Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
Being the most painful day for the Israeli nation, the Israeli Memorial day marks for me, more than anything, solidarity and togetherness.
In its 64 years of existence, Israel has been through more than ten wars and operations, and endless terror events. To this day, 22993 Israelis have lost their lives in the battle for our homeland, 126 of which- in the past year.
Today, like every other year, the Israeli nation bows its head for the victims and heroes. No matter where you are or what you do, on 8pm the night before, and 11am in the morning- you will stop. At those times, a siren is heard throughout the country, and all Israelis stand still and show their respect and grief for those who lost their lives and their families.
Luckily, I haven’t lost anyone to terror or on the battlefield. None of my high-school classmates or my military service partners have lost their lives, nor a family member. Despite that, every year I can’t help feeling grief and sorrow. In the land where we address complete strangers as “brother” and “sister”, I can’t help feeling I lost 22,867 relatives. I am not a strange bird on the matter. On Memorial day, most people I know, even while not knowing any of the veterans and victims, go to at least one memorial ceremony, and cry. My friends and I go to our high-school, where the pupils read aloud the names of the graduates who are no longer with us and the school choir sings one of the many songs that were composed throughout the years, especially for this day. At the town square, and in every military base, soldiers stand, hats on their heads and weapons in their hands, and guard the memorial candle and the Israeli flag. I was one of them, just two years ego.
Everything is different that day: the radio only plays quiet songs, the television broadcasts Memorial Day specials and most of the stores are closed. Every working place, campus, military base and school, conducts a ceremony, and a national ceremony is held in Jerusalem. But it is not just the official atmosphere which is different; it’s also what each and every one of us feels inside. None of us pretends, and it is not a façade- it is real. We are all Israelis, and we share that Israeli experience every day. We all know each other, and we all share the grief with the families who lost their loved ones. But while the grief for some of my friends and I, fades away as we enter Independence Day, which is the next day, those families stay with the loss and carry it with them every waking minute. The loss is present in their lives every single day, and they carry it in every breath they take. For one day, all citizens of Israel share that loss with them, and show the proper respect for those who fought for our right to continue living here, and for those who did nothing but living, and were killed by suicidal terrorists for no reason.
The Israeli soldiers, who lost their lives in wars since 1948 to this very day, took the bullet for my family and me, so we could sleep at night. Some were 18 year olds, young men and women who just finished high-school and were getting ready to begin their lives. Others were older people with families who were called to serve again, just for the war-time.
When thinking about those veterans, there is no left wing or right wing. Sometimes it doesn’t matter whether deaths were in vain or for a higher cause. The only thing that matters is the loss, and the support we can provide to the families who experience this loss for another 364 days. In memory of those who are no longer with us, who, like flowers, were picked up in their bloom, I light a candle. For their family members, I salute you. May they all rest in peace and may there be no more early deaths.
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April 21, 2012 | 10:15 am
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
One of the reasons I write here is to present a different perspective to what you may see or hear on the news. The news may be presented as objective, but when it comes to news, there is no such thing as “objective”: from the topic you choose, to the order in which you present the comments by the people involved in the story- you show your opinion even if you don’t intend to.
This is why it is only natural for the international news to sometimes present a certain point of view which is slightly or distinctively against Israel. Some watch and read about the things some claim we do for the reasons they claim we go by, and are convinced that that information is true. After all, if it is on the news, it must have happened. The same goes here, I am sure of it. Being aware of this lacking of objectivity, I usually take the news I read for granted. Only after reading the same story in at least three different papers, do I rely on the shared information.
My point is that sometimes we fall for half-truths, and even twisted truths. But since true stories are the best way of demonstrating a point, I want to tell you the story of Nicky Larkin. The Irish filmmaker watched the violence in Gaza, courtesy of Israeli soldiers. The hatred burned through his veins as he read about operation Cast Lead in 2009, and he decided he could no longer stand aside. After receiving funding for filming a documentary about the vicious acts by the IDF, Larkin packed his bags and went on the first flight to Israel. Equipped with his camera, Larkin started filming in Bethlehem. What happened next turned everything around. In a column published in the Irish Independent, Larkin wrote about the adventure he could not foresee:
“I used to hate Israel. I used to think the Left was always right. Not any more. Now I loathe Palestinian terrorists. Now I see why Israel has to be hard. Now I see the Left can be Right—as in right-wing. So why did I change my mind so completely? Strangely, it began with my anger at Israel’s incursion into Gaza in December 2008 which left over 1,200 Palestinians dead, compared to only 13 Israelis. I was so angered by this massacre I posed in the striped scarf of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation for an art show catalogue.”
