Thursday, December 25, 2014

From Ian:

The Modern Day Miracle of Israel
Close your eyes and imagine for one moment how radically different the entire world would be if Israel were at peace with its neighbors in the Middle East. In fact, consider the multitude of benefits to all of humanity and the thought becomes as exciting as it does overwhelming.
I am not merely talking about the preservation of human life that is tragically lost to deadly terrorist attacks and wars that are forced upon the Jewish state by neighbors who remain committed to its destruction. I am also talking about the life-improving innovations that flow from Israel like the mighty streams that rush through the rugged landscape of the Holy Land.
If Israel received the gift of peace and security then the entire world would receive even more remarkable benefits than it has already reaped from a tiny country no bigger than the state of New Jersey, which fights to survive in one of the world’s most violent and destructive neighborhoods.
During the past week I have traveled through Israel and the Palestinian territories with Dr. Ben Carson and his wife Candy. We have seen first-hand the challenges that Israel faces and the incredible opportunities that this small dynamo is creating for its people and the larger global community.
Netanyahu on Christmas: Middle East Christians subject to violence, persecution and fear
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wished Christians the world over a Merry Christmas on Thursday, lamenting the plight of Middle East Christians who he said are subject to persecution in every country of the region, except for Israel.
"I wish Christians in Israel and all over the world a very Merry Christmas," Netanyahu said in the YouTube video.
"Christmas is a special opportunity to spend time with loved ones and to celebrate this most festive of holidays," he added.
He called on the world's Christian communities to remember those who are less fortunate, the Christianss suffering from persecution across the Middle East.
Netanyahu said that Israel was the one exception in the Middle East where Christians live without fear, violence or persecution.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Christmas Greeting - 2014

What if Jesus Were Born Now?
Jesus was a Jew. He was born of a Jewish mother, lived what we would call today an Orthodox Jewish life, brought offerings to and worshipped at the Temple, affirmed Himself that he was not to replace the law but to fulfill it, and in doing so his lineage was traced back to the Jewish King David.
So what would happen if a young Jewish couple, dressed in clothes that are identifiable as those of Orthodox Jews, were to pass through Bethlehem today? How would they be greeted? Would they be welcomed and given a place to stay if all Bethlehem's hotels were overbooked?
First of all, on the approach to Bethlehem, they would encounter a sign telling them that as Israelis, it's illegal and unsafe for them to continue to Area A (under full control of the Palestinian Authority, of which Bethlehem is part according to the 1990s Oslo agreement).
If they proceeded anyway, whether by foot, bicycle, car or donkey—given the current state of affairs—they would likely be met with problems from the get go, including possibly being stoned, firebombed, shot at or lynched. Recent instances of Israeli Jews going into or near other Palestinian Arab communities have played this out. (h/t Elder of Lobby)
O Little Town: Missing in Bethlehem
It was November and Christmas was coming to Bethlehem.
Two years ago, Sherry Khoury drove through the little town.
Decorations were being hung, streets were coming alive with sparkling, colored lights. There were Christmas trees and Santas, snowmen and tinsel lights, angels and twinkling stars. But something was missing. She visited again, looking close, then went home to tell her husband what she had seen, what she could not find.
Sherry’s husband, Steven Khoury, was born in Jerusalem and grew up in Bethlehem. Today he is the pastor of Calvary Church in east Jerusalem. His father, Dr.
Naim Khoury, is the founding pastor of First Baptist Church in Bethlehem. Both men are Israeli Arabs. Together their umbrella ministry is called Holy Land Missions.
Every year HLM ministries reaches millions of Arabs in the Palestinian Territories, Gaza and throughout the Middle East. Their message never changes: Jesus was born a Jewish baby in Bethlehem, died an observant Jew in Jerusalem and, fully human, rose from the dead as God’s own rescuer and redeemer for everyone who accepts his rescue, who receives his redemption.
Taking this stand is hazardous.
