Tag Archives: jerusalem

Israel Hosts A Record Breaking 20th Maccabiah Games

Israel is playing host to the 20th Maccabiah Games this month. The Maccabiah Games is an international Jewish multi-sport event often dubbed ‘the Jewish Olympics’. The event brings together thousands of athletes representing many different countries. The event, first started in 1932, takes place every four years, one year after the Olympic Games.

The 2017 Maccabiah Games is special, with a record 85 countries competing and 45 sports on offer. Countries competing for the first time include the Bahamas, the Philippines, South Korea, Malta and Morocco. The number of athletes exceed 10,000, making it the third largest sporting competition in the world behind the Olympics and the FIFA World Cup.

The Opening Ceremony was hosted at the Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem, and it was far from dull. It was attended by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli President Reuvin Rivlin, who both gave speeches. There were even surprise addresses via the big screen from both British Prime Minister Theresa May, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Rivlin at the Opening Ceremony (Flash 90)

The Opening Ceremony also featured an impromptu proposal by Canadian athlete Avi Steinberg to his girlfriend Rachel. After she accepted, hosts of the opening ceremony pulled out a wedding gown and chuppah, and the couple’s rabbi, Avi Poupko, officiated a wedding ceremony in front of the entire stadium!

The first Maccabiah Games took place around the time of Adolf Hitler coming to power in Germany, and was played against the wish of the British rulers in pre-state Israel. In contrast, the 20th Maccabiah is the third largest sporting event in the world, and it is taking place in Jerusalem, the capital of the Jewish state. The Maccabiah Games can be seen as a showcase of the remarkable rise in the fate of the Jewish people.

Contributed by Daniel Kosky, CAMERA Intern

“I treated the injured soldier, while in the background they were still searching for more terrorists!”

Paramedic Muhammed Abd Elrhaman arrived at the scene of the terror attack by Damascus Gate and immediately ran to treat the injured soldier, Sergeant Hadas Malka, while reports in the background spoke of more attackers. Muhammed furiously fought to save her life and even stayed by her hospital bed during her final moment. Today he shared his feelings with us. 

The Friday peace was shattered by the voice of the Dispatch Officer in Magen David Adom’s (MDA) 101 Dispatch Center relaying a call about a stabbing by Damascus Gate in Jerusalem. Seconds earlier, three terrorists attacked a Border Police force that was on patrol in the area. One of the terrorists, only 18 years old, stabbed Hadas Malka and critically injured her, however the soldier didn’t give up and fought back for some time. Other members of her unit saw what was happening, shot and neutralized the terrorist, and then immediately called MDA.

Hadas Malka (23), Israeli Border Policewoman murdered in Damascus Gate terror attack (Courtesy)

Muhammed Abd Elrhaman, an experienced Paramedic from MDA’s Jerusalem station who has already witnessed many terror attacks during his years of service, immediately understood that this was a serious incident. Abd Elrhaman explained “I was on a MICU (Mobile Intensive Care Unit) shift in Pisgat Zeev and when we reached Begin Junction, only a minute away from the attack, we received a report over the radio from MDA Jerusalem that the Israel Police were requesting an ambulance after they saw on security cameras that someone had stabbed a soldier and that they are now lying on the floor. At first we didn’t realize that it was a female soldier. Noa Tiram, the Dispatch Officer, immediately sent an ambulance to assess the scene. No more than 20 seconds later it became evident that this was a terror attack, potentially still ongoing, and I called up and volunteered for the call as we were very nearby.

We headed straight to the scene and heard over the radio that it was a developing incident but we were still uncertain as to its nature. At first the suspicion was of a criminal act rather than a terror one. However, seconds later, there was a report that it was terrorism that we had to take special precautions and don protective gear, to team up with the Police, and instruct the youth volunteers to remain on the ambulances. I realized that we would be first on scene and reported so to the Dispatch Center, knowing that there were another five ambulances behind me.”

Hadas was bleeding and unconscious

Treating Hadas reminded Muhammed of previous terror attacks at Damascus Gate, when other critically injured were brought to him. Muhammed said “When I arrived at the scene a regular ambulance reported that he was already transferring a seriously injured patient towards Hadassa Har Hatzofim Hospital. I decided that we would meet him at Damascus Gate by the scene of the attack so that we could treat the patient with drugs and advanced life saving capabilities. When we opened the ambulance door we saw the 23-year-old victim, a female Border Police soldier in combat gear and stab vest. She was unconscious. 

During the primary assessment I noticed stab wounds to her upper body and massive bleeding. I realized that I was fighting the clock and began some intensive treatment.”

