Tensions Mount Between the Sons of Jethro and Israel By Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz June 30, 2015 , 8:30 am 5 7 1 0Email 21Share “Moses said to Chovav, son of Reuel, the Midianite, the father-in-law of Moses, ‘We are travelling to the place G-d spoke about, saying, ‘I shall give it to you’. Go with us and we shall treat you well…’” (Numbers 10:29)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli Minister of Defense Moshe ‘Boogie’ Ya’alon meet with leaders of the Druze community in Israel, at PM Netanyahu’s office in Jeursalem on June 24, 2015. (Photo: Kobi Gideon / GPO)
Recent events have, for the first time in Israeli history, pitted the Israeli Druze against their host country in a moral dilemma with biblical roots and life-or-death implications.
Druze are considered infidel by Islam and, as such, have been targeted for attack by Al-Nusra and ISIS in Syria. Less than two weeks ago, 20 Druze villagers were killed by Sunni rebels in the Idlib province in northwest Syria. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group reported that a Druze village on the border with Israel was in imminent danger of attack.
“Hader is now totally surrounded by rebels, who just took a strategic hilltop north of the village,” Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.
The community of 140,000 Druze living in Northern Israel has called on Israel to protect their threatened brothers just a few scant kilometers across the border in Syria. In truth, Israel owes them a debt of gratitude.
Members of the Israeli Druze community watch civil war fighting between Syrian forces from the Israeli side of the Israel-Syria border in the Golan Heights on June 16, 2015. Druze residents of Israel have recently raised concern for the safety of their fellow Druze on the Syrian side. (Photo: Basel Awidat/Flash90) Druze live in villages scattered around the region and have a principle of not seeking to rule, but rather to aid their host country. They have served with great honor in the Israel Defense Forces in combat positions and there have been many Druze martyrs who have died protecting the Jewish State.
Israel recognizes this and IDF Spokesman Brig.-Gen. Moti Almoz reported that top IDF officers held a Golan assessment last week. He assured the Druze community that the IDF was taking measures “as part of the common cause and blood-alliance between us and our Druze brothers in the State of Israel.”
Despite this declaration, later the same day, the IDF declared the area near the northeastern border of the Israeli Golan a closed military zone, limiting access to residents of the area. Security sources said this was not because of any threat from Syria but to prevent access to the area from the Israeli side, where Druze have said they would cross the border to protect their brethren in Syria.
At odds with this is Israel’s role as a humanitarian presence in the Middle East. As such, the army allows injured, even hostile enemies, to cross the border for treatment at Israeli hospitals. This policy has created a difficult situation, in which Israeli hospitals may be treating rebels who are part of the effort that threatens the Syrian Druze loosely allied with the Assad government. This has created tension in the Druze communities in Northern Israel.
On two separate occasions this month, angry mobs of about 200 Druze surrounded an IDF ambulance transporting injured Syrians to Ziv Hospital in Safed. The Druze believed the Syrians to be part of radical Sunni groups actively attacking their brothers across the border, though authorities assured them that none of the injured were from the al-Qaeda connected Jihadists .
The second incident ended tragically as the mob came from their city of Maj Al Shams to set up a roadblock. They succeeded in stopping the vehicle and attacking the occupants, killing one of the injured Syrians and injuring two IDF soldiers who were protecting the injured Syrians with their own bodies. Additional security forces were called in and used crowd-control measures to disperse the mob.
Nine Druze have been arrested on suspicion they were involved in the attacks. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu met with Druze community leaders, one of whom, Ayoub Kara, is a minister from his Likud party. Netanyahu reaffirmed the bond between Israel and its Druze citizens, but condemned the attack.
“Your boys, our boys all serve and fight in the IDF and defend the country that belongs to all of us,” Netanyahu said. “We are all law-abiding, loyal citizens, and if someone violates these rules and takes the laws into their hands it is our duty to condemn it and to make sure that these violations will not become the norm. This is something we must prevent – the recurrence of such incidents.”
The scene where Druze Israeli residents attacked an Israeli ambulance carrying wounded Syrians near Majdal Shams, in the Golan Heights on June 22, 2015 (Photo: Basel Awidat/Flash90) “I cherish the community, cherish its achievements, its contribution to the state in general and to the state’s security specifically,” Netanyahu added.