Father Gabriel Nadaf: Thanks to Israel, I Can Have a Merry Christmas
Right now, while Christians the world over are celebrating Christmas, entire communities of the followers of Christ cannot rejoice. The Middle East and parts of Africa continue to drown in rivers of blood, with various minorities being targeted by radical Islamic organizations such as ISIS, Hamas, Jabhat al-Nusra, Boko Haram, al-Qaeda, Hezbollah and others.
The Christians there are stuck in the middle of a maelstrom of genocide and ethnic cleansing occurring on a daily basis through horrific acts of rape, crucifixion, theft, expulsion, destruction, burning of churches, forced conversions, abduction of nuns and the murder of priests, children, women and the elderly. Sometimes the murderers slaughter whole families, sometimes they murder some in front of the rest and then let the others live with the nightmare. People who can flee to the west, and those who can't leave or who wih to remain must live with the danger.
The Middle East is effectively being cleansed of Christians. In the beginning of the 20th century, Christians constituted some 20% of the population in the region. Today, it's 4% and falling. 77% of Iraq's Christians have fled since 2000, in addition to the thousands who were murdered or forcibly expelled. 450,000 Christians have fled Syria since the civil war began in 2011, for fear they would share the same fate.
Bethlehem, the birthplace of Christ, had a clear Christian majority. Since 1995, when Israel handed the city to the Palestinian Authority, Christians have been leaving in droves. Today, Christians are only 15% of the population, some say it's even less. Elsewhere in Palestinian-run areas, Christians are also leaving, and in Hamas-run Gaza, the situation is even worse.
Santa Claus Isn’t Coming to Town in the Middle East
The headline may give you a chuckle, but it is certainly no laughing matter. Christians in the Middle East have been devastated by violence and genocidal tendencies at the hands of Islamic extremists. The only place in the Middle East Christians are truly safe is the Jewish State.
The birthplace of Christianity is under siege – pogroms – spearheaded by the likes of ISIS and Boko Haram.
According to Open Doors International, a charity that supports Christians persecuted for their faith, in 2013 alone, more Christians were murdered in Syria than in the whole world in 2012. During the same time frame, twice as many Christians perished at the hands of hate than in the previous year.
But we aren’t just talking about extermination of people who are different. Middle East Christians are experiencing inhumanity not seen since the Nazi’s “final solution.”
After a Year of Rising Anti-Israel Prejudice, Good Riddance to 2014
As 2014 draws to a close, I can’t help but reflect on this year’s dramatic increase in anti-Semitic and anti-Israel attacks, and hope that the coming year will see more Jews actively join the fight to reverse these trends.
In Israel itself, 2014 saw another round of the now familiar cycle: Israeli concessions to “advance” the fake peace process, Palestinian Arab rejection, then increased violence against Jews. This year saw the violence include the murder of the three teenage boys, car attacks killing adults and infants, multiple murders by stabbing and gunfire, the bloody butchery of rabbis at prayer, acid hurled at children, and the deaths of some six dozen souls in Israel’s response to Hamas’ relentless rocket and tunnel campaigns against civilians. And that is just what made the news. Dozens more attacks, often resulting in serious injury, are never reported in the English press.
Secular activist crusades for religious access to the Temple Mount
Linda Olmert is not the typical Temple Mount activist. She’s secular, lives in the upscale Tel Aviv suburb of Ra’anana and doesn’t wish to see a third Holy Temple built before the coming of the messiah.
Nonetheless, Olmert, is passionate about restoring and protecting the right of Jews to pray on the holy site, the focal point of so much religious and political tension in recent months.
Olmert works closely with Yehudah Glick, the rabbi who survived a recent assassination attempt by a Palestinian Muslim opposed to his efforts to restore Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount. They are among the co-founders of an organization called HALIBA (a Hebrew acronym for Hameizam L’Chofesh Yehudi B’Har Habayit, or the Initiative for Jewish Freedom on the Temple Mount), for which Olmert serves as deputy director.
