Friday, August 31, 2012

Netanyahu: Zionism succeeded because of Christian support

Netanyahu: Zionism succeeded because of Christian support
Netanyahu: Zionism succeeded because of Christian support
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday stated that Zionism and the rebirth of the Jewish state would not have succeeded without the backing and support of Christian Zionism.

Netanyahu was speaking at a rededication ceremony for the landmark windmill situated at the entrance to Mishkenot Sha'ananim, the first neighborhood built outside Jerusalem's Old City walls.
Built in 1858 by Jewish philanthropist Moses Montefiore, the windmill quickly became a recognized symbol of Jerusalem. But over the years, it fell into disrepair.

The windmill's restoration was made possible by the cooperation of various government bodies and private charities, but the bulk of the funding has come from the Dutch organization Christians for Israel.

Last month, Dutch experts oversaw the installation of a new dome and blades on the iconic structure, and managed to return the windmill to working order.

Acknowledging the role played by Christians for Israel in this particular project, and the involvement in general of Christian Zionists in Israel's restoration, Netanyahu said: "I don’t believe that the Jewish State and Modern Zionism would have been possible without Christian Zionism. I think that the many Christian supporters of the rebirth of the Jewish State and the ingathering of the Jewish people in the 19th century made possible the rise of...modern Jewish Zionism. We always had the deeply ingrained desire to come back to our land and rebuild it. ...That was made possible in the 19th century, by the resurgence of Christian Zionism... It’s well represented here today by our Dutch friends."


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Ready for Some Football, Israeli Style?

Ready for Some Football, Israeli Style?


JERUSALEM, Israel -- It didn't draw Super Bowl attention but Israel's first-ever international tackle football game made history.
It was American football, Israeli style, complete with the blowing of the shofar (ram's horn).
Played on a Baptist baseball field, Israel's national team took on a foreign opponent for the first time ever -- the Crusaders from Wisconsin's Maranatha Baptist Bible College.
"It's great. It's taking part in history," Hani Kramer, one of the Israeli players, told CBN News. "I grew up here when there was no tackle football and now there's a high school league and the adult league."
The Israeli team was comprised of players from Israel's 10 teams and had only been practicing together for two months.
Flag football started here in the '80s and Steve Leibowitz, president of American Football in Israel, helped make the move to tackling just five years ago.
"So I got the idea from just love of the sport and then it's just grown from the grassroots. It's all just people who loved the game, wanted to play and we're building it step by step," Leibowitz said.
And even in a kosher country, pigskin fever is catching on.
"Now's there's a lot of Israelis, guys that have never been to the States but watched American football, love to play. And that's what's exciting is it's not just Americans, it's Israelis, people born here that just love the sport," football coach Jay Armstead said.
After graduating from Maranatha in the 90s, Armstead came to Israel as a volunteer. He returned later to coach the Israeli team. Despite his dual loyalties, he said he was rooting for Israel.
Tal Assor from Beersheba has never been to the United States but saw some of the kids in his neighborhood playing the game.
"I saw a couple of guys play football, my neighbors, so I went out [and asked them if I could play. Since then] I play just football," Tal said. "It's the greatest game I play ever."
Skills on the field may have fallen short of expectations, but the good will on both sides of the ball made up for it.
Another Israeli player, Joe Martisius, told CBN News, "They're good guys. They help you up. They tackle as a team."
"I think we're not as organized as them and we see it. We're trying to pass the ball, we're trying to run the ball -- just things aren't really working too well right now," he said.
American Bobby O'Brien praised Israel's efforts. "They're playing awful hard. To be honest I'm very impressed. A couple of those guys have only been playing football for one year, and they're doing a great job," O'Brien said.
Two cheerleaders and some 400 fans pulled for the Israelis in their premier game.
Michael Davison, who coaches a local team called the Tikvah Hammers, pointed out Israelis don't grow up with an American football culture, and soccer is a totally different sport.
"Soccer's not the same kind of physical contact mentality and Israelis are not used to hitting people," he said.
Leibowitz called this game a measuring stick to see how far the Israelis have come.
Although the lopsided final score of 44 to 6 show they have a ways to go, the night was considered a success.
"We're satisfied with the turnout. We're satisfied with the level of play [and we're] having a good time," Liebowitz said

Messianic Commentary: The Stones Speak Hebrew

Messianic Commentary: The Stones Speak Hebrew
Messianic Commentary: The Stones Speak Hebrew

History has always assisted the religious, the ideological, and politicians in their attempts to implement their ideas in real life.

Ideologically-driven political actions are most frequently based on texts. The written Law, for example, motivated the people of Israel to take possession of the land of Canaan – and return to it as their homeland in the twentieth century.

The first archaeologist in the service of a religiously-motivated emperor may well have been Helena, Constantine the Great's mother. Combing Jerusalem in search of hard evidence for her faith, she unearthed – among other things – the original cross and the shroud in which Jesus was buried.

Today, texts and artifacts are used – maybe even more vigorously and blatantly than before – to support the Palestinian claim to the Land. Hamdan Taha, Assistant Deputy Minister of the antiquities and cultural heritage section of the Palestinian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, claims that “archaeology is a tool to reconstruct the past” – proceeding to complete the task by dismissing any evidence for an ancient Jewish presence in the "land of Palestine."

On this premise, Palestinian reconstruction works inside the Mosque of Omar on the Temple Mount, for example, have transformed the Second Temple structure underneath it known as "Solomon's Stables" into a mosque.

Such a revision of history which seeks to de-legitimize Jewish sovereignty over the entire region hopes to convince the world that the Palestinians are the direct descendants of the Hittites and the Canaanites – and therefore the rightful heirs of the Land. Those who have ears, however, may hear the stones of ancient ruins, magnified through this new column, "crying out" – in Hebrew.


