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March 25, 2012

Israel @ Heart for the Week of March 25th

by City of Ariel

Torn by grief, united in anguish at Jerusalem funeral for Toulouse victims

The French community in Jerusalem came together Wednesday in sorrow as they buried four of their own on the Mount of Rest. Few of them knew Rabbi Jonathan Sandler, his children Aryeh and Gabriel, or Miriam Monsonego. They came to show solidarity, to pool their grief and to reflect.

(Times of Israel – 3/21/12) – The French community in Jerusalem came together Wednesday in sorrow as they buried four of their own on the Mount of Rest. Few of them knew Rabbi Jonathan Sandler, his children Aryeh and Gabriel, or Miriam Monsonego. They came to show solidarity, to pool their grief and to reflect.

Eva Sandler, the rabbi’s wife and mother of the murdered children, was stuck in traffic, unable to reach the cemetery, and so the crowd, a diverse portrait of French Jewry, in stiff polo shirt collars and black hats, designer sunglasses and frosted hair, began to recite Psalms. Everyone around this reporter produced a small hard-covered copy of the 150-chapter book of verse and chanted along with Miriam’s uncle, Rafael Maman. “The Lord hear thee in the day of trouble; the name of the God of Jacob defend thee; Send thee help from the sanctuary, and strengthen thee out of Zion.”

Jonathan Bibas, a new immigrant from Marseilles, was flanked by two Parisian friends. “All of us have been called dirty Jew in France,” he said. “We all grew up with anti-Semitism.”

The friends confirmed this with silent nods. Bibas went on to say that while Israeli army representatives had come to the Yavne school in Marseilles and taught the students some martial arts, the feeling of being a Jew in the heavily-Muslim south of France “was always like a little island facing a huge sea.”

A black-hatted teacher at the Yeshuat Yosef Yeshiva in Ramot, Eliyahu Hassan, formerly of Paris, said the situation was getting worse. Several months ago he was in the French capital, waiting on line at a government office. Behind him were several Muslims, and the clerk, thinking that all the bearded folks were of the same clan, beckoned them forward together. He turned to share the joke with the men behind him, “but they just stared right at me like this,” he said, assembling his face into a wrathful stare.

Bibas said he hoped that the tragedy would produce a thin silver lining and that, as with the dreadful 2006 murder of Ilan Halimi, it would spur aliya to Israel.

Rabbi David Dahan, a former teacher at the Ozar Hatorah school in Toulouse, predicted that the small community in Toulouse,” the most Zionistic in France,” would likely send more of its youth to study in Israel but that the majority of French Jews would stay put. “They are in denial,” he said. “They’ll say it was not anti-Semitism. It was al-Qaeda. It was an attack against France.”

When asked about the fervent Zionism of the community, he said, “they are connected to Israel, for sure, but business will go on as usual.”  (more >>>)


Remembering ‘The Friend’

Orde Wingate died in Burma 68 years ago this week. He was honored Thursday in Jerusalem.

Orde Wingate played a key role in creating Israel's military ethos. He was remembered Thursday at a small ceremony in Jerusalem. (photo credit: Matti Friedman/Times of Israel)

(Times of Israel – 3/23/12) – A small crowd gathered Thursday in Jerusalem for an unofficial annual ceremony commemorating one of the most unique characters in Israel’s history.

Thursday’s memorial marked the 68th anniversary of the death of Orde Wingate – a British officer and fervent Zionist who is remembered as a key figure in the creation of Israel’s military ethos.

“Wingate was a character who invited legends to be created around him even in his lifetime,” said Moshe Yegar, an Israeli diplomat and scholar who spoke at the memorial. A black-and-white photograph of Wingate looked out at the audience from a spot near the podium.

Wingate was one of the remarkable, driven and often deeply eccentric men in uniform who seem to have been one of Britain’s most notable exports before the demise of its empire. He was a distant relative of the most famous of those men, T.E. Lawrence — Lawrence of Arabia — and was, like Lawrence, an unorthodox military strategist and a charismatic field commander. Born in India, Wingate was a passionate Christian with an encyclopedic command of the Bible.

Arriving in Palestine in 1936 at a time of growing tension between Jewish residents and British authorities who increasingly favored the Jews’ Arab rivals, Wingate overcame the suspicion of the fledgling armed Jewish force, the Hagana, shifted its orientation from defense to offense and and organized its men into small, mobile units he called Special Night Squads. He became known to the Jewish leadership as “the Friend.”

