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Israel Trip 2015 Tag

On May 25, 2015, I reported on my visit to Ziv Hospital in Safed (Tsvat), Israel, where people injured in the Syrian conflict were being given medical care, Meet an Israeli Doctor Saving Syrian Lives and Limbs:
Ziv has received some publicity the past two years for its treatment of Syrians. While some of the Syrians seeking help are not direct casualties of the fighting, such as expectant mothers, almost all have traumatic wounds as a result of the war. Almost all of them are men of fighting age, but it is a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy as far as the hospital goes. The decision whether to admit people into the country for medical treatment, whether to treat them at the border, and whether to transport them to a place like Ziv is a decision made by the military. When the military does bring a wounded person to Ziv, the person is treated as any other patient.... A total of 490 Syrians have been treated at Ziv, under a status of “humanitarian life saving aid.” They are not treated as refugees under this status. Nintey percent are males, 17 percent have been children, and on one day in February 2013, 7 patients arrived in a single day.
[caption id="attachment_128518" align="alignnone" width="600"]Safed Rivka Ziv Medical Center Emergency Entrance [Ziv Hospital, Safed, Israel][/caption] These treatments are not sitting well with Israel's 130,000 person Druze community, particularly on the Golan Heights, out of concern for attacks on Druze in Syria by al-Qaeda linked groups. The concern is that the over 700,000 Druze in Syria, who have stayed out of the fighting but also have been protected by the Syrian government, will be slaughtered by Jihadis.

On a windswept hillside terrace in the massive Har HaMenuchot Cemetery on the western edge of Jerusalem, 1969 terror victims Edward Joffe and Leon ("Arie") Kanner are buried together, next to Edward's parents Roslyn and Hyman Joffe. The cemetery itself reflects the history of the conflict. Har HaMenuchot was opened in 1951, after Jordanian troops seized "East" Jerusalem after Israel declared Independence in 1948. Jordan's conquest included not only the Jewish Quarter of the Old City but also the Mount of Olives Cemetery, the traditional Jewish burial ground. The Jewish Quarter was ethnically cleansed of Jews and its Jewish landmarks, while Mount of Olives Cemetery was ransacked, its tombstones used for building projects and many of its graves paved over for roads. Har HaMenuchot was built in response. [caption id="attachment_130311" align="alignnone" width="600"]Har HaMenuchot Cemetery Jerusalem [Har HaMenuchot Cemetery, Jerusalem][/caption]  My wife and I visited the Joffe and Kanner graves at Har HaMenuchot on June 1, 2015. [Featured Image] The cemetery is so huge, so seemingly discombobulated, so logistically impenetrable even when armed with plot and section numbers, that it took us almost an hour to find the graves.  We were accompanied by a local Rabbi who helped us say prayers. We placed small stones on the graves, in the Jewish tradition. And we were overcome with emotion. The inscriptions on the graves are simple, and nearly identical. Edward's brother Harold provided the translation: [caption id="attachment_130324" align="alignnone" width="600"][Edward Joffe and Leon Kanner Headstones] [Edward Joffe and Leon Kanner Headstones][/caption]

My wife and I are back, after an intense two weeks in Israel. From the Lebanese to Gaza borders, from the Mediterranean Sea to Judea and Samaria, from the cool evenings of Jerusalem to the heat of the Negev Desert, from an apartment in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem to Bedouin villages in the north and south, from university campuses to military bases, from faculty to students, from Jews to Muslims ... I can't say we saw it all, but we saw a lot. I've documented most of our big events in daily posts, with the exception of our emotional meetings with the families of Edward Joffe and Leon Kanner, students killed in the 1969 Supersol supermarket bombing by Rasmea Odeh; that post is coming, but I still have new photos, documents and information I have to work through. Here are my 5 Big Takeaways from the trip:

1. Our Revenge Is That "We Are Still Here"

Near the start of our trip, we visited Moshav Avivim on the Lebanese border, where we met Shimon Biton, a survivor of the 1970 bazooka attack on a school bus by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Biton, who was six and one-half years old, lost his father in the attack, and himself was shot point blank range by the terrorists when they realized he survived the bazooka attack.  Ten days before we met Biton, he was reunited for the first time in 45 years with the nurse who helped save him.  (Featured Image)

On June 12, 2014, a terror cell affiliated with Hamas kidnapped Naftali Fraenkel (16), Gilad Shaer (16), and Eyal Yifrah (19) in the West Bank. After an intensive hunt and crackdown on Hamas throughout the West Bank, they were found dead. The murderers months later were located and killed by Israeli forces. Contrary to popular mythology, the kidnapping did not cause Israel to attack Gaza weeks later. Rather, the cause of the Gaza conflict was when Hamas started firing rockets from Gaza at Israel without stop. While driving on the way back from Hebron, I saw a sign (Featured Image), designating a forest in the memory of the three teens. It is at the Gush Etzion junction in an area of settlements near where the teens were abducted. The visit to Hebron was quite interesting. Hebron had the oldest continuous Jewish community in the world -- dating back several hundred years -- until Arab riots in 1929 killed 67 Hebron Jews and ethnically cleansed Jews from the city.

