Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
When it comes to certain aspects of Israel’s Foreign Policy, the non-Israelis portray a united opinion. Take Gaza, for example. Other than Israelis, most people believe we should aid the poor citizens of this God forgotten place. I wrote “most” because like everything in life, there are exceptions, but out of these exceptions, some believe we should use our resources as a modern, developed country and provide aid for the citizens of Gaza who are not being treated well by the Palestinian Authority; others, whose common sense was probably lost somewhere along the way, see us as a brutal army, who spare no one, and torture poor Palestinians whose only crime was asking for a bowl of soup…The first group, even though I disagreed with them, I could understand in a way. The other group always made me want to pull out my hair with anger. I read comments posted online, claiming inhuman behavior by the IDF, saying Israel is fiction, and worst of all, comparing the situation in Gaza to the Holocaust. Reading comments of such, knowing nothing you can say or do will ever change those people’s minds, is simply frustrating. I belong to the “other side”, which means that is doesn’t matter how much truth is in my claim, it will be wrong. They had the media to rely on, and even if not saying this specifically, it had their backs. Even the smallest amount of research would have shown the lies behind the false reports on Gaza and that the Palestinians are not all innocent and not at all naïve. Those who went to see for themselves, visiting Israel with an open mind, quickly came to the realization that things are far more complicated than a Disney fairytale, and that the “good” have a dark side.
Last week, another part of the puzzle was revealed: the media published the story of Gaza’s educational system as pictures of a kindergarten graduation party showing small Palestinian kids committing to the Jihad, were published. The main purpose of this thing, as told by the kindergarten teacher, may be legit: to teach young Palestinians to love Palestine and Jerusalem, and remember their importance in their lives. It may not be to my liking, but this answer makes sense. I was also taught to love my country. It is a shame it’s the same country, and not everyone can have it. But I believe it is important to teach young children to fight for what they believe in. My problem is that this time, they took the word “fight” a little bit too far. The five year old kids were dressed as Islamic suicidal bombers, and were given toy guns. During the graduation play they put together, they stood next to “coffins” with pictures of “Shahids” on them, and “shooting” at Israeli soldiers. After the play, a small Palestinian child, who’s father blew himself up, killing Israelis, was quoted saying: “When I grow up, I will join the Islamic Jihad and fight the Zionist enemy, I will fire missiles on them until I will die and join my father in Heaven…When I grow up I want to blow myself up and kill Zionists in a suicidal bombing on a bus”. That’s funny, when I was growing up I wanted to be an Astronaut…
This is how the Palestinians, who seem to only seek peace, educate their small children. So let me ask you this: How will we ever accomplish peace if even the next generation is being taught the language of war? My friends and I always had the belief that when our generation will hold key parts in the Israeli government, when the prejudice from beginning of Israel will fade away, a new dawn will rise. I had a dream, MLK style, that someday, little Palestinian kids will walk hand in hand will little Israeli kids, and that Israel will be a place of peace. I never knew the exact way this whole utopia would happen, but at least I had hope. Now I know that this will never happen. There will be no peace if Palestinian children are being taught war from birth. I am sorry to say, but I do not feel sorry for them nor believe they should get any aid if I know that in 20 years from now I will fear for my children’s lives. I’m not saying we do the best we can to make peace happen, but I do say I was never taught to kill when I was a part of the Israeli educational system.
More than anything, this story was a chance for the world to see things as they really are- this is a two way street, and at least one way has a dead end. Unfortunately, I was disappointed once again. This publicity didn’t cause any condemnations or raging comments. Instead, it slowly faded away. The world has no capability of seeing the world in shades of grey as everything has to be black and white. When something different comes along, even if it has pictures to prove its reality, people gently skip it. I guess change is never good, it makes people close their eyes until the storm will pass. Every story of walking with eyes closed ends badly: from a swollen toe to a deadly fall. So from where I’m standing the only thing I can do is keep on writing, hoping people will open at least one eye, and avoid unnecessary pain.
12.17.13 at 12:22 pm | Pro-Israeli activists waited years for the day. . .
12.17.13 at 7:30 am | BDS, the best of Hanukkah, TripAdvisor awards,. . .
12.16.13 at 11:12 am | Since winter here is rather short, and lasts a. . .
12.13.13 at 11:36 am | Since I live in Israel and am very passionate. . .
12.10.13 at 12:55 pm | What you are about to read sounds like a big. . .
