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July 24, 2016 / 18 Tammuz, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘israeli’

Israeli Millionaire Philanthropist, Founder of Emanuel, Motti Zisser Dies at 61

Thursday, June 23rd, 2016

Israeli businessman Motti Zisser passed away Thursday morning after a lengthy struggle with cancer. He had been in remission since the 1990s, when he first came down with the illness and became sick again two years ago. Zisser, who made his fortune in real estate and construction across Europe and in South Africa, was engaged of late in a lengthy dispute with Bank Hapoalim over a debt that was growing to close to $300 million.

Mordechai Kalman Zisser was born in the poor neighborhood of Hatikvah in south-eastern Tel Aviv to Polish Holocaust survivors who belonged to the Hassidic dynasty of Sochatchov. When he was two, his family moved to the Haredi city of B’nei B’rak, where he joined the religious youth movement Ezra. He studied at the Netiv Meir Yeshiva and served in the IDF as an Armor officer while attending the hesder yeshiva Kerem d’Yavne. He acquired a BA in Economics from Bar-Ilan University.

Zisser captured the Israeli public’s imagination, especially in the religious sector, in the early 1980s, when he initiated the founding of the city of Emanuel in Samaria, the first urban settlement in the newly captured territories. Since then Zisser went on to build across Israel and in Eastern Europe. He was known as a generous philanthropist, especially focusing on Jewish communities in Hungary.

In the 1990s, after recovering from a bout with cancer, Zisser and his wife established the first bone marrow bank in Israel. The couple also contributed to the Oranit rehab center for children and teens with cancer. The Zissers also contributed millions of dollars to charity and educational organizations in Israel and around the world.

In 1999 Zisser purchased Elbit Medical Imaging, a holding company with activities in real estate, medical imaging, hotels, shopping malls, and retail, for an estimated $128 million. Zisser integrated his real estate activities into the company and restructured Elbit Medical Imaging as a holding company, focusing on real estate and hotels development, shopping and entertainment malls, industrial manufacturing and supply of components for the medical imaging, as well as venture capital investments in high-technology and bio-technology companies.

At some point Zisser’s company started a downward spin which eventually landed it in Israeli court, which wiped out close to half a billion dollars of its debt in exchange for transferring 95% of its stock to the creditors. Zisser, who lost control over his company, still owed more than a quarter of a billion dollars to the bank, which asked the court to declare him bankrupt.

JNi.Media

‘At The End Of The Day, We Only Have Each Other’: An Interview with Israeli Consulate Spokesperson Shimon Mercer-Wood

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016

Shimon Mercer-Wood is the spokesperson and consul for media affairs at the Consulate General of Israel in Manhattan. A product of the London School of Economics and Yeshivat Ma’aleh Gilboa, Mercer-Wood previously served as political officer at Israel’s embassy in New Delhi and press officer at Israel’s embassy in London. 

The Jewish Press: What’s your background?

Mercer-Wood: My mother’s family is from Transylvania, which is Hungarian-speaking Romania, and my father’s family is from Ghana in West Africa. My father’s uncle was the ambassador of Ghana to Israel in the 1960s, and he brought along my father with him.

Why did he bring your father?

They were very close. Also, in that part of Ghana, it’s actually a matrilineal society, which means the person you inherit is not your father, but your mother’s brother. So as part of his being groomed to take over from his uncle, he went with him and was kind of like his protégé.

And then your father stayed in Israel?

In 1967, on the eve of the Six-Day war, Ghana’s embassy was ordered to evacuate because everyone was sure Israel was going to be destroyed. In Israel they were preparing mass graves in the public parks because they thought there would be, chas v’shalom, many casualties, and in Holland they were preparing refugee camps.

But my father had developed an interest in Judaism and felt it was disloyal to abandon the Jewish people in a time of danger, so he stayed in Israel. And then my father got swept up by the very obvious miracle of Israel going from the brink of peril to unprecedented victory in such a short time. So my father stayed in Israel, converted, joined the army, and has basically been in Israel ever since.

