Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
My recruitment for the army was simple. When I was 17, I received a letter, calling me for a day of tests, which will help the army find the best type of service for me. After that, I went for several more interviews and tests. Then I received a letter with my recruitment date in it. When that day came, I reported, and after a month-long boot-camp, I served for two years with the best people at the best place, and had a really good time. I was lucky, no doubt, but along the way, no one asked me if I’m having a good time, if I am interested in getting a bigger salary, if I like the people I’m working with, or if I prefer a change of environment. No one asked, and I didn’t expect anyone to ask. It was obvious that when you serve your country, that’s all you do, and you put yourself entirely to it. It wasn’t until I finished my service that the army helped my figuring out my next step by offering a number of conferences and job fairs, providing me tax discounts and giving me a nice grant to help me get started.
It was as obvious as the sunrise to me and my friends that we must serve for the entire period of time required by the IDF, even if it is not to our liking (obviously, I preferred lying on the beach for two years). Just as it was obvious to me, it is obvious most Israeli 18 year old. My question, then, is how come it’s anything but obvious to 18 year old Haredi? How come after 64 years, the government is still trying to figure out a way to recruit them? Are they not as Israeli as I am? It they are, and they are, I don’t understand why should there even be a question regarding their recruitment. If you ask them, they will tell you they can’t serve because they need to learn the Torah/Talmud/ whatever. Others will say they can’t serve in the army because this is an environment not suitable for them and not modest enough. The more extreme answer is that they do not support Israel and don’t want to fight for it. Good thing I found an answer to all of their excuses: want to study? Me, too. Wish I could start university at the early age of 18, but I had to serve my country. Unsuitable environment? Last time I checked, the army keeps kosher like no place else. Other than that, each and every base has a temple, and every task can be delayed in case a soldier wants to join a service. Finally, we all wear uniform, so nothing un-modest here, and the army also has very specific rules regarding any public touching between male and female soldiers. If anyone will ask for a proof, I will present them with the Haredi who do join the army. I had an entire Haredi section at my base, and from what I heard, they felt pretty good serving there. For the last excuse, I have the best solution of them all- don’t want to live here? You are free to leave.
It took my about two seconds to come up with those answers. For some reason, it takes the government forever, and even then, the solutions are merely partial. Earlier this week, the government laid out the 8000 plan to recruit 80% of the Haredi population (the 20% who will be excused are “biblical prodigies”). This program is supposed to either recruit the Haredi to the army or make them do “civil service” (volunteer in hospitals, work with kids, etc.). This plan, like its previous, seems acceptable. The problem is that it’s just a plan, and like the many times before, it probably will remain that way. Why? Because for some reason, their recruitment became Mission Impossible 5. If their lack of recruitment was the only problem, I would probably let it go at some point, knowing they will be punished in some way. The thing is it doesn’t end there. The Haredi receive all the possible financial benefits from the government, which allows them to spend their lives doing nothing for the country, as the country does everything for them. This is fundamentally wrong, and way over “lazy”. This is sitting aside as a way of life, letting everyone else do the job.
The Israeli IDF protects the country and its citizens. Every single day I thank my brother the soldier and his friends for helping me sleep peacefully at night. I grew up knowing that by the age of 18, I will serve. Pay my due to my home. There are many people who, from physical or mental reasons, can’t serve in the IDF. The Heredi who choose to “skip” the army see themselves as a part of that group, the “incapables”, but they are not. They are just as capable as I. The only problem is I was educated to join the army. They were educated to let others do it. Before I finish, I just want to state that this doesn’t go to all Haredi. Only to the group of Haredi who feel like not giving back to their country. The army never asked me about my beliefs, simply because it didn’t matter. I am an Israeli living in Israel, and that’s enough to make me serve in the IDF. No excuses.
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June 24, 2012 | 1:27 pm
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
• Recently, the World Zionist Organization founded a special communication center, in order to fight worldwide anti-Semitism which spreads through the internet. The advanced communication center will track anti-Semitic expressions, video clips, articles and other propaganda that have become pretty common online lately. Then, the WZO will address the various publicists in request to remove the drastic expressions. So far, the WZO has recruited tenths of volunteers which speak several languages, to help tracking down the new age of Anti-Semitism.
• More than 1000 Israeli elders participated in the “Israeli Golden Olympics” which took place in a small town called Nordia, next to Netaniya. For two days, the athletic elders competed in various Olympic sports such as swimming, running, and triathlon along with more “easygoing” sports such as bowling and dancing.
