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Did You Know?

Israel engineers are behind the development of the largest communications router in the world, launched by Cisco.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Israel’s ‘greatest art collector’ dies at age 99

Jerusalem-born Ayala Zacks Abramov bequeaths works to both Israel Museum and Tel Aviv Museum.

Ayala Zacks Abramov was a high-society lady of the old school – not pretentious, but definitely a lady – whose passing on Monday at age 99 marked the end of an era. She was arguably Israel’s greatest art collector and an extraordinarily generous philanthropist who, on her own and together with two of her husbands, left an indelible imprint on museums, art galleries and educational institutions across the world.

Abramov, whose maiden name was Ben-Tovim, was born in Jerusalem in 1912 and came from one of the well-known and well-to-do families of the Yishuv. She was widowed three times.

As a young woman, she was sent to study in London and Paris. It was in Paris that she met her first husband Maurice Fleg, whom she married in 1938. When war broke out, Maurice joined the army and was killed in action in 1940.

The most significant thing the grieving young widow thought she could do in his memory was to join the resistance movement in France - Fleg’s home country - and subsequently served there during World War II.

A fervent Zionist, she became immersed in Zionist activity after the war, and while in Switzerland, met an equally fervent Canadian-born Zionist by the name of Samuel J. Zacks, who was also a financier and an art collector. They married in 1947 and began collecting 19th and 20th century art, focusing primarily on works by French, Canadian and Israeli artists. They also collected antiquities and African tribal art.

Not only did they collect art, but they cultivated and sponsored artists, and sat on executive committees of universities and museums.

They were such avid collectors that their collection outgrew their spacious home in Toronto, and they gave many items from their impressive collection to museums, art galleries and universities in Canada and Israel.

Samuel Zacks died in 1970 in Toronto.

Ayala Zacks continued to live in Canada and to be active in the art world, earning several honors along the way and commuting frequently between Canada and Israel.

In 1976, she married Minsk-born Zalman Abramov, who had come as an adolescent to Israel and had subsequently studied in the United States. Abramov was an international lawyer and a politician, serving as a Member of Knesset from 1959 to 1977.

As a Likud MK in the 8th Knesset, he was also deputy speaker and a member of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and of the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee. He had also been a Knesset representative at the Council of Europe and before that a member of the Israeli Delegation to the United Nations.

He was in the forefront of activities in the struggle for Soviet Jewry and he was a champion of liberal Judaism in Israel.

Following her third marriage, Ayala Zacks Abramov moved back to Israel and lived with her husband in Tel Aviv, and following his death in 1997, for a few years in Jerusalem, before moving back to Tel Aviv.

Together, they established the Abramov Library at the Jerusalem campus of Hebrew Union College.

In 1982, Ayala established a trust fund in memory of her second husband at Strong College on the campus of Canada’s York University, which had already benefited from the couple’s extensive art collection.

The trust fund was designed to help young students of the arts.

In Israel, Ayala Zacks Abramov became intensely involved with both the Israel Museum and the Tel Aviv Museum, each of which have galleries with valuable works from her collection. Each of the museums has been named as a beneficiary in her will and their collections will be considerably enhanced by what she has bequeathed them.

She was also actively engaged with various cultural and educational institutions such as the Weizmann Institute, which she had supported while still in Canada and with which she became more closely affiliated after returning to Israel.

Video Satire - What Has Israel Ever Done For Peace

Video Satire - What Has Israel Ever Done For Peace

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IDF Develops Spy Robot Snake with 'Suicide' Capability

Prototype snake in action. Bottom pictures show snake's operator.

Bad news all around for the enemy: Israel develops intel-collecting snake; a new Israel-made tank shell stops in mid-air, kills anti-tank squads.

The Authority for Research and Development of Weapons in the Defense Ministry has developed a robot snake fitted with video and audio equipment that advances on the ground into enemy positions for intelligence collection. It can be used for special forces stealth operations, for crawling through Hamas tunnels or into Hizbullah bunkers. In addition, it could be used for locating survivors inside collapsed buildings after natural disasters or terror attacks.

The six-foot long snake can also be fitted with explosives and detonated inside enemy positions -- a capability dubbed as 'suicide.' The snake is currently in the prototype stage of development and has no price tag yet, but the Defense Ministry plans to begin production on a large scale soon.

According to a report on Channel 2, the snake can crawl into enemy positions through sewage pipes, under buildings and through forests. It is operated by one person with a laptop computer.

Wild Bill From America On Friendship With Israel

Wild Bill From America On Friendship With Israel

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Ask the Barman: A Cabernet Sauvignon fit for Obama

Wine expert Seth Weiser shows off his extensive knowledge (and love for Caroline Glick) at an event to promote Israeli wines at Clara Bar in Tel Aviv.

Hailing from New York, 35-year-old wine expert Seth Weiser recently made a special guest appearance at Clara Bar on the beach in Tel Aviv to promote Israeli wines.

Weiser is currently living in Israel and planning on making aliya shortly. Though he is not a barman by trade, he was serving Israeli wines at a special event hosted by the popular outdoor bar, arranged by

He learnt about the world of wines while working at his family's wine store in the Upper West Side of Manhattan, which has been in the family since 1941. Most of his bartending experience comes from serving the locals in the shop.

Weiser’s family also has a long history in Israel; many of his relatives lived here well before the creation of the state, and had to flee because of ties to the Irgun and Palmah movements. He is proud to be returning back to the country which his ancestors helped to build.

How long have you been serving drinks?

For six years.

Where did you learn the trade?

While working in the family wine business in New York.

Who’s the most interesting customer you have ever served?

There was a lady that came into the store every day for over a year and never bought anything. One day I asked if she would like to buy some wines and she said that she’d been waiting for someone to ask her. She ended up buying a whole case.

Who would be your ideal customer to serve wine to?

Barack Obama.


I could ask him what in the world is he really thinking. I would want to get him drunk to figure out what’s really going on his mind.

What would you serve him?

I think he would like a nice Cabernet Sauvignon.
You know what, I‘d serve him a Cabernet Sauvignon from deep within the West Bank. From way outside the ‘67 borders.

So, getting back to the matter at hand – what does it take to be a barman?

You have to be fast-paced and you have to be able to read people. A lot of the time people come up to you and ask – What do I want? After talking to someone for five minutes you can usually tell what they want. You just need to make some small talk. It becomes like an intuition.

What’s your least favorite drink to serve?

I don’t like serving sweet Passover wine.

Any tips for anyone that wants to get into bartending?

Take a class in psychology first. It helps to understand people and what they drink.

Do many people try to hit on you?

Let’s put it this way, I’ve been on hit on more times working in my family's store than any club in New York.

Oh and one last thing – I love Caroline Glick. Is she married?

I am not sure; you’d have to ask her yourself.

Details of Weiser's family wine shop can be found at

Joseftal Hospital's vital, life-saving work

The quadruple terrorist attacks on Thursday, August 18th, which killed 8 Israelis and injured dozens more in southern Israel, hit home in Jewish Toronto, because of UJA Federation’s long- standing partnership with the Eilat/Eilot Region.

Since the initial attacks, close to 200 more terrorist rockets have been fired toward southern Israel from Gaza, forcing countless Israeli men, women and children to spend much of the summer in bomb shelters.

