The video that perfectly captures why so many people call Israel their Home
Israel has always been the Jewish Homeland, but for centuries the dream of living here was just that, a dream. Join us in celebrating Israel’s 69th year of independence, together with the millions of Jews for whom Israel is home. Happy Independence Day, Israel – Yom Ha’Atzmaut Sameach!
Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Message on Israel’s 69th Independence Day
מטס יום העצמאות 2017 Israel Independence Day Airshow
Remembering and celebrating
People came out in droves across the country on Tuesday to beaches, parks and any patch of open space they could find to mark the country’s 69th Independence Day.
Thousands took to the coast’s beaches to watch the cross-country flyover of military jets and helicopters. The annual holiday favorite also saw three of Israel’s newest fighter jets, the F-35 “Adir” stealth planes, considered to be the most advanced plane in the world, partake for the first time.
In Jerusalem, President Reuven Rivlin hosted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot in honoring 121 soldiers who received commendations for excellence.
Of the recipients, 71 were men and 50 were women; 11 were lone soldiers; five were soldiers who volunteered for military service; 19 were officers; and 67 were in combat units.
Israel launched its Independence Day celebrations with the annual torch-lighting ceremony on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem Monday night with the theme being the liberation and reunification of Jerusalem.
Taking advantage of ideal weather conditions and sunshine, some 550,000 people took to the outdoors for hikes, barbecues and time with their families. About 300,000 travelers visited Israel Nature and Parks Authority nature reserves and national parks, while about 250,000 people came to Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael- Jewish National Fund forests and parks, the organizations reported.
Celebrating Independence day with flags and barbecue in Jerusalem’s Sacher Park.
In particular, people flocked to Ashkelon National Park, Ein Hemed National Park, Mekorot Hayarkon National Park, Eshkol National Park, Palmahim National Park and Nahal Alexander- Beit Yannai National Park, the INPA said. Among the most frequented KKL-JNF sites were the Carmel forests, Haruvit Forest, Hulda Forest, Givat Koah Forest, Rosh Haayin Forest, Shoham Park, Mishmar Ayalon Forest, Ben Shemen Forest and Canada Park, according to forester reports.
The celebrations followed a day of grief in which the country honored the 23,544 fallen soldiers and victims of terrorism for Remembrance Day, with hundreds of thousands gathering in military cemeteries across the country. Rivlin, Netanyahu, Eisenkot, Supreme Court Chief Justice Miriam Naor and bereaved families of fallen soldiers and terrorism victims gathered for the official state memorial service at Mount Herzl.
Dror, the brother-in-law of Sgt. Yosef Kirma who was killed in a terrorist attack in Jerusalem in October told The Jerusalem Post he had come with his friends to pay respects to a hero.
Kirma, a member of the elite police reconnaissance unit Yasam, was killed in a shootout while trying to charge a Palestinian terrorist who had opened fire on Israelis near a light-rail train station in Ammunition Hill killing Levana Malichi. Serving with the Israel Police for four years, he was responsible for foiling a terrorist attack at a kindergarten in Jerusalem the previous December.
Wearing a shirt with a picture of Kirma sitting on his motorcycle, Dror said: “This year, holds a new meaning compared to previous years. This year, it’s personal. It hurts so much more.”
Liberman paid tribute to the fallen at Tel Aviv’s Kiryat Shaul Military Cemetery saying the loss of soldiers in battle was the price the Jewish people have paid to be “masters of their own fate” in Israel.
“Generation after generation we are forced, time after time, to accompany to their rest the best of our sons and daughters, our young and talented, the salt of the earth,” he said, adding, “the passing of time does not dull the pain, but only strengthens the recognition of the magnitude of loss.”
Echoing statements by Netanyahu and Rivlin, Liberman said Israel continues to work for the return of soldiers who went missing in action.
Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben-Dahan, who paid tribute to the fallen at the Ramle Military Cemetery, said if it were not for those who fell in battle, the Jewish people would not be an independent people in the State of Israel.
“Today, and every day of the year, we must remember the heroism of the fallen. The fallen were not bloodthirsty and were not eager to fight. They placed the common good, the welfare of the people above and beyond their own desires.
They sacrificed themselves so that we would live in the State of Israel as a proud people in our land which we returned to after 2,000 years of exile,” he said. (Jerusalem Post)
Israeli and Jewish officials slam UNESCO for passing ‘antisemitic’ resolution
Israeli and Jewish officials on Tuesday reacted with outrage following UNESCO’s 22-10 vote that approved a resolution rejecting Israel’s sovereignty in its capital of Jerusalem.
Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, was one of the first to issue an indignant statement, saying that “this distorted decision and the attempts to undermine the connection between Israel and Jerusalem will not change the fact that Jerusalem is the Jewish people’s eternal capital.”
Danon also stressed that Israel was not going to be passive facing such a move at the UN, adding that “Israel will not carry on silently facing this shameful decision.”
Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid was even more derisive in his critique of the UNESCO resolution, saying that the decision to pass it was “baseless and antisemitic.”
Noting the timing of the resolution’s passing, Lapid said that “no one, not even an organization such as UNESCO, can rewrite the Jewish history. Especially not on the day that Israel celebrates 69 years of independence as a democratic and strong country.”
“This is a disgraceful attempt to rewrite history as part of an ongoing political campaign against the State of Israel and the Jewish people. Today we saw again how a line of representatives at the UN give in to the antisemitic campaign led by anti-Israel organizations instead of going after the truth.”
Other politicians protested the fact that the Jewish people’s connection to Jerusalem was undeniably strong and that the country and its capital could not be disjoined. “UNESCO should learn from past mistakes and not question the God-given command that Israel and Jerusalem its capital belong and are sacred to the people of Israel,” said MK Ayoub Kara (Likud).
American Jewish organizations also blasted the resolution, pointing an accusatory finger at the Palestinians for using international forums to bash Israel.
“The Palestinian leadership and their allies have consistently abused UNESCO as a forum to censure Israel, including on Israel’s Independence Day today,” CEO of the American Jewish Committee David Harris said in a statement released shortly after the vote.
“It’s a tragedy that the Palestinian Authority (PA) and several Arab countries have sought for a long time to exploit this body to castigate Israel and deny self-evident historical truths in the process,” Harris, who met last week with Italy’s foreign minister as part of AJC’s outreach to UNESCO members in advance of the vote, added.
The resolution comes a year after the UN agency adopted another resolution whose language ignored all Jewish ties to Temple Mount and the Western Wall area in Jerusalem’s Old City.
Tuesday’s 22-10 vote, however was not seen as a diplomatic failure by Israeli officials, who pointed out that the number of countries who supported Israel or abstained was a “significant victory” as it is the first time that such an initiative at UNESCO has had this little support.
Harris pointed out that UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, was originally established as a non-political body to promote these fields all over the world and the Palestinian “misguided strategy” undermines the agency’s mission.
He also praised the 10 countries who voted against the text for “asserting moral leadership” in rejecting what he described as a “malicious Arab-sponsored resolution.” They include the United States, Germany, Greece, Italy, Lithuania, Paraguay, Netherlands, Togo, Ukraine and the United Kingdom.
The Anti-Defamation League joined AJC in applauding the 10 countries.
Speaking out against the resolution, which he called “defamatory and problematic in the extreme”, CEO of the ADL Jonathan A. Greenblatt also acknowledged “an improvement”.
“The final vote shows the majority of member countries did not vote affirmatively for this resolution,”, adding that he believes “the vote reflects member states’ unease with the biased and undue focus on Israel.”
“Such unbalanced resolutions only sow distrust in the reliability and fairness of international institutions,” he continued.
Roz Rothstein, CEO of the Organization StandWithUs, which aims to educate about Israel, described Tuesday’s move as “yet another political assault on the legitimacy of Israel’s presence in its own capital city, and will only serve to fuel further conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.”
“UNESCO should focus on its mission and stop allowing itself to be used as a pawn by anti-Israel governments, Rothstein continued.
Jewish groups had already called on members of UNESCO’s Executive Board to vote against the text earlier this week.
Among them, the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations pointed out that had it targeted any country in the world other than Israel, the resolution would “never see the light of day.”
“UNESCO’s actions regarding Jerusalem and other holy sites are an affront to all who want to see meaningful peace negotiations and continue to deny thousands of years of Jewish and Christian history and tradition,” the group stated. (Jerusalem Post)
Jewish teen killed after attempting to stab officer at Jerusalem checkpoint
A 19-year-old Jewish male from the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Pisgat Ze’ev was shot and killed at Hizma checkpoint, north of the capital, by Border Police Wednesday afternoon after allegedly brandishing a knife and attempting to stab an officer.
According to Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld, the attempted attack took place at approximately 3:30 p.m.
“The suspect arrived at the checkpoint with a silver knife in his hand and approached the officers and then attempted to stab one of them,” said Rosenfeld, noting that the officer was not harmed. “They responded by opening fire on the suspect, who was critically wounded.
