Ein Gedi Botanic Garden

Ein Gedi Botanic Garden
Seek the serenity of a Judean Desert sky in Autumn at the Ein Gedi Botanic Garden

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

International Black Comedy Hour

July 23, 2014 - I heard a British-accented female voice announce on the radio this morning that Israeli actions in Gaza “may constitute a war crime.”

Actually, I thought I was mistaken because I had not yet had my morning coffee. But then I heard the same sound bite again an hour later in the next newscast.

It was our very good friend, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Madame Navi Pillay, saying that Israel “may have” committed war crimes in Gaza and determining that an investigation into every single questionable incident would have to be carried out.

Here’s the text of her statement, in full:

“As we speak, the indiscriminate firing of Hamas and other armed groups of more than 2,900 rockets as well as mortars from Gaza continues to endanger the lives of civilians in Israel. I have repeatedly condemned such indiscriminate attacks in the past.  I do so again today. 

“I further emphasize that it is unacceptable to locate military assets in densely populated areas or to launch attacks from such areas. 

“However, international law is clear. The actions of one party do not absolve the other party of the need to respect its obligations under international law.  

"My staff are continuing to document several other cases in which family residences were destroyed with the reported loss of civilian life and in which preliminary indications suggest not even a single member of an armed group was present. 

“Then just two days ago on 21 July, shells hit the Al Aqsa Hospital in Dir Al Bala reportedly killing at least three people and wounding dozens of others including doctors. 

“These are just a few instances where there seems to be a strong possibility that international humanitarian law has been violated in a manner that could amount to war crimes. 

"Every one of these incidents must be properly and independently investigated.”  (bold and italics mine)

First of all, I get it. She's on a witch hunt.  She even says so. That's not new. She also omits the fact that her staff is "documenting" the evidence from one side only, and the staff doing the "documenting" is biased, representing a massive conflict of interest. She also fails to mention that the hospital in question was evacuated and the area was designated as a closed military zone. Shocking.

No mention of the terrorist attacks on Israeli communities in sovereign Israeli territory. No mention of the incessant shelling of Israeli villages, towns and cities, homes damaged, entire families traumatized for life.

No mention of the dozens of incidents of destruction of ‘family residences destroyed’ in Israel, all without ‘even a single member of an armed group present’ because everyone in the family was hiding in a bomb shelter as the rockets were raining down.

No mention of the cross-border invasion by Hamas terrorists into Israeli territory.

No mention of the unprovoked kidnapping and murders of the three Israeli teenagers by Hamas terrorists that ignited this entire nightmare in the first place.

No mention of the thousands of flyers dropped by the IDF days in advance warning Gaza residents to leave the areas they plan to attack, the phone calls to their homes and the SMS text messages, all in Arabic, all of which also warns the enemy as well – all in order to prevent civilian deaths.

No mention of the fact that UNRWA – the United Nations’ own Relief and Works Agency, has so far been caught twice during routine inspections with two of its own schools in Gaza being used as storage facilities for terrorist missiles, most recently Tuesday 22 July.  In both cases, UNRWA chose to hand over the lethal ordnance to the Hamas terrorist organization that began this conflict and which repeatedly refuses to end it with a cease fire agreement.  


But that is no surprise, because Ms. Pillay leads a U.N. agency that from the outset aims primarily to condemn Israel above any other member nation in the world body.

I wondered how long it would take before she would come to hunt down Israel.  I doubt she’ll convince Judge Goldstone to do her dirty work this time, however, and I wonder whether her agency is even relevant at this point.

In any case, the U.N. will require Israel’s cooperation in any so-called “investigation” of military events in Gaza; and the current government is not one led by eternally guilt-ridden, self-hating Jews. Not this time.

And given that even liberal Tzipi Livni has called the UN Human Rights Council an “anti-Israel” body – I doubt Madame Pillay has much hope of doing damage this time.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

How to Get Rid of a Terrorist Tunnel

July 22, 2014 - IDF soldiers are encountering an annoying number of terrorist tunnels in their efforts to reach and destroy the weapons being aimed at Israel's civilians.

But Israeli soldiers have not become discouraged by this obstacle, nor are they alarmed. They are simply eliminating the problem. Behold.