It’s quite a story.

Apart from it being my personal family story, though, it also speaks to Israel’s relationship with Africa in that time. Israel was a huge player in the African continent in the 1960s. This was part of Golda Meir’s policy to find friends around the world and to fulfill the aspiration of being an ohr la’goyim. So Israel was very active in introducing modern agriculture to Africa. In fact, Israel at that time had more embassies in Africa than any other non-African country. The relationship was so close that when my uncle was shifted from the Ghana Embassy in China to the Ghana Embassy in Israel, it was considered a major promotion.

What do you do at the Israeli consulate in Manhattan?

We try to introduce positive material about Israel into the media output, and I would divide that into three “battles.” The first battle is to engage with those journalists who write primarily about the Israeli-Arab conflict and provide them with information that may help them be more sympathetic to the Israeli position.

The second battle is to provide stories to journalists who are interested in writing about Israel. So, for example, we met a producer at one of the news channels who said, “I want stories about Israeli startups. Please feed me with stories.” Our job then is to seek out such stories – be in touch with relevant authorities and hubs in Israel – and build up story pitches.

The third battle, which is the most interesting, is to reach those journalists who don’t even think about writing about Israel, and introduce Israel to them. Recently, for example, we sent a journalist to Israel to cover a conference on accessibility – especially how to make tourism more accessible for people with disabilities. This is a writer to whom it would never have occurred to write a story about Israel. But she came back from that conference very enthusiastic, and it was a huge success. It’s very gratifying to find someone like that and put Israel on their radar in such a positive context.

I should add that we place a special emphasis on Jewish media, because the most important asset this building is charged with safeguarding is the relationship between Israel and American Jews. I very often meet people who adore Israel but their conception of Israel is kind of what Israel was like in the 1980s. Israel is a very dynamic place – it’s constantly changing – and it’s important for me to make sure people see Israel as it is today.

Why is this important?

Because we’re one nation, we’re one people. At the end of the day, on the face of the planet, we only have each other. And just like you keep in touch with your brother who lives in another city and you want him to know what’s happening in your life and you don’t want his perception of your life to be stuck like when you were in college, it’s important for the different components of the Jewish nation to know what the others are going through. It’s not because you want their “support.” It’s because that’s what it means to be one people.

Those who dislike Israel sometimes call it racist. When you speak to such people, do you find your skin color helpful in combating this argument?

There’s a spectrum of anti-Israel attitudes. On the light side you have ignorance, and in that case perhaps it helps. But further along the spectrum, there is entrenched hostility to Israel, and then nothing helps because they don’t really care. It’s not about knowledge or understanding. It’s an emotional issue. It’s a feeling of commitment to a struggle against Israel. And you can really see it physically when you speak to these people, how much their whole being is fired up with attacking Israel.

So I don’t bother arguing with them, because a) they don’t deserve it and b) it’s completely pointless. We really should focus our efforts on those who don’t have that level of hatred. I often hear people say, “Show them the facts!” They don’t care about the facts. They operate in a cultural sphere in which facts are of no importance. It’s part of a certain brand of post-modern mode of thought that says that everything is subjective and relative, and facts are just not important.

What’s Israel’s opinion of Donald Trump?

It’s important to understand that Israel has a relationship with the United States that exceeds the relationship with the president of the United States. So it sounds like a talking point but it’s actually true: Whoever the American people elect, Israel will be happy to work with because they will be elected by the American people.

What’s very important, though, is that the political relationship between Israel and the United States remain bipartisan. There are people in America – on both sides of the political spectrum – who are trying to undermine the bipartisan nature of this relationship for their own political reasons. These people don’t have Israel’s best interests in mind.

Several media outlets have reported that Bernie Sanders’s supporters hope to amend the Democratic Party’s platform so that it is less pro-Israel or even anti-Israel. Is Israel concerned?