“What we know right now is that the suspect is from Jerusalem and that he was heading to the Hizma area towards Judea and Samaria.”
Rosenfeld said the unidentified suspect did not speak during the thwarted attack.
It was reported that the 19-year-old left a suicide note, expressing frustration with his drug addiction. (Jerusalem Post)
Trump says he will launch new Middle East peace process
The United States is launching a new diplomatic effort to reach a comprehensive peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians, US President Donald Trump said on Wednesday, hosting Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at the White House.
Reminding Abbas he had signed the 1993 Oslo Accord in Washington – the first diplomatic framework for Israeli-Palestinian peace – Trump said that he was impressed by the ability of Israeli and Palestinian security forces to work together, and expressed hope that he could finally broker the toughest deal of them all.
“We’ll start a process which hopefully will lead to peace,” Trump said in the Roosevelt Room. “Over the course of my lifetime, I’ve always heard that perhaps the toughest deal to make is the deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Let’s see if we can prove them wrong.”
The president said that peace required Palestinian leadership to speak with a united voice against incitement: “There’s such hatred,” he charged. But he made no specific asks of Abbas in public.
“We want to create peace between Israel and the Palestinians,” Trump said. “We will get it done. We will be working so hard to get it done. It’s been a long time, but we will be working diligently– and I think there’s a very, very good chance, and I think you feel the same way.”
Abbas said he looked forward to working with Trump in order to “come to that deal, to that historical agreement to bring about peace.” But he laid out familiar terms that have become increasingly unpalatable for Israelis: A sovereign state with its capital in east Jerusalem, and its borders based on lines dating back before the 1967 war.
“It’s about time for Israel to end its occupation of our people and our land,” Abbas said. “We are coming into a new opportunity, a new horizon, that would enable us to bring about peace.”
Abbas also expressed confidence that the fate of Palestinian refugees and of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails will be resolved based on “existing international laws and agreements.” For years, PA leadership has demanded a right to return for Palestinians displaced by the creation of Israel– a nonstarter for the Israelis– and that Israel release Palestinians convicted of murder and terrorism, which they believe amount to political indictments.
Trump hosted Abbas privately in the Oval Office before the two men opened the meeting to their staffs. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, White House chief of staff Reince Priebus and senior advisor Jared Kushner were in attendance.
The new president has consulted with several leaders from the Arab world in recent weeks, hoping that a regional approach will increase his odds of success in rebooting the Middle East peace process. When he hosted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in February, Trump emphasized his deep interest in brokering a comprehensive peace accord and called on his government to “hold back” for the time being on its settlement construction in the West Bank.
Trump had wanted to similarly pressure Abbas, but faced political hurdles: The PA leader is grappling with a crisis at home over a hunger strike among Palestinians imprisoned in Israeli jails for murder and terrorism.
Over their working lunch, Trump told Abbas he believed that that forging Middle East peace “maybe not as difficult as people have thought over the years.”
“We need two willing parties,” Trump said. “We believe Israel is willing. We believe you’re willing.”
The president’s national security advisor and his deputy, H. R. McMaster and Dina Powell, joined the lunch, as well as his top economic advisor, Gary Cohn.
“There are a number of positive conditions in place,” Tillerson said. “I know under your leadership that we hope good things will happen.”
Hamas, the main rival to Abbas’s Fatah party, said it rejects the Palestinian Authority president’s statements soon after the press conference concluded.
“No one authorized Mahmoud Abbas to represent the Palestinian people and everything that he issued in terms of positions are not binding,” Hamas Spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri posted on Twitter.
Abu Zuhri added that Abbas’s comment that all final status issues can be resolved is unacceptable.
“These national Palestinian rights belong to the Palestinian people and no one has the right to relinquish them,” he stated.
After this paragraph: Immediately after their statements, one of Abbas’ former advisers, Diana Buttu, expressed skepticism on Twitter over the point of the summit: “Abbas will get nothing from this meeting,” she wrote.
Republicans hoped Trump would ask Abbas to end a compensation program for the families of those prisoners– a move that would demonstrate Abbas’ political will and his ability to proceed with a genuine peace process. But the hunger strike complicates Abbas’ ability to comply, Palestinian experts say.
Immediately after their statements, one of Abbas’ former advisers, Diana Buttu, expressed skepticism on Twitter over the point of the summit: “Abbas will get nothing from this meeting,” she wrote.
