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Latest News in Israel – 2nd May

A moving video commemorating the fallen heroes of the Israel Defense Forces

The 23,144 thousands of Israeli soldiers and citizens who have been killed in the Land of Israel were the best and the finest of Israel’s youth.

It is due to their bravery that we live the lives we live today in the Land of Israel. Their sacrifices are a beacon of light for all to learn from. They serve as role models of self-sacrifice to all for what we as an old nation, in an ancient land who have built up a modern-day State – need to do in order to preserve our way of life.

May their memories be blessed.

Such a moving video commemorating the fallen heroes of the Israel Defense Forces

Israel commemorates 23,544 fallen at Western Wall ceremony in Jerusalem

Israeli leaders and soldiers stood in silence and bowed their heads for one minute at the Western Wall on Sunday evening as a memorial siren blared across the country commemorating Remembrance Day.

The ceremony, which was attended by President Reuven Rivlin, Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot and Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich, marked the beginning of the day which honors the 23,544 security forces who have died defending the State of Israel since the beginning of the modern Jewish movement in the Land of Israel in 1860.

The day also honors victims of terror.

Over the past year, another 97 soldiers and officers serving in Israel’s security forces, which includes the IDF, Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), the Mossad, police officers, and officers of Israel’s Prisons Services, have joined the ranks of Israel’s fallen, including 37 wounded veterans who succumbed to their wounds, according to numbers released by the Defense Ministry ahead of Remembrance Day for the Fallen Soldiers of Israel and Victims of Terrorism.

Lighting the memorial flame, Rivlin said that ensuring the safety and security of Israel and its citizens, along with that of its soldiers, was the country’s first priority and that 50 years after the reunification of Jerusalem, Israel still remembers the price that must be paid for the existence of the State of Israel.

Addressing the bereaved families, Rivlin said that “there is a price, and we, in awe and terror, are willing to pay that price. Dear bereaved families, you paid the price. The price of our liberty is purchased in blood,” he said, adding that “the IDF is all of us: it defends us, and so we defend it. We must always remember: together we fall, and together we stand.”

Rivlin emphasized Israel’s commitment to the memory of fallen soldiers, stating that “the true staying power of a nation grows from the living memory of our roots, of our history, and our tradition. The living memory of our heroes. Not only black-bordered pictures on the wall, rather, a living heritage, a torch that lights our way, the story of their life and of their death.”

Following Rivlin’s speech, Eisenkot said, “the Israeli people bows its head in memory of its commanders and soldiers who gave their lives to protect the homeland.

We bow in the memory of our soldiers who embarked on their missions with commitment to the lives of all Israeli citizens.

Those who acted with ingenuity, with level-headedness and with supreme heroism – and sacrificed their lives for us.

We will bow our heads and remember the sons and the daughters of the Israeli people, who acted with courage and boundless dedication to the very end.”

“The heritage of Israel and the IDF has been written by brave warriors who dared to fight even in impossible situations, who stood alone against many opponents – it’s a legacy of persistence and uncompromising fighting until the mission was completed,” Eisenkot added.

There are a total of 9,157 bereaved parents in Israel, thousands of bereaved siblings, 4,881 widows and 1,843 orphans under the age of 30 according to the National Insurance Institute. In addition 3,117 civilians have been killed in hostile acts such as terrorist attacks since the birth of the state.

On Monday at 11 a.m., a two-minute-long siren will mark the beginning of official memorial ceremonies which will be held around the country, including at the Mount Herzl military cemetery, which will also be where the official ceremony to honor those killed in terrorist attacks will take place at 1 p.m.

Mt Herzl

Remembrance Day will finish at 8 p.m. on Monday evening with the torch-lighting ceremony on Mount Herzl, marking the opening of Israel’s 69th Independence Day celebrations. (Jerusalem Post)

Haredi community holds memorial ceremony for fallen soldiers

The Likud’s haredi faction on Monday will be holding a special memorial ceremony.

On Sunday night and Monday, Israel will mark Yom Hazikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day for the Fallen Soldiers of Israel and Victims of Terrorism.

The haredi community generally avoids IDF service. Those who enlist often face incitement and violence from extremists within their communities.

This is the second year that members of the haredi faction of the Likud are organizing the ceremony at the Ponevezh Cemetery in Bnei Brak, where a number of fallen haredi soldiers are buried.