Problems between the Bedouins in the Negev desert area in the south of Israel and the government over redevelopment plans have received a lot of media attention, including at Legal Insurrection: As with every problem in Israel, there are dozens of Israeli and international "human rights" groups seeking to exploit the issue for a greater purpose unrelated to actually helping the Bedouin. So the media narrative is spun as the bad Jews trying to steal land. The Israeli side of the story rarely is told in the media. In part that reflects media bias, in part that Israel is not very good at getting its story out. So during our trip to the south of the country, we met with and toured the area with a local official from the Israeli government ministry which is handling Bedouin redevelopment issues. The official spoke Arabic fluently and was intimately familiar with the Bedouin tribes and culture. (We also were accompanied by our Negev guide, Danny Kella, who also guided us along the Gaza border.) Negev Bedouin Rahat Regional Satellite Map The official was frank in his assessments.  He acknowledged that there are real problems and that the situation has not been handled as well as it should have been. But he also felt that a lot of the problems had causes on each side of the equation and was misrepresented in the media.

On Sunday, May 31, 2015, I reported from Sderot, Israel, on the history of rocket and mortar fire from Gaza, and the extensive preparation of bomb shelters and emergency protocols: Israelis shelter in place near Gaza. This week Israel is in a nationwide drill, testing sirens that will warn of incoming missiles and rockets. The drills have been implemented on the assumption that Hezbollah, Syria, and Hamas will be able to fire thousands per day. Today two sirens were sounded. I was in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City when the 7:05 p.m. (local) siren sounded: Speaking of the Jewish Quarter, the historical truth of the illegal conquest by Jordan and subsequent ethic cleansing of Jews is long down the memory hole. But there is a sign to remind people:

Our journey off the usual tourist trail through Israel continued today with a visit to border areas near Gaza. Sderot is famous for being the closest Israeli town to Gaza, and the first and most frequent target. The Sderot Media Center has a wealth of information. Sderot Satellite Map North Gaza Because Sderot is so close, the town has only 15 seconds warning once a launch is detected. This video is from 2008: There are bomb shelters everywhere, including on the street (see Featured Image - "Shalom" painted on a bomb shelter) and in the playground, where the bomb shelter is in the form of a large caterpillar so as to make it more welcoming to children.

In 2013, I traveled extensively in Samaria. You can find photos and description of that travel here, To Samaria and back. On Friday, May 29, 2015, I traveled to Mount Gerizim and the Samaritan community, on a high peak in Samaria. Mount Gerizim Map Road Mount Gerizim overlooks the city of Nablus and the Balata refugee camp, and contains ancient ruins of the original Samaritans (the Islamic style dome is not part of the original ruins): [caption id="attachment_129103" align="alignnone" width="600"][Mount Gerizim Samaritan Ruins - Dome Not Original] [Mount Gerizim Samaritan Ruins - Dome Not Original][/caption]Mount Gerizim - Samaritan Ruins overlooking Nablus and Balata Refugee Camp Amid conflict, Samaritans keep unique identity (CNN 2002):

Ah, the beach in Tel Aviv. The Featured Image shows the view north from in front of my hotel. There is a huge amount of construction going on up and down the beach -- luxury hotels and residence buildings. The building on the far right in the Featured Image is the U.S. Embassy. That's right, the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv is beachfront on the most prized section in Tel Aviv. U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv Beach Satellite

That's Legal Insurrection reader Joel E. who lives in a town near Tel Aviv, and reached out to me when he read I was heading for Israel. The featured image is us at a really good falafel place near the beach. I also saw Legal Insurrection favorite and sometimes contributor "Anne in Petah Tikva" and her husband.  Except that night, she was "Anne in Tel Aviv." William Jacobson and Anne in Petah Tikva It's a tough life, but someone has to live it.