A case in point is a 2,700 seal discovered near the walls of Jerusalem's Old City in 2009. Bearing the inscription "Bethlehem" in ancient Hebrew script, the tiny clay seal dates back to the period of the first Temple – between the eighth and seventh centuries BCE. This is the oldest reference to Bethlehem ever found outside of the Bible.

Although the Hebrew name of the town has kept through the ages, including its Arabic name – Beit Lahm – hard evidence appears dispensable in the eyes of Palestinian nationalists and their supporters. The webpage of Bethlehem's municipality thus unabashedly informs the reader that: "Three thousand years before the birth of Christ, Bethlehem was already known as a Canaanite settlement ... the word

Bethlehem is derived from Lahmo, the Chaldean god of fertility, which was adopted by the Canaanites as Lahama … Bethlehem clearly established its Canaanite origin 3,000 years before the birth of Jesus."

The word Jewish – in case one wonders – is nowhere to be found in this Palestinian version of Bethlehem's history!


Sunday, August 26, 2012

British Mandate's 1938 Annual Report Details the Arab Revolt - Photos

British Mandate's 1938 Annual Report Details the Arab Revolt; The Library of Congress Archives Provide the Full Picture

British military raid for arms at Jaffa Gate, Jerusalem, July 1938
The Arab Revolt in Palestine (1936-1939) was a full scale attack against the British Mandate, the Jewish community, and other Arabs who didn't support the radical leadership of Haj Amin el Husseini. Details of the Arab revolt and the British counter-insurgency are recorded in the British Mandate's annual reports.

The photographers of the American Colony were not news photographers, but they recorded the violent and bloody events of the Arab attacks across Palestine. Hundreds of these pictures can be found in the Library of Congress archives.

We present below excerpts of the British Mandate's 1938 report matched for the first time with a selection of the relevant American Colony's pictures:

Trainload of British armored vehicles
from Egypt arrive in Lod (July 1938)
During 1938 public security in Palestine, particularly during the seven months from June onwards, continued to cause the administration grave preoccupation. An intensified campaign of murder, intimidation and sabotage persisted on lines similar to those followed by Arab law breakers in 1937; and, as in 1937, there were isolated incidents of Jewish reprisals. The main difference between the course of events in 1938 and that in 1937 lay in the gradual development during 1938 of Arab gang warfare on organized and to a certain extent co-ordinated lines.

Remains of burnt Jewish passenger bus
outside of Haifa (July 1938). See a
close-up view here
By the end of the year, as the result of the arrival in the autumn of large military reinforcements, this gang organization was first dislocated and finally reduced to comparative impotence in the field. But in the towns terrorism persisted and the roads were still largely unsafe for normal traffic. In fact, the events of 1938 succeeded in seriously affecting the economic and social life of the country to an extent far greater than was the case in 1937....
Oil pipeline sabotaged

In April there was also an increase in shooting incidents against police and military patrols and Jewish settlements; in cases of armed robbery in Arab villages and the sabotage and attempted sabotage of communications and Government property. For the first time for many months damage was done to Jewish groves and forests. Finally, the [Iraq-Haifa] oil pipe line was damaged on ten occasions....
Incendiary bomb in a Jewish quarter
of Haifa (July 1938).
Click on pictures to enlarge. Click on captions to view the originals.
Burned out building in Haifa Jewish
Quarter. Note niche for a mezuza
on the doorway -- marked in a circle

The month of July produced a series of major outrages which caused death to 100 Arabs and 27 Jews, and injury to 206 Arabs and 64 Jews.

The two worst incidents occurred in Haifa when bombs exploded in the Arab fruit market in the centre of the town on the 6th and the 25th of the month. The casualties were 74 Arabs killed and 129 wounded. On both occasions confusion followed the explosions and there ensued short periods of rioting and violence in which 10 Jews lost their lives and 27 were injured. Between these two outrages, also in Haifa on the 10th July, a bomb thrown at a Jewish bus killed one Jew and wounded 15 others; and in a street fracas on the 11th two Jews were killed and 14 Jews and one Arab were wounded....
"Result of terrorist acts... Russian police-
woman searching Jewish female for arms
at the Jaffa Gate" in Jerusalem (July 1938)
Military and police raid on Arabs for arms
at the Damascus Gate (September 1938)

Damage to telephone poles and wires

In Jerusalem there were three serious bombing incidents, two in the Old City when 13 Arabs were killed and 35 wounded and one outside the Jaffa Gate when five Arabs were killed and 25 wounded. In addition, isolated attacks within the municipal area resulted in several Arabs and Jews being killed and many more wounded....

During the month of August sabotage persisted on an enhanced scale. The damage to the telephone and telegraph system throughout the country was assessed at more than P.6,000, while six trains were derailed.
British soldiers retake the Old City,
pictured along the southern wall of the
city (October 1938)

The British army retakes the Old City of
Jerusalem. Machine gunner near the
Dome of the Rock mosque. (October

In September, the casualties among the British troops and police, Jews and Arabs (excluding bandits) reached the formidable total of 188 killed and 156 wounded. In addition, rebellious activities, probably encouraged by the crisis in Europe, were more widespread than in previous months. In almost daily encounters with the troops and police the bands are known to have suffered total casualties of at least 311 killed....