The leader of the Druze community in Israel, Sheikh Moafaq Tarif, strongly denounced the attack.
“Of course we condemned everything that happened. Our tradition and religion are against harming an injured person or an ambulance. This is not our way, not our education…and we hope you will continue to lead this whole affair wisely. We are at your service,” Tarif said.
Israel cannot cross the border into Syria, even to help the Druze. Allowing Israeli Druze to cross into Syria to help their brethren would also open Israel to international censure.
The moral dilemma is clear however. The roots of the situation go deeper than this modern conflict. The Druze consider themselves to be the present day descendants of Jethro, the Midianite priest and father-in-law of Moses, who they view to be their chief prophet and founder of their religion (Exodus 3:1). They are secretive about their religion and do not proselytize. However, the Druze religion is a form of Abrahamic monotheism incorporating many aspect of other religion and philosophies. This seems consistent with Jethro’s biblical reputation as a priest to many faiths.
According to Nachmanides, a leading medieval Jewish scholar, the descendants of Jethro receive a portion of land in Israel, specifically the fertile land surrounding Jericho, just like the tribes of Jacob, and they assisted in conquering the land when the Jews entered, 40 years after Sinai. Until now, the Druze and Israel have had a mutually beneficial relationship based on the laws of citizenship. It might be that this difficult situation will require the two nations to explore the deeper roots of their connection.
Read more at http://www.breakingisraelnews.com/44311/tensions-mount-between-sons-jethro-israel-middle-east/#d9AQJEuQzDMlwLzj.99
On Monday morning, the Israeli Navy's commando seized the Marianne Boat, which was making its way toward the Gaza coastline, outside Israel's territorial waters. The IDF says the seizure was short and that the anti-Israel activists on board expressed no resistance. The three smaller vessels that escorted the Marianne have turned around and are currently making their way to Greece.
Israeli MK Basel Ghattas (Joint Arab List) was on board the Marianne. The IDF stated that the military action was implemented in accordance with the government and after all diplomatic attempts to prevent the boat from reaching Gaza had been made.
"The boat interception took place after numerous calls were made to those on board," the IDF spokesperson unit statement said. "When the activists made it clear they had no intention of cooperating and accepting the invitation to dock at the Ashdod Port, it was decided to seize the vessel and escort it to the port."
The boat is currently making its way to Israel. Israeli Navy officials estimated that it would take it between 12 and 24 hours to get there. The activists on board will be sent back to their home countries upon arriving in Israel.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the Navy soldiers and commanders for intercepting the boat, which he said was attempting to reach the Gaza coastline against the law. "This flotilla is none other than a demonstration of lies and hypocrisy, which helps the Hamas terror organization and disregards all the horrors in our region," Netanyahu stressed.
"Preventing the boats from entering Israel's territorial waters was performed in accordance with international law. The Navy's action was backed by a UN Secretary-General committee," the Prime Minister added. "Israel is a democracy that defends itself. We will not allow for weapons to be delivered to terror organizations in Gaza through the sea as was done in the past."
Upon embarking the Marianne, IDF soldiers handed a written letter to the flotilla activists clarifying that their attempts to portray Israel as a country that violates human rights are false. "You may have intended to sail somewhere not far from here, to Syria, where Assad's regime slaughters the Syrian people every day with the support of Iran's murderous regime," the letter read. "However, here in Israel we deal with a reality where terror organizations like Hamas are trying to hurt innocent people. We protect our citizens from these attempts in accordance with international law."
An IDF soldier is being rushed into an ambulance after being stabbed by a female Palestinian terrorist near Rachel’s Tomb, June 29, 2015. (Photo: Magen David Adom)
A female IDF soldier was severely wounded Monday morning in a terrorist stabbing attack near Rachel’s Tomb in Jerusalem.
The attack occurred at approximately 11 am at a security checkpoint between Jerusalem and the Palestinian city of Bethlehem.
The 20-year-old soldier was stabbed in the throat and neck by the female terrorist during a security check. She was treated on scene by Magen David Adom (MDA) paramedics who evacuated the soldier to Hadassah Medical Center.
MDA told media that the soldier was conscious following the attack and sustained wounds in her upper body and neck.