Last year, the ceremony was interrupted by haredi extremists who attempted to prevent the ceremony from taking place and proceeded to chase away the majority of the participants.

The ceremony will be attended by Likud Minister Ayoob Kara; Chairman of the Likud’s haredi faction Yaakov Vider; representatives of the IDF’s Military Rabbinate; IDF soldiers and wounded veterans; and bereaved families.

The Zionist organization Im Tirtzu also announced its plans to attend the ceremony, which according to the organization represents a true bridge between different factions of Israeli society.

Vider noted the relevance and importance of the event.

“Specifically now when there is a wave of anti-IDF incitement and violence from extremists within the haredi sector, there is growing importance to remember the haredi soldiers who gave their lives fighting for Israel,” Vider said.

“I am thankful to the Israeli government and to Im Tirtzu for the help, and call on the Israeli public to attend the ceremony and honor the memory of our holy brothers who fell fighting for Israel.”

Im Tirtzu CEO Matan Peleg said, “We salute the brave haredi soldiers of the IDF and together will remember those who gave their lives fighting for the country. These soldiers represent the very essence of unity and serve as a prime example of what it means to be a scholar and a warrior.”

The ceremony will take place at 3:30 pm on Monday, May 1st, at the Ponevezh Cemetery in Bnei Brak. (Arutz Sheva)

For First Time, F-35 Fighter Jets to Soar Through Israel’s Skies During Annual Independence Day Air Show

For the first time, the Israel Air Force’s new F-35 “Adir” stealth fighter jets will take part in the annual Independence Day air show in the skies across Israel on Tuesday, the Hebrew news site Walla reported.

F35

The IAF received its initial pair of F-35s in December. Three more of the Lockheed Martin-built planes landed at the Nevatim Air Base in southern Israel last week and another four are expected to arrive by the end of 2017 (Israel has ordered a total of 50 F-35s, with delivery set to be completed in 2021).

“The F-35 has very accurate and powerful weaponry that can reach anywhere,” an unnamed senior IAF officer told Walla. “I’m constantly excited anew about its capabilities.”

The integration process of the planes into the IAF’s fleet has been going well so far, the officer said, F-35s could start conducting operational missions in the coming months. (the Algemeiner)

Danon: US likely to support Israel’s seat on UN Security Council

In a move that could significantly bolster Israel’s historic bid to join the United Nations Security Council, the US is likely to “actively support” Israel’s candidacy against Germany and Belgium, UN Ambassador Danny Danon said.

Danon, back on a work-visit to Israel, told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday that while there is still a year to go before the General Assembly will vote on the five members who will join the council in 2019, he is already raising the issue with different leaders and has discussed it with US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley.

“I think that it is clear that we will get the support of the US,” Danon said. “And I think that we can even expect active support for this important bid.”

Haley has repeatedly spoken of the need to change the UN’s relationship toward Israel. And Danon said a natural outgrowth of Washington’s call for a fundamental change in that relationship would support Israel’s efforts to win a Security Council seat.

The Security Council is composed of five permanent members – China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States – and 10 non-permanent members elected for two-year terms by the General Assembly.

Candidates for a non-permanent seat are allocated according to regional blocs.

Since 2000, Israel has been a member of the 28-strong Western European and Others Group. Three members have declared their intention to vie for the two spots that will be open in 2019: Israel, Belgium and Germany.

Israel is the only country in the Middle East – and one of 67 countries in the UN, many of them small islandstates – that has never sat on the Security Council, a body that historically has had tremendous impact on the Jewish state and the region.

Last year, Danon was elected chairman of the UN Legal Committee, the first time an Israeli was elected to chair a UN permanent committee.

He said that just as this was accomplished – even though few thought that the UN “glass ceiling” could be broken – so too a seat on the Security Council is not inconceivable, especially if the US puts its weight behind the bid. The support of at least two-thirds (128 states) in the General Assembly is needed to gain a seat.

Danon also said that Israel has good bilateral relations with many countries in the UN – such as African and Asian states – that could be leveraged for their support.

He noted the increasing number of smaller states at the UN that have turned to him to assist in their relations with the US, knowing the closeness of Israel’s ties with the White House under President Donald Trump.