In October the Old City of Jerusalem, which had become the rallying point of a large number of bandits and from which acts of violence, murder and intimidation were being organized and perpetrated freely and with impunity, was fully re-occupied by the troops on the 19th of the month.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Jerusalem: A Cup of Trembling (Zech. 12)

Jerusalem: A Cup of Trembling (Zech. 12)

JERUSALEM, Israel -- According to Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas, Israeli Jews are "occupiers" of Jerusalem, with no historical connection to "the city that will forever be Arabic, Islamic, and Christian."
Abbas made his remarks in a statement marking an incident 43 years ago when a fanatic Australian named Denis Michael Rohan, who called himself "the Lord's emissary," set fire to the al-Aksa mosque on the Temple Mount.
In terminology borrowed from Israel's description of Jerusalem as the eternal, undivided capital of the Jewish people, Abbas warned there would be "no peace or stability before our beloved city and eternal capital is liberated from occupation and settlement."
So whose "beloved city" and "eternal capital" is Jerusalem? Is it a city that "will forever be Arabic and Islamic?" And what does "Christian" mean to Abbas? Does he have an understanding of God's heart as revealed in the Bible?
Herein lies the rub: the Jewish connection to Jerusalem is based on the Word of God, which has little bearing on anyone for whom the Bible is not historically true.
In the Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament), Jerusalem is mentioned by name 623 times and in the Old Testament, 669 times, not including many references to the city using other terminology. Compare that with the Koran, Islam's holy book, which does not name Jerusalem even once.
The unbridgeable gap between the Jewish connection to Jerusalem and Islamic claims on Israel's capital undermine a potential two-state solution. Abbas' heated Islamic rhetoric on Judaism's holy city brings a prophetic word recorded thousands of years ago closer than ever to fulfillment.
About 2,500 years ago, the prophet Zechariah, whose name means "God remembered," said the day would come when Jerusalem would be the focal point of the nations of the world.
Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of drunkenness to all the surrounding peoples, when they lay siege against Judah and Jerusalem. And it shall happen in that day that I will make Jerusalem a very heavy stone for all peoples; all who would heave it away will surely be cut in pieces, though all nations of the earth are gathered against it. (Zech. 12:2-3)
The Palestinian Liberation Organization has always had as its goal the "liberation" of Israel and its capital, Jerusalem, from the "Zionist occupiers." In some ways they can't help themselves because their religion teaches that once any land has been under Islamic rule, it must never be yielded to any other people -- Christians, Jews, or anyone else.
Some have called Islam the "ultimate replacement theology" -- and so it would seem. Christian replacement theology alleges that the Church has replaced Israel, while Islamic replacement theology teaches that Islam and the Koran replaces Judaism, Christianity and everything else.
The goal of Islamists is domination of every society they've infiltrated. Even a cursory look back over the past few decades show they've made considerable progress toward that goal in many European countries and even in America, which from its inception defined itself as a nation founded on Judeo-Christian ethics.
Successive Israeli governments have sought workable solutions that would bring peaceful coexistence between Jews and Arabs and there have been some real success stories.
But until the Palestinian Arab leadership accepts Israel as the modern nation-state of the Jewish people, with an undivided Jerusalem as its capital, the quest for peace will continue to be stymied.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Messianic Commentary: Prophecy Through Jewish Eyes

Messianic Commentary: Prophecy Through Jewish Eyes
Messianic Commentary: Prophecy Through Jewish Eyes
Strange as it may sound, such cardinal beliefs as resurrection from the dead and the Messiah are not to be found in a literal reading of the Bible. Despite this, both are so essential in Judaism and Christianity that negation of either is regarded as heresy.

The fact that the Messiah does not appear literally in the Bible means that he can be perceived only through interpretation. The genre known as “messianic prophecies” therefore essentially consists of drawing messianic significance out of biblical verses.

In contrast to Christianity, which engages in messianic prophecies in order to prove Jesus’ messiahship, Judaism regards them merely as plausible interpretations concerning the Messiah. Unfortunately, this disparity frequently leads to the use of messianic prophecies as a tool to prove the other tradition wrong, both Jews and Christians attempting to claim the truth to be on their side.

This column rejects this form of polemics, seeking instead to examine the many Jewish interpretations of messianic prophecies as a way of enriching one's faith rather than justifying it.

Our first "messianic prophecy" comes from “These are the generations of the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 2:4).

The messianic clue in this verse requires a brief explanation. The scribes who copied the biblical text are called sofrim in Hebrew because they “counted” the letters, words, and verses in each book in order to ensure a faultless manuscript. This process revealed numerous irregularities, particularly between plene (full) and defective (short) spellings, Hebrew allowing words to be written with or without vowels.

For example, the word toledot (generations) in this verse can be spelled with or without the letter vav so that it can look like toledot, tledot, toledt, or tledt. These divergences were meticulously copied, not being considered “scribal errors” but intentional spellings hinting at possible hidden meanings.

The plene spelling toledot (generations) in Genesis 2:4 appears only here and Ruth 4:18, the latter verse stating “this is the genealogy (toledot) of Perez.” According to Jewish commentators, this unique spelling is that which links the two genealogies and juxtaposes Adam with the Messiah, the son of Perez.

The Midrash explains why these two are the only places in the Bible which use the plene spelling: “R. Judan said in R. Abun's name: The six [the letter vav, which equals six] corresponds to the six things which were taken away from Adam: his lustre, his immortality, his height, the fruit of the earth, the fruit of trees, and the luminaries … R. Berekiah said in the name of R. Samuel b. Nahman: Though these things were created in their fullness, yet when Adam sinned they were spoiled, and they will not again return to their perfection until the son of Perez [Messiah] comes; [because] ‘… toledot (generations) of Perez’ … is spelled fully, with a vav. These are they: his lustre, his immortality, his height, the fruit of the earth and the fruit of trees, and the luminaries" (Gen. Rabbah 12:6).

This interpretation asserts that Adam's perfect state of being has been lacking in all succeeding generations and will only be restored by the Messiah, who will give man back his primordial splendor. According to this midrash, therefore, the Messiah is the second, perfect Adam.


