Friday, May 30, 2014

Instagraming Israel

From Blogger Michael Dickson for The Times of Israel

Instagraming IsraelBreathtaking beauty. Sizzling energy. Spiritual bliss. Diverse population. Vibrant culture. That’s Israel.

Some of us are blessed to see it every day. Some of us get to visit less frequently. And some have never seen it at all. For those of us who are well acquainted with Israel, it’s hard for us to imagine or remember what it’s like for those seeing the country for the first time.

Imagine no longer. Here is a selection of photographs taken by some of the world’s leading Instagram photographers, who came to Israel as part of an amazing program called Once in a Lifetime: Israel, run by Israel education organization StandWithUs, in partnership with the Israeli Ministry of Tourism.

Continue reading and for the display of more beautiful photos.

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Thursday, May 29, 2014

How the pope triumphed over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Francis’ unorthodox ideology saved him from traps that have ensnared other world leaders, and helped him score a victory for the Catholic Church

By Haviv Rettig Gur

Pope at WallThe strange, lukewarm visit of Pope Francis to the Holy Land is now a couple days past. The rhetoric and imagery produced by the visit have been assessed and reassessed from every imaginable perspective, and something close to a consensus has developed: the pope didn’t make any mistakes.
It is hard to convey, perhaps, the scale of this achievement, but it must be attempted because it reveals much about the conflict, and about the pope.

The Holy See has no hard power. The pope can’t tax or arrest the estimated 1.2 billion adherents of the Catholic Church. His only influence over them is voluntary, driven by powerful images and narratives of redemption and belonging. In an important sense, then, the pope is a symbol, a stand-in for a higher reality, and all his statements and actions are consciously undertaken as part of his symbolic role.

So when the Palestinian Authority brought the pope to a concrete-walled portion of Israel’s West Bank security fence, the pope was hardly confused by the intentions of his hosts. They wanted to create a symbol, and he, a master of symbolism, gave it to them willingly.

(To those who insist, as former PLO legal adviser Diana Buttu did in a recent debate with this reporter on Huffington Post Live, that the trip to the wall was unplanned but simply happened to be on the path of his itinerary in the Bethlehem area, the graphics of this Palestinian Authority flyer reveal that the PA’s itinerary had no purpose other than to create that image.)

Continue reading.

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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A mixed city

In practice, Jerusalem has taken the shape of a bi-national city in recent years. Time will tell how this will impact a future political arrangement.

Nadav Shragai in Mosaic Magazine

One morning a few days ago, a young Jewish woman wearing a head covering sat on a stool in the center of the butchers' market in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. Large slabs of meat hanging from hooks were swinging at the entrance to the row of butcher stands. The shop owners were busy at that hour, sharpening their knives in preparation for another day of work.

A mixed cityStanding behind her was her husband, a young man with a large knitted skullcap. The long tzitzit, the tassels on the prayer shawl religious men wear under their clothes, protruded from his clothing. He was carrying a small infant.

The couple stood and watched with great interest as an industrious Arab youth working at a stand repairing flat tires fixed their bicycle. Everything seemed to be mater-of-fact, normal. The skullcap-wearing Jew shook the Arab's hand after he finished fixing his bike, thanked him for his work, paid him, and parted ways amicably.

Nearby, a group of ultra-Orthodox Jews who had concluded prayers at the Western Wall, were returning to their homes in the Beit Yisrael neighborhood. A few of them stopped at the vegetable stands near Damascus Gate, where they could pick up tomatoes, cucumbers, and small radishes. There, too, just like in the butcher shop, everything seemed quiet, calm, and normal, at least on the surface.

Just a few meters away, near the entrance to Herod's Gate, there was a completely different scene: Jewish passers-by again pelted with stones; Border Police officers and policemen either disinclined to enter or prevented from entering the Bab al-Huta neighborhood, the source of the disturbances; the shooting of fireworks and flairs directly at the police.