Continuing on my tour in northern Israel, on May 27, 2015, I visited the Bedouin village of Khawaled led by our guide Hassan Khawaled. Hassan Khawaled Most of the people in the village have the village name as a last name, or a variant, such as the first Israeli Bedouin diplomat Ishmael Khaldi, who is from the village. Khawaled is east of Haifa, in the Galilee region. Khawaled Village Northern Israel Map The Bedouin are Arab Muslims with a unique culture. Most Israeli Bedouins live in the south of the country in the Negev region, but there is a sizable presence in the Galilee. The Israeli Bedouin are not obligated to serve in the Israeli Defense Forces, but many volunteer to do so. Bedouin have achieved great success in the IDF, and are particularly known as trackers at the borders.

On Tuesday, May 25, 2015, we continued our tour of northern Israel along the Lebanese border, stopping at Moshav Avivim. While our discovery of a memorial to the victims of the Haifa Bus 37 suicide bombing and our visit to Ziv Hospital in Safed, and its Syrian patients, were unexpected, our visit to the Moshav was even more emotional and full of surprises - Revenge and Reunion. We met with Shimon Biton, the Secretary of the Moshav.  (Our excellent guide, Udi Guberman, provided translation, as Shimon does not speak English.) [caption id="attachment_128643" align="alignnone" width="550"][Shimon Biton, Moshav Avivim, Israel] [Shimon Biton, Moshav Avivim, Israel][/caption]A Moshav is a type of collective farming community where homes are owned individually and owners are allotted separate plots of land, but the community shares in certain expenses and resources. (Unlike a classic kibbutz, where all the property is communal.) There currently are 120 families in the Moshav, 480 people. There are plans to expand to add at least another 50 families, and the demand outpaces available spots. Moshav Avivim sits along the Lebanese border, just south of Bint Jbeil and Maroun Al-Ras.

Yesterday I reported on the Haifa Bus 37 suicide bombing in 2003, and how I stumbled on the Memorial during my first full day in Haifa. Today was a travel day that took us even further north, to the Lebanese border. I'll have a report in the next couple of days on the extraordinary story of a child survivor of another bus bombing, and the unexpected recent twist in his life some 45 years later. Now I report on a different aspect of terror, and the extraordinary Israeli humanitarian effort. I traveled to the Ziv Medical Center in Safed (Zefat), Israel. Ziv is the major trauma center serving the northestern part of the country from the Upper Gallile to the Golan Heights. Safed Rivka Ziv Medical Center Regional Map Because Ziv is only 11 kilometers from Lebanon, Ziv was targeted by Hezbollah rockets during the 2006 Lebanon War. It has undergone, and still is undergoing, a process of creating reinforced operating room theaters and patient facilities to protect against future rocket attacks.

In Israel, you are never far away from terror or the memory of terror. I learned that by chance tonight. We arrived in Israel late afternoon yesterday, May 23, 2015.  Today was planned as a rest day to try to adjust to the 7-hour time difference. From the airport we headed directly for Haifa, the northernmost big city in Israel, with a population just under 300,000.  It is a very mixed city, both ethnically and religiously. Haifa Country Satellite Map We started the day with the classic Israeli Shakshuka breakfast at the Villa Carmel, where we are staying:

I'm leaving Friday for a two week Apology Tour to Israel. I will deliver the speech referenced in the link, possibly. I hope I don't violate the Logan Act. I'll start in Haifa and northern Israel, where I'll be a guest at the University of Haifa Law School and will travel up the coast and then to towns and places of interest along the Lebanese border. After that it's down to Tel Aviv, then to the South along the coast to Sderot, and the areas bordering Gaza. After a visit with faculty at Ben Gurion University of the Negev, it's to Jerusalem, where I'll be staying in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City. Along the way, I'll focus on meeting people, not just visiting places. Among others, I'll visit with the families of Edward Joffe and Leon Kanner, killed in the terrorist bombing by Rasmea Odeh of the SuperSol Supermarket in Jerusalem in 1969. I'll also see many of the bloggers we link to, and many others with whom I've become acquainted online over the past couple of years. Building relationships and strengthening ties is what The Apology Tour is all about. It's not actually about the apology. As I did in 2013, I'll be posting at Legal Insurrection about some of the places and people I'll meet, but I'll also do shorter, less formal daily updates at Morning Insurrection, so be sure to subscribe. What can you expect from my reports?

I just booked my plane tickets to visit Israel in May. Maybe I'll call it an Apology Tour. I'll let Israelis know that the current administration, with its childish chickens**t taunting treatment of Israel, does not represent the American people, who overwhelmingly support Israel. (Will this violate the Logan Act?) Fortunately, I have the speech already written for me:
In recent years we've allowed our Alliance to drift. I know that there have been honest disagreements over policy, but we also know that there's something more that has crept into our relationship. In America, there's a failure to appreciate [Israeli's] leading role in the world. Instead of celebrating your dynamic [nation] and seeking to partner with you to meet common challenges, there have been times where America has shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive.