The long-planned and long-delayed high-speed train between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem is getting closer Israel Railways has begun to lay tracks for the western section of the line in the Ayalon Valley, west of Jerusalem.
The target date for launching passenger train on the new line is January 2018, 17 years after construction began.
The project is costing approximately $2 billion and includes five tunnels and 20 bridges. Israel Railways also announced that the new passenger line between Be’er Sheva and Ashkelon will begin operations in September.
Israel Railways CEO Boaz Tzafrir said Monday:
The Negev railway is first and foremost a Zionist project. The direct line between Ashkelon to Be’er Sheva through Sderot, Netivot, and Ofakim – will boost employment in southern Israel, attract young couples to the region, and increase the quality of life of hundreds of thousands of southern Israelis.
The European low-fare Ryanair Airlines announced Tuesday it is launching its first Israel flights with three new routes between Ovda Airport, northwest of Eilat and Budapest, Kaunas and Krakow.
The new service will begin in November, with two flights a week to each of the three European cities.
Ryanair also said that it “will continue to negotiate with the Israeli authorities over future routes.”
The Irish-based company’s chief commercial officer David O’Brien said:
We will strengthen our presence in Israel as time goes by. Eilat is a very unique tourist destination like Morocco and the Canary Islands and we are certain that we will fill the planes.
Negotiations between Israel and Ryanair have been taking place for several years.
The Negev is undergoing a boom with a massive transfer of IDF forces and bases to the southern Israel, the fast-growing change in Be’er Sheva’s becoming a high-tech center, and the extension of the high-speed north-south Kvish 6 (Highway 6) to Be’er Sheva.
Several major corporations, including Boeing, are investing in the new high-tech park next to Ben Gurion University, and Ryanair’s service will be convenient for soldiers and businessmen traveling to Europe.
At least twenty Kassam rockets were fired at Israeli civilians in southern Israel late Sunday night, after Israeli Air Force jets struck terror cells in Gaza.
The majority of the rockets landed in the Eshkol Regional Council. No damage or injuries were reported.
Four rockets landed in open areas in the regions of Sderot, Hof Ashkelon, and Eshkol after 9am.
Red alert warning sirens went off throughout the night, with residents being advised to stay within 15 seconds of bomb shelters. Fifteen seconds is the approximate amount of time between the start of a warning siren and the explosion of a rocket.
IAF forces struck two operation centers and a rocket launching site in Gaza earlier Sunday, killing one terrorist.
On Sunday, 7 rockets landed near the heavily-populated cities of Beersheba and Ashekon. School was cancelled for approximately 40,000 school children.
An escalation in rocket fire began last Wednesday, when over 80 rockets and mortars were launched against Israeli civilians from Gaz, damaging eight homes in five Israeli towns. As Israel prepared to ramp up its response to Hamas and the Popular Resistance Committees – which claimed responsibility for the attacks – Hamas requested a ceasefire through Egyptian intermediaries.
On Sunday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s cabinet passed a plan to fortify all homes between 4.5 and 7 kilometers from Gaza at an estimated cost of $70 million.
The 26-town plan will mean the installation of 1,629 safe rooms in homes as well as the fortification of schools between 7 and 15 kilometers from Gaza. The project is estimated to be completed by the end of 2013.
How well are Jews – and non-Jews – doing with regard to the Jewish state? If the question focuses on the highbrow world, and particularly its predominant persuasion of liberalism (or what is still called by that name), the answer that emerges from Edward Alexander’s new book is: not very well.
The State of the Jews: A Critical Appraisal is not a seamless polemic but rather a far-ranging collection of articles and book reviews that, as Alexander himself allows, are “in flight from unity, as perhaps all collections of essays must be in some degree.”
That said, the book holds together sufficiently well, being consistently concerned with the theme of how a beleaguered people – and particularly its most articulate individuals – copes or fails to cope with hostility and defamation.