Hamas Terrorists Tunneling Their Way to 'Glory'

July 22, 2014 - Several years ago, an Al Jazeera journalist did a feature on the 'Marhabetuna' tunneling unit of the Izz a-Din al-Qassam military wing of the Hamas terrorist organization, 'exposing for the first time ever' detailed visuals of the group's underground operations. 

The piece, originally filmed in 2009, has been resurrected in light of the current conflict and the group's use of those tunnels in its guerrilla warfare against Israel.


The greatest advantage of the tunnels, he points out, is that "they will help members of the resistance in Gaza to carry out missions and attacks far away from the danger of Israeli air strikes. The tunnels have served as a powerful weapon," he adds, noting they were used in 2006 during the kidnapping of then-IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, "and to fire rockets on Tel Aviv and other Israeli cities during the most recent war in Gaza."

The tunnels were also used during Operation Pillar of Defense, he reported, showing images of missiles being fired from concealed rocket launches inside the earth. 

Yesterday, seven IDF soldiers from the Golani Brigade died and two others were badly wounded while preventing a massacre at two kibbutzim near the Gaza border just after dawn. An eighth soldier miraculously survived unharmed. (A number of others died in action inside Gaza, most from the Golani Brigade.)

An IAF pilot spotted two squads of Hamas terrorists erupting from two separate tunnels at a spot along the border between the two kibbutzim. But they hesitated to fire upon them, because all were dressed in IDF uniforms, right down to the regulation footwear. 

An IDF ground force led by the Gefen Battalion engaged the terrorists instead, who fired at troops in two military vehicles. The lead vehicle, which carried a senior officer and several others, sustained a direct hit by an anti-tank missile. All four men died instantly. Soldiers poured out of an Israeli APC (armored personnel carrier). The Hamas operatives were heavily armed; they fired a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) at the soldiers and then a second anti-tank missile at the APC. 

The lone soldier who stayed behind in the APC somehow managed to escape at the very last instant, racing away as the vehicle was hit and exploded in flames.

Once a definite identification was made and pilots were able to confirm the difference between their own men and the terrorists, the IAF launched an air strike to prevent the terrorists from escaping into a nearby tunnel. Israeli missile fire combined with gunfire from ground forces eventually eliminated all 10 terrorists in the savage and bloody battle.

There have been many so far in this war, quite a few caused by terrorists emerging from tunnels in Israeli territory. But one particularly savage battle took place inside Gaza, in the neighborhood of Sejaiya, in Gaza City. That one was due to Hamas placement of concealed rocket launchers under numerous civilian buildings, including mosques, schools, private homes and children's playgrounds. 

Hamas orders to Gaza residents to remain in those places as human shields in order to deter Israeli soldiers from attacking the launchers and the terrorists didn't work this time, as upsetting as it was to the soldiers forced to fire. The civilians were warned three days in advance, with flyers dropped on their neighborhood, with phone calls to their homes and via SMS text messages transmitted to their cell phones. All messages conveyed the same warning: "Please leave the area because Israel is going to attack and we would like you to be safe and out of harm's way." The residents know where to go and how to get there. That information is conveyed to them; UNRWA schools are neutral ground as they are well aware.

Actually, NOT so neutral these days: 20 missiles were "discovered" by international staff at an UNRWA school accidentally during a routine inspection of the facility in the town of Rafah, on the Gaza border with Egypt. 

UNRWA -- the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, funded with tax dollars from the United States, among other nations -- promptly handed the missiles over to the Hamas terrorist organization.

Not so neutral after all and probably a war crime, committed by the very entity that sets the standard.

So much for unity of nations.  Unity against Israel, I guess.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Operation ‘Benny’s Summer Camp’ on Israel Army Radio

July 15, 2014 - It begins with the baritone voice of Benny Bashan, murmuring into the microphone, quietly, leisurely singing, “Oseh shalom bimromav.... Hu ya’aseh shalom alenu...”

“He who makes peace in the Heavens, He will bestow peace upon us . . .” The ancient Biblical passage is also part of a Jewish prayer recited several times a day.

