Green Golan

091313_green_golan1Israel is renowned for creating innovative solutions for dealing with a scarcity of natural resources from seawater desalination to drip irrigation. Indeed, these technologies have been sold internationally and are aiding the solution of dire water and food shortages in the developing world. Israel has now begun to focus on a new challenge, that of moving toward a greener economy. The Golan Heights region is one such area that, despite its pastoral serenity, has seen tremendous economic growth and in turn faces detrimental effects on its picturesque landscape.

The Golan Heights is a welcome island of green in a predominantly arid country. The green hills, peppered with vineyards and orc-hards, the bubbling streams and the snow-capped Hermon Mountain, are all gems in Israel’s geography. Likewise, they are all at risk of increased environmental pollution and the negative consequences of climate change. In a report released last year, the Ministry of Environmental Protection declared that “Israel recognizes the necessity to decouple the destructive link between economic growth and environmental degradation and is forging forward with a new green growth agenda.”

Towering over the Golan Heights region lies the wind farm at Tel Asania. While solar energy provisions are costly and space intensive, wind farms produce energy efficiently on significantly less land space. The reg-ion’s gusty plateau is the perfect location for Israel’s first-ever wind farm, which provides electricity for one of its largest employers, the Golan Heights Winery, other regional ind-ustries and a proportion of the area’s residents. It was announced earlier this year that a new wind farm containing 50 turbines, the height of the Azrielli centers in Tel Aviv, will be built in the region at a cost of $332 million. It is predicted that by 2015, the new 120-megawatt wind farm will begin producing electricity and that the farm will become the largest in the entire Middle East region.

The Golan Heights Winery is committed to increasing its positive impact on the area.

The Golan Heights Winery is committed to increasing its positive impact on the area.

The Golan Heights’ businesses and industries have gone on board outlining new strategies to minimize their carbon footprints and develop policies to protect the region for the generations to come. Katzrin, the capital of the region, is home to one of the region’s greatest prides, the Golan Heights Winery. As one of the region’s largest employers and the country’s leading wine producer, it takes responsibility for leading the way in environmental responsibility.

“The Golan Heights Winery is totally indebted to the incredible natural offerings of the region,” said Yael Gai, head of International Marketing for the Golan Heights Winery. “The mineral-rich basalt soil and the perfect weather conditions enable us to grow the fantastic grapes that are produced year after year. For that reason, one of our main goals is to increase the positive impact that we have on the environment.”

“There is a growing trend in the wine world to move toward organic farming and sustainable agriculture,” noted Golan Chief Winemaker Victor Schoenfeld. “We work on a system of biodynamic agriculture, which aims to strengthen the connection between man, nature, animal and plants.”

To this end, the Golan Heights Winery has made strides to paint the Golan green in more ways than one.

For the past 15 years, the Golan Heights Winery has been cultivating its unique Odem organic vineyard.

“Organic wine growing not only expresses, to the fullest extent possible, the unique terroir (soil and climate) of the Odem Vineyard, but it also positively influences its quality,” said Schoenfeld, “In light of our successful experience with organic wine growing in the Odem Vineyard, and following extensive study of the topic, we implemented organic methodologies in additional vineyards across the Golan Heights, thus reducing the use of environment damaging chemicals in the whole region.”

Without using powerful chemicals to deter unwanted guests, the Golan Heights Winery went back to basics employing a parliament of barn owls to guard the vines and using pheromones to confuse pests and preclude breeding. Any grape waste from these vineyards is then turned into organic compost and there-after used in over 40 percent of the winery’s vineyards.

In addition to the use of wind turbine-produced energy, the winery invests heavily in reducing water usage through an innovative drip-irrigation and advanced water-measurement system. This enables the winey use the absolute minimum amount of water required to water the vines. The large quantity of water used in winemaking and cleaning the vast vats is rerouted through a unique purification device enabling the efficient recycling of waste water. The organic waste is then broken down into gases by anaerobic bacteria, which in turn power an electricity-producing turbine. Finally, the winery has ceased to use non-recyclable plastic bags and in its place uses eco-friendly, biodegradable packaging.

“We still have a long way to go to ensure that our environmental sustainability remains in line with our expansion,” said Schoenfeld. “But we are making real headway and setting an example to the whole region.”

In addition to high-tech solutions and innovative energy conservation devices, the Golan Heights also relies on a team of volunteers to maintain its lush green habitat. The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI) has launched a number of programs to try to combat the deterioration of the Golan’s natural water sources including the many streams, rivers, springs and wetlands in the region.

“Israel’s rivers are in a state of crisis,” reads SPNI’s report on the current situation. “Israel’s rivers and wetlands have changed beyond recognition. Rivers and wetlands have become dumping grounds for sewage, industrial and agricultural runoff.”