Alexander, professor emeritus of English at the University of Washington in Seattle and longtime pro-Israel and pro-Jewish polemicist, begins with a look at some roots of liberal anti-Semitism and philo-Semitism in 19th-century England. Representing the former is the educator and author Thomas Arnold, who disliked Jews and would have allowed them to become English citizens only by converting to Christianity. Representing the latter are his son, poet and critic Matthew Arnold, who liked Jews and favored their integration in English society as Jews; and the philosopher John Stuart Mill, who extolled Jews’ contribution to civilization while not being overly fond of present-day Jews.
England, though, is one of the principal villains of this book, and by today not only has liberal English philo-Semitism vanished but, says Alexander, England has “declared war upon Zionism and the Jewish state and its inhabitants” and “become the most anti-Zionist and perhaps most antisemitic country in Europe .” And within that larger reality, it is “[English] Jewish Israel-haters” who “play an enormously disproportionate role in the blackening of Israel’s image and the relentless campaign to expel her from the family of nations.”
Thus Alexander reviews the demented anti-Israel activities and statements of the likes of the academics Steven Rose, one of the initiators of English attempts to boycott Israeli universities, and Jacqueline Rose, who has turned her critical opprobrium on “those wishing to denigrate suicide bombers and their culture.”
British Jews of the Roses’ ilk are ably assisted by non-Jewish English Israel-haters like the poet (or “poetaster” as Alexander calls him) Tom Paulin, who among other infelicities told an Egyptian paper that Jews living in the West Bank “should be shot dead,” or Ted Honderich, a philosopher of “mind and logic” who persistently praises the virtuousness of Palestinian terrorism.
Across the pond, leading American Jewish writers like novelist Saul Bellow and the critics Lionel Trilling and Irving Howe racked up a miserable record of sins of omission during the Holocaust, failing to write about it or show any particular concern for what was unfolding. That, at least, eventually evoked contrition, with Bellow writing in a letter to the writer Cynthia Ozick that “I was too busy becoming a novelist to take note of what was happening in the Forties . Growing slowly aware of this unspeakable evasion I didn’t even know how to begin to admit it into my inner life.”
That contrasts, Alexander points out, with present-day American Jewish Israel bashers like Tony Kushner, Noam Chomsky, Judith Butler, or the late Tony Judt, for whom alienation from Jewish national priorities is not cause for remorse but for self-celebration and strutting one’s superior morality.
In America and elsewhere, Alexander observes, such Jews invert the 19th-century notion of “a Jew at home, a man in the world”: generally devoid of Jewish culture in their personal lives, they start adducing their Jewishness when publicly excoriating Israel as a dark stain of evil on the face of earth.
There are, too, some good guys (and girls) in this book in addition to the younger Arnold and (equivocally) Mill. The 19th-century English novelist George Eliot, in Daniel Deronda, showed both prescience and deep sympathy toward the Jewish yearning to return to Zion. The late American Jewish author Marie Syrkin, while of socialist leanings herself, staunchly defended Israel when apathy or criticism were the going trends. Efraim Karsh, an Israeli emigrant in Britain, has with his book Palestine Betrayed definitively refuted claims of Israeli responsibility for the Palestinian refugee problem. The Israeli poet Abba Kovner was a heroic anti-Nazi fighter in Lithuania during the war and, after emigrating to Israel, a patriot and leading light of Hebrew literary revival.
Yeshiva University’s Center for the Jewish Future seems to expand with each passing year.
Founded in 2005, the Center – among other activities – now educates hundreds of ordained rabbis through its Rabbinic Training Placement and Continuing Education program; sends 1,000 students every year to help communities around the world through its Experiential Education and Service Learning program; makes 60,000 shiurim of YU rabbis and others available online through YUTorah.org; helps YU students and alumni find their Intended through YUConnects.org; and sets up kollelim around the country through its Community Initiatives program.
This summer, the Center ran day camps in five Israeli development towns: Dimona, Arad, Kiryat Gat, Kiryat Malachi, and Beersheba. Staffed by 60 YU students, the camps serviced over 350 Israeli children.