There were also nationalistic demonstrations and processions with participants waving the flags of the Palestine Liberation Organization and Hamas while chanting slogans vowing to riot against the Jews. In the neighborhood of Silwan, assailants repeatedly threw bricks and firebombs at Beit Yonatan, "the forward post" of Jewish settlement in the City of David, which has emerged as a tourist hub.

Then there was the incident involving the post office in the neighborhood of Isawiya, which continues to make headlines due to the rioting and disturbances that have emanated from there. This incident (which was first reported by Nir Hasson of Haaretz) accurately reflects the conflicting trends that are prevalent today in east Jerusalem.

Continue reading.
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Friday, May 23, 2014

Did the pope say that?!?

Do you know which of these seven inspirational quotes was uttered by His Holiness? Find out how infallible you are with this quiz. 

 Pope Quiz

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

US urges restraint amid rage over deaths of two Palestinian teens


PA calls for int'l commission of inquiry into deaths after footage purportedly shows teens weren't engaged in violence at time of death.

Palestinian teens The United States urged restraint on Tuesday as anger flared over the deaths of two Palestinian teenagers – allegedly by the IDF – during the May 15 Nakba Day riots by Ofer Prison near Ramallah.

The Palestinian Authority called for an international commission of inquiry into their deaths and denounced the incident as a war crime. It spoke after videos published Tuesday showed that the teens were not engaged in violence at the moment of their death.

Palestinians allege the IDF killed the two teens by shooting live ammunition at them. The IDF, in turn, has claimed that it fired only rubber bullets that afternoon. It charged that the videos were edited to give a distorted view of the situation.

The military prosecution last week ordered Military Police to launch a limited investigation into the deaths. No conclusions have been published.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said, however, that the teenagers died during a violent riot in which soldiers and border policemen were in danger.

“Because it was a life-threatening situation, police acted accordingly,” Ya’alon said.

US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said America was closely following the incident and sought additional information.

“We look to the Government of Israel to conduct a prompt and transparent investigation to determine the facts surrounding this incident, including whether or not the use of force was proportional to the threat posed by the demonstrators,” Psaki said.

“We express, of course, our condolences to the families of those deceased and urge all parties to exercise restraint,” Psaki said.

Continue reading.

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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Bennett turns to cartoons in effort to spread word of Iran dangers

Two-minute animated YouTube clip released by Diaspora Affairs Ministry warns against signing bad nuclear deal with Tehran.

The Diaspora Ministry on Tuesday released a two-minute animated YouTube clip mapping out what it says are "the pitfalls" of the nuclear agreement which western powers are currently negotiating with Iran over the Islamic Republic's nuclear program.

The movie was sent out to hundreds of Jewish leaders and  organizations in an effort to raise awareness of the danger Iran will continue to pose, even with an agreement in place, the ministry stated.

In a letter accompanying the film,  Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett wrote, “Now is the time to speak up and take action to stop a bad deal from being signed that will allow Iran to obtain a  nuclear weapon.”

Monday, May 19, 2014

One of The Greatest Tours of Jerusalem you Will Ever See

This video will really help you connect to Jerusalem, especially to the ancient Jewish sites. It helps you really understand Eastern Jerusalem strategically, and it actually helped me connect on the deepest level. It’s amazing seeing sites that have come to life after thousands of yers. Awesome!


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Friday, May 16, 2014

Lisa Kudrow’s Son Had a ‘Drive-By Bar Mitzvah’

Impromptu rite of passage performed while he was shopping at the mall

By Stephanie Butnick for Tablet Magazine

Michael Douglas isn’t the only celebrity whose child got bar mitzvahed recently. Lisa Kudrow dropped by Conan this week to talk about her new movie Neighbors, and was surprised to find that host Conan O’Brien, a longtime friend, had a bone to pick with her. He wanted to know why he wasn’t invited to her son’s bar mitzvah.

He wasn’t invited, Kudrow explains, because no one was invited. The Jewish actress wasn’t even there when it happened. It was what she calls a “drive-by bar mitzvah.”