Ancient Seal Evidence of Old Testament's Samson

Ancient Seal Evidence of Old Testament's Samson


Israeli archaeologists believe they've found evidence that the Old Testament strongman Samson was real, not just a biblical superhero. The discovery of a small seal found near Samson's hometown, about the size of a pebble, depicts one of the biblical strongman's adventures.
"We can see a very large animal -- most probably a lion - but there is definitely here a person here reaching out with his hand, when he is maybe defending or attacking the large animal," Dr. Zvi Lederman, Tel Aviv University archaeologist and co-director of the dig, said.
The cone-shaped seal dates back to about 1200 B.C., which matches the Bible's timeframe for Samson's life. It illustrates a scene from the book of Judges where Samson is on the way to meet his fiancé in Timnah, about four miles away from the dig site.
"Suddenly a young lion came roaring toward him," Judges 14:5-6 reads. "The Spirit of the Lord came upon him in power so that he tore the lion apart with his bare hands as one would have torn a young goat."
"Now I'm not saying that Samson is depicted here but definitely the myth or the legend is depicted here," Lederman said. "So it's in the right place, the right scene, in the right time."
The place is also of great archaeological interest for other reasons. It's where the Bible says the Philistines returned the captured Ark of the Covenant.
"So then they put it on a cart with two cows pulling it. And the ark went on the way to Beit Shemesh," Prof. Shlomo Bunimovitz, a Tel Aviv University archaeologist, said.
Lederman and Bunimovitz have led the excavations each summer for more than 20 years.
A British group first excavated the site in 1911, against the backdrop of the growing popularity of Darwin's theory of evolution.
"They knew about the Philistines from the Bible, but they wanted to expose the realistic background of the Philistines to bring the Biblical stories alive," Bunimovitz explained.
People inhabited the area continuously for more than 1,000 years until the Assyrian King Sennacherib destroyed it in 701 B.C.
Today modern Beit Shemesh is across the highway.
Next summer archaeologists hope to uncover more of a palace from an earlier era, which they think may have belonged to a mysterious female who ruled the Canaanites.

The Cliffs in Judea Overlooking Solomon's Pools

The Cliffs in Judea Overlooking Solomon's Pools --
Where Are Those Cliffs Today?


Solomon's Pools. The photo is dated between 1860 and 1880. No name is attributed to the photo. The photo and
handwritten caption are similar to photos by Felix Bonfils (1831-1885). The man in the photo may be the same as in
this photo from the Western Wall, perhaps even a photo of Bonfils himself.

Solomon's Pools in a rare color photo (circa 1905)

The Cliffs. Original caption: "Solomon's Pools and ancient
aqueducts. Dam across Wadi Biyar al-Bir ed-Darraj"
(circa 1936)
Early photographers in the Holy Land were enchanted by "Solomon's Pools," an elaborate water system from the Maccabean or Roman times located between Bethlehem and Hebron that brought water all the way to the Temple in Jerusalem.
Dozens of pictures of the pools can be found in the Library of Congress archives, such as these photos.

The American Colony's photo collection (1898-1946) includes a picture of cliffs near Solomon's Pools.
The cliffs beneath the Zayit neighborhood of Efrat

Here are pictures of the cliffs today. They are situated beneath the northern tip of the town of Efrat and its Zayit neighborhood. Efrat was established in 1983 and is located some eight miles south of Jerusalem.

 The cliffs today as viewed on Google Earth

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Church Regrets Asking Arabs to Recognize Israel as Jewish State

Church Regrets Asking Arabs to Recognize Israel as Jewish State

The United Church of Canada (UCC) has voted to boycott products exported by Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria.
By Rachel Hirshfeld
First Publish: 8/19/2012

Boycott supporters
Boycott supporters
Israel news photo: Flash 90
The United Church of Canada (UCC) has voted to boycott products exported by Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria. The vote was one of thirteen resolutions, which single out “Israeli settlements” as the primary obstacle to peace in the region, that the UCC adopted on Friday at its 41st general council meeting in Ottawa. The UCC also called on Israel to suspend “settlement” expansion, and express regret for previously asking the “Palestinians” to acknowledge Israel as a Jewish state.

"The UCC's so-called apology to Palestinians is actually a slap in the face to the 6 million Jewish citizens of democratic Israel, to UCC's Canadian Jewish neighbors and to World Jewry," said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. "The adoption of this anti-peace resolution is proof-positive that UCC leadership is endorsing and promoting an extremist political program wrapped in theological discourse. By the UCC catering to the extremists who deny the validity Israel’s Jewish identity, no Israeli will take any of the church's initiatives - present or future - seriously."

"It comes as no surprise that the Church will apparently be calling on its members to boycott products from Israeli communities on the West Bank. That fits neatly into a carefully orchestrated international political campaign to demonize Israel. We can assure members of the church that Israel will continue to seek peace with its neighbors whether or not UCC members buy Israeli beauty products or dates," Cooper added.

“The real loser,” added Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein, the Center’s director of interfaith affairs, “is the moral standing of the Church, which is removing itself from any relationship with the Jewish community, voiding the gains of a half century, while broadcasting the message loud and clear, ‘Lovers of Zion', Jews and Christians, not welcome here.’”

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Changing Middle East: Revolt Against Artificial Borders - Part III

israel today Magazine

You've read the news. Now understand it.
The Changing Middle East: Revolt Against Artificial Borders - Part III
The Changing Middle East: Revolt Against Artificial Borders - Part III
This is Part III of a three-part story on the Middle East's changing borders. If you have not done so already, we suggest first reading The Changing Middle East: Revolt Against Artificial Borders - Part I and The Changing Middle East: Revolt Against Artificial Borders - Part II

What should Israel expect in this constantly changing environment? Here opinions differ.

“Up until now many in the Israeli establishment believed Assad was a guarantee of stability, as he was the person who kept our northern border quiet for the past forty years,” said Paz. “Now the situation is changing with many officials preferring to see him toppled. In any case, chaos is not good for Israel because it’s not manageable, you can never know what the outcome will be,” he continued.