Kurdistan: More Like Israel, Less Like Iraq
Kurds, for the most part, are a welcoming lot. The methodical and rapid settlement of tens of thousands of refugees from IS-controlled Iraq required bold leadership by the Barzani-led government and especially from the Catholic hierarchy of Kurdistan. This success also reflects the compassion of a self-confident people. The population of the Dohok region, for example has doubled due to the influx of refugees. There is no observable tension between the newcomers and the population of the host country. Despite the inveterate resentment of the excesses of past Arab regimes, Kurdistan is a multi-ethnic and multi-religious society. It has become even more so with the emigration from other parts of Iraq of Turkmen, Yezidis, and Christian Assyrians and Arabs. It is also a society that rejects religious zealotry. Most Kurds are Sunni Muslim and one can hear the five-times-a-day Muslim call to prayer, but it is muted and ignored by most.
Zako, once the center of Kurdistan's Jewish population, still invites back descendants of those who long ago left for Zion. Zako's isolated villages are the wild west of Kurdistan. Its stark beauty against a ring of mountain chains may become a tourist magnet both for its ancient historical attractions and recreational possibilities.
For all of the above reasons, Kurdistan reminds one of Israel. Like Israel, Kurdistan is not dominated by the Arab, nor by Islam. Like Israel, Kurdistan is more democratic than any of its neighbors. Like Israel, Kurdistan is surrounded by enemies that wish it did not exist. Like Israel, Kurdistan looks West. And like Israel, Kurdistan has maintained an internal equilibrium though all the world betrays it.
Kurdish Iraqi Writer: Stop Calling The Jews 'The Descendants Of Apes And Pigs'
In an article titled "Are the Jews Truly the Descendants of Apes and Pigs?" in his regular column on the liberal website, Kurdish-Iraqi writer Mehdi Majid 'Abdallah urged the Arabs and Muslims to stop referring to Jews as 'the descendants of apes and pigs,' because this term is based on a false story in Islamic tradition. 'Abdallah added that the Arabs invent stories slandering the Jews in order to compensate for their inability to compete with them and surpass them.
The Jews Should Be Called 'The Descendants Of The Prophets' Instead Of 'The Descendants Of Apes And Pigs'
"People who draw inferences from the past to the present and future, and therefore describe the Jews as the descendants of apes and pigs, should call themselves 'the descendants of homosexuals' and 'the descendants of red flag women' (in the pre-Islamic era, prostitutes in the Arabian Peninsula would fly red flags to signal that they were available for sexual pleasure). [That's what they should do] if they apply to themselves the same standard they apply to others.
"The terrible tragedy is that, when Jews are angry at those who describe them in this way, and refuse to communicate with them or befriend them, they are accused of being racist and arrogant and of holding others in contempt. The Jews are [apparently] expected to agree to be apes and pigs, and to smile at those who call them by this name, and hug and kiss them.
"In sum, the time has come for Arabs and Muslims to [discard] the epithet 'descendants of apes and pigs' when describing the Jews, and replace it with the epithet 'descendants of the prophet Jacob, the prophet Joseph and the prophet Moses.' This would be a most respectful, peace-loving and dignified thing to do... Are there any ears receptive [to my call]?"
How the deal to free Alan Gross was conceived
Cuba is celebrating the return of three intelligence agents imprisoned in the United States for more than a decade, and the joyful but puzzling news that one of their wives is expecting just two weeks from now.
Adriana Perez’s pregnancy has been the talk of Cuba since she appeared with Gerardo Hernandez at the island’s parliament this weekend. Perez beamed and held hands with Hernandez as he caressed her baby bump, clearly visible beneath a flowing blue dress.
A top adviser to US Sen. Patrick Leahy said Monday that the lawmaker helped arrange for Perez’s artificial insemination, one of the stranger chapters of 18 months of back-channel negotiations that culminated with Washington and Havana’s announcement they will resume diplomatic ties after more than 50 years of hostility.
A Kuwaiti Muslim’s Journey to Hanukkah
When Mark Halawa lights his family’s menorah during Hanukkah, it is not without recalling his unique journey as a Kuwaiti Muslim to Orthodox Judaism. The 38-year-old businessman, who now lives in Jerusalem with his wife and family, began his journey 12 years ago in Canada.