A drive-by bar mitzvah, it turns out, is both less and more frightening than it sounds. Her 15-year-old son was at the mall one day when he was approached by what Kudrow guesses were Chabad representatives, who asked if he was Jewish. He said half, they asked which half, he said his mother’s side, and they asked if he had been bar mitzvahed. He hadn’t. Did he want to? Sure.

Kudrow describes the exchange with a mix of amusement and incredulousness, explaining that the men put tefillin and a yarmulke on him, had him recite a prayer, then took a picture for him to show his mother.

While I’m not entirely certain this constitutes a bar mitzvah (Don’t you have to be called to the Torah? Aren’t there usually giveaways?), Kudrow seemed to be fine with the whole thing. The best part of the story, though, is that when Kudrow told her relatives about the impromptu rite of passage, they started sending her son checks. Back to the mall he goes.

Watch video with Conan O'Brien

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Submission: Ethics statement contains double standard

By Luba Ismakov and David Nusbaum for The Daily Bruin

UCLAOver the past several weeks, we have witnessed the emergence of a troubling double standard targeting Jewish and pro-Israel students and organizations. While cloaked in the language of “ethics,” “marginalization” and “human rights,” this initiative is actually about denying our narrative and represents a frontal assault on dialogue, education and constitutionally protected rights.

During the recent Undergraduate Students Association Council elections, a coalition of student groups including the Muslim Students Association, Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace led an initiative asking candidates to sign an “ethics statement.” The statement asked candidates to pledge to refrain from taking trips with certain pro-Israel organizations, based on claims that these groups “marginalize” communities on camps.

Further, in an article published on May 6, the editorial board of Al-Talib targeted an individual running for USAC, demanding that he condemn and publicly disassociate himself from a pro-Israel organization that sponsored his educational trip to Israel. While these demands seem legitimate on the surface, they are blatantly hypocritical.

For example, numerous USAC representatives and student leaders are affiliated with the UC Student Association and the US Student Association. Both of these organizations have taken positions or actions that marginalized student communities. In 2012, the UCSA passed an anti-Israel resolution on the eve of the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah. They failed to notify Jewish and pro-Israel students in advance or give them any opportunity to raise concerns. The same year, the USSA published a position paper called “Fund Education, Not Oppression,” which contained direct references to the anti-Israel BDS movement, as well as offensive fallacies about Israel.

While the authors of the “ethics statement” make the claim that the aforementioned trips to Israel are problematic because the sponsoring organizations have “marginalized” students, the same argument can be made regarding sponsored trips to UCSA and USSA conferences.

No attempt, however, was made to address those organizations – only pro-Israel groups were targeted.

The groups that circulated the joint statement of ethics are calling for the effective blacklisting of only Jewish and pro-Israel organizations from campus life and politics.

Continue reading.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The 10 most anti-Semitic countries

And the 10 least anti-Semitic, according to a new global ADL survey

By Marissa Newman for The Times of Israel

The 10 most anti-Semitic countriesThe results are in: Of the 101 countries plus the West Bank and Gaza included in the Anti-Defamation League global survey released on Tuesday, anti-Jewish sentiment was found to be most prevalent in the Middle East and North Africa, with a staggering 74% of respondents harboring anti-Semitic views. All 10 of the world’s most anti-Semitic territories, indeed, are in the Middle East and North Africa.

Below are the top 10 most and least anti-Semitic countries, culled from the survey, which based its findings on surveying 53,100 people from 100 countries worldwide.

1. West Bank and Gaza: The Palestinian territories were found to be the most staggeringly anti-Semitic in the world with a 93% overall index score. Among specific age groups, 92% of those between the ages of 18-49 were shown to have anti-Jewish views, and the figure jumped to 98% among those 50 and older.

2. Iraq: Trailing closely behind, Iraq reached an index score of 92%. While 10 of the questions on the 11-question survey measuring negative stereotypes were answered affirmatively by over 70% of respondents, only a third (33%) believed “Jews still talk too much about what happened to them in the Holocaust.”

Continue reading.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Israeli Apartheid? To Arabs, It’s a Model Democracy

Evelyn Gordon in Commentary

Yesterday, I wrote about a crucial legal fallacy behind the “Israeli apartheid” canard. But you don’t actually need to know anything about the Geneva Convention or international law to know how ridiculous this slur is; it’s enough to ask yourself one simple question: How many black Africans in other countries spoke admiringly about South African apartheid as a model they’d like their own countries to follow? The answer, of course, is not many–and if Israel really practiced apartheid against Arabs, Middle Eastern Arabs would respond similarly to an equivalent question about Israel. Yet in fact, Arabs throughout the Middle East persistently cite Israeli democracy as the model they’d like their own countries to adopt.

Back in 2011, when the Arab Spring revolutions were at their height, Haaretz correspondent Anshel Pfeffer reported being stunned to hear from demonstrators in both Tunis and Cairo–neither of whom knew he represented an Israeli newspaper–that they wanted “a democracy like in Israel.” Just two weeks ago, the Middle East Media Research Institute published excerpts from articles in the Arab press over the last year that held up Israel as a model Arab states should learn from–in some cases, because of its economic, scientific, and democratic achievements, but in others, because of its democracy and even its morality.

Even the Palestinians themselves consistently voice admiration for Israeli democracy. From 1996-2002 (the last year the question was asked), Palestinian pollster Khalil Shikaki conducted annual polls of what governments Palestinians admired. “Every year Israel has been the top performer, at times receiving more than 80 percent approval,” the New York Times reported in 2003. “The American system has been the next best, followed by the French and then, distantly trailing, the Jordanian and Egyptian.” And that’s not because those years, in contrast to today, were a time of progress and optimism in the peace process: They were the years of Benjamin Netanyahu’s first government (1996-99), the collapse of the Camp David talks (2000) and the height of the second intifada (2000-03).

Continue reading.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Israeli Students Develop An Electronic ‘Guide Dog’ For The Blind

By NoCamels Team

BlindDespite the constant advancement in cutting edge technology, most blind people still use low-tech aids like a cane or guide dog. Combining both high and low tech, three undergraduate students from the Faculty of Electrical Engineering at the Technion have decided create an electronic guide dog for the blind.

“The idea came to me while I was driving, where right before me I saw a blind man having trouble crossing the road,” undergraduate student Tzahi Simkin recalls. “I thought that if I could only describe to him, through technological means, a snapshot of the surrounding area, I would make it much easier for him and build his confidence in getting better oriented with his surroundings. I wanted to combine technological development with social assistance, and this is how this product was born.”

Simkin partnered up with two undergrads, Gal Dalal and Danny Zilber, and together the trio began working on the project. The device is based on a Kinect camera (also developed in Israel), a mobile phone application and headphones. The app deciphers the images captured by the Kinect camera and gives the user audio feedback through the headphones, warning them of obstacles and even recognizing cetain pre-programmed objects.

“The technological advantage of the Kinect camera lies in its ability to take very good depth images and that it is relatively cheap,” added Simkin. “This field is continually evolving, with cameras becoming smaller and less expensive all the time. Our project connected the depth images received from a smartphone application, to guide the blind within a given space.”

Continue reading.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Hamas to kids: Shoot all the Jews

On the Hamas children's program Tomorrow's Pioneers this week, the host and a large stuffed bumblebee advocate for Palestinian children to punch, throw rocks at and "Shoot the Jews"... "All of them."

Peace becomes difficult to achieve when each subsequent generation is taught hate from a young age.

What's especially disturbing is that this is being taught to a new generation of Palestinian children.  How do you make peace with this type of mindset?

