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Latest News in Israel – 12th May

Choosing life in the face of terrorism

Natan Meir, whose wife Dafna was stabbed to death in a January terrorist attack outside the family home’s front door in Otniel with their children watching, says he nevertheless “chooses life.”

He made the remark at a Remembrance Day event in Jerusalem, hosted Monday evening by the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews attended by some 50 families of terrorism victims who were wounded or murdered since the beginning of the current wave of violence and who have received guidance and assistance from the fellowship.

“It is the most difficult of all for us, the bereaved families,” Meir said. “The challenge is to choose life, and for this my children and I try to wake up every morning, even when we don’t want to – to choose life, this is our right and our duty, and we thank all those who help us in this path,” he said addressing the other bereaved families.

Ofer Cohen, the father of Border Policewoman Hadar Cohen, who was killed in a terrorist attack at Damascus Gate in Jerusalem in February, said he couldn’t believe that on Remembrance Day he would “speak as a father of a girl who gave her life for the state.”

“Today, when I know the details of the attack, I understand that I raised a unique soul. My daughter Hadar killed the terrorist while saving lives. The embrace of the people of Israel helps us to cope with this difficult situation – I won’t lie, we have no comfort in the face of the huge void left by Hadar, she was a fighter for the people of Israel but for us she was our little girl.

“We receive comfort when we hear, for example, that there have already been four girls named after her,” he said.

Captain Ziv Shilon, who was severely wounded and lost his arm in an explosion on the Gaza border in 2012, spoke of the need to comfort the wounded.

“Great people have to cope with great challenges in this country, and, if we, the wounded, know how to overcome the little things, nothing will stop us,” he said.

Twenty-five-year-old Maya Rahimi also addressed the crowd, recalling how she narrowly escaped when two Palestinian gunmen opened fire on a bus in Armon Hanatziv neighborhood in Jerusalem in October.

“I was saved by the gunshots that began on the bus when I bent over in my seat and prayed for my life,” she recalled. “When I tried to run away, the terrorist stabbed me and I managed to escape alive by a miracle.”

“The fear never leaves; it becomes an inseparable part of your life. To be afraid to get on a bus, to be afraid even of youth walking by you on the street – but the desire is to continue and look forward even when there are ups and downs,” she said.

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, founder and president of the IFCJ, comforted the families, saying: “I want to convey one message to you: Nobody can understand and feel the depth of pain that you feel, but it is important that every citizen of Israel feel the depth of the debt we owe you, the citizens and security forces that protect us and experience the pain and heavy price.

“I wish you that from now and forever you will receive significant support from Israeli society and from the government bodies because nobody deserves it more than you,” he said.   (Jerusalem Post)

Bus driver and police officer who fought against terrorists among Mount Herzl beacon lighters

Heroism, though associated with military feats, is also often evident on the home front.

The Ministerial Committee for Ceremonies and Symbols, headed by Minister of Culture Miri Regev, selected 14 individuals – both civilians and service personnel – whose courage will be reflected in the beacons they light on Mount Herzl to usher in Israel’s 68th Independence Day.

Best known among them is Rona Ramon, whose late husband – astronaut Ilan Ramon – was killed with the rest of the crew when their space shuttle Columbia disintegrated on reentering Earth in 2003. She suffered another tragedy six years later when her eldest son, Asaf, who wanted to be a combat pilot like his father, was killed in a plane crash during a training exercise. In their memories, Ramon created the Ramon Foundation, which encourages space, science and technology education, excellence in scholarship, leadership development and community responsibility.

Other beacon lighters include: Hallel Bareli, a junior high student at the AMIT school in Sderot, volunteered to help local kindergarteners during the rocket bombardment from Gaza during Operation Protective Edge in 2014, and assisted elderly people to find shelters.

Since then, Bareli has continued to engage in volunteer work, and is currently involved with Sderot’s center for youth at risk.