In part due to the increased usage of desalinated water for urban water consumption, SPNI has taken the opportunity to launch the Longing for the Streams campaign to improve the way natural water sources are managed. In addition to rehabilitation programs and new legislation, it runs a River Guardian program for school-age children to learn what they can do to protect the area’s water sources.

Keeping the Golan green is a combined effort. Together with the leading businesses in the area, such as the Golan Heights Winery, Israel’s governmental, charitable and CleanTech organizations are all playing their part in protecting one of Israel’s most beautiful regions. While the Golan Heights is now blooming with flora and fauna, the area’s residents are acutely aware that they bear responsibility for its preservation for the generations to come.

Anna Harwood writes for IMP Media Group.

‘Friends Are Watching’

Protestors rally on Capitol Hill in support of a U.S. strike against Syria. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Protestors rally on Capitol Hill in support of a U.S. strike against Syria.
(Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Pro-Israel officials rolled their eyes this week in response to the opposing spins about their support for President Barack Obama’s drive to punish Syrian President Bashar Assad for his purported use of chemical weapons against his own people.

Some suggested that once again the tail was wagging the dog and Israel was leading the United States into another Middle East war. Others charged that the president’s arm twisting was forcing the pro-Israel community to take sides in a congressional debate it would rather avoid.

Whatever the truth, Obama’s concerns about letting the alleged Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack go unpunished dovetailed with broader pro-Israel concerns about maintaining U.S. credibility in the region and the dangers of unconventional weapons.

“A lot of folks are watching, friends and foes,” said David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee. “If we blink, if we flinch, foes will draw their own lessons, and the world will become a more dangerous place.

“And friends are also watching, including friends in the Arab world, friends in Israel [and] elsewhere. They will draw their conclusions, fairly or unfairly, that they cannot necessarily rely on the United States.”

Jewish groups were hesitant initially to support Obama’s push to strike following an attack that is said to have killed more than 1,400 Syrian civilians, including several hundred children. The reluctance all but evaporated after top Obama advisers outlined the administration’s proposed legislation in a conference call last week with Jewish leaders.

The next day, Sept. 3, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee mobilized its grassroots to call members of Congress. On Tuesday, 250 of its top members held one-on-one meetings with lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

The lobby’s talking points, as outlined by an AIPAC official who spoke anonymously, are twofold.

“One, there is a very strong strategic case: If we are to deter Iran from obtaining an unconventional weapon, we must stop its proxy Syria from using them without consequence,” the official said.

“Then there is the moral case: Barbarism on a mass scale must not be given a free pass. We have sent the photos and videos of hundreds of children being stricken, and it is imperative America must act.”

Despite the forcefulness of AIPAC’s push and the lobby’s vaunted clout on Capitol Hill, Obama faces an uphill battle in gaining support from Congress for a strike. In the House of Representatives, sentiment leans against authorizing a strike. The Senate appears to be split evenly.

The nod from AIPAC and other pro-Israel groups could help shift the balance — in part because lawmakers tend to defer to groups considered expert on a given topic, but also because of the fundraising prowess associated with the pro-Israel community.

AIPAC’s support is joined by other leading American Jewish groups, including the Anti-Defamation League, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs. Notably, both partisan Jewish organizations — the Republican Jewish Coalition and the
National Jewish Democratic Council — are backing Obama.

Despite the community’s caution to have the president lead lest it be blamed for another Middle East war, commentators already are fingering Israel as the catalyst for American military action.

“AIPAC wants this war” was the headline over a string of posts by Andrew Sullivan on his influential Daily Dish blog over the weekend. And conservative Jewish radio personality Michael Savage blamed Israel outright on his syndicated talk show.

“I’m sick of this slavish worship of Israel,” Savage said, according to the conservative website Newsmax. “No, it’s America first and Israel’s the tail, not the dog. We’re the dog, they’re the tail. And I’m sick and tired of America being yanked around like we’re the tail and they’re the dog.”

Until recently, Israel had maintained a careful distance from pronouncing on the Syrian civil war, except to note that it would respond to any attack on Israel — by the government or the rebels. But The New York Times reported Tuesday that Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was reaching out personally to some congressional leaders at Obama’s urging.

Neither the Israeli embassy nor U.S. congressional leaders would confirm The Times report. But in the wake of the chemical attack, Israel has grown more vocal in supporting a response that would degrade Assad’s unconventional weapons capability.

“Israel agrees with President Obama that the use of chemical weapons is a ‘heinous act’ for which the Assad regime must be held accountable and for which there must be ‘international consequences,’” Israel’s ambassador in Washington, Michael Oren, wrote last week on a Facebook message. “Israel further agrees with the president that the use of chemical weapons promotes the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and encourages ‘governments who would choose to build nuclear arms.’”