MDA arrive on the scene of the terror attack at Damascus Gate (Times of Israel)

During your treatment at the scene, there were reports of other terrorists. Were you scared?

“When I’m dealing with such a critically injured patient, I concentrate only on her – not on the radio. I didn’t hear the warning about further terrorists, and it wouldn’t have made any difference to me because I had to treat her. At the time I was just with her. I undertook a surgical procedure in the field to release air from her chest cavity and treated her other wounds to try to prevent further blood loss.

I told my crew to begin resuscitation attempts, physically performing chest compressions. One volunteer leaned on the wound in her neck to try to stem the bleeding, a second volunteer performed the compressions and I intubated her and started an IV line in her neck to try to stabilize her situation.

Within only 7 minutes we provided most of the treatment at the scene using advanced surgical techniques, ventilated her, gave her drugs and transported her to hospital.”

Muhammed Abd Elrhaman (MDA)

We hoped so much that she would pull through

The crew arrived at hospital with Hadas and immediately went into the trauma room. Muhammed’s crew joined the doctors who fought for her life and he treated her up until her last moments. Abd Elrhaman said “There were a few optimistic moments when we arrived at the hospital and took her to the trauma room, but the optimism was short-lived as her situation worsened and she was classified in a critical condition.

We carried on doing chest compressions, she was given more blood and more drugs, but eventually, about an hour after she reached hospital, she was pronounced dead. We fought for her life – all of us. MDA crews and hospital teams. The moment her death was pronounced was a very difficult one for us all.”

Muhammed’s crew was kept at hospital until after Hadas’s family was informed that she had died. Muhammed said “We sat there and waited. Only after it was all over and we’d been allowed to leave the hospital did I hear on the news that there were actually two scenes and three terrorists who went on a shooting and stabbing spree. That’s when we really understood the magnitude of the situation.”

Today, three days after the event, Muhammed explained “We enter active scenes and treat victims while in danger on so many occasions. We act during those times through a feeling that we have a mission to complete, and with only one thought on our minds – to save the victims. We don’t think about what might happen later or what might happen to us. Each time that we see the scene of a terror attack we run in, when logic dictates to run away to survive. But this is who we are, this is what we know, and this is what we must do.”

Contributed by Magen David Adom

Israel Border Policewoman Hadas Malka Murdered in Damascus Gate Terror Attack

Security has been increased at the Damascus Gate, one of the entrances to Jerusalem’s Old City, following the Palestinian terror attack where 23-year-old Israeli Border Policewoman Hadas Malka was murdered on Friday night.

Malka was murdered and four others were injured when two Palestinian terrorists opened fire on policemen near the Damascus Gate. Simultaneously, a third Palestinian attacker stabbed Malka several times critically wounding her. She was rushed to hospital but died of her wounds.

Hadas Malka (23), Israeli Border Policewoman murdered in Damascus Gate terror attack (Courtesy)

All three terrorists were shot and killed by police. Following the attack, ISIS claimed responsibility. However, Hamas has disputed this claim saying they were responsible, denying the link to ISIS. The attack was praised by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah Party. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has since called on the Palestinian Authority to condemn the attack and has demanded it stop paying money to the murderers’ families during a cabinet meeting on Sunday.

Israel has issued numerous responses since the terror attack aimed at thwarting any future attacks in Jerusalem. Benjamin Netanyahu revoked the entry permits into Israel of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians issued during Ramadan.

Knife used in attack (Israel Police)

Netanyahu has also discussed with police and defense officials about turning Damascus Gate into a ‘sterile area’, meaning the area is closed to civilians. However the plan is still in the very early stages and details have not been disclosed.

Damascus Gate has been the site of dozens of terror attacks since the beginning of the terror wave which started in 2015, composing of 177 stabbing attacks, 117 attempted stabbings, 144 shootings, 58 vehicular (ramming) attacks; and one vehicular (bus) bombing. The wave of terror has claimed the lives of 42 Israelis and numerous foreign nationals, including two Americans and a British student.

Weapon used by Palestinian terrorists in attack at Damascus Gate (Channel 2)

Hadas Malka was buried at a military cemetery in the southern Israeli city of Ashdod, with hundreds of people turning up to pay their respects. After the funeral, Prime Minister Netanyahu and his wife Sara visited Malka’s family to express their condolences.