Speaking of Trump’s likely visit to Israel later this month during his first trip abroad, Danon said the message of such a trip is that “the US is close to Israel, and Israel is close to the US. That is an important consideration [for many countries]. You can’t ignore this.”

He said the closeness of those ties has led to some change in relations with some European countries inside the UN, Britain foremost among them.

Under the Obama administration, he said, some friends of Israel were influenced by the US to support the anti-settlement Security Council Resolution 2334. Now, however, some of those same countries are being influenced by the Trump administration to go in the opposite direction.

Danon acknowledged that it will be very difficult with Russia, China and France holding a veto on the Security Council to repeal UNSC 2334.

Nevertheless, he said there are efforts to “water it down” by minimizing reference to it in other resolutions or documents.

But this, too, is an uphill battle. For instance, Haley tried to get the Security Council to put out a statement condemning February’s terrorist attack in Petah Tikva.

The French, however, insisted on inserting language referencing 2334, to which Haley objected. As a result, the statement was not issued.

Haley said France and Sweden are two European countries that pose difficulties for Israel on the council, along with nations such as Bolivia, which is known to be hostile toward the Jewish state.

When Haley urged the Security Council countries to discuss Iran and Hezbollah at the monthly session devoted to the Middle East, instead of placing all the focus on the Palestinians, Sweden diplomatically objected. Nevertheless, Danon said, many countries did stay focused on Iran and Hezbollah instead of on Israel and the Palestinians.

Danon said that Haley – with words and actions – has changed the atmosphere toward Israel in the UN, and that its new Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, recognizes “there is a new reality.”

Danon said he invited Guterres to visit Israel and expects him to come in “the coming months,” perhaps even by the beginning of the summer. (Jerusalem Post)

US Official Criticizes New Draft of ‘Delegitimizing’ UNESCO Resolution Labeling Israeli Presence in Jerusalem ‘Illegal’

The latest draft of a resolution entitled “Occupied Palestine” to be voted on this Tuesday by UNESCO, the United Nations cultural agency, has been sharply condemned by a US official.

The resolution – submitted by Arab states Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Qatar and Sudan –  declares as its aim the “safeguarding of the cultural heritage of Palestine and the distinctive character of East Jerusalem.” The resolution goes on to attack Israel in the harshest terms, stating that all measures taken by the Jewish state in its capital are “illegal” and “null and void.”

“UNESCO is too often used as a vehicle by member states inclined to delegitimize the State of Israel,” the US official told The Algemeiner. “Although several of these anti-Israel resolutions are typically adopted biannually by UNESCO, over time they have become increasingly political in nature and now question Israel’s basic claim to historic sites.”

May 1, 2017 4:43 pm

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The official concluded: “These resolutions are counterproductive to the core work of UNESCO and do nothing to advance the goal we all share of a two-state solution.”

Although the resolution — a copy of which was obtained by The Algemeiner — reaffirms “the importance of the Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls for the three monotheistic religions,” it continues by asserting that “all legislative and administrative measures and actions taken by Israel, the occupying Power, which have altered or purport to alter the character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem, and in particular the ‘basic law’ on Jerusalem, are null and void and must be rescinded forthwith.”

The Basic Law on Jerusalem was passed by the Knesset in August 1980. It affirms that “Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel.”

The mention in the current draft of the “Holy City” of Jerusalem is a slight modification of the original draft, which read: “Any action taken by Israel, the occupying power, to impose its laws, jurisdiction, and administration on the city of Jerusalem, are illegal and therefore null and void and have no validity whatsoever.”

The new wording might be taken to suggest that the focus of the resolution is now on the eastern half of Jerusalem, where the holy places are located, rather than the entire city. However, a source with knowledge of the matter told The Algemeiner that one Latin American diplomat attending the UNESCO Executive Board countered that, “as the Palestinians regard every stone in  Jerusalem as holy,” the resolution remains at best ambiguous on whether it recognizes Israeli sovereignty in any part of Jerusalem.

In language reflecting the routinized excoriations of Israel at the UN General Assembly and the UN Human Rights Council, each section of the resolution ends in condemnation. The resolution says that UNESCO “regrets the failure of the Israeli occupying authorities to cease the persistent excavations, tunneling, works and projects in East Jerusalem, particularly in and around the Old City of Jerusalem, which are illegal under international law.” It also slams what it calls “the Israeli refusal to implement the UNESCO request to the Director-General to appoint a permanent representative to be stationed in East Jerusalem.”