The noisy, chaotic reporting that characterizes Israeli radio coverage of the missile fire to this point in the day stops still. You can tell that his mike placement is deliberate, and he is crooning as close to the mike as he dares to, without popping the consonants... it’s a canned intro but effective.

The ‘straight man’ side of his team consists of a woman and a second male who changes from time to time.  They chat easily, comfortably, and accept phone calls from listeners across the life span.

He always plays music – now he’s playing Song of Freedom, a reggae tune by the eminent Bob Marley.  Even English-speaking listeners can relate and slowly learn their Hebrew this way. 

A fourth voice – also female – has been breaking in to warn listeners whenever a Color Red rocket alert siren is activated in the various regions around the country. She always repeats the announcement twice, and never hesitates to interrupt his broadcast no matter what is happening -- even if there’s a newscast.

Yesterday Benny took calls from little kids and praised them for finding creative ways to cope with their enforced imprisonment at home, when instead they wanted to be playing at camp outside or at a park. And he took calls from adults and seniors, coaxing them to hum a few bars of the national anthem, HaTikvah – ‘The Hope’ – with him on the air. Several began to weep, the stress and rage and despair finally breaking through their bravado; his goal had been to relieve that, of course, and he wished each one well, with deep compassion, kindness and fellowship flowing through his voice.

It is for this that radio was created, and in such circumstances little can replace it. 

In radio, it is crucial to know how to use one’s voice to its fullest potential if one is to convey a message accurately – let alone, to do it effectively. Understanding and learning how to do that ultimately becomes an art form. 

Benny Bashan is one of the artists of ‘Tzuk Eitan’ – Operation Protective Edge – Israel’s military operation in the current conflict.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

The Media Missile War

July 9, 2014 - As wars go, this one's been pretty weird so far.

Last night I was lying in bed trying to rid myself of excess adrenalin, unable to disengage from flying missiles zipping through my mind.

It seems many people were having the same problem – thousands were tuned in to Israeli radio, wondering what was going on.

Fortunately Israel’s radio personalities are always up to the task. They are able to balance entertainment with information, humor with gravity and constant interruptions of the Color Red rocket alert warnings with equanimity.

Just before falling asleep, I could hear them describing the latest missile barrage. It involved an attack that reached farther north than ever before – apparently Hamas was trying for Haifa – but “of course they didn’t reach it this time,” they commented casually.

The terrorists had launched their latest missile, the 120-kilogram, Syrian-made M302, a gift received courtesy of the Iranians via Sudan. The M302 reportedly has a range of approximately 100 kilometers – around 62-65 miles. 

The radio personalities then started discussing the various missiles currently in the Hamas arsenal and which ones had been fired where in the past several minutes. It sounded a lot like the running commentary at a soccer game.

They quoted the Hamas terrorist spokesman, who had issued an official statement describing the group’s newest missile and all its great features and how it can reach such-and-such a range, and go this far into Israel . . . and then they returned to debating the merits of the terrorist group’s latest acquisition and whether or not it could actually reach Haifa. 

I fell asleep to the sounds of an old 60's rock tune they spun sometime after that.

My kid informed me this morning that she’s going to a beach party tonight down at the Dead Sea. My son still thinks he is going to a party in Tel Aviv. Another daughter has already left for a wedding in Jerusalem.

“If we stop living and living the life that we normally do then they will have already won,” my younger daughter told me.

“It is a risk to go (to a scheduled event in nearby Be’er Sheva) but I am going anyway because we are beating them by living our normal lives. By going to my bagrut and going about my normal affairs I have already won.”

Of course, the folks who schedule that high school final may decide they cannot hold the exam anyway. But that doesn't make my kid any less of a winner.

Monday, July 07, 2014

The Stupidity of Fake Calls to Police and ‘Crying Wolf’

July 7, 2014 - When I was a child my parents read me the story of ‘The Boy Who Cried Wolf.’  Most children who grow up in the United States – at least those who are not Chassidic and probably those who are not Litvish – are exposed to this story, which is not a Jewish tale.

It is the story of a boy who used to pretend he was being attacked by a wolf, and would cry out, “Wolf!” and everyone would run to save him. Except that people became so used to the sight of finding him laughing when they came running that they no longer paid attention to his antics. Of course, the day finally came when he actually was attacked by a wolf – only by then no one responded to his cries, and the boy was torn apart and died.