Oren’s former deputy, Dan Arbell, said any Israeli pronouncement on a matter of intense public debate would have to be made with considered delicacy.

“It’s always a fine line to walk,” said Arbell, a lecturer on the Israeli-Arab conflict at American University. “You don’t want to insert yourself into the middle of a debate.”

Harris said the narrative of Jewish eagerness for war — peddled heavily during and after the Iraq War — was to be expected. But he added that this should not inhibit Jewish groups from exercising their right to make their views known.

“We’re proud Americans who have every reason and right to engage in the debate as other Americans,” Harris said. “We care deeply about American influence and American national security.”

Ron Kampeas writes for JTA Wire Service.

See also, Baltimore Takes Action and
Kalb Looks At Syria, AIPAC And ‘The Road To War’

Cool To The Core

They are calling it “cutting-edge.” They are looking for innovation. They are hoping to find young people who have talent, passion and a desire to make a difference in the Jewish world.

Mayim Bialik is co-chair of CORE18, a new cutting-edge fellowship for Jewish leaders ages 19 to 25.

Mayim Bialik is co-chair of CORE18, a new cutting-edge fellowship for Jewish leaders ages 19 to 25.

They – the leaders of Jerusalem U (formerly Jerusalem Online) – are the founders of a new social entrepreneurial boot camp for select Jewish leaders ages 19 to 25. It is called CORE18 Leaders Lab and its free and fabulous.

The program, which will be formally announced during a conference call this Thursday, is being co-chaired by actress and neuroscientist Mayim Bialik, by emeritus Chief Rabbi of England Rabbi Jonathan Sacks and by Harvard University professor Tal Ben-Shahar.

According to Jerusalem U Founder and CEO Raphael Shore, CORE18 is a full-scholarship program that aims to create driven, out-of-the-box social entrepreneurs who will both develop new game-changing enterprises for the Jewish world and infuse new ideas into existing infrastructure.

Raphael Shore says CORE18 will inspire new ideas to impact the Jewish world.

Raphael Shore says CORE18 will inspire new ideas to impact the Jewish world.

“We said, ‘How are we going to encourage, find and accelerate young people who could become effective social entrepreneurs in the Jewish world, who will come up with ideas better than anything we have developed?’ Shore explained to the JT. “There is so much room for new ideas.”

Bialik, who was contacted by the team shortly after Shore, Rabbi Sacks and Ben-Shahar thought up CORE18, immediately got excited about being a part of the initiative. Bialik, who became inspired by Judaism and Jewish identity, “has a lot to offer,” said Shore. “She has done quite a bit of learning herself, she has become much more committed [to Judaism] based on what she has learned. She can talk about the [Jewish] ideas she finds relevant to her.”

Bialik, in an email interview, told the JT that “CORE18 Leaders Lab is a mad scientist’s dream. … We bring in emerging Jewish leaders and give them the connections, training and funding they’ll need to experiment with cool new ideas that can change the Jewish landscape.

“To do great things in the world, we must first seek greatness within ourselves,” she said. “CORE18 is about daring to be more, to do more and to achieve more than you ever thought possible.”

CORE18 is in-line with the general philosophy of Jerusalem U, which was launched four years ago. The purpose of Jerusalem U is to try to bring fresh ideas to Jewish and Israel education so that young people can get a sense that being Jewish – and that the State of Israel – is relevant to their lives. The program takes advantage of film and technology sharing to bring the best educators in the Jewish world to formal and informal classroom settings. Teachers have included Ben-Shahar, Alan M. Dershowitz, Bernard Lewis, Dore Gold and the like.

“We have had a tremendous amount of success in a short time. We have had over 100,000 hours of studying among the college market, have been in 300 camps this past summer and are in over 100 schools,” said Shore.

Jerusalem U came up with the inspiring documentary “Israel Inside,” which has been shown across the country and seen by several million people, including those in Baltimore.

“We are making more and more products and we think we are on to something exciting and special,” said Shore, noting that CORE18 is the organization’s latest brainchild.

Applications are now being accepted for the CORE18 Leaders Lab and must be submitted by Oct. 15. Thirty-six young adults will be accepted to the seven-month program, which will include regional and national conferences, weekly webinars and the opportunity for personal mentorship and to meet with great local, national and Israeli leaders. There will also be a trip to Israel.

In addition, the program will offer 18 of the students a second phase, an accelerator phase, during which they will be provided with a second year of learning and seed money to help them launch their specific project.

Said Shore: “We hope that the seven months will have a profound impact on the participants and inspire many of them to go on and do great things.”