Gabi Barsheshet is active in Friends of United Hatzalah, one of the country’s rescue organizations that sent human and medical resources to Nepal last year in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake disaster. The aid worker coordinated Israeli humanitarian efforts to rescue Nepalese trapped in the rubble. The Joint Israelife Disaster Response team included members of various Israeli rescue organizations who worked together in Kathmandu. They participated in search efforts to find, among others, missing Israeli tourists, and to save Israeli babies born to surrogate mothers in Nepal.

Tel Aviv bus driver Herzl Biton wrestled with a knife-wielding terrorist in January, and in the struggle succeeded in opening the bus doors, allowing passengers to escape. Though seriously wounded in his life-and-death fight with the much younger Palestinian, Biton chased him on foot after the terrorist gave up on his attack and fled from the bus.

Border Police Staff Sgt. Alison Berson, an immigrant from France now living in Afula, saved the life of a fellow officer in the northern area of the West Bank in October 2015 when she noticed two Palestinian youths with knives drawn approaching a Border Police checkpoint.

Berson instinctively opened fire, killing one of the would-be attackers and wounding the other.

Her speedy preventive action won high praise from her commanders

Deaf mute Holocaust survivor Yaakov Ehrenfeld has worked on projects with the Association for the Deaf, and was also one of the initiators of a Yad Vashem project to make all the Holocaust museum’s exhibits and facilities accessible to the deaf.

Women’s rights activist Rotem Elisha, 18, from Ramle, is spearheading the national dialogue on rape and sexual harassment. Elisha, herself a rape victim, went public with her story, paving the way for others to do the same without feeling guilty.

Dr. Anan Falah, the first female dentist in the Druse community, is also a lawyer, a pilot and a staunch women’s rights advocate.

She was appointed by the Ministry of Health to act as supervisor for Arab communities, and in addition to all that is the director of Acre’s radio and TV station.

Pluralism in high schools is something that should be taken for granted, yet in reality, if it weren’t pushed, there are many schools where it would not exist. Among the pushers are Nili and Moshe Levy. The Modi’in couple have devoted their energy to promoting a school pluralism educational project called Gvanim.

Greek Orthodox priest Gabriel Naddaf has earned the displeasure of many Arab Israelis by his campaign calling on Christian Arabs to join the IDF. In Naddaf’s case, it goes beyond lip service; his own son is serving in the army.

Colombian immigrant Osa Roberto, a soldier in the IDF, foiled the efforts of a Palestinian determined to kill an Israeli soldier and in so doing commit suicide. When attacked by a terrorist at the Etzion junction a few weeks back, Roberto calmly neutralized him without injury to either of them.

Divorce is often a nasty business, sometimes even more so observant Jewish women, as a stubbornly recalcitrant husband can keep a woman chained in marriage forever.

In ultra-Orthodox circles, it is worse. A divorce puts a stain on a woman’s character, and regardless of what the husband does, the wife is frequently held to blame for any breakdown in the marriage. Fainy Soknick wants this to change, and has established an NGO to help ultra-Orthodox women in the process of divorce. Soknick, a mother of three, advocates for their rights and brings their cases to the attention of community leaders.

In 2009, Israeli canoe champion Yasmin Feingold was in a boat on the Yarkon River when it capsized and sent her plunging into the depths. Seeing that the boater was trapped, Avi Toibin dove into the polluted waters and rescued her.

Feingold was sick for some time afterwards, but made a full recovery and returned to her favorite sport. Toibin’s heroism has been recognized, and he, too, will be among the beacon lighters.   (Jerusalem Post)

Israeli fighter jets strike weapons convoy headed towards Hezbollah

Israeli Air Force fighter jets struck a weapons convoy headed into the hands of Hezbollah fighters in Syria, Channel 2 citing Arab media sources reported Tuesday.

The attack allegedly occurred on the Syrian-Lebanese border earlier in the afternoon and struck a number of vital positions important to the terror organization.

