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The Power Of The Kotel Stones

By David Wiseman, The Israel Forever Foundation 

My grandmother is a week shy of her 98th birthday. She is the last remaining of my four grandparents and unfortunately, she hasn’t been feeling well recently and is now in the hospital.

The moment I heard the news, I decided to visit the Kotel (The Western Wall), since I’m blessed to live only minutes away in Jerusalem. So, after work I headed down and was met by those massive stones.
So, after work I headed down and was met by those massive stones.
As I surveyed the scene, I saw people of all ages. There are no atheists in these foxholes and I must say that it is very hard to find one at the Kotel. Most feel the power of the stones and from there, emotions are let loose.
If tears could melt stone, the Kotel wouldn’t be standing.

If hopes and dreams could make them fly, there would be a wall floating around somewhere in space.
One paradox about the Kotel is the concept of time. It is governed by time – the time to pray three times a day. The thousands who visit it on Shabbat and even more during the Chagim.

On the other hand, it is timeless. For thousands of years it hasn’t just been a physical landmark, but an emotional one. My grandmother was born in 1915. Israel didn’t come into existence until she was 32 and she was only 51 when Jerusalem was reunified.

Thankfully, she has been to the Kotel, but there will come a time when her journey will come to an end, like all of us. I’ve realized though, that our connection to Israel, the Jewish people – this connection is timeless. We’ve been exiled and scattered and despite being stretched to the four corners of the world, our hearts, thoughts and prayers have always aimed towards Jerusalem.

I’ve been lucky enough to visit the Kotel many times and every time I am overwhelmed by a cocktail of emotions – excitement, joy and a sense of ease. Every time I leave it is with a sense of remorse.

Farewells are never easy – not to the Kotel and especially not to a grandparent. But with the upcoming Jewish New Year, my next prayer at the Kotel will be that my beloved grandmother will be granted a Sweet New Year and inscribed in the Book of Life.

Address by PM Netanyahu to the European Friends of Israel Conference


The Jewish people have some connection to this land, but we recognize that others live in it too. Part of the campaign against Israel is the attempt to distort not only modern history, but also ancient history