Nor does the resolution restrict itself to Jerusalem. It “deplores” what it describes as “the continuous Israeli closure of the Gaza Strip, which harmfully affects the free and sustained movement of personnel, students and humanitarian relief items.”

Egypt, a co-sponsor of the UNESCO resolution, shares a large border with Gaza and has frequently shut down entry and exit points into the coastal enclave, which is home to 2 million Palestinians. The Egyptian army has destroyed a total of 21 cross-border tunnels along its border with Gaza since mid-January.

Other holy sites come into the resolution’s frame as well. Two sites sacred to Jewish worshipers – the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron and the Tomb of Rachel in Bethlehem – are defined by the resolution as “The two Palestinian sites of Al-Haram Al-Ibrahimi/Tomb of the Patriarchs in Al-Khalil/Hebron and the Bilal Ibn Rabah Mosque/Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem.” Both, the resolution says, “are an integral part of the Occupied Palestinian Territory.”

Israeli and American diplomats at UNESCO in Paris are urging allied members to vote against the resolution – a difficult task given the in-built majority enjoyed by the Arab states at the agency. (the Algemeiner)

On the eve of Israel’s Independence Day

by Ron Weiser

This week we will be celebrating the 69th anniversary of the re-establishment of the Jewish State – Independence Day, Yom Ha’atzmaut – preceded by Yom Hazikaron where we remember those who fell in the defence of the State of Israel.

This comes on the back of efforts formalised 120 years ago at Basle by the First Zionist Congress led by Theodore Herzl with one aim – Jewish self-determination.

And it is of the highest importance that those commemorating the one and celebrating the other understand that they both revolve around statehood. Nothing less and nothing more.

Of course it is important that the Jewish State be inside Eretz Yisrael – the biblical and historical Land of Israel – but these two days are about the State and those who fail to realise that really miss the whole point.

Now not withstanding different views of what the Jewish State should look like, the key is that it should be the Jewish people who make that determination.

Both internally and with the neighbourhood.

We have to decide if we will set the agenda or be made to follow the needs of our allies for Israel to be seen to continue to want to make an arrangement to resolve the Palestinian question more or less around the two state solution formula.

Till now, certainly this has been the policy of successive Israeli governments anyway.

In fact, Israel’s desire to end the conflict and to not take actions that counteract that as others see it, rather than the ending of the conflict itself, seems to be the first order requirement.

Israel is particularly keen to keep her largest and most important ally, the United States, on board.

After an uneasy 8 years with President Obama the irony is that under President Trump whilst the personal relationship between Trump and Netanyahu is at an all-time high, Israel is doing everything possible to ensure that at least until we know what President Trump wants, Israel shows restraint in any number of areas – not the least of which are self-imposed conditions on settlement expansion.

The change in tone and in the laying of responsibility for the impasse in the conflict on the Palestinians, is remarkable. And this is possibly best reflected in US actions at the UN led by Nikki Hayley.

However, in other areas no-one can be sure what Trump plans.

To date and despite Trump’s campaign promises, in most areas not much has changed – yet.

And the reality is that what he has in mind and how that meshes or not with Israeli thinking will be critical.

Although many people are convinced that the Israeli American relationship is one of equals with both sides needing the other, the reality is that that is not so. It is a lopsided relationship.

A simple example of how this manifests itself is that Israeli papers daily lead with and are filled by Trump, Trump, Trump.

American papers do not begin the day reporting the statements and thoughts of Netanyahu.

Of course, it is early days in the Trump presidency, but the shaping of Trump’s plans has not proceeded according to what many in Israel had expected.

In regards to:

1 – settlements, whilst the right wing in Israel expected Trump’s election to green light new settlements, Trump has seemed to accept growth within the existing settlement footprint but has criticised growth beyond this as “unhelpful”. As a result, the Israeli government, including Naphtali Bennett has voted to self-restrict settlement expansion

2 – moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem was supposed to occur virtually on the day of Trump becoming President. This may yet occur as we are approaching an end May deadline at which point in time under American law, Trump must either allow the move to be made, or will delay the decision for another 6 months.

Israel has not publicly lobbied for the move other than to say it would be a right and proper idea and has steadfastly refrained from criticising Trump for not having moved the embassy to date.