Channel 2 added that the Israeli Air Force struck the weapons convoy near a Syrian “rebel safe-haven” where Hezbollah militants were allegedly stationed.

If the reports are confirmed, it would not be Israel’s first military excursion into enemy territory to stop the transfer of weapons to its arch nemesis Hezbollah.

Last month, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu acknowledged for the first time that Israel has taken action dozens of times beyond the northern border to prevent Hezbollah from attaining “game-changing” weaponry.”

“We are proud that, in the stormy and volatile Middle East, we were able to maintain relative calm and relative safety in Israel. We act when we should act, including here, across the border, in dozens of attacks, to prevent Hezbollah from acquiring game-changing weaponry,” the premier said.

Netanyahu said Israel was acting on other fronts as well, “nearby and far away, but are doing it in an intelligent manner.” The country, he said was facing Islamic State and Hezbollah in the north, Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip and Islamic State and global jihadists in Sinai.

Speaking to the soldiers, Netanyahu said: “This is our country, and we need to defend it; nobody else will defend it except us.           (Jerusalem Post)

‘Hamas digging more tunnels, wants next round of fighting in Israeli territory’

Hamas is continuing to dig attack tunnels and is closely following Israel’s efforts to uncover such tunnels, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) has gleaned from the interrogation of an operative from the group’s military branch.

The Shin Bet announced on Tuesday that it has arrested a minor who was enlisted into the ranks of Hamas prior to summer 2014’s Operation Protective Edge and was active in the organization’s efforts to dig tunnels that would infiltrate into Israeli territory

News of the arrest comes after the IDF uncovered two Hamas attack tunnels entering into Israeli territory in the past month. Another Hamas operative involved in the organization’s tunnel enterprise was also recently arrested and shed light on the group’s efforts to dig into Israel.

The teen whose arrest was announced on Tuesday hails from the Jabalia refugee camp in Gaza and was arrested last month attempting to cross the border fence into Israel.

He belonged to the northern division of the Kassam Brigades, Hamas’s military wing. According to the Shin Bet, the suspect said during his interrogation that he was trained to infiltrate, enter structures and place explosive devices in keeping with Hamas’s strategy of ensuring that the next round of fighting will take place in Israeli territory.

The suspect divulged information on the structure of Hamas tunnels intended to be used by the group’s elite tunnel unit in times of emergency and the location of tunnels in Gaza, the Shin Bet stated.

He also allegedly told his interrogators about Hamas’s efforts to keep their tunnel-digging activities secret, such as  avoiding leaving the tunnels in their dirt-covered “work clothes,” and covering up any signs that they had been in a tunnel.

The suspect took part in placing explosive devices in tunnels to prevent IDF soldiers from entering them and even stored explosives at his home, the Shin Bet said.

The Israeli security agency said that the suspect is one of many being interrogated who is providing intel on Hamas’s tunneling efforts.  (Jerusalem Post)

PM reveals: Israel threatened to send forces to free security officials from besieged Cairo embassy

Following wide coverage in the Egyptian press of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s comment Tuesday that Israel threatened to send commandos to extract besieged personnel from its Cairo Embassy in 2011, the Prime Minister’s Office issued a clarification to give the comment some “context.”

Netanyahu, at a ceremony at the Foreign Ministry commemorating Israeli diplomats killed abroad, said the threat to send commandos in September 2011 is what eventually compelled then Egyptian head of state Mohamed Tantawi to send in crack Egyptian forces to rescue the men.

Netanyahu was recalling the siege of the Cairo Embassy where six security officers were holed up behind a metal door in a safe room in the building, while a mob rampaged through the premises.

“A mob came to slaughter our people, and we used all the tools at our disposal that night, including the threat of [a] rescue operation by the IDF, which finally tipped the balance and led the Egyptian forces – then under the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood, together with careful coordination from here – that ultimately led to the successful conclusion of this event,” he said.

