Yup, it can. This is the first posting of the year 2021, and it will focus on good news.
There hasn’t been much of late. But I rejoice that there actually seem to be a number of upbeat items worthy of attention. Let’s set a positive tone while that is possible.
Israel is ahead of the rest of the world in providing citizens with corona inoculations. Well over a million Israelis have received inoculations, more inoculations per capita than anywhere else.
I received my dose a week and a half ago; and most of my over-60 friends have also gotten their first dose. I was mighty impressed with the efficiency of the operation where I received my shot at a site here in Jerusalem, and I’ve heard similar reports from others. The inoculations are being managed by our kupot, our HMOs.
The people of Israel rejoiced at the news of the arrival in Israel of Jonathan and Esther Pollard, who came on a private plane in the small hours of December 30.
Pollard was incarcerated, in harsh circumstances, far beyond anything merited by his having passed US information to Israel, information that was important for Israeli security and should have been supplied by US authorities but was not. He endured a miscarriage of justice that it is difficult to account for in any terms other than anti-Semitism. He never committed an act of treason, though some arrived at the erroneous conclusion that he had.
Now he and his wife have come home. They are overjoyed to be here, and they are not going anywhere.
See here for video:
Caroline Glick tells Jonathan’s story in some detail. Her piece provides an extremely thoughtful read – especially for American Jews who may feel uncomfortable because of our joy in welcoming him:
“The main issue that separates Israelis from American Jews is the issue of exile. Israelis by and large hold to the traditional Jewish view that all Jewish communities outside of Israel are exile – or diaspora – communities. American Jews, by and large, believe that the exile exists in all Jewish communities outside Israel except in America. This disagreement is existential. It goes to the heart of what it means to be a Jew…
“…the [Jewish American] community at large failed to demand justice for Pollard. Instead, they lashed out against him and against the Israelis who supported him.
“They did this not because they were blind to the anti-Semitic nature of his treatment but because they were aware of it and feared it…The fact that he was unduly punished for passing information to the Jewish state brought home the fact that despite America’s warm welcome to the Jews, America wasn’t the new Promised Land. The Israelis had a point about the diaspora.”
And she concludes:
“The Pollard saga, which finally ended this week, exposed a much larger tale. It is the tale of exile in America, the land that exile was not supposed to touch. And it is the tale of the divide between the Jews who accept this truth and those who do not.”
In light of this, I want to share a very pertinent observation included by Goldi Steiner, founder and co-chair of Canadians for Israel’s Legal Rights, in her message expressing joy at the Pollards’ arrival here:
“It is shameful that of the three judges of the Appellate Court, (1992) Judges Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Laurence Silberman – the two Jewish judges – opposed a new trial for Jonathan in the three judge deliberations. The only dissenting opinion filed by Circuit Judge Stephen Williams – a non-Jew – termed the decision a gross miscarriage of justice.” (Emphasis added)
While not naïve, I hope fervently that American friends will rejoice with us now that this story of injustice has come to its conclusion.
Speaking of aliyah:
During 2020, in spite of the difficulties of corona, immigration to Israel was up. Some 20,000 people arrived from 70 countries!
These included olim (new immigrants) from Ethiopia, shown in the brief video below, and Bnei Menashe from India.
The Jewish Agency estimates that Israel can expect an influx of about 250,000 olim over the next five years.
Important news from the extraordinary Israeli NGO Regavim, which labors long and hard to protect Israel’s rights to the Land, often in the face of official Israeli apathy:
“After years of intensive fieldwork, documentation, mapping and reporting on the Palestinian Authority’s systematic program to seize control of Area C through illegal construction and agricultural projects, The Regavim Movement applauds the recent announcement by Minister Tzachi Hanegbi and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: At long last, the State of Israel will take an active role in identifying and combatting illegal PA activity that has been changing the reality on the ground in Judea and Samaria for over a decade with the help of European financial and political support.”
From Regavim, additional information on the Palestinian Arab land theft that has been taking place:
And news of the turn-around in Israeli policy (emphasis added):
“In cooperation with Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu, we are mobilizing in full force for the battle against the hostile takeover of Area C,” Community Affairs Minister Tzachi Hanegbi said Thursday. “The regional and local councils in Judea and Samaria will receive a dedicated budget to assemble effective and determined systems to thwart the Palestinian Authority’s stated plan to establish facts on the ground, in violation of the law and the agreements it signed with Israel.”
Halleluyah! Finally a critical first step in the right direction.
The Regavim press release speaks about building of illegal structures – such as the ones shown above – being funded by foreign money. Most of that money is from the EU.