Read more at http://www.breakingisraelnews.com/44298/female-idf-soldier-stabbed-near-rachels-tomb-in-jerusalem/#R7QoHHTVThcJpOsj.99
If human rights really interested you, you wouldn’t sail in solidarity with a terror group that executes Gazans without trial' Israel to flotilla activists: Syria is thataway As Gaza-bound ships approach, PM releases letter deriding their human rights bona fides; IDF set to intercept vessels, deport activists By Tamar Pileggi June 28, 2015, 10:58 pm
Former Tunisian president Moncef Marzouki and pro-Palestinian activists prepare to board a flotilla headed for Gaza, June 21, 2015 (Moncef Marzouki official Facebook page) Writers Tamar Pileggi As Israel readied itself for the early-Monday morning arrival of the first of four civilian vessels bound for the Gaza Strip, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office on Sunday prepared a letter for the activists aboard the flotilla. The communique stated Israel’s position concerning the naval blockade of the Strip — designed to prevent Hamas’s import of weapons — which the IDF will prevent the activists from running.
According to reports on Channel 2 Sunday evening, the first boat in the flotilla was expected to approach the shore of the Gaza Strip in the early hours of Monday morning. A Channel 2 reporter aboard the lead ship said that the Swedish-registered Marianne of Gothenburg’s sonar has detected another vessel trailing theirs by about 20 miles, which they suspect is an Israel naval craft.
Israeli officials have said that the boats will be stopped and boarded by naval commandos before they reach the Gaza Strip, then towed to the Ashdod port. The activists aboard will then be whisked to Ben Gurion Airport and deported, Channel 2 reported.
There are some 50 activists on the four ships in all, with 18 on the Marianne, including the former Tunisian president Moncef Marzouki. Israel is wary about Marzouki’s presence, concerned that there may be protests in Tunisia if he is arrested, Channel 2 said.
Also on board the Marianne is Arab-Israeli Knesset member Basel Ghattas. The activists are vowing not to use violence against the IDF forces, but to practice “passive resistance” when the boat is boarded, according to a Channel 2 reporter who is sailing with them.
The Prime Minister’s Office shared a translation of the original Hebrew letter that it prepared to hand out to the flotilla activists. The communique slams what it describes as the hypocrisy of the group’s humanitarian mission to Gaza.
The Marianne of Gothenburg, a Swedish-flagged trawler leading a flotilla of boats sailing for the Gaza Strip, June 2015. (YouTube/Ship to Gaza Sweden)
“Welcome to Israel!” the letter reads. “It appears you’ve made a mistake along the way. Perhaps you meant to sail somewhere not far from here — Syria. There, Assad’s regime is massacring his own people every day with the help of the murderous Iranian regime.
“In contrast, here in Israel, we are dealing with a situation where terrorist organizations such as Hamas are trying to harm innocent civilians. In the face of these attempts, we are protecting the citizens of Israel in accordance with international law,” the letter says.
The statement calls attention to Israel’s transfer of 1.6 million tons of humanitarian aid to the coastal enclave, while it struggles to be rebuilt after the war last summer. The letter said that Israel facilitated the transfer of the supplies, which, it noted, amounts to approximately one ton for each Gaza resident.
Israel, continued the letter, regularly assisted in humanitarian projects benefiting Palestinians, but would not tolerate the import of weapons for terrorist groups. “Only a year ago, we thwarted an attempt to smuggle by sea hundreds of weapons intended for use against innocent civilians.
“There is no blockade on the Gaza Strip, and you are invited to transfer humanitarian supplies through Israel. Preventing access through the sea is done in accordance with international law, and we even received backing from a committee of the UN secretary-general.
“If human rights really interested you, you wouldn’t sail in solidarity with a terror group that executes Gazans without trial, and uses Gazan children as human shields,” the prime minister’s letter says.
The communique concludes by lamenting that the activists chose not to visit Israel, as they would have been “impressed” by the democracy upheld by the Jewish state that affords equality and religious freedoms for all its citizens.
Flotilla organizers, who say the campaign aims to shed light on the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, called upon the international community to provide protection from the Israeli military, which intercepted two previous flotillas in 2010 and 2011. They insist that the group is unarmed.
In May 2010, Israeli commandos intercepted the Turkish-flagged Mavi Marmara, the largest ship in a flotilla dispatched to Gaza by the Turkish relief agency Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH), and were violently attacked by those on board, with several soldiers seriously injured. Nine Turkish citizens were killed when the commandos opened fire in what Israel said was self-defense, and one more died last year from injuries sustained in the incident.