In some of his writing from Palestine, Wingate seems to have sensed the impending catastrophe in Europe. ”For pity’s sake, let us do something just and honorable before it comes,” he wrote in 1937. “Let us redeem our promises to Jewry and shame the devil of Nazism, Fascism and our own prejudices.”

Wingate was distrusted by many of his British superiors, both because of his clear pro-Jewish sympathies and because of his casual disregard for military dress and discipline. His well-documented habit of greeting visitors in his tent wearing nothing but a pith helmet probably did not help. He was seen by critics as a self-promoter, a fanatic and a fake.

“Judged by ordinary standards, he would not be regarded as normal,” Moshe Dayan, one of the men Wingate trained, said of him. “But his own standards were far from ordinary.” Dayan called him a “military genius and a wonderful man.”

After the outbreak of WWII Wingate was sent to Ethiopia, where he helped defeat the Italians, ended up in Cairo, where he tried and failed to commit suicide, and then reported to Burma, where he organized and led guerrilla units — the famous “Chindits” — to fight the Japanese.

In 1944, Wingate was flying in an American B-25 to one of his jungle bases in Burma when the plane crashed, killing everyone on board. He was buried with the crew at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.  (keep reading >>)


Kinneret rises 2 meters with especially wet winter

The abundance of rain this winter has improved the state of the mountain aquifer, but the coastal aquifer is still cause for concern.

(Globes) – For the first time in seven years, the water level of the Kinneret has risen two meters in a single winter rainy season, according to the latest measurements made today by the Water Authority. Despite the encouraging figure, the Kinneret is still three meters short of being full.

The winter rains have also improved the condition of the mountain aquifer, raising the water level to just above the red line. However, the condition of the coastal aquifer still needs improvement, and the Water Authority is considering halting pumping from it soon, in an attempt to replenish it.

Water Authority Hydrology Service surface water manager Dr. Amir Givati said, “The Israeli water economy is back to normal dimensions after seven years of drought. This year is a turnaround.”

Givati added, “To keep the situation normal, we must maintain water discipline, especially given the fact that only in October will we be able to make preliminary forecasts about next winter.”

Since the winter of 2005, a two-meter rise in the Kinneret’s water level has been a fantasy. It rose by just one meter in each rainy season. In the driest years, such as 2008, the water level rose by just half a meter. Before the drought, the Kinneret’s water level rose by an average of 1.60 meters after each winter rainy season, with an inflow of 320 million cubic meters from rivers.

The Water Authority estimates that, by May, 450 million cubic meter of water will flow into the Kinneret. “This winter has given us a gift of water equal to another desalination plant,” said Givati. “I estimate that the water level will rise by another half meter by May.”


Iron Dome technician saved by fellow soldier at last minute

Technician insists on fixing Iron Dome malfunction even as siren alerts of incoming rocket, saved from launch inferno by fellow soldier at the last minute

(Ynet – 3/19/12) – The recent round of violence in the south meant that Ashdod residents had to deal with a number of Grad rocket explosions.

Now it has been revealed that the exceptional actions of two Iron Dome system operators successfully prevented the explosion of at least one rocket and that the life of one of the soldiers involved was saved thanks to the resourcefulness of his comrade in arms.

The IDF’s Iron Dome operators received wall-to-wall praise in the recent escalation after they managed to intercept 85% of the rockets that the system tried to stop.

Ynet has learned that at the height of the system’s activity last week, a technician successfully fixed a malfunction which enabled the system to intercept a rocket fired at Ashdod, while another operator extricated him from the area where the intercepting missiles are launched.

The technician, career officer Sergeant First Class Eli Zada, was sent early last week to fix a technical failure on the Iron Dome battery responsible for protecting the capital of the Negev. Moments after the he began to fix the faulty battery, a siren alerting that at least one Grad missile was making its way towards the city was sounded.

The technician didn’t hesitate and instead of running for shelter remained in place to fix the problem, making sure the battery was battle-ready.

According to Air Force safety regulations, troops are not supposed to remain within dozens of meters of the Iron Dome battery when an intercepting missile is launched, due to the incredible heat levels and fire that it emits.

The technician realized he didn’t have any time to escape and his friends who noticed his position shouted at him to run. One of them, Eliran Siso, got into an army jeep and raced towards the battery where he managed to pick up Zada, who just barely managed to leap into the jeep at the last minute.

Ultimately, the Iron Dome operators managed to intercept the Grad rocket which had been heading for Ashdod.

Zada had leapt into the jeep without first collecting his equipment, against army regulations. When he returned to the battery he noticed that there was nothing left and that the equipment had all melted from the heat of the intercepting missile.

