During the week covered by this review, we received 8 articles on the following subjects:
Maariv; Iton Shacharit; Haaretz, October 14, 2016
On October 13, UNESCO approved a Palestinian resolution declaring that Israel is an “occupying power” and that there was “great doubt of the Jewish connection to the Western Wall.” Additionally, the Palestinians have demanded that “an international delegation of experts be sent to the holy sites to survey Israel’s destruction of the historical and archaeological heritage.”
Twenty-four countries voted in favor of the resolution, among which were Russia, China, and the Arab states. Six countries voted against it, among which were the United States, Britain, Germany, the Netherlands, Lithuania, and Estonia. Twenty-six countries abstained, among which were France, Sweden, Slovenia, Argentina, Togo, and India. Serbia and Turkmenistan were absent from the vote.
In an “extremely unusual” move, Foreign Ministry officials asked senior officials in the Vatican to assist Israel in fighting UNESCO on this subject, citing the reason that “the declaration would injure Christians as well as Jews, since the Christian connection at the site would also disappear in favor of that of Islam.” The article mentions Dore Gold’s resignation from his position as foreign minister on October 13th as well, citing his official explanation of “personal reasons” but speculating that in fact Gold was resigning out of frustration that he had been “distanced from several key events and decisions” recently. Gold’s replacement is Yuval Rotem.
“Israel and the Jewish people do not need the approval of UNESCO or of any other country for the special connection of the Jewish people and Israel to Jerusalem in general and the holy sites such as the Western Wall and the Temple Mount in particular,” declared Israel’s ambassador to UNESCO, Carmel Shama-HaCohen. Calling the resolution a “Theater of the Absurd,” Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu stated that this declaration “is like saying that Egypt has no connection to the pyramids, or that the Chinese have no connection to the Great Wall,” adding that “by this absurd decision UNESCO has lost the little legitimacy it had left.”
The Haaretz article presents the view in favor of the UNESCO resolution, saying that Israel’s demand for “eternal ownership” of Jerusalem is “audacious,” in view of Christianity and Islam’s connection to it as well. This article is of the opinion that it is this “claim to eternal ownership” as well as “the abusiveness with which Israel rules the holy city” which have “contributed to creating the climate in which the contemporary tendency of Islam to negate pre-Islamic history wins the sympathy of our enlightened Western friends.”
HaModia, October 10; HaMachane HaCharedi; BeSheva-Mitchalef Yerushalayim, October 13, 2016
Yad L’Achim’s legal department recently asked the Tel-Aviv municipality to remove the missionary stand set up each weekend at the end of Rothschild Street, citing the “offense to the residents’ feelings.” The residents, after consulting with Yad L’Achim, added their protest, asking “how the presence of a missionary cult stand under their windows expresses Tel-Aviv’s pluralism.” The Tel-Aviv municipality answered the protests by saying that removing the stand would constitute “an injury to freedom of religion.” Yad L’Achim accordingly set up another stand nearby to explain the missionary nature of the material being handed out. The operators of the missionary stand called the police on the pretext that Yad L’Achim had no municipal permission to be present, but these last presented their permission to the police when asked.
Yad L’Achim has called upon orthodox Jewish ministers and Knesset members to renew their efforts in support of a law forbidding missionary activity.
The Jerusalem Post, October 14, 2016
Heroes to Heroes is a US non-profit organization created to combat the high suicide rate among American military veterans. The organization “connects American veterans with Israeli veterans” in order to “help soldiers with PTSD begin the process of healing and moving on with their lives.” Although the trips have until now been held for males, the trip surveyed in this article is a pilot trip exclusively for female veterans.
The trip included tourism activities such as visiting Nazareth and Bethlehem as well as participant-led conversations, sharing their experience, which at times “could get very intense,” as almost all of the American women on the trip were survivors of sexual violence. One of the highlights of the trip was a visit to the Tel-Aviv branch of Beit Halochem, “which oversees rehabilitation centers for disabled IDF veterans,” and is one of the projects of the Zahal Disabled Veterans Organization. The Tel-Aviv center not only houses a swimming pool, physical therapy equipment, a hair salon, a sporting goods store, classes in arts and languages and more, but provides a warm, supportive community attempting to show by example that newcomers “can get married, have children, lead productive lives and certainly not be a burden.”
The trip afforded the women from both sides “a real opportunity to bond,” as they “were able to not only laugh and cry together” but even, for some, “it was the first time [being] part of a group again.” Although the article admits that both Israel and the US “have a long way to go to support female soldiers suffering from trauma and a longer way to ending assaults on women-in-arms,” it also acknowledges that Heroes to Heroes and Beit Halochem are “taking the first important step of bringing veterans together, bringing them out of isolation and introducing them to communities where people can understand and help relieve their pain.”
The Jerusalem Post, October 14, 2016
This article reviews David Leach’s Chasing Utopia: The Future of the Kibbutz in a Divided Israel (ECW Press, 320 pages).
In 1988, 20-year-ol Canadian David Leach dropped out of school and came to Israel to volunteer at Kibbutz Shamir, “wanting to live like a utopian.” For eight months he worked in the kitchen, the orchards and the kibbutz’s optical factory. After he returned home he became a journalist, and later the chair of the Department of Writing at the University of Victoria. Twenty years later, on seeing Shamir Optical Industry listed in the NASDAQ, he became curious and decided to return to Israel “to find out what kibbutzim now meant to the nation and to him.” “Beautifully written,” Chasing Utopia chronicles that journey, and is “a lament for those ‘who prefer our pocket utopia of idealized memories to stay unchanged.’”
In the book, Leach enumerates the compromises the kibbutzim “made with their founding communal principles,” as well as the “criticism and privatization” they have undergone, and “searches for evidence in 21st-century Israel of a renaissance of the egalitarian vision of ‘the original dreamers.’” This renaissance, says Leach, can be found in examples such as Rawabi, “a planned city with affordable housing built for and by Palestinians”; Achzivland, “an independent republic of love”; Nes Amim, a Christian kibbutz; as well as other communities “devoted to dance, creative writing and music, vegetarianism, ecology, peace,” and so on. Leach says that “the biggest lesson he learned is that ‘no real estate is neutral in Israel,’” and that the vision “collapsed under the weight of its own contradictions: one land, two peoples, too much history.” He asks whether these new initiatives can take root to the extent that kibbutzim did, and seems “to stretch and strain to get to ‘yes.’” And in response, the article concludes that “hope may be necessary, but it is rarely sufficient,” especially in a situation where many sides, all with “legitimate aspirations and legitimate grievances, lose ‘the human ability to see the other side,’” as declared by Nomika Zion of Kibbutz Migvan.