Israel and Egypt imposed a blockade on Gaza in 2007 after the Islamist Hamas group wrested control of the Strip in a bloody coup, ousting the Palestinian Authority leadership.
Both countries say the blockade is meant to prevent Hamas, which is committed to the destruction of Israel, from importing weaponry into Gaza. Hamas is avowedly committed to the destruction of Israel.
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New System Tells People Which Deadly Diseases They Are Most Likely To Contract By NoCamels Team June 24, 2015 0 Comments Two years ago, Angelina Jolie had a double mastectomy after she found out she was carrying a genetic mutation that greatly increased her risk of contracting potentially fatal breast cancer. This March, the actress also revealed she also had her ovaries removed due to a second health scare.
Now two major revolutions, one genomic and one in informatics, are completely changing the face of preventive medicine. Every day all over the world, millions of genetic sequences — from disease-related genes to complete genomes of plants, animals, bacteria and viruses — are resolved, identified and dissected.
One Israeli researcher is using this information to tell patients which diseases they are at risk of contracting and to construct genetic sequences that could protect people from such diseases in the future. Dr. Yuval Tabach, a researcher from IMRIC -- the Institute for Medical Research Israel‑Canada at the Hebrew University – has developed a new Internet tool that will allow any investigator, physician or patient to analyze a gene according to its evolutionary profile, in order to alert patients of imminent genetic diseases and cancer.
SEE ALSO: Study Discovers Link Between Back Pain And Your Genes
Genes are our biological fortune-tellers
One example of a known mutation which increases the likelihood of developing breast and ovarian cancers is in the BRCA1 gene. Interest in this gene was highlighted when Angelina Jolie discovered that she had inherited the dangerous mutation from her mother, who died of cancer aged 56. However in the majority of cases, both for breast cancer and other genetically transmitted diseases, the identity of the gene responsible for the disease is unknown.
By using the methods of genetic analysis developed by Dr. Tabach, researchers can now identify genes within the same network as the BRCA1 gene, or other associations of genes, simply by scanning the evolutionary profiles of tens of organisms with a single click. The number of organisms that can be scanned in this way is anticipated to increase to hundreds in the near future.
The technique is simple and based on the fact that genes that work together or those that play an important role in biology will be present together in organisms that need them. Conversely, genes connected to a particular function like vision will disappear from species that have lost the power of sight, and may therefore be identified by a comparison to the genes in normal animals.
Dr. Tabach’s application is a product of his continued research, which he began as a Fellow at Harvard University in collaboration with researchers and physicians from all over the world. This research revealed the possibility of comparing the evolutionary profiles derived from multiple organisms to predict the biological functions and clinical relevance of given genes. One of the most important applications of this approach is the possibility to identify genes associated with genetic diseases and cancer.
SEE ALSO: The ‘Memory’ Of Starvation Stays In Your Genes For Three Generations, Tel Aviv Researchers Show
“The significance of this tool is that anyone, physician or researcher, can input results from genetic mapping studies concerning suspected genes, and the tool will identify evolutionary, and probably functional, connections to known genes with association to diseases” explains Dr. Tabach. “The process is rapid, without cost or time wasted, and enables the identification of genes responsible for diseases.”
Identifying the vampires among us?
An interesting example of a gene that could be identified using this phylogenetic profiling approach is the so-called “Vampire’s Disease,” more professionally termed porphyria. Representing a family of genetic diseases characterized by abdominal pain, sensitivity to sunlight, purple urine, and psychotic episodes, porphyria probably forms the basis for the prevalent myths of vampires. These diseases are rare, but there is evidence for hereditary porphyria in European royal families, and it may have been responsible for the madness of King George III, as well as for the psychotic behavior of the painter Vincent Van Gogh, misdiagnosed as a depressive schizophrenic. Dr. Tabach demonstrated how, with one click, it is possible to identify essentially all the genes known to be associated with porphyria as well as other genes that, based on their phylogenetic profile, are very likely to be involved.
Vincent Van Gogh
The bioinformatics methods developed by Dr. Tabach have formed the basis for the establishment of a company dealing with computational pharmaceutics which will identify new indications for existing therapeutic agents. This could dramatically decrease the time and expense required to bring a new drug to market, and facilitate the development of treatments for rare orphan diseases.
