Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
* Aaron Alexander was a victim of a violent event, probably on a hatred basis. On the night of the Seder, as the young man left his synagogue in Ukraine, a group of John Does attacked him with a glass bottle. He suffered severe brain damage caused by bleeding and skull fractures. The investigation is still going, but the main suspicion is that the attack was made by an anti-Semitic group. Alexander was taken to Israel, along with a number of Israeli experts who arrived to Ukraine on a special flight, where he was admitted. His condition is severe, yet stable, and he is under constant care.
* A new and shocking story, which was in the headlines of the papers for almost a whole week, revealed some dark secrets behind the scenes of the ultra- Orthodox (Haredi) website, “Haredi Haredim.” The owner of the website, along with two of his senior employees, is suspected of extorting public figures, mostly rabbis and politicians, by publishing articles that portray them in a negative light, and making them pay tens of thousands of Shekels for the removal of those publications. The accusations were backed up by several witnesses. The suspects deny the allegations, claiming that “the business transactions were completely legitimate.” Moreover, their attorneys claim this false accusation was set up by the police, after the website published a photo of one of the police chiefs dressed in an SS uniform. Now, almost a week after the affair was published for the first time, the fraud is suspected to have spread outside of Israel, and got to communities in other countries, probably the U.S.A.
* The Anne Frank House, in cooperation with the Hollandsche Schouwburg – the theatre in Amsterdam used as a deportation center during the Nazi occupation – has published a graphic novel, which tells a story of a fictional Jewish family living in the Netherlands during the Nazi occupation and the years of the Holocaust. This book was announced to be a new teaching aid for teachers, while teaching the younger pupils about the holocaust. This book will soon come out in Israel and will probably be used for the same cause here as well. The publishing of that book, which describes the horrors of the Holocaust in somewhat a child-friendly version, caused many opposing reactions by people believing there is no room for “softening” the darkest time in the history of the Jewish people and that the Holocaust can never become a “child-friendly” story. As a reaction, the publishers mentioned the book doesn’t spare the mass murder and destruction, yet avoids some specifics which currently prevent children from falling asleep during the days prior to Holocaust day.
* According to new data provided by the American Immigration services, the number of Israelis legally immigrating to the US in 2011 (3826) is the lowest since 2003 (2741). This is a 35% decrease since the highlight of emigrants- in 2006. According to attorney Liam Schwartz, who specializes in American Immigration laws, the reason for the decrease is probably due to the unpleasing state of the American economy.
5.17.13 at 12:33 pm | Since I live in Israel and am very passionate. . .
5.14.13 at 2:22 pm | On March 11, first time MK (Member of the. . .
5.13.13 at 12:22 pm | Hollywood in Israel, Wolf Prize winners, Wagner's. . .
5.10.13 at 12:19 pm | Since I live in Israel and am very passionate. . .
5.8.13 at 12:20 pm | No matter who you are, where you're from and what. . .
5.7.13 at 1:07 pm | This week, the Israel Ministry of Public. . .
5.7.13 at 1:07 pm | This week, the Israel Ministry of Public. . . (230)
5.14.13 at 2:22 pm | On March 11, first time MK (Member of the. . . (214)
5.10.13 at 12:19 pm | Since I live in Israel and am very passionate. . . (209)
April 10, 2012 | 10:46 am
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
Happy Passover! Or is it Merry Easter? Eastover? After spending some time in the States, I can confidently claim that at any given moment during the month of the best holiday ever, there are more Easter eggs than Haggadahs in most states. Spending the last summer in the states made me see a different kind of Judaism: The kind that fights for its existence every single day. The kind that needs to be shown.
Here, in Israel, we can smell the Matzo from the beginning of March. Schools are on two weeks long holiday, shops’ display windows are decorated with “Happy Passover” signs, it is illegal to sell Chametz, and holiday songs are sung everywhere. Passover is all over the place, and it takes a great deal of effort to find a Christmas tree here, in Israel. Israel is a democratic and Jewish state by definition. There is no way to escape it. Even those of us who define ourselves as completely secular can’t ride a bus on Sabbath (the bus companies don’t work on Saturdays), and can’t ignore a Jewish holiday.
