terrorists who are using the situation to enter countries granting refuge and attack their citizens? It is a horrendous side effect of terrorism when those in need of our assistance become targets of suspicion because their plight has been used as a Trojan horse for terrorists.

It may sound repetitive but Israelis really understand, perhaps more than most, the veracity and trauma caused by terror. Israel is the litmus test and is the frontline battlefield in the global war against terror but instead of listening to us, the world and in particular the media, castigate our efforts to defend ourselves. A repugnant moral equivalence has been drawn between victim and perpetrator and any excuse is used to justify attacks. This has to stop now.

Many Israelis have taken to social media and expressed their frustration at the lack of concern and solidarity shown to us as we endure this current wave of terror. Nobody is placing temporary Israeli flags on Facebook pictures and while it is hurtful that our pain does not register among the family of nations and even many Jews in the diaspora, I am proud that despite all of this, Israel stands in solidarity with our French brothers and sisters. I am proud that we have lit our national buildings in the colours of the French flag and lowered our flags to half-mast. I am proud that we have dispensed aid and security expertise to our French counterparts. This is the Israel I know and love. An Israel filled with compassion and humanity to those who are in pain because we empathise and understand it better than many others.

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The Knesset (Israeli Parliament) lit up and flags at half mast

Tragedy also brings with it the best of humanity. Today the world is united in our grief and random acts of kindness are a reminder that terror will never win.

But we need to stay united in our fight against terror. Now is the time for world leaders to do more than say catchy soundbites or shy away from the truth lest it offends those who buy into this murderous ideology. Now is the time to take a page from Churchill who led the offensive against the Nazi war machine and famously said “We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.

We shall never surrender. Nous sommes unis. We are one.

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A tweet from Charlie Hebdo cartoonist, Joanne Sfar

Our answer to terror

This blog has been featured by Israel Forever:

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

Terrorists have very simple intentions. Kill as many as possible and create an atmosphere of deep terror, the kind that holds its victims in a perpetual state of siege, afraid to leave their homes or go anywhere.

But we Israelis will not be victims! Are we scared? Of course we are. Anyone would be terrified of a knife wielding psychopath whose intention is to kill you and has no fear of being killed because to become a “Shaheed” or martyr is an achievement, worthy of having football stadiums and roads named after you.

This is the diet of incitement that many Palestinian and Israeli Arabs are fed from birth. In my opinion, encouraging a death cult of martyrdom is child abuse and counterproductive to nation building for the Palestinians.  Where is the encouragement to become teachers, entrepreneurs, doctors, nation builders? Anyone from the UN want to sponsor a resolution against the Palestinian leadership for child abuse in the form of incitement to hate? Anyone? Beuller?

Two year old girl describes how she wants to stab Jew – MEMRI.org

It is important to note that many Israeli Arabs and Palestinians have had enough of this and are saying NO to the incitement. It is not in the best interest of both communities. There are so many examples of bridge building between the two communities and so many who are fed up with the divisive and hate-filled tactics of inciters.

“We must put out the fire, and I am willing to do anything for that. As far as I’m concerned, I will go to the Knesset and speak for peace if I have to, without blood and without violence. If I’m in pain, I shout. I don’t pick up a knife. You can be angry and then it goes away, without this killing of innocent people, “ says Arab-Israeli singer, Nasrin Kadri.

The Mayor of Nazareth has a message for inciters…..

While Palestinians declare more and more “Days of Rage” we Israelis prefer other kinds of “days”. The sanctity of life is so important to us and it is what sustains us through our darkest moments.  We don’t have days of rage, that is a waste of productive energy. Instead, we have Book Week, Family Day, Woman’s Day and others that fill our calendars with hope and celebration.

Our answer to terrorism is to keep building, keep innovating and keep looking for ways to improve. We are far from perfect but are also not the ogres we are portrayed as.

Two weeks ago, Zionists from around the world gathered in Jerusalem for the parliament of the Jewish people, the World Zionist Congress.  From the left to the right and in between, from the Druze Zionist Movement (yes, there are many!) and from all corners the earth, Zionists gathered to participate in our preferred sport – vigorous debating and arguing. Raised voices and passionate flailing of hands is a signal that robust discussion is happening!