The Jewish Press recently spoke with Rabbi Kenneth Brander, the Center’s dean, about the summer camps.
The Jewish Press: What was the logic behind Yeshiva University students from America organizing summer camps in Israel?
Rabbi Brander: One of the things that attracted the campers to our programs – each one was sold out and there were waiting lists – was the fact that you had American students coming over to Israel. It was cool that they were American.
Some of these kids have lived very challenging lives; they come from poor homes, foster homes, one-parent homes, etc. I’ll give you an example. We took the campers from Kiryat Gat and Kiryat Malachi to the airport to welcome in a Nefesh B’Nefesh flight; most of them had never been to an airport before.
Is the poverty really that bad in these cities?
There’s a significant divide between the wealth in the center of Israel and the south of Israel. The south is a very, very poor area. In a place like Dimona, two out of every three children are beneath the poverty line, which is significantly lower than the American poverty line.
One day, one of the kids from Dimona took a donkey to travel to camp. That’s what we’re talking about.
What’s the purpose of these camps?
They’re English-immersive summer camps. So, for example, we’ll take mishnayos and translate them into English.
Our other thing is that we want to build the campers’ self-esteem because they have very poor self-esteem. They’ve been told by everybody that they can’t accomplish – that for the rest of their lives they’re going to live in this cycle of poverty. But then, all of a sudden, they see – through arts and crafts, martial arts, dance, etc. – that they actually have skills and talents.
Are all the campers in the “poor self-esteem” or “troubled homes” categories?
They all come from challenging situations – some of the cities more than others. The population in Arad is nowhere near as financially challenged as the populations in the other camps. I would not put Arad and Dimona in the same category as Kiryat Gat, Kiryat Malachi and Beersheba.
In the latter cities, we only worked with kids who were basically on the cusp of failing out of school, who are classified by their schools as being in the “Nachshon group.” In Dimona and Arad, though, we had a mixture of all different kinds of kids.
Were these campers mostly Sephardim? Ashkenazim? Russian? Ethiopian?
It’s a klal Yisrael program. You have everyone. Development towns such as the ones we were in have a lot more Ethiopians and Russians than maybe other towns, but it’s a mixture….
You’ll also have kids who wear kippot along with kids who don’t. But I have to tell you – it’s such an unbelievable thing to see – even the kids who don’t wear kippot are very traditionally inclined. For example, they’ll say a berachah before they eat or they’ll put on tefillin in the morning. It’s an interesting perspective, which I don’t think we see as much in America.
What ages are the campers and what are the hours of these camps?
Ages 12 through 16 or 17. They start at eight in the morning and go to very late in the afternoon. But our students live in the towns, so the relationship doesn’t end at the end of the day. They hang out with our students on Shabbos or they’ll join us for Seudat Shlishit. It’s a fully immersive experience.
Google Street View has officially launched in Israel, providing images of religious sites and city streets in major Israeli cities Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Haifa.
Due to security issues, several sensitive sites will not be visible on the service, including the prime minister’s residence and the military headquarters in Tel Aviv. Military officials expressed concern over the introduction of Street View in Israel, due to previous admission by Arab terror organizations that they had used internet services to attack Israel. Islamic Jihad in Gaza has stated that it used Google Earth, which shows images of locations from above, to fire rockets at Israel.
Israel is the first Middle Eastern country to permit Street View to film locations and display them online. Iraq’s National Museum is also viewable on Street View.
Beersheba, Nazareth and Eilat will soon be added to the service.
Many Militant Groups Claim Responsibility for Rocket Attackss
Several militants groups have claimed responsibility for firing rockets into southern Israel on Monday, according to the Palestinian Ma’an news agency, while the rocket count is up to 20. It appears that many are eager to be counted among today’s “heroes.”
Islamic Jihad’s military wing, the Al-Quds Brigades, claimed responsibility for firing Grad missiles at Beer Sheva, Ashkelon and Ashdod on Monday morning.