I never had the need to go to a synagogue. It never seemed like something worth doing for me, especially due to the fact that women must sit in the back, and that is something I’m simply not willing to do. My visit to the states this past summer introduced me to the Reform Judaism, which nearly doesn’t exist in Israel. This was the first time I found myself getting closer to Judaism. This was also the first time I felt the need to pray, to keep kosher and to wear white on Saturdays. This past summer I found myself, for the first time, in a situation where Judaism wasn’t all around me. I had to create it for myself. American Jews need to bring out Passover characteristics - otherwise there will be no Passover. In Israel- there is no way to ignore it. But get this: We throw Christmas parties, and celebrate the Christian New Year’s Eve. It is never official, and we don’t get days off work, but we still do. For fun.
I guess it’s because we have such confident in our Judaism, that we “allow” ourselves to push the limits. We will always maintain a Jewish lifestyle. It surrounds us. As long as we live in Israel, the Jew’s Homeland, there will be no escape from being Jewish.
We don’t believe in Christian Holidays, but there is something alluring about things that are out of reach. This is our way of connecting to the outside world, and to be international. There is also a downside about living in a Jewish country: we are isolated. We see Christmas specials in our favorite T.V series, and want to be a part of it. Part of your world. I mean, everybody wants to be an American. We want to live in the land of endless possibilities. To make all of our dreams come true.
Whatever the reason is behind this, one thing is for sure: We all want what we can’t have. I bet you are a bit jealous of us, for us not having the need to put an effort into living a Jewish lifestyle. We are jealous of you for having every single possibility at reach. We want to see Santa Claus, you want an Easter Bunny-free Passover environment. I suppose the obvious conclusion, is to be happy for what we have. But this will never happen. This is simply against human nature. So have a happy Passover, whichever way you celebrate it, and remember: Somewhere else, people are doing it better…
April 8, 2012 | 4:46 pm
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
• An Israeli Hockey team that went abroad for training landed in Austria to discover Swastikas scrawled on a player’s luggage. The team flew to Vienna for training, while several team members took a later flight from Canada on a connection that passed through Düsseldorf. When they landed, one of the players was shocked to find Nazi symbols drawn on his duffle bag. The Swastikas were reportedly drawn around the words “Israeli National Hockey Team”. The team member chose to refrain from making a scene and left the airport without pressing any charges.
• A fire that occurred about a month ago at a family house in Rosh Ha’Ayin, took the life of the family’s youngest member and their entire property. The fire reportedly started due to a short circuit. When the parents realized it was spreading, the mother ran outside with the two older children, while the father tried to rescue the two-year-old from the flames. The rescue failed, the father nearly lost his life, and the remaining family members were left with nothing. Last week, a former Israeli resident who lives in the States, donated a new apartment for the family to live in, until they are able to get back on their feet. The donor chose to remain unknown. The family thanked him for the generous donation, saying: “nothing can really make us happy now, but there is some comfort in this.”
• The former S.S. member and Nobel Prize winner poet, Günter Grass, published a new poem last week, in which he accused Israel of being a threat to the world. He wrote about his concerns about Israel’s intention to “wipe out the Iranian people,” and mentioned Israel as a threat to the world. Some commentaries referred to this poem as a blood libel, or a “European tradition of accusing Jews of committing violent rituals before Passover.” “Many years ago, it was the libel that claimed Jews are using Christian children’s blood to make Matzzo, now it’s the accusation that Israel wants to ‘erase’ Iran” said a delegate of the Israeli Embassy in Berlin. Today, the papers published Grass’ clarification, saying that he meant to criticize the current Israeli government, and not the entire Israeli people, or the state of Israel.
• As the fence which is being built as a border between Israel and Egypt is in its final stages before completion, Israel’s Nature and Parks Authority is on a new mission: “persuading” the ibex to stay on the Israeli side of the fence. The placement of more reachable water sources in Egypt and more wheat and food here in Israel makes the ibex wander between the two countries. As the border closes, however, Israel’s Nature and Parks Authority wishes them to remain in Israel, due to the fear that they will be exterminated by hunters if they stay on the other side of the border. Nowadays, the NPA puts a line of feeding spots on the Israeli side of the border, in hope that the ibex will choose to stay here.