It's very good to see all of you, to welcome you in Jerusalem. It is a great city that has great significance for each of your countries and for Europe. I was recently in Athens and my friend George Papandreou took me to a nightly visit to the Acropolis. It was very moving, very moving.
I learned that 2500 years ago the Greeks took the ropes of the bridge across the Bosporus. They burnt the bridge after they won the war against the Persians. They took the ropes and put them in the Acropolis, in the Parthenon, as a testament to their values, the values that they safeguarded in the battle for freedom.
So there were two sources of freedom for Western civilization that grew out of these two places. One was in Athens and the other is in Jerusalem. And a few hundred years before that, when this man depicted here, King David, you see him with the harp - when he was here, there was a prophet who said that he committed a great sin. He took one of his commanders and sent him to the front in order to gain the commander's wife. That's probably Batsheva right behind him. And the prophet described how a rich man takes the poor man's lamb. The poor man had only a little lamb, one little lamb. And the rich man took it and he said, "What should we do with this man?" And he said, "Well, he has to be punished." And the prophet stands before the king and he says, "You are that man."
This is inconceivable in ancient times, but what is more inconceivable is that people wrote this down in the Bible. The idea is that men are governed by laws, by moral laws, and not by men; that they have innate rights, innate freedoms. This was a revolutionary idea. Well, it came from this Acropolis here. If you visited the Temple Mount, that's the other Acropolis.
Now people say, well, you don't really have an attachment to this land. We are new interlopers. We are neo-crusaders. If I could I would invite each of you into my office. You would see a display of antiquities from the Department of Antiquities. It's in a little stand like this. And from the place next to the Temple wall, the Western Wall, from around the time of the Jewish kings, they found a signet ring, a seal of a Jewish official from 2700 years ago, and it has a name on it in Hebrew. You know what that name is? Netanyahu. Now, that's my last name. My first name, Benjamin, goes back a thousand years earlier to Benjamin the son of Jacob who with his brothers roamed these very hills.
So we have some connection to this land, but we recognize that others live in it too. We want to make peace with them but we have this basic millennial connection to this land. Part of the campaign against Israel is the attempt to distort not only modern history, but also ancient history. There was no Jewish Temple - did you hear that one? Well, I'd like to know where were those tables that Jesus overturned? Were they in Tibet? There's an attempt to rewrite history - ancient and modern and to deprive the Jewish people of their connection to their ancestral homeland and this is why I so welcome the fact that you come here to Israel, to Jerusalem - perhaps next time to my office. You will not be spared.
Now the Jewish people did not have many friends in Israel in the long history that we had, so we appreciate our friends, but especially at times of uncertainty. And this is why I want to thank you, each of you, for proudly calling yourselves European Friends of Israel. I deeply appreciate your steadfast support, your friendship, your uprightness, your courage. It requires courage to stand against the stream. This is what true leaders are made out of. All of you are leaders - you wouldn't be here without that.
As I've indicated, the connection between Israel and Europe is bases on shared values, deep values from which springs European civilization and also shared interests. In the Middle East, Israel is the only country on which you can say that both things are true - shared values and shared interest. In the most profound sense, in the deepest sense, we are you and you are us. We form part and parcel of the same civilization. We share a common heritage and we share a common future.
We were in the Speaker's office just now, and there's a picture of Herzl, the modern prophet, like a biblical prophet who appeared in the history of our people over a hundred years ago, and he spoke about the rebirth of the Jewish State, and he was asked, "once founded, once established, how long would the Jewish State survive?" And his response, I'm paraphrasing it, basically the ideas was, the Jewish State would survive as long as Western civilization survives. There are those who say today, and vice versa - because we face common challenges. And at a time of uncertainty, the bonds that bind us together are more important than ever, and we're definitely living in times of uncertainty.
The sands between Pakistan and Gibraltar, they're shifting. A few weeks ago, the ground moved in Tunisia, and then the earthquake hit Egypt, and we still don't know how far and how deep, and where the tremors will reach, but I think one thing has been brought into very sharp relief by the events of the past few weeks. Israel is an island of stability in a very unstable region. Between the great swathe of earth west of India up to the Atlantic Ocean, going from North Africa through the Middle East, through Afghanistan and Pakistan, and all that vast land, Israel is the one true and certain place of stability.
Why? We are stable because we're a vibrant democracy anchored in robust democratic values. Of course there is no contradiction between the Jewish nation-state and a democratic state. A Jewish nation-state that recognizes the fact that the Jewish people were scattered as a minority - never had a land of their own.
I was in China when I was Prime Minister the first time. There's a first time and a second time. Jose Maria and my friends, it's not a suggestion, I'm just telling you that this is not an impossible development. So I was in China, and I was speaking to the president of China, Jiang Zemin, and he said to me, I really admire the Jewish people. So I said, I really admire the Chinese people. And he said, well, the Jews and the Chinese are two of the oldest civilizations in the world. And I said, yes, and then I put my foot in my mouth, I said, yes, India, China and Israel are three of the oldest civilizations and he agreed.