I’m not going to comment on anything a particular politician is doing, but in general the attempt to make Israel a divisive issue is exactly what I was talking about before. Israel shouldn’t be a divisive issue.

I also think that recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is not an Israel thing. It’s a Jewish thing. When someone wants to remove reference to Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, they are trying to erase one of the most fundamental features of the Jewish heritage. You want to criticize Israel, go ahead. But if you erase reference to Jerusalem as our capital you’re insulting every Jew who has ever lived.

Syria is currently a mess. What are Israel’s hopes for the conclusion of that conflict?

Israel’s policy on Syria is that we don’t care who rules them, how they are ruled, what sort of government they have, etc. It’s none of our business. We just want to be left alone.

But the prime minister has laid down three red lines. First, anyone who shoots at us, we shoot back. Second, we will not allow Syria to become a conduit for advanced weaponry reaching Hizbullah in Lebanon. And third, we’re not going to allow anyone to build an infrastructure that can be used to threaten Israel in the future. So if we see someone building a terrorist network, the purpose of which is to threaten Israel, something may happen to that person. According to certain reports, these things have happened in the past and they will continue to happen so long as there are people who want to use Syria as a base for attacking Israel.

I have to add that on a human level it’s very sad to see such unspeakable suffering, and we try to extend humanitarian aid wherever we can. There’s an Israeli NGO called IsraAID which set up shop on the island of Lesvos in Greece giving medical care to refugees. Other Israeli NGOs are providing food and supplies in refugee camps in Jordan.

How is Israel dealing with Russia’s interests in Syria?

It’s a very complicated issue. Our interests in Syria do not correlate with Russia’s. Russia wants to keep Assad in power. Keeping Assad in power means strengthening Iran’s influence and presence – which is the main threat to us. And the Russians are also fighting shoulder to shoulder with Hizbullah which is one of our main enemies. So our interests do not correlate. Having said that, Israel and Russia share enough interests elsewhere and on other levels that we both have the motivation to make sure the conflicting interest don’t become a direct conflict.

What “other interests” are you referring to?

First of all, it’s interesting to note that Russia sees Israel as a special case on account of its huge population of Russian Jews. I remember meeting the Russian ambassador in Israel, and he said, “Since I’ve come to Israel, my English has deteriorated because from the supermarket to the president, everyone speaks to me in Russian.” So they feel there’s an important link there, and I think that makes for a different attitude.

I won’t go into too many details, but there are other issues on which Israel and Russia cooperate so that both countries wish to maintain cordial relations.

What’s Israel’s current policy toward Iran? Are we now beyond the point where destroying Iran’s nuclear program is possible?

Israel’s fundamental policy hasn’t changed. We will take every means necessary to make sure Iran doesn’t get nuclear weapons. What has happened is that because of the Iran deal, the crunch time – the point at which you have to make a decision – has been pushed off by a few years. But when we reach that crunch time again, I have no doubt that the prime minister of Israel will not hesitate to act.

Elliot Resnick

Israeli President to EU Parliament: No More ‘Negotiations for Negotiations’ Sake’

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016

By Jesse Lempel/TPS

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin addressed the European Parliament on Wednesday, including foreign ministers of the EU member states, and issued a sharp rebuke of the international community’s approach toward Israeli-“Palestinian” peacemaking, arguing that the recent French initiative “suffers from fundamental flaws” and that efforts should be focused on building trust among the parties rather than striving for a permanent peace deal, which he described as a “chronicle of a predictable failure.”

Rivlin, a former right-wing parliamentarian who has refashioned himself in the presidency as a strong voice for unity and tolerance, pointedly dismissed recent European peacemaking endeavors, including the French initiative conference adopted by the European Union Council last week.

“The attempt to return to negotiations for negotiations’ sake, not only does not bring us near the long-awaited solution, but rather drags us further away from it,” Rivlin said. “The French initiative suffers from fundamental flaws.”