Both Zada and Siso were lauded for their actions by senior Air Force officers who praised them for their actions in defending the residents of Ashdod and their comrades on the Iron dome battery.

“It could have ended very differently without the resourcefulness of the technician who insisted on staying on the battery at great risk to his own life,” Air Force officials stated.


From Rome to Jerusalem

A priceless glass disc went from the hands of Roman tomb robbers to those of a Polish countess and Nazi troops before reaching the Israel Museum

The disc is one of the earliest objects found outside Israel to be illustrated with images linked to the Temple in Jerusalem. (photo credit: Israel Museum. Photographer: David Harris)

(Times of Israel – 3/19/12) – Before reaching its current home in a display case in Jerusalem, this small disc of glass and gold was buried in the catacombs beneath Rome 1,700 years ago, looted, kept in the castle of a Polish countess, stolen by Nazis, sold on the antiquities market in Vienna, tracked down and reclaimed by its previous owners and then purchased again.

In 70 CE, Roman legions destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem, taking Jewish captives and the Temple treasures back to the imperial capital. The image of the Temple’s seven-branched menorah was carved onto the Arch of Titus, built to celebrate the defeat of the Jews.

Two or three centuries later a Jew died in Rome and was buried in the catacombs, along with an image of that same menorah in gold leaf pressed between two round pieces of glass. The descendants of the exiles from Judea had come to use the image of the Temple’s candelabra to represent themselves.

The disc, 4.5 inches (11 centimeters) in diameter, was originally the base of a drinking glass, probably one used in a funeral banquet. The gold images, which also include lions and a Torah ark open to show three shelves of scrolls, make it one of the earliest objects found outside Israel to depict symbols associated with the Temple.

The Roman Jewish community that created it was a direct link to Jerusalem’s destruction, said James Snyder, the Israel Museum’s director: The city’s Jews, he said, were “the first community of the second Diaspora.”

Tomb robbers pried the disc from a stucco wall in the catacombs, and by the 1800s it had become part of a collection of antiquities and artwork amassed by Countess Isabella Dzialynska and kept at her castle in Goluchow, Poland.

After the Nazis took Poland in 1939, they seized the collection and moved it to an Austrian castle, where it was looted after the German defeat. The pieces of the collection were scattered among museums and private collections around the world. In 1966, the disc surfaced on the open market in Vienna, where it was purchased and donated to the Israel Museum.

Two similar Roman discs from the Dzialynska collection were purchased for the museum at the same time. One of those was also decorated with Jewish symbols, including two menorahs, as well as an evocative inscription that appears to have been addressed to the person buried along with it: “Drink and live, Elares.”

The countess’s heirs spent years “scouring Germany and Austria” for the missing pieces of their lost collection after the war, Count Adam Zamoyski, her great-great-nephew, said in 2008. That was the year the Israel Museum restored all three glass discs to the family. The two with Jewish symbols, which Snyder referred to as “priceless,” were purchased a second time, and they remain on display.

Between 250,000 and 600,000 pieces of art looted by the Nazis during WWII have never been claimed.


100 year-old new immigrant says “aliyah makes you younger”

Moshe Lederman gives himself a special 100th birthday present — aliyah from Brazil. “I have met many thousands of new immigrants and one thing is common to all of them — whether you are 10 or 100, aliyah makes you younger.”

100-year-old Moshe Lederman

(Israel Hayom- 3/18/12) – Moshe Lederman is one of the oldest new immigrants in Israel. The former Brazilian celebrated his 100th birthday last month together with his family and friends, and then left them to fulfill his life-long dream of making aliyah to Israel.

“I am optimistic, full of energy and have a lot of plans for the future. I have always wanted to emigrate to Israel. I have happily fulfilled that dream and have been united with my children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren who are living in Israel,” the new immigrant told Israel Hayom on Saturday.

Lederman arrived in Israel on Friday from Brazil with the help of the Jewish Agency. “Even though I am an elderly person, I am sure I can still start a new life in Israel,” he said excitedly.

Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky congratulated Lederman and said, “I have met many thousands of new immigrants and one thing is common to all of them — whether you are 10 or 100, aliyah makes you younger.”

Moishe, as his family calls him, was born on Feb. 15, 1912, in Chelmno, Poland. He was the youngest child of Yakov and Leah Lederman and the brother of Fanny, Mayer and Paula. In 1930, at the age of 18, Lederman emigrated to Brazil and settled down in the northern city of Recife, Brazil’s fifth-largest city. The city was home to a small community of Jews from Poland, Russia, Romania and Serbia, including some of Lederman’s relatives.

