Arlene from Israel: With a Smile and a Tear.

A couple of “only in Israel” stories about ordinary, yet special, people:

Yishay Montgomery has been hailed as Israel’s “guitar hero.”

 Israel's 'Guitar Hero'
Credit: Ben Hartman

Last Tuesday evening, Yishay was playing his acoustic guitar by the beach in southern Tel Aviv – near the Jaffa boardwalk where a terrorist had just stabbed several people in a rampage.  Yishay heard screaming and took off after the terrorist, clobbering him with his guitar and momentarily stunning him.  His instrument, which was damaged in the process, was featured in new photos.

The spunkiness of this young man caught people’s attention. And so he has been overwhelmed by gifts of replacement guitars, as well as a sum of money raised via crowd-funding for purchase of a new guitar.


Last month, we had an Israeli “angel,” Ofir Yitzhak.

Credit: Daniel Danino/Facebook

Ofir was on a train in the area of Lod, southeast of Tel Aviv, when a young woman soldier boarded, talking into her phone and weeping. The soldier, who subsists on her modest salary, is the only child of a disabled mother; she was on the phone pleading with the electric company – without success – not to cut off her mother’s electricity in spite of an overdue bill of 1,950 shekels (about $500), before her mother’s monthly disability check came in.

It didn’t take Ofir, who overheard the conversation, long: he grabbed the phone from the crying soldier, gave the electric company his credit card number to clear the debt, and gave the soldier a confirmation number, as he handed her phone back to her.

Daniel Danino, another young female soldier, was sitting nearby. She witnessed the entire sequence of events and then decided to take Ofir’s picture and write about him on Facebook.  The story, confirmed by others in the train, went viral.

Wrote Daniel:

I was left with my mouth hanging open, speechless, and full of a sense of pride in being part of this nation that galvanizes to help others during times of distress….” (Emphasis added)

Daniel reported that Ofir said he acted as he did to calm the young soldier down and bring bring a smile to her face.


These modest stories are important because they remind us that human decency still exists in a world that is overwhelmed by the most vile indecency imaginable. As long as this is the case, there is hope for the future.  My take.


On Friday, the Arab League declared Hezbollah a terrorist organization.

This is a mark of growing tensions between Sunni Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia, and Shi’a powers, most notably Iran.  But at the same time it serves us well:

The Saudi ambassador to Egypt, Ahmed Kattan, stated on Al-Arabiya TV that

“We will deal with Hezbollah as we deal with any terrorist organization.  Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries have begun preparing measures it will take against that terrorist party…”

Let them go at each other, distracting and possibly weakening Hezbollah.


What leaves me aghast is that once again the Arab parties in the Knesset are unhappy about Arab labeling of Hezbollah as terrorist.

“Raja Zaatreh, a member of the Hadash Political Bureau, said on Friday night that ‘the Arab League is a pawn in the hands of the Gulf governments, who themselves serve the policy interests of the United States.

“’Hezbollah isn’t a terrorist organization; it’s an opposition movement that succeeded in removing the Israeli occupation in Lebanon…’”,7340,L-4777466,00.html

(The “Israeli occupation in Lebanon” being referred to is a Security Belt that was established in southern Lebanon by Israel in 1985, in cooperation with the South Lebanese Army, to prevent the infiltration into northern Israel of terrorists from Hezbollah and renegade Palestinian groups.  It was in place for 15 years.)


It is hardly surprising that, according to a survey published by Channel 2, which was completed by 350 people from the Arab sector of Israel, 56% believe that the Arab MKs do not represent them or represent them to a lesser extent.


A spark of hope here, and I must say, unexpected:

“Student associations at the University of Vienna issued a statement on Wednesday, declaring their opposition to every form of antisemitism, including the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement targeting Israel…

“The rejection of BDS by continental student organizations is believed to be the first major European opposition to the hubs of anti-Israel and antisemitic academic initiatives in the United Kingdom and the US.”

The following counts as “sort of” good news:

Last Wednesday, when Biden was here, he went to Ramallah to meet with the PA’s Abbas, touting Obama’s latest push for advancing negotiations. According to the Times of Israel, citing a (Palestinian Arab) Al Quds report, Biden told Abbas he could have a “settlement” freeze and the possibility of eastern Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state.  All he had to do was relinquish the “right of return,” and recognize Israel as the Jewish state.