Long ago, UJA Federation identified the vital importance of Eilat's Joseftal Hospital due to its remote location. Joseftal was at the forefront of Israel’s medical response to these acts of terrorism with its medical team rising to the occasion, providing first-class emergency services to the victims.

As a result, and with your help, UJA Federation has spearheaded a major project to renovate Joseftal, and build a new emergency wing. We also invested in an enhancement of the quality of care.

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Joseftal Hospital's vital, life-saving work in response to the recent terrorist attacks in Eilat, Israel.

Gadhafi's odd plea to Israel

A few weeks ago, when Col. Moammar Gadhafi was still hallucinating that he could cling to power in Libya indefinitely, he sent two unannounced emissaries to Jerusalem. Their mission was simple -- convince Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to lobby on Gadhafi's behalf in Washington. In return, Gadhafi would consider establishing diplomatic relations with Israel and involve Israeli corporations in Libya's reconstruction effort after six months of cruel civil war.

Gadhafi did not know that Netanyahu had instructed all his ministers not to engage in any kind of discussions with the Libyan emissaries. He further instructed that as long as Gadhafi was in Libya massacring his people, no Israeli -- whether government official or private citizen -- should have any contact with Libya.

To the embarrassment of Netanyahu, however, the Libyans met briefly with Tzipi Livni, the former foreign minister and the current chairman of Kadima opposition party. Livni could not deliver anything on behalf of the Israeli government and the emissaries returned to Tripoli empty-handed.

A quick investigation revealed that the two Libyans had a faint acquaintance with Walter Arbib, a former Libyan Jewish entrepreneur who now lives in Toronto.

Arbib is the partner of an Indian businessman who owns the Skylink Aviation, which delivers food and medicine on behalf of international charities to poor and embattled African countries.

Arbib is one of several former Jewish entrepreneurs who, in good faith, try to establish economic relations between Israel and Libya.

When told that the two Libyan emissaries were not welcome in Israel, however, Arbib washed his hands of their bizarre mission.

Arbib's behaviour is not surprising. He and his family came to Israel after the 1967 Six Day War. After the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty, Arbib established a small tourism company that tried to promote tourism to both Israel and Egypt. But he was unable to compete with well-established international tours companies and his enterprise failed. In 1988, he moved to Canada and became a partner in Skylink Aviation.

During all these years, he never cut his links to Israel and Libya. He recently celebrated his 70th birthday in Israel where his family still resides.

Yossi Mellman, a columnist for the Israeli daily Haaretz, managed to talk by phone with Arbib in London. He was very evasive. Arbib told Mellman that he has friends in both the Gadhafi and rebel camps, but that it is still too soon to evaluate the future relations between Israel and Libya.

Mellman described Arbib as a generous donor to Israeli charities, especially the Sheba Hospital, near Tel Aviv.

Israeli-Libyan relations are a case study in international relations.

When Israel was born in 1948, Libya was a monarchy ruled by King Idriss Senoussi. As a member of the Arab League, Libya always voted against Israel in international forums. Yet, Libya did not participate in the 1948 Arab war against Israel. Because of its non-belligerency, Libya was not defined as an enemy state in Israel's international law. This status was not modified even after Gadhafi's 1969 coup.

For unexplained reasons, Israel did not change its definition of Libya even when Gadhafi engaged in violent terrorism against Israel. Over the years, Gadhafi financed all Palestinian terrorist groups and used the diplomatic pouches to smuggle arms and ammunition for their operations in Europe. He supported Carlos the Jackal, the Abu Nidal group and opened his purse to any anti-Israeli operation.

Yet, after the Camp David Accords and the peace between Israel and Egypt, Gadhafi undertook a two-faced policy. He sharply attacked Anwar Sadat and Hosni Mubarak and broke diplomatic relations with Egypt. Yet, when Israel and Jordan signed their peace treaty in 1994, he allowed Libyan "pilgrims" to visit both Israel and Jordan in tours organized by the Israeli entrepreneur Yaacov Nimrodi of the Iran-Contra affair.

Another Jewish-Libyan entrepreneur, Raphael Fella, who now lives in Italy, undertook several missions in Israel on behalf of Gadhafi in Israel. The efforts were inconclusive.

Most recently, however, due to the state of anarchy in Libya, Gadhafi's arms depots were broken into and arms were smuggled via Egypt and Sinai to Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip.

Among the smuggled arms Russian-made Grad rockets, anti-tank weapons and heavy mortars.

NATO officials now hope that once the National Transition Authority moves from Benghazi to Tripoli and establishes itself as the sole legitimate authority in Libya, control over all Libyan arms depots will be again secured.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Climbing to save lives

Doctors, volunteers and supporters of Israel-based humanitarian organisation Save a Child’s Heart habe reached the summit of Africa’s highest peak, Mt Kilimanjaro, in an effort to raise $1 million which will save the lives of 100 African children in desperate need of heart surgery. They were partly funded by the Australian Pratt Foundation.

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The twelve climbers, from the United States, Canada, Israel, Ethiopia, and South Africa reached the peak of 19, 345 feet after 6 days of hiking through rainforest, moorland, semi desert, alpine desert and arctic terrain.

“The climbers arrived from different countries, speak different languages and are various ages, but they all share the same goal: to save the lives of children in Africa,” says Emma Hacohen, Project Coordinator of Climb Your Heart Out: Mount Kilimanjaro 2011.

“I have never felt more empowered,” says Simon Fisher, Executive Director of Save a Child’s Heart. “Watching the Save a Child’s Heart medical team perform the first ever pediatric open heart surgery in Mwanza Tanzania and then climbing Mt Kilimanjaro with the full awareness that this is going to lead to 100 more children’s lives being saved – I guess you could say nothing has ever felt this important.”

Prior to the climb, 13 pediatric heart surgeries were performed in Mwanza Tanzania by the Save a Child’s Heart medical team, as well as the first ever pediatric open heart surgery. Approximately 300 children were examined by the SACH doctors.

Those children who need heart surgery but did not receive it during the mission will be flown to Wolfson Medical Center in Holon, Israel with all expenses paid by Save a Child’s Heart.

Each climber committed to raising a minimum of 10,000 dollars, the cost of saving the life of one child. The rest of the funds are being raised through generous donations made by supporters of Save a Child’s Heart.

“It was a humbling and exhilarating experience,” says Emma Hacohen. “At the bottom of the mountain it seemed insurmountable- but taking it one day at a time, slowly, carefully, I sensed we were conquering it. I guess it’s quite similar to what we are doing at Save a Child’s Heart. Saving children with heart disease in Africa also seems insurmountable. But one heart at a time we are making a difference.”

About Save a Child’s Heart: Save a Child’s Heart is an Israel based international humanitarian project providing life-saving heart surgery and follow-up care for children from developing countries, including Africa, Iraq, the West Bank and Gaza. Last month Save a Child’s Heart received UN special status on the ECOSOC committee and it is now an official UN NGO.

Since its inception in 1996, the Save a Child’s Heart medical team treated over 2,700 children from 42 countries and has examined and evaluated more than 6,000 children.

A spokesman told J-Wire that the Pratt Foundation had donated $100,000 towards the costs.