And then I said, but you notice there's a difference. He said, what's the difference? I said, how many Chinese are there in the world? He said, I think about that time, about 1.2 billion and, how many Indians? He said, about 1 billion. And I said, how many Jews? He didn't know. I said, there are about 13 million Jews in the world. And there was a stunned silence in the room. That's a small suburb of Beijing. I said, that's odd because we numbered about ten percent of the population of the Roman Empire, so by extrapolation we should have had about a quarter of a billion Jews today in the world. That's clearly not the case so what happened, he asked me.
And I said a lot of things happened, but they boiled down to one basic thing. You, the Chinese kept China - you had Diaspora, but you kept China. The Indians kept India. They had Diasporas, but they kept their home base. And we Jews lost our homeland and were scattered to the far corners of the earth and we were subjected to a horrific campaign of persecution, pogroms, displacement, murder, until the last and worst pogrom, and the Holocaust that destroyed all the Jews on the soil of Europe and also the Jews of North Africa and beyond.
So for the last 2,000 years what we've been trying to do is get back to our ancestral homeland and reestablish a sovereign existence for our people so we can continue our national life with our heritage and our values of freedom, and this is an encapsulation of our history and we did come back. We did reestablish our sovereignty. We did establish a vibrant democratic state.
We are anchored in those values and because of those values of freedom, of choice, of pluralism; Israelis are innately sympathetic to the advance of genuine democratic reform in all countries. We feel a natural bond with countries where the rights of women, the rights of gays, the rights of minorities are respected - where people are governed by laws and not by men.
This is something we innately identify with and you innately identify with because these are things democratic societies that citizens in such societies consider to be their birthright, and they're rightly precious to all of you - to everyone present in this room.
Now the 20th century saw a great part of humanity enter the modern age with an unprecedented expansion of political and economic liberty. But for many in the Middle East, the 20th century skipped them by. Now 21st century technology is reminding them of what they missed. We are sympathetic to all those who are working to reform their own societies and to bring them into the modern world.
Many of you come from Eastern and Central Europe. I remember what we felt in the great events of 1989. I remember the jubilation in Berlin and in the capitals of Eastern Europe. We all felt the promise of a new day. And that day has arrived. All of you have arrived. You've come here today to Israel from Poland, from the Czech Republic, from Hungary, from Romania, from the Baltic countries and many other countries. You are testament to the possibility of progress and liberty. There's no one else who can better describe this promise than you.
Yet at the same time, history also argues for caution when it comes to revolutions. Even those revolutions started in the name of freedom. We know of many examples of anti-democratic forces that co-opted a people's genuine desire for liberty and instead established brutal regimes that snuffed out liberty - just crushed all human rights into the dust. You're familiar with one example, it happened in 1917. A few months of a Russian spring under Kerensky, then turned into a 70 year Bolshevik winter. And this happened again in our region in 1979. The Iranian people's hope of a new democratic dawn, turned into the darkness of thirty years of brutal repression.
So while we all hope that every country succeeds in walking down the path of reform, history teaches us not to assume that any destination is inevitable. In the case of Egypt, there are many possible outcomes beyond the liberal, democratic models that we take for granted in our own countries.
First, Egyptians may choose to embrace the model of a secular reformist state with a prominent role for the military. There is a second possibility that the Islamists exploit the influence to gradually take the country into a reverse direction - not towards modernity and reform but backward. And there's still a third possibility - that Egypt would go the way of Iran, where calls for progress would be silenced by a dark and violent despotism that subjugates its own people and threatens everyone else. You just have to remember the brutal crackdown in Iran 18 months ago. In Tehran, there was no dialogue, no reform, no restraint, nothing. In the squares of Cairo, with all the turbulence and some tragedy, Egyptians read papers on the tanks of their soldiers. In the squares of Tehran, Iranians were gunned down systematically and left choking on the sidewalks on their blood.
I don't know what will happen in Egypt. But from Israel's perspective, our interest is clear. Our interest is to maintain the peace that we have enjoyed for three decades. That peace has brought quiet to our southern border and it served the strategic interests of both countries, and brought stability to the region, in fact to the entire Middle East.
We expect the international community to be equally clear that it expects any Egyptian government to maintain the peace. The peace with Jordan is also critically important to us. Since 1970, we've enjoyed a de facto peace on our eastern frontier with the Kingdom of Jordan. Both the late King Hussein and King Abdullah have been genuine partners for peace. And that peace has also served the strategic interests of both countries and increased stability in the region. Some of us are old enough to remember what it was like before we had that peace.