 Learn more about CORE18 and apply at CORE18.org.

 

Social Savvy Soldier

Cpl. Dima Glinets is sharing the IDF’s message on its social networks.

Cpl. Dima Glinets is sharing the IDF’s message on its social networks.

Ashkelon’s own 2010-2011 Diller Teen Fellows alumnus, Cpl. Dima Glinets, is fighting for Israel every day as a part of his army service. But he is not doing it with a gun. He does it through social media.

Glinets, 19, is a part of the spokesperson unit in the Israel Defense Forces, and his particular branch is in charge of operating and managing IDF social channels. Due to his superior English skills, Glinets is in charge of all English social media for the IDF, which includes Twitter, Facebook, the IDF blog, Instagram and Tumblr.

Glinets’s trip to Baltimore as a Diller Teen Fellow in 2011 proved to be extra important for him.

“I was influenced by American social media and culture, and it motivated me,” Glinets said. “A lot of American Jews wanted a source in order to share Israeli Defense Forces news but didn’t have the content to do so. Now we are providing them with that information. Now we are providing them with the truth.”

Two months after Glinets enlisted in the IDF, Operation Pillar of Defense took Southern Israel by storm.

“I think for the first time in history, an army declared the beginning of an operation through social media. This was never done before,” Glinets said.

Glinets’s Israeli story starts before he enlisted in the army, before he traveled to Baltimore for the first time. Glinets’ family made aliyah from Russia in 2000. They arrived in Israel with two suitcases and 28 shekels.

But it was not long before Glinets made his mark on Israel. Quickly, his community — and the entire country — recognized his talents. Last year, he was awarded the prestigious Ramon Honorary Citation, an award honoring eight students each year for accomplishments in academia, leadership and community service.

Dr. Robert Abbott, whose daughter, Rebecca, participated in the Diller program with Glinets, has fostered a unique bond with Glinets through his many trips to Israel. Dr. Abbott noted the many conversations he has had with Glinets over the years — through text, Facebook chat and in person both in Israel and in Baltimore.

“I was not surprised last year when Dima won the award at the Knesset honoring only eight high school students annually,” Dr. Abbott said. “It is a reflection of the unlimited potential Dima has. His future is bright indeed, and I expect we will see big things from him.”

Glinets’ commander, Lt. Sacha Dratwa, said that Glinets’ vast knowledge of American culture makes him even more of an asset to his unit.

“He watches American television, sports (NBA and NFL are a must for Glinets) and reads American blogs and websites, which help him create content for our growing American audience,” she said.

Yet, Dratwa explained that Glinets’ value to the unit lies in his genuine friendships with his fellow soldiers and his ability to set the creative bar higher and higher for himself, thus inspiring his fellow soldiers to do the same.

Glinets still speaks fondly of his Diller experience.

“When I first arrived in Baltimore, I understood that I had a very special connection to the place,” he said. “I found the people warm and welcoming. I quickly found that each and every person I met was both interested and interesting. That is a rare thing. I know that in any future opportunity I have to visit the states, I will most definitely be stopping in Baltimore, my home away from home.”

Glinets said he hopes to make a difference in the way the world thinks about the IDF.

“The world is one big global village, and it’s important for the IDF to be a part of that village so people can hear our side of the story,” he said.

Cpl. Dima Glinets is sharing the IDF’s message on its social networks.

Take Action

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President Barack Obama meets with congressional leaders in the Cabinet Room at the White House to discuss a military response to Syria. (Photo by Larry Downing / Reuters / news.com}

On Tuesday, a Google search for the word Syria resulted in 349,000,000 entries. About one week until Congress returns from its break to dialogue about a potential missile attack against the Syrian government, led by Bashar al-Assad, for its purported use of chemical weapons, analysts are debating — and citizens are rallying — for or against this rebuttal.

But amid the cries for retaliation, the talk of red lines crossed and uncrossed, there is one point that many experts feel is being lost in the noise: the suffering of the Syrian people (more than 100,000 dead; two million refugees and four million displaced people) and the potentially increasing suffering of those living in Syrian border states.

“At the end of the day, Syrians want freedom, dignity and democracy, just as any other human being on this Earth would want. They want to raise their children in a country whose leaders do not torture, oppress and kill. They deserve a chance to be free,” said Rasha Othman, public relations director of the Syrian Expatriates Organization.

But how to achieve that dream is still unclear. Othman’s organization was out last week protesting in front of the White House, calling on the president to “take action against a ruthless dictator.”

“The only way to deter Assad from killing more civilians is through a military strike against regime targets that will ultimately help remove him from power,” said Othman, noting that Assad has made it clear he is not interested in anything other than demolishing any challenge to his rule and that the leader has enlisted terrorist organizations and states — Iran and Hezbollah — to assist him in staying in power.