PM Netanyahu and his wife Sara visits family of Hadas Malka (GPO)

Contributed by Daniel Kosky, CAMERA Intern

The Boundless Anti-Israel Hatred of AJ+

Aron White, CAMERA intern

The fact that AJ+, the social media wing of Al Jazeera, is vehemently anti-Israel, is not really surprising. But even by their standards, AJ+ managed to stoop to a new low this week, by using the murders of four Israelis in a terrorist attack, to demonize the Jewish state even further.

On Sunday, a Palestinian man killed four soldiers and injured seventeen more, in a truck ramming attack reminiscent of those that have taken place in Nice and Berlin. The soldiers, all in their twenties, all leave behind mourning families, grappling with the loss of their children in the prime of their lives. Illustrating the volume of Israeli lives lost to terror, Shira, one of the soldiers killed, was the three-hundredth graduate of her school to have been killed in the conflict.

Yael Yekutiel, Shira Tzur, Shir Hajaj and Erez Orbach – the four Israelis killed in Sunday’s attack.

But when cities around Europe joined in marking Israel’s suffering, AJ+ responded in anger, upset at the fact that Israel was being shown sympathy. Paris, Berlin and Rotterdam all flew the Israeli flag on public buildings, to show unity with the people of Israel, in a moral gesture of sympathy, but AJ+ described it as a “controversial tribute to Israel.” This is the title of a video that they produced, which turned Israeli suffering into an opportunity to blacken Israel’s image, through a series of lies and distortions.

The Israeli flag illuminated on Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate.

AJ+ ask in their post, “Where was the Palestinian flag when Israel attacked the West Bank and Gaza?” This is a total distortion – Israel has gone to war three times in Gaza in the past few years, every time acting in self defense, to stop the rockets fired by the Hamas terrorist group at Israeli civilians.

But for Israel’s haters, every act of Israeli defense is one of aggression, and defending the country from thousands of rockets is an attack on Gaza. This theme is also true about a tweet shown in the video, which says that if the Brandenburg Gate lit up every time Israel killed a Palestinian, it would be permanent. This is deceiving – Israel does not indiscriminately kill Palestinians. Rather, the IDF acts in self defense, and indeed has killed many Palestinians who were in the midst of engaging in terrorist attacks. And to say that Israel is “permanently” killing Palestinians is totally unfounded – one that no serious media agency should be repeating.

There is no other country in the world about whom such ridiculous exaggerations are tolerated – no one would ever say that the Americans, the British or the French are constantly killing people in the wars they fight, but somehow Al Jazeera considers such absurd exaggerations legitimate when they are made about Israel.

A screenshot of the video shows distortions, exaggerations and hatred, all in one tweet

There is also reference made to children killed in Gaza in 2014. AJ+ employs the worn out and inaccurate accusation that Israel indiscriminately kills Palestinians, when nothing could be further from the truth. Israel fought a defensive war in 2014 to stop hundreds of Hamas rockets, and took incredible efforts to limit human casualties.

By contrast, Hamas uses its children as human shields, deliberately using civilian areas as the strongholds for its fighters. It is also worth noting that whereas Israel does not want or encourage the death of Palestinian civilians, the Fatah and Hamas leadership does reward and support the killing of Israeli civilians. Hamas praises terrorist attacks, and Fatah gives stipends to people who kill Israeli citizens. Even in the case of this recent terrorist attack, Hamas called a rally to celebrate, and the murderer’s sister praised the attack. But AJ+ is interested in twisting Israel`s self defense to make them look wicked, whilst ignoring the incitement and hatred which underlies Palestinian terrorism.

But beyond being insensitive, malicious and misleading in their video, AJ+ fundamentally harms  prospects for peace by following their narrative. If you tell Israelis that their acts of self defense are murder, you are telling them they have fewer rights than other countries. If you tell the world that Israel doesn’t deserve any sympathy when four of their young adults are mowed down in the street, then you tell the world Israeli lives do not matter. Peace requires an understanding of the genuine concerns and feelings of each side. AJ+ considers Israel to be so low, that it doesn’t even deserve the dignity of sympathy in its time of mourning. Once again, AJ+ continues to churn up hate in the world, rather than pursuing any chance of peace.

Contributed by CAMERA intern Aron White.

Where cultures meet: Christmas in Jerusalem

Coming from a traditional Jewish family, I have never celebrated Christmas at home. While I have always had friends who celebrated the holiday, I never had the opportunity to experience it firsthand back in New York. Moving to Jerusalem, a city sacred to three major religions, brought with it the opportunity to further explore the holiday and its traditions. It may sound paradoxical that I would first have these experiences in the Jewish state rather than majority Christian America, but then again, Jerusalem is not what most people expect.

