Arlene from Israel: “Our Mad, Mad World”

Perhaps the best antidote to the insane events that seem normal fare these days is a focus on some of the good news that comes out of Israel.  Thank Heaven, there is a good deal of that, if we take the time to pay attention:

photo credit: Eyal Touge.
photo credit: Eyal Touge.

“In Prof. Amir Amedi’s world-renowned Lab for Brain and Multisensory Research at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, people with vision impairment can ‘see’ their environment with the aid of sensory substitution devices (SSDs) that provide visual information from sound and touch.

“Now, two of the lab’s groundbreaking inventions are being readied for the mass market in Brainnovations, Israel Brain Technologies’ four-month accelerator program.

“EyeCane , a flashlight-like orientation device, emits infrared rays to translate distance into auditory and tactile cues enabling the user to sense objects within an adjustable range of up to five meters. After brief training, EyeCane users can estimate distances, avoid obstacles and successfully navigate in simple environments.

“EyeMusic is an app and mini camera system that conveys colors, shapes and location of objects by converting images into ‘soundscapes’ for the brain to interpret visually. Blind individuals can be trained to recognize the letters of the alphabet, ‘see’ pictures of animals, and even find an object or person in a complex visual landscape. A version of the app is available free on the Apple App Store and Google Play…”

A system that enables blind persons to interpret color visually astounds me.  See the link above for two videos demonstrating how these systems work.


Here’s something I can speak about first hand, and enthusiastically, having visited twice this summer with grandchildren, who loved it:

“Now there’s a permanent address for live music and music culture in the neighborhood: Kikar Hamusica (Music Square) on hip Yoel Moshe Salomon Street just off Zion Square.

“’We have created Kikar Hamusica right in the center of downtown Jerusalem to unify mankind through the happiness and spirituality that only comes from music,’ says Laurent Levy, the French immigrant behind the multifaceted project (below)….

Eldad Levy, director of the Hebrew Music Museum. Photo: courtesy.
Eldad Levy, director of the Hebrew Music Museum. Photo: courtesy.
Hebrew Music Museum in Jerusalem. Photo by Abigail Klein Leichman
Hebrew Music Museum in Jerusalem. Photo by Abigail Klein Leichman.

“Every visitor gets a tablet and headphones so they can learn more details, play games such as musical trivia, and hear each of 260 musical instruments displayed in exquisitely appointed rooms.

“The furnishings and décor were handcrafted by artisans…according to the aesthetic of the particular region: Morocco-Andalusia, Central Asia, Europe, the Balkans, Iraq/Syria, Israel, Yemen and Africa.

“’The collections are grouped geographically to display how Hebrew music evolved in the diaspora following the destruction of the first Holy Temple in Jerusalem by the Babylonians 2,500 years ago,’ explains Yaniv Levy, the museum’s marketing manager.”


“Turning now to some of the insanity we must deal with…insanity being a recurrent theme in my posts.


A recent statement made by Dennis Ross – while perhaps not surprising to those of us who know his history as an advisor to Bill Clinton – is none-the-less deeply infuriating.  He represents a seriously wrong-headed perspective embraced by many American liberals, including a good number of Jews.  Because he is a “diplomat,” what he says garners credibility.  And so, it calls for a retort.


At a panel discussion at Georgetown University, Ross said that if Hillary is elected, she should do a “backdoor initiative” to force Netanyahu to make changes in his policy. Force?

“Even though negotiations with the Palestinian Authority won’t work now”

Netanyahu, said Ross, should be taking steps for “peace.”

Netanyahu, he said,

does not want to make the difficult choice between his domestic interests and what the international community expects.”

Excuse me?  Here we have the insufferable heart of his perspective.  Would he speak about any other nation this way?  When he refers to Netanyahu’s “domestic interests” – by which he means internal political concerns – he misses the point completely.  Israel is a sovereign state, and the head of that state has an obligation to protect the wellbeing of its citizens and to respond to the will of its citizenry.  There is less than no obligation to do what “the international community expects.” 

We can rest assured that the “international community,” such as it exists, is not concerned with the wellbeing of Israel or Israeli citizens.  We get in trouble when our leaders attempt to appease that “community.”

The expressed attitude of people such as Ross should serve our leaders as a reminder of exactly where we should not go.