A pretty grim tale, right?


What a pity that Israeli parents have never read it to their children, and the lesson obviously was never learned in any other way. Israel Police have been the unwilling recipients of hundreds of false alarms and fake distress calls over the years.

One would think that since the June 12 terrorist kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens in Gush Etzion, this phenomenon would have stopped rather abruptly, no?  Sadly, it has not.

Memorial in front of Arad central post office for Eyal Yifrach, 19, Naftali Frenkel, 16, and Gilad Shayer, 16, kidnapped in Gush Etzion and murdered by Hamas terrorists on June 12, 2014.  Photo: Hana Levi Julian
In fact, according to Israel Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld police still receive as many as 10 to 12 fake “kidnapping” calls per day.  Each time, the police dispatcher is forced to determine whether or not the call is a “possible” incident, one that must be acted on swiftly, without any delay.

Today that happened and for hours helicopters were in the sky, IDF soldiers were out on roadblocks and police officers were out there searching -- even though there was no hard evidence that any child was missing. Police cannot take a chance, Rosenfeld said.

All this took place because one child told his father – who was conscientious enough to call police – reporting that he had seen another boy with a kipa being taken by two strange men into a car in the middle of Modi’in.  

Seven hours later, police finally were able to halt the search, at last sure there weren’t any parents that had missed a child, that none were believed to be visiting with a friend after camp or school but instead were gone. 

Case closed, thank G-d. This time.

Guide to Targeted Southern Israeli Regional Councils

July 7, 2014 - It’s amazing to hear just how much Israeli radio personalities can talk without saying one blessed thing.

In the space of an entire four-hour shift, for instance, the only bit of substance I actually heard today was a casual mention that there had been a Color Red alert in such-and-such regional council district, and that this kind of thing really does affect all of us no matter where it is. Period.

Incidentally, the impact of the rocket attacks now reaches from one end of the country to the other because at this point, the Arab violence on the ground has already spread. No part of the country is immune.

The Syrians have fired a few mortar shells across the border at Israelis in the Golan Heights to express their solidarity with Arabs further south.  

Israeli Arabs are very busy doing the same – well, not with mortars because after all, they don’t have those yet -- but certainly with whatever they can get their hands on. Rocks, boulders, cinder blocks, firebombs (Molotov cocktails to readers in the United States), burning tires (wow, those really stink) and you name it, they seem to have it.

And they hurl it at us, and at our moving vehicles, whether buses or private cars. Even the Bedouin in the northeastern Negev are joining in, for the first time since the last intifada, as a matter of fact: police were forced to shut down the major artery leading from Arad to Be’er Sheva last night, Route 31, thanks to road terror attacks by Bedouin rock attacks. They were hurling rocks and cinder blocks all along the road from the Bedouin town of Hura, and around Kuseifa, all the way up to the outskirts of Arad.  Many of the Bedouin residents in those two town are intermarried with Palestinian Authority Arabs in Hebron. One can see the impact of that influence; it is also a known fact there are terrorist cells in both towns.

In nearly every bit of local news coverage here in Israel, one also knows eventually when or where the rockets or mortar shells explode. They do not yet reach to the eastern Negev. But the western Negev has long been a target. 

“Color Red siren activated in XXX Regional Council district....” etc.

But most folks outside of those districts have no idea which towns or villages are actually located within those regional councils the Gaza terrorists love to hit.

So here’s a quick primer to enlighten the uneducated.

Eshkol Regional Council

Located in the northwestern Negev, this district is located midway between the coastal port city of Ashkelon and the ‘capital city of the Negev,’ Be’er Sheva. To its west is Gaza and to its east is the Bnei Shimon Regional Council.

There are 11 kibbutzim in Eshkol: Be’eri, Ein HaShlosha, Gvulot, Magen, Nir Oz, Nir Yitzchak, Nirim, Holit, Kerem Shalom, Kissufim and Re’im.  

In addition, 10 moshavim are located within the district: Amioz, Ein HaBesor, Dekel, Mivtahim, Ohad, Peri Gan, Sde Nitzan, Sde Avraham, Talmei Eliyahu and Talmei Yosef. 

