In Kibbutz Negba, a dozen Israeli teenagers attending a summer camp in the guesthouses of this Negev kibbutz were asked to model small trees, and then decorate them with photographs of themselves.
If there is one thing Israelis have learned -- from the two and a half years of the present intifada and from all the battles that preceded it over 54 years -- it is that there are no surgical wars.
The maverick Irish writer-politician Connor Cruise O'Brien once celebrated Abba Eban, who died in Tel-Aviv Sunday at the age of 87, as "the most brilliant diplomat of the second half of the 20th century."
David Kosak, a 35-year-old rabbinical student from the University of Judaism, was lunching with classmates at Hebrew University's Frank Sinatra cafeteria on Wednesday when the bomber struck.
In the reoccupied West Bank town of Hebron, an activist in Yasser Arafat's Al Fatah, a graduate of Israeli prisons, lamented the other day: "I gave up my dream of the whole of Palestine for the sake of the Oslo accord. And what did I get? Corruption, no democracy, security services abusing and blackmailing our people. And now I'm getting Israeli soldiers invading my town and the Palestinian Authority is doing nothing to protect me."
The capture of a massive Palestinian arms shipment 300 miles down the Red Sea from Eilat has revived Israel's spirit after 15 demoralizing months of intifada mayhem. "This is what we are trained for," exulted a senior security officer. Every-one invoked the 1976 Entebbe rescue of hijacked airline passengers.
For Israel and the Palestinians, 2001 was a year of failure, collapse and escalating violence. Failure of international diplomacy, collapse of mutual trust, violence that claimed 200 Israeli lives and 574 Palestinian.
Palestinian suicide bombers killed a total of 28 bus passengers and young people in a four-day orgy of blood and vengeance that stretched from Haifa and Hadera in the North to Jerusalem in the South.
After noon prayers in the mosque last Friday, hundreds of Palestinian Muslims marched in triumph through Gaza's Nuseirat refugee camp brandishing portraits of Osama bin Laden, some as big as 15 feet.
It was meant to be the "not Wagner" concert: Daniel Barenboim, the pride of Israeli music-lovers, conducting his Berlin orchestra, the Staatskapelle, on the last night of this year's Israel Festival. Little did we know.
The intifada took a fateful stride from popular uprising toward war this week with news that the Palestinians are stockpiling longer-range, more lethal weapons that could threaten Ashkelon and Tel Aviv, as well as paralyzing flights from Ben-Gurion International Airport.
Israeli patrol boats, backed by spotter planes and helicopters, intercepted a Lebanese boat smuggling Katyusha surface-to-surface rockets, shoulder-launched Strella anti-aircraft missiles, and an arsenal of shells, mortars, anti-tank grenades and land mines from northern Lebanon to Gaza.
The Palestinian intifada, which began as a civil uprising against the Israeli occupation, is rapidly becoming a low-intensity war between armed forces. And the low intensity is getting higher and higher by the day.
There were more police than customers in Jerusalem's Mahane Yehuda market last Friday morning, when Jewish families would normally stock up for the weekend. Downtown, the strolling, shopping and coffee-bar crowds had deserted the Ben-Yehuda pedestrian mall for the fashionable German Colony.
Twenty thousand mourners, seething with anger, followed the bodies of Binyamin and Talia Kahane through downtown Jerusalem to the Givat Shaul cemetery last Sunday night. Most of them were Orthodox yeshiva students, admirers of Meir Kahane, the assassinated founder of the Jewish Defense League and of the outlawed Kach party. The rabbi's son and daughter-in-law, aged 34 and 31 respectively, had been shot by Palestinian gunmen as they drove home from a Jerusalem Shabbat to the West Bank settlement of Kfar Tapuach. Five of their six children were injured.
After Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated five years ago this month, his wife Leah cast herself as the unforgiving scourge of the Israeli right, which she blamed for fostering the atmosphere in which a Jewish radical, Yigal Amir, pulled the trigger.
Uri Savir may not have won a Nobel Peace Prize, but far more than the three national leaders who did, he is Mr. Oslo. For three long months in 1993, the then director-general of the Israeli Foreign Ministry sat secretly in the Norwegian capital and hammered out an agreement with the Palestine Liberation Organization that kindled hopes of an end to a century of belligerence.
I first met Maurice Singer on the far bank of the Suez Canal during the second week of the Yom Kippur War, soon after Israel had counter-attacked across the waterway. The British-born, 28-year-old machine-gunner was grimy and sweating on his clanking, dust-encrusted half-track, the forerunner of today's armored personnel carrier. Like all his comrades, he scribbled a phone number and asked our group of reporters to let his family know he was okay.
Ovadia Yosef, the Shas spiritual mentor and former Sephardichief rabbi of Israel, is a gold medalist among insulters. The mediahere monitor his Saturday night sermons, broadcast live on Shas's pirateradio station, for his latest news-making tirades.