Many peoples’ perception of Jerusalem is that of a war-torn city. In actuality, the converse is true. While the conflict’s negative effects have included terror attacks and tension among the city’s residents, it is at places like the Church of the Holy Sepulchre – where Jesus is believed to have been crucified – that I found multiculturalism and tolerance at their finest, two traits that I believe are representative of the atmosphere prevalent in Jerusalem.

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

As a practicing Jew, my decision to attend Christmas mass was not at all religiously motivated; it stemmed from a desire to personally experience the culture and religion of many of my friends and neighbours. I found a slew of like-minded individuals at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, from a myriad of backgrounds, whose only common trait was their desire to understand and experience something that had always been foreign to them. From Ethiopian Jews to Muslim Israeli-Arab youth to the agnostic German tourist who invited me to walk with her to Bethlehem for mass at dawn, what brought us together was an environment of pluralism and religious freedom that is ubiquitous in Jerusalem. While this may seem like a normal occurrence, it is regrettably not the order of the day in the Middle East. Religious minorities are being persecuted around the Middle East, not least in the instability of Syria and Iraq, and even in moderately stable countries such as Egypt and Iran. Surprisingly enough, the only conflict that I encountered on Christmas Eve was an argument between the Egyptian Copt and Greek Orthodox monks over the timing of their services in a church shared by six denominations of Christianity.

The service itself, held in four different languages, reflected a feeling of togetherness, evident throughout the evening. While we are used to thinking of religion as something that divides people, on Christmas Eve it was religion that brought everyone together. I believe that this evening did not take place in a bubble, but was part of an atmosphere of mutual respect and understanding present in the city. Ignoring extremists from both sides, one can see evidence of this multiculturalism daily. From buses, to shopping malls and universities, Jews, Muslims, and Christians go about their days in a peaceful coexistence; and from the Parliament to the Supreme Court and even the military, minorities are represented in every part of the national bureaucracy.

In face of this multiculturalism, I cannot help but question why the incessant flow of criticism of Israeli democracy.  In a city where all are free to worship or not worship as they see fit, with no threat of religious persecution or discrimination, I must ask: Why the constant fixation with elaborate plans for externally imposed political solutions? The responsibility for political solutions lies with those living and experiencing the reality on the ground, a reality which today is very sustainable and comfortable for all parties involved, especially members of minority communities.

The way to address these issues is not through people, most of whom have no connection to the land, erecting mock checkpoints or disrupting Israeli speakers. Engaging in dialogue while recognizing the legitimacy of the rights of all relevant parties, should be a starting point for those interested in making progress. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict will not be resolved at Cambridge University. What can be done, by us as students, is to try and build an environment of dialogue and multiculturalism similar to what one can experience during Christmas in Jerusalem. We should instead focus our energy on working together to recreate the unique atmosphere of the city of Jerusalem, one of understanding and dialogue, something which will be significantly more conducive to the dreams and desires of all parties partial to this conflict.

Originally published at The Varsity, Cambridge University`s Campus Newspaper

Contributed by Shlomo Roiter-Jesner, CAMERA Fellow at Cambridge University, and joint founder of the Cambrige Middle East and North Africa Forum, a CAMERA sponsored group.

 

Israeli Students Fight Anti-Israel Campus Activity From Jerusalem

CAMERA Fellow LeEl Hayun

CAMERA Fellow Lee-El Haune

As Israelis, we take our reality for granted. It is full of paradoxes; an unattended bag can stop traffic, yet we are more preoccupied with the thought of being stuck in traffic than the fact that there might be a bomb in their vicinity. Getting a beer with friends among the ancient stones of Jerusalem could be interrupted by a rock throwing incident on the way home; relaxing at the beach in Ashkelon under the hot Mediterranean sun is accompanied by knowing that at any given time, rocket sirens may sound, signalling us to run for shelter.

At times, the Israeli reality is so consuming, that the world’s perception of Israel seems unimportant. This becomes evident when one takes a look at the word for “abroad” in Hebrew, which literally translates to “outside of Israel,” as if the whole world revolves around us. As if we weren’t barely the size of New Jersey; but we are. The way that Israel is constantly slandered in the media, by word of mouth, by leaders worldwide, and by students on campus who don’t bother checking the facts, is an issue that must be addressed. The global Jewish community has answered this call to action within their neighborhoods, on their campuses, and in their states.

All the while only a very few Israelis themselves have woken up to this reality, largely ignoring this international trend. While our everyday realities might be consuming, it is not an excuse to remain dormant in the face of campaigns to delegitimize our home.