• Nathan Cook received his Masters degree in Math from the renowned Cambridge University in England. Not much long after, he surprised his loved ones by deciding to pass up on a dreamy paycheck for sleeping in a tent. Cook, a 26 year old British Jew, told the Israeli papers that even with having everything he could possibly dream of, something was still missing. Eight months ago, Cook came to Israel, all by himself, and voluntarily joined the IDF. After going through a three-week Hebrew course, he is now on his way to boot-camp. Later on, Cook will expect 18 months of service. Such stories, of young people feeling such a powerful connection to Israel and the IDF, are pretty common here, but still manage to touch the hearts of us all.
April 5, 2012 | 10:06 am
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
Last night, missiles were fired from somewhere near Sinai to Eilat. I checked yesterday’s news and saw nothing of an IDF mission or of a wanted terrorist being mysteriously killed. Nothing could have been the trigger for this attack. It just happened.
It is pretty ironic to read about an attack from the south, just a day before reading the Haggadah. It seems like we live in some vicious circle, where we are constantly being chased after. No organization is yet to take responsibility for the attack, but for now, it appears to have come from Sinai and was probably done by a terror link operating there.
The mayor of Eilat was interviewed, saying this event, where luckily no one got hurt, didn’t cause any cancellations of hotel reservations in the most tourist-friendly city in Israel. Of course no one cancelled; missiles became a part of the South’s daily routine in the past couple of months. I said it before and I’ll say it again - we will never let anything ruin our Israeli joy. Some missiles won’t stop my friends and me from vacationing in Eilat during the Passover holiday.
The one thing that gets in my way to not letting this event ruin my holiday is the fact it reminds me of the second Intifada, a low point, maybe the lowest point of the Israeli-Palestinian argument. The similarity to the current event has nothing to do with the characteristics or the causes of the two, but to the atmosphere amongst the people. I was barely a teenager when buses and restaurants exploded. I remember the fear to go outside and have a proper meal. I remember my parents forbade me to take the bus. No one could predict when and where the next hit will come, and the newspapers were covered in black.
At some point people stopped being afraid. They took the buses, and hung out in public places. We didn’t let anybody bring us down and stop us from living a normal life. Luckily, this missile-mania didn’t take any lives, but the danger is always out there.
Nowadays, it is easier to predict the fall, or at least give two minutes warning, but since we are not fighting against a country, it is much harder to stop the attack or to complain to the UN about undiplomatic behavior. But with that being said, once again, we don’t let threats take over our lives. We have spirit like no one else, and with that, we will win. After all, we spent 40 years wondering in the desert just so we can enjoy our freedom…
April 4, 2012 | 12:18 pm
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
Hana Shalabi, a member of the Islamic Jihad, was one of the 1027 prisoners who were released for the return of Gilad Shalit. On February 16th, she was arrested again, for being recognized as a potential threat to the safety of Israel. Following her arrest, she went on a fast for what she claimed to be her unjustified arrest. This hunger strike got her released and deported back to Gaza, and was the opening fire for a new trend amongst Palestinians prisoners.
Although these hunger strikes are getting Israel into a very complicated conflict around the question of the striking prisoners - and possibly the future release of more criminals - I would like to talk about something else on the matter. A Philosophy professor in Tel-Aviv University, where I study nowadays for my B.A., teaches a few of my close friends, who have announced many times she is the best professor in the world.
On March 22nd, this professor participated in a protest which was held on campus. The protesters called for the release of Hana Shalabi. This protest was declared to be illegal, for its support of a member of the Islamic Jihad movement, which stands behind numerous assassinations of Israelis and Jews all over the world. The protesters were also reported to have called the IDF soldiers “murderers.” This protest shocked many students who were on campus at the time. For some, this protest was the final straw, for there is a rich list of anti-Israeli activities in which she had an active role. My friends’ admiration towards her turned into confusion. She was still a great professor and teacher, but how should former IDF solders feel when the person they listen to every week expresses her opinion against them and their friends?
Last semester I had an Israeli-Arabic professor teaching a class about aspects of Israeli politics. I noticed the anti-Israeli atmosphere since day one, but waited several weeks before I stopped showing up to class. This professor used his stage to speak against the Jews who live in Israel, and are the Israeli majority. Almost all mandatory articles talked about the brutal treatment by the western, “white” Jewish Israelis towards the Israeli-Arabs, since the “violent takeover” in 1948. There were references to our grandparents as “immigrants” and to the Arabs as “settlers”, who built this country with their bare hands, while we ruthlessly took it from them. There were also several saying how our purpose is to strip from them all their rights and make it impossible for them to live here. This comes from a person who makes more money than both my parents together, and is a respected professor.