Camp David is dead, long live Camp David. That was the slogan as the despondent, disappointed Israelis left the morning after the Middle East peace summit collapsed in the Maryland presidential retreat."The process is not over," said strategic analyst Yossi Alpher, a former special adviser to Prime Minister Ehud Barak. "It is hard to think that Barak will simply say, 'I'm finished dealing with the peace process.' They're going to have to get back to talking."
What, though, would they talk about?
The Camp David summit looks like the boldest gamble by an Israeli leader since the founding father, David Ben-Gurion, declared the Jewish state in May 1948, to the rumble of invading Arab guns and the chattering teeth of his own querulous associates. Ehud Barak flew to the United States this week determined to make peace with the Palestinians, but with his coalition government and parliamentary support in tatters.
The first report on Assad's death caught me by surprise. It was from Eric Silver, our Jerusalem correspondent (see page 20), and it recounted his interview with the former chief rabbi of Syria, Avraham Hamra, who now lives in Israel.
Chinese President Jiang Zemin donned his black kippah and followed in Pope John Paul II's footsteps to the Western Wall last week, confident that the world's biggest atheistic state would soon receive a $250 million airborne surveillance system from Israel Aircraft Industries on schedule. Despite intense American pressure to cancel the deal, the signs are that he will receive the other three or four AWACS he also wants to buy.
This weekend's Swiss summit between Bill Clinton and Hafez al-Assad is a make-or-break moment in the quest for peace between Syria and Israel. The American president will soon be a lame duck. The septuagenarian Syrian president is sick and eager to hand over the reins to his son, Bashar. And the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Barak, the man in the empty chair in Geneva, is losing control of his coalition and his constituency.
If they don't reach an ag
It is hard to write dispassionately about Ofra Haza, the Israeli pop icon who died last week at 41. She sang her fusion of Yemenite folk and '80s beat with intense, unabashed emotion. And she generated emotion in others.
Nine months after Ehud Barak took office as "everybody's prime minister," the honeymoon is over -- with his voters, coalition allies and Arab partners in the quest for peace. It is too early to write him off, but the Labor leader can no longer rely on loyalty or goodwill to see him through.
Ehud Barak stomps down the aisle of the old, white Boeing 707 that doubles as Israel's Air Force One. He has come to shmooze with the traveling press corps. Close up, he is shorter than expected. He clenches his shoulders like a muscle-bound wrestler. His pudgy face looks as if it was molded from children's modeling dough, his hair as if he still has it trimmed by his old army barber. No $200 stylist at the airport for him.
nation and world briefs
The only thing Jerusalem's Jewish and Arab shopping malls had in common when news broke last Friday of the Wye II deal was that no one was dancing in the streets. There was relief that something at last was about to move on the Israeli-Palestinian front, but it takes more than Madeleine Albright playing what she fetchingly called an American "handmaiden" to disperse the suspicions of half a century.
Softly, softly, Israel has launched a joint Orthodox-Conservative-Reform program to solve the problem of quarter of a million Russian immigrants who are Jewish according to the Law of Return (at least one Jewish grandparent), but not according to Halachah (a Jewish mother).
Two decades ago, after hearing the then-Col. Ehud Barak deliver a eulogy for a fallen comrade, popular Israeli poet Haim Guri predicted: "One day, this man will be prime minister." On May 17, Israel's voters proved him right. Barak was elected by a landslide, his 56 percent to 44 percent for the right-wing incumbent, Binyamin Netanyahu -- the younger brother of the man Barak eulogized in 1976, Yonatan Netanyahu, who was killed rescuing a planeload of hijacked passengers at Entebbe airport.
Amos Oz, Hebrew novelist, secular prophet and self-proclaimed "non-synagogue" Jew, has joined his local Reform congregation in Arad, the Negev desert town where he has lived since leaving Kibbutz Hulda a decade ago.
A new coded message has entered the chilly lexicon of Israeli anxiety. "Heavy fighting is taking place in Lebanon," intones the news reader. Hundreds of mothers and fathers with soldier sons serving across the northern border know immediately what that means. There are casualties, but the families have not yet been notified.
Israel's ratification of the Wye agreement, calling for another 13-percent West Bank withdrawal in return for Palestinian security measures, was completed on Tuesday night when the Knesset endorsed the American-brokered deal by a vote of 75 to 19, with nine abstentions.
The most talked-about, perhaps the most feared, figure in Israeli politics this holiday season is neither a statesman nor a rabble-rouser. He is Yitzhak Kedouri, a frail, mystical Iraqi-born rabbi, barely able to speak or to walk unaided, whose widely distributed kabbalistic amulets are credited with swaying thousands of underprivileged Sephardic Jewish voters.
In Roger Hanin's semi-autobiographical film, "Soleil" (1997), 13-year-old Meyer is kicked out of school for being Jewish in Vichy North Africa. It is a sign that things have changed for his family in Algeria, where Jews had peacefully lived for centuries amid the Moslems. Now, Meyer's communist father must go into hiding; his mother, Titine (Sophia Loren), must raise her children alone, charming black marketeers into giving her food. She manages to talk authorities into keeping Meyer out of jail when he is caught writing anti-government graffiti.