12.9.13 at 12:35 pm | Mourning Paul and Seffy, lighting up Africa,. . .
12.16.13 at 11:12 am | Since winter here is rather short, and lasts a. . . (410)
12.17.13 at 12:22 pm | Pro-Israeli activists waited years for the day. . . (118)
12.17.13 at 7:30 am | BDS, the best of Hanukkah, TripAdvisor awards,. . . (50)
June 14, 2012 | 3:16 pm
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
June 28th, 1969. Greenwich Village, NYC. It started like any other night back then- a police raid on a gay bar. The Stonewall Inn was the daily victim. Only that night, unlike any other night before, was about to mark Gay pride for decades to come. This was the first time the LGBT (Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) fought back as a riot began. This marked the beginning of a Gay Pride tradition, and Gay Pride celebrations take place all over the world during the month of June.
Last Friday, the 18th Israeli Gay pride parade took place in Tel Aviv - the city which became a world gay center. In the past few years, Tel Aviv became a city of “acceptance” and “embracement”, and “openness”, as its streets are being colored during the month of June. Tens of thousands of tourists from all over the world know where to go during Gay Pride celebration, and there is no doubt the Tel Aviv parade redefines “pride”. However, despite the great success of the parade, it is very important to never forget the purpose of the march. More than a good time, colors and music, the parade is a recognition of a struggle still vivid - a struggle for equality. It may be hard to believe, but in 2012, the gay community, of all races, genders and types, does not get equal rights in many places in the western world. The openness towards the members of the LGBT community is growing with time, but the various governments still refuse to acknowledge them as equals. Gradually, more and more states allow same-sex marriage or same-sex families, but of all places, when it comes to equal rights, Israel still has a long way to come. The Israeli law shows no progress as tens of same-sex marriage law proposals have been voted down. The Israeli LGBT’s still have many hurdles to cross, including the Orthodox status quo.
As much as the Tel-Aviv parade is meaningful and shows off a true victory of light over darkness, I find it difficult to see this as a national trend. In my hometown, for instance, there’s a Gay pride parade planned for July. This was good news if it weren’t for the fact that this parade will never march, at least not with an official municipal approval. The 40% religious residents and an old fashioned community are opposing an event of such character, claiming for provocation and an exposure of a “marginal phenomenon”. They also said that if the Gay community wants equal rights, they should go to the Knesset or the parliament, and not celebrate in the streets. This sentence alone shows the thickness of parts of our society, a society where every man for himself is the rule. This quality is very non-Israeli, which is why I believe that the opponents are a very small minority group, and that what I saw in Tel- Aviv this past Friday is the future.
One of the people who stands behind the pride celebrations in Tel-Aviv during June and throughout the entire year is Yaniv Waizman, and after talking to him, I was filled with hope and pride. “The pride festival is a show of our strength as a community. It is both a reminder to the fact that there is still inequality in Israel, and also a celebration for the difference and for the acceptance of the other. In Tel-Aviv, we haven’t experienced any difficulties in issuing the celebrations, or any objections. I believe Israel is ranked high in terms of human rights and legal accomplishments for the Gay community. “As the month of June is a time for celebrations for the LGBT community worldwide, and marks a victory, it is very important to remember our part. In order to fully accomplish goals, to pass that last hurdle, everybody should unite. We, the Israeli community, proved it last year, when we brought Gilad Shalit back home. Now is the time to prove it again.
June 11, 2012 | 12:13 pm
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
•Musicians Ivri Lider and Johnny Goldstein, which are the musical duo- TYP, are well known here, in Israel, and apparently also in France. After conquering the top of the local music charts, TYP (The young Professionals) are on the right track to becoming a French smash. After a number of successful concerts there, their French producers, Universal, decided to issue a French release of their latest album “9am to 5pm, 5pm to Whenever.”
•Israeli Roswell? Last Thursday, Israeli police lines were occupied with citizens calling to report an unidentified flying object in the sky. A check made by an astronomer confirmed it was not a meteor, and the IDF reported there was no activity in the area at the time. The UFO was visible in northern Israel. Where are the Men in Black when needed?
•Israel’s national water company, Mekorot, joins the world effort to stop water shortage. Mekorot will use their expertise in finding unconventional sources for clean water.
