Thursday, May 31, 2007

Petition against U.K. union's academic boycott bid

Yesterday, Britain's University and College Union (UCU) promoted a boycott of Israeli academic institutions. Now granted, I am not too surprised about yet another anti-Israel boycott coming from England, a country who's record towards Jews and Israel has been horrible over the last half century (White Paper, immigration quotas for Holocaust survivors who wanted to get to Israel, outlawing weapons for Jews in the Mandate, today's ever increasing anti-semitic climate, etc ...), but we should try and take a stand.

Sari Nusseibeh, the president of Al-Quds University, talks some sense:
“An international academic boycott of Israel, on pro-Palestinian grounds, is self-defeating: It would only succeed in weakening that strategically important bridge through which the state of war between Israelis and Palestinians could be ended and Palestinian rights could therefore be restored. Instead of burning that bridge, the international academy should do everything within its power to strengthen it.”

The reaction to the boycott:
Israeli Ambassador to the United Kingdon Zvi Hefetz called the resolution offensive to the British Jewish community, saying that, "Its slanted phrasing reeks of ignorance."

Adrian Fronda, a senior mathematics lecturer who had joined the union solely to vote against the boycott, was less diplomatic. "I came here to oppose the prevalent anti-Semitism we see all around us here," he said.

Education Minister Yuli Tamir condemned the union's decision, saying she would address British Education Secretary Alan Johnson on the matter.

Please sign the following petition and forward to as many people as possible:

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Miluim Update

I will only be on reserve duty this Friday and Saturday ... So, it will obviously be an extra short stint.

I'm kinda torn on this. I am very proud to be an active reservist in a combat unit. It's something I think every Israeli should be honored to do - but this call up has come at a point in my life where I'm finalizing wedding plans and looking for a place to live. It's tough to say 'I come first' when I feel that the Israeli belief of yesta-year that 'Israel comes first' is the right and only way of thinking. While I know this wont be the last time where a stint in the reserves will interfere with important events in my life, I hope it's the last time I need to serve out so few days of my stint.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Getting Back Home

I arrived safely in Israel on Friday after a week long vacation in Scarsdale, New York. Talya & I had gone to spend some more time with my family and friends, and I wanted to show her the world I spent 8.5 years in. This would be the first time we'd be together for a whole week, doing everything together except for computer games obviously and I really enjoyed it.

The engagement party last Sunday was a blast. My mom spent hours making the wonderful ladino foods I had been craving, and with the helping hands of good friends, the event's menu was fantastic. I would have eaten more had I had more time, but the need to socialize with many people who won't be at the wedding took priority. It was nice to catch up obviously, and meet more of Talya's family. Many thanks to my parents for pulling off such a wonderful event.

Other than that, we spent a few hours in Nassau County watching a good friend graduate with a Masters from Adelphi (congrats Mr. Mora), a few hours in New York City acting like tourists and a lot of time with family and friends. Really enjoyed this brief vacation, and look forward to the next one in July! :)

With regards to being back home, Israel is not in a good state right now. Open Rocket Season on Sderot has resulted in the city becoming a ghost town, and to make matter worse, there's been very little action by our pathetic government. The citizens of the South and North cannot be target practice for our terrorist buddies. Just as suicide bombings were once deemed an 'unstoppable' form of warfare against our people until the army & country took steps to control it, I hope there are plans being set in motion to eradicate this form of warfare. On that note, How is Olmert still in power? Earth to the government officials not currently in Kadima, can you please help us?

On Wednesday, I'm off to miluim (army reserves) for a week of duty. Looking forward to seeing the lads. I hope to update the blog when I return b'h.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Forty Together

Try to imagine a time when a Jew was not allowed to pray at the Western Wall. Difficult, eh? A mere forty years ago while still under Jordanian control, Jerusalem’s holy sites were off limits to the Jews. This all changed after those 6 miraculous days in June, and ever since then, we’ve had the honor and privilege to come and pray near our holiest site. It must have been a special time. A time when Israelis cared more about their nation and their ideology than they did about other needs. A time when our leadership, in white buttoned shirts and khaki pants, acted on behalf of our nation and not the United States’ money. A time when we were proud to stand up and be counted as Jews, and as Israelis. May we have the chance to live in an Israel like that again …

Some rare footage of the reunification of our precious capital:

Jon Stewart on Olmert & Winograd

Friday, May 11, 2007

Bergen Belsen, 1945

Scott Simon of NPR reports on a rare recording of "Hatikva " from almost 62 years ago. If this doesn't give you goosebumps I don't know what will.

It was recorded by a British reporter on April 20, 1945 in Bergen-Belsen when the British army liberated the few thousand survivors in the concentration camp, half of which were Jewish, most of them at the extremes of their strength. It was recently discovered and apparently was loaned to NPR by the Smithsonian Institute.

The British priest organized prayers for Kabbalat Shabbat for the Jews. It was the first time after six years of war and after more than 10 years of persecution. With a lot of effort the Jews organized themselves and, knowing they were recorded, sang "Hatikva".

As you can hear they sang the original version as it was written by Naftali Imber. Picturing them in the midst of the concentration camp singing after all they had been through renders this a very moving scenario.