“If the international community really wishes and truly aspires to be a constructive player, it must divert its efforts away from the renewal of negotiations for negotiations’ sake, and toward building trust between the parties, and to creating the necessary terms for the success of negotiations in the future,” Rivlin added. “In the current circumstances, we must all ask ourselves ‘what can be done today’, rather than, ‘what cannot be done.’”

Rivlin argued that a true peace deal is not practical today and its pursuit is a doomed enterprise.

“Currently the practical conditions, the political and regional circumstances, which would enable us to reach a permanent agreement between us – the Israelis and the Palestinians – are failing to materialize,” Rivlin claimed, citing the split between the Palestinian Fatah party and the Hamas terrorist group that rules the Gaza Strip, as well as the “total lack of trust between the parties, at all levels, between the leaders and the nations.”

“One cannot hope to achieve better results while resorting to the same outlooks and tools which have failed time after time previously,” Rivlin said.

Rivlin also addressed European criticism of Israel, which he described as misguided and at times unfair.

“I feel that the massive criticism aimed at Israel in Europe stems from, inter alia, a misunderstanding and an impatience toward this existential need of the Jewish Nation and the State of Israel,” he said. “There are those who feel anger and frustration toward certain European actions, vis-à-vis what they perceive as sometimes unfair criticism, sometimes even contaminated by elements of condescension, and some would even say double standard.”

“If Europe is interested in serving as a constructive factor in striving for a future agreement, it will be incumbent upon you its leaders, to focus efforts at this time in a patient and methodic building of trust. Not through divestments, but through investment; not by boycotts, but by cooperation,” Rivlin added.

Despite his blistering critique of Europe’s attitude toward Israel and his stark assessment of the possibility of a long-term peace deal in the near future, Rivlin stressed that Israel seeks peace.

“I speak to you today in the name of a nation which abhors war and desires life and peace,” he said. “Being well versed in the Israeli Parliament, I do know that any political agreement brought before the Israeli Knesset by an elected government will be approved.”

TPS / Tazpit News Agency

It’s About Time: Government Trust Fund for Every Israeli Child

Tuesday, June 21st, 2016

For the first time in the history of the state, starting January 1, 2017, every Israeli child below the age of 18 will receive a trust fund in which the National Insurance Administration (Israel’s Social Security) will be making monthly deposits. Parents will be able to select an alternative financial institution for their child and be allowed to invest in the fund from the government child allowance.

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon said that the new trust fund for every child will go a long way to “narrow the social gaps in Israel, and promote equal opportunities for middle class and the weaker sectors, as well as raise awareness about saving.”

As it was laid out on Tuesday, the plan will allow an 18-year-old Israeli who has been enrolled all his life to embark on his adulthood with about $5,000. The trust fund plan is based on National Insurance making $14 monthly deposits in the funds. The hope is that with interest and added investments the fund would yield an even higher amount, enough to carry the young person through college, help start a small business or make any other worthwhile investment.

If the young Israeli opts to delay withdrawing the funds until he or she turns 21, National Insurance will add a 500 shekel bonus ($180) to the account at that point and the government would pay all the fees on the fund.

The obvious problem is that $5,000, which will be pulled out of the war on poverty budgets, is not a lot of money, and the future may be paved with Israeli young adult driving cheap cars or going on that incredible trip to India or the Amazon forest, rather than using the money for its intended purpose.

It would have been much more meaningful had government invested those $5,000 in the fund up front, which at 2% would yield more than $7,000, an end amount that could be boosted by the parents and the child over the years. With only $14 monthly deposits by the parents, the fund would be doubled by the end of the 18-year term.

But to do that, with about 200,000 babies born annually, Israel would have to divert about $1 billion from its budget to those funds. Not an impossible figure for a country with a $300 billion annual GDP. The upside would be a population that’s more serious about saving and investing, and young people who have a stake in the stability of the system. Those would include young Israeli Arab, by the way.