A reception in Abbas’ honor will take place across town on Wednesday evening. Several Washington guests are scheduled to attend, including the leadership of J Street, an American Jewish group that lobbies in favor of a two-state solution.
Abbas spoke in Arabic during his joint statement with Trump, but he offered one sentence in English at the end.
“Now, Mr. President, with you we have hope,” he said, turning to face the president.
The Prime Minister’s Office had no immediate reaction to the Trump Abbas statements. But Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely immediately dismissed Trump’s announcement of a new peace process.
“Abu Mazen arrived in Washington as he continues to transfers money to the families of terrorists. Its’ clear to anyone who is intelligent that Abu Mazen isn’t interested in peace,” Hotovely said. Those payments along with the incitement in the Palestinian textbooks prove that he is not interested in striking a deal with Israel, she added.
She also took issue with Abbas’ call to end the occupation. “The nation of Israel isn’t an occupier in its land. We have been deeply rooted to our land for 3,000 years and we will continue to settle the land,” she said.
MK Omar Bar-Lev (Zionist Union) immediately offered Netanyahu the support of his party from the opposition for any measures he would need to take to move forward with the new peace process.
MK Eral Margalit (Labor) called on the Left-wing camp in Israel to put forward its own initiative to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict rather than waiting for Trump to be its “messiah.”
US special envoy Jason Greenblatt is expected to update Communications Tzahi HaNegbi about the Abbas-Trump meeting on Thursday in Brussels, according to Channel 2.
The two men plan to attend the annual spring meeting of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee hosted by European Union foreign envoy Federica Mogherini and chaired by Norwegian Foreign Minister Borge Brende. There will also be Palestinian and United Nations representation at the meeting, which coordinates donor funding to the PA. (Jerusalem Post)
Pence: Trump giving ‘serious consideration‘ to embassy move
US Vice President Mike Pence said Tuesday that the White House was continuing to give “serious consideration” to moving the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Speaking at an Israeli Independence Day event at the Indian Tea Room in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in the US capital, Pence said the White House “as we speak, is giving serious consideration to moving the American embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem,” a statement he did not elaborate on but which garnered sustained applause from the several dozen guests.
Trump pledged during his campaign to move the embassy to Jerusalem, but as president he’s distanced himself away from the vow while saying it’s still under discussion. Like most countries, the US maintains its embassy in Tel Aviv because Israelis and Palestinians have competing claims to Jerusalem. Israel considers Jerusalem its undivided capital but Palestinians seek East Jerusalem for the capital of a future state.
Among the attendees at Tuesday’s event were US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, Israeli Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, Utah Senator Orrin Hatch, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Florida), and White House aide Sebastian Gorka, who is said to be leaving the White House amid controversy surrounding his alleged ties to a Hungarian anti-Semitic group.
The vice president, who was introduced by Friedman, said he wished a happy independence day to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the phone earlier Tuesday, calling Israel’s foundation in 1948 “nothing short of a miracle.”
“The people of Israel have turned hope into a future of security and prosperity,” he said.
Pence said that “under President Donald Trump, let me assure you this, if the world knows nothing else, the world will know this — America stands with Israel. Her cause is our cause. Her values are our values. Her fight is our fight.”
Hailing the “deep alliance” between the US and Israel, Pence said Trump “stands without apology for Israel, and he always will, adding that “the best days for Israel and for America are yet to come.”
Vice President Mike Pence, right, is introduced to speak by US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, left, in the Indian Treaty Room in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House complex in Washington, Tuesday, May 2, 2017, during a ceremony commemorating Israeli Independence Day. (AP/Susan Walsh)
Vice President Mike Pence, right, is introduced to speak by US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, left, in the Indian Treaty Room in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House complex in Washington, Tuesday, May 2, 2017, during a ceremony commemorating Israeli Independence Day. (AP/Susan Walsh)
Friedman said that Tuesday’s event was the first time in recent memory “that the White House has hosted a reception commemorating Israel Independence Day,” calling Pence “a beacon of moral clarity, and a shining example of honor and decency” and a “champion of Israel.”
Dermer said Pence has shown friendship to Israel “throughout his public life” and thanked the vice president and the president “for this profound expression of friendship.”
In his speech, Pence spoke of Iran and of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying Trump was “personally committed to resolving the Israeli and Palestinian conflict” and is “making valuable progress” toward that goal.
Referring to the administration’s recent efforts led by special adviser Jason Greenblatt to restart peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians, Pence said that “while there undoubtedly will have to be compromises, you can rest assured, President Trump will never compromise the safety and security of the Jewish state of Israel.”