Three other communities make their home in Eshkol as well: Avshalom, Tzochar and Shlomit.

Hof Ashkelon Regional Council

The Ashkelon Coastal Regional Council is located in Israel’s southern district, bordered to the north by the Be’er Tuvia Regional Council. On its long eastern border, the Be’er Tuvia, Lakhish, Shafir and Yoav Regional Councils are located, and it is bounded on the south by the Sha’ar HaNegev Regional Council and by Gaza. To its west, the city of Ashkelon and the sparkling Mediterranean Sea. 

This regional council covers five kibbutzim, 11 moshavim, two villages and a youth village. They include the following:

Kibbutzim: Gevaram, Karmiya, Nitzanim, Yad Mordechai (producer of famed jams, jellies and olive oil), Zikim

Moshavim: Beit Shikma, Berechiya, Ge’a, Heletz, Hodia, Kochav Michael, Mashen, Mavki’im, Nir Yisrael, Netiv Ha’asara, Talmei Yafeh

Villages: Bat Hadar, Nitzan
Youth Village: Kfar Silver

Sdot Negev Regional Council

Formerly known as the Azata Regional Council, this district is located in the northwestern Negev. 

Located within this district is the city of Netivot, home to the tomb of the famed Moroccan Sephardic kabbalist, Rabbi Israel Abuhatzeira, the Baba Sali. Approximately 26,750 residents live in the city.

Other communities located in this district include two kibbutzim:  Kibbutz Sa’ad and Kibbutz Alumim; 12 moshavim: Beit HaGadi, Givolim, Kfar Maimon, Mlilot, Sharsheret, Shibolim, Shokeda, Shuva, Tkuma, Yoshivia, Zru’a and Zimrat; and two villages: Magalim and Tushia.

Sha’ar HaNegev Regional Council

This district is also located in the northwestern Negev, bounded on the west by Gaza and on the east by the Bnei Shimon Regional Council. More than 6,000 people live in the district.

Within this district lies the famed city of Sderot, which is located barely one mile from the border with Gaza. The city, which hosts Sapir College, has been pummeled unmercifully by rocket attacks from that region since Israel’s 2005 Disengagement from Gaza.

Sha’ar HaNegev (Hebrew for Gate to the Negev) is also home to 10 kibbutzim and one moshav. Kibbutzim Bror Hayil, Dorot, Erez, Gavem, Kfar Aza, Mefalsim, Nahal Oz, Nir Am, Or HaNer and Ruhama; and Moshav Yachini.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

It's Never That Simple.

July 1, 2014 - Within hours after the discovery of the bodies of the three Israeli teens kidnapped by Arab terrorists on June 12, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spoke to the people of Israel in a voice nearly choked with rage. His grief palpable, Netanyahu declared Monday night the Hamas terrorist organization was responsible for the cold-blooded murders of Eyal Yifrach, 19, Naftali Frenkel, 16, and Gilad Shayer, 16 -- and that Hamas would pay.

The bodies of the boys were found by volunteer civilian searchers working together with the Israeli army in a cave situated in a field near the Palestinian Authority Arab village of Halul, just north of Hevron off Highway 60.

Arabs in the area hurled rocks and paint at the IDF Humvee ambulance that came to carry the bodies of the boys out of the field and away from the area. The attackers smashed the windshield of the vehicle and managed to blind one of the windows with white paint, but failed to stop the soldiers from driving the ambulance out with its precious passengers.

The attack -- similar to the road terror that characterizes other attempts at murder along Highway 60 -- failed to discourage any other Jews from gathering on the roadside later on. 

Hundreds appeared within the hour to create an impromptu memorial to the three boys at the side of the road near the site where their bodies were found.

Further north, at the Gush Etzion junction where the boys last were seen hitchhiking home to their families for the Sabbath on the night of June 12, another crowd gathered for a vigil.

In Tel Aviv's Rabin Square, hundreds more showed up to do the same.

But while the families of the boys and Jews around the world were mourning, and world leaders were issuing statements of condemnation about the terrible crime that was committed, Israeli leaders were debating how to respond.

Israel faces a real dilemma.