In the coming years, Dr. Tabach’s laboratory intends to focus on the identification of genes that prevent aging and protect against cancer, by consideration of the genes of some fascinating species of organisms with increased longevity and an almost complete resistance to cancer. In addition the laboratory is working with a model which describes almost 40 neurological diseases with a related etiology including Huntington’s disease, ataxia, and fragile X‑syndrome.
The research paper, co-authored with collaborators from Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, appears in the journal Nucleic Acids Research as “PhyloGene server for identification and visualization of coevolving proteins using normalized phylogenetic profiles”. Support for the research came from Hebrew University of Jerusalem start-up funds.
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The first of three or four boats trying to break Israel’s anti-terror maritime embargo on Gaza left the Greek island of Crete Friday morning and is scheduled to dock in Gaza on Sunday or morning.
Israel has said that the boats will not reach Gaza under any circumstances.
The Israeli Navy will stop the flotilla, as it has done in the past, but activists say that since the Marianne of Gothenburg boat flies the Swedish flag, Israel could be accused of a war crime
“War crime” is the buzz words these days, usually referring to any action by Israel that does not further the aims of the Palestinian Authority, which yesterday said it is bringing to the International Criminal Court (ICC) charges that building homes for Jews and a highway in Jerusalem are war crimes.
Pro-Hamas activists have learned their lessons from previous publicity stunts and are keeping mum on the boats’ location, a rather childish act since the IDF has enough surveillance equipment to know exactly where they are without any help from the flotilla’s public relations staff.
The departure date of the flotilla had been delayed. Activists claim that Israeli agents sabotaged at least one of the boats, but others say that inclement weather forced the activists to postpone their trip.
As usual, the activists are trying to attract as much attentions as possible and have brought an Israeli Arab Knesset Member with them. MK Basel Ghattas and a former Tunisian president are among the 70 people on board the lead ship.
Organizers of the flotillas have assured Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu that they are not bringing any weapons with them. In 2010, Turkish-based terrorists used iron bars and two pistols to challenge Israeli Navy officers who boarded the Mavi Mamara ship. Ten of the terrorists were killed in the clash.
“If there is some kind of violent confrontation, it won’t come from our side,” a left-wing Israeli activist said.
The Marianne is carrying one solar panel and medical supplies, all of which can easily reach Gaza by land from Israel. A single solar panel is absolutely useless, except as propaganda to “con the world,” as seen in the video below.
Lost in the hype and reports by establishment media that are hungry for anti-Israel news is the fact the solar panels and medical supplies cannot enter Gaza so freely from Egypt, which has blocked passage several times, including this past month.
The last word in the new flotilla stunt already has been written: The IDF will stop the boats before they can get too close to Gaza, the Foreign Ministry told The JewishPress.com.
If the passengers indeed are unarmed, the whole scene will be a circus for the media.
The IDF will warn the captain of the boats not to proceed. He will refuse, forcing the Navy to surround the ships.
The Navy officers will try to find a way to take over the wheel if the captain does not cooperate.
Everyone will arrive in the port of Ashdod, and the passengers will call the soldiers “war criminals” and perhaps will sit down in a circle and clasp hands, singing “We shall overcome” as four soldiers haul each passenger off the boat.
The news photographers will love it, and perhaps Gaza terrorists will celebrate by launching a rocket or two at Israel.
If they are lucky, the missiles won’t fall short and explode on a house in Gaza, in which case Israel would be accused of committing a war crime because the “occupation may them do it.”
Can Vertical Gardens End World Hunger? By Roseanne Tabachnik, NoCamels June 19, 2015 7 Comments Food insecurity is a major global concern for our growing planet. Research shows that by 2050, the world will have to produce 50 percent more food to feed Earth’s population. But Israeli gardening experts have decided to act now, and they’re already marketing a unique system for sustainable, independent food production: Vertical gardens, in which residents of high-rise buildings can grow their own food, with minimal amounts of water and soil.
Will urban agriculture sustain the needs of city dwellers in the future? The founders of Israeli company GreenWall hope so, and that’s why they’re building vertical gardens around the world, allowing people to grow any plant along their walls, including rice, corn and wheat.
GreenWall is currently participating in the Expo Milano 2015, the world fair in Italy, displaying a 230-feet-long and 39-feet-tall green wall at the Israeli pavilion. This vertical garden was planted with rice, wheat, and corn.