This was the first time Israel acknowledged that it threatened to send in IDF forces to extract the men, and it caused a furor in the Egyptian press. As a result, the PMO issued the following clarification: “Israel’s policy is to defend its citizens threatened anywhere. In the case being discussed, the intention was a coordinated action, and not a unilateral one. We are glad there was no need for this, and thank the Egyptian army that dealt in a responsible manner with the crisis, and led to solving the problem.”

Reflecting the sensitivity of the ties with Egypt, the statement added that Netanyahu “very much appreciations the ties with Egypt, and the maintenance of the peace treaty, which is an important layer of regional security.”

One government official said Jerusalem did not, to his knowledge, receive complaints about the matter from the Egyptian government.

Up until Netanyahu’s comments, the accepted narrative had been that the Egyptians acted thanks to the direct intervention of US President Barack Obama.

Indeed, Netanyahu – after the men were extracted from the building by Egyptian forces – offered a special thank you on television to Obama who “said he would do everything he could” to extricate the six security guards, “and did.”

“He used all the means and influence of the US, which are significant, and I think we owe him a special thank you. This testifies to the strong alliance between Israel and the US. This alliance is critical, especially during these days of great storms buffeting the Middle East,” the prime minister said at the time.

At Tuesday’s ceremony, Netanyahu said that he spoke by phone during the incident with a security guard named Yoni and promised him, “Yoni, the State of Israel will get you out of there.”

Since the establishment of the state, 16 foreign service personnel have been assassinated abroad. Netanyahu said Israel’s diplomats are subject to threats by those who want to harm Israel’s relation with the nations of the world.

“Our representative are there to deflect political and propaganda attacks, and precisely because of this they are liable to turn into targets for physical attacks,” he said. (Jerusalem Post)

Herzog eyes coalition in bid that could split Zionist Union

Opposition leader MK Isaac Herzog on Tuesday met with his number two partner in the Zionist Union, Tzipi Livni, to update her on his negotiations to join the governing coalition. Such a move threatens to split the parliamentary faction as Livni has vowed to stay out of the government.

Herzog recently held talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on entering the government, and sources say the Zionist Union leader is keen to make the move. However, Netanyahu reportedly has not offered Herzog enough to satisfy his demands for significant positions in the cabinet.

Livni has made it clear to Herzog that if he agrees to join the government, it will tear apart the center-left Zionist Union faction — a political alliance of Herzog’s Labor Party and Livni’s Hatnua party formed before the 2015 elections. She emphasized that neither she, nor the four MKs of the Hatuna party which she leads, will agree to join the coalition.

“We have a historic role at this time, to fight for Israel’s values in the face of the racism and hatred that have reared their heads in the absence of leadership,” Livni declared Tuesday in a letter to supporters before her meeting with Herzog.

The Likud party publicly denied claims Tuesday that Herzog had reached a deal to join the coalition.

“The reports that an agreement has been reached between Prime Minister Netanyahu and MK Herzog on joining the government are not correct,” the party said in a statement.

MK Shelly Yachimovich, second on Labor’s list, has also come out firmly against entering the coalition, as have others in the party.

Another Labor MK, Mickey Rosenthal, accused Herzog of selling out the party “at wholesale [prices].”

“Even if the negotiations fail and the Labor Party doesn’t join [Netanyahu’s government], Herzog has already caused damage with the talks,” he tweeted. “The legitimacy he gave Netanyahu’s government has undermined, to a large degree, our ability to criticize it in the future.”

MK Ksenia Svetlova, of Hatnua, tweeted that Zionist Union wouldn’t serve as a “fig leaf in this extremist government.”

Netanyahu’s government currently has the slimmest possible Knesset majority of just 61 to 59 MKs. The Zionist Union has 24 MKs, of which 19 are members of Labor and five of Hatnua.