I joined the army in 1967. And I remember as a young soldier crossing into Jordan many times in battle, in firefights. And I remember fighting along the banks of the Suez Canel. I remember fighting in the Suez Canal and in one of those firefights, I was actually about to drown in the Suez Canal with a forty pound ammunition pack on my back and with my last gasp of breath, I went to the surface, put my hand up and somebody on a semi-punctured zodiac commando boat of ours reached his hand and put me on the boat. People are still trying to figure out whom that soldier was who was foolish enough to reach down into the water to save me. We remember what it was like. We remember when our friends died in battle. We remember when we had a multi-front war. We remember the pain, the anguish, of grief, ours and that of our Arab neighbors. We remember.
And so we bless the fact that for over 30 years on the Egyptian front and close to 40 years on the Jordanian front, we've had peace. There's a new generation in Israel and in Egypt and in Jordan that has grown up without war. So a new generation of Israelis and Egyptians and Jordanians who grew up without war. So we have to do everything in our power to preserve this blessing for future generations as well.
And we want to expand the peace; we want to expand it with our other neighbors, specifically with the Palestinians. We want to forge a lasting peace. We have to maintain the present peace treaties and create new ones. These are big challenges.
I've been saying in the Knesset just about every week that in our pursuit of peace, we have to ensure that there are rock-solid security arrangements, both to protect the peace, to reflect the reality on the ground today, but also to reflect the fact that that reality can change tomorrow. We need a peace anchored in iron-clad security arrangements both to bolster the peace itself, but also to protect our security if the peace unravels, and the peace can be unraveled from without. We left Lebanon - Iran walked in with Hizbullah. We left Gaza - Iran walked in with Hamas. It could be unraveled from without. It could be unraveled from within.
Our commitment, our goal is the maintenance and the expansion of peace. But as we think about the dramatic events that are taking place in Egypt, let's not lose sight of an even greater earthquake, greater than everything that I described, that could rock our region and rock the world and rock each of your countries and Europe if Iran were to develop nuclear weapons.
Here's what Iran is doing today. It's in Afghanistan; it's in Iraq; it's in the Yemen; it's pretty much taken over Lebanon; it's taken over Gaza; it's in the Horn of Africa; it's even sending its tentacles to the Western Hemisphere, penetrating Latin America. This is what Iran is doing today without nuclear weapons. Imagine what they will do tomorrow with nuclear weapons. Iran already has missiles that reach well beyond Israel. They're not developing these long-range missiles for us; they can reach us. They're developing it for you, to reach you. With each passing day, those missiles bring more of Europe into range. And I have some bad news for you: Jose Maria, you're in the caliphate. They talk about a new caliphate. There's anyone here from Romania? Borderline. Sweden? You're out of it for now.
They say they can't possibly mean this, it cannot be that in the 21st century people speak of caliphates, of new-found empires, of an ideology that is suited not for the 21st century but for the 9th century. I urge you not to underestimate this threat to our common civilization. It's hard for people to understand, especially for Westerners. It's hard for them to understand fanaticism - especially if sometimes it wears a suit and a tie, or a suit without a tie. It's very hard to understand that. But it's there.
You ask yourself, for example, what was the Taliban thinking when they enabled the dispatch of al-Qaida to bomb New York and Washington. What were they thinking? Were they thinking that the United States would not send an army to bring down their regime? Could they have been that crazy, or that stupid? They weren't stupid. They were totally irrational.
Today there's a competition between the militant Sunnis and the militant Shiites. The militant Shiites have a state. That state is developing nuclear weapons, with unbridled ambitions for power and dominance. They see the United States as the great Satan, we're the little Satan, and you're somewhere in between. You're a middle-sized Satan. That's how they view us. And there's no room in the world, in their world, for us and for our societies.
I believe that the greatest threat facing the world today is the possibility that a militant Islamic regime will meet up with nuclear weapons, or that nuclear weapons will meet up with a militant Islamic regime. The first is called Iran, the second is called Pakistan. Given the events that are unfolding in our region, there are other possibilities as well. This cannot be allowed to happen.
The good news is that nothing is inevitable. We have the power to protect our common civilization, to roll back the forces of radicalism and to advance a secure peace. One of the keys to defeating this fanaticism is to be able to distinguish friends from enemies. In this battle between the 21st century and the 9th century, between freedom and despotism, between progress and primitivism, Europe and Israel stand squarely on the same side.
This is something each and every one of you understands. And that is why I am so happy to see you here in Jerusalem, and why I welcome this initiative of the European Friends of Israel. Because the European Friends of Israel are the European friends of Europe. They are the European friends of our common civilization, our common roots, our common values, our common aspirations for the future.If we stand together; if we solidify this partnership we have the strength, the will and the determination to protect and secure our common future.
Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Thank you very much.