•Right before leaving for D.C to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Obama, our adored president, Shimon Peres, received a petition signed by a group of artists, musicians and cultural figures, including the returning son- Gilad Shalit, requesting to use this opportunity to persuade the US President to release Jonathan Pollard, the American intelligence analyst caught for spying for Israel 25 years ago. The very special award will be presented to Peres on Wednesday.
•Deputy Prime Minister, Silvan Shalom participated in the World ORT’s quadrennial conference in DC. The conference provided a platform for the world’s Jewish educational organizations to set their programs and strategy for the next four years.The Israeli ORT operated the “Kadima Mada” (forwards science) program, which advances science and technology education in schools while integrating advanced teaching technology. The program is also active in Gaza.
•Nadav Shmueli was critically injured in a car accident in 2008, while serving in the army. Since then, he has been hospitalized, unable to respond to anything. 18 months after the accident. Shmuely was transferred to the Brain Injury Rehabilitation Unit in Elisha hospital in Haifa, still defined as 100% disabled. One ordinary day, his sister, who was sitting by his bed, played him a comedy sketch of the famous Israeli comedy trio- Ma Kashur. During one of the punch-lines, Shmueli suddenly smiled and winked. When hearing his story, Ma Kashur immediately agreed to meet with him. Last week, Zion, Shalom and Asi, the funniest comedians in Israel, made their way to Elisha hospital and met with Shmueli, who is still in a wheelchair, unable to speak.
June 8, 2012 | 2:27 pm
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
At first glance, this is a fairytale story coming true- an Israeli singer shining abroad. This story could have had a happy ending as well if it weren’t for politics raising its ugly head yet again.
A couple months back I wrote about a Facebook campaign which changed my entire perspective about the Israeli-Iranian relationship. As it turns out, that campaign presented something much deeper than photos being shared. The campaign, showing Israelis and Iranian love for each other, proved the ongoing states’ conflict to be between heads of states, and not between people. This campaign was proven right in Tuesday’s paper, where there was a rather surprising article saying that the Israeli famous singer, Rita, is a hit in Iran. Her latest album, “All My Joys,” revives old-time Persian hits. It went gold in Israel only three weeks after its release, and also turned into a big Iranian hit. To me, this breaking of political boundaries is blessed, and the more integration, the better. I only wish the Government of Iran would have agreed with me. Turns out that the originally Persian singer’s music is banned in Iran, simply because she’s an Israeli.
Apparently, this conflict had gone from security issues and newspaper headlines to private people’s lives and to the one international language, music. Apparently, people can’t enjoy music because it was viciously produced by the enemy and may contain evil brainwashing. You see, since Israel and Iran are sworn enemies, endorsing anything Israeli is considered taboo in Iran. When I listen to a really good song, I like to turn the volume on, and it doesn’t take long until I share it with my Facebook friends. The Iranian Rita fans are forbidden to feel the enjoyment of sharing their musical passion with others, because of a political conflict, which they do not desire. It’s probably my over-creative mind, but since I was familiar with the previous “love” campaign, I feel like a part of the modern Romeo and Juliet story. States are forbidden to have contact with one another because of an ongoing argument between the leaders, which no one understands.
This version of the story, however, may have a semi-happy ending. The Iranian Rita fans were quoted saying this prohibition will not make them stop enjoying her music; they will just keep the volume down. Forced hatred still sounds utterly ridiculous to me, but I came to the conclusion that we, Israelis and Iranians, are the real grownups here- sad, but true- and because of that, I think it’s best for us to let the kids, Bibi and Achmadinejad, play around, while we maintain the peace.
June 5, 2012 | 1:04 pm
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
Even though Israel intended no offense with the latest Ministry of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs campaign, many American Jews were offended by the controversial television ad. The ad, meant to attract Israeli emigrants back home, showed several unfortunate emotional outcomes to leaving Israel. For instance, one of the commercials shows a child talking to his grandparents in Israel via Skype, who are celebrating Hanukkah. They are asking him what holiday it is today, and the child replies: Chirstmas.
While meant for Israeli emigrants, the campaign ads managed to insult many of the American Jewish communities, who saw it as implying that living abroad means being unable to maintain a proper Jewish life. It was certainly no one’s intention, but it happened. As I mentioned before, the best way to improve Israel’s image is to cooperate with diaspora Jewish communities, and not go against them or make accusations of betrayal of Israel. It has been proven, even if not statistically, that American-Jewish communities are very supportive of Israel, both financially and morally. There is no question on that matter, and the recent change of attitude made by the Ministry of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs shows they agree.