There is yet more in Ross’s statement that I cannot let pass:

Insisting that we should make unilateral concessions, including a cessation of building beyond the security fence, he said this would be consistent with

the traditional Zionist way of shaping your own destiny.”

Is he really that obtuse or just pretending to be?  We ARE shaping our own destiny, we ARE making choices.  It’s just that Ross doesn’t like them:

Israelis need to realize, he declared, that “they can’t get [peace] on the cheap.”

How he could imagine, after everything that has transpired, that we would get “peace” by making more concessions eludes me totally.  But wait! DOES he really imagine this?  Or is he simply opting to do what he recommends Israel do – bow to what the world expects?


A few days ago, Prime Minister Netanyahu did a video clip about the fact that a Palestinian Arab state would be Judenrein.

The term he used was “ethnic cleansing,” as no Jews would be permitted to remain within the borders of that state.  This is something Abbas has declared explicitly.

See, for example: and .

Well, the world has gone a bit bananas about this. It is astonishing.

No one – with the exception of a handful of right wing columnists – addressed the issue of Abbas’s demand that there would be no Jews in the Palestinian Arab state.  No one addressed it even though Netanyahu is entirely correct: people who want ethnic cleansing are not peaceful.  He made the point that 20% of the Israeli population is Arab, because when Israel was founded Jewish leaders invited Arabs who lived within Israel’s borders to stay.

Instead, Abbas got a free pass, and everyone turned the argument around to the matter of “settlements.” Within hours, the State Department had declared Netanyahu’s statement as “inappropriate and unhelpful.”

And the UN’s Ban Ki Moon?  Well, what could we expect of him? He declared that Israeli settlements “are a violation of international law” and Israel’s decades-long occupation of Palestinian territory “should be resolved as soon as possible through negotiations.”

For the record (for the thousandth time) “settlements” are not in violation of international law, and the area of Judaea and Samaria is not “Palestinian territory.”  But in this mad world, facts don’t matter.


What must be specifically noted is the stance of Jonathan Greenblatt, who has replaced Abe Foxman as national director of ADL – which has a mandate to fight antisemitism.  Greenblatt, who worked for the Obama administration, came out against Netanyahu and sided instead with Obama.

See Jonathan Tobin’s piece on this:  Exceedingly disturbing, and perhaps one more unfortunate prognosticator of where mainstream American Jewry is going.


I would not call the MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) – on military aid for a ten year period beginning in 2019 – that has been signed between Israel and the US “insanity.”  But I do think it is disturbing and I regret that agreement was reached now with the Obama administration.  So much time had transpired that there was some reason to believe that Netanyahu might wait until after the elections.  I am not privy to what made him decide to seal the deal now. (There is suggestion from one source that it was Obama who was holding out, and not Netanyahu at all.)

Over the course of 10 years, $38 billion will be provided by the US. The deal is being touted as the biggest and most generous ever – one that will provide Israeli military with planning security.

But the reality if far more complex than this.

First, it must be understood that this $38 billion may not to be expended in Israel – it will all get turned back to the US.  This US “grant” to Israel keeps the US defense industry going.

Part of what is terribly problematic here is that in prior agreements 20% of the aid from the US could be expended inside Israel, invested in the Israel defense industry.  Now that has been cut out of the deal.  This means a weakening of Israel’s defense industry and a greater dependency on US weaponry, missiles, planes, etc.  That is not a happy scenario.  The US (read Obama) would like to see us more dependent, but we should strive for exactly the reverse. 


The US wants something else, as well: a bigger piece of the military defense industry market. If Israel’s military industry is crippled, to whatever degree, by lack of funds, it provides the US a better opportunity to market its military equipment. And so, when we speak about this aid package being the biggest ever, we have to deduct loss of income to Israel within the military equipment market.  That’s before we calculate what the dollar was worth ten years ago, as compared to what it will be worth in the ten years beginning in 2019.  The notion that two figures written on a piece of paper tell the whole story is erroneous.

As matters stand, US funds cannot even be used to provide fuel for Israeli military equipment, as has been the case in the past.


What is most significant, Congress has been cut out of the equation.  In past deals, a certain amount was granted by the administration in a MOU. But Israel still had the latitude to go to Congress for additional assistance in times of crisis.  It is, after all, Congress that allocates funds, and Congress that is Israel’s most reliable supporter.