SEE ALSO: Ben Gurion University Warns: Increasing CO2 Levels Will Lead To Dietary Deficiencies
GreenWall, which was founded in 2009 by engineer and gardening pioneer Guy Barness, has developed an advanced technology with which it erects gardens that line the walls, both inside and outside of buildings, taking up less space compared to conventional gardens. GreenWall provides fertile soil, which is capable of growing almost every plant species with proper care. “We want to give an urban person an opportunity to grow plants in their home, using modern technology,” Barness tells NoCamels.
How does it work? Well, vertical gardens seemingly defy gravity, and that’s why the plants are densely planted in a vertical planting system inside small modular units, preventing the crops from falling out. These small pots can then be removed or replaced to refresh or change the design of the garden. The water reaches the cell of each plant through a special system, operated by a computer. In order to crop the yield, the wall is temporarily taken down and laid out at a horizontal position.
GreenWall uses cutting-edge drip irrigation technology developed by Israeli company Netafim, known for having pioneered the technique. GreenWall also developed its monitors, sensors and controls with the help of Israeli water-management company Galcon.
Growing food while conserving water
The technology behind the vertical structures helps control and conserve water. In comparison to conventional crop-growing methods, the vertical garden only takes 1,500 liters of water to produce one kilogram of rice, as opposed to the standard 3,000 liters. Environmentalists claim that vertical gardens may be the solution to growing crops in cities as well as in areas that are scarce in water, food and energy.
SEE ALSO: Quest For The Perfect Veggie: Israelis Create Enhanced Strains Of Fruit And Veg
For decorative flowers and plants, vertical gardens use 90 percent less water than traditional gardens, according to GreenWall. “In the city, you don’t have a lot of space, and you can use this space to grow food and a lot of other plants,” Barness says. “Now, you can have a building and use the wall space to bring the nature back to the city without taking up too much space.”
Vertical gardens have become a growing trend around the world with a variety of companies offering green wall installations: GSky, Green Over Grey, and The Living Wall. Still, Israel-based GreenWall seems to have captured the attention of large corporations: Google, Apple, Intel and Facebook are some of the company’s high-profile clients, according to Barness.
Homeowners can purchase GreenWall’s vertical gardens in small quantities of only a few yards in size, with a price point beginning at $650. In the meantime, the idea of the vertical oasis has already taken off around the world, with many gardens being built these days throughout North America and Europe. Barness notes this is only the beginning. “The world is now going toward a different direction,” he explains. “I hope GreenWall will eventually replace the regular garden in urban environments.”
Photos and video: Rob Deutscher, GreenWall, Israel Expo Milano 2015, Spaceo, Thelmadatter
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The Israeli Air Force struck and destroyed a rocket launcher in the northern Gaza Strip Tuesday evening following rocket fire towards Kibbutz Yad Mordechai earlier in the night.
The rocket fire activated sirens in towns along the Gaza belt at approximately 10 pm, alerting residents to find immediate shelter.
The IDF confirmed in a statement that the rocket landed in an open area near Yad Mordechai. Resident reported hearing a large boom.
The attack is believed to have been carried out by a small jihadist group that is currently fighting with Hamas. The group is responsible for a series of rocket attacks directed at Israel over the last month.
Israel says Hamas, which governs over Gaza, is responsible for any rocket fire directed towards Israel from the Strip. “The terror organization Hamas is the address, and on it lies the responsibility,” the IDF stated.
Former foreign minister MK Avigdor Liberman condemned the rocket fire and called on the government to take a harsher stance and end the rocket fire.
