Appropriate Reading for Tisha B’Av

Today is Tisha B’Av – the ninth of Av, which is a fast day (24 hours versus those fasts which are only during daylight hours) and commemorates the destruction of both temples in Jerusalem. Many tragic things happened to the Jewish people on this day. I thought that the following links would serve as “appropriate” reading for this day.

The first is a link to lists of all of the terrorist attacks and fatalities in Israel from 1948 until May of 2013. Starting in 2000 and going for the next three years the numbers are hideous. After the Oslo Accords (bringing “peace at last” to Israel) the Israeli government gave a lot of autonomy to the Arabs in Yehuda and Shomron, and kept the IDF out of mostly Arab cities. This loosening of restrictions led directly to Arab terror - here is list of the attacks and victims from 1993 until 2000.  After 2000 when Arafat decided it was to his benefit “go all out” - what was called the second intifada broke out, and the terrorists used the advantage they had to launch even more attacks on Israelis. This included rock throwing, hurling Molotov cocktails, and rioting in the streets. When this did not enlist a reaction from the Israeli government and the IDF, it progressed to suicide bombers. 2002 was a particularly bad year – especially March. I personally remember one week where there were three separate suicide bombers on Israeli busses. I remember feeling as if I couldn’t breathe – just from the feeling of sorrow. After the suicide bomber blew himself up in the Park hotel in Netanya on the first night of Passover, and another terrorist broke into a home in Elon Moreh and killed three members of the Gavish family, Arik Sharon finally called the IDF to launch an attack and go into the Arab cities again to root out the terrorists. After that the number of terrrorist attacks went down to “normal” levels (which would be shocking in any other country). Here is a list of the attacks since 2000, with the names and ages of the victims themselves. The list is heartbreakingly long, and it puts a m0re personal face to the tragedies.

To give you a “taste” here is the listing for July 16, 2001:

July 16, 2001 – Cpl. Hanit Arami, 19, and St.Sgt. Avi Ben Harush, 20, both of Zichron Yaakov, were killed and 11 wounded – 3 seriously – when a bomb exploded in a suicide terrorist attack at a bus stop near the train station in Binyamina, halfway between Netanya and Haifa, at about 19:30 Monday evening. The Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the attack.

This is the listing for a week in March, 2002: (39 killed, 168 injured in one week) Look at the ages here – it boggles the mind.

Mar 27, 2002 – 30 people were killed and 140 injured – 20 seriously – in a suicide bombing in the Park Hotel in the coastal city of Netanya, in the midst of the Passover holiday seder with 250 guests. Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack. The victims: Shula Abramovitch, 63, of Holon; David Anichovitch, 70, of Netanya; Sgt.-Maj. Avraham Beckerman, 25, of Ashdod; Shimon Ben-Aroya, 42, of Netanya; Andre Fried, 47, of Netanya; Idit Fried, 47, of Netanya; Miriam Gutenzgan, 82, Ramat Gan; Ami Hamami, 44, of Netanya; Perla Hermele, 79, of Sweden; Dvora Karim, 73, of Netanya; Michael Karim, 78, of Netanya; Yehudit Korman, 70, of Ramat Hasharon; Marianne Myriam Lehmann Zaoui, 77, of Netanya; Lola Levkovitch, 85, of Jerusalem; Furuk Na’imi, 62, of Netanya; Eliahu Nakash, 85, of Tel-Aviv; Irit Rashel, 45, of Moshav Herev La’et; Yulia Talmi, 87, of Tel-Aviv; St.-Sgt. Sivan Vider, 20, of Bekaot; Ernest Weiss, 79, of Petah Tikva; Eva Weiss, 75, of Petah Tikva; Meir (George) Yakobovitch, 76, of Holon. Chanah Rogan, 92, of Netanya; Zee’v Vider, 50, of Moshav Bekaot; Alter Britvich, 88, and his wife Frieda, 86, of Netanya died of their injuries on April 2-3, 2002. Sarah Levy-Hoffman, 89, of Tel-Aviv died of her injuries on April 7, 2002. Anna Yakobovitch, 78, of Holon died of her injuries on April 11, 2002. Eliezer Korman, 74, of Ramat Hasharon died of his wounds on May 5, 2002. Clara Rosenberger, 77, of Jerusalem died of her wounds on June 25, 2003.