David Israel

State Department Q&A on Israeli Supplemental Aid to Communities Suffering from Arab Terrorism [video]

Tuesday, June 21st, 2016
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Yvonne Diamond

@JewishPress Don’t know about that, but they’ve been bombing at MCAGCTC for two solid days now . . .

The following is the transcript and video from the State Department Press briefing on June 20th, 2016, regarding the supplemental aid package that Israel approved yesterday to aid Israelis whose businesses have suffered due to the Palestinian Authority Arab terror attacks in Judea and Samaria, and to help improve security for the communities in Judea and Samaria.

Time: 29:55 on the video.

QUESTION (Matt Lee): Did you guys have any reaction to this additional – the supplementary funding that was approved for the West Bank settlements for – over the weekend, yesterday?

MR KIRBY: Yeah. I actually put a statement out.

QUESTION: You did?

MR KIRBY: I did —

QUESTION: I missed it.

MR KIRBY: — yesterday. I can’t believe you’re not sitting around —

QUESTION: Yeah, Sunday —

MR KIRBY: — waiting for my statements.

QUESTION: Sunday afternoon, Kirby, I’m just sitting there looking – staring at my phone —

MR KIRBY: Well, if you had been —

QUESTION: — waiting for your emails.

MR KIRBY: — then you wouldn’t have had to ask that question.

QUESTION: If you’ve already put something out, then —

MR KIRBY: Okay. I’ll let the statement stand. Seems like everybody else got a chance to read it.

QUESTION: We like to hear it directly from you, though.

MR KIRBY: But you did hear it directly from me. I signed it.

QUESTION: You know what I mean, with your own voice. It sort of gives it an added —

MR KIRBY: We’re aware of the funding package. We’re looking into further details. Our position on settlement activity remains clear and consistent: We strongly oppose all settlement activity, which is corrosive to the cause of peace. We continue to look to both sides to demonstrate with actions and policies a genuine commitment to a two-state solution, and actions such as these we believe does exactly the opposite.

QUESTION: Well, wait, wait, but this isn’t for settlement activity, per se. This was not to expand or build new homes.

MR KIRBY: It’s approving more than like $18 million for settlements. It’s approving funding for —

QUESTION: But not for building them. This is for, like, helping businesses and security.

MR KIRBY: But it still runs counter to our view about settlement activity, period.

QUESTION: So securing – adding security to settlements is the same as settlement activity?

MR KIRBY: As I said, we’re still – we are still – we’re aware of this funding package and we’re still looking into it for details. But settlement activity, as we’ve said – there’s nothing – nothing has changed about our concerns about that.

QUESTION: So any money that goes into anything in a West Bank settlement is bad according to you guys?

MR KIRBY: I didn’t say that. I said we are aware of this funding package and we’re looking into the details.

QUESTION: Okay. All right. Okay.

QUESTION (New Reporter): Well, the worry here by the Palestinians is that these kind of steps make annexation of the West Bank all but a foregone conclusion, and they say that some of this money is basically geared to encourage, let’s say, tourism and to expand tourist projects and so on in the occupied West Bank, in the settlements and so on. What do you say to that?

MR KIRBY: As I said in my statement and just a few minutes ago, we’re looking into what this funding package really means. And I think I’m going to leave it at there to – for right now.

 

Jewish Press News Briefs

Official: Israeli CEO Salary Cap Law May Result in Hundreds Fleeing Banking Industry

Monday, June 20th, 2016

As many as 80 senior employees at Israel’s two largest banks, Hapoalim and Leumi, are threatening to leave shortly, in response to a new law capping the salaries of senior bank officers, Israel Army Radio reported Monday. The report cites a letter from the Supervisor of Banks in Israel Bank Hedva Bar to Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Habayit Hayehudi), which warns that as many as 215 senior bank administrators are expected to retire from the two top banks. Bar added that in the rest of Israel’s banks the numbers of departing administrators would be smaller.

So far Bank Hapoalim CEO Zion Keinan and the number two administrator at Bank Leumi Danny Tsiddon have already retired, and according to Bar there are 39 high ranking administrators at Hapolalim and 43 at Leumi who are at a very high risk of retiring.