Othman is in constant contact with her family and friends in Syria.

“They are terrified,” she said. “A dear friend of mine in Damascus, where the bulk of the [American] missile strikes are expected to take place, told me, ‘Even if the American missiles takes my life with it, I pray they destroy the military complex near me. I don’t mind dying. Just please stop them!’”

But other Syrian American groups feel differently. The Syrian American Forum sent out a news release inviting the community to join it on Sept. 9 to protest against bombing Syria.

“The administration now wants direct bombing of Syria based on foreign intelligence reports. This will lead to the following: More killing of innocent Syrian civilians, further destruction of Syria and its infrastructure, further demolition of Syria’s social fabric and prolonging the war already going on in Syria,” it said in the release.

Like the latter group, recent polls indicate the American people are leery — and weary — of war.

A latest NBC survey found that 50 percent of 700 U.S. respondents said the U.S. should not take “military action” in Syria, while 42 percent said the U.S. should. Asked their opinion about a mission “limited to airstrikes using cruise missiles launched from U.S. Naval ships that were meant to destroy military units and infrastructure that have been used to carry out chemical attacks,” 50 percent said they would support such an action, while 40 percent said they would not. A full 79 percent, meanwhile, said President Barack Obama should be required to gain approval from Congress for any kind of strike against Syria.

As of Aug. 27, a Reuters five-day tracking poll of 2,293 Americans found similar opposition to attacking Syria in response to its suspected use of chemical weapons: 28 percent said the U.S. should intervene, 42 percent said it should not, and 30 percent said they didn’t know.

(Just before Rosh Hashanah, handfuls of Jewish groups came out in favor of an attack. Those ranged from the World Jewish Congress to the National Jewish Democratic Council.)

Over the last week, hundreds of people came out in Baltimore and Fredrick, Md., and in Washington, D.C., to stop Obama from moving forward with a missile strike.

“We believe it will cause more suffering and destruction,” said Sharon Black, one of co-coordinators for the International Action Center for Baltimore and D.C. She told the JT that her organization finds the administration’s argument that a missile strike won’t lead to bloodshed “on our side” to be cynical.

“There may not be direct bloodshed, but every missile launched is a cut back in services to the American people. It costs $1.5 million to launch a missile. With that money you could build 11 schools.”

Black also noted that while the talk may be of a single missile strike, “one thing leads to another, and there is no end to it.”

Some of the hesitation is likely because of the freshness of the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to Tamara Cofman Wittes, director of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy, two-thirds of Americans judge these wars to be failures.

“That is a harsh judgment and makes Americans more leery of future military intervention,” she said.

There is also the issue that the American people don’t trust the White House’s conclusions — and that also partly because of the Iraq war. Robert Parry, founder of ConsortiumNews.com, said, “President George W. Bush misled the world on Iraq’s WMD” and called Bush’s case for war “bogus.” He said the Obama administration’s report on Assad’s use of chemical weapons, released last Friday, had, “no direct quotes, no photographic evidence, no named sources, nothing but ‘trust us.’”

Parry said the U.S. should have learned from the Iraq war that it cannot trust defectors or even other countries’ intelligence services at face value — they have their own self interests.

“Unless Obama tells us what he knows and how he knows it, it is hard for the American people to assess what the administration is telling them,” said Parry.

Impact On Israel

Israelis are dealing less with America’s right or need to attack Syria and more with what the impact of such an attack might mean for the Jewish state.

An Israel Democracy Institute poll released late last week showed that 46 percent of Jewish Israelis think that if the U.S. and its allies attack Syria in response to Assad’s use of chemical weapons, Syria will carry out an attack against Israel.

Parry described Israel’s relationship with the Assad dynasty as complicated. Witte said, “Assad has been no great friend [to Israel]. On the other hand, that border for many years was the quietest border Israel had. … There was a degree of predictability with Hafez and then Bashar. But since March 2011, those days are over. Israel does not face the choice of going back to the status quo.”

David Bedein, who runs Israel Behind the News, put it bluntly: “Any intervention by the U.S. in Syria, even a surgical strike, will cause the Syrians to react with a missile barrage on Israel.”

He said he is opposed to American action.

Victims of an alleged chemical attack lie in a makeshift morgue on the outskirts of Damascus. (Photo by Diaa El Din / UPI / Newscom)

Victims of an alleged chemical attack lie in a makeshift morgue on the outskirts of Damascus. (Photo by Diaa El Din / UPI / Newscom)

Karen Furman, formerly from Baltimore who now lives in Karmiel in northern Israel with her husband and five children, expressed similar sentiments. The family picked up its gas masks last winter and has been storing them in a closet. She said for now, “We are going about our daily lives.”