This is why we, the students of CAMERA at Hebrew University, feel that as Israelis on our East Jerusalem campus, we must help tackle the problem, by facing the facts and in turn, ensure action on behalf of tomorrow’s leaders.

CAMERA at Hebrew University hosts students from San Diego State University.

CAMERA at Hebrew University hosts students from San Diego State University.

Our understanding of anti-Israel activity on campuses “outside of Israel” is limited. Israeli college students are usually a number of years older than American students, having started freshman year after our army service of two plus years. The American college scene feels like a completely different world from ours, and it can be difficult for Israeli students to relate to.

From so far away, it is difficult to take seriously a number of students “dying in” or raising an apartheid wall. Additionally, it’s hard to understand the impact these students have on the Jewish minorities attending these schools. The very existence of Israel means that often, we do not know what it feels like to be a minority on campus.

Making the situation even more complicated, here in Israel, the widespread feeling on the street is that anti-Israel activity abroad is something the Israeli government should be dealing with. Among Israelis, the topic is rarely discussed. This is something that is slowly but surely changing – not acting is no longer an option. We at CAMERA at Hebrew University felt compelled to bring students together on this issue.

CAMERA's International Campus Director Aviva Slomich with CAMERA Fellows Bar Fabian, Matan Lifshitz, Eden Adler and Lee-El Haune of CAMERA at Hebrew University.

CAMERA’s International Campus Director Aviva Slomich with CAMERA Fellows Bar Fabian, Matan Lifshitz, Eden Adler and Lee-El Haune of CAMERA at Hebrew University.

We began with a vision to act on two fronts. First to educate ourselves, by bringing Israelis to an understanding of the way the world views Israel. Second, we are bridging the gap between Israelis and students worldwide. The great thing about being on an Israeli campus is that we manage to reach all audiences, and students from all areas of the political spectrum. This includes a few Israeli Arabs who attend our events. After a full semester of educational events and evenings out sharing our experiences with students from all around the world, the board of our team attended CAMERA’s sixth annual Student Leadership and Advocacy Training Conference in Boston.

CAMERA’s conference was not only educational and eye-opening, it exposed us to the amazing level of commitment the eighty-five students in attendance have to Israel. We met students who have knowledge of Israel rivaling our own, whose dealings with anti-Israel activists left us in shock. We understood quickly that these students are fighting for us abroad, and that we are their boots on the ground.

Over the four-day conference, we gained a real grasp of the reality on North American and UK campuses. We had an inside look into the difficulties our new friends face on campus on a daily basis, be it apathy or true hatred toward Israel. This understanding, along with the ties and relationships we built with the students, inspired unlimited ideas in us.

We were truly shocked to learn of the rallying around the BDS movement and Students for Justice in Palestine by Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ groups, and other humanitarian “liberal” groups. Coming from the most liberal, diverse and political campus in Israel, it seemed to us that the natural allies of these groups would be the pro-Israel community.

Armed with this knowledge, we can adequately assist the students we’ve met as they combat anti-Israel activity on campus head on. Ethiopian Jews, Druze Arabs, Muslim Arabs and Christians are friends of ours who go to the very same university as we do, and their voices need to be amplified, especially when the accusation hurled at Pro-Israel students is that Israel is a “white European colonial entity.”

We took away practical tools from CAMERA’s conference for better event planning, recruitment, op-ed writing and social media that will allow us to reach a new level of professionalism in our activities with students on campus.

Going forward, CAMERA at Hebrew University will keep in touch with students abroad, exchanging ideas and experiences.  Israel does not stand alone. Undoubtedly, this year on campus will be our best yet!

Contributed by CAMERA Fellow at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Lee-El Haune.

The Life of a Teenage Advocate

CAMERA Fellow Joelle Reid

CAMERA Fellow Joelle Reid.

I wake up and look at my phone. Two Israeli men were stabbed and killed in Jerusalem. I turn on my computer, trying to make sense of this attack, but the first news article from the BBC that pops up, headlines that a ‘Palestinian [is] shot dead after Jerusalem attack kills two.’ Yes, technically this is correct, a Palestinian was shot, no one is denying that, but isn’t this Jerusalem attack a little too ambiguous? Wouldn’t it make sense as an accurate journalist to headline the cause of this?

The headline isn’t simply misleading to the general reader, but we can go as far as to say it is a logical fallacy. ‘Stacking the deck fallacy’ is a technique that’s commonly used in propaganda and is defined as a fallacy in which any evidence of a case is simply omitted, very fitting to this and many other BBC headlines, that have been dominating the media over the past few weeks.