The aim of the organization is to provide life-saving heart surgery and follow-up care for children from Africa, Iraq, the West Bank and Gaza.

Israel's rebel caves lead down to ancient wonders

A tourist walks inside a columbarium at the Hirbet Madras archaeological site in the foothills of Jerusalem, around the ancient city of Beit Guvrin.

Researchers revisit underground network that was used by Jews resisting the Romans

You'll need a headlamp, a tight waistline and no fear of the dark in order to enjoy one of the most extreme, yet lesser known, archaeological wonders of the Holy Land.

Even with the proper equipment and intestinal fortitude, it is easy to lose your cool when crawling through the expansive ancient tunnel systems dug by Jewish rebels to fight the Roman Empire.

The hundreds of hideouts, ranging from just a few meters deep to seemingly unending labyrinths, are popular among Israeli archaeologists and adventurers. But the subterranean mazes, which date back as early as the first century B.C., are virtually unknown to foreigners.

Even if you go looking for them, as designed, they are easy to miss.

The systems were often reached through trap doors in Jewish villages, some of which are now archaeological sites. Other cave entrances may be no more than an indistinct, shoulder-width opening in the ground or hillside.

You may have to crawl, even slither, for a few minutes through a pitch-black burrow — too cramped for a fully armed Roman legionary. Turns can be so tight that you have to back up to a spot where you can flip from head to feet first in order to continue.

Your headlamp will illuminate niches where oil lamps once lay, and other carvings in the rocks. You may emerge suddenly into an expansive columbarium, with hundreds of holes in the wall once used to raise pigeons, or perhaps a decorated storage room.

From there, the system may tunnel off in different directions, giving the sense of how the Jewish rebels lived and fought during two revolts against the Romans — the first around the time the great temple was destroyed in Jerusalem in A.D. 70, and one decades later under legendary leader Bar Kochba.

"Crawling inside a hiding complex is a thrill. We always expect the unexpected," said Amos Frumkin, a professor at the Geography Department at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem who heads the school's Cave Research Unit.

For decades he and his team have explored and mapped newly discovered systems, passing many days each year underground. They have found ancient weapons, trap doors and olive presses during their surveys. Their findings are published in an obscure journal called "Niqrot Zurim," or "Caverns in the Rocks."

The foothills of Jerusalem around the ancient city of Beit Guvrin are like an ant farm and best tell the story of the guerrilla tactics used in the Bar Kochba rebellion. The rebel strategy worked for a while, but the Romans eventually defeated them.

Earlier caves have been found farther north in the Galilee, where team members were called to explore a tunnel system found just a few months ago. Archaeologists had uncovered what they thought was a standard, 8-meter-deep (26-foot-deep) water cistern, but later noticed it had narrow crawlspaces shooting off its base.

The team rappelled to the lower level and became the first people in 2,000 years to tread there. With a metal detector and laser measurer, they spent hours mapping just a fraction of the tunnels.

Researchers have also mapped many of the nearby cavern hideouts that dot the cliff side of Mount Arbel overlooking the Sea of Galilee. Roman historian Josephus described in his writings how King Herod lowered his men in chests from the cliff to the cave openings and, using fire, overtook the rebels.

It is easy to lose your way in these underground mazes. Only a handful are well-marked and maintained, and it is best to hire a guide to take you around. With proper climbing equipment, the extremely brave and experienced can rappel even deeper if they come upon massive subterranean cisterns and chambers.

"These tunnels are an amazing secret that tourists unfortunately don't know about," said veteran guide Asael Lavi. "It's possible to spend an entire day or two crawling in the different systems and experience the fear, grief and even excitement that the rebels must have felt."

Shomron Council Brings Euro MPs to Visit Region

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A dip in Dead Sea's salt brings sweet news for diabetics

A short dip in the Dead Sea facilitates a drop in blood glucose levels and could improve the medical conditions of diabetics, according to an initial study conducted by researchers from the health sciences faculty of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and Soroka Medical Center in Be'er Sheva.

The study involved an initial sample group of 14 individuals between the ages of 18 and 65 who have suffered from Type 2 diabetes for less than 20 years.

The study took place in a covered pool filled with Dead Sea water at a temperature of 35 degrees Celsius. Following a 20-minute, one-time dip in the Dead Sea water, the study subjects showed a significant 13.5 percent drop in blood glucose levels, from an average of 163 mg/dl to a value of 151 mg/dl immediately after the dip. The subjects' blood glucose levels dropped even further, to an average of 141.4 mg/dl, an hour after the dip in the Dead Sea water.

A controled test in which the subjects underwent a 20-minute dip in regular water did not show any distinct drop in blood glucose levels with regard to the measurements taken immediately before and after the time spent in the pool. There was, however, a difference between the blood glucose levels measured immediately after the dip and an hour later.

Another control group involving six healthy individuals did not produce any significant differences between the measurements taken after their dips in both the Dead Sea water and the regular pool water.

The researchers also found the dip in the Dead Sea water did not adversely affect the subjects' other blood values, including their levels of insulin and cortisone hormones, and also their c-peptide levels, which are an indication of the ability to produce insulin in the pancreas.

The findings of the study will appear in the August edition of the Israel Medical Association's "Ha'refua" journal.

"These are findings from an initial study from which it is difficult to draw conclusions at this stage," said research team leader Prof. Shaul Sukenik of Ben-Gurion University, who served until recently as the director of the Internal Medicine Department at Soroka.

"Nevertheless," Sukenik continued, "the results are promising. We have yet to test what happens to the glucose levels beyond an hour after the dip."

The researchers are currently trying to secure additional funding so as to expand the study and examine the effects on diabetics of a daily dip in Dead Sea water over a period of three weeks.

According to the researchers, the improvements seen in the subjects' blood values in the current study are related to physiological changes caused by being immersed in water up to the neck. These changes include an increase in venous blood flow back to the heart that is caused by the transition of large quantities of blood from the veins in an individual's limbs and stomach cavity to the large blood vessels in the chest cavity. As a result, pressure in the main veins increases significantly, along with an increase in blood flow in the arteries of the lungs and an increase of up to 30 percent in the heart's output.

"In the event that the findings are confirmed in further studies, a drop in blood glucose levels will allow diabetics who bathe in the Dead Sea to use less medication," said Prof. Sukenik.

"We cannot determine this on the basis of the current study, but the findings do allude to this," he said.

Israeli Soldier Love Story - Proposal Live On Stage

Israeli Soldier Love Story - Proposal Live On Stage

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You don't need Hebrew to understand what happens here - what a tear-jerker!

Ossuary at David and Goliath battle site offers clues to Jesus' crucifixion

A 2000-year-old burial box found in the Valley of Elah, southwest of Jerusalem - the legendary location of the battle between David and Goliath - could reveal the location of the family of Caiaphas, the high priest involved in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, according to Israeli researchers.

The ancient limestone burial boxes containing skeletal remains - called ossuaries - are fairly common archaeological finds from the 1st century BCE to the 1st century AD period.

Researchers at Tel Aviv University's Department of Archaeology claim that a rare inscription on the ossuary confiscated antiquities looters three years ago, could reveal the home of the family of the biblical figure and high priest Caiaphas prior to their exodus to Galilee after 70 AD.