Herzog is expected to make a decision in the coming days; with the Knesset’s summer session due to begin on May 23, Netanyahu would seek to present any changes in the government to lawmakers near the beginning of the term.

Senior Zionist Union members predict the offer to join the coalition will be dropped if an agreement is not reached by then.                      (the Times of Israel)

On celebrating Independence Day

Our prayers for peace with our neighbors and our desperate hope that our children and grandchildren shall not be obliged to fight wars remain but a dream, with no respite on the horizon.

By Isi Leibler                            The Jerusalem Post


Last week, we commemorated the genocidal murder of six million Jews – the most barbaric episode in our 2,000 years of exile which was sporadically interspersed with discrimination, persecution, expulsion and pogroms. Today, the nation mourns those who sacrificed their lives in the course of the creation and ongoing defense of our Jewish state. Against this somber background, tomorrow we will celebrate the 68th anniversary of the establishment of the State of Israel.

This period evokes mixed feelings.

Our prayers for peace with our neighbors and our desperate hope that our children and grandchildren shall not be obliged to fight wars remain but a dream, with no respite on the horizon. Moreover, those who believed that after Auschwitz anti-Semites would become an extinct species have been proven wrong and are dismayed at the upsurge of mankind’s most enduring hatred. Prior to the creation of the State of Israel, anti-Semites accused Jews of being the source of all the evils confronting mankind. Today hatred of the Jew as an individual has been transcended by global hatred of the Jewish state, which is widely perceived as the prime source of global instability, the greatest threat to peace and one of the most oppressive countries in the world.

This warped view is promoted at a time when the dark ages of barbarism have returned to the region, with millions being killed, displaced and denied human rights.

Moreover, even Western countries – especially Europe, whose soil was soaked with Jewish blood during the Holocaust – once again stand by and either abstain or even formally support efforts to demonize and delegitimize the Jewish state. It is somewhat like a repeat of the world’s indifference to the Nazi extermination of the Jewish people.

But, on Independence Day, while fully conscious of the evil surrounding us, we must resist the whining of the prophets of doom in our ranks.

We should celebrate that we are the most blessed Jewish generation in 2,000 years.

Jewish youngsters today graduating from schools and universities have no appreciation of the fear and insecurity that dominated the lives of Jews before the creation of the state empowered us.

As we follow the chilling anti-Semitic tsunami in Europe, including recent expressions in the British Labour Party, and observe European Jews once again being transformed into pariahs, we are angered rather than fearful. That is because a Jewish state guarantees that today Jews threatened with murder or oppression have a haven.

We should celebrate the fact that Israel has created the most powerful military force in the region. Our tiny state is one of the top 10 world military powers, with the ability to deter and defend itself against the combined forces of all our adversaries. Could Holocaust survivors, Jews oppressed in Arab countries, or Soviet Jews facing anti-Semitism 70 years ago have even remotely dreamed that their descendants would enjoy the status we have achieved in an empowered Israel? That alone provides boundless grounds for rejoicing.

Furthermore, we have cause to celebrate the ingathering of our exiles, ranging from broken survivors of concentration camps to Ethiopian Jews – and the extraordinary success with which these Jews from all corners of the world and different levels of society have been molded into a vibrant nation.

Our political system is frequently condemned as dysfunctional and only a small percentage of our more talented citizens are tempted to enter professional politics.

Yet, the fact remains that despite being the only country in the world whose existence is constantly challenged, and facing ongoing terrorism and wars, we have succeeded in retaining one of the most democratic systems in the world.

Indeed, our freedom of expression and robust press has frequently been condemned for being overindulgent in providing a platform for elements promoting our enemies. We rightfully grant full equality to Arab Israelis, notwithstanding that their radical parliamentary representatives support our enemies and demonize their own state.

Our legal system, despite its weaknesses and the controversy over the excessive interventionist power of the High Court, ensures that all Israelis are treated with equality. Indeed the fact that a president, prime minister and senior cabinet ministers have been indicted, convicted and imprisoned highlights the proper functioning of our legal system. This, too, is something in which we should take pride and celebrate.

