Last night, here in Jerusalem, I attended a performance of Dames of the Dance of the Gush Katif Bride Project.
Twelve amateur women’s dance groups from different studios performed before an all-woman audience. To a one, these dancers projected a sense of joy.
The theme of the evening was unity (achdut), and that message was clearly delivered in introductory remarks: We may be different in a host of ways – young and not so young, native Israelis and newcomers, those of Ashkenazi, Sephardi and Mizrachi traditions. Be we are one. We are there for each other, and care for each other.
A word of explanation: In August 2005, the expulsion (euphemistically referred to as a “disengagement”) from Gush Katif in Gaza took place. Not one of Israel’s proudest moments, it caused serious trauma to the people who had lived in the communities of Gush Katif and found themselves dislocated and in many cases jobless. Perhaps hardest hit were the idealistic young people.
Within six months, a committee had formed to lend assistance – both material and emotional – to young couples who had come out of Gush Katif and were planning to marry. In the ten years since, 1,250 young couples have received this assistance. They are given linens, small appliances and other goods to help them on their way. And in addition are provided with encouragement. As it was explained last night:
“We want them to know they are cared about and not alone.”
If there is a guiding spirit to this activity, it is Sharon Katz, who last night seemed to be everywhere, forever smiling. Sharon founded Dames of the Dance in Efrat, Gush Etzion.
And so, I walked out of the Jerusalem Theater last night rejoicing in the specialness of who we are, as modeled by these wonderful women.
The sense of unity, of coming together when things are difficult is all important. It happens here in Israel again and again.
What is more the group’s response to pain has been positive. They have sought a way to make things better:
To do it by contributing to the building of new Jewish homes, a quintessentially Jewish value. And to utilize song, and dance and a spirit of hope in the process.
What made it all the more amazing is the fact that this took place while the nation is in the throes of terrorism, which does not stop.
Carrying through with a theme of hope, I want to pick up on signs that times indeed are changing, and sometimes for the better.
MEMRI has just released a translation of an article that appeared in the Kuwaiti government daily, Al Anba. Wrote journalist Saleh Al-Shayeji, “Israel is not our enemy.” MEMRI’s summary:
“Al-Shayeji called on the Arab countries to abandon ‘the delusion of the single [Arab] nation’ and pursue their own individual interests. As part of this, he said, they must stop seeing Israel as an enemy just because of its conflict with the Palestinians. He wondered why Kuwait sees Israel as an enemy even though Israel never invaded or fought it, while it sees Iraq – which did invade and occupy it – as an ally and a sister-state.”
“Israel’s Leviathan offshore natural gas field is expected to supply the Egyptian company Dolphinus Holdings with up to 4 billion cubic meters (141 million cubic feet) of gas per year for 10 to 15 years, according to a preliminary deal announced last week.
“’We’ve worked with Dolphinus before and we expect to reach a final agreement quickly,” Yossi Abu, chief executive of the Israeli company Delek Drilling, told Reuters.’”
This sort of economic cooperation is positive, as, I believe, is this:
“Israel and Jordan are moving ahead with a plan to build a water-carrying canal from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea, which will rehabilitate the shrinking Dead Sea and supply drinking water to Israelis, Jordanians and Palestinians.
Interior Minister Silvan Shalom and Jordanian Water Minister Hazim Nasser on Monday announced the release of the $800 million tender, which will be formally published Tuesday. The two nations, which made peace in 1994, are seeking a company to construct the canal and operate it for 25 years.
“’Today we took an additional historic step to save the Dead Sea,” said Shalom…’”
In this instance, we are looking not only at cooperation with an Arab neighbor, but, as Shalom pointed out, moving to save the irreplaceable Dead Sea. To see how its waters are receding is painful indeed.
I’m not sure that the growing cooperation between Russian and Israel is any less surprising or less indicative of a changing time than our cooperation with Arab neighbors. It might, in fact, be a good deal more so. I have written about this before, and will continue to do so. I always have a “who would have thunk it?” response to what is going on.
Right now there is a UN conference on climate change going on outside of Paris. Yesterday, Prime Minister Netanyahu and Russian President Putin, both present at the conference, met on its sidelines.
Following that meeting, Netanyahu said:
“I just had an important talk with Russian President Vladimir Putin. We agreed to deepen the coordination between us in order to prevent mishaps and to do so on a broad basis.