BBC Tweet

BBC Tweet

I walk on to campus. The effects of these misleading headlines become clear. A casual lunch in the canteen consists of a niçoise salad, the latest show-business news, oh and a discussion of which recent Israeli prime minister is most similar to Hitler. I feel like Alice in Wonderland, in an illusion where something so straight forward and positive, is so contrary and paradoxical to others. But unlike Alice, this isn’t a dream, it is day to day life. When I hear the word Zionism, sentiments of autonomy, liberty and freedom come to mind, my classmates on the other hand, associate it with the new popular sound-bite ‘Zionism is racism’. But is it really their fault? It would seem fair to trust mainstream international media who have written charters to be committed to accuracy and impartiality, but as they are clearly failing to live up to those standards, how can the public be blamed in any way for being misinformed by these leading broadcasters?

We are facing a world of contradictions. A cause designated to liberating a people, creating peace and freedom uses illiberal, oppressive methods as it’s means to its supposed idyllic and harmonious end. Recently over three hundred UK academics pledging to boycott Israeli academic institutions. This demotes dialogue, restrains co-existence and more than anything delays any type of peace. The aims of the BDS movement as well, blocks trade, artificially closes markets and mutually worsens the economic situation. These boycotts promote intolerance, exclusion and inward thinking, seeking to spark more conflict, not peace.

AFP PHOTO / MATTHIEU ALEXANDREMATTHIEU ALEXANDRE/AFP/Getty Images

AFP PHOTO / MATTHIEU ALEXANDREMATTHIEU ALEXANDRE/AFP/Getty Images

So what can we do? How many campus fairs do we need to table at to disqualify the myth of Israeli apartheid? What is the unitary effect of handing out an ‘I heart Israel’ pen to the average passerby on resolving the Arab – Israeli conflict? or even posting a picture your recent trip to Israel? Not to be too pessimistic but, is any of It actually beneficial?

In short, it is. If we all were idle activists, because we aren’t convinced that our effort would pay off, there wouldn’t be the other side to the story. I’m not saying that each step for activism is going to catalyse peace talks, but engaging in the conversation in any way is a building block for the future, however small it is. If we aren’t active, we are passively allowing inaccurate news to be spread, false claims to be treated as true and a generation to be misinformed. A simple gesture, a tweet, a picture, broadens the debate, interests an audience you thought would never have thought would be interested, but most importantly helps a cause you believe in.

Don’t believe me? Why don’t you try it out for yourself?

Contributed by King’s College London CAMERA Fellow, Joelle Reid.

Lessons from an Israeli Photojournalist

LillyMaria-1-1

CAMERA Fellow Maria Lilly

He lives in Israel and fell in love with Alaska: Gil Cohen-Magen, Israeli photojournalist. He came to speak at our University; he came to tell of his experience documenting the horrors of last years’ Gaza War. He came to share his passion for photographing the ceremonies and lives of Israel’s ultra-Orthodox.

Gil Cohen-Magen

Photojournalist Gil Cohen-Magen

I spent the weekend with Gil, introduced him to the Northern Lights, the Chugach Mountain Range and Moose’s Tooth’s pizza. During that time Gil said again and again, “It’s not easy.” It isn’t easy living in a country where war begins suddenly, where terrorist attacks are a regular occurrence. It isn’t easy being a photojournalist in a time of war, when your friends and your countrymen are dying. It isn’t easy covering those funerals, seeing the families weeping, remembering your own friends who have died. It isn’t easy knowing your children are running to bomb shelters to find safety from bombs.

It isn’t easy to live in Israel.

Gil grew up in Israel. He was born in Jerusalem. He has a family in Israel, a wife and three children. They leave as a family at least once a year. Because living in Israel takes a toll.

His son wants to learn to ski; Gil hopes to take him to the Alps in the spring to learn together.

Gil’s job has to negotiate the complicated Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

From his Cohen-Magen's "Shooting Under Fire" series

From Cohen-Magen’s “Shooting Under Fire” series

Gil says he takes pictures of even the things that are hard to witness because the world needs a witness, because the world needs to know what is happening.

People need to know. People need to see, this was the theme of Gil’s November 13th presentation at UAA.

Gil Cohen-Magen is an artist, he captures pictures that in their turn capture and captivate the eye. But Gil is also a journalist, a witness to history with the responsibility to make known what he sees.

From Cohen-Magen's Ultra-Orthodox series

From Cohen-Magen’s Ultra-Orthodox portfolio

The journalist, Gil, somberly spoke about how it feels to watch mothers weep over their children. The artist, Gil, stood in the frigid winter air at two in the morning capturing the Aurora.