3 – Syria, Trump has turned full circle. The Israeli position was that whilst ISIS was bad, letting Iran control Syria was worse. Trump came in more or less continuing the Obama policy of tolerating Assad remaining as part of an Iranian/Russian/Syrian stabilising force, with the vacuum created by the absence of US military might and with destroying ISIS as the prime aim.

As we know, Trump was even more adamant than Obama to not use US military force in the conflict.

However, after Assad used chemical weapons on his own people, a previously non-enforced Obama red line, Trump allegedly was disgusted by the horrific images of suffering children and unleased a US attack on a Syrian airfield.

And then stated critically, that US policy had changed and Assad had to go.

Whilst one may find some satisfaction in Trump now agreeing that Iran should not be allowed to stay in Syria, if it was all a reaction to some images, shocking as they may be, then that is not an entirely rational way to make policy.

One should also note that despite further killing of children in Syria by Assad military action in the immediate days after the US response and in the same areas, no further US military action ensued.

Apparently, it is not the protection of Syrian children that is the issue, but rather the methods employed to massacre them.

4 – Arab states. Aside from listening to Israel, Trump appears to have unexpectedly listened more closely to their needs and advice as he goes about forming “the deal”. Particularly to King Abdulla II of Jordan who has repeatedly told Trump that the US Embassy should not be moved and that a Palestinian State is a necessity.

At the end of the day, in the odd geopolitics of the world today, Trump’s wishes, when we know them, will have possibly more influence on events in the Middle East than any other individual’s thinking in living memory when “the deal” is proposed.

Trump has surprised positively by moving slower on Middle East questions than on other matters and with a lot more consultation with all of the stake holders.

The day after Yom Ha’atzmaut, ironically, and something no-one would have predicted 3 months ago, President Abbas and his entourage will arrive in the USA for a personal meeting with President Trump.

Apparently visas in this case are not a problem.

Abbas too, like Netanyahu, will be very careful to not give cause to upset Trump and neither will want to be blamed for the failure of “the deal” if that occurs.

Just as Netanyahu and his government has exercised self-restraint to not fall out of favour with Trump, so too have Abbas and the Palestinian Authority.

Just this week Abbas toned down the current hunger strike of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails and separated the PA politically even more from Gaza and Hamas.

However, as we see with Trump and as a good dealmaker should, he seems to be intent on giving each side something positive.

On Thursday President Trump, in a statement that reads quite differently from some only a few weeks ago said:

“There is no reason there’s not peace between Israel and the Palestinians – none whatsoever.”

Of course we do not know if this was a thought bubble or considered comment.

Whilst Trump himself has never visited Israel, all of the Israeli press are abuzz with the planning of a one night visit by President Trump to Israel.

Rumours are that it will be on Yom Yerushalayim, this year the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem.

Now not only would Trump be the first US President to visit Israel so early in his term, but the symbolism of a visit on this day would be absolutely enormous.

And also raises expectations about an Embassy move – or not.

May will be a critical month and we should have a better idea by its end as to what Trump has in mind.

Whilst all of that is important, we have great cause for celebrations this week.

In order for a small nation, even one that punches way above its weight, to do so in the real world, requires skills in a variety of areas.

One cannot but fail to be impressed with the way in which the Prime Minister of Israel seems to shuttling almost every week between the major powers, and a considerable number of smaller ones, well welcomed, praised, Israeli products and expertise being sought all around the globe and a generally good ambience with greater understanding of Israel’s position.

We have never seen this before and this alone should tell us a lot about the position of Israel in the world today, quite amazing.

Israel has never been stronger, has never been better placed to face the challenges ahead and yes, despite our wish to almost never recognise good news, we are as I have said in the past, in somewhat of a golden era.

Am Yisrael Chai

Celebrating Independence Day in a world of turmoil

by Isi Leibler            The Jerusalem Post

http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Candidly-Speaking-Celebrating-Independence-Day-in-a-world-of-turmoil-489416

Israel’s Independence Day symbolizes the empowerment of all Jews in the wake of the most successful renaissance of a nation after 2,000 years of exile. It highlights the dramatic contrast between our status today and that of our powerless kinsmen facing doom on the eve of the Holocaust. It is not a celebration exclusively for Israelis but for Jews throughout the world.