Gil Wiener, the husky soldier who dragged out the first survivor of the Nairobi bombing to be saved by the Israeli dog squad last weekend, is a 29-year-old architecture student working his way through college as a lifeguard at the Hebrew University swimming pool in Jerusalem.
When the editors of The Jewish Journal, along withpublisher Stanley Hirsh, started planning an issue to commemorateIsrael's 50th anniversary, we were committed to something other thana "coffee-table" paper. We wanted it to be highly readable andentertaining, definitely, but also filled with stories and newsarticles that were immediate and compelling and newsworthy -- notjust gloss or an endless series of superlatives.
On the eve of the 50th birthday of the Jewishstate, Israelis have seldom felt so lonely. No one wants to come tothe party. Vice President Al Gore is one of the few foreigndignitaries who have accepted an invitation to the April 30 fiesta.The rest are either stalling or saying, "Thanks, but nothanks."
Israel signed the Oslo peace agreement with itsold enemy, Yasser Arafat, because by 1993 the alternatives had becomeinsufferable. The Palestinian intifada, a revolt of thestreet, was sapping the morale of the Israeli army, fighting a futilesix-year battle with one hand tied behind its back. Nightlytelevision footage of soldiers in combat fatigues, chasing teenageboys wielding slingshots and petrol bombs, was undermining Israel'sdeterrent credibility in its confrontation with the Arab states aswell as its international moral case.
Graham Greene and John Le Carré have been there before: A shadowy source with access to the highest reaches of an enemy regime. A vain, furtive secret service handler with a chip on his shoulder, who insists that the informant will speak to no one but him. A steady flow of alarming exclusive reports, plausible but inherently uncheckable. An intelligence community more concerned with protecting its turf than investigating all the way when suspicions were first aroused.
Binyamin Netanyahu has made peace, for the time being, with his own disaffected coalition by offering the Palestinians a further West Bank withdrawal that is vague, qualified and conditional. But in the atmosphere of distrust generated by the Israeli prime minister, few are convinced that he has advanced the prospects of a wider peace.
On the eve of his most testing American visit since he becamePrime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu was humiliated, live on prime-timetelevision, last Monday by the least likely of dissidents -- theblue-collar ward party bosses of the Likud central committeeconvention.
The botched assassination attempt on a Hamas official in Amman onSept. 25 has turned into a security, as well as a diplomatic,disaster for Israel. Commentators are calling for the resignations ofboth Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and chief of the Mossadexternal security service, Gen. Danny Yatom.
Since the beginning of this year, 103 Israeli soldiers have died in, or on their way to, war in Lebanon. Twelve lost their lives in a botched marine commando raid last week. The total death toll since the 1982 "Peace for Galilee" invasion nowstands at about 1,200, and since the pullback to the South Lebanese security zone in 1985, some 500 soldiers have died.
"When's our luck going to run out?" my wife asked after last week's triple suicide bombing on Jerusalem's Ben-Yehuda shopping street. "They're getting nearer every time." It was one of those days when people phone around to count their friends.
Brenner, a 57-year-old New York-born social worker, Reform Jew and feminist, is at the epicenter of the latest halachic earthquake shaking Israel. Her downstairs neighbor is Dov Dumbrovich, the Orthodox chairman of the local religious council, who is defying a Supreme Court ruling and refusing to let her take her seat on the council.
After a raucous six-hour debate, 55 legislators registered their confidence in Netanyahu, 50 voted against, and an unprecedented 15 abstained or absented themselves from the ballot. The government's paper support is 66 out of 120 Knesset members, plus two far-right sympathizers from Rehavam Ze'evy's Moledet.
Binyamin Netanyahu this week put the Bar-On affair behind him. The Supreme Court endorsed as "not exceptionally unreasonable" the law officers' reluctance to indict the prime minister and Justice Minister Tzachi Hanegbi for the abortive appointment of an underqualified party hack as attorney-general.
After a year of licking the wounds of electoral defeat, the Israeli left has crowned a new leader who radiates an aura of victory and an appetite for power. The campaign of the year 2000 has begun.
I first visited Jerusalem with an invited party of foreign journalists in 1966, when it was still a divided city at the end of the line. The nearest we got to a holy or historic site was Mount Zion, an Israeli outpost on the fringe of the Old City, and a scale model of the Second Temple at the Holyland Hotel.
Israel is preparing a package of gestures designed to revive the Mideast peace negotiations that have been frozen since work began on a contentious Jewish housing project at Har Homa in East Jerusalem two months ago.
Despite its propaganda success in the United Nations General Assembly, where 134 countries last weekend denounced Israeli construction on the disputed Har Homa site in East Jerusalem, the Palestinian Authority is in despair over the stagnant peace process.