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December 21, 2008: Chanukah

December 21, 2008

Tonight we light the first candle of our eight-day festival of Chanukah. And so the spirit of Chanukah will infuse today’s posting.

It is said that because miracles were “common” on Chanukah, this time, within all the year, is the time to pray for miracles. And so, as I wish each of you a Happy Chanukah, I ask please that if you are lighting candles you pray for miracles for Israel with those candles. “Common” miracles — what is possible if we are strong and believe.


We are on the edge of a major ground operation in Gaza, but the political leadership (read, Barak) is holding back. There is great anger in the country about this, including among many in the Knesset and the government. At today’s Cabinet meeting the issue was discussed, but without resolution.

It is reported that Barak asked Olmert to calm things down, and indeed that is what he tried to do. Said he, “…a responsible government is never eager to battle, but nor does it shy away from it. We will take all necessary measures.”

With words of great profundity, he observed that, “Obviously, the ceasefire can only exist while it exists, not while there’s nonstop fire.

“It is no secret that we were hesitant to accept the ceasefire. Naturally, we wanted the terror and the weapons smuggling to stop completely, and based on that we decided to embark on the lull.”

Indeed, our intention with the “lull” may have been to get Hamas to stop smuggling, but it was evident quite quickly that smuggling continued. It was then our business, immediately, to declare that terms were not being honored and go after them.

Finally, said Olmert, “I’ve discussed the situation with the defense and foreign ministers, the scenarios are clear and the government will know which move to take and when.”

This is a hedge that tells us nothing. And I would say that we were going to get nothing but words, except that I know that the pressure to do something is great, and plans are very real and very much in place. The IDF is superbly prepared for this. At the Cabinet meeting, Social Affairs Minister Isaac Herzog said that a strike in Gaza is impending.


It’s shameful for this man, Barak — who was once brave and much decorated — that he has turned into a self-serving political wimp in his position now. But it is not what he has done to himself, but rather the damage he does to the nation that is significant. For us to fail to act in a significant manner while we are being bombarded with Kassams and mortars weakens us and makes us foolish. The pressure of international community cannot hold sway here: It’s time we did what is right for Israel. And today is the time to draw on the model of the ancient Maccabees.


A barrage of some 10 Kassams had been launched by noon today (and they will undoubtedly keep coming). One person (a foreign worker in a greenhouse near Ashkelon) has been hurt and a home in Sderot has been demolished. Mortars exploded near the home of MK Shai Hermesh (Kadima) in Kibbutz Kfar Aza.

Hermesh has said: “From the moment the ‘ceasefire’ began on June 19, Defense Minister Ehud Barak in effect surrendered to Gaza terrorists. The State of Israel has surrendered its sovereignty over the Gaza Belt area due to electoral considerations.”


Yesterday and today there were IDF strikes against launching sites in northern Gaza. One terrorist, associated with Fatah’s Al Aksa Brigades, was killed. Good, but not nearly, nearly enough. They go to new sites and pull out new rockets and draw on new personnel.


If, finally, a major operation does go ahead, it cannot be fought the way we fought in Lebanon. It must be fought with full force, so that the enemy Hamas (and all those watching) know with whom they are dealing. I fear for half-way measures — leaving Hamas leadership intact and suddenly calling a new “lull.” That will leave Hamas mocking us and make us, still, appear weak in enemy eyes. We are facing too many enemies to permit that to happen.


In honor of Chanukah I turn now to good news about Israel — to items that show strength of another kind. We are, whether the world wishes to know it or not, a gift to mankind, a blessing to the world:


Scientists at Ben Gurion University in Beersheva, working with researchers at US universities, have discovered a technique that promises the possibility of neutralizing Diabetes type I.

What they have done is to transplant healthy insulin-producing tissue onto a diabetic pancreas. This is not a new process, but had limited value until now because the healthy tissue was ultimately rejected. But now they have discovered a drug that prevents rejection; they believe, it will allow the healthy tissue to function indefinitely. Tests on animals have been most encouraging and clinical trials are to begin soon.

As there are over 180 million people worldwide with Diabetes, this promises a development of considerable magnitude.


An Israeli company, Bio Mark, has developed an inexpensive screening test for colon cancer that catches this disease in its early — or even pre-cancerous — stages. The test, which can be run as part of a routine blood screening, can successfully identify colon polyps, which are overwhelming the source of colon cancer. Expected to be available in about a year, this test will be a life saver.


Rcadia Medical Imaging, in Haifa, has developed a software technology for the automated analysis of coronary CT angiography, which enables doctors to quickly identify and diagnose patients who need further evaluation for severe coronary artery disease.


The Ben-Gurion National Solar Energy Research Center has developed a new solar cell that can produce over one thousand times more electric power than a conventional photovoltaic or PV.

Explains developer Professor David Faiman, “The achievement is that we separate out the collection function of a photovoltaic cell to the light conversion to electricity function. When we collect the light, instead of using a huge area of solar cells, we use an equal area of cheap glass mirrors and they are curved in such a way as to concentrate the light onto a very small solar cell, the size of just one cell, and in this way you concentrate the light a thousand times and you can get a thousand times more power out of a small cell.”

This has enormous implications; it will be put to use in the US, and, in time, in many other places.


A grassroots organization called Fugee Fridays is gleaning surplus produce from the Carmel Friday food market in Tel Aviv and distributing it to African refugees who fled here on foot.




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