Talking about the possible repercussions for the entire area, Paz also stressed that the fall of Assad could lead to further destabilization, prompting revolts in Jordan and Palestine, two areas that have thus far remained relatively stable. “The Jewish state might be drawn into a conflict if the regime [in Jordan] is threatened,” he said. The expert referred to the events of 1970 when Israel was prepared to send troops to Jordan in a bid to oust Palestinian Liberation Organization, a terrorist movement that aimed to depose the late King Hussein.

Perlov voiced a different view. “No matter what happens, we shouldn’t panic. The division of Syria is not fatal for Israel. I am sure we will be able to come to terms with Kurdistan and any other new state that might emerge. Any scenario is better than Assad,” she reasoned, while acknowledging that the ouster of the current regime might create power vacuums, easily filled by hostile elements that could promote violent cross-border tensions and crime. “There are dangers but with the right management of the crisis, Israel can only benefit from a new regime in Syria,” she concluded.

There are historical precedents for bloody conflicts that were resolved by partition. The dissolution of Yugoslavia in 1990's -- a region with a history of ethnic conflicts -- brought the creation of several independent countries that mostly live in peace with each other. Will Syria share the same fate? Experts agree that it is too early to tell.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Changing Middle East: Revolt Against Artificial Borders - Part II

The Changing Middle East: Revolt Against Artificial Borders - Part II
The Changing Middle East: Revolt Against Artificial Borders - Part II
This is Part II of a three-part story on the Middle East's changing borders. If you have not done so already, we suggest first reading The Changing Middle East: Revolt Against Artificial Borders - Part I

When discussing the role of these religious differences in the raging conflict in Syria, Paz came up with a striking prediction. “If democratic transition and free elections eventually take place in Syria, division will follow, as was the case with the West Bank and the Gaza Strip,” he said, indicating that, in such an event, the creation of Alawistan, Kurdistan and other such sectarian cantons will be probable.

Perlov voiced a different opinion, stating that the split could take place if President Assad retained power and the fighting dragged on. “Since the president is losing control over the country, the security is shattered, leading to the natural division of the state. De facto, it’s already happening, and the process will just accelerate,” she told Israel Today. “Partition of the country could mean that the West would be taken by the Alawis, the North by Kurds, the South by Druze and the center by Sunnis. Christians would have a problem though, so they would probably opt for immigration to Lebanon or remain in Syria, retaining little rights, like the Copts in Egypt,” she added.

Addressing whether the West is expected to benefit from such a development, Perlov observed: “Split countries are always a headache. They don’t have one address that can be held accountable, one governmental body that tackles all problems; neither do they have one military force, so people are generally against divisions. Monitoring social media, I learned that most Arabs don’t want to see Syria divided. I am sure, western powers have the same stance on the matter”.

However, there are those who claim that a partition could facilitate a ‘divide and conquer policy’.
In 2006, on her trip to Tel-Aviv, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice introduced the concept of the “New Middle East.” But the term was not new. Thirteen years earlier, Israel’s President Shimon Peres, who then served as a foreign minister, wrote a book whose title was comprised of those same three words. Aimed at boosting cultural, scientific, political and mainly economic ties between Israel and its neighbors, Peres stressed that the region had only two alternatives: Benelux or Yugoslavia, with Peres offering Arabs a cooperative vision in order to avoid the latter.

Rice’s version of the new Middle East was the exact opposite. According to Global Research (CRG), an NGO devoted to independent research, the vision of US foreign policy for the Middle East consisted of creating “an arc of instability, chaos, and violence extending from Lebanon, Palestine, and Syria, to Iraq, the Persian Gulf, Iran, and the borders of NATO-garrisoned Afghanistan,” to bring Washington closer to the borders of the ex-Soviet Republics of Central Asia, known for their strategic location and rich energy reserves.

The report also referred to a relatively unknown map that has been circulating in America’s governing circles since 2006. In his article "Blood Borders: How a Better Middle East Would Look" Lieutenant-Colonel Ralph Peters, a retired member of the top-brass in the US National War Academy, suggested redrawing the borders of the Middle East to solve the region’s problems.

Changing Middle East Map

The document was used in a training program at NATO’s Defense College for senior military officers and drew a lot of criticism from countries whose territories would be annexed if the proposed map were implemented, with some of them even suggesting that the document reflected the plans of US military and intelligence.

But not everyone saw a conspiracy theory behind Washington’s every move. Owen Alterman, an expert on US foreign policy at the INSS told Israel Today that Washington is simply reacting to the constantly changing environment by designing special policies to secure the country’s interests, rather than setting up events that would topple governments. “The days when borders of states were drawn by external powers are over. Washington might use the opportunity to weaken regimes hostile to it and might even have some preferences as to who controls this strategic region but it wouldn’t orchestrate any of the recent developments,” he stressed.

The pundit also explained that due to the high stakes involved, the Obama administration is opting for maintaining good ties with all players in the region, fearing that the new centers of power may turn into more regimes that are hostile to American interests. “Public opinion is important for the US (hence, the US support for the MB in Egypt, and the Syrian opposition) but the US State Department’s official policy is that Syria should stay united, as division would only push the country into an abyss,” he pointed out.

Alterman’s words were echoed by the recent announcement of US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Philip Gordon, stating that Washington “[did] not anticipate the formation of an autonomous Kurdish region in Syria and [did] not support separatism."

Perlov agreed, stressing that the US never favored division. “They might not want to see a partition but reality is always stronger. Realizing that the split is possible, Washington is trying to adjust itself to this kind of scenario, holding talks with parties that could prove beneficial to their interests,” she explained.