• After an Algerian kayaker withdrew from a World Cup last month because of an Israeli participation, the International Olympic Committee decided they wish to prevent similar scenario during the Olympic games, and announced that refusing to compete against a fellow athlete because of nationality or religion would be a ” serious breach” of the Olympic code of ethics. The IOC also said that an athlete or a team unwilling to play in the ” spirit of friendship and fair play”, should “stay at home”.
• Last week, Professor Alean al-Krenawi, a resident of the Bedouin town Rahat, was officially appointed the new president of the Achva Academic College of Education. This is a double honor for Al-Krenawi, for this makes him the very first Bedouin president of an Israeli high-education academy.
• Apparently, Turkey and Israel can still cooperate: A special delegation of Turkish teachers visited Yad Vashem along with 370 educators from 53 different countries for the 8th International Conference for Holocaust Education. Turns out when it comes to education, all disagreements seem minor.
• Guma Aguiar, a Brazilian-born philanthropist who has donated millions of the fortune he amassed in the oil and gas industry to Israeli and Jewish causes, was announced missing last week, after his motorboat washed ashore in Fort Launder, Florida. Aguiar is also known for being the main sponsor of the Israeli soccer team, Beitar- Jerusalem. The Coast Guard searched Aguiar for 70 hours from the sky and on the sea, and eventually decided to call off the searches. The investigation is still going.
June 22, 2012 | 12:51 pm
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
Most nations of the world have different opinions and perspectives on pretty much everything, but if there’s something I believe all western countries see eye to eye on, it is politics. Every four years or so, we all gather to choose our delegates to represent us at the decision-making parliaments. After that, we pretty much live off of the dirt as the media picks on them. Politicians are mostly perceived as populists who spread statements but do nothing, and for their entire period of time in office, we wait for them to fall. That is why we are full of appreciation for the few, true, politicians, who still serve for the people they represent and fight to make a difference. Israel lacks this type of politician, which is why we do anything to show our appreciation for the few who pop up every once in a while. The last time we’ve had a truly admired politician, the kind which people look up to and believe in, was the early 90’s. The politician was Prime Minister Izhak Rabin. Many disagreed with his way, but I believe all sides of the political scale would agree he was one in a million.
After that, things got pretty much downhill, and the peak was in 2007, when our respected president- Moshe Katzav, the number one civilian, was accused of rape and put in jail. There have been several cases of dishonesty and fraud, but I believe the case of Katzav was when we said: “no more”. This statement became reality when Shimon Peres was elected president. At a time of progress and constant change, when you count only if you have a Facebook account, we had an 84 year old president, a president who’s been around since Israel’s very first days. When he was elected he said that becoming a president wasn’t his dream growing up. He said his childhood dream was to become a shepherd or a poet, but now that he’s President, he’ll do his part with great honor.
Yes, our president is one of the last Poets, and had a childhood dream of becoming something that was modern during biblical times. But if there’s one thing I can say about Peres, it is that he is no laughing matter. Until elected president, Peres was referred to as “the politician who can’t win.” For years since the beginning of Israeli time, Peres was in politics. He was a Minister in the Knesset for 48 years, and was even Prime Minister for two years in the 80’s and for several months in 1995, after Rabin was murdered. But overall, he was unofficially named “a loser.” It seemed like he had lost elections (for Prime Minister, for the head of the Knesset, etc.) more times than any other politician. He was always old fashioned in comparison to his rivals. I remember the 1996 debate held between the two candidates for Prime Minister: Bibi and Peres. Bibi was a young, persuasive man. He looked straight into the camera and improvised when needed. Peres was having some difficulties understanding this format of television production, which was pretty new back then. He read from a piece of paper, turning to the host rather to the camera .Since charisma also plays a part when electing our delegates in office, it was a sure loss.
It took us and him almost 50 years to realize to what part he plays, where he fits best. It is the most respected part of them all. Peres is not a politician, he is a President. He is the one we all look up to. He is a man with clean hands and good intentions. A Nobel Peace prize winner, he is the one we don’t even think of digging for dirt about. Our grandpa who opened his Facebook page a couple of months ago. The vary first Israeli president to be awarded the American Presidential Medal of Freedom. It took us that long to appreciate the man who never gave up, who kept on struggling to maintain his public role and to realize his agenda. He is the first Israeli politician to ever be admired by the entire nation. Shimon Peres, our most respected President since the dawn of Israeli Politics, is THAT kind of a politician. The rare, hard to find politicians, whom we cannot stop looking up to.