Credit: Daily Mail (UK)

Abbas reportedly refused to consider it, which rather throws a wet blanket over Obama’s proposal.

But hey, I could have told you he would refuse.  The Arabs never compromise on anything.  We’ve been saved by them, time after time.  And in this particular instance, we’re looking at Palestinian policy that is close to sacrosanct.  The entire principle of “right of return” – which is the faux refugee claim that is the raison d’etre of UNRWA aimed at Israel’s destruction – is thoroughly entrenched as Palestinian Arab core policy.  That Abbas knows it ain’t never gonna happen is beside the point. He would not dare publicly renounce it, especially as he is lacking a strong power base.

The big question here is where the Americans got the idea that they might get Abbas to agree to this publicly.  The mere fact that they did is indicative of how far removed from reality American policy is.


I note the comments of Martin Indyk – definitely no friend of Israel – former US ambassador to Israel, and currently with the Brookings Institution, regarding the fact that (emphasis added):

Obama and Kerry are looking at the very real likelihood that the two-state solution could die on their watch.”

To which I say a hearty Amen.

Reuters, however, cites a US official who explains that:

“People in the government are asking the question what can we do to keep the two-state solution alive, and they’re generating ideas.” (Emphasis added)

I try to maintain my sense of humor, no easy task these days.  But to suggest that a settlement freeze and relinquishing the “right of return” represent the generation of new ideas is rather amusing.

Round and round they go, while they pretend they are getting somewhere.


Unfortunately, we must also deal with the intransigent French, as Pierre Vimont, special envoy “for the preparation of the international conference to renew the Middle East peace process” is taking two days to generate support for that conference in Jerusalem and Ramallah  He has come from the “5th Extraordinary Islamic Summit on Palestine and Al-Quds [Jerusalem]” in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Oh joy.

Credit: lesoir

If there is any spark of good news here it is in a softening of tone at the French Foreign Ministry.  Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault now says that France will not “automatically” recognize a Palestinian state if the conference does not go ahead:

“There is never anything automatic…It will be the first step, there is no prerequisite.”

His immediate predecessor, Laurent Fabius, had said a failure in negotiations would result in a recognition of a Palestinian state by France.  Could be that it dawned on Ayrault that Netanyahu was indeed correct in observing that the French formula guaranteed failure of a conference, as the Palestinian Arabs would see they did not have to even try.  Not that they will try in any event.

France hopes to hold that conference in the summer, with a planning meeting in April. Expected participants: the US, Russia, China, France, the UK, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Jordan, Egypt, Brazil, Japan, Germany, South Africa and India.  Nothing funny here at all.

I will be tracking this.  Israel’s position remains the same: the conflict cannot be resolved by outside groups, but only via face to face negotiations.


Let me circle back to Biden’s meeting with Abbas for a moment.  Biden, as I last wrote, was in Jaffa with Shimon Peres, when the rampage on the Jaffa boardwalk by a terrorist caused multiple injuries and the death of one American.

When Biden subsequently held a two-hour meeting with Abbas, no follow-up meeting with journalists was held, nor was there an official statement released from the vice president – a sure sign that there was nothing the US wished to publicize about that meeting.

There was subsequently a report from the official Palestinian Arab news agency Wafa, which was cited by Times of Israel:

“Abbas expressed condolences over the American citizen who was killed yesterday, stressing at the same time that occupation authorities have killed 200 Palestinians in the last five months.”

He did not condemn the violence. Informed only by Abbas’s version events, one would imagine that Israelis have just been wandering around killing innocent Palestinian Arabs.  Abbas, in fact, blamed “the occupation” for the violence.

Actually, the night of the attack on the Jaffa boardwalk, official PA TV referred to the terrorist Bashar Massalha as a “martyr,” a “shahid.”

“During the news broadcast on the official PA news station Palestine TV, which was translated to English by the Middle East Media Research Institute, the news presenter said the killer had been ‘martyred’ during the attack.