Mar 28, 2002 – Rachel and David Gavish, 50, their son Avraham Gavish, 20, and Rachel’s father Yitzhak Kanner, 83, were killed when a terrorist infiltrated the community of Elon Moreh in Samaria, entered their home and opened fire on its inhabitants. Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack. Mar 29, 2002 – Tuvia Wisner, 79, of Petah Tikva and Michael Orlansky, 70, of Tel-Aviv were killed Friday morning, when a Palestinian terrorist infiltrated the Neztarim settlement in the Gaza Strip. Mar 29, 2002 – Lt. Boaz Pomerantz, 22, of Kiryat Shmona and St.-Sgt. Roman Shliapstein, 22, of Ma’ale Efraim were killed in the course of the IDF anti-terrorist action in Ramallah (Operation Defensive Shield).

Mar 29, 2002 – Rachel Levy, 17, and Haim Smadar, 55, the security guard, both of Jerusalem, were killed and 28 people were injured, two seriously, when a female suicide bomber blew herself up in the Kiryat Yovel supermarket in Jerusalem. The Fatah Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades claimed responsibility for the attack.

Of course, we cannot forget the rocket attacks from Gaza. Here are statistics for the decade between 2000-2010. This link summarizes the terror policies of Hamas in the Gaza strip.

If anyone should think everything is fine now, the road terror is on an upswing. (And we all know what happens when you don’t nip this in the bud – it leads to worse things). Earlier this month one of the stars of the Latma network (Israeli satire group) was traveling in her car with her small child when they were attacked by rock throwers. Thank G-d noone was killed.

Tzom kal to my readers who are fasting, and may we see better things very soon.

An Ounce of Prevention

I was happy to read this article in the Times of Israel site, which states that the IDF and Shin Bet have conducted a wave of arrests of Arabs suspected of violence in Yehuda and Shomron (Judea and Samaria).

The arrests have helped decrease the incidents of stone throwing and are also a preventative measure before Ramadan, which starts soon. The Israeli army always gives thousands of extra permits to Arabs living in Judea and Samaria to travel to Jerusalem during Ramadan, and the fast and extra “religious fervor” of the month always gives rise to violence against Jews.

Hopefully these measures will keep the quiet, while permitting those Arabs that just want to celebrate their holiday and visit family the chance to do so.

Personally I am very glad we have a car now. Traveling by tremping (hitchiking in Israeli slang) is always a bit nerve-wracking when the bus stops are full of Arab men going home early from work – especially near our yishuvim in Yehuda and Shomron. During Ramadan it is that much worse.

A Military Coup in Cairo

The Muslim brotherhood is getting its smackdown. The people in Egypt have spoken and they want Morsi out. I’m not sure that the next government will be any better, but now that the public has a taste of what they think is freedom, they don’t want to go back to tyranny.

Noone will say anything publicly here, but most people in Israel want a strong leader in Egypt so that things stay (relatively) calm. If that means the military, so be it. The craziness on our north-eastern border with Syria is enough chaos, thank you very much.

I’m Not Holding My Breath

The news that “moderate” (who decides who is a moderate, anyway?) cleric Rouhani has won the presidential election in Iran is a good sign, but I am not holding my breath waiting for him to shut down Iran’s nuclear plants. Call me a pessimist, but I think that the real power in that country is held by the Ayatollah, and whatever he decides goes. If he had wanted to stop Iran’s development of a nuclear bomb it would have been stopped already.

I am sure the IDF isn’t putting away their plans just yet either. There have been newspaper reports that Netanyahu is spending the major part of his time dealing with the security threat from Iran and from Syria, and letting others squabble over economic issues in the Knesset (which is as it should be, in my opinion).

The Newspaper Wars

I take the train every day to work now – so I have about twenty minutes of “quiet time” in the morning before I arrive at the office. (I call it “quiet time” because sometimes it is not so quiet – many people like to use their cell phones on the train, and frequently don’t realize that their voices are quite loud. I have heard more about certain people’s backed up toilets and the hospital stays of other people’s families than I care to…..)

I usually take the time to say my daily Tehillim, but afterwards I usually have some time left over. I started to take the free daily newspapers that are given out at the station. There is competition between two – Yediot Achronot (sometimes called Idiot Achronot by those who don’t like the rag) and Yisrael Hayom. I of course take Yisrael Hayom, since it has a right wing stance.

I can’t tell you how important this newspaper is. It used to be that the public was exposed just to the left wing point of view. Then Makor Rishon came along and started to change things. The problem with Makor Rishon is that it is still only bought by the dati leumi public, with a smattering of charedim and traditional Jews joining in. It doesn’t really reach most of the Israeli public.