“I think that every citizen of Israel understands today, in light of recent events on the Turkish border, the great importance of my trip to Moscow and these ongoing contacts with the Russian president.”
Yesterday, Putin expressed satisfaction with the meetings with Netanyahu, and even acknowledged that the mechanism for avoiding unintended clashes had been proposed by Netanyahu. He extended good wishes ahead of the “very bright” Jewish holiday of Chanukah, which “symbolizes the triumph of light over dark.” And he expressed hope that the spirit of the holiday would extend to “international affairs.”
Today Israeli and Russian military officials were scheduled to meet to deepen the cooperation.
Signs that that matters are going well with the Israeli-Russian coordination are clear: Ya’alon has let it be known that, in the process of operations in Syria, Russian pilots had breached Israeli airspace but without incident because of the close security coordination.
On the other side…
Lebanon’s Al Mustaqbal television station reported Sunday that the night before the Israel Air Force had struck a weapons convoy and munitions storage facilities in the Qalamoun region near Syria’s border. Reportedly, the storage facilities held long range surface-to-surface missiles that had been transferred by Syria.
Apparently this was the third time the IAF had hit in the region in a week, without a peep from Russia.
Putin is hardly the only one that Netanyahu has met with at the sidelines of the climate conference, although that meeting attracted the most attention. There was, for example, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Netanyahu, speaking to Israeli journalists, explained (emphasis added):
”Israel’s standing in the word is very firm.
“People are looking to get close to us. They understand that Israel is a big regional power, and also a world power in cyber technology and there is hardly anyone who didn’t talk to me about that. They also understand that we can help in the war against terrorism and radical Islam.”
Our prime minister is not inventing this. We ARE a world leader in cyber technology and a world expert in terrorism. If the nations of the world are sufficiently unsettled (read: terrified) by the current situation that they will now come to us for guidance and intelligence, this is very much to the good indeed. The dynamics may shift of necessity. Netanyahu said that leaders from around the world – including Arab states – approached him to talk about counter-terrorism and technological issues.
What Netanyahu says he now expects is that nations (which went unnamed) who are seeking cooperation with Israel will change their voting patterns in the UN and other international forums. It doesn’t work, that they should expect help from us, and vote against us at every turn.
”You will hear this [demand] more and more – this is our natural expectation.”
I read in the news today that the municipal police of Paris are using an Israel-made surveillance balloon to help guard the climate change summit.
Case in point.
You might also want to see this article about Seth M. Siegel, author of “Let There Be Water: Israel’s Solution for a Water-Starved World.”
Siegel has been on a book tour and has been “dumbstruck” by what he is finding:
“’People are excited by the message of the book — that there is a solution for the coming global water crisis — and they come up to me afterward, I don’t mean one or two, but significant numbers of people. They tell me they want to come visit Israel and learn from Israel.’ (emphasis added)
“What they want to learn, explains Siegel, is how a country that is 60 percent desert and whose population increased tenfold since 1948 not only has enough water for itself, but in fact has a surplus…”
He hopes that Israel’s “world class water practices” will have a ripple effect on peace.
Lest I give the false impression that everything is wonderful:
Defense Minister Ya’alon yesterday told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee:
“We don’t see any changes in the wave of terrorism; it is mostly attacks by individuals. The wave of terrorism is not dwindling or being curbed.”
The IDF is doing what is can, he says, but is also prepared for an escalation.
Seems to me, someone had better come up with some more creative ideas. (Please, do not send me any more suggestions. Neither Netanyahu nor Ya’alon is consulting me at present.)
Three Arabs from eastern Jerusalem have been sentenced for conspiring to carry out shooting and kidnapping attacks against Jews on the Temple Mount.
Early this morning, once again, there was a stabbing at the Gush Etzion junction in which one person was injured. Another Israeli was lightly wounded in a knife attack in a north Jerusalem neighborhood.
And on it goes…
On Sunday, Hisorai Taplaya, a caretaker from Nepal who has resided as a foreign worker in Israel for the past seven years was wounded in a terror attack in Jerusalem.
Some three hours before this attack, a Border Police officer was stabbed.
I will return to a number of other issues less than pleasant (including with regard to the EU) in coming posts.
If it is reproduced and emphasis is added, the fact that it has been added must be noted.
“We Have Legal Grounds” –