The remarks came a day ahead of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s visit to the White House on Wednesday.
Trump is expected to visit Israel toward the end of May.
Under Trump, Pence said, “the United States of America will not allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon,” adding that “this administration has put Iran on notice.”
“America has a leader who will call our enemies by their name. ISIS [the Islamic State] is on the run and we will hunt down and destroy terrorist organizations at their source,” he said.
Separately, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also offered his congratulations, on behalf of Trump, “to all Israelis as you celebrate your 69th Independence Day.
“The partnership between our two countries built on our shared values has advanced the cause of human freedom, dignity and peace. As Israel has endured and flourished over nearly seven decades despite unfathomable challenges, so too has the unbreakable bond between our two nations,” he said in a statement.
Tillerson said the US was looking forward “to even further strengthening a partnership that has long contributed to our mutual security and prosperity.”
“I wish the people of Israel a Yom Ha’atzmaut sameach [a happy independence day],” he said. (the Times of Israel)
The Truth About the Palestinian Hunger Strike
by Gilad Erdan The New York Times
Democracies around the world are searching for ways to protect their citizens from the threat of terrorism. As Israel’s public security minister, I hardly go a week without a foreign official turning to me to learn from our experience. For better or worse, the thousands of attacks carried out by Palestinian terrorists against Israel have made my country a world expert in combating this threat.
As a result of its counterterrorism operations, Israel now holds 6,177 terrorism-related prisoners. Many of these prisoners were involved in the wave of violence initiated in September 2000 under Yasir Arafat, the Palestinian leader at the time, following his rejection of an American-Israeli peace offer. The terrorist campaign that began then has so far led to the murder of some 1,300 Israelis — mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, children of every faith and background.
Of the 6,177 security prisoners, about 1,200 have recently begun a hunger strike. The strike leader is Marwan Barghouti, who was behind several deadly attacks.
Since his arrest in 2002, Mr. Barghouti has become adept at rebranding Palestinian terrorism as legitimate “resistance” and casting himself as a “moderate.” (Palestinian groups like to use language calibrated to make their actions more palatable to Westerners: Incarcerated terrorists are called “political prisoners,” and cold-blooded attacks against civilians in restaurants and buses are whitewashed as a “struggle for freedom.”) He would prefer that his Western audiences not know that he was convicted of ordering or approving three attacks that cost the lives of five people. These victims, Jewish, Christian and Druze, were simply going about their daily lives, sitting in a Tel Aviv restaurant, driving along a road, pulling into a gas station. Mr. Barghouti denies the charges but, saying he doesn’t recognize Israeli courts, declined to defend himself.
Mr. Barghouti would like his audience to believe that the hunger strike is a reaction to the mistreatment of prisoners like him. In fact, it has nothing to do with their conditions, which meet international standards. This is reflected in the list of demands presented by Mr. Barghouti to the Israel Prison Service: the option to obtain university degrees, more family visits, access to more television channels, public telephones and private doctors.
Continue reading the main story
The true motivation behind this strike is political jockeying. From prison Mr. Barghouti has become a major player in Palestinian politics, releasing regular statements on Palestinian affairs and backing candidates in elections. He is now involved in the infighting over who will succeed Mahmoud Abbas, the aging president of the Palestinian Authority and leader of the Fatah party.
Mr. Barghouti seems to hope that being chosen to succeed Mr. Abbas will lead to his release from prison. But he faces competition from several rivals and recently failed to secure a senior position in a round of political appointments of Fatah leadership. The hunger strike is another step in his campaign to position himself as Mr. Abbas’s successor. The political nature of the strike is a main reason the leaders of Fatah’s rival, Hamas, have not backed the strike.
Fortunately, it appears that in capitals from London to Paris to Berlin to Washington there is less patience for attempts to rebrand and justify terrorism, and a greater awareness of the need to take a strong stance against violence and incitement. As I was told recently by the ambassador of a northern European country facing a growing terrorist threat, “Now we get you.”
Israel will not give in to extortion. The conditions and regulations in Israel’s prison system are determined according to Israeli law and international standards, not by pressure tactics. Surrendering to such a strike would constitute a surrender to terrorism and would only embolden terrorist groups, weaken our deterrence and lead to further conflict and bloodshed.
Instead, we are working with our partners and allies to address the factors that sustain and encourage terrorism. We believe that the international community must insist that the Palestinian Authority immediately cease its widespread incitement to violence. While some Israeli-Palestinian security cooperation exists, the Palestinian Authority plays a central role in fueling the epidemic of “lone wolf” attacks on Israelis.