Most ancient ossuaries are either unmarked or mention only the name of the deceased. The inscription on this ossuary is extraordinary in that the deceased is named within the context of three generations and a potential location, says Prof. Yuval Goren, who was called on to authenticate the fascinating discovery.

The full inscription reads: "Miriam daughter of Yeshua son of Caiaphus, priest of Maaziah from Beth Imri."

The Maaziah refers to a clan that was the last mentioned order of 24 orders of high priests during the second temple period, Prof. Goren said.

Though it is possible that Beit Imri refers to another priestly order, say the researchers, it more probably refers to a geographical location, likely that of Caiaphus' family's village of origin.

It was probably located on the slopes of Mount Hebron, they added. he study has been published in the Israel Exploration Journal.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Israeli chef joins elite club

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Israeli chef Shalom Kadosh of Jerusalem has recently joined "Club des Chefs des Chefs" -- a prestigious group of chefs whose members cook for monarchs and heads of State. Kadosh is the first Israeli to be accepted to the club.

"Club des Chefs des Chefs" was found in 1977 in a luxury restaurant in France. Gilles Bragard, the owner of a chefs' fashion design house, invited 12 chefs of a few heads of state to a friendly dinner in which they shared cooking tips and anecdotes.

Following the evening's success, they decided to form a club of chefs cooking for monarchs and heads of state. At the moment it includes about 30 members, including the chefs of the French president, the queen of England and the White House.
The club members hold annual reunions, and once a year they are hosted by a head of state for whom they prepare a selection of delicacies.

Filling gaps with flair

Riff Cohen

Shlomi Shaban and Riff Cohen, who replaced foreign no-shows at the Red Sea Jazz Festival in Eilat, did not disappoint.

Shlomi Shaban was called to the Red Sea Jazz Festival in Eilat to fill slots vacated by musicians who canceled appearances at the last minute. Yet a large portion of singer-pianist Shaban's interaction with the audience was devoted to bemused reflections about his tenuous connection with the world of jazz.

He outlined his personal biography "for anyone who has dropped into this concert without knowing what's going on." In 2007, Shaban said, he abandoned the musical genre with which his name had been associated - bebop. Since then, he has basically reinvented himself as an Israeli rock singer.

Anyone who forgave him for his loose connection with jazz (it bears mention that jazz festivals around the world frequently invite performers associated with other popular forms of music ), enjoyed an excellent, uplifting performance. Shaban offered crazed, high-spirited renditions of favorites such as "Don't talk about Arik," and his performance was distinguished by his characteristic mix of verbal sarcasm and almost violent pounding on the piano keys.

One highlight of the concert was the staging of a democratic referendum on the question of who wanted a song about life, and who wanted one about death ("As always, the aspect of death is more uplifting," Shaban reflected ).

Another high point was the spontaneous, and much welcome, appearance of guest artists Yoni Rechter and horn player Avishai Cohen. It appeared that Shaban had no reason not feel at home in the festival: His instrumental work always includes an element of improvisation, and in Eilat his playing was particularly sharp, expressive and precise - if you will, jazzy.

American jazz singer Gretchen Parlato has a voice that astounds audiences in live performances. Her voice reaches such incredible heights that it becomes hard to believe that the sounds are emanating from a creature of flesh and blood. Her accompanying musicians add greatly to the performance - they play sophisticated melodies professionally and smartly, and offer jazz music in an appealing, accessible atmosphere.

Nonetheless, someone who sat next to me responded astutely to the performance, opining that "there's something missing here, maybe desire." The performance rendered by Parlato, 35, which opened the evening, was not bad. In fact, it was a good concert, with some very strong moments that occurred when something went out of control, when a musician began to improvise and stepped away from the disciplined musical lines followed by the singer. Most of the time this was an impressive performance, enjoyable in a light, non-demanding way.

As in the case of Shlomi Shaban's appearance, the performance by singer Riff Cohen was arranged quickly, as a result of cancelations by overseas performers. The question arises: Why weren't the festival organizers prepared for this possibility of cancelations?

Cohen works in Paris and Israel, and will soon release her debut album. Whoever saw her show on Tuesday, toward the end of the evening, witnessed an unusual and charming stage presence, along with a fine accompanying ensemble. Most impressive were her songs, which feature strong melodies with jazz tempos, along with influences from rock and other genres.

Hers was the first concert at the festival during which one could see young people crowding around the stage and breaking spontaneously into dance. This was also one of the only performances at the festival after which you were left enjoyably humming some of the melodies. Most of the songs were in French, but words of one number performed near the end, "Here is the Light," were engraved in one's memory for hours after the event, and the song constituted one of the festival's highlights.

On the one hand, it was unfortunate that more people were not there to witness one of the festival's most scintillating performances; on the other, in view of Cohen's songs and stage presence, there is little doubt that many will come to see her perform in the future.

Kenya to build Terem health clinics

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Citizens in Kenya Africa will soon be able to receive urgent medical care at the Israeli Terem clinic.

After visiting Terem clinics in Israel, government officials in Kenya decided to adopt the Israeli model and build similar care centers in the country.

Israeli doctors traveled to Kenya to discuss the new clinic and a cooperation agreement was signed between Terem director Dr. Joe Djemal and Kenyan officials.

The late Dr. David Appelbaum who was murdered in a terror attack in a Jerusalem café founded the chain of clinics some years ago which offers citizens an array of medical treatments instead of having to go to hospital emergency wards.

Terem welcomed the decision saying it would advance health care in Africa and save many Kenyans who have gone without the proper medical care.

Now, a scanner that can detect breast cancer without using radiation

Israeli scientists have developed a scanner that can detect breast cancer more effectively than traditional X-ray mammograms without using radiation.

The new device finds tumours in the breast by using infrared beams and thermal energy.

Scientists at Real Imaging, the Israeli inventors of the scanner, found women with breast cancer produced different signals on the surface of their skin. The machine can detect this without direct contact with the breast.

In a trial of 2,500 women the scanner was 92 percent effective at detecting breast cancer, compared to 80 percent for X-ray mammograms.

It was also found to be better at picking up cancers in younger women who tend to have denser breasts.

"Mammography is an old-fashioned technology which requires examination by the naked eye. The scanner is hi-tech and doesn't require a human being to be accurate," the Daily Express quoted Dr Reuben Libson at Hadassah University Medical Centre in Jerusalem, as saying.

Further trials are due to be held but scientists hope the device will get EU approval this year, allowing it to be used in the UK.

Breakthrough breast cancer scanner detects lumps without using X-rays

The current method: A mammogram uses X-rays to detect breast tumours
Scientists have developed a new type of scanner that is claimed to be more effective at detecting breast cancer than conventional mammograms.

The new machine finds tumours in the breast without the need for radiation by using infra red beams and thermal energy.

In a major trial of more than 2,500 people, the technology was found to be 92 per cent effective at detecting breast cancer in women compared to just 80 per cent for traditional mammograms that use X-rays.

Results of the study are due to be published soon in the leading medical journal Radiology.

Trials - involving another 2,500 women - are expected to take place next year at a major London teaching hospital and major hospitals in Barcelona and Paris.

Scientists at Real Imaging - the Israeli inventors -have discovered that women with breast cancer produce different signals on the surface of their skin which is detected by the machine without coming into contact with the breast.