June 21, 2012 | 1:38 pm
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
The seaweed is always greener in somebody else’s lake. As much as I love Israel, my many visits in the US made me wish some American features were transferred here so that we can enjoy them as well. It took me a while, but I narrowed my “wish list” to five American features you are more than welcome to let us borrow:
When it comes to coffee, we, Israelis, are all Europeans- We don’t settle for beans. Almost every Israeli who ever visits the States will tell you that the thing you call “coffee” shouldn’t be called that. However, there is one large American coffee shop chain which rocked my world- Starbucks. That creamy, ice-cold Frappuccino on a hot summer day is all a girl could ask for. Same goes for a steamy cup of Cappuccino for a writing session inside the store, as the rain pours outside. We actually had Starbucks here for a while, but it didn’t last. The amount of coffee chains we already have didn’t leave room for the best of the best, and poor Israeli Starbucks didn’t stand a chance. Nowadays, when it is scalding hot outside, I like to make home- made Frappuccino, but as you can probably guess- it’s not the same.
The only word that comes to mind when visiting one of the Israeli amusement parks is: “really?!” Especially after visiting the mother of all amusement parks- Disneyworld. . When you enter a Disney Park’s gates, you feel like you went to heaven, at least. The combination of a legendary atmosphere and state of the art rides makes Disney Parks an out of this world experience. They are the kind that you take back home with you as you are filled with pity because it will take a while until you will have enough money to come back. But Disney is not amusement parks only; it is an entire culture which is not developed enough here. We grew up on Disney movies, and we also have some merchandise and the Disney channel, but I must say we lack that Disney “vibe” which cannot be ignored in the States.
Broadway. Wow. I mean, seriously- where else, in the world, is there an endless block of musical theater? In Israel you can find an average of 2.3 musicals a year. Some are original and some, such as Cabaret and The Producers, are adapted from, well, Broadway. My main goal during each stay in New York is to see as many Musicals as possible (considering my usually poor poor budget). Broadway is my chance to unload all my “musical need” which is clearly never satisfied here. But it’s not just Broadway that I want, it’s your entire Musical Theater culture: from musical television series to high-school musicals (not the movie, the actual thing). So if you please, just spread some of your musical theater pixie dust here on your next visit. It would be much appreciated. Thank you.
I was amazed by the variety of sports branches you have there, in the States: Baseball, Football, Tennis, Canoe, Swimming. Everyone has his/her own favorite sport and a favorite team to cheer for. We also have many sports, but when it comes to popular sports, or the kinds that have fans who are not sports geeks, we have, well, Soccer and Basketball. It pretty much ends there. While wishing we had more sports branches here (if we did, it might have made it easier for me to connect to that world), I seriously crave for your Sports Fans. Well, not the actual people, but their American, polite behavior which leaves me speechless. The fans who are okay with losing, who don’t leave garbage behind them when the game is over, who keep their thoughts on the judge to themselves. Polite is the key word. So no need for the actual fans, just that adjective they carry with them.
The things you guys can do with 99 cents are unbelievable. Every visit to Walmart was like a magic trick. Every single time I reached the cashier, carrying an overloaded cart and waiting for the verdict, I had to see the receipt for myself to believe how incredibly low the price is. Same goes for fast food restaurants- I pay almost nothing and get way more than I can eat. During my first vacation I ate so much I actually gained a couple of pounds, and….You know what- you can keep the big meals for small cash. I really don’t want to repeat that diet…
June 19, 2012 | 10:27 am
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
Yesterday was scary. I was just getting out of class when a friend of mine called. She is working as a security guard at an elementary school, and she was stressed out. She told me that militants crossed into Israel from Egypt, and that there was an exchange of fire and that there has been an alert that they might have entered Israel. She was standing alone, expected to keep hundreds of young kids safe, but incapable of actually protecting them. “If they will come, there will be nothing I can do,” she said. I live at the center of Israel, which means the last time I felt that kind of danger was during the second Intifada. I was a kid, barely a teenager, and didn’t quite realize the fear that took over my parents. I was forbidden to ride buses, so I walked. Simple as that. Now, 10 years later, I am a person of my own, capable of realizing a danger. My friend was guarding a school, filled with kids as young as we were, unaware of the danger, not feeling the impotence, the incapability to be truly protected. “If they will come, there will be nothing I can do”…
The militants were caught. The IDF proved itself once again and peace was redeemed. Nonetheless, I couldn’t stop thinking about what my friend said. We can never be truly protected, even while having the best army in the world. In case someone will succeed at entering Israel, he/she can do anything he/she wishes. They can stand near an elementary school and blow up. That’s that. “If they will come, there will be nothing I can do”…
June 18, 2012 | 11:25 am
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.
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.