The PRC’s military wing, the Nasser Saladin Brigades, said they had launched projectiles at Netivot, Ashkelon, Sderot and Beeri, while the PFLP’s armed wing, the Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades, said it had fired two projectiles at Israeli towns.
The al-Ahrar movement claimed that its military wing, the al-Ansar Brigades, fired two homemade projectiles at southern Israel.
A military group called Jaysh al-Umma, army of the nation, said its’ fighters had fired two 107 mm rockets at Israeli towns.
Terrorists in Gaza fired 17 rockets at major Israeli population centers on Monday morning, primarily at Beersheba and Ashdod. Seven of the rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system, one exploded outside a kindergarten.
Young Kibbutz girls Kibbutz examine the shards on the wall by a qassam rocket.
The Israeli Air Force launched nine anti-terror strikes in Gaza overnight and into Monday morning, targeting Gaza operatives continuing to fire missiles at civilian targets in Israel’s south. The Gaza-based Islamic Jihad has stated it is not considering a ceasefire and will continue to attempt to kill Israelis, as Israel has refused to agree to cease targeting terror leaders, according to Channel 2 news.
Islamic Jihad also reported that the IDF succeeded in neutralizing 3 more terrorists during the night in operations targeting weapons storage facilities and four rocket-launching sites.
Of the 17 rockets fired into Israel, 6 were launched at Ashdod, with 5 being intercepted by the Iron Dome, the 6th falling in an open area. Two Grad missiles landed north of Beersheba and two were fired at Gan Yavneh. One rocket exploded outside a kindergarten in Eshkol, bringing the 4-day total to approximately 170.
Twenty terrorists have been killed in ongoing operations.
122mm Grad missiles have a range of 25 miles (40 kilometers), enabling them to reach major Israeli cities such as Ashdod, Sderot, Ofakim, Gedera, Ashkelon, Rehovot, Kiryat Malachi, Kiryat Gat, Gan Yavne, Netivot and Beersheba, all of which experienced another day of school cancellation by the Home Front Command. Approximately 1 million Israelis – over 13% of the total national population – are estimated to be in the affected vicinities. Israelis in those areas are being asked to stay close to reinforced shelters, and to stay indoors as much as possible.
The IDF posted video on YouTube of citizens in shelters as the Iron Dome missile defense system deployed against a missile launched at Beersheba.
On a tour of southern Israel on Sunday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu promised citizens that “we will continue to hit whoever plans to attack citizens of the State of Israel,” adding that home front defense would also be enhanced. Speaking at a ceremony welcoming Italian Defense Minister Giampaolo di Paola to Israel, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak warned that “those who attack our civilians will be punished,” and vowed that “the IDF will continue to protect Israeli citizens and will strike all those who rise to attack us.” IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz postponed a trip this week to the US due to the situation.
Targeted missile launches against Israeli civilians began Friday after an IAF air strike killed two Arab terror leaders from the Popular Resistance Committee who were planning an attack on Israel via the border with Egypt – senior terror leader Zuhir Mussah Ahmed Kaisi and accomplice Mahmoud Ahmed Mahmoud Hanani.
According to the IDF, terrorist retaliatory attacks are being launched from Beit Lahiya, Jabaliya, Rafah, Gaza City, and El-Bureij.
However, an IDF spokesperson stated that injury and damage have been sustained since attacks began Friday. On March 11, one rocket hit a school in Beersheba and another hit a parked car when the city’s Iron Dome battery malfunctioned. Fifteen people were treated for shock, with heavy damage sustained to buildings and vehicles in the vicinity. A chicken farm in the Ashkelon Regional Council was also heavily damaged. On March 10, a horse was killed and a home near Ashdod damaged by direct rocket fire. On March 9, four people were wounded, one severely.
Despite ongoing rocket attacks, the Erez Crossing from Israel into Gaza remains open for passengers and employees of international organizations, according to the IDF, with the Kerem Shalom crossing remaining open for the delivery of products into Gaza.