President Peres launches initiative to integrate Israeli Arabs into hi-tech workforce


President Peres launches initiative to integrate Israeli Arabs into hi-tech workforce

President Shimon Peres and 20 CEOs of leading hi-tech companies in Israel have launched a project to recruit and integrate Israeli Arabs into the hi-tech industry. The CEOs, who recognized the importance of integrating and promoting Israeli Arabs into this sector and joined the President's initiative represent companies including: Intel, SanDisk, Cisco, Microsoft, TowerJazz, HP, SAP, IBM, Live Person, TaKaDu, NICE, CA, ECI and RSA. 


A thorough study indicated that very few Israeli Arabs have successfully integrated into the Israeli hi-tech industry, even though many are academically qualified. Some of the barriers to entry are technical in nature, fear of not being considered on the basis of merit, unfamiliarity with the application process and a lack of knowledge of Israeli hi-tech culture. This initiative hopes to bridge those gaps and streamline the application, interview, acceptance and integration process for Israeli Arabs to enter the Israeli hi-tech workforce.
Within the framework of the project a unique web-based portal was launched. Israeli Arab technology and engineering students can send their resumes to participating companies in the project through the web-based portal. When necessary, assistance in helping applicants improve their resumes will be offered. The selection and placement process will be managed by Manpower, the human resource company.
The idea for this initiative is the result of a meeting between President Peres and John Chambers, the Chairman and CEO of CISCO at the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos last year.


The Minister of Defense to Appoint Maj. Gen. Gantz as IDF Chief of Staff


Minister of Defense, Ehud Barak, and Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu , will pass along their recommendation for the appointment of Maj. Gen. Gantz as the next IDF Chief of Staff

The Minister of Defense, Ehud Barak, and the Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, will pass along their recommendation to appoint Maj. Gen. Benjamin “Benny” Gantz to the position of the IDF’s 20th Chief of Staff. The recommendation will be passed along to the Turkel Committee for approval after which it will be sent to the government for final approval.
The Prime Minister and Minister of Defense stated that they, “see great importance in clearing up any uncertainty about the new Chief of Staff and stabilizing the military system by appointing one who can lead the IDF in the face of future challenges.”
Maj. Gen. Benny Ganz was born in 1959 and recruited to the IDF in 1977 when he joined the Paratroopers Brigade. In 1979, he graduated from the IDF officer school and was positioned as company commander and later Platoon commander in the Paratrooper Brigade.
In 1989 he was appointed commander of the Shaldag Unit in the Israel Air force. In 1994 he was appointed commander of the Judea Brigade in the Judea and Samaria Division.
In 1997 he left for an academic break in the United States. In 1999 he was appointed as commander of the Liaison Unit with Lebanon. In 2000 he was appointed as commander of the Judea and Samaria division.
In 2002 he was appointed as commander of the IDF Northern Command. In 2005 he was appointed as commander of the IDF Ground Forces Command. In 2007 he was appointed IDF military attache in the United States.
Maj. Gen. Ganz is a graduate of the Command and Staff College and the National Security College, has a Bachelors degree in history from the Tel Aviv University, a masters degree in Political Science from the Haifa University and another Masters Degree in management of national resources from the NDU university in the United States.

Maj. Gen. Ganz is married and is a father of four.


Israel Concerned Egypt Upheaval Could Radicalize Arab Neighbors


Jordan’s King Abdullah has fired his Cabinet, bowing to public pressure for reform after demonstrations inspired by those in Egypt

Meredith Buel, Jerusalem
VOA News
The Israeli government is watching the violent unrest in Egypt - and protests in other Arab countries - with the primary concern that a radically aggressive Islamist regime could take over in Cairo and the political upheaval could spread.
The protests and street clashes in Cairo are redrawing the strategic and political landscape in the Middle East, and Israel is finding itself surrounded by Arab countries and governments facing an uncertain future.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s decision not to run for re-election after three decades in power could have an impact on relations defined by the 1979 peace treaty between Egypt and Israel.