The device is also set to get an official EU seal of approval by the end of the year allowing it to be used in the UK.

Two wealthy British billionaire businessmen, David and Simon Reuben, have invested £11 million in the company after a close member of their family developed breast cancer.

The company claims the new technology has a major plus that allows detection of cancer in younger women who generally have denser breasts.

There is a growing pressure for the UK national breast cancer screening programme to include women under 50. But one drawback is x ray mammography. Compared to older women it is not as effective at detecting cancer in younger women where cancer is on the increase.

The new machine - which was tested at major university hospitals in Israel -was found to be as effective at finding cancers in younger woman as older women.

Billionaire brothers Simon and David Reuben invested £11m in the new breast technology after a close member of their family developed cancer
Dr Eugene Libson, a radiologist at the Hadassah University Medical Centre in Jerusalem said: 'Mammography is an old fashioned technology which requires examination of x rays by the naked eye.

'And we know that it is not as good at finding cancers in women under 50 who, it could be argued, should be offered screening.'
In recent years the breast screening service in the UK has been hit by a number of scandals where radiologists have not read mamograms correctly and missed cancer in some women.

Dr Libson added: 'The new scanner is extremely hi tech and doesn't require a human to be accurate. You get a result on a screen and there is no peering at x ray films to try and find a tumour.'

Real Imaging expects the machine to be used initially alongside mammogram machines as a back up technology but believe it could one day replace the mammogram completely.

Professor Kefah Mokbel, a breast specialist at London's St George's Hospital, said: 'It's an interesting technology and there is certainly a need for other methods than mammogram machines. I would see it being used for moment with mammography because it could very well detect a cancer not seen on conventional secreening.'

IDF Ambulance Attacked with Molotov Cocktail on route to help Palestinians

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Last night, in response to reports of a serious car accident on the road toward a Palestinian area in Judea and Samaria, IDF paramedics sped off in order to aid the injured. Their mission came to an abrupt halt, however, when they were attacked; a Molotov cocktail was thrown at the ambulance they were riding in. Undeterred, they continued on their mission: to provide emergency care to all residents of Judea and Samaria, whether Israeli or Palestinian.

Next year in Jerusalem! Israel lures the Hollywood moviemakers

The Holy City is sweetening the pot for international filmmakers, offering cash incentives and a municipal department to assist with logistics.

Israel is tired of Hollywood filming Jesus' crucifixion in Italy and the Crusader invasion of the Holy Land in Morocco. So Israeli officials are promising better tax breaks, terror attack insurance and handouts of up to $400,000 to lure international movie producers to the holy city of Jerusalem. They want to cash in on the multibillion-dollar industry, and want the real Jerusalem on the silver screen … not Mediterranean stand-ins.

"It's absurd. Movies set in Jerusalem are filmed in Malta, Morocco and Greece," said Yoram Honig, an Israeli film director and 10th-generation Jerusalemite. He heads the Jerusalem Film Fund, which was set up three years ago to encourage more moviemaking in the city.

According to conventional wisdom in Hollywood, Jerusalem is too volatile to ensure smooth filming on location. International insurance companies have traditionally refused to provide terrorism risk coverage, or offered it at exorbitant prices.

For a long time, it didn't make financial sense for the producers. While Israel in the 1980s attracted such star-studded productions as Sylvester Stallone's "Rambo 3" and Chuck Norris' "The Delta Force," it later lost out to other countries that started giving big tax incentives to producers.

"If they think it's expensive and dangerous, they won't want to come," Honig said.

That's why the Israeli government enacted a law in 2008 offering tax breaks to foreign film companies that choose to shoot in Israel. And earlier this year Israel introduced an insurance fund to provide coverage to a production in case of disruptions by acts of war or terrorism, said Zafrir Asas, manager of audio visual industries in Israel's Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor.

But the 2008 law has had little effect. Asas admits the tax incentives are far lower than what other countries provide.

Nava Levin, the Israeli representative to the Producers Guild of America, said the law actually creates obstacles to filmmakers, including a requirement that Israeli production companies purchase goods and services for the producers on their behalf. The law "is written in a way that is almost impossible to take advantage of it," Levin said.

Even Israeli producers have shied away from the city: Out of 600 some Israeli movies filmed since the country's founding, only about 30 have been filmed in Jerusalem, Honig said. That has begun to change recently, with some of Israel's most celebrated new films shot here with the fund's financial support, including Joseph Cedar's "Footnote," which was awarded best screenplay at this year's Cannes film festival.

Now the city is sweetening the pot for international filmmakers, offering cash incentives and a municipal department that will assist with filming permits and on-location logistics. Only four international productions are shot in Jerusalem each year, most of them European, Honig said.

Part of the push to get Jerusalem into movie theaters is to present a more positive image of the city than the conflict seen in the news … "the Jerusalem that more than 3.5 billion people of faith around the world wish to see," said Stephan Miller, spokesman for Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat.

Honig said the municipal fund is close to signing a contract with a German producer to shoot a film about the trial of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann, which took place in Jerusalem in 1961. An Italian producer has also proposed filming a comedy in the city about an Italian nun who falls in love with an ultra-Orthodox Jew.

Other projects the film fund is courting include an Indian-Israeli romance, and "Jerusalem, I Love You," an installment of producer Emmanuel Benbihy's Cities of Love series. A delegation of Bollywood producers also recently visited the city to scout out filming opportunities.

Tel Aviv and Haifa, too, are developing similar film funds to attract producers to those cities.

In the meantime, most major Hollywood productions have preferred to set up their movies about Jerusalem elsewhere.

Take "World War Z," the forthcoming multimillion-dollar zombie flick starring Brad Pitt. Part of the plot takes place in Jerusalem, but producers have replicated the city on the island of Malta, which offers hefty cash rebates for foreign film productions. Israeli actors have been flown in for the filming, Levin said.

"Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves" opens with Kevin Costner escaping from a prison in Jerusalem … but the movie was filmed in England and France. Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" was shot in Italy. In Steven Spielberg's "Munich," about Mossad assassinations of Palestinians who killed Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics, a Tel Aviv beach promenade scene was filmed in Malta.

Some films taking place in Jerusalem have even been filmed in Middle Eastern countries that don't have friendly relations with Israel. The Crusaders who storm Jerusalem in the 2005 action film "Kingdom of Heaven" were filmed in Morocco, which cut off diplomatic ties with Israel in 2000 when the second Palestinian intifada erupted.

Monty Python's "Life of Brian" filmed scenes of Jerusalem in Tunisia, using part of the recreated Jerusalem set built for the Italian miniseries "Jesus of Nazareth." Tunisia only established diplomatic relations with Israel in 1996, but severed them in 2000.

The opposite is true, too. The 1991 thriller "Not Without My Daughter" starred Sally Fields as an American trapped in Iran, but it was filmed partially in Israel. The opening scene of the 1999 film "The Insider," when Al Pacino's character meets the founder of the militant group Hezbollah in Lebanon, was actually filmed in an Arab village in Israel.

Poll Results: How should Israel react to last week's terror attacks in the South?

Poll Results: How should Israel react to last week's terror attacks in the South?