“I was born to a secular Muslim family in Kuwait,” Halawa told Tazpit News Agency in an exclusive interview. “We didn’t strictly follow Muslim traditions, but I would accompany my grandfather, who was religious, to the local mosque.”
Halawa spent a lot of time with his grandparents and knew early on that his maternal grandmother came from a Jewish family. “We knew that our grandmother’s family was Jewish but it never meant anything more,” said Halawa.
“I saw a siddur once in my grandma’s home and sometimes I would see her tearfully read from it when she was alone,” he recalls. “I once even found her birth certificate, which contained the last name, Mizrahi, and Hebrew, Arabic, and English on the document’s header.”
Honest Reporting: Readers’ Choice: Top 10 Posts of 2014
When rounding up the biggest stories of the year, it’s revealing to look at which posts drew the most viewers. Statistics, of course, don’t tell the whole story. Important stories often fall below the radar of public interest. But there is still no better way to capture the pulse of the HonestReporting community than to see which stories attracted the most readers as the stories were breaking.
1. Synagogue Terror Attack: Top Headline Fails
Even the Gaza war was no match for the passions stirred up by the atrocious reporting that followed the Har Nof massacre. No less than three of the top ten posts of 2014 were related to the Har Nof terror attack. Our first post about the attack looked at the initial wave of headlines – many of which was subsequently changed – and our readers appeared to be as shocked as we were by what we found.
Lacking a History of Their Own, Palestinians Attempt to Co-Opt Jewish History
In December 2011, former House Speaker and presidential candidate, Newt Gingrich made the following observation regarding the Palestinians;
“Remember there was no Palestine as a state. It was part of the Ottoman Empire. And I think that we’ve had an invented Palestinian people, who are in fact Arabs, and were historically part of the Arab community…”
That comment set off a firestorm of debate and criticism but is in actuality, grounded in historical fact. As noted historian Benny Morris pointed out in his acclaimed book, 1948: The First Arab-Israeli War, at the turn of the 20th century, most Arabs residing in the Land of Israel or “Palestine” considered themselves to be subjects of the Ottoman Empire. There were some Palestinian Arabs with vague nationalistic tendencies but even this minority considered itself to be part of Greater Syria. There simply was no reference to an independent Palestine for a distinct group of people calling themselves “Palestinians.”
What is Palestinianism? According to journalist Ben Cohen, anti-Semitism has become less a political phenomenon, and more a social movement, with what he calls “Palestinianism” as its key ideology: “Palestinian Arabs have assumed the status of iconic, transcendental victims, as the Jews did for a brief period after World War II, and as Israel did until 1967. The new anti-Semitism brings together leftists, neo-fascists, Islamists and liberals. Its aim is to persuade the mass of Europeans to shun Israel reflexively.”
Palestinianism has become the new religion of many Europeans, the latest version of anti-Semitism. For Bernard-Henri Lévy, the French philosopher, “It’s now almost automatic for liberals and socialists to see Israel as a colonial power imposed on a comparatively helpless people. And dislike of Israel easily turns into dislike of diaspora Jews who support Israel.” Europe has become the willing ally of 57 Muslim countries in bashing Israel. The latest proof of this is the current stampede in Europe to recognize Palestine as the nation state of the “Palestinians,” declaring that if a treaty is not signed within two years, official recognition of the State of Palestine will ensue. “Governments and parliaments are taking action. That momentum will grow,” said United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon in November.