Israeli President Shimon Peres said, "We always have had, and still have, a great respect for President Mubarak, and we do not say everything that he did is right, but he did one thing, which all of us are thankful for him. He kept the peace in the Middle East."

In Israel, which has counted on its more than 30-year-old peace treaty with Egypt for regional stability, the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu now confronts a new unknown in the country’s very dangerous neighborhood.

Jordan’s King Abdullah has fired his Cabinet, bowing to public pressure for reform after demonstrations inspired by those in Egypt.

In the West Bank, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas ordered his ministers and other officials not to talk publicly about the situation in Egypt.

Mark Heller, a senior analyst at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, describes Israel’s number one concern. "That a radically aggressive, Islamist regime might take over in Egypt and, among other things, direct its hostility and aggressiveness against Israel."

Tzvica Fogel is a retired brigadier general in the Israel Defense Forces, and is currently a military analyst. He said the prospect of President Mubarak exiting from Egypt’s political leadership is causing the Israeli military to rethink its most significant regional strategic relationship.

Fogel said the military is not necessarily planning on an eventual breaking of the peace agreement with Egypt, but is focusing on the influence of Islamist groups on Israel's borders.

As Fogel put it, "this concentration of terrorist organizations is something that at the moment ought to make us all lose sleep."

Binyamin Ben Eliezer, a former Israeli defense minister, is critical of the United States for advocating a rapid transition in the Egyptian government.

Ben Eliezer said he thinks the Americans do not understand, as he puts it, the tragedy in which they have participated, because, he says, it is endangering the peace process in the Middle East.

Developments in the past five years, including the takeover by the militant Palestinian Islamist group Hamas in the Gaza Strip, the rise of Hezbollah in Lebanon and Iran’s influence in the region have many Israelis feeling the area is turning even more against them.

Analysts say if Muslim hard-liners take power in Egypt, Israel will feel surrounded in a way it has not been for decades.

Heller said, "In the most extreme case, we could have a situation in which there is a radical force dominating - a radical Sunni force dominating Egypt, a radical Shi’ite force dominating Iran - and an ongoing competition between the two of them to show who is more active and effective in confronting Israel and the United States."

Heller said Israel should make a conscious effort to maintain a low profile during the Arab unrest because almost anything the country says or does probably will be criticized and counterproductive.


"Hezbollah took root in Gaza"


The Nesher battalion of the Gaza Division recently held its first evening in which past and present soldiers shared the challenges of serving along the Gaza Strip

Florit Shoihet
The Nesher battalion(a Field Intelligence Corps battalion designated to the Gaza Strip) held its first evening at the Urim base (in the Gaza Division), past and present soldiers both participating. The company's activities since its establishment in 2003 were reviewed throughout the evening.
Commander of the Nesher battalion, Lt. Col. Gabay, revealed a sequence of some of the successful operations carried out by the company in the Gaza Strip in recent months. Among others, he spoke about a house where the company found a smuggling tunnel, later targeted by the IAF.
The battalion commander made it clear, however, that the Gaza Strip still constitutes a significant challenge for the soldiers. "The situation in the Gaza Strip presents a serious challenge for the company. The enemy is cruel and thinks deeply about its next move. We can say there is a Lebanonization process in the Strip," he said. "Hezbollah took root in the Gaza Strip, organizationally as well. We are not dealing with a weak entity. They have advanced weapons, no less than ours."
In terms of intelligence, where the Field Intelligence Corps excels, terror organizations in Gaza are still a challenge. "Their intelligence gathering system is not bad, yet they still make mistakes and they are still not an army," clarified Lt. Col. Gabay before adding that, "this is a disturbing process."
"What is standing behind the successes of the company is brotherhood between the soldiers, solidarity, friendship and seriousness in trainings," continued the Nesher battalion commander, with what seemed to be real proof behind his words. The tens of now citizens, part of the more distant past and less part of this unique unit, were happy to meet with each other, years after fighting shoulder to shoulder. "Truly, it's an experience, it's very exciting to see everybody after so many years," explained Tal Shildan with a smile, a former soldier of the March 2004 enlistment cycle who ended his service as an officer of
Tactical Aerostat Observation Systems. "It's like belonging to family."
Digging with a Hoe
Assaf Levy and Nissay Metatyahu, from the March 2002 and August 2001 enlistment cycles, respectively, were among the first soldiers of the company in the Gaza Strip, and today they remember the old days with nostalgia. "It was fun to be the first to do something. In the beginning, we were digging with a hoe, just like in the 50s, in order to build this mobile company," they recall.
The current company's soldiers were happy to meet the former soldiers, too, who’d walked down the same path they are taking today. "It's cool to see people from previous cycles, and I'm glad they organized this evening," said Dvir Hadar, a crew Sergeant in the company. "The veterans were happy to advise the soldiers to take it easy in their service, and they were interested in the capabilities displayed there, enthusiastic about the practicality of our modern means."
The "Gaza Company" of the "Nesher" Battalion
The company was established in 2003 and its first base was located at Kerem Shalom (on the Gaza Strip border). In December 2009, the company moved to the Urim base. The company is comprised of several types of crews, which specialize in qualitative missions such as gathering information on terrorist facilities sites and gathering information by border patrols and using special vehicles.