Click on the link to hear the moving recording:

Courtesy of Sandy Disler

So many words could be used to describe this 'song'. But perhaps there are no real words to do it justice. Six years had left world Jewry on crutches, and yet despite that, they managed to sing a song. A song that would become the Israeli national anthem. A song whose title means hope. A hope that despite it all managed to burn within each and everyone of them. May we never lose that hope ...

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

How to start each day with a smile ...

1. Open a document on your computer.

2. Call it 'Ehud Olmert'

3. Save it to your Desktop.

4. Drag it to the Recycle Bin

5. Empty the Recycle Bin.

6. Your computer will ask you, "Are you sure you want to delete 'Ehud Olmert'?"

7. Firmly click 'yes'

8. Feel Better? So have an extra special day!

Next week, I'll give you the step-to-step guide for Amir Peretz.

courtesy of Alex Shindler

We're Going to Athens!

Liverpool have beaten Chelsea on penalty kicks 4-1 after a 1-0 win after extra time!

On to Athens for a chance at #6!

Agger is mobbed by teammates after his goal:

The 2nd penalty save against Geremi:

Dirk Kuyt's winning spot kick:

Celebrating the win:

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Onwards to Winograd!

The much anticipated Winograd Committee's partial report was released yesterday and the results were, well, pretty much what was expected. They rightfully battered the shortcomings of Ehud Olmert, Amir Peretz & Dan Halutz. The committee concluded that Olmert's handling of the Second Lebanon War was rather catastrophic:

"The prime minister made up his mind hastily, despite the fact that no detailed military plan was submitted to him and without asking for one," the report said. "He made his decision without systematic consultation with others, especially outside the IDF, despite not having experience in external-political and military affairs."

Olmert was also censured for failing to "adapt his plans once it became clear that the assumptions and expectations of Israel's actions were not realistic and were not materializing."

"All of these," the report said, "add up to a serious failure in exercising judgment, responsibility and prudence."

The report continues with heavy criticism of Amir Peretz, the Defense Minister:

Peretz "did not have knowledge or experience in military, political or governmental matters. He also did not have good knowledge of the basic principles of using military force to achieve political goals."

Despite these deficiencies, the report states, "he made his decisions during this period without systemic consultations with experienced political and professional experts, including outside the security establishment."

In fact, the panel found, "his serving as minister of defense during the war impaired Israel's ability to respond well to its challenges."

The committee also blasted retired Chief of Staff Dan Halutz for his role in the debacle:

Dan Halutz, who was IDF chief of staff at the time, was criticized for entering the war "unprepared," and for failing to inform the cabinet of the true state of the IDF ahead of the ground operation.

According to the findings, the army and its chief of staff "were not prepared for the event of the abduction despite recurring alerts."

The panel also found that Halutz had failed to "present to the political leaders the internal debates within the IDF concerning the fit between the stated goals and the authorized modes of actions."

To sum it up, our government failed miserably. We elected a prime minister who had pushed his way up the Likkud and Kadima ladder by being Ariel Sharon's pet. We elected a prime minister with no real experience in the political arena (bar being mayor of Jerusalem). We elected a prime minister who in turn appointed a Defense Minister with no combat experience or understanding of military planning. We were quiet when our last Chief of Staff was fired for being opposed to the disengagement, and were again quiet with the political promotion of a pilot to the rank of Chief of Staff. With these inexperienced, cocky, selfish leaders, what were we really expecting?

This morning, Ehud Olmert vowed to remain in office despite calls for his resignation, "It would not be correct to resign, and I have no intention of resigning." I'm not sure what goes through this man's head but he has to go. The public approval of Olmert is the lowest any Israeli prime minister has ever had, with some polls sadly showing it at being less than 10%. His own party has already made noise about pushing him out of politics, while lawmakers across the political spectrum have called for him to resign. It would be best for Olmert to resign, and retire permanently from the public eye. He's done enough damage to this country's morale and security.

No matter when Olmert and Peretz do in fact resign(Halutz resigned 3 months ago), the tough part of this journey actually starts now. This country needs to implement the harsh lessons of last summer's war and re-build its morale. A good start was made with the appointment of Gabi Ashkenazi as the new Chief of Staff. The career soldier has already started making necessary changes to the way our standing army and reservist units work. The famous quote of yesta-year was 'עם בונה צבא בונה עם', which translates to the nation builds the army, which in turn builds the nation. Our army's failures this past summer severely dented our confidence and moral - Ashkenazi is hopefully the right man to repair that by making the necessary changes to our army.

That leaves us with the two government posts. Unfortunately, the only strong leader we really have is still lying in a coma. So that begs the question, who can take over once Olmert goes? I think our best bet is Benjamin 'Bibi' Netanyahu. I know he's made his mistakes and is unpopular for his financial reforms but he's been in this position before and we're crying out for an experienced and confident leader. He is probably the best option we have from a rather average pool of candidates. With regards to the defense minister spot, it MUST go to a man who has military experience. The two best candidates in my opinion are Moshe 'Bugi' Ya'alon, who was our last Chief of Staff before Dan Halutz and is now a member of the Likkud, or Shaul Mofaz, the last defense minister before Peretz.

Whatever happens next, let's hope our army and government are fully prepared for the challenges that await them both domestically and on our borders. The Second Lebanon War was a very difficult time in our short 59 year history, but it hopefully taught us the lessons we need to ensure a stronger and more vibrant Israel. The waiting game now begins, but one thing's for sure, all will be well ... יהיה בסדר