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Canadian teen wins 2014 Bible Quiz

18-year-old Eitan Amos receives prize from Netanyahu, who reiterates scripture’s importance to Israel’s existence

By Yifa Yaakov for Times of Israel

2014 Bible QuizEitan Amos, a Jewish teenager from Canada, was this year’s winner of the International Bible Quiz,

The competition was held Tuesday, as in every year, at the Jerusalem Theater on Israel’s Independence Day.

Amos, an 18-year-old Toronto native, beat 15 other finalists from all over the world, answering questions posed by Education Minister Shai Piron (Yesh Atid) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Rehovot native Tefila Berenson placed second, while Sha’alabim Yeshiva student Itamar Khalifa placed third.

“The compass and map that help us navigate our way in a changing and unchanging reality is the Book of Books, the foundation of our existence, the Bible,” Netanyahu said after awarding the winners their prizes.

“Foresight and being prepared for the future are the most important things. Without them, we are like leaves blowing in the wind, unable to influence our national existence,” said the prime minister.

Participating in the quiz throughout the year were 75 contestants from 33 countries around the world, including Portugal, Brazil, Costa Rica, Turkey, France, Australia, Belgium, and the United States, according to an official government statement.

However, only 16 made it to the final stage of the competition, which was held on Israel’s 66th Independence Day.

Last year, 15-year-old Yishai Eisenberg, a native of Passaic, New Jersey, and Elior Babian of Beit Shemesh shared the top prize.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Dutch Muslim rapper: I hate Jews more than Nazis

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (JTA) – Dutch police are investigating a Muslim rapper who used hateful language against gays and Jews in one of his songs.

The rapper Ismo, whose real name is Ismael Houllich, included the text in his first single. The official video clip for the song titled “Eenmans” (or “One Man’s”) shows Ismo singing: “I hate those fucking Jews more than the Nazis,” “don’t shake hands with faggots” and “don’t believe in anything but the Koran.”

The clip, which was filmed in the southern border city of Breda, had received 125,000 viewers on YouTube before a 19-year-old gay resident of the city, Lars Hobma, filed a complaint with police against Ismo for alleged incitement to hatred, the news site of the Algemeen Dagblad daily reported Friday.

Hobma has received death threats on Facebook after filing the complaint, the daily reported.

In an interview for Omroep Brabant, a regional radio station, Ismo denied Hobma’s allegations.

“They are trying to twist my words against me,” he said. “I don’t hate all Jews. I hate only Zionist Jews that made Palestine smaller than my neighborhood.”

He added: “It all depends on how you interpret the song. By ‘faggots’ I didn’t mean homosexuals and by ‘Jews’ I didn’t mean all Jews. My fans realize that.”

Last month, the rightist, anti-Muslim politician Geert Wilders filed a police complaint against another Muslim Dutch rapper, Hozny, who released a video depicting Wilders’ abduction and murder.

In the video, Hozny sings about Wilders, who in his youth worked as a volunteer on a moshav, or co-operative farm, in Israel: “As a soldier in Israel he was happy among the Jews, then hate for Islam was born in his eyes.”

He also sang to Wilders: “How are things with your kippah? Are you being oppressed by the Jewish faith?”

Wilders, who never served as a soldier in Israel but describes himself as a friend of the Jewish state and people, has said his criticism of Islam were partially based on his extensive travels in Muslim countries.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Jewish groups decry Supremes on town council prayer ruling

WASHINGTON (JTA) — An array of Jewish groups decried a U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing prayers at town hall meetings.

The 5-4 decision along conservative-liberal lines handed down Monday reversed a lower appeals court decision in favor of a lawsuit brought by Susan Galloway and Linda Stephens, an atheist in Greece, a town in upstate New York.

The town board has since 1999 opened meetings with a prayer, almost always by a Christian clergyman, and some of these at times proselytized.

The plaintiffs held that the prayers should be nonsectarian, a position the Supreme Court’s conservative majority ruled overextended government reach.