The free daily newspaper does reach the Israeli public – and it can be a game changer.

The coverage of the financial situation and the budget cuts are a prime example. Yisrael Hayom had full coverage – and it skewered Yair Lapid. It had a full page spread just on what Lapid said about the economy in his campaign promises before the election, and what he says now that he is in a position of responsibility. It showcased a middle class family – and how much more they will be paying now in taxes, etc.

In the past the newspapers would do the same thing – but the left wing papers would put all of the blame on the Likud and especially Bibi Netanyahu. Now, with a more objective stance, the newspapers are putting the blame on both the Likud and Yesh Atid – as it should be.

You can’t underestimate the power of this communication tool. Those of us who are somewhat politically active and aware of the media and its power can see how important media bias is. Most people don’t think about it too much – they are too busy working and raising their families to get really involved. These people do read the papers though – especially if it is free and handed to them at a gas station or a train station. What is written in these papers has a lot of power.

The people behind Yisrael Hayom are doing a great service to Israel.

Putting the Money Where His Mouth Is

After about five weeks of yada-yada-yada, the inevitable happened – Yair Lapid compromised on most of what he had requested, and a new Israeli government is about to be officially started.

The man with the big mouth, who arrogantly claimed that he was going to usher in a new era of politics, did what all politicians must do – he had to compromise. I have nothing against compromise, I think it is a positive aspect of working with people with different views. This is why I bristled every time I heard Lapid open his mouth and make claims that he was somehow going to be above “politics as usual”.

Lapid compromised on the following: There will be 25 ministers instead of the 18 he had requested (with a law being put into affect that the NEXT government has to have no more than 18 – how lame is that?). The induction age of religious men will be 22 and not 18 as he had wanted – which means that those who want to learn for a while before doing army service will be able to. The numbers of complete military exemptions will rise from his request of 400 to 2000.

In addition Lapid will be taking the Finance Ministry, probably the least popular ministry of them all – which to me is exquisitely ironic. No matter how he tries – someone will be disappointed in him, because he won’t be able to give out financial goodies to everyone. He will now actually have to balance a budget. In other words, actually take responsibility, instead of playing “armchair politician”. It will be even worse for him than anyone else in the new government, precisely because he promised to be so “different”. A lot of people are going to be angry at him, since he raised their expectations so high. I can’t wait until I hear him sputter, “but you have to be realistic…..”

I am happy about the other ministries also. Moshe Yaalon will finally be defense minister – something that in my opinion should have happened four years ago. Bennet as Labor and Trade minister sounds like a good fit. Education is still up for grabs – but the two likely candidates are both good (either Gidon Saar of Likud or Rav Shai Peron of Yesh Atid).

I was hoping that Tzipi Hotobeli would receive something – but it looks unlikely at this point.

They Are Very Afraid

The religous Zionist segment of Israeli society is disproportinately represented in the officer’s corps in the IDF. We comprise approximately 12% of Israeli society, but 35% of the officers in the IDF wear the knitted kippa (skullcap).

This disproportion is very frightening to some secular Israelis, especially in academia - so much so that it has been studied. Israel HaYom has an interesting article about this topic, which is essentially a book review of a collection of essays.

The essays are written from various viewpoints. I find it ironic that those who are most frightened of the fact that so many national religious young men are now officers are mistaken about the viewpoints held by these officers. They assume, wrongly, that those national religious soldiers hold views that are, for want of a better term “extremely right wing” concerning future borders of Israel, and that these viewpoints will seriously affect how they act in the army.

Perhaps it is all relative, but from my experience I see that the men in the national religious camp that are extremely right wing either do not serve at all, or serve for a very short time, and are most certainly not the ones who go on to become officers. They usually sit and learn in yeshiva, and do the minimum of army required by the hesder program (14 months, versus the committment to three full years for officers).

The religious men who do go on to become officers are committed to the army for the best of reasons, and with the guidance of their rabbis serve to the best of their ability while following the halacha. For the most part their motivation for being in the army in general and their desire to be officers in particular comes from an overarching ideal – that of serving Klal Yisrael and protecting their fellow Jews. This ideal then makes it easier for them to perhaps follow a more lenient interpretation on some halachic issues where others would take a more stricter view.

Therefore the fear by many in the secular camp in Israel about the national religious in the army is misplaced and completely blown out of proportion. It comes from not understanding the nuances of a different sector of the country.

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