The scourge of Hamas, which has infiltrated Judea and Samaria from Gaza over the past decade really must be eliminated; that much is true. But putting that genie back into the bottle will not be so simple, and certainly destroying the bottle is out of the question. 

If you destroy that bottle, what will you have instead -- Al Qaeda? Hezbollah? Better to deal with the devil you know, no? In any case, Hamas has been doing business with Israel in one form or another, unstated or not, for years. The Egyptians are old hands in handling that particular genie.

Part of the problem in the past few years seems to have been the untimely intervention of Turkey's prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who apparently does not know when it's best to simply step back and relax. Another, similar problem has been the equally unfortunate prediliction of the United States to do the same.

Timing is everything. Ask Hezbollah; that is a group that has mastered the technique. Generously funded and backed by Iran, Hezbollah tentacles reach almost everywhere. There are Iranian proxies -- Hezbollah-linked groups -- today in Syria, Iraq, the Sinai Peninsula, Gaza, and Judea and Samaria. Even Mexico, for that matter. 

One of the biggest problems in Gaza is the struggle for control over the region. Hamas is losing its grip there. Instead, the new contenders are Iran and the Al Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and al-Shams (or Syria) (ISIS), also known as the Islamic State of Iraq in the Levant (ISIL). 

This week ISIS declared its new name to be the "Islamic State" and claimed itself to now be the new global caliphate, demanding the allegiance of all Muslims around the world. While eating up territory in Iraq and Syria, ISIS has been moving at lightning speed towards Jordan and threatening Iran.

Oh yes -- and keeping the home fires burning in Gaza, of course. More than a few ISIS operatives were waving their black flags at last Friday's funeral for two terrorists who were killed in an IAF surgical air strike in Gaza. Just a reminder to let folks know that they're still present and accounted for, ready to face Israel -- and Hamas -- when the time is right. (No, this is not a tangent. You'll see.)

Perhaps Hamas decided that it had to prove that it still "had the right stuff" to face such a threat, and had to show off a little of its macho terrorist muscle in order to win back the admiration of the people.

Perhaps Hamas decided to team up with Hezbollah and maybe the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC), another allied terrorist group it's worked with before, notably on the 2006 abduction of former IDF soldier Gilad Shalit. 

Perhaps this time Hamas took advantage of its new-found access to Judea and Samaria, acquired thanks to the recent Palestinian Authority unity deal with Fatah's Ramallah-based government.

Perhaps a Hamas-Hezbollah-PRC coalition went on a mission to prove its 'derring-do' by kidnapping three Israeli teens deep within Area C -- an area under the complete security control of the Israeli government -- on the night of June 12.

Hamas agents might hang on to hostages and keep them alive, but Hezbollah terrorists don't. It's not their style. Nor do they shout or offer information. And the PRC is generally only involved in management and strategy -- they don't dirty their hands in operational details. Of the three possible members in such a team, it's a two-to-one vote against keeping hostages alive.

Of the three groups that posted messages claiming responsibility for the kidnapping in the past 18 days, none were Hamas, though in the past the group was certainly proud of its attack record on the missile front. 

One message, posted initially, was immediately proved to be a red herring: it was alleged to be from Fatah's Al Aqsa Martyr's Brigades.  A second was from another fake group. The third and final message, posted in Arabic late last week, was from a Gaza-based group allied with Hezbollah. It was not reported in Israeli media, with one exception, and reported in Arabic only in Gaza.

Meanwhile, a wealthy Hamas fundraiser who spends most of his time in Turkey, with a home north of Ramallah (no longer existent due to an IDF wrecking crew), has been spending a lot of his money on funding agents to attempt kidnappings this year in Israel. More than 60 attempts were foiled by Israeli security forces, in fact -- many financed by this individual. 

It would not surprise me at all if this man meets with Iranian agents up there in Turkey, and if he also arranges training for his Hamas operatives with Iranian proxies -- maybe with Hezbollah experts, for instance. That would make sense, right? 

Follow the money. It's always been the logical course when trying to figure out the pieces of the puzzle. Follow the money and it will lead to the rest of the answers one seeks -- like who killed Eyal, Naftali and Gilad, and why.

And maybe, just maybe, what to do about it.