We are blessed to have one of the most robust economies in the world and we must rejoice in the fact that we have more new high-tech initiatives and startups per capita than any other nation. Not to mention that over the past decade, our own desalination processes have overcome an endemic drought and, despite prevarications, we will in future become a gas exporting nation.

Beyond this, we can take pride in our vibrant cultural and religious life. This is a Jewish state that pulsates in accordance with the Jewish calendar, catering for religiously observant as well as secular streams. There is also positive evidence that more of the ultra-Orthodox are serving in the army and entering the workforce and there is gradual and steady progress in their integration into mainstream society. By and large, aside from the excessive influence of the ultra-Orthodox establishment and the Chief Rabbinate, there is a broad spiritual awakening and greater understanding between the various sectors of Israeli society.

The Israeli Jewish identity is still evolving, but at a time when assimilation and intermarriage are having a devastating impact on the number of Diaspora Jews, Israel guarantees the continuity of the Jewish people.

This, too, is something to celebrate.

Finally, we should rejoice that, aside from parochial politics, the nation is today more united than it has been since the great divide over the Oslo Accords.

Whether one supports or opposes Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as leader, it is clear that the reason for the failure in peace negotiations is due to the Palestinian determination to bring about an end to Jewish sovereignty. We should be celebrating that today, aside from the extreme Left and Right, there is a consensus on these issues with the major Zionist political parties that our objective is to separate ourselves from the Palestinians, but that for security reasons, we cannot move forward until a genuine peace partner emerges from their ranks.

So as we celebrate 68 years of statehood, we should dismiss the doomsayers and rejoice at our extraordinary achievements. If we review the progress we have made since 1967 – despite misgivings about retaining the status quo – we have every reason to celebrate this Independence Day. That in recent years Israelis have consistently polled as one of the happiest nations in the world speaks for itself.

We pray that, with the help of the Almighty, we will continue to flourish and grow even stronger and ultimately realize our dreams for peace with our neighbors.

Hag sameah.

Israel at 68: Not isolated, but badly misunderstood

Israel is not isolated. What it is, however, is badly misunderstood and not universally loved, and both those conditions leave us often wringing our hands.

Independence Day

by Herb Keinon               The Jerusalem Post


A nation often unloved and misunderstood, but not isolated. It’s a tale often told, especially by US politicians speaking to pro-Israel groups. Eleven minutes after David Ben-Gurion declared independence on May 14, 1948, US president Harry S. Truman bucked his entire national security staff and granted de facto recognition to the new State of Israel.

Three days later, the Soviet Union granted de jure recognition, and then Nicaragua did the same, followed by Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Poland, Uruguay… until by the end of the year, 21 of the UN’s 58 states recognized the Jewish state.

Another 33 countries recognized Israel the following year, meaning that by the end of 1949, 54 of the world’s 86 countries at the time had diplomatic ties with Israel.

And today, 68 years later, Israel has diplomatic relations with 158 of the UN’s 193 states. It has 79 embassies abroad, 22 consulates and six special missions. Eighty-six countries maintain embassies in Israel. Yet today, as was the case in 1948, there is often a sense of intense isolation in this country.

And this isolation is used by politicians on both sides of the political spectrum.

Those on the Left play the isolation card when they want to convince the public that far-reaching concessions are needed.

“Withdraw or our isolation will deepen,” the argument goes. “Make concessions or we will lose US or European support.”

Those on the Right play the isolation card to argue against any flexibility or initiative. “We are a nation that stands alone,” this argument runs. “Nothing we do will satisfy the world.”

But the general miasma that goes under the rubric of isolation is something different.

Israel is not isolated.

A country that is truly alone does not house 86 embassies; it does not continuously host presidents and prime ministers and foreign ministers and parliamentary delegations from around the world; and it is not constantly being visited by bluechip business delegations keen on doing business in the country or benefiting from its technology.