There has been some serious criticism towards the MPDDA. Many Israelis were disappointed by the lack of ability to improve Israel’s image as seen by the world. When I saw their previous campaign, I actually believed they were even making things worse. After all, going against people would have led us nowhere. The MPDDA recent campaign shows they have taken the criticism to heart, and made a 180 degree turnaround. Instead of making former Israelis feel bad by playing the guilt card, they chose the unity card. This is the first time the MPDDA changed its approach, and really for the better. For the first time, the MPDDA shows diaspora communities the appreciation Israel has for every person who supports Israel and that loving Israel doesn’t necessarily mean moving there.
This campaign, once again, is meant mostly for former Israelis who moved abroad, but also for all American Jews. This time, instead of pushing former Israelis away, the ads try to deepen their connection to Israel from a distance. The commercial campaign is a part of a bigger project, called “Connecting.” According to the MPDDA, three stations have been set up at the two most American Jewish cities: New York and L.A. In these stations, there will be plenty of activities (experimental, cultural and educational) for children, teens and adults. The activity at the centers will be accompanied by a website. The three stations are the preview, and in case of a success, more will open. Another part of the Connecting project is the opening of Jewish schools and kindergartens, special events during Israeli holidays, and many afternoon activities such as cooking, make-up, yoga, Krav-Maga, coaching, preparation for Bar-Bat mitzvahs and weddings, and more.
One of the old ad campaigns. “They will always stay Israelis. Their children will not”:
June 4, 2012 | 11:11 am
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
It’s a small world after all, and Globalization makes it even smaller. In the last few decades, thanks to technology mostly, the many civilizations of the world are gradually turning into one, as the citizens of the world share more and more interests. Those shared interests are somewhat “western” interests, such as capitalism and individualism. There is also shared mainstream music, movies, dress codes and more. Most of those western interests are driven by the country which became the center of the world, and is unofficially the world’s largest empire, the United States of America. If you don’t believe me, check the Magic Kingdom’s “it’s a small world” and see for yourself…If you need a less solid proof, read the research and scientific articles pointing in that direction.
As a worldwide trend setter, the American opinion is worth the most. When you vote in favor of something, it will soon spread all over the world- from east to west. Just to meet the eye, there are more than 33,000 McDonalds outlets worldwide, only 18,590 of them are in the U.S. But your opinion doesn’t only set cultural trends; it sets economic and political trends as well. In fact, I believe that American opinion can make a country sink or rise, just like that. It doesn’t happen overnight, of course, and also doesn’t rely on a small group within the American population. But sometimes an event takes place in an American city that can change the opinion that some people have on a certain thing, place or a person.
That is why I believe the annual Celebrate Israel Parade is worth more than in seems. Seeing pictures of Israeli flags which are NOT burning at an event which takes place somewhere else is something of an excitement for me. Not to mention thousands of Israeli flags. In New-York. I’ve never heard of the Celebrate Israel Parade up until Sunday, but this is the 48th time people march for everything that’s good about Israel. It may sound weird, but I don’t see this parade as a political statement. I don’t believe the marchers were expressing a solid opinion about the situation with Iran or the Israeli-Palestinian relations. I believe this was a celebration for Israeli culture and for the place on earth called Israel, where there is beautiful scenery, relaxing beaches and warm people. We are involved in many of the world problems, and many disagree with our policies, including Obama, sometimes. In this case, however, I believe that the public’s opinion may have a greater impact on the citizens of the world than the opinion of world leaders’. I see the age of Globalization as an opportunity for the public opinion to move mountains, and to make a difference, much more than any state cabinet.
I know the world-wide opinion towards Israel is not the most positive one, and this parade will not cause a 180 degree turnaround, but even if it got people to be a little bit more open minded, it has done its part. This parade is more important than any agreement to attack in Iran, or delegitimize the Palestinian state. This is a show of appreciation from people to people, and when it comes from the Word’s trend setter, it is worth much more.
May 30, 2012 | 10:49 pm
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
The Israeli government will soon start paying non-Orthodox rabbis. This news, as it appeared in bold letters in my morning paper, literally put a smile on my face. Not because I am Reform or Conservative, or anything, but because I am really proud of my Israel finally growing up.