The situation is being spun so that the need to go to Congress in times of crisis was a deficit in previous deals, as there was a lack of certainty as to what could be attained.  Now, it is being said, there is certainty – allowing for planning security.  Well, yes and no.  True, there is a certain degree of planning security. But the sum is locked in – there is no latitude.  That is not a plus.

Israel has agreed not to ask Congress for funds unless there is a war.

Shoshanna Bryen, Senior Director of The Jewish Policy Center, asks what determines a “war”:

“Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria still maintain a state of war with Israel, as does Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah and sometimes the Palestinian Authority. Did the Obama Administration leave Israel a loophole for Congressional assistance? Or is it denying that Israel lives in a perpetual and evolving state of threat and often fights ‘wars’ that are essential to the protection of its population, but are not formally declared?” (Emphasis added)


Apparently, as well – and this does strike me as nuts – Israel has agreed, under pressure from Obama, to return to Congress any extra monies allocated by Congress above and beyond the MOU level over the next two years.

We were that hungry to strike this deal?  I feel as if we have not yet learned the full story here.


Senator Lindsey Graham (R–S.C.) says Israel made a mistake signing with Obama.

“They left money on the table,”

he observed.


“Graham, who chairs a Senate Appropriations subcommittee, said Congress isn’t a party to the agreement and shouldn’t be bound by the deal. He said he intended to test in the coming weeks a provision that restricts lawmakers from providing for more money than the deal mandates by pushing for a supplemental budget that would give Israel an additional $1.5 billion over what the administration has proposed.

The Obama administration is trying to ‘neuter’ Congress [by] undercutting its ability to appropriate money, according to Graham. ‘I will not stand for that,’ he said.

“Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, seemed to side with Graham on that point. Corker said in a statement Wednesday that the agreement ‘sends an important signal about our long-term commitment to Israel,’ but the amount of money ‘is ultimately up to Congress to decide.’” (Emphasis added here and above.)


Sen. Graham points out that lawmakers this year wanted to give Israel $600 million for missile defense — $100 million more than the agreement proposes to provide in 2019, when the need may be even greater.  This provides a perspective on that MOU, which is supposed to be so generous.  (I note that Obama – the president who “has Israel’s back” – has a history of trying to reduce funds for Israel’s missile defense.)

Bryen further quotes Graham (emphasis added):

“Over the next decade, [Israel] is going to need to spend more on domestic defense, research and development, because the IDF is going to be under more threat, not less. This MOU sends the wrong signal to the Ayatollahs. I am appalled that the administration would (give) the largest state sponsor of terrorism access to $150 billion in sanctions relief without any requirement that they change their behavior. Instead, it is nickeling and diming Israel, and… that’s the wrong ship to sail.”

So here we have it, once again: Obama making like he’s a friend to Israel (a posture the left-wing gullible gladly embrace), while in truth he’s nothing of the sort.


One last note here: Former prime minister Ehud Barak strongly criticized the MOU deal in an op-ed in the Washington Post last week.  This is reprehensible and smacks of politics. Such criticism belongs inside of Israel only.  You do not attack your prime minister abroad.


If there is an up side here, it is the fact that this is a MOU and not a signed treaty. That means that the next president has the latitude to alter terms to Israel’s favor.

Attorney David Friedman, who is Trump’s key advisor on Middle East affairs, says Trump would not limit his assistance to Israel to this MOU.


Unfortunately, news has broken that Netanyahu, who will going to the US to address the UN on Thursday, will meet with Obama on Wednesday in New York.

Oh joy.


After a period of much appreciated quiet, the terrorism has started up again.  In the course of three days, there have been six attacks:

Herod's Gate. credit:
Herod’s Gate. credit:

In the Hevron area; in the community of Efrat in Gush Etzion, where an infiltrator was quickly caught; at the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem; and now outside Herod’s Gate in the Old City (pictured).  A car ramming, several stabbings.  Attacks resulted in either no injury or light injuries. Until today: At Herod’s Gate two police offices were knifed – one was injured moderately and one, who was stabbed in the neck, seriously.

The terrorists were all shot and in some cases killed.

The reason given for the upswing is the coming of the Jewish holidays.  No reason is acceptable in the slightest.  IDF reinforcements are being brought in to the high risk areas.


A simple song, with an upbeat message. Feels right for this posting as counter to the bad stuff: John Denver. “Sunshine on my shoulders.”


© 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.

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