“Yet when I interviewed Hind Khoury, a former Palestinian government member, she sat forward angrily in her chair as she refused to condemn the actions of the suicide bombers. She was all aggression.
This aggression continued in Hebron, where I witnessed swastikas on a wall. As I set up my camera, an Israeli soldier shouted down from his rooftop position. A few months previously I might have ignored him as my political enemy. But now I stopped to talk. He only talked about Taybeh, the local Palestinian beer.”
“Looking back now over all I have learnt, I wonder if the problem is a lot simpler. Perhaps our problem is not with Israel, but with our own over-stretched sense of importance—a sense of moral superiority disproportional to the importance of our little country?”
Read more here
April 20, 2012 | 11:49 am
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
The story of Israel is often being described here with the sentence: From Holocaust to revival (free translation from Hebrew).
In the 1940’s, the Jews, who were scattered all over the world, faced destruction by an evil monster with a twisted mind and great charisma. Being ruthlessly abused by beasts, and forced to let go of the remains of their respect, European Jews were stripped of their humanity, going through something worse than hell, something that no one could ever believe was possible, and which was hard to grasp or understand. Six million lost their lives by the cold hearts and warm rifles of the Nazis, and very few survived, and became a living testimony for the Holocaust horrors. Those survivors swore to never let this happen again by building a land to call their own.
On the 5th of the Hebrew month Iyar, Israel declared its independence, and became the land of the Jews, a place to call “home” for those who were hunted on foreign lands - a place where the Jewish people will always feel safe. Out parents and grandparents built and developed this land with their bare hands, working day and night, and started what later became one of the greatest armies in the world, an army which will always protect the citizens of Israel from attacks and harm.
Being a desired strategic location, which suddenly came out of nowhere, our neighbors weren’t in the mood to ask for some sugar, and we found ourselves in constant war, since the day of the independence declaration. In its 64 years of existence, Israel went through tough wars, and lost tens of thousands of soldiers in battle. Soldiers who fought for our protection and for our homeland, and soldiers who were sons, daughters, fathers and mothers, lost their lives for the citizens of Israel, and allowed it to keep existing, being a safe and secure place for Jews. Israeli soldiers, serving in the IDF, just like my brother now, still risk their lives every day in order to protect the Israeli people. Every year, more and more families join the circle of loss, as more names are added to the list of war veterans who lost their lives for us.
This story of Israel, which is still being written, is told every year, during one week during April or May (The Hebrew months Nissan and Iyar). On the 27th of Nissan, we mention the national Holocaust Day; on the 4th of Iyar we mention the national Memorial Day; on the 5th of Iyar we mention our Independence Day. Those three dates tell the story of Israel, in order: we survived the Holocaust to build the state of Israel. From having nothing, we got to have everything, but sadly, this “everything” had its toll, when we lost many on our fight for our home. On these three days, there is no school and in most cases, no work. Ceremonies are held in every public facility, and a grand nation - wide ceremony takes place in Jerusalem and is aired on national television. During those three days- stores are closed, just like Shabbat, only the entire nation is committed to the essence of the special day.
During the Holocaust Day and Memorial Day, the entire television broadcast changes. Besides television specials, no comedies or “light” shows or movies are aired. Some of the international channels are blocked for viewing, and hundreds of movies, series and documentaries are aired. At 10 am, a siren is heard all over Israel. At this point- every Israeli stops his or her current action, and stands still. Cars pull over, forks and knives are put down, and everything is silent. Nothing is heard, except for the siren, as people unite with the memories of the day.
On the night between Memorial Day and Independence Day, we gradually go from grief to celebration and party on grand concerts and colorful events which are held in every city. We celebrate our independence, while the memory of the loss is fresh and always on our minds.
This meaningful week is my most intense Israeli experience, and where I feel the most connected to my home. Whenever I feel like I want to see the world, and move out of here for good, I remember the purpose of this place. I remember why it is so important to have a place of our own, a safe place that took the lives of many, just for us to keep living in it.
As we approach this week, I wish all of you a life of fulfillment, wherever you are, just like our grandparents lived theirs, when Israel declared its independence. Dreams exist for realization, so that we can have essence to our lives. Go and live your dreams, wherever you are and wherever you may go. But no matter where you are- remember where your home is, where your family is. This is the safest place in the world.
April 18, 2012 | 11:08 am
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
When reaching the 11th grade here, in Israel, you get a chance to go with your classmates on an eight-day journey to Poland, partially sponsored by school. This journey follows the years of the Holocaust, and is an opportunity for a different way of learning about the worst time of the Jewish people.
It took me a while to decide on whether I want to join this trip or stay home. I always chose to avoid the horrors as much possible, and found the possibility of remaining in my bed during Holocaust Day the best solution.
I boarded the plane in the summer of 2007, along with 120 11th graders from my school and several teachers, feeling like I could have done many better things with myself this week. I started writing a journal, hoping to come to great realization, but found myself being rather cynical at first. This cynicism gradually turned into many serious realizations and ended with great appreciation.
For this year’s Israeli Holocaust Day, which is this mentioned tomorrow, I translated my journal to English for you to read.
After months of preparation and four days of packing, the big day arrived. Considering my endless inner-arguments on whether to go on this journey or stay home, I was expecting to feel excitement, tension or even curiosity, but got nothing.
I am writing to you, dear Diary, from room 214, hoping you could be my writing surface (and a dear friend). I Hope will be able to write everything that I feel, even what I won’t share with my friends. I am going on this eight-day journey on purpose to feel more confident and stronger. This is a journey of self-discovery, while digging deep into our painful history. You have the honor of being the diary of a person who wishes she had someone else’s journal from Poland to read before deciding to go on this trip.
I’m still not sure if I am where I should be right now. Maybe I should’ve stayed home…
Yours truly, searching for meaning,
Today we all received a necklace with a Star of David, and a distinct order to tuck it under our shirts. Signs of Hebrew are forbidden, just in case…I’ve never worn a Star of David necklace, and for my first time- I have to hide it.
This hiding of my nationality felt like the beginning of a meaningful Zionist process, or was it…?! The day started with a visit to a Jewish cemetery, hiding between a shopping center and a McDonald’s branch. The only connection this cemetery had with the Holocaust was a formal tombstone for Yanush Korchack, and another one for a group of unknown men who jumped off a train on their way to a concentration camp and got caught. We all found this visit a bit weird, and I was convinced this is our teachers’ way of easing us into the Holocaust atmosphere. I realized I was wrong when the next stop was an hour at the shopping center.
Next we went to Rapapport monument, where I finally felt something- my stomach growling. From there, we went to an Israeli restaurant for dinner, with menus in Hebrew and Israeli music. What can I say- there’s no place like Poland…
Yours truly, searching for a cornflake that fell on the floor,
“Quiet, quiet, let’s be silent,
Dead are growing here
They were planted by the tyrant
See their bloom appear.
All the roads lead to Ponar now.
There are no roads back
And our father too has vanished,
And with him our luck.
Still, my child, don’t cry, my jewel
Tears no help commands
Our pain callous people
Seas and oceans have their order
Prison also has its border
Our torment is endless
Today I walked in a forest of death. My foot left a print on the ground where bleeding people were dragged, and their screams for help were silenced, swallowed by the tall, dark trees. Back then, those tall trees witnessed what our minds are far from comprehend. Today all they witness are camera flashes and teenagers wearing delegation T-shirts, looking around and trying to understand.
Today, I stood silent as the teacher prayed for those who were buried alive underneath our feet, shaking the ground with a cry for help, which slowly faded away.
Today, I shed a tear while listening to “Angels’ tears” (a famous Israeli song by Yoni Rechter), a cellphone vibration in the background, while angels are watching from high above, whispering the lyrics with us.
Today I lit a candle near a pit hole, where my brothers and sisters were thrown to the chilling howl of drunken Nazi beasts.
Today I lit a small flame as an attempt to memorialize six million.
Today I marched into Auschwitz Birkenau, carrying an Israeli flag. I walked on the railroad that carried hundreds of thousands to their death, and waved the flag that those who built this place intended to never exist. It doesn’t matter how I write it, this feeling cannot be described on paper. You have to be there to feel this intense, powerful, complicated feeling. My classmates were really supportive. We marched, hugged together, in a concentration and destruction camp that remained almost the same way as it was 60 years ago. The only difference is that instead of the smell of scorched bodies, there’s the salty smell of tears. There is blue sky instead of no sky. Other than us, there was a church group, led by a priest, who also came to witness the unbelievable. I can’t describe the joy I felt knowing we are not the only ones who care.
We held a short service inside one of the old cabins there. We sat in the dark, quietly, and those of us who wanted to, got up in turn, and read the names of his or her family members who went into one of the “camps” and never came back. One by one, we commemorated by name, those who were stripped from their identities. I was shivering when I read names of relatives I didn’t get to know. “We are only 100 people, and look how many names have been read”, one of my classmates whispered to me.
One by one, we begin to appreciate what we have. I am very lucky to be here today with my friends.
Searching for one truth,
Somewhere in the town of Lublin, amongst a neighborhood and an enormous field of beautiful flowers, lie the remains of Majdanek Ghetto. We wandered around the ghetto, while following the written story of a than 13 year old girl named Hilena.
Cabins. Lines of Cabins, where many memories are preserved. One of them was filled with an uncountable amount of shoes. I still find it hard to comprehend that in each pair, once walked a person.
We entered gas chambers, where Jews were led into after a proper sterilization. Get the irony, dear diary? The Nazis, who made terrible crimes, murdered, and treated people like they were animals or even less, were actually very neat. Sons of bitches. The walls are colored in Cyclon-B blue, drenched in horror and filled with scratch marks.
My reaction to the crematorium I simply couldn’t contain. The shock was more powerful than the tears that ran out. Here, in those ovens I stand in front of, people were cremated, sometimes alive. From this chimney, the smoke of people came out. Right here, next to the hill of ash we now surround.
Right before I was about to start singing at the service, the tap opened and the tears started running. I stood in front of everybody, trying really hard to sing, while my friend put her arm around me, and saw everybody, every single person that I go to school with- cry.
It was very cold outside, but no one complained. We won. We are standing here, alive, with a country of our own. We all stood in a circle, holding hands, and feeling like we’ve never felt before.
I am filled with appreciation to my family, to the fat in my body, to the shoes I am wearing. Slowly, everyone is starting to realize what is given to us. I am so lucky to be.
After finding everything,
April 16, 2012 | 12:49 pm
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
This Sunday, a group of 1500 participants of ‘Welcome to Palestine’ fly-in protest planned on flying to Tel-Aviv in an act of solidarity with the Palestinians in the West Bank. Their plan, as reported by them online, was to protest against the so called segregation and inequality, and to help repair broken buildings, plant trees, etc. They were all civilized people from several countries in Europe. They were probably unarmed, and had no plans to commit terror activities. All they wanted was to land in Tel-Aviv, travel freely to the West Bank, which is officially not a part of Israel, and recognize the state of Palestine, which does not exist.
****FYI, this state could have existed today if in 1948, the Arabs who lived here would have agreed to the UN proposal for two states. Yes, this offer was valid back then, but they chose to decline, because they wanted the entire territory for themselves. So no, no one over there wanted two states****
After requesting several times to the activists to not show up, the state of Israel decided to not allow those activists to enter for the purpose of participating in an activity against the country. Official letters were sent to the airlines, requesting them to cancel the flights. Most flights were, indeed, cancelled. On the flights that did take off, a letter from Israel awaited the passengers, with a sarcastic note. In the letter, Israel “thanks” the pro-Palestine activists who chose Israel for their battle for human rights, then redirected them to Israel’s tyrannical neighbors. It was signed with the sentence: “we therefore suggest that you first solve the real problems of the region, and then come back and share with us your experience.” The letter might have been sarcastic, but held so much truth. As I mentioned many times before, we are the only Democracy in the area. We are surrounded by states ruled by tyrants who stripped their citizens of their human rights. Poverty and famine are everywhere. In some places, people are being brutally butchered on a daily basis. In the only democracy in the Middle East, ALL CITIZENS ARE EQUAL BY LAW, such as in any other Democracy. Not all people respect the law, just like in any other Democracy, but those people are law breakers.
Eventually, from those who did land in Ben- Gurion airport, a few were allowed to enter, after questioning, while others, as promised, were sent back to their homelands. When interviewed, representatives of the activists said that Israel prevents the freedom of speech, and that they were treated like they are terrorists, while they are merely “women, elders and the handicapped” (quoted from a newspaper). I understand those who think Israel should have let them in, but I also believe that each country has its own right to not allow people in with the intention of disorder. Israel has the right to choose not to be a friendly host to people who are against it, and who want to assist those who are looking to harm it, whether by using violence, or by raising signs and causing chaos. As an Israeli, I am obligated to obtain a tourist visa in order to enter the United States. The immigration teller in the U.S Embassy can easily decide if I look like a terrorist, or that I seem like a person who has intentions of harming the country, or even that I don’t have a strong enough connection to Israel and may stay longer than I stated - and may simply deny my request. The United States has the right to not trust some people and to not allow them in. Israel has the same right.
I am all in favor of human rights organizations, I really am. Sadly, in the 21st century, there are some places on this planet where human rights are severely violated. I encourage those passionate activists with warm, kind hearts to go to one of those places, and help make the world a better place. Activists, I really believe in your primary goal, just don’t waste your strength here. You are fighting windmills here and you will be all worn out without saving those who really need a rescue.
April 15, 2012 | 12:59 pm
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.
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.