With restraint. Try to find a diplomatic solution to reinstate the cease-fire. - (33%)

With force. The only way to end the rocket fire is to eliminate the rockets and those firing them. - (50%)

With assistance. Israel's neighbors should share responsibility for regional safety. - (8%)

None of the above. - (8%)

Next poll: What do you think is the most important recent news event?

If you have comments, suggestions and/or additions you would like to see within "Israel - Light onto Nations" - please email:

Sunday, August 28, 2011

New airport planned in southern Israel

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The Ministry of Tourism announced plans to open a new international airport in three years time at Timna, 11 miles north of the southern seaside resort town of Eilat.

The airport will be named after the late Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon, and will replace existing airports in Ovda and Eilat.

The airport will feature a state-of-the-art light rail that will transport travelers to downtown Eilat, as well as long- and short-term overnight parking.

The $422 million airport is expected to spark a 300% increase in tourism to southern Israel with an anticipated 1.5 million travelers arriving on both international and domestic flights each year.

Haim Gutin, Israel commissioner for Tourism, North and South America, said the new airport will help encourage travel and simplify access to one of Israel's most beautiful and inspiring regions.

Herman Cain: Full Support for Israel

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Imagine living in a neighborhood where most of your neighbors wish you would move away. Since you have a right to be there and it happens to be the home of many generations of your family, you refuse to be intimidated into leaving, even though you are violently attacked frequently, and sometimes family members are killed. Although painfully saddened, your resolve to remain there is not weakened.

That neighborhood is the dwelling place of Israel, a nation surrounded by many of its enemies.

Having spent last week in Israel talking and listening with many of Israel’s citizens, the deputy speaker of the Knesset, the leader of the opposition party in the Knesset, the mayor of Jerusalem, the mayor of the city of Ariel and the deputy prime minister, and touring the landscape of Israel, I now have a greater appreciation for the threats against Israel, their frustrations and their genuine desire for peace.

Threats against them from some of their neighboring nations and the Palestinians are very real. Those threats are not only from Iran wanting to wipe Israel off of the face of the earth, but also frequent terrorist attacks, most recently along its southern border.

After seeing first-hand the proximity of its enemy’s borders to communities within Israel, and the peaceful and positive developments in the city of Ariel, often referred to as the West Bank, it is easy to understand why the Israelis consider the idea of going back to the pre-1967 borders, as proposed by President Obama, to be unreasonable, impractical and, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said, a non-starter.

Unreasonable and impractical demands by the Palestinians have stalled the so-called peace process for decades. This was not just a recent conclusion from one trip to Israel. This is from decades of watching the developments between Israel and the Palestinians as far back as the efforts of former President Jimmy Carter.

One of Israel’s major frustrations stems from a lack of clarity about its relationship with the United States of America.

Different administrations have always shown different levels of support for Israel, but the actions of the Obama Administration have signaled renewed and disappointing confusion about our support of Israel. Suggesting that Israel return to pre-1967 borders is a most egregious suggestion, which only serves to encourage Israel’s enemies to continue their hostility toward them.

Let me be direct and clear. I support Israel’s position that the 1967 borders must stand. I also support the position that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, and that Jerusalem must never be divided for political or any other reason.

And for those who may challenge or remain silent on these two critical issues, I challenge them to spend the time as I have to experience and see what many people do not know, and what some people don’t want the rest of the world to know.

I am convinced that Israel wants peace with its neighbors, and that they have been willing to make many concessions over the years for the sake of peace, unlike some of its neighbors. All parties must truly want peace, but there comes a time when one must draw a line and give no more.

Glenn Beck’s special event in Israel on “Restoring Courage”, where I attended the closing program, could not have been held in a more appropriate location. No other nation has exemplified courage throughout its history better than the nation of Israel. It has consistently survived and thrived against the odds.

The United States of America must have the courage to stand with its friend Israel despite the enemies around it. It is in our shared interest to do so for the sake of peace in the Middle East and the rest of the world.

With me as president of the United States of America, we would stand with Israel.

Builder offers youth a bright future

Gil Blutrich of Skyline International Developments, picture at the King Edward Hotel, runs Bright Future, a program for youth at risk in his hometown of Ra’anana, Israel.

Gil Blutrich wasn’t a stellar student, yet at age 16 started his own business selling and manufacturing glass terrariums and became the youngest entrepreneur in Israel.

Years later, as a successful real estate developer, he became frustrated by simply writing checks for charities and wanted “to see the whites of the eyes of the people I’m helping.” Yet when he offered his volunteer services to an organization, he never was called back.

That’s when he decided he wanted to work with youth at risk in his hometown of Ra’anana and went to the mayor to explain an idea he had; to mentor a group of 16-year-olds and teach them how to become entrepreneurs.

Blutrich and city representatives started a non-profit billboard business where the teens sold and installed signs in 150 locations. The youths were paid a salary and could earn bonuses. They participated in the program for two years.

“I decided we were going to train the kids and brainstorm as to how we could make them entrepreneurs,” explains Blutrich. “It was a partnership between me as mentor and social workers from the city.

“I gave a startup loan. Instead of a donation of $50,000, I provided seed money to purchase billboards and I got the money back in less than a year,” he reports. “Since then, the annual revenue is $400,000 in Ra’anana.”

Blutrich — who moved to Canada in 1998 and is founder and CEO of Toronto-based Skyline International Developments with a portfolio of resort and hotel properties including Muskoka’s Deerhurst Resort, the King Edward Hotel, Horseshoe Resort, Port McNicoll Resort Village, the Cosmopolitan Hotel, Pantages Hotel and Shizen Spas — still monitors the program’s progress.

“I think it’s a fantastic way to inject self esteem kids in a crucial time in their lives to give them foundation as responsible citizens.”

Under the Bright Future program, the teens have a schedule, must be organized and abide by a code of behavior, including coming to the boardroom in business attire. Ten participants are accepted into the program at a time.

“The idea behind it was to create some responsibility. I wanted to stop the vicious cycle of give, give, give, and create a business that will create kids’ salaries and save for the future,” says Blutrich. “The rest will be donated back to the community and that’s what has happened in the last 16 years.”

“It’s a potential model that could be picked up here in Canada.”

Since then, Bright Future has developed huge momentum in Israel in more than 43 municipalities and is considered one of the most successful projects in the country to deal with at-risk youth. The businesses, which operate under various names, include billboards, cafés, candle factories, landscaping, jewellery-making, artwork, cleaning, greenhouses, printing services and bakeries.

“The beauty of this is we have enough years to observe what happened to kids through process and it’s quite surprising and very positive,” says Blutrich.

One who came through the program in 1996 (in its second year) was a young man named Boaz, who had dropped out of school, had a history of drug abuse and was living on the street.

“Bright Future taught me to believe in myself as an individual and that I can become a normal and successful person despite my tough start,” says Boaz, who now owns a real estate brokerage and an office cleaning business in Israel. “I learned to adjust myself to daily schedules and how to work in a team and how to think creatively. The most important benefit for me is that the program taught me to believe in myself and I got a strong sense of confidence.”

He said the two years in Bright Future taught him the basics of sales and marketing and business management — tools he utilizes today — and opened his eyes to new opportunities.

“I learned that the ability to make a change in my life is there and it all depends on me,” he says.