A teacher, Furman said her school held a chemical weapons emergency drill earlier this week. Her 9-year-old daughter’s school did, too. Furman said the Israeli government can’t do much to prepare the people, but she knows that in the event of emergency, instructions for assembling and putting on her mask will come through on the Internet and the radio. She is not afraid — and her daughter, who also spoke with the JT, said she is not scared, either. But she does think the U.S. should “mind its own business. I think the U.S. should let countries deal with their own problems.”

Speaking on Army Radio earlier in the week, President Shimon Peres said, “I have full faith in President Obama’s moral and operational stance. I recommend patience. I am confident that the United States will respond appropriately to Syria.”

Prime Minister Binyamin Net-anyahu had instructed his government ministers to refrain from publically criticizing or praising Obama for his decisions regarding Syria. At the beginning of the week, Israel’s military sent home many of the reservists called up to deal with the threat from Syria, keeping them on “high alert.” The decision came after Obama said he would seek congressional approval before moving forward with a strike.

Moral Obligation

Most analysts say any move will be more of a political maneuver than a game changer. Witte said the kinds of strikes the administration is considering will not make much of a difference to the balance on the ground in Syria. And, while the strikes discussed are limited, there is a worry that one strike could lead to many.

“[Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin] Dempsey said one of his concerns about getting involved is the fact that once military action is initiated, it is hard to know where it will go and whether it will spin out of control,” said Parry.

But there is an issue of messaging. Obama drew a red line. The red line was allegedly crossed.

“Now, this is not just about Syria. It is about other actors like Iran and terrorist organizations that may be contemplating using weapons of mass destruction — now or in the future,” said Witte. “It is partly about deterring and persuading other actors not ever to go down that path.”

Witte said it is far-fetched to envision Syria directly attacking the U.S., but not inconceivable that Syria could supply terrorist organizations with WMD to use against American targets — in the U.S. or abroad.

Rabbi Donniel Hartman, a Jewish Israeli Modern Orthodox rabbi and educator, penned an essay recently on the question of whether there is a moral obligation for the world to retaliate against the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons. He told the JT he wrote the piece while contemplating how difficult it is to play the role of policeman — that the role is “morally problematic, practically problematic, and balance [in this role] is hard to achieve.”

Rabbi Hartman said a leadership role is often not one to which you are appointed, but one for which you stand up. He said taking on a role like the one American has taken on in the world is wrought with responsibility and challenges. He said he fears that leaving Syria to continue in its current path of destruction could result in an ever-more dangerous environment — for the local people and for Israel.

“In the long term, you could have al-Qaeda sitting on Israel’s border. That would make Gaza look like Disneyland!” Rabbi Hartman said. “When you believe all people are created in the image of God, you are not allowed to be indifferent. … We have a moral responsibility to face evil.”

Find Peace

And that is what Parry is saying, too.

Parry said he wants to know “why there isn’t more pressure for peace talks.”

“If we are going to continue with a war of this sort, inevitably civilians will die. … Shouldn’t the U.S. be
focused more on getting those peace talks than on far-off missiles? … The focus has been on whether to fire missiles or not, and it should be on, can this larger civil war be brought to a conclusion?” Parry said.

Mark Hetfield, president and CEO of Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, urged Jews to keep Syrian refugees in their thoughts and prayers this Yom Kippur. He told the JT that currently there are two million Syrian refugees in Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, Egypt and Iraq — “the numbers are unsustainable” — and another four million people who have been displaced in the country.

“This is the most massive refugee crisis since the end of the Cold War,” said Hetfield, who noted that HIAS is helping as much as it can, being a Jewish organization that is often unwanted or unable to be too visible in Arab countries. His group is working with the U.N. to resettle some of the refugees in America. He told the JT that of the two million, one million are children.

“We need to think about and care about and pray about this for sure,” said Hetfield, noting that the Torah commands Jews 36 times to treat the stranger as ourselves. “In doing any attack, any strategy, it is just as important to keep in mind the impact this will have on those already displaced and on future displacements. Intervention is certainly understandable, but intervention needs to be thought out and planned as to what the outcome will be. … The priority needs to be to find a peaceful solution and end the conflict.”

Maayan Jaffe is JT editor-in-chief mjaffe@jewishtimes.com

Obama: Spineless on Syria >>

A Strong Personal Connection

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Michael Saxon and Kate Applefeld spearheaded a taskforce that led to the Israel Engagement Center. (Photo David Stuck)

The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore recently announced the launch of an Israel
Engagement Center to develop and fund strategies and initiatives that help connect Jewish Baltimore to Israel. It is not a physical center, it is a concept — of making Israel more central in our community’s mind. Co-chairing the initiative are Michael Saxon and Kate Applefeld. The JT caught up with Saxon to better understand what this means for Jewish Baltimore.