I was thrilled to represent WIZO (Women’s International Zionist Organisation) along with Chaverot from around the world.  The first World Zionist Congress was held in Basle, Switzerland in 1897. Convened by the father of modern Zionism, Theodore Herzl, who said at the time: “Were I to sum up the Basel Congress in a word – which I shall guard against pronouncing publicly – it would be this: At Basel I founded the Jewish State. If I said this out loud today l would be greeted by universal laughter. In five years perhaps, and certainly in fifty years, everyone will perceive it”.

Nobody laughed, in fact everybody celebrated. This is the spirit that sustains us. Our focus is on building our dream, not inciting hatred. Long before we had a state, Jews worked feverishly to ensure that the dream became a reality. Even though women were not allowed to participate in the Congress, it did not stop us from becoming active and WIZO was formed. 95 years later we can claim to be an integral part of the fabric of Jewish decision making. When women were admitted to the WZC, you can bet we raised our voice to bring about change and today women form part of the upper echelons of leadership.

Through the hallowed halls of the WZC have walked giants like Golda Meir and Chaim Weizman.  When the State of Israel was declared, Golda Meir and WIZO wonder woman, Rachel Kagan, were signatories to the Declaration of Independence. We are clearly leaving our mark everywhere.

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Excerpt from “My Life” – Golda Meir’s Autobiography. Meir describes the day the State of Israel was declared.

There are some that ask if the World Zionist Congress is relevant today. It has changed dramatically over the years and some say the dream has been realized so why do we need this?

It is all about continuity and the engagement of the next generation. It is also about evolving and looking for solutions to pressing issues. It is about providing space in the tent for all opinions and streams of Zionism, including the Druze with whom we share a blood covenant.

Most of all it is about investment in our future. This is our answer to terror.

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Lies, hate and blood lusts

It is 12h16am. In just a few short hours, Israel has endured multiple terror attacks.

It can happen anywhere. On the bus, walking in the street or driving your car. Without a warning. Israel is enduring a frightening wave of terror where the weapons of choice are knives and guns to murder, cinderblocks and rocks to throw at cars. The most potent weapons are the words of incitement that emanate from the Mosques and the factional leadership, including PA President, Mahmoud Abbas, that are whipping the street into a frenzy of hatred with intent to murder.

Brought up on an unhealthy diet of “kill the Jewish usurper” incitement education from birth, Arabs from both the territories and Israel have embarked on daily terror attacks. Teenage Arab terror assailants have stabbed their Jewish peers. Women in modest hijab’s have stabbed other women or soldiers. An infant was stabbed.  Rabbi Eitam Henkin z”l and his wife Na’ama, were murdered in front of their children while returning home after Shabbat. Palestinians responded by singing and waving around pictures of the dead Jews. Everybody is a target in lust for Jewish blood.

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Israeli baby treated by paramedics after stabbing

Two weeks ago, Mahmoud Abbas used his opportunity to address the UN General Assembly to effectively relegate the Oslo Peace Accords into the garbage bins of history. As far as he is concerned, Palestinians are not bound by any peace deals and couple this with the hatred that spews forth from his mouth and you have a recipe for disaster. Make no mistake, this current wave of terror has been carefully orchestrated and the excuse that Jewish presence on the Temple Mount is the root cause is just the latest in the string of lies that grows ever longer. The Al Aqsa Mosque has effectively been defiled by those who use this sacred shrine as a weapons storage facility.

The world is silent. Jews under attack from Arabs is not nearly as sexy or headline-generating as Israeli reprisals. The world media gets hysterical when terrorists are “neutralized” by Israeli security forces. Those damn Jews, defending themselves again!

Palestinians declare more and more days of rage. Yes we know, you have days of rage, days of temper tantrums, days of victimhood, days of poor-us-ISIS-have-eclipsed-our-infamy- what-do-we-do? With the focus of the world firmly on Syria and ISIS, Palestinians have had to do something to be relevant again. How sad that once again they have chosen tactics that are counterproductive to peace.

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Well, I am also having a day of rage. I am enraged at the senseless violence and tragic death. I am furious that I feel that I cannot trust the Arabs I interact with on a daily basis. I am aggrieved that before I go to meetings or embark on my daily routine I have to weigh the safest options. I am angered that yet again, the chasm is widening and the distrust growing.

We will endure this as we have war, 2 intifadas and multiple waves. We are sustained by hope and the tenet that above all, we choose life. The world may be silent but we are not – we will find every forum we can to shout out that #Jewishlivesmatter!

My immense gratitude to the IDF, police and all in Israel’s security forces who are defending us with their lives. Quite literally!