Martin Kramer: Lydda, 1948: They were there
Most Israelis know nothing about Ari Shavit's bestselling book, "My Promised Land: The ‎Triumph and Tragedy of Israel." Readers of Haaretz, where he's a columnist, may have seen it ‎mentioned in short articles celebrating Shavit's stateside success. But few Israelis have heard of ‎the book, and I'm guessing that only a handful have actually read it. That is because there is no ‎Hebrew edition.‎
Shavit wrote it in English for an American Jewish audience, upon the suggestion of David ‎Remnick, editor of The New Yorker. Haaretz at first reported that a Hebrew version would appear ‎at the end of 2013, and later that it would be published in the spring of 2014 (by Kinneret Zmora-Bitan Dvir). But ‎while the book has also appeared in Spanish, Italian, Dutch, Hungarian, and Polish, there is no ‎sign of a Hebrew edition.‎
So Israelis have no clue that Shavit has added a massacre in the city of Lydda (Lod) to the litany ‎of Israel's alleged crimes in 1948. That's why I felt privileged to take part in a December 4 panel ‎on the conquests of Lydda and Ramla in 1948, sponsored by the Galili Center for Defense ‎Studies. The chairman of the center, Uzi Arad, suggested that I explain and analyze the claims ‎made by Shavit in his book, which I had already done in English for the web magazine Mosaic. (The ‎organizers also invited Shavit, but he was off collecting accolades in south Florida.)‎
Israelis Angered Over IBM Refusal to Service Computers in Territories, Jerusalem
An IBM service center for Lenovo computers marketed in Israel is backtracking after an angry customer in the West Bank town of Shiloh complained that a dispatcher refused to send a service vehicle to his area, Army Radio said Wednesday.
“Ron,” who requested that a notebook computers service representative provide door-to-door delivery, as per the service contract was angered when he was told by the agent that, “I read on Wikipedia that this is a settlement; therefore we will not go there.”
In recent weeks, an umbrella group representing Jewish residents in Samaria has also noted complaints about other companies who refuse service in the disputed territories, a development which has angered its Executive-Director, Guy Keysler.
Independent flubs key passage in story about Natalie Portman & the Sony hacking scandal
However, in attempting to explain the nature of those emails (a reply-all chain argument leaked by Sony hackers about Gaza, featuring Russell Simmons, Portman, Scarlett Johansson, and Ryan Seacrest) from Kavanaugh, who is Jewish and a passionate Israel supporter, the Indy reporter gets a serious element of the story wrong.
Alexander writes the following:
Kavanaugh likened the situation in Gaza to the Holocaust.
No, he most certainly did not.
As the rest of the quote from Kavanaugh’s email cited by Alexander makes clear, he was likening the situation for Jews worldwide to the Holocaust, and arguing that the rise of antisemitism has dangerous parallels to the 1930s.
Jewish cemetery vandalized in central Greece
Vandals desecrated the Jewish cemetery in the central Greek city of Larissa, spraying swastikas and threats on the cemetery wall.
A swastika was sprayed on the gates of the cemetery, while the word “Juden,” the Nazi SS symbol, and the epithet “six million more” were scrawled on the cemetery walls, the Jewish community there said Wednesday.
“We urge the justice authorities, local government and police to take all necessary steps to arrest and punish the guilty and protect the Jewish holy places in our country,” said a joint statement from the Jewish Community of Larissa and the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece.
Belgian minister says there will be no ritual slaughter ban
Ben Weyts, Belgium’s minister for animal welfare, sent a letter on Wednesday to Rabbi Menachem Margolin, the director general of the European Jewish Association, apologizing for a “misunderstanding” over remarks Weyts made in September, according to a report by the European Jewish Press. Weyts had stated in September that there could be a ban on slaughter without pre-stunning of the animals, which would be at odds with both Muslim and Jewish religious law, both of which require the animal to be conscious at the time of slaughter.
In his letter, Weyts reportedly assured Margolin that “prior stunning of animals is not required in case of slaughter prescribed by religious rites. From now on this regulation will be enforced in all its aspects.”
The original dispute arose when Weyts warned that the killing of sheep by Muslims at temporary slaughterhouses for the holiday of Eid al-Fitr would be banned and that the practice put all religious slaughter at risk.
Agritech firm lets thirsty plants ‘order’ a drink via wifi
Everyone loves a nice houseplant, but taking care of it often gets put on the back burner as more urgent things divert their owners’ attention. A day here and a day there without watering or trimming turns into a regular pattern of neglect — and pretty soon, the plant goes the way of all cellulose.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Israel agri-tech start-up Agrolan is bringing connected wi-fi technology to the home plant market. Instead of guessing when to water or otherwise tend to their home plants and outdoor gardens, home customers can now install an Agrolan sensor that, via a home wi-fi system, will send out messages on behalf of plants, reminding their owners what to do when in order to ensure a plant’s success.