Gunfire Erupts in Central Cairo


Pro- and anti-government protesters continue to defy a government curfew in the Egyptian capital

VOA News
Bursts of gunfire erupted early Thursday in the area around Cairo's Tahrir Square as pro- and anti-government protesters continued to defy an Egyptian government curfew.

News reports cited witnesses saying at least three people have been killed in the latest violence.

Sporadic clashes remained as daylight broke Thursday, with small numbers of protesters throwing rocks in the Square.

On Wednesday, supporters of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak charged into the square on horseback and camels while others rained firebombs from rooftops in what appeared to be an orchestrated assault against protesters calling for an end to his near-30-year-rule.

Anti-government demonstrators, after first trying to respond peacefully, fought back with rocks and Molotov cocktails as battles broke out around Tahrir Square. Doctors set up a makeshift clinic in a mosque near the square to help the more than 640 injured. Egypt's health ministry says three people were killed in Wednesday's clashes.

Reporters said Egyptian troops initially fired warning shots in a bid to end the melee. But the military mostly restricted itself to guarding the Egyptian Museum and using water cannons to extinguish flames stoked by the firebombs.

Anti-government protesters accused Mr. Mubarak's regime of unleashing a force of paid vandals and undercover police to crush their unprecedented, more than one week-old uprising. They showed off police identification badges they say were taken from their attackers, many of whom were armed with clubs, knives and other weapons.

Egyptian state television quotes the Interior Ministry denying that plainclothes police officers were involved in the violence.

The 82-year-old Mr. Mubarak announced late Tuesday he will not seek reelection in September, but he vowed to serve out his term until then.

Democracy advocate Mohamed ElBaradei told the BBC the government is using "scare tactics" and said he feared the clashes would turn into a "bloodbath."

Egypt's newly appointed vice president, Omar Suleiman, Wednesday urged all demonstrators to respect the curfew and go home, saying his dialogue with political forces depends on an end to street protests.

Opposition groups, including the country's powerful but officially banned Muslim Brotherhood, have refused to negotiate with the government before Mr. Mubarak leaves office.

They have called for widespread demonstrations on Friday to press for the embattled president's departure.

On Tuesday, an estimated 250,000 people flooded Tahrir Square to demand President Mubarak's resignation. Anti-Mubarak protesters also rallied in other major Egyptian cities.

Egypt's military urged demonstrators to return to their normal lives, saying their message has been heard and their demands have become known.

Internet service returned to the country Wednesday after days of an unprecedented cutoff. A Facebook event called "A Virtual March of Millions in Solidarity with Egyptian Protestors" has grown to more than 350,000 international attendees.