Blutrich says Boaz’s story is one of numerous Bright Future success stories.

“You change the route of one person’s life, you save the world,” he says. “It’s giving them the ropes, not the fish. You teach them they have the power within themselves to make their life and future better by being proactive. You see a lifestyle change in about 85 per cent of the participants.”

Now Blutrich would love to see a similar program launch in Toronto, where there is also a large number of at-risk youth.

“The beauty of this business is the seed money is not a donation, it’s a loan, which can be provided by philanthropists,” he points out. “It’s important to build the right teams. You need a social worker involved to offer guidance and you can hire a young MBA student as CEO. For me, the most important component is finding the mentor, a guy like me who can devote time to work one-on-one with a small group of kids and is capable and motivated.

“I’m happy to assist and give direction, and I can connect people here with those who run the program in Israel for access to guidelines and procedures. It’s a cause very close to my heart.”


A group of Toronto area builders and developers left construction sites and boardrooms behind on July 27 to careen around the curves at Mosport International Raceway behind the wheels of high-powered Porsches and Ferraris.

Motoamoré was held in honour of the late Rob Muzzo of the Pemberton Group, who died of cancer, and raised funds for the Toronto General and Western Hospital Foundation. Since the first Motoamoré in 2004, the annual event has raised in excess of $2.2 million. Although Muzzo did not receive his treatment at Toronto General, the hospital was chosen as beneficiary for its work in cancer care.

The event was conceived by him and his brother Marc, who continues the work following Rob’s death.

“The event came to life after Rob was treated at University Health Network, specifically Princess Margaret Hospital,” says Muzzo. “The idea was to help raise funds for such a great organization. We’ve participated in many fundraisers, mostly golf tournaments, but given the fact that Rob or I were not golfers, this wouldn’t apply.”

But the brothers were car fanatics.

“We knew many friends and associates with some fabulous cars but not many knew how to drive them the way they were meant to be driven,” explains Muzzo. “The thought of organizing an event at Mosport with professional drivers giving instruction on how to lap a race track really intrigued us and proved to be a successful idea. I guess no one anticipates the success of an event in its first year, but after eight years and going strong, I must say I am extremely pleased!”

Since its inception, funds have been raised for Princess Margaret Hospital and more recently, the Toronto General and Western Hospital Foundation.

“It’s an event not only to raise funds for some great institutions, but more so to honour the memory of a fabulous brother, son, father and husband,” says Muzzo.

Motoamoré brings together Rob Muzzo’s friends, family and business associates and has expanded to include three events: a car rally, a gala party and the track day. This year, 25 drivers tested their vehicles’ capabilities on the famous track in a controlled, closed-circuit environment, while gaining tips and experience.

The car rally was held in June, when participants drove through the Ontario countryside, making pit stops and tracking clues, followed by an evening of gourmet food and dancing. Party tickets were $500 each or a $1,500 ticket provided access to all three events.

The roster of builder/developers participating in the track day included the Pemberton Group, Rosehaven, Falcon Crest and Aspen Ridge Homes, Metrus Developments and Edilcan. Many of the participants are experienced race drivers, although some were novices. Event sponsors and doctors also joined the action.

Biblical Art Exhibit Near the Tomb of Mother Rochel

Oil paintings by the Ellen Lapidus Stern at Beit Bnei Rachel, adjacent to the Tomb of Rachel.

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Beit Bnei Rachel, next to the Tomb of Rachel, is holding an exhibition of oil paintings by Ellen Lapidus Stern. The exhibition is titled "The Biblical Art Show" as all the paintings were influenced by stories and passages from the Bible.

"These paintings are the result of years of dedication not only to a Jewish life as a daughter of Jerusalem but to a lifetime of study and work at the aesthetics and culture of art," explains Stern. She was the recipient of a Danforth Fellow in Fine Arts during her graduate studies and years of teaching at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York, her home town.

Upon immigrating to Israel, Ellen became a member of the Jerusalem Artists' House and has held shows at Safrai Gallery, The Museum of Ein Harod and the Ella Gallery.

Keeping Israel environmentally friendly

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The Environmental Protection Ministry said it would award a total of NIS151 million over the next two years to projects and investments aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions as part of efforts to achieve a 20 percent reduction in gases by 2020.

A joint effort the Ministry and the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministries have approved budget calls for NIS 40 million to go to specific projects and commercial installations . The remaining NIS 111 million will be allocated towards projects and investments seeking to reduce greenhouse emissions.

"This project is a huge leap forward in relation to the state of the environment," Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan said in a statement. "For the first time, the government in Israel is budgeting unprecedented sums to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. "

Over the next decade, the Environment Ministry expects to see a total of NIS 2.2 billion invested toward its goal of a 20% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2020.

Sarkozy to Gilad Schalit: ‘France has not forgotten you’

Hundreds mark soldier’s 6th birthday spent in captivity in march from Erez crossing to northern Gaza.

To mark Gilad Schalit’s 25th birthday, his sixth as a prisoner in Gaza, France and the US on Sunday sent words of support to his parents, as hundreds rallied with them throughout the day to demand his freedom.

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French President Nicolas Sarkozy wrote a personal letter to the young man, who holds both French and Israeli citizenship.

“My dear Gilad,” Sarkozy wrote. “France has not forgotten you. The opposite. We are close to you, especially on this sad birthday, which you have been prevented by your captors from experiencing as a free man, with those who love you.”

Schalit cannot receive letters in Gaza where he has been held by Hamas since he was kidnapped in June 2006, at age 19, as he patrolled the southern border. So acting French Ambassador Nicolas Roche personally delivered the missive to Schalit’s parents, Noam and Aviva, as they sat in a protest tent near the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem.

“During a period in which the Middle East is experiencing tremendous upheavals in the name of liberty and human dignity, your freedom has been denied,” Sarkozy wrote.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé also penned a letter to Schalit’s parents; Roche delivered it as well.

In it, Juppé assured them that France would continue its efforts on the young man’s behalf. He noted that no other French citizen has been held hostage as long as Schalit has.

“France will never give up. She will remain mobilized until Gilad Schalit is freed and returned to his family,” Juppé wrote.

Separately, United States Ambassador Dan Shapiro visited Noam and Aviva in the Jerusalem tent to express both his personal support and that of his government’s for the battle to free Schalit.

Noam then traveled down south, to participate in a small ceremony near the spot where his son was captured, near the Kerem Shalom crossing to southern Gaza.

He then met hundreds of activists at the Yad Mordechai junction. Together they marched to the Erez crossing to northern Gaza, where they held a small rally.

As Palestinians held their luggage and headed toward the crossing to enter the Strip, activists gathered to the side of the gate to call for Schalit’s release. They held signs that read, “Gilad is alone,” “Can you only return from captivity in a coffin?” and “Gilad also wants social justice.”

Tel Aviv Chief Rabbi Meir Yisrael Lau offered to trade places with Schalit. “I’m willing to be a bargaining chip instead of Gilad,” he said.

The only parliamentarian who arrived at the rally was MK Tzipi Hotovely (Likud), who has opposed a prisoner swap to free Schalit and stated so in her remarks.

The family and their supporters have urged the government to free 1,000 security prisoners, including those responsible for fatal terrorist attacks against Israelis. There is more that the government can do to free Schalit, Hotovely said, but that involves steps to weaken Hamas and not freeing terrorists.