Read more at http://www.breakingisraelnews.com/44037/iaf-strikes-gaza-rocket-launcher-following-attack-idf/#7MFy9B8yQmbJlm1Z.99
The Israel Project email@example.com via mail.salsalabs.net 1:11 PM (17 hours ago)
to me Dear Batya, Yesterday, the UN released its report on last summer’s conflict with Hamas. It was as anti-Israel as one would expect — falsely drawing a moral equivalency between a terror group and a democracy trying to protect its citizens. Now is a critical moment for Israel, America, and the world. If the libel that Israel is a war criminal is allowed to stand, international pressure could keep Israel from defending its citizens during the next attack. Will you help get the facts out? Add your name to over 30,000 people who signed the letter calling on the UN to expose Hamas war crimes. Click here to defend Israel. This biased report — from a notoriously anti-Israel organization — blames Israel, despite a delegation of military and political leaders from four continents stating last week that “Israel not only met a reasonable international standard of observance of the laws of armed conflict, but in many cases significantly exceeded that standard” during last summer’s war. Throughout the conflict, Hamas was the aggressor:
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Is Israel Safe for Tourists? Posted: 06/18/2015 2:20 pm EDT Updated: 06/18/2015 2:59 pm EDT
Israel is no doubt one of the planet's top bucket list destinations for travelers from all over the world. As a hub of three of the world's major religions and being cradle-of-civilization-adjacent, the modern state of Israel literally sits on top of thousands of years of incredibly dense history. At the same time, it is also a diverse, vibrant, trendy, and modern country with great night life that would be a top tourist destination even without its ancient biblical roots.
In the past, semi-frequent wars and skirmishes with its neighbors have kept many would-be tourists at bay, and as recently as last summer a short conflict with the Hamas-led government in Gaza on its southwestern border ensured a recent flood of sensational news headlines in the States and Europe that left Israel's tourism industry decimated.
But unbeknownst to many, over the past 15 years Israel has implemented a series of both low-tech and high-tech solutions that have amazingly rendered the vast majority of the country perfectly safe and secure even during the occasional flare-ups around its borders.
In 2002, following another round of suicide bombings intentionally targeting Israeli civilians, the government built a physical wall around nearly its entire border with the West Bank. The combination of enormous concrete slabs along some of the more urban stretches with highly sophisticated "smart fences" (which can detect cutting, climbing, jumping, and even stray animals) along the more rural parts of the border almost immediately helped bring about a 98% decline in terrorism in the country by the following year.
Similarly, Israel's state-of-the-art Iron Dome missile defense system detects and shoots down any rockets that are now fired into the country from the militants who embed themselves in civilian neighborhoods in the neighboring Gaza Strip. While these rockets usually don't go any farther than the desert area surrounding that border, ones that find their way farther into the country are met with not one but two Iron Dome intercept missiles as backup. Israel is even now nearing completion of a much more advanced system to intercept and destroy longer range guided missiles, such as the kind that more militarized countries like Iran would have access to.
While we in the United States have only had marginal success developing our own missile defense systems dating back to the days of the Star Wars initiatives under President Reagan, Israel has implemented a system of both tight border and air security that allows Israelis to now go about their daily lives under a blanket of relative calm, stability, and security. For tourists to Israel, this means that visiting the country and even traveling around within it is completely safe, despite the occasional incident or flare up that makes the news back home.
Last September, just two months after the brief conflict on its border with the Gaza Strip, a friend visited Israel for a week of vacation just to see what the situation was like on the ground. As predicted, hotels were empty, ancient and holy sites that are usually bustling were quiet, and tour guides were out of work and twiddling their thumbs on their couches. My friend said he felt like he had the whole country to himself at times, and indeed he was posting no shortage of fabulous selfies of himself alone at the King David Hotel's pool and walking around the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the Wailing Wall, and the Mount of Olives without anyone else in sight.
Despite tourists' initial queasiness with returning to Israel in mid to late 2014, this year has begun to see a return to higher levels of international visitors. Just this month, in fact, Israel once again hosted the Middle East's only LGBT Pride celebration in Tel Aviv and it was its largest one to date, not to mention one of the world's hottest (and I'm not talking temperature) and most diverse Pride celebrations anywhere.
DJs on the beach pumped music out over the white sand and azure Mediterranean by day, and clubs and bars packed in crowds from all over Israel in addition to Europe, Asia, Africa, and North and South America by night. Cafes, restaurants, and tourist sites throughout the rest of the country were finally bustling again, and many visitors were even giving Jordan a little tourist love too by jetting over to Petra for a day while they were close by.
There's no doubt that the political situation in the region remains tense and there are some very serious and consequential issues of territory, citizenship, and governance of the Palestinian people that must be settled before a true blanket of peace will fall on this part of the Middle East. But even while the political processes, dialogues, negotiations, and yes even occasional fights and skirmishes continue, the reality on the ground within Israel proper is that the country is certainly a secure and safe destination for international tourists to visit.
Author Batya Casper.