These figures are particularly worrisome to Bar, who wrote that such mass departure could expose the banks to a real crisis — a managerial breakdown as well as a loss of knowledge and experience. The banks are preparing for such a scenario and have set aside the funds in case all these CEOs would be leaving close to one another and the banks would have to lay out their severance pay all at once — about $70 million.

Meanwhile, the banks have lost their first appeal to the Supreme Court against the salary cap law. And the Knesset, the Finance Ministry and Israel Bank have informed the court that they object to an interim ruling on the senior CEO salary cap law. The banks were asking for the time out to try to figure out whether the salary cap would include the severance and pension benefits the senior bank administrators have accumulated — would those funds also be limited to $650 thousand a year like the capped salaries? The banks fear that if the caps apply retroactively and include severance pay and pensions, a much larger number of bank officials would be seeking to leave before the law goes into effect in October.

The Knesset and the State argued in court that the banks are actually requesting the suspension of a law that otherwise passes constitutional muster in the eyes of the high court — something the court has applied on very rare occasions in the past.

The Knesset and the State also told the court that, assuming the appeal hearings would take roughly three weeks, this should be ample time for the banks to figure out the intricacies of the law and whether or not it applies retroactively.

JNi.Media

A Soldier’s Mother: Random Acts of Being Israeli

Sunday, June 19th, 2016

There is something that I have always noticed about Israelis but seem to forget to write about. It’s a characteristic many don’t see at first glance or worse, fail to recognize the base behind the action. The action changes from day to day, situation to situation, but the base is always the same. Israelis are actually very kind people.

There are rules and there are exceptions. Our enemies, especially those from within our society, yearn for the exceptions so that they can declare they are the rules. But that is a lie, slander, libel. It is a vicious attempt to destroy the foundation of our society and so these random acts that happen nearly daily must be told, shared. And so I will.

A few days ago, we drove north and while in Tiberias, along the shores of the Sea of Galilee (the Kinneret), we tried to find a bakery. It was getting late and we were worried that we’d lost a chance to buy some snacks. We stopped and asked a young man who was carrying packages. He told us about two places, one behind us, “the best” he informed us, and another that might have what we want a bit ahead of us and to the left.

“Give me your phone number and I’ll walk to the bakery over there and if it is still open, I’ll call you.” And he did. And it was open. And he was right; the pastries were fresh and delicious. A random act of kindness.

Yesterday in an underground parking lot, a long line of cars were waited while the machine ahead failed to allow one car to exit. Next to me, in a parking spot, a car started to go in reverse. I honked my horn afraid that he would hit the side of my car…the last thing I needed when I was trying to rush home to my grandson’s first birthday party (happy birthday, beautiful little baby). Just to my left was a man standing. The cars had parked so close together that he was waiting for his friend to pull out enough to let him get in the car.

He signaled that I should roll down my window, which I did. He handed me a cookie, told me not to worry, that his friend wasn’t going to him my car, and then instructed me to say the blessing for a cookie. Random acts of kindness.

This morning in a store, an older woman was reaching up for a container of ice tea. A young man reached out and took it off the shelf, and then he took the basket of purchases she was intending to make from her arm and asked her if she wanted anything else. She said that she was finished and so he walked her to the cashier. I thought perhaps that he worked in the store, but after putting the basket on the conveyor belt, he turned around and returned to take down a bottle of soda for himself. Yet another random act of kindness, unsolicited, given simply because it would help someone else.

A few weeks ago, on a horribly hot day, a truck filled with water was sent to the Western Wall and water was given freely to any and all. A few months ago, a man and his son were murdered in cold blood in a vicious terrorist attack just days before his daughter was to be married. Palestinian ambulance drivers were the first on the scene but left when they realized the victims were Jews. By contrast, my sons serve on Israeli ambulances and regularly treat Arabs. When the daughter rescheduled her wedding to the young man she loves, she asked all of Israel to escort her and celebrate her marriage. And Jews came from all over – from the US, from Australia and from all over Israel to be with a bride on her wedding day, when her father couldn’t be there.