Gil taught me. Gil taught us, those of us who met him, that life is a complicated thing, that the hard things are worth doing, that we have a duty to our fellow man.

He may be from across the world, but Gil Cohen-Magen may just have found his frozen paradise.

Contributed by University of Alaska Anchorage CAMERA Fellow, Maria Lilly.

Building a Better Fence: A Firsthand Look at Israel’s Security Barrier

LillyMaria-1-1As I laid my hand on the wall portion of Israel’s security barrier I heard Colonel (Reserve) Danny Tirza say, “I want to be the first one to take down this wall.” Moved and a little startled, I turned to look at him. The man who engineered Israel’s famous security barrier looked mournful, as he said the barrier was a tragic necessity. But a glimmer of hope appeared in his eye and a soft smile on his lips as he shared his hope for a future without a barrier, a future of peace between Israel and her neighbors.

On a mission to learn the truth about Israel and the security barrier I had the privilege of meeting with Colonel Tirza in Jerusalem on August 2, 2015. I heard the sorrow in his voice as he spoke about the death and destruction that necessitated the Israeli security barrier. As he described the horrors of the Second Intifada, the seemingly endless stream of terror attacks like the attack of July 31, 2002 where over 90 people, the majority of whom were adults under 30, including some Americans, were either killed or injured because a bomb was detonated at lunchtime in the cafeteria of the Hebrew University, I quickly became aware that the reality I know is not the reality Israel knows.

Unlike Israel I have lived in peace with my neighbors, whether they be the person I share a backyard with or Canada. The fence in my backyard is designed to keep my dog in and my neighbors’ out. Israel’s “fence,” the security barrier, is designed to keep terrorists from killing civilians in Israel.

My fence is uniform; it all looks the same. Israel’s security barrier is comprised of 97% fence and 2-3% concrete wall and has built-in sensors that alert the Israeli Defense Forces if there is movement along the barrier, because that movement could be a terrorist trying to get into Israel. The security barrier is at no point attractive and the wall portion is especially unattractive. But the wall is a necessity; the wall protects Jerusalem’s highly populated and previously highly terrorized areas from attack, from Bethlehem on the other side of the wall. My neighbors do not seek to kill me and because of that I have the privilege of a simple wooden fence.

42securityfenceAnd while my Homeowners Association would be appalled if I made political, social or any other types of statements by use of graffiti on my fence, Israel allows graffiti on the wall as an expression of free speech. Colonel Tirza said paint that prevents graffiti from sticking was purchased but that it was decided the paint should not be used to prevent graffiti because free speech has more value than ascetics.

While my fence marks property lines, the Israeli security barrier rather than marking a property in is built mostly along the 1967 armistice line and wherever it needed to be built to ensure maximum security. While my fence pays no attention to whether or not the tree in my neighbors yard would be better off in my yard and accommodate it accordingly, the Israeli security barrier was built taking into account what communities wanted to be inside the West Bank and what communities wanted to be inside Israel and in the building of the barrier not a single Palestinian family was relocated.

My neighbor may not win a case presented to our Homeowners Association appealing our shared fence. Palestinians have on multiple occasions won appeals to the Israeli Supreme Court over the placement of the security barrier; the barrier is then made to accommodate the Court’s ruling like in the case of Beit Sourik Village Council v. The Government of Israel (HCJ 2056/04). Note that Palestinians challenging the security barrier’s placement are not Israeli citizens and are still permitted to challenge the Israeli government in the state’s highest court.

I do not mind my fence; to me it is simply a part of life. But the majority of Israelis are opposed to their security barrier, and who wouldn’t be? The security barrier is a reminder that Israel’s neighbors are trying to decimate and destroy her. The security barrier is inconvenient; it looks bad both literally and to the international community, but the barrier saves lives. From 2002 when the barrier was built to 2003 the number of terror attacks in Israel dropped 30% and the number of people killed by terrorist attacks during that time decreased by 50%. Saving lives is paramount, above ascetics and above international approval.

Israel seeks peace, its people are tired of conflict. Throughout Israel I saw multiple signs conveying a desire for the end of conflict with Israel’s neighbors. But the problem arises in this, Israel’s neighbors will agree to peace only at the price of the destruction of Israel and the death of the Jewish population therein. It sounds extreme, because it is. And the security barrier may seem extreme as well. But consider this, if my neighbor sought to kill me, I would build a stronger and bigger fence, one that would protect me. My purpose in this would be not only to protect my family and myself but also to give myself a semblance and a chance at peace. I may not be able to control my neighbor, but I can control my response, and I would want to respond in a way that protects myself while minimizing hurt to my neighbor.