JT: How did the Israel Engagement Center come to be? Who wanted it? Why do we know this is useful?
Saxon: We have long seen engagement with Israel and Israelis as a core facet of Jewish identity in Baltimore, and we support strong and successful programs such as Taglit-Birthright Israel [and] the Shaliach program. Our commitment was strengthened by the findings of the 2010 Greater Baltimore Jewish Community Study, which found that while attachment to Israel runs very high in Baltimore compared to other Jewish communities, there is plenty of room for improvement. We also learned that while travel to Israel is an important part of building attachment to Israel, cost prevents Israel travel for about three in 10 households.

How is this being funded?
We have long relied on our partner, the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI), to help us implement programs that bring Israel and Baltimore closer together. Much of the cost of these programs has been funded through our general [annual] allocation to JAFI. However, given the importance of these programs to fulfilling The Associated’s core value of promoting active participation in many facets of Jewish life, we wanted to play a more active role in setting expectations and evaluating results. Therefore, we pulled these programs out of our core allocation to JAFI and are funding them individually, providing for greater transparency and accountability.

Is it expensive? What will this cost the system?
In its first year, the Israel Engagement Center allocated about $750,000 to programs that that help connect individuals and families in Baltimore’s Jewish community more closely to Israel and its people. All of these funds were shifted from JAFI’s core allocation, so there was no additional cost to the system.

How will you know that it is working? Against what goal is there evaluation?
It’s our vision that all members of our community will feel a strong personal connection to Israel, and we believe that happens by advancing a deep understanding of, and a lasting commitment to, Israel and Israelis.

Does everyone need this? Is anyone engaged already and on whom will this have the most impact?
For those who identify strongly as Jews, we’re providing opportunities that will help them to broaden and strengthen their Jewish identity. For others, a connection to Israel can be their gateway — the first step on their road to building a personally meaningful Jewish identity. They may participate in programs out of curiosity or because a friend asked them to, or it may be for other reasons having nothing to do with being Jewish, such as to advance their career or to expand their education.

There was a recent survey done for Jerusalem U that showed Israel to play less of a role in the Jewish identities of young adults. Is it necessary that it does? Why is Israel so important?
For all of us, including those who see their Jewish identity in secular terms, perceptions of the State of Israel influences how we perceive ourselves as Jews and how others outside of the Jewish community perceive us. Therefore, we each have a vested interest in helping the Jewish state get it “right” in terms of the how Israelis of different backgrounds and beliefs live together, the role of Israel in the Jewish world and how Israel relates to the rest of the world.

Israel is constantly changing and evolving, and there are a wide range of passionate voices participating in these discussions. Our identities as Jews are strengthened when each of us gets close enough to the issues to get beyond the emotional peaks into a thoughtful, sustainable personal relationship with Israel and Israelis.

This is especially critical with older teens and young adults who are striving to understand their place in the world, many of whom feel conflicted about the State of Israel. A great way to deepen their understanding of the issues is to help them to visit Israel and to make Israeli friends. JAFI has proven to be an essential partner in developing programs that make these visits accessible, cost effective and meaningful for the participants.

What’s next? How do people get involved?
Whether you want to build your res-ume, advance your career, broaden your education, explore new Jewish horizons or deepen your personal understanding of what it means to be Jewish, Israel is a great place to do that. Especially for young adults, we have lots of great ways to help you achieve any or all of those goals, for any amount of time, from a summer to a year. If you’re interested in participating in a program or helping us to develop new programs, please contact Mary Haar at 410-369-9311.

Maayan Jaffe is JT editor-in-chief mjaffe@jewishtimes.com

Invaluable Initiative

Brooke Prince is Baltimore’s first Masa-Israel Action Network fellow. She attends UMBC. (Photos by David Stuck)

Brooke Prince is Baltimore’s first Masa-Israel Action Network fellow. She attends UMBC. (Photos by David Stuck)

Masa Israel Journey and the Israel Action Network recently launched their inaugural Masa-Israel Action Network Fellowship, in which alumni of long-term, immersive Masa Israel programs gain insight about the State of Israel advocacy in the United States and receive tools to help them counter the assault on Israel’s legitimacy in their communities. The goal of this volunteer fellowship is to offer young adults a unique opportunity to engage in supported, hands-on work in their community.

Local fellow Brooke Prince, a senior and history major at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, says her love of Israel helps her be a strong advocate and allows her to speak firsthand of her experience, using it to her advantage.