“To hold that invocations must be nonsectarian would force the legislatures that sponsor prayers and the courts that are asked to decide these cases to act as supervisors and censors of religious speech,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion, “a rule that would involve government in religious matters to a far greater degree than is the case under the town’s current practice of neither editing or approving prayers in advance nor criticizing their content after the fact.”

A number of Jewish groups, which had filed friend of the court briefs, condemned the decision.

The Anti-Defamation League, in its statement, said the ruling was “deeply disturbing” and noted the circumstances of the Greece case, in which opening prayers involved not just lawmakers but citizens petitioning their town council.

“The religiously divisive implications of this new rule are troubling in any of these contexts, however it is particularly disturbing at the local level where ordinary citizens seek recourse from public officials and will likely feel pressured to participate in religious observances not of their own faith,” the ADL said.

Also condemning the decision were the Reform movement’s Religious Action Center, the National Council of Jewish Women, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs and the American Jewish Committee.

Marc Stern, the AJC’s general counsel, said he was relieved that the court did not go as far as some had expected and gut standards in place since the 1970s that ban legislating toward religious purpose.

“It turns out to be a fairly narrow decision,” he said.

In his decision, Kennedy said that “a pattern of prayers that over time denigrate, proselytize or betray an impermissible government purpose” would violate the constitution.

Stern said that the conservative majority and the liberal minority seemed to accept that the Greece council did not intend to advance a pattern of prayers advancing proselytization, and that the impression that it was impressing Christianity on its citizens was an inadvertent one.

“The only discernible legal difference between the plurality and the dissent is whether stupid bureaucrats violate the establishment clause,” he said.

Justice Elena Kagan, in her dissent, cited a seminal moment in American Jewish history, in 1790, when George Washington communicated with Moses Seixas, a lay official of the Jewish community in Newport, R.I.

She noted that Seixas, in a letter to Washington, expressed gratitude for an American government “which to bigotry gives no sanction, to persecution no assistance – but generously affords to All liberty of conscience and immunities of Citizenship.”

In his reply, now enshrined as a key document outlining religious freedoms, Washington, Kagan said, “like any successful politician” knew to borrow a successful turn of phrase – and appropriated Seixas’ language.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Eternal Hero, Soldier of Israel : Michael Levin [Documentary]

On this day of Yom Haatzmaut, we celebrate those who gave their lives in order that we may live our lives.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Israeli Film Giant Assaf Dayan Dies at 68

Debra Kamin for Variety

Assaf DayanIsraeli screen legend Assaf “Assi” Dayan died on Thursday at his home in Tel Aviv, bringing the curtain down on a career that for many served as a microcosm of the state of Israel itself. He was 68.

The youngest son of Israel’s eye-patch wearing military hero Moshe Dayan, the younger Dayan is considered one of the primary pioneers of the Israeli cinematic industry and the creator of some of its most iconic films. He shot to fame in “He Walked the Films,” an idealistic love story about both romance and country that hit theaters in 1967, the same year that Israel faced its nation-defining Six-Day War.

Later roles would see Dayan playing roles reflecting all corners of the political spectrum, from a treasonous prisoner in the Academy Award-nominated 1984 “Beyond the Walls” to a discharged commander in 1991’s “Real Time.”

He was an undisputed mega-star in his home country, and despite his public misgivings with his father’s legacy and the future of his oft-aligned nation, Israeli audiences never fell out of love with him.

Later in life, he moved into both writing and directing, and in the 1990s made a trilogy of films exploring the dark, creeping underbelly of modern Israeli society.

His later years were mired in public controversies, including failed relationships, health struggles and substance abuse. There were professional triumphs, though, as well: He received a lifetime achievement award at the Jerusalem International Film Festival in 1998 and in the last decade secured some of his best-loved roles. He starred as a therapist in the award-winning “B’Tipul,” which was remade in the U.S. by HBO as “In Treatment,” and he also starred in 2008’s “Jellyfish,” co-directed by husband-and-wife team Etgar Keret, the beloved master of absurd fiction, and his niece Shira Geffen.