Nevertheless, those accusing Washington of plotting to break the Middle East into pieces, said the biting sanctions aimed at tightening the noose around Assad’s neck, coupled with millions of dollars pumped into training, funding, and arming the opposition (either directly or through DC’s regional allies -- something that it has repeatedly denied) was designed to secure Washington’s lucrative oil deals.

In March, in his interview with Moscow-based news channel RT, economic researcher and historian William F. Engdahl -- known for his harsh stance on the involvement of Washington in the events of the Arab Spring -- charged that "the US State Department and the Pentagon are redrawing the map of the Middle East... to control the oil flows to countries like China...".

Indeed, last month one of America’s largest energy corporations, Chevron, sealed a billion dollar deal with the Kurdish government of Iraq, America's staunch ally, gaining an 80% interest in the area's oil production contracts. In October, another energy titan, ExxonMobil, gained access to six exploration blocks on the Kurdish territory, sparking the ire of Iraq's central government, which has been trying to ban companies from dealing directly with the semi-autonomous region.

But Alterman, who has been studying the subject extensively, said Washington is trying to diversify its sources of energy rather than increase its dependency on the region. “Most US energy comes from domestic sources or the Western Hemisphere. Since DC is trying hard to minimize its dependence on energy supplies from the Middle East, I doubt that the issue of oil is central here,” he summed up.

Be sure to check back tomorrow for the third and final part of this story.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Changing Middle East: Revolt Against Artificial Borders - Part I

The Changing Middle East: Revolt Against Artificial Borders - Part I
The Changing Middle East: Revolt Against Artificial Borders - Part I
Several days ago, the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) in Syria announced that it would establish its own militia, the Armed Men of the Muslim Brotherhood, and function independently of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) – the main military rebel movement.

United by a common goal to topple the Assad regime, the two entities seem to have different backers, pursuing conflicting interests. The FSA – consisting mainly of defectors and representatives of various religious groups – is supported by Saudi Arabia, while the new group is funded by Qatar, a country that promotes Islamist regimes.

The fact that there are conflicting parties involved in the civil war comes as no surprise to some experts, who say divisions within the opposition were dictated by the ethnically diverse nature of Syria.

“Syria is a medley of ethnicities, religions, languages and cultures – all living in one place, where every group is competing in a tug of war, trying to promote its own interests,” said Orit Perlov, a researcher with the Institute of National Security Studies (INSS) specializing in the Arab states.

The same pattern holds true for the rest of the Arab world, where different ethnic communities and tribes have been forced to share the same territory despite significant differences. With the eruption of the upheavals that have rocked the Middle East since late 2010, movements have begun resisting the artificially drawn borders – intact since the Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916 – that divided control over the Arab provinces of the ailing Ottoman Empire between Britain, France, and Russia after the conclusion of World War I.

In December 2011, the spokesperson for Syria’s MB, Zuhair Salim, stated that the organization was interested in reviving the caliphate and creating a state for all Muslims of the region. “The hell with Syria and Syrian nationalism!” he was quoted by Kurdish-Iraqi publication Kurdwatch as saying. “How was the modern Syria created? It was sketched by Sykes and Picot… We don’t recognize this agreement!” he added.

Addressing the issue, Reuven Paz, a former head of the research department at Israel’s General Security Service agreed with Salim’s statement, saying that “although the Arab Spring was inspired by social inequality and widespread corruption it was also caused by the desire to scrap the artificial boundaries between states and to establish a more natural territorial division of the Middle East”.

Boasting a crucially strategic location, the Middle East served as a convenient ground for the superpowers to promote their geopolitical and economic interests, where little (or no) heed was paid to the interests, desires, or differences of the affected local communities. “The borders were aimed at securing the world powers’ access to key locations, like the Suez Canal, present day Iran and Iraq, [all of which] led to India, Britain’s former colony,” explained Paz. The pundit also stressed that western involvement in the region has only increased following the discovery of impressive reserves of oil first in Persia (1908) and then Saudi Arabia (1938).

But by fragmenting the region, Paz reasoned, the world powers created mostly failed states, torn by endless wars and conflicts. Each of Israel's neighbors, for example, has had tense relations with a fellow Arab state. Such was the case with Jordan and Saudi Arabia (following King Hussein's pro-Saddam stance in 1991), Syria with Iraq (after Syria sided with Iran during the Iran-Iraq war), Lebanon with Syria (amid the Lebanese civil war), among other instances. The absence of close economic relations, the expansionist ambitions of certain regional leaders, and frequent territorial disputes aggravated the situation even further, leaving the region in a perpetual state of tension and conflict.

“Even though there were attempts to unite the peoples under various ideological concepts, including socialism, communism, nationalism, Pan Arabism, all of them failed – although strong armies and powerful leaders (read dictators) did serve as connecting elements,” stated Paz, stressing that only religion was able to bring a sense of unity and belonging.

Yet, in a pluralistic country like Syria, the possibility of religious unity is unlikely. Out of the country’s 22.5 million people, some 74% are Sunni Muslims (with at least 40% belonging to the MB). Other Muslim sects like Druze, Alawis and Kurds make up 16% of the population, whereas Christians of various denominations comprise 10%.

This is part one of a three-part story. Check back tomorrow for part two of this important report.

Netanyahu Welcomes New Anglo Immigrants

Netanyahu Welcomes New Anglo Immigrants

JERUSALEM, Israel -- "Welcome to Israel. Welcome home," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told 350 Americans and Canadians upon their arrival at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion International Airport Tuesday morning.

Nefesh b'Nefesh (soul to soul), an organization that has helped 33,000 North American and British Jews make aliyah (immigrate to Israel under the Law of Return) in the past decade, organized the welcome home ceremony. The Law of Return allows any person with at least one Jewish grandparent to become a citizen of the Jewish state.