The time for blame games and accusations of tit-for-tat are over. This blood frenzy where Jews are targeted one by one is based on the most evil and oldest hatred.

I am appealing to all who are reading this to show your support for Israel by helping us disseminate information about what is happening here. Help us end the silence! And while you are sharing, reposting, tweeting and emailing, please stand in solidarity with us by raising an Israeli flag on your social media pages.

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The time is 13h13. By now the names and numbers of casualties have been released. The names of the wounded circulated for prayers for swift healing. The messages checking in with friends have died down.

May tomorrow be a quiet day.

A Game of Thrones – Putin style.

This blog is currently featured in the South African Jewish Report:

http://www.sajr.co.za/news-and-articles/2015/10/01/a-game-of-thrones-putin-style

After several years of civil war, hundreds of thousands of deaths and a refugee crisis that is engulfing Europe, Russian President, Vladimir Putin, has decided to send troops to Syria and airstrikes have begun on rebel strongholds. Putin is putin (pun intended) his support firmly behind Syria’s Assad regime. Well, birds of a tyrannical feather do flock together…

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At the moment of this blog post being published, 36 civilians have been killed.

This body count may register as a headline in a publication but it is not as sexy as say, Israel killing 36 Palestinians which more often than not warrants further inspection that almost always finds the majority of recorded casualties to be amongst belligerents.

As news of the civilian casualty count came in, I wondered how many cries of condemnation we would hear from human rights activists or the UN, EU and other general practitioners of holier-than-thouism. Of course the UN is currently preoccupied with speeches from world leaders to the General Assembly which have offered such pearls of moronic wisdom such as Mugabe’s “we are not gay” statement and Iran’s Rouhani and his ever predictable threats to Israel and for good measure, a token stab at the USA for “its unwarranted support of the Zionist regime”. All delivered with his customary Cheshire cat grin, so as to avoid alarming the nice folk at the UN. Abbas has in essence, flung the Oslo Agreements out the window and all eyes will be on Bibi for his rebuttal. At the EU, you can hear the chirping of crickets.

France has been the only power to investigate Assad for crimes against humanity, even though it is seen as largely symbolic.

Russia will not be subjugated to special investigation or have the UN delirious with mad obsession, passing resolution after resolution for the civilians killed in the airstrike. This is a privilege reserved specially for Israel.

And what about Obama? The problem is that the USA, by failing to deliver on threats to bomb Syria when news broke that Assad had used gas against civilians has rendered the commander-in-chief of the mighty US forces more laughing stock than serious player. Obama’s “red lines” moved more than someone dancing the hokey pokey. Don’t worry Mr President, there is always golf….

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The Middle East is a neighbourhood being consumed by flames. Daesh (ISIS) has pretty much destroyed Iraq and is making Syria its new target for terror, leaving a trail of barbaric murder and the destruction of ancient and precious antiquity in its wake. Egyptian forces battle these medieval lunatics and Jordan has felt the wrath and effect with the brutal torture and slaying of a Jordanian pilot. Lebanon has Hizbollah and Daesh in a heated standoff and in Gaza, Hamas are threatened by these barbarians who have claimed responsibility for a salvo of rockets launched at Israel. Israel is dealing with its own issues but is keeping a vigilant and watchful eye on our borders.

Russia entering the fray has added another complex layer to the mix. Putin has proven time and again that nothing and nobody threatens him in any way. There will be a disproportionate lack of response to any civilian deaths as a result of airstrikes.

Putin’s concern that Daesh may reach Russia is another reason for these airstrikes. “The only correct way to fight international terrorism… is to act preemptively, to battle and destroy fighters and terrorists on the territories they have already seized, not to wait for them to come to us,” he said in televised comments. Israel was notified of pending strikes as part of bilateral relations and while the US were quick to claim that they were also notified, Obama and Putin still clash over how best to handle the Syrian crisis and Daesh.

Obama has faced harsh international criticism for his failure to mention the word terror. Putin however, has no problem calling a spade a shovel. Obama is more concerned about the Iranian deal and mollifying the Mullahs.

All the while, Iran watches, waits and continues to fund international terror. Nuclear deal be damned!

This is a very sophisticated episode of Game of Thrones. King of the Middle East is the ultimate prize. If one is keeping score, Putin is currently in the lead and Obama has been relegated to the role of court jester.

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As the USA approaches an election year, it will be interesting to see how foreign policy plays out but in the meantime Putin picks up sword and scepter (and sophisticated fighter aircraft) and keeps his eye on the throne.