Two years ago, during the war, a father jumped out of a car during a missile attack and crouched around his infant trying to protect him; and was surprised when seconds later, another man rushed out of his car and bent down in front of him – further shielding both father and child. An act of kindness in the midst of war.

In the last few days, it was published in various places that an injured soldier who had risked his life during the last war was being denied the government benefits needed to renovate his home because it is located 32 kilometers north of Jerusalem instead of 32 kilometers to the west. Within days, people donated double the amount of money the family was seeking to raise and more, the government was shamed into announcing that funds would be released immediately.

In the hospitals in Israel, men and women walk through the halls and ask family members if they need sandwiches, or food for the coming Sabbath. If you say yes, they will bring you a cooler filled with grape juice for the Kiddush (blessing of the fruits of the vine), challot (sweet rolls), fish and casseroles, and hot soup in a thermos. No cost and often it comes with the whispered prayer that your loved one has a complete and speedy recovery.

Each time there is a natural (or man-made) disaster, Israelis mobilize within hours. To Nepal, the Philippines, to Haiti, Indonesia, Kenya, even to places in the US, Israelis fly without hesitation. These too are acts of kindness.

Next time you hear someone describe large numbers of Israelis as extremists, remember that out of such people comes regular acts of immeasurable kindness. And measure too one other fact. When Israelis are accused of extremism, it is most often simply because they want to live in one particular place or pray in another. That’s right – pray. A Jew can be arrested for saying “amen” on the Temple Mount, and a “leading journalist” can condemn Jews for walking through the Muslim quarter while ignoring the Arabs who can and do walk unmolested, unharmed, and uncondemned through Israeli city streets regularly.

The Jerusalem light rail travels from a mid-southern point on the west side of the city (Mount Herzl), to the predominantly Jewish neighborhood of Pisgat Zeev in the north, eastern side of the city. It is regularly attacked (stones, firebombs) in only one place – the Arab neighborhood of Shuafat and occasionally attacked in another – the Arab neighborhood near the Damascus Gate (stones, tear gas, and even a stabbing attack).

And beside the train, there have been attacks in two other stops – both perpetrated by Palestinian terrorists who came from the Arab neighborhood of Shuafat. Jews are not stoning the train, ramming random Arabs standing waiting for buses. Israelis are not stabbing people, blowing up buses…ours or theirs. Instead, our army fights to find a balance and too often that balance limits our soldiers to a dangerous level.

Blind are the people who live in fear in Israel; uneducated and manipulative as well. We live in a society of kindness and if that kindness doesn’t stretch entirely into the Arab community (beyond our hospitals that treat them, our budget that pays for their schools, our shopping malls that cater to their purchases, and our streets and trains and highways that are shared with them), the reason could well be found not in our hearts, but in theirs.

We are a kind and open society. So long as a Jew (no, not a blond one that dresses like a tourist and speaks with an American accent, but an obviously Jewish – even, can you imagine, a religious Jew dressed in modest attire that quickly proclaims his or her identity…so long as THAT Jew cannot walk safely through the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem and the Arab villages throughout our country, there can be no peace.

Israel is an open society, not just a kind one. Last week, Israel surprised itself – over 200,000 people walked the streets of Tel Aviv declaring that homosexuality does not bring a death sentence. Women drive in our country, serve at the highest levels of government. Children are cherished and protected, the first to be rushed into bomb shelters.

Israelis are free – free to speak, free to live, free to travel – even free to use the very foundations of our freedom to attempt to undermine the very society that feeds them, supports them, defends them.

Israel has proven itself, again and again, to be a kind society. When the Palestinians can say the same, let’s talk.

Paula Stern

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/a-soldiers-mother/a-soldiers-mother-random-acts-of-being-israeli/2016/06/19/

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