Speaking of Area C…On December 24, US Customs and Border Protection announced that an order requiring goods made in Israeli-controlled areas of Judea and Samaria to be labeled as “Made in Israel” has come into effect. This policy change had been announced by Secretary of State Pompeo.
The Kiryat Arba-Hebron Regional Council has announced the marketing of 56 housing units in the new neighborhood of Nofei Mamre…
“The homes are part of a new construction project designed to strengthen Jewish settlement in the City of the Patriarchs, initiated by Council head Eliyahu Liebman…The neighborhood already boasts a large variety of public services…part of a wider plan for hundreds of new housing units…it is located near to green areas as well as public transportation arteries that will link residents to Jerusalem and other areas.”
On December 10, Israel officially joined the International Security Alliance (ISA), becoming its tenth member and joining countries such as the United Arab Emirates, Morocco and Bahrain. The move is “an important step in promoting peace security in our region,” said Public Security Minister Amir Ohana.
At the same time, Israel was accepted into the International Energy Agency (IEA) after members of the agency voted unanimously in favor. “Israel will now have access to critical sources of industry research, and be able to connect with leading international players in these fields.”
I end the good news section – for now – with this:
Forty of Israel’s top singers and rappers came together recently to produce a song of strength and unity in the face of the difficult corona times. Titled “K’tan Aleinu,” which is loosely translated as “We Got This,” but more literally means, it’s a small thing for us, we can handle it. It was written by Liraz Russo, and Yarden Peleg.
It’s catchy, and I love it because it demonstrates the sense of Israeli unity that has been typical of us in difficult times and is so badly needed now.
The video here includes English subtitles.
Enjoy this, share it!
“Facing every obstacle and every puzzle, we still haven’t lost our hope…
“As it was so it will be again
“We survived it all, we will survive this also
“We will not fail, this is k’tan aleinu.”
All the news is obviously not good, and so, I touch briefly on other matters.
As to the election, the jury, of course, is still out, and will be for a while.
Gabi Ashkenazi has decided to take a break from politics. In the last polls, Blue & White didn’t make the cut-off to enter the Knesset. It doesn’t mean this will be the case at election time, but it is a clear indication that Gantz is very unlikely to be a major player. No other party is interested in merging with him or taking him in.
Economist Yaron Zelekha, leaning left, has announced formation of a new party, called The New Economic Party. Wow! Just what we need, another party. He wants to “save Israel from economic destruction,” and his goal is becoming Finance Minister. Either he will siphon support from other parties while failing to make the mark. Or perhaps a floundering left-wing party will enfold him.
The name of the new left party announced by Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai is The Israelis. (I am dazzled by the originality of the names being applied to these new parties.) Huldai has syphoned off some support from The New Hope, which tells us that Sa’ar is/or was drawing not just from the right or center-right.
Likud is allowing Netanyahu to pass on holding primaries. The list will remain as it was in the past election, with the exception of six slots that Netanyahu will be able to fill at his discretion. At present, Likud is ahead of both Yamina and New Hope in the polls.
Sa’ar has announced plans to reform the judiciary. This is something that is very badly needed, and I will certainly be returning to address this matter further.
There had been talk of Bezalal Smotrich leaving Yamina, but he has announced that he will remain:
“We complement each other. Naftali is taking on the task of [corona and] economics, and I have taken the path of the right….I represent the religious Zionist half in this party and it seems to me that when you know how to work correctly – the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”
While inoculations are going smashingly, the entire population is not near to being protected yet and cases are on the rise. We are in a “sort of” lockdown now, which is expected to tighten for a couple of weeks.
A final ominous note: “The Israel Defense Force noted on Thursday that Israel and Iranian-backed Shi’ite terrorist group Hezbollah were on the brink of a major flare-up (emphasis added)…
“A senior official in the IDF Northern Command told Israel Hayom that Hezbollah was very likely to try and perpetuate a cross-border attack in the near term, and that Israelis should consider the possibility that this path was inevitable.
“The official noted that the IDF will retaliate forcefully to such Hezbollah provocations.”
January 3 marks the first anniversary of the assassination of Gen. Qassem Soleimani, and it is anticipated that Iran will seek revenge against the US. That revenge will not come from Iran directly, but via proxies such as Quds forces in Yemen, Iraq or Syria.
The IDF, concerned with the possibility of becoming involved in a blow-up via missile attacks, is watching the situation carefully.
In late December a missile attack attributed to Israel killed at least six Iran fighters in Syria.
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by independent journalist Arlene Kushner. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.