Hotovely told the activists at the rally that other options to pressure Hamas existed, including halting the handover of funds to the Palestinian Authority and imposing harsher conditions on security prisoners held in Israeli jails.

Hotovely later told The Jerusalem Post that she had been invited to the demonstration by the Schalit family, despite her positions, in an attempt to widen the circle of support for the battle to free Gilad.

Noam said that the government, which Hotovely is a part of, has torpedoed the measures that she has advocated.

Sign the petition to Free Gilad Shalit:

'Like' StandWithUs on facebook:

Stand with Gilad on facebook:

"I am Noam Shalit, Gilad Shalit's father.
For five long years, me and my wife Aviva have had one wish-
to see our son come home.

For five long years, our young son Gilad has been held hostage,
as a bargaining chip by his captors- the Hamas leaders.

With no basic human rights, in total isolation,
and clearly against International and Humanitarian law.

The Hamas leaders keep ignoring all calls from the international community
for the immediate and unconditional release of Gilad.

We, Gilad's family and friends, miss him very much.

After five years of not having him with us.

He will be 25 years old and we ask of all the people of the free world
to help us to free Gilad before it will be too late,
and to enable him to celebrate his 25th birthday at home.

Thank you very much."

Friday, August 26, 2011

Israeli circumcision skills saving Zulu men

Dr. Inon Shenkar of the Jerusalem AIDS Project and Operation Abraham with Zulu King Goodwill Zwelethini in South Africa.

An ancient Jewish religious rite turns out to be a critical weapon in the war against the spread of the HIV virus in South Africa.

While San Francisco politicians debate the necessity of the male foreskin removal rite, citing human rights concerns, Zulu King Goodwill Zwelethini of KwaZulu-Natal nods his head. The tribal leader of KwaZulu-Natal, a province of 10 million people in South Africa, recently rescinded a 200-year-old ban on the age-old practice of male circumcision, still conducted in many regions in Africa, after seeing the evidence on the spread of AIDS.

Some estimates suggest than more than half of all HIV infections could be stopped if men are circumcised. Very conservative estimates are one in 10.

"Circumcision is one of the interventions that reduce the risk of transmission," says Maureen Malowany, a medical historian grounded in evidence-based medicine. The Canadian-Israeli woman has started volunteering for the Jerusalem AIDS Project (JAIP), and since March, as the NGO's country coordinator for South Africa, has traveled there twice to help train Zulu medical personnel in the practice of male medical circumcision.

So compelling is the evidence of circumcision as a protection against AIDS that physicians there are all but competing to remove the highest number of foreskins per day, Malowany tells ISRAEL21c. Learning the age-old practice from top-notch Israeli surgeons and nurses, some 100 trained doctors and nurses in South Africa have so far taken their skills back to their own hospitals. Up to 50 circumcision operations can be performed per surgeon, per day, according to the protocol.

"The evidence," says Malowany "is always about context and good science. KwaZulu-Natal has a huge HIV/AIDS challenge. If the government and the king are willing to stand up and say that ‘our men need to be circumcised,' then that's a pretty good argument for delivering male adult circumcision."

Ancient practice meets modern need

Among Jews, baby boys are circumcised on the eighth day of life, in accordance with a biblical commandment. Muslims circumcise their sons by age six, also in keeping with religious tradition. But as a medical practice, removing the foreskin has been found to dramatically reduce HIV transmission based on scientific studies, including three controlled trials in Uganda, Kenya and South Africa in 2007.

(Male circumcision is not to be confused with female circumcision, which mutilates the female genitalia by removing the clitoris partly or entirely. Jewish Israeli doctors are against this practice, although it is still reportedly done in some Bedouin communities in Israel.)

Working in Africa by invitation only, volunteer doctors and nurses under the Israeli umbrella group Operation Abraham, as part of the JAIP project, have twice traveled to Saint Mary's Hospital in KwaZulu-Natal to teach high-volume male circumcision. The team at the clinic in the region of Durban includes Zulus, Muslims and Hindus, making it an extraordinary experience, Malowany relates.

More than two decades of education

The impact factor of JAIP is in the millions. In Latin America, Israeli HIV/AIDS education has become part of the school curriculum in some countries. The all-volunteer JAIP has set a model for educating citizens of developing nations on how to stay protected from the deadly HIV virus.

Since its early beginnings in 1986, the NGO has worked locally in Jerusalem, nationally in Israel and internationally through materials utilized in about 30 countries, in coordination with groups such as the World Health Organization and UNAIDS. JAIP was commended by the United Nations in 2006 for its approach.

Not long ago, founder Dr. Inon Shenkar returned from Myanmar, where he trained AIDS educators. It's his mission, he tells ISRAEL21c, to show that Israel is much more than a country in conflict.

One of the special projects he has helped developed employs icon-based flashcards carried by backpackers wherever they roam. When they encounter villagers on their travels, they show the cards and explain via smiles and images how the virus spreads, and how to prevent contracting it.

In Africa, JAIP is active in Swaziland, Ethiopia, Senegal, Uganda and South Africa.

More funds are being sought to continue circumcision training in KwaZulu-Natal. The group also has invitations from Uganda and Swaziland, where JAIP ran pilot training sessions in 2007 to 2008.

"If 100 doctors could circumcise 1,000 men every month, for every 10 we could avert one case of HIV," says Malowany. "For conservative estimates, that is 5,000 people in KwaZulu-Natal."

Broward religious communities to host Israel Summit

Prominent politicians and religous leaders are expected to attend the Israel Summit on Sunday — an event jointly hosted by the Christian and Jewish communities of Broward County.

The Jewish and Christian communities of Broward County will join forces Sunday evening to host the first South Florida Summit for Israel.

Politicians and religious leaders are expected to discuss how the two religious communities can collaborate in their support for Israel in an auditorium-styled event open to the public at Nova Southeastern University.

South Florida Congressmen Mario Diaz-Balart and Ted Deutch and Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz will talk about the importance of the United States’ relationship with the Middle East country. The deputy foreign minister of Israel, Daniel Ayalon, will also be in attendance.

“They are coming to express their personal support of Israel, their opposition to the campaign to de-legitimize Israel, and to add their voices to the longstanding historical friendship between the United States and Israel,” said Eric Stillman, president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Broward County.

Stillman says the summit comes at a critical time as both misinformation and misperceptions about Israel are becoming increasingly common.

“I believe that Israel is under attack, and not just from conventional warfare,” Stillman said. “The political attacks that are occurring are meant to destroy the legitimacy of Israel’s right to exist and to prevent Israel from being able to defend its own citizens and own border.”

The collaborative event is also intended to show that the well-being of Israel is not just a Jewish issue, but an issue that concerns everyone.

“[The Summit] is a monumental and unique summit in bringing the Jewish and Christian leaders and communities together to stand against the global move to delegitimize the Nation of Israel through political and legal means,” Mario Bramnick, president of the Broward Pastor’s Network, wrote in a news

Summit for Israel

Where: Don Taft University Center at Nova Southeastern University, 3301 College Ave., Davie.

When: 7 p.m. Sunday; doors open at 6 p.m.

Admission: Free, but parking will cost $5.