When my friends and I complained to fellow pupils, we got a shower of insults of being “unwilling to hear other people’s opinions” and, yes, some called us racist, because we hate the professor “just for being Arabic.” Well, I find it a bit difficult to agree with, for in my life I’ve had Arabic teachers and acquaintances. It makes sense because, after all, we share the same small piece of land. My problem is not with Arabs or Orthodox or with people who have a slightly different opinion than mine. On the contrary, I live off of debates and arguments. In fact, I might go on and admit that I don’t see myself as someone with a certain opinion on everything. I am very open to hearing others’ opinions on political matters. I don’t relate to a certain political party, and do not always agree with out leaders’ policies.
It is not just on campus. Last Friday, Neturei Karta, an extreme orthodox stream who live in Israel, but opposed to its current existing ( due to a belief that Jews are forbidden to have their own state until the coming of the Messiah), joined the Palestinian Earth Day march, protesting against the occupation of Palestinian lands by Israelis.
I’ll be the first one to admit that in a democracy, everyone may and should be able to express his/her opinion aloud. My problem begins when Israelis who live in Israel, enjoy its resources and many rights, speak against it. And I don’t talk about expressing an opinion against a certain governmental move, or political group or a certain policy. I am referring to Israelis who speak out against Israel and people who publicly despise the place they call “home” and participate in activities targeted to hurt this place, either by making bad PR towards the rest of the world or by joining violent activities. I try to imagine how you would feel if you read an interview by an Israeli who speaks badly of Israel, how you would feel If you hear Israelis saying this is the worst place in the world. How do world leaders feel when people speak badly of their home? What impact does it have on international relations regarding Israel?
I am afraid that even though this is a poor situation, Israel is still a democracy, and those Anti-Israel Israelis will keep living here, working and influencing others. However, those people are “playing dirty”, running over their neighbors, who put a lot of effort in making our country be the amazing place it is. I honestly believe one can’t be active against his home, and keep living in it, enjoying what people who love it have worked for. Jewish, Arabic, left wing, right wing, male, female - it doesn’t really matter, as long as you appreciate your home.
April 2, 2012 | 11:50 am
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
• It is no secret that the Israeli mind is something else. After growing a successful High-Tech industry, and winning ten Nobel prizes, I was not surprised to hear due to a strategic decision made by the U.S Government, Israeli students will receive scholarships to come and be a part of American higher education. Hundreds of academic facilities and universities in the U.S, including very prestigious facilities such as University of Michigan, Berkley, and NYU, will offer yearly scholarships to Israelis, starting next year.
• Israel is building temporary residencies in Turkey for people whose houses were wrecked during the earthquake that took place a year ago, and took the lives of many. After sending a special delegation to Turkey last year, as a part of a humanitarian project, the Israeli Defense Office sponsored a temporary neighborhood. This allows people who lost their houses to have a temporary place to live until getting back on their feet.
• In the beginning of March, President Obama announced, during his speech before the AIPAC policy conference, that he would award Israeli President Shimon Peres, with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Peres is very respected both in Israel and in the United States, and this announcement didn’t leave a dry eye here in Israel. A couple of days after the announcement, a group fighting for the release of Jonathan Pollard created a petition, calling on Peres to condition his acceptance of the medal on the release of Pollard. It was signed by more than 15,000 people from all over the world. The word spread amongst Israelis, and caused many discussions and arguments regarding this request. Peres responded to the petition, saying: “We are all united in the call to release him immediately. In all my meetings with president Obama and top American government leaders I raised the request to release Pollard and I will continue to do so when I meet with Obama in June. My office is in touch with the campaign for Pollard’s release and we will work hand in hand in any way possible to bring Jonathan Pollard home.”
• Israel has highly developed agriculture. Israeli minds are behind some of the most advanced agricultural innovations and developments. It is no wonder, then, that a group of Nepalese farmers, who were foreign workers here in Israel, used their acquired knowledge to build a farm in Katmandu. This farm, which is based on Israeli technology and accompanied by the Israeli Embassy, celebrated a year of success this past weekend. The prime minister of Nepal even ordered duplicates of the farm in 50 other locations scattered all over Nepal.