The JT learned more:

JT: How did you hear about this opportunity?
Prince: I heard about the program through an email I received from Masa.

What are you going to be doing?
My role is a bit different than what the Masa-Israel Action Network Fellowship application had suggested. It seemed to me that they envisioned the Masa-IAN fellows to be students returning from their years in Israel and looking to start Israel advocacy initiatives in their communities. However, I spent this past year at UMBC and already had a position when I applied for this fellowship; I am one of the co-presidents of UMBC’s Students for Israel. I looked toward Masa for some extra resources to help us change the way that our organization functions in order to ensure its success both this year and when my co-president and I graduate.

So …
My role is to attend phone conferences, held either once or twice a month, with experts and professionals to help us train to further our efforts in combating the assault on Israel’s legitimacy. I will also be attending Baltimore Israel Coalition meetings and checking in with [local program coordinator] Chana Siff to discuss my plans and progress throughout the semester. Moreover, as president of Students for Israel, I will be hosting biweekly meetings in which we will be analyzing ”The Case for Israel” by Alan Dershowitz, holding debates on various topics and discussing the best way to approach engaging in conversations regarding Israel’s legitimacy.

Is it going well so far?
This fellowship so far has proved to be extremely beneficial. I have not begun any of the training conferences or received any resources from them yet, but the connection to the Baltimore Jewish Council that they provided me with has been invaluable.

How did you become connected to Israel?
Growing up Modern Orthodox and attending both Yeshivat Rambam and Camp Stone, I have had a strong connection to Israel for as long as I can remember. I distinctly remember my first visit to Israel when I was 8 years old. … I realized after leaving Israel, I did not just feel a sadness that my trip was over, but I experienced a sense of emptiness. It was then that I declared to my friends and family that I would move to Israel when I grew up. I still feel this connection to the land when I visit now.

If you could accomplish one goal with this role, what would it be?
I would like to ensure that Students for Israel becomes a fully established organization that will be easy to maintain in the coming years. There is a strong need for an organization such as this one on every college campus, but I believe this is specifically true at UMBC, since it is the second most diverse university in the country. We do not see large anti-Israel demonstrations or experience outright hatred as they do on other campuses, but there is a real need to teach the population … the truth.

What is the truth?
The media often skews the facts when portraying events related to Israel. It is necessary to provide students with the proper facts, both historically and current, in order to allow them to form an educated opinion rather than just accepting what the media tells them to believe.

Prince is applying for medical school, which she hopes to attend in 2014.

Maayan Jaffe is JT editor-in-chief mjaffe@jewishtimes.com

Israel’s Population Grows Slightly To 8.081 Million

The population in Israel rose to 8.081 million — 148,000 more than on the eve of Rosh Hashanah a year ago.

According to data released Monday by Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics, the population grew by 1.8 percent, with 75.1 percent of Israel’s population, or 6.066 million people, listed as Jewish. Arabs made up 20.7 percent of the population. There were no significant changes in either group.

Those listed as others made up 4.2 percent of the population, including Christians and people without religious affiliations.

Last year, 163,000 babies were born and 40,000 people died.

In addition, there were 16,968 new immigrants to Israel in the Jewish year 5773, as well as more than 6,000 Israelis who returned to the country after living abroad.

The most popular names for boys were Itai, Daniel, Ori, Yosef and Noam; for girls they were Noa, Shira, Tamar, Talia and Yael.

 

Drama at BG Airport: Palestinian Driven Truck Runs Through Airport

Early this morning, at about 3:30, a stolen truck driven by two Palestinians from Jenin and Qalkilia ran through the security checkpoint at the entrance to Ben Gurion Airport. Emergency procedures were immediately set in motion and security forces dispersed throughout the field. The truck continued its rampage through the field, running through more checkpoints and almost running down a security guard, until it was finally stopped by guards who fired four bullets at the vehicle. The two abandoned the vehicle and began to escape on foot, but were finally apprehended. They were stopped only 200 meters away from Terminal 3, one of the airport’s main buildings, which was crowded with outgoing pre-holiday passengers. Some 60,000 passengers have gone through the airport in the last 24 hours.

A police sapper was called in to check if the truck was booby-trapped, but he ruled out that possibility.

During the drama, all activity throughout the airport was brought to a stand-still, and was commenced only about an hour later, after the “all-clear” signal was given.

Shmuel Zakai, director of Ben Gurion Airport, commended the security forces for the quick response, and stated that the guard who fired his weapon was acting properly according to regulations.

The two Palestinians were taken into custody for questioning. They were both in the vicinity illegally without proper permits. Their motivation is yet unclear. One report indicates they may have stolen the truck with no intent to commit a terrorist attack, and took a wrong turn into the airport.