But as we celebrate, we should be under no illusions.

Our remarkable status is due to our independent power and the fact that we do not rely on the goodwill of others for our survival.

The world has not changed or learned from the tragic consequences of appeasement in the 1930s, which led to Nazi aggression and the Holocaust.

Today we witness again a state of global turmoil, confronted by an evil Islamist menace that threatens to undermine the Judeo-Christian moral structures of our civilization.

Europe is in a state of near anarchy. The decision by German Chancellor Angela Merkel to open Europe to “refugees,” most of whom are anti-democratic and fiercely antisemitic, has created massive demographic and social upheaval.

Conventional political parties are disintegrating and populist and radical right-wing parties are on the upsurge, with governments obliged to restrict civil liberties to strengthen security.

In the US, the liberal Left has still not come to terms with the fact that the populist Donald Trump was elected as their president. But he has astounded them by showing that, despite his “America first” policy, he is not reticent in employing force to bring vicious war criminals like Syrian President Bashar Assad to heel and sending a clear message to the North Koreans and Iranians that the days of president Barack Obama’s groveling are over.

What is the status of Jews in this insane world? Jews who remain in the Diaspora have forfeited the privilege of being part of the greatest miracle of the past 2,000 years: the ultimate realization of the most sacred Jewish prayers, faith and hope during millennia of exile and persecution.

And today, the high cost of remaining in the Diaspora is becoming all too clear.

Antisemitism is at an all-time high with Jews in most European countries treated like pariahs, facing constant terrorist threats and in many cases requiring security forces to guard them in their synagogues and schools.

In the US, madness prevails with far-left, liberal Jews spearheading “religious” campaigns against Trump. Even mainstream groups like the Anti-Defamation League and sectors of the Reform movement sought to accuse Trump and his administration of either supporting or harboring antisemites.

The problem with many of these Jews is that they are utterly ignorant of their Jewish heritage and view Israel through a far-left prism that regards it as a colonial implant.

But despite this dismal picture of Diaspora Jewry, most Jews are reassured that with the existence of an empowered Jewish state always ready and willing to accept them, they will never face the horror that their ancestors experienced in Europe in the 1930s, when no country would grant them haven.

But at the end of the day, Jews outside of Israel will inevitably struggle to retain their identity, whether because of antisemitism or assimilation, and as their commitment to Israel diminishes, so too will their connection to the Jewish people and Judaism.

Independence Day should be more than a holiday and barbecues. We should focus on the spiritual aspects and seek to convey to younger generations that the rebirth of their nation – which so many seem to take for granted – is truly miraculous.

We must remind ourselves of the incredible devastation that took place 75 years ago following 2,000 years of wretched dispersion, persecution, expulsion and murder and climaxing with the Holocaust. We should view this in the light of our resurrected nation which has grown from 600,000 Jews in 1948 to six million Jews today. We should remind ourselves that our vibrant nation-state revived the sacred tongue of our ancestors and molded broken refugees and survivors from all corners of the globe into a thriving national culture.

Despite being one of their smallest states in the world, Israel has created one of the most powerful global military forces, which has defeated superior forces seeking its destruction and today deters its enemies. Israel is an economic miracle, with one of the most successful economies in the world, creating more start-ups in the technological and medical arena per capita than any other country. Over recent years, Israel has discovered vast gas fields, which will make it a net energy exporter. And it has produced the most efficient desalinization program in the world, which enabled it to overcome the water shortage and provide assistance to other nations.

Never in their wildest dreams could those who survived the Holocaust have imagined the miraculous success of the recreated nation state based primarily on refugees from Eastern European pogroms, Nazism or Arab persecution.

It was a wise decision, reflecting compassion and insight, to directly precede Independence Day with Memorial Day, a day to commemorate those who sacrificed their lives in defense of our homeland.

Above all, as we celebrate, we should pledge to ensure that as a nation we continue strengthening ourselves militarily, economically and socially. The reason for our extraordinary success in nation-building flows from our inner strength and determination.

Israel today has been blessed with an American leader who is deeply sensitive to Jews and has displayed unprecedented support for the Jewish state.

We should seek to continue improving our relationship with the Trump administration and cooperate with his efforts to renew peace negotiations. We can hopefully progress toward reaching an accommodation on the settlements, annexing the Golan Heights, and having Washington formally recognize Jerusalem as our capital by relocating its embassy.