Mubarak Pledges Not to Seek Reelection


Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who has ruled Egypt for nearly three decades, says he will not run for reelection in September

Luis Ramirez , Cairo
VOA News
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who has ruled Egypt for nearly three decades, says he will not run for reelection in September. The announcement late Tuesday drew mixed reactions from demonstrators who mounted an unprecedented uprising that started a week ago.
The announcement by President Hosni Mubarak followed a week of protests that culminated in a massive rally on Tuesday that drew hundreds of thousands of anti-government demonstrators to Cairo's Tahrir's Square.

Mr. Mubarak appeared on live television late Tuesday, saying he does not intend to renominate himself in the presidential election because, he said, his first responsibility is to ensure the stability of the nation and to preserve its integrity.

Demonstrations broke out a week ago. Scores of protesters were killed in clashes with police and hundreds were injured.

Cheers broke out on Tuesday night when demonstrators in and around Tahrir Square heard Mr. Mubarak's announcement. However, while some celebrated, others expressed anger and disappointment. Some opposition leaders said Mr. Mubarak's plans do not go far enough. Elections are not for another seven months and they want him to step aside now, not later.

A large crowd of demonstrators remained on the square past the curfew, some saying they will not move until Mr. Mubarak not only steps down, but also leaves the country no later than Friday.

The Army took up positions as it has done for the past several days. Protesters appear to have gained confidence after Army officials said they consider the demonstrations legitimate and promised that the Army would not fire on the protesters as long as they remain peaceful.

One big question is what kind state will emerge when Mr. Mubarak leaves office as promised. Already, there are disagreements within the opposition over whether Egypt should make democratic reforms or eventually become an Islamist state.

Supporters of President Mubarak interviewed on the streets of Cairo called for him to stay in office. Hundreds gathered in support of Mr. Mubarak at a separate rally and at a march early Wednesday.


PM Netanyahu on the situation in Egypt


"Peace between Israel and Egypt has endured for over three decades and our goal is to ensure that these relations continue"

At the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting (Sunday, 30 January 2011) Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said:

"We are anxiously monitoring what is happening in Egypt and [elsewhere] in our region. Last night, I spoke with US President Barack Obama and US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton. I also held consultations with Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman and with Israeli intelligence officials.

Our efforts are designed to continue and maintain stability and security in our region. I remind you that the peace between Israel and Egypt has endured for over three decades and our goal is to ensure that these relations continue. Of course, at this time, we must show maximum responsibility, restraint and sagacity and, to this end, I have instructed my fellow ministers to refrain from commenting on this issue. Naturally, we are also holding consultations in the appropriate government forums.


Israel Fears Unrest in Egypt Could Jeopardize Peace Treaty


"It might be a hostile regime to Israel that will not respect the peace treaty with Israel and will cancel it, abolish this agreement, and we will go back to a situation of hostility between Israel and Egypt"

Robert Berger , Jerusalem
VOA News

The unrest in Egypt is sending shock waves throughout the Middle East, including in neighboring Israel.
Israel is extremely concerned about the situation in Egypt because President Hosni Mubarak has preserved the peace treaty between the two countries for 30 years. Israel considers the treaty a strategic asset, and it fears that a regime change in Egypt could put the peace agreement in danger.

Israeli analyst Yoni Ben-Menachem says an Egyptian government led by opposition groups or the Muslim Brotherhood would take a harder line on Israel.

"It might be a hostile regime to Israel that will not respect the peace treaty with Israel and will cancel it, abolish this agreement, and we will go back to a situation of hostility between Israel and Egypt," said Ben-Menachem.

That would complicate Israel's situation strategically, because it already shares two borders with hostile elements: Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza. And Ben-Menachem believes neighboring Jordan could be next.

"This can create the domino effect, and this fall of the regime in Egypt can also continue to Jordan, and also with Jordan we have another peace treaty," added Ben-Menachem. "And if this will happen, if there will be a strategic change in the Middle East, that will not be for the benefit of the State of Israel."

While the treaty between Egypt and Israel is often described as a "cold peace," Ben-Menachem says Israel values its relationship with President Mubarak and sees him as a bridge between Israel and the Arab world.

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