Israel's newest citizens, among them five sets of twins and two sets of triplets, came despite the growing threat from a nuclear Iran and the Islamic takeover in Egypt, Israel's first peace partner, and a civil war in Syria on Israel's northern border.

Natan Sharansky, chairman of The Jewish Agency, and Immigrant Absorption Minister Sofa Landver were among the Israeli officials on hand to greet the new immigrants, including 127 young people who will soon be serving in the Israel Defense Forces.

Speaking first in Hebrew and then English, Netanyahu told the new recruits that serving in the Israel Defense Forces is "a great privilege."

"Each of the 350 people who have made aliyah today have decided to link their personal future with the future of the Jewish state and the Jewish people. But you've decided to do something else. You've decided to defend the Jewish future.

"And to have the opportunity to do so is a great privilege. It wasn't accorded to previous generations of Jews. In previous times, for almost two millennia, the Jews could not defend themselves. This is the great transformation that occurred in our time -- that we can regain our destiny and defend our future -- and this is a privilege that you have now decided to practice personally, thereby altering your lives and the Jewish future as well," the prime minister said.

Anti-Semitic assaults have not disappeared, Netanyahu said. "On the contrary, there is a rise of a new anti-Semitism."

"As the Jewish state progresses and rises, so does anti-Semitism, but it changes form and we see today a virulent attack on the Jewish people -- a virulent new form of anti-Semitism.

"And we need to defend ourselves against that and those who give it intellectual support. This is a job that we all have to do, but the most important job is to defend the Jewish state. This we are doing -- this you are doing. And I'm proud of you. I think the whole people are proud of you. The friends of Israel, Jews and non-Jews alike are proud of you," he said.

"Welcome to Israel. Welcome home!"

Monday, August 13, 2012

Road to Congress is Through Jerusalem

Road to Congress is Through Jerusalem

The road to Congress may run through Jerusalem, where a stop in the Israeli capital appears to be a "must do" on the campaign trail.
By Hezki Ezra and Chana Ya'ar
First Publish: 8/13/2012

MK Danny Danon
MK Danny Danon

The road to Congress may run through Jerusalem, where a stop in the Israeli capital appears to be a "must do" on the campaign trail in this year's United States national elections.

World Likud chairman MK Danny Danon has recently received dozens of requests from U.S. Congressional candidates to come to Israel as part of their campaign strategy.

"Members of Congress and various candidates build their entire campaigns around support for Israel,” Danon contends. “This is a positive trend that can contribute greatly to the State of Israel.”
During their visits, Congressional members meet with Danon, take a tour of Jerusalem and the Western Wall, and in addition receive a briefing as part of an extensive tour of the so-called “West Bank” area.

"Judea and Samaria are part of Israel, and Jerusalem is the capital of Israel,” visitors are told by Danon at the start of their visit.

U.S. Representatives Joe Walsh and Allen West are both expected for visits to Israel in the near future.

GOP Congressional candidate Daniel Halloran met Monday with Danon in Jerusalem, where they discussed the status of Israel's capital city and relations between the two countries. Among other issues, Halloran expressed support for the report by Edmund Levy regarding the legal status of land and the right of Jews to build homes in Judea and Samaria. "I read the report and I support it,” said Halloran.


Sunday, August 12, 2012

Jerusalem of Gold: Jewish-American medalist Aly Raisman accepts invite to Israel

Jerusalem of Gold: Raisman accepts invite to Israel

Exclusive: Jewish-American medalist Aly Raisman tells minister she and her family will make their first Israel visit.

US Gymnast Raisman wins gold medal
Photo: reuters

When American sports superstars celebrate victory, they traditionally go to Disneyland. But gold-medal winning gymnast Aly Raisman will celebrate in Jerusalem after she told Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein on Friday that she would accept his invitation to her and her family to make their first visit to Israel.
In a phone conversation facilitated by US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro, Raisman told Edelstein that she was really happy to be invited and she would decide with her family when would be the best time to come.

Raisman, 18, became a household name worldwide last week when she performed her floor routine to the tune of “Hava Nagila,” making her the first US woman to win gold in that event. She won another gold medal for the performance of the US women’s gymnastics team she captained and a bronze in the balance-beam competition.

When asked why she chose to perform to “Hava Nagila,” she said she was proud to be Jewish and she wanted to represent her heritage at the Olympics. She said that while she did not choose the song in honor of the 11 Israeli sportsmen who were murdered at the Munich Olympics in 1972, she dedicated her medals to them and she would have stood for a moment of silence in their memory had the International Olympic Committee accepted requests for such a gesture.

“Having that floor music wasn’t intentional,” Raisman said in a New York Post cover story under the banner headline “Star of David.”

“The fact it was on the 40th anniversary is special, and winning the gold today means a lot to me. If there had been a moment’s silence, I would have supported it and respected it.”

Edelstein wrote Raisman an impassioned letter congratulating her for her victories and for giving Americans yet another reason to be proud. In the letter, which was obtained exclusively by The Jerusalem Post, Edelstein said Israelis were moved by her performance and her recent statements.

“I am sure you know that beyond your wonderful personal achievement, you also brought great pride to millions of Jews in Israel and around the world,” Edelstein wrote. “For me personally, as the minister in charge of relations with Diaspora Jewry, hearing why you chose the song made me realize that the concept of Kol Israel Arevim Zeh Lazeh [All Jews are responsible for one another] still holds true and that the Jewish people remain united no matter how far apart we may live. I was impressed that someone so young made such a monumental, ethical decision.”

Edelstein invited not only the 18-year-old gymnast, but also her parents, Lynn and Rick, her younger siblings Brett, Chloe, and Madison, as his guests.

“Making your first visit to Israel is not only important because it is the homeland of the Jewish people but also because you can contribute from your experience to the young generation of Israeli athletes,” wrote Edelstein, who has won international competitions in boxing and table tennis.
There have been calls from Israeli politicians this week to do more to prepare the country’s athletes for international competitions.

Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat announced Wednesday that she would appoint a team of experts to examine why Israel did not win a medal for the first time in a Summer Olympics since Seoul in 1988.

Edelstein’s ministry was in touch with the US Embassy in Tel Aviv and Raisman’s synagogue in Newton, Massachusetts, to make sure she received the invitation.

US Ambassador Dan Shapiro tweeted congratulations to Raisman in Hebrew.“I am so proud of the American gymnast Aly Raisman,” Shapiro wrote. “She won the floor exercise and immediately dedicated her medal to the Israelis murdered in Munich. What an impressive decision.”

Raisman’s rabbi, Keith Stern of the Reform Temple Beth Avodah, said her family was not particularly observant, but very proudly Jewish.

“I’ve known Aly since she started pre-school here at my temple,” Stern told The Jerusalem Post. “She has always been a sweet, kind, dedicated girl. To see her dancing and tumbling to “Hava Nagila“ was overwhelming.

That a young Jewish-American girl would proudly and yes, courageously perform to what even most non-Jews know to be an Israeli folk song on the international stage was inspiring. That she did it 40 years after Munich is a proclamation of Jewish strength and pride and determination. I will never forget it.”

Alex Levin paintings - Israeli artist

About Alex

Alex Levin comes from Kiev, capital of Ukraine, where he was born in 1975 and later on attended Art Academy, which he graduated with honors.

 In 1990 Alex Levin immigrated to Israel, where he continues to live in a city of Herzeliya.
With most productive and hectic schedule, Alex Levin finds additional time to grow as an artist and studies new techniques with Professor Baruch Elron who was the Chairman of Israel Artist Association.

The main painting styles are Surrealism and Realism.
Featuring a range of works in oil, acrylic, pencil, charcoal and tempera paints.

Artworks of Alex Levin admired worldwide and were purchased for numerous private, corporate and institutional collections in the United States of America, Israel, France, Italy, Ukraine, Switzerland and Belgium. A young artist, who just have turned thirty years old, was directly acknowledged by many influential figures including actor and producer Richard Gere, Madonna, Canadian Jazz player Oscar Peterson and former president of Israel Ezer Weizman.

Practicing the original manner of 16th century technique, which happens to be multilayered use of tempera and oil (no brush strokes).

After serving 3 years in Israel Army, in 1997 entered the industrial and web design program which was a great benefit for his art work.

Currently working on 2 themes: "Tradition of Jewish Heritage" and "Venice through the mask's eyes".

Tradition of Jewish Heritage is a collection of work of Jerusalem's holy Western Wall and it's surrounding religious neighborhood by Alex Levin, one of Israel's most talented and youngest celebrated artist. Through the strokes of his brush, Alex has captured the inhabitants of Jerusalem's ultra orthodox neighborhood of Mea Shearim, Jewish Attributes and people at the Western Wall, one of Judaism most holy places.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Ryan comes out swinging as Romney VP pick

Ryan comes out swinging as Romney VP pick, condemns Obama 'record of failure'

"We can turn this thing around," Ryan vowed, as he and Romney joined for the first time as the official 2012 Republican ticket.

The Wisconsin congressman, to the backdrop of retired battleship USS Wisconsin, gave a feisty opening speech -- setting the tone for the Romney-Ryan bus tour that's next on the agenda, and the race going forward. Dutifully promoting the top of the ticket, Ryan touted Romney as the solution to the economic problems under Obama.

Met with chants of "USA, USA" from a riled-up crowd in Virginia, Ryan spoke broadly about the virtues of free enterprise and specifically about America's economic woes, all laced with pointed attacks on the White House incumbent. Though Ryan's reputation is that of a reserved and wonkish pol, his break-out speech as running mate signaled he'll be playing offense for Romney quite frequently.

Ryan accused the Obama team of being "more worried about their next election than they are about the next generation." He blamed Obama's "misguided policies" for the economic rut the country's been stuck in.

"No one disputes that President Obama inherited a difficult situation. And, in his first two years, with his party in complete control of Washington, he passed nearly every item on his agenda. But that didn't make things better," Ryan said. "In fact, we find ourselves in a nation facing debt, doubt and despair. ...

"Whatever the explanations, whatever the excuses, this is a record of failure."

Ryan may continue pushing for a version of the budget proposal he reintroduced earlier this year. That proposal would overhaul Medicare and Medicaid and make other sweeping changes that Democrats have labeled as extreme. But Ryan has stuck by his proposal as the solution to an ever-growing deficit inflamed by out-of-control entitlement spending.

In a dose of the tough-love approach Ryan's become known for, he said: "We promise equal opportunity, not equal outcomes."

The Republican presidential candidate called his new running mate a man of "steadiness" and "integrity" as he introduced him. Speaking Saturday morning, Romney praised Ryan as an "intellectual leader" of the party, one who understands the toll the debt is taking on the country but is optimistic about the future.

"He doesn't demonize his opponents. He understands that honorable people can have honest differences and he appeals to the better angels of our nature," Romney said. "He's never been content to just curse the darkness. He'd rather light candles."

Romney initially fumbled his introduction of Ryan. In the closing line of his remarks, he referred to Ryan as the "next president." Romney quickly returned to the podium to correct himself.

The selection comes roughly two weeks before the start of the Republican National Convention in Tampa, and gives Romney plenty of space to rally the party behind his pick before the official nomination.
The announcement comes as some polls, including a recent Fox News survey, show the Republican presidential candidate losing some ground to President Obama.

Ryan, 42, already considered a rising star in the Republican Party, is chairman of the House Budget Committee. He's been in Congress since 1999 and is best known this session for his controversial budget plan that includes an overhaul of Medicare.