Why investors are seeding Israeli agtech
How does a world of billions feed itself sustainably in the future? Agtech — agriculture technologies — are the key. And Israel is driving much of this innovation, from non-toxic pesticides to high-yield seeds, to sensors that tell farmers when plants are thirsty.
Gideon Soesman, 44, is betting on agtech as the next big investment ecosystem.
Soesman – a Dutch native who facilitated the $700 million acquisition of Avent by Royal Philips Electronics in 2006, when he was Philips’ senior director of corporate mergers and acquisitions – today heads GreenSoil Investments in Ra’anana, north of Tel Aviv.
This venture capital firm strictly invests in agricultural and food technologies — and yes, he says, people thought he was absolutely nuts three years ago when he announced his mandate.
“Today, people get it. It was the same as the early days of the Internet. If there is a need, the investment case will be good,” he tells ISRAEL21c.
Cell breakthrough a step toward curing infertility
Scientists at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, working with a team at Cambridge University, have successfully created primordial germ cells (PGCs) – the embryonic cells that give rise to sperm and ova – in a test tube.
The breakthrough, which scientists have been pursuing for years, according to Dr. Jacob (Yaqub) Hanna of the Institute’s Molecular Genetics Department, could one day provide a solution for infertile men and women, allowing individuals who have undergone medical traumas like chemotherapy or age-related events such as menopause to once again produce children.
Israeli Study Links Vitamin D Deficiency with Asthma Attacks
An estimated 300 million people worldwide suffer from asthma, a chronic disease marked by recurrent attacks of breathlessness and wheezing as the lining of the lungs’ bronchial tubes swells and narrows the airways. A new study suggests that a vitamin D deficiency – a common problem — increases the likelihood of flare-ups in people whose condition cannot be sufficiently controlled with medication. Rather than adding more pharmaceuticals, such people may want to have their vitamin D levels checked and add supplementation if necessary.
A team led by Dr. Ronit Confino-Cohen of the Allergy and Clinical Immunology Unit at Meir Medical Center in Kfar Saba came to this conclusion after analyzing the medical records of nearly four million members of Clalit Health Services, Israel’s largest healthcare provider. They zeroed in on records of 307,900 patients age 22 to 50 whose vitamin D levels were documented between 2008 and 2012. Of those, some 21,000 also were diagnosed with asthma. Looking at the 21,000 records, they discovered that those with a vitamin D deficiency were 25 percent more likely than other asthmatics to have had at least one flare-up in the recent past, according to results recently published in the journal Allergy by Confino-Cohen and her colleague Arnon Goldberg, with Becca Feldman and Ilan Brufman of the Clalit Research Institute.
Interlude video tech makes Dylan cool, and Israel too
The Israeli-made technology that made Dylan cool for the post-MTV generation is being used to make Israel – or visiting it – cool as well. Students at Tel Aviv University, members of the Stand With Us Fellowship, have produced an interactive video clip using technology by Israeli start-up Interlude. The video, which is available in nine languages, seeks to combat the negative portrayal of Israel in the media by showing a positive side of the country that goes beyond the headlines, said Stand With Us Israel director Michael Dickson.
The video, called Israel: Your Way, will be officially premiered and feted at Google’s Tel Aviv headquarters Monday night. The guest list will include a who’s who of Israeli “outreach ambassadors” — young people who have been recruited to bolster the country’s image when they travel abroad, among them former Miss Israel Yityish Titi Aynaw, the first Ethiopian-Israeli to hold the title. “As a former officer in the IDF, this video touched me and made me feel proud about my country,” she said of Israel: Your Way.
Interlude was started about six years ago by Israeli singer Yoni Bloch, who designed a system that allows users to “direct” their own version of a video clip. By making a choice in the midst of the action, viewers get to experience a different outcome each time they play the video. With multiple choices available in most Interlude clips, there are often dozens of possible outcomes.

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