Lederman worked as a merchant and in 1942 married Miriam Alkalay, from a local Spanish Jewish family, who passed away last year. The couple had three children: George, now deceased, Eliezer, 65, who also intends to make aliyah, and Leah, 57, who made aliyah in 1983. Lederman also has seven grandchildren, three of whom live in Israel, and five great-grandchildren, two of whom live in Israel.

“It’s a great joy that he decided to fulfill his dream and emigrate to Israel. My father is a good man, charismatic and full of energy,” Lederman’s daughter, Leah, said. “He likes to read books and newspapers in Portuguese and Yiddish and has always participated in events held by the Chabad house in Recife. He instilled in our family Jewish customs and culture, and the principles of Zionism.”  (more >>>)


Sea of Galilee water level hits four-year high

Singing in the rain: After an unusually wet winter, Israel’s most important source of fresh water is more than a meter higher than it was this time last year

(Times of Israel – 3/18/12) – This winter’s plethora of precipitation has finally nudged the Sea of Galilee’s water level over its “bottom red line,” and the Israel Water Authority says the lake is the fullest it has been in the past four years.

Thus far, the winter of 2011-2012 has been a boon for the country’s dwindling water supply. Reflecting this, the level at the Sea, Israel’s most important source of drinking water, is now a full 113 centimeters above the recorded level this time last year. The water level in the lake rose above the bottom red line, -213 meters, this weekend, reaching -211.76 meters on March 18.

The closely-monitored level of the Sea of Galilee, the lowest freshwater lake on earth, is measured by a system of red and black lines. The upper red line is 208.8 meters below sea level, and has not been reached in more than a decade; when the lake reaches that level the Deganya dam is opened to prevent flooding around the lake.

The lower red line is 213 meters below sea level, and is a warning sign the lake is approaching a point where it could be dangerous to draw water. The bottom limit, the black line at 214.87 meters below sea level, indicates that water cannot be pumped without causing severe damage to Israel’s water supply.

However, even as Israelis celebrate the especially rainy winter and the rising water levels in the Sea of Galilee, a sobering report newly released by the Israel Water Authority said that the amount of rainwater reaching the lake has actually decreased by 11 percent over the last two decades.

The report, published by the Israel Hydrological Service at the Israel Water Authority, noted that an 11 percent decrease is significant over a period of two decades, during which the below-average rainfall impacted national water supply. The report predicts that regional water resources will continue to decrease in the future.  (more >>>)


Under the Iron Dome, and under the chuppah

Residents of the south refuse to let the early warning sirens and rocket barrages stop them from enjoying the most important events of their lives: Couples wed and mothers give birth despite the constant threat.

Maor places the ring on Mor’s finger: “We thought of everything - just not the rockets.” Photo credit: Yossi Zeliger

(Israel Hayom – 3/12/2012) – Maor Kardi and Mor Peretz’s wedding reception at the Silver wedding hall in Ashkelon was accompanied by the occasional early warning rocket siren, and still, the party went on as planned. “We won’t let any Grad rocket or Code Red (early warning siren) dampen the most important event of our lives,” the couple said with a smile, moments before they walked down the aisle.

In the adjacent hall, another couple was getting married – Saar Uzan and Hagit Abutbul from Ashkelon. They, too, were determined to celebrate without changing their plans. The groom’s mother said defiantly, “If my son were to cancel or postpone the wedding it would certainly not have been because of the tense situation or the rocket threat – it would have been because of his painful shyness. He is a modest boy who would probably rather get married at the rabbinical courthouse, with his immediate family and only a handful of friends.”

Peretz said that amid all the excitement and wedding preparations she didn’t have time to think about the dangers. “We thought of everything – just not the Grad rockets. Now we’ll have a story to tell the next generation,” she said.

“The guests gave us strength,” she added.

Describing the days leading up to the wedding, she said, “We sent out invitations to 400 people, and then the violence began. But people called and reassured us. We asked our parents what they thought and everyone agreed that you never cancel a wedding. We won’t give our enemies that satisfaction.”

Noam Blau and Hagit Brodsky, who also wed Sunday at the Troy hall near Ashdod, refused to let the violence dictate their plans. The couple, residents of Rishon Lezion, welcomed 300 guests who were not afraid to attend the joyous event in the line of fire.

One day before the wedding, there were concerns among the bride’s family that the instructions issued by the IDF Homefront Command (which forbade the gathering of more than 500 people in the clash zone) would interfere with the wedding plans. Hagit rushed to inquire with the owners of the wedding hall whether there was any chance that the events could affect the wedding. They assured her that they had received no direction to shut down.  (more >>>)


* Thanks to for a number of stories.

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