An isolated country does not do more than $100 billion in annual trade with the world and attract millions of tourists, including first-rate international performers.

Dozens of international airlines do not fly to an isolated country’s airports.

Nor does that country send disaster relief delegations abroad.

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement would like to isolate Israel as its forebear the Arab Boycott tried to do before it; but it is failing as its forebear failed.

It is failing because there are reasonable people out there able to see the movement for what it is – a movement that wants to bring about Israel’s end. And it is failing because 68 years after independence, Israel is a serious country of some 8.5 million people, with much to offer the world.

Take Britain, for instance, the epicenter of the BDS movement. Since 2009, when that country began a voluntary labeling regime for products from the settlements – a soft, polite form of BDS – Israeli exports to Britain doubled from $1.6 billion to $3.2b in 2014. Not because the British are enamored of Israel but because Israel has things they need.

Israel is not isolated. What it is, however, is badly misunderstood and not universally loved, and both those conditions leave us often wringing our hands.

Everyone wants to be loved, and – perhaps because of its history – the Jewish people want to be loved more than most.

Deeply ingrained in the collective Jewish psyche are fears for the worst when others don’t like us, concerned about what those who don’t like us could do to us. This stems from a historical sense of helplessness, living at the mercy of others.

One of Israel’s problems with US President Barack Obama was his inability, for a variety of reasons, to shower Israel with the type of love our psyche demands.

We don’t want the president of the most powerful country in the world to like us the way he likes Japan or Indonesia. We want him to like us specially. We are insecure.

We want to feel that love, and – perhaps even more importantly – we want others to see it. We don’t want a little peck on the cheek from behind the bus stop. We want a smooch on the lips in full daylight.

Otherwise we feel unloved, erroneously interpreted as isolated.

Old habits die hard. Sixty-eight years after independence, we have not yet freed ourselves of the feeling that it is not the end of the world if everyone is not going to like everything we do. Not everybody likes everything any country does.

Sixty-eight years since independence, we have not yet truly internalized that we are a free people in a free land, not at the mercy of others.

If our enemies hit, we can hit back. If they develop tools to harm us, we can find the antidote. If they try diplomatic tricks to weaken us, we too can deflect them. It is not as if the other side is getting stronger and smarter and better, and we are sitting on our hands or standing static in place.

We are not a reed pushed this way and that by the rushing water.

And we feel misunderstood. We feel, not unjustifiably, that the world doesn’t get us, doesn’t understand what we are up against.

And it doesn’t. It can’t.

The world doesn’t carry with it our deep historical scars; it doesn’t listen to cries to wipe us off the map through our unique ears; it doesn’t know what it’s like to send kids to the front, generation after generation, or to worry somewhere in the back of the mind about a terrorist stabbing or shooting or a car ramming or a bus bombing on the street. The world does not know what it is like to walk in our shoes.

The world sees checkpoints and interprets it as a desire to humiliate Palestinians, while we see it as a desire to keep our children safe. The world looks at the security fence and sees it as a land grab, while we see it as a way to keep suicide bombers from making our life hell. The world looks at Israeli action against rockets from Gaza and regards it as “disproportionate” response, while we see it as a natural instinct to defend ourselves. The world sees the Law of Return and interprets it as a racist law, while we see it as a natural right to the Ingathering of the Exiles.

We see reality through different glasses.

We are not universally loved, though also not universally unloved. We are indeed often badly misunderstood. But we are not isolated. And even if we were isolated, as perhaps we once were, 68 years of independence has proven one thing: Israel has the ability to handle it. Indeed, it has the ability to handle all of the above – and to flourish.

We didn’t Start the Mangal 2016 – !יום העצמאות שמח

Take a 150-second trip around Israel to celebrate Independence Day

Israel at 68: a video message from  President Reuven Rivlin

Melanie Phillips in an amazing interview