The Palestinian Authority must also stop the most insidious form of encouragement to violence: payments to convicted terrorists and their families. The authority has enacted official legislation guaranteeing monthly stipends to every incarcerated terrorist and their families. The worse the attack and the longer the sentence, the higher the payout.
Because the Palestinian Authority’s budget depends heavily on foreign aid, these payments are, for all intents and purposes, paid by the taxpayers in the countries of foreign funders. While the Palestinians seem to have engaged in accounting tricks to blur the money trail — the money has now been funneled through the Palestine Liberation Organization — the billions of dollars in international aid enable the authority to continue lining the terrorists’ pockets with cash. Both politicians and ordinary citizens must demand an end to this gross abuse of international funds.
This is one of the most important lessons of the Israeli experience in fighting terrorism. While disrupting terrorist activity, we must also work together to combat the incitement that drives it. When Palestinian leaders cease to glorify terrorists and reward violence, security prisoners will become a thing of the past, and a viable peace will become the hope for the future.
Gilad Erdan is Israel’s minister of public security and strategic affairs.
Why this Filipina is fighting for Israel
By Andrew Tobin JTA
Joana Chris Arpon
Staff Sgt. Joana Chris Arpon on Israeli soldiers saving her grandmother in the Philippines: “I was like, “Whoa, that’s what I want to do.”
Staff. Sgt. Joana Chris Arpon isn’t Israeli, or even Jewish. Her service in the Israel Defense Forces is personal.
Arpon, 20, is the daughter of Filipino parents who came to Israel to find work. She said she enlisted as a combat soldier because an Israeli army team rescued her grandmother in the aftermath of the 2013 typhoon that devastated the Philippines.
“It was amazing to see the soldiers show up and help people. They saved my grandmother when her house was destroyed,” Arpon said. “I was like, “Whoa, that’s what I want to do.’”
On Tuesday, Israel’s 69th Independence Day, Arpon will be one of 120 soldiers recognized by Israel’s president for distinguished service. Later this year, Arpon and her mother will be granted Israeli citizenship thanks partly to her time in the army.
Born in Israel, Arpon always felt like part of the Jewish state. While many Filipinos live clustered in Israel’s big cities, her mother raised her and her older brother in the small town of Mishmar Hashiva, in central Israel. At their high school in nearby Rishon Lezion, they were the only Filipino students.
Arpon’s mother immigrated to Israel in 1988 to work as a nanny, and stayed to raise her children even after her husband left. The vast majority of the some 31,000 Filipinos who live in Israel are female caregivers.
As a rule, Filipinos are only allowed to live in Israel as temporary workers. But Arpon and her brother are among the hundreds of Filipino children the government has granted permanent residency, along with their immediate family members. After the children serve in the army, their families qualify for citizenship.
Arpon long knew she would follow in the footsteps of her brother, who served as a paramedic and is now a citizen. But it was only recently that she decided she wanted to be a combat soldier. Only about 7 percent of Israeli combat soldiers are women, though that number is growing despite opposition from some Orthodox Jews and others.
In November 2013, Typhoon Haiyan made landfall in the Philippines with record-breaking force. At least 6,300 people were killed, and tens of thousands lost their homes, including Arpon’s grandmother.
A few months later, Arpon flew with her family to the country to visit her grandmother in the hospital. Israel had sent soldiers and other emergency responders to help, and Arpon learned that its army’s Search and Rescue Unit had helped save her grandmother from her destroyed home.
“People said without the Israeli soldiers, they weren’t sure they would have survived,” Arpon said. “I realized that I wanted to be part of this unit, and definitely this country.”
When Arpon returned to Israel, she fought to enlist in the army as a non-citizen and was granted her preferred placement — in the Search and Rescue Unit. Over the past 2 1/2 years, she has served in bases across the country and responded to domestic disasters, including the wildfires that ravaged Israel in November and the Tel Aviv parking garage that collapsed in September, killing three.
Arpon said she did not know why she was being honored Tuesday from among “so many people with amazing stories.” But she said her mother and brother were proud of her, and would be on hand for the event. She said, too, that her grandmother, who died recently, likely would have approved of her plans for after she finishes her army service in November and becomes a citizen.
After the army, Arpon wants to study architecture — and design houses that will stand in any weather.
“I’m really glad I chose this type of service, where I was able to help the country that helped me,” Arpon said. “I see my future in Israel.”