“Additionally, the correspondent on the scene said the attack was ‘a complex operation carried out by the martyr’ and referred to the victims as ‘settlers.’”

“Settlers”: the only victim who was killed was an American, and some of the wounded were also American, while others were Israeli Arabs.  This term is used as a blanket description of anyone terrorists kill, as they apparently think it justifies murder and mayhem.


One is tempted to ask – in the midst of last ditch efforts by Obama to keeps negotiation possibilities alive – how the US handles this total failure of the PA to accept any responsibility for violence against Jews, but instead actually seeks to justify it.

We have our answer in an Atlantic article by Jeffrey Goldberg published on-line last week:

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ‘is in his own category’ when it comes to the Middle East leaders who have most deeply disappointed President Barack Obama, according to a major overview of the Obama presidency, featuring numerous interviews with the president…

“In the piece, headlined ;The Obama Doctrine,’ writer Jeffrey Goldberg goes to great lengths to trace the president’s growing disillusionment, over the course of his presidency, with the possibility of changing the region for the better. ‘Some of his deepest disappointments concern Middle Eastern leaders themselves,’ Goldberg writes. Of these, ‘Benjamin Netanyahu is in his own category.’” (Emphasis added)

Well, when you consider the type of leaders Obama has had to deal with, and the intransigence and perversity of Abbas even as tracked above, there is little left to say except that this Atlantic piece highlights Obama’s antipathy for Israel.

We might also add that it demonstrates the degree to which Obama is willing to cut the Palestinian Arabs slack, demanding nothing of them. It seems he expects Israel to do his bidding at every turn, unilaterally providing him with a diplomatic victory: The only way Netanyahu might have secured approval from Obama would have been for him to announce forthwith that we were withdrawing to behind the 1949 armistice lines and immediately recognizing a “Palestinian state.”  And even then I’m not sure.


A note about the American tourist who was killed on the Jaffa boardwalk.

Vanderbilt graduate student Taylor Force was killed Tuesday March 9, 2016 in a terror attack in Jaffa. (Facebook)
Credit: Facebook

Originally hailing from Lubbock, Texas,Taylor Force, 29, had graduated from West Point and served in Iraq and Afghanistan. A graduate student at the Owen School of Management, at Vanderbilt University, he was in Israel to visit start-ups – as part of a course on global entrepreneurship.  Taylor’s wife was badly injured in the attack.

A ceremony was held for him on Friday at Ben Gurion Airport before his body was sent home.  Both Americans and Israelis participated.

Israeli and American officials participate in a good-bye ceremony for Taylor Force, the US citizen killed in a stabbing terror attack in Jaffa, as his body is sent back to be buried in the United States, at Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, on Friday, March 11, 2016. (Flash90)
Credit: Flash90

Former Knesset Member Dov Lipman (second from right above) who had organized the ceremony wrote (emphasis added):

May Taylor’s family be comforted by the collective hug from the people of Israel and may his memory be a source of blessing for all.”

Lipman began by reading a letter from Taylor’s sister, Kristen, on behalf of the family (emphasis added):

Please convey our deepest appreciation to the Israeli people and government who have been so compassionate and thoughtful during the worst moment of our lives. Taylor was our world and our lives are forever changed, but knowing Israel mourns with us is comforting.”


Texas governor  said, on hearing of Taylor’s death, said:

”I strongly condemn that terrorist and reiterate the way that Texas will stand side by side with our friend and ally, Israel, while doing all that we can to stomp out terrorist activities like this in Israel.”


My friends, there is much more I want to write about.  But this posting, already lengthy, would be truly too long. So I save it for my next posting.

What I do want to share here is a marvelous speech by Dennis Prager at the CUFI convention, with thanks to my friend Esther for calling it to my attention.  It is enormously powerful, and goes to the heart of what is going on in this sad, and morally deficient world.

Please, do share this with everyone.


Kol haolam kulo, gesher tzar meod: All the world is a narrow bridge.  This we know well today. And the main thing, this song tells us, is not to be afraid. An unusual version sung by children:

 May today’s children grow up to find a better world.


© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.


If it is reproduced and emphasis is added, the fact that it has been added must be noted.


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