We are a start-up empire, we have the best sportsmen, we have a world-wide recognized culture, and a solid economy. By looking into all of these, Israel defiantly seems like a developed, modern country. However, even in 2012, it is run by Orthodox law. Since 1948, the Jewish state firmly condemned all other Jewish streams, by not recognizing them. The Orthodox law, supported by the Orthodox ministers in the Knesset, allowed the Orthodox stream its monopoly. This monopoly made the enlightened Israel, modern in every other way, old fashioned and medieval.
Earlier this week, the Attorney General’s office advised the Supreme Court Tuesday that Reform and Conservative rabbis in some parts of Israel will be recognized as “rabbis of non-Orthodox communities” and will receive wages equal to those of their Orthodox counterparts. Only 15 out of 90 Reform and Conservative Rabbis will enjoy this privilege, and this doesn’t yet allow total legal recognition of those non-Orthodox Jewish streams (Non- orthodox weddings will remain unrecognized by the state, and same goes for non-Orthodox conversion). Still, this may be the first step out of the Dark Age lasting from 2000 bc to today. Orthodox Judaism, while being the foundation of Judaism, is a bit old fashioned, unwilling to move forward with time. When it comes to people at their homes, I believe anyone can do whatever he/she wants and believes in behind closed doors. But when an Orthodox law is leading a country, it becomes everyone’s business.
The official recognition of Reform and Conservative Rabbis as Jewish communities’ leaders is what I hope to be the first significant step towards a fundamental change. The true recognition of Judaism as a religion of all people who desire to be Jewish, as they follow their own Jewish beliefs. One thing I strongly believe in is that a religion, any religion, is what you believe it to be. A religion is a belief. I, for instance, don’t keep Shabbos, and I don’t think this makes me any less Jewish, though I’ve been told so several times. The Reform summer camp I worked in last summer seemed very Jewish to me, just as much as any Orthodox Yeshiva. I believe God sees all Jewish people as equal, no matter what Jewish path they choose to follow. All you need is faith.
May 29, 2012 | 10:20 am
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
• A Canadian holocaust survivor donated a million dollars’ worth of scholarships for young scientists who emigrated from Israel. 92 year-old Marcel Addams was born in Romania and survived the holocaust. Penniless, he moved to Israel, and in time, became a successful real-estate tycoon. Addams has donated grants for 75 Israeli scientists who moved to the States to finish their post-doctoral studies in Israel, helping lure “Israeli minds” back home. This past Monday at Jerusalem’s Israel Arts and Science Academy, nine Israel post-doctoral scientists each received a $100,000 scholarship, allowing them to continue their paths in Israel.
• A thousand Chinese business managers and entrepreneurs will study innovation in a new program at Lahav, the management department at Tel Aviv University. In this program, these students will learn world-renown Israeli innovation and entrepreneurship models. It is scheduled to be a five-year program, with the Chinese city of Nanjing sending 200 managers each year. The program starts next week.
• Henry Kissinger, Nobel Peace Prize recipient, former U.S. National Security Advisor and Secretary of State, will visit Israel next month. Kissinger will be President Peres’s guest of honor at the fourth President Committee, where Kissinger will be one of six recipients of the newly created President’s Medal. This will be the first time the medal will be awarded, honoring those who made a unique and recognizable contribution to Israel. Kissinger will be awarded this medal for his “Unique contribution to Israel, for maintaining the peace in the Middle East, and for being a statesman who sees to a distance and is graced with creativity and vision.”
• Two Israeli versions of originally American reality TV shows opened their new seasons. “Kokhav Nolad” (the Israeli “American Idol”), started its 10th season, and “Beauty and the Geek” (which features a fellow student of mine as the geek), opened its third season.
• The Israeli feature film God’s Neighbors, which had been chosen to be screened at the Cannes Film Festival’s “Critics Week,” won the Gaul’s Society of Authors, Directors and Composers award at one of the most important film festivals. The film, directed by Meni Yaesh, was also nominated in the Caméra d’Or category for “Best First Feature Film.”
• As we approach the Olympics, Israeli athletes have been taking over the news. Swimmer Jonathan Koplev won the European championship after swimming the 50 meter backstroke in 24.73 seconds. This personal record won him the gold medal, and made him the first Israeli to hold this prestigious title. Joining Koplev on the winners’ podium was Guy Barnea, who won the Bronze medal. Gymnast Alexander Shatilov won the bronze medal in the European Gymnastics championship, held in France this past Sunday. Shatilov will be a part of the Israeli delegation to the Olympics, where he will attempt to become the first Israeli gymnast to win an Olympic medal.