Where appropriate, we should continue building both covert and open alliances even with countries traditionally hostile toward us who share the common threat facing the region from the Iranian terrorist state.

Despite living in a region where barbarism is rampant, and facing threats from religious fanatics pledged to our destruction, Israel has never been as strong and secure as it is today. We have every reason to count our blessings, rejoice and give thanks to the Almighty.

Chag sameach!

Israel’s perfect recipe for happiness

by David Brinn                  The Jerusalem Post

http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Israels-perfect-recipe-for-happiness-489428

Despite the complaints, at the end of the day, most of us have a reason to believe that we are living in a special place and in a special time.

Do we have the right to be happy? According to the World Happiness Report published in March by the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network and the Earth Institute at Columbia University, Israel is the 11th-happiest country in the world in 2017 for the fourth year running.

That puts us up there in the idyllic company of Norway, Denmark, Iceland and Canada, and ahead of countries like the United States (14) and England (18).

And a poll released Sunday by the Israel Democracy Institute has 74% of Israeli Jews saying their personal situation is good or very good, with Israeli Arabs not far behind at almost 57% The packed cafes, restaurants and bars frequented day and night in the country’s major cities bear testimony that we’re a people that knows how to have fun. We’re able to compartmentalize the myriad of troubling issues that remain unsolved – from the territorial struggle with the Palestinians to economic malaise to the size of classrooms – and simply celebrate our existence.

We can bitch with the best of them… Bibi this and Bibi that… but at the end of the day, most of us have a reason to believe that we are living in a special place and in a special time.

At 69, our national culture is so multi-faceted that there is no longer one label that can be pegged “Israeli.” Is it the self-confident 23-year-old army veteran world-traveler who is the first to solve a problem for a group of hikers in the Himalayas? Or is it the family of loudmouths who steal the towels from the Cyprus all-included hotel package? Is it the tikkun olam outreach that we expertly provide around the world or the organized crime families controlling commerce and increasing cases of violent crimes against women? They’re all Israeli. And just as we can’t choose our own family, we accept them as diverse sides of ourselves as we try to bolster the good sides and reduce the bad.

That’s the inherent contradiction of modern Israel, and the way we’ve managed to cope with it is by mixing it all together, stirring once, creating a start-up and going out for some hummus.

Sixty-nine years have seen a breathtaking rate of development and advancement in virtually every sphere, and there’s a lot to be proud of.

But there’s even more work to do. People and organizations from all sides of the social and political spectrum – from the Movement for Quality Government to Regavim to B’Tselem – are passionately working toward what they think needs to be done to push the country forward. There’s a lot of contradiction there too. One person’s notion of the direction Israel should go does not necessarily sit neatly alongside another’s.

Fifty years since the Six Day War, we’re no closer to resolving the ongoing dispute with the Palestinians.

At best, we’ve achieved the dubious corporate board room euphemism of “managing the conflict.”

Most Israelis are shielded from the everyday indignities and discrimination absorbed by the Palestinian non-citizens of the West Bank. And nobody knows what to do about the disaster in Gaza. Lone-wolf attacks are regular reminders that we are still not living a normal existence, and won’t until a critical mass of Israelis and Palestinians demand it.

Sixty-nine years and we still don’t have recognized borders. And there are those who still don’t want us to be here at all.

So why are we so happy? It could be a case of ignoring the coming storm, whistling in the dark or sticking our heads in the sand. Or it could be that – born out of the ashes of the Holocaust, absorbing Jews from around the world, suffering through ongoing wars, clashes and terrorism and arriving battered, but strong and vibrant at 69 – we realize that there’s no deadline to solving all of the problems that face us.

Creating and maintaining statehood has proven to be a thornier mission than our founding fathers probably anticipated. But at 69, Israelis have shown a feisty resilience that combines stubbornness, optimism, arrogance, idealism and pragmatism in equal measure.

It sounds like the perfect recipe for happiness

A Prayer for the Israel Defense Forces by Chief Cantor Shai Abramson on Yom Hazikaron

Yom HaAtzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day, is always preceded by Yom HaZikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day for its fallen soldiers. The message of linking these two days is clear: Israelis owe their independence — the very existence of the state — to the soldiers who sacrificed their lives for it.