This is what Israel has done. Israel has built a security barrier that protects all of its citizens, including Arabs, Christians, Druze, Jews and Muslims.

*Col. Tirza has independently confirmed the statements of this article through personal correspondence.

This was written by University of Alaska CAMERA Fellow and active member of Emet for Israel supported group, Students UnitedMaria Lilly and was originally published in the Times of Israel.

The Man Behind the Incitement

Screen Shot 2015-11-10 at 12.07.31 PMRecently, at his address to the United Nations General Assembly, Mahmoud Abbas, President of the PLO, opened his speech ‘raising the alarm’ to the world as to his version of the facts on the ground as they stand in relation to the most disputed piece of real estate in the world.

 

The Temple Mount. Al Haram Al-Sharif. Har Habayit.

The fact of the matter is that this man, a terrorist and tyrant who has held his democratically elected position long after its expiration, has a point. The greatest perpetration of human rights in all of Israel occurs on the Temple Mount. It forbids Jews from praying at their own holiest site. The rights of speech, expression and religion are all obstructed to preserve the ‘status quo’.

 

The status quo, as it is called on the Temple Mount, leaves the administration of the site to a Muslim trust left over from the Jordanian days, called the Waqf. Under the current racist agreement, Muslim worshipers have full rights while others receive none. Although the Mount is revered as the holiest site in Judaism as well as a holy site in Christianity and Islam, access to it for non-Muslims is restricted to a few hours a day, excluding Fridays or Muslim holidays in which access is banned completely for them. The site can additionally be closed for security concerns, which tend to be riots designed to prevent Jewish ascension to the holy site on the Mount during Jewish and Israeli holidays. Additionally, non-Muslims may only enter the site through one of the 11 gates and are forbidden any form of religious expression. This, despite the numerous Israeli Supreme Court rulings demanding all must be allowed religious freedoms at the holy site.

Over the past year Abbas has upped his inflammatory rhetoric in relation to the Temple mount, culminating with his statement in September on official PA TV:
“The Al-Aqsa [Mosque] is ours… and they have no right to defile it with their filthy feet. We will not allow them to, and we will do everything in our power to protect Jerusalem.”
He went further to bless all the blood spilled in Jerusalem in the name of Allah. These statements were made in response to Israeli police forces being forced to enter the Al-Aqsa Mosque to blockade Muslim rioters inside after they had attempted to start a riot that would force the Jewish visitors from the Mount for the day .

During his UN address, Abbas went on to threaten that if Israel continued this use of brutality, the Palestinians would turn this from a political conflict to a religious one. This man is parading to the world that his peaceful people are being persecuted and their holy places desecrated, and he has been doing this for years. The truth is that Abbas is inciting Palestinians to violence using the places his people claim as holy as their battleground.

This is not the first time that Abbas and his organization have acted duplicitously. In 2000, Abbas’s predecessor and mentor, the terrorist Yassar Arafat, used similar claims of Jews trying to take over the Temple Mount. Those claims led into the second intifada. All this was in the name of ‘changing the rules of the game,’ as his advisor admitted in an Arabic language interview in October of 2000.

Today, as well, Abbas’s goal continues to be to undermine any negotiation with the Jewish State. In one language he speaks of peace, and in another he incites death. He sneaks around trying to create a history that doesn’t exist. Abbas tries to turn the Western Wall into a Muslim site, but the fact is that when it was under Islamic rule, it was a garbage dump. The Waqf has spent years trying to remove all evidence of the existence of two Jewish Temples and now tries to claim more sites for themselves in a further attempt to remove the Jewish history in the indigenous Jewish homeland.
No matter how easy peace is for Abbas, he instead chooses to go asking for more, continuing to destabilize the status quo. The reason for this is simple, yet the world is too blind to see. He is a fraud. He does not want peace. His goal is drive the Jews into the sea. This incitement has led to a movement whose goal is just that.

This #INTIFADA (the name being used by the Palestinian side), much like its historical precedent, is wreaking havoc in the streets. This is to be expected when teenagers are attempting to stab Jews and their children in broad daylight. However, we have a message for you. Abbas, you will fail, and eventually the world will catch on. You claim it’s about control over Judea and Samaria, yet you stab innocents in Ra’anana and Beit Shemesh. Continue to incite your violence if you wish, but we will defend ourselves and we will be victorious. We are here in our indigenous homeland and we are not going anywhere.

 

This was originally published in the The Commentator and was written by Yeshiva University
CAMERA Fellow Michael Osborne.