Tag Archives: Tel Aviv

Peace seems to slip away in Israel

They dedicated the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem today.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was all smiles. So were Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner. So was mega Republican campaign donor Sheldon Adelsen. And so were others in the large crowd.

But …

There was a good bit of unhappiness at this occasion. Palestinians died today while trying to enter Israel from Gaza. There were riots. Protests mounted all across the country and the region.

The way I see it, peace between Israel and the Palestinians appears farther away — not closer together.

Donald J. Trump vowed to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem while he ran for president. Once elected, he delivered on the campaign pledge. This move, though, flies in the face of what most of our allies wanted.

Jerusalem happens to be a holy city for Jews, Christians and, oh yes, Muslims. Go to the Old City and you find it divided into four quarters (the Armenians comprise the fourth quarter of the walled city).

Inside the old walled city you find the Western Wall, the Church of the Sepulchre and the Dome of the Rock. All three sites symbolize the three great religions I just mentioned.

The symbolism of the embassy relocation has inflamed tensions between Jews and Muslims.

Which makes me wonder: What in the world did the president expect would happen when the day arrived finally for the embassy to open for business?

Isn’t the presidential son-in-law, Kushner, supposed to be the lead guy on this peace initiative? How in the world does the region achieve the long sought after “two-state solution” with an independent Palestine function alongside Israel with this kind of violence erupting?

I am afraid today’s events have taken the world a large step away from peace in the Holy Land.

Not exactly a 'bucket list' item, but …

I’ve kept this link filed away ever since I got it about a year ago.

It’s of Israel. It’s a promotional video, about 5 minutes in length that shows the best of one of the world’s most fascinating, complex, enduring and loveliest countries.

I spent five weeks there in May-June 2009. Most of that time was as part of a Rotary International professional exchange. Four young professionals came with me and we interacted for with others as part of Rotary’s effort to build bridges among cultures. Five folks from West Texas got an education that they will keep forever. And all of these wonderful young Texans have become four of my very best friends.

What’s more, together we forged friendships with our Israeli hosts — and a Rotary team with whom we traveled from The Netherlands — that will last our entire lives.

The final week was spent as a tourist, with my wife who had come to join me once the Rotary portion of the trip had concluded. We stayed at a bed and breakfast in Jerusalem. We took tours to Masada and the Dead Sea and walked all through Jerusalem, visiting holy sites and then booked a tour to neighboring Bethlehem in the West Bank.

As I look repeatedly at this video it occurs to me how vibrant that country is in a region riven with strife, bloodshed, hatred and suspicion. But watch the video and you notice it’s a land of intense religious diversity, with Christians, Jews and Muslims literally praying next to each other.

We visited a site, for example, in the old section of Tel Aviv where a mosque and an Orthodox church share a common wall, which we were told is a huge sign of unity in a region known for religious violence.

My wife and I intend to return there. We have many more holy sites we want to visit.

Call it a variation of the “bucket list.” We’ve been there once already. But there’s so much more to see and experience. Check out the video. You’ll see what I mean.

Words of wisdom from the Holy Land

Periodically, I check in with my friends in Israel, who I met in 2009 while traveling through the country on a Rotary International vocational exchange.

I asked two friends, who live in Tel Aviv, about the state of things in his country. I’m concerned for my friends, as the country has been bombarded by rocket fire from Gaza, where the infamous terrorist organization Hamas is calling all the shots.

My friends’ response is as follows:

“We are all safe. Looks like the horrors of the recent operation are behind us now – but every day brings new news.

“Unfortunately the region is changing so fast, where previous enemies collaborate to fight new enemies.

“Take ISIS as an example. “This terror organization is about to change the balance of power in the entire Middle East and I hope they will be defeated soon.

“Israel may find itself cooperating with other Arab countries (Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar and many others) against a new common enemy.”

It’s not simple over there, folks.

I continue to lay the blame for the violence squarely on Hamas, which today shattered the shaky truce with more rocket fire into Israel from Gaza. The Israelis responded with air strikes, reportedly killing two Palestinians.

My friend, though, has laid out what he thinks is a complicated scenario. Israel is having to make deals with recent enemies to combat a terrorist onslaught. Every one of the nations he mentioned regarding Israel’s cooperating with Arab states at one time or another has gone to war with Israel, only to be defeated on the battlefield.

Jordan and Egypt have forged formal peace treaties with Israel. Saudi Arabia is known to despise the Islamic Republic of Iran and the mullahs who run that country. Will these new friendships hold up under pressure from the terrorists?

I hope so for my friends’ sake, and for the world’s sake as well.

Ted Cruz: Texas-sized embarrassment

Ted Cruz is my senator. I accept that he’s one of two men who serve in the U.S. Senate on behalf of Texas.

I didn’t vote for him in 2012. I likely never will vote for him for anything. Still, he’s my senator.

And that gives me the right to declare that I am ashamed of him. Deeply so, in fact. His latest shameful attack has been leveled at the State Department, the Federal Aviation Administration and the president of the United States over his idiotic suggestion that the FAA ban on U.S. flights to Israel is somehow intended to do actual harm to our strong ally in the Middle East.

http://www.politico.com/story/2014/07/ted-cruz-faa-ban-state-department-109322.html?hp=l21

This guy is a Harvard-educated lawyer, right? He’s supposed to be a bright guy, correct? What on God’s Earth is he suggesting here? It cannot possibly be that President Barack Obama actually wants Israel to be wiped off the map, which is what the Hamas terrorists want to happen.

Hamas launched the conflict in Gaza by firing rockets into Israel. The Israelis have responded with tremendous force to put down the uprising. The terrorists have ratcheted up their own response by landing a rocket near the major international airport outside of Tel Aviv.

The FAA suspended U.S.-carrier flights for less than two days. The ban has been lifted. Cruz, though, has suggested the FAA, the State Department and the White House are politically motivated, that they want to harm Israel.

Commentators on the left have compared Cruz’s fire-breathing rhetoric to the stuff that came out of Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s mouth in the 1950s, when he accused the State Department of hiring communists.

I’m wondering now if Ted Cruz’s reckless implications today will produce the kind of response that McCarthy drew from his critics.

Flight ban was no embargo

The Federal Aviation Administration has lifted its brief ban on commercial U.S. jet service to David Ben-Gurion International Airport.

Did the FAA knuckle under to some ridiculous political criticism? I hope not.

http://www.politico.com/story/2014/07/faa-lifts-flight-ban-to-tel-aviv-109319.html?hp=r5

The FAA had banned the flights into Tel Aviv’s air terminal, citing security concerns created by Hamas’s rocket attacks on Israeli civilians. One rocket landed about a mile from Ben-Gurion, causing the FAA to suspend U.S. air carrier service to the massive airport.

Then came the ridiculousness from the likes of former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. Their complaint? They called the flight-service suspension an “economic embargo on Israel” that punished the Israelis unfairly.

Bloomberg even went so far as to board an Israeli El Al Airlines jet from New York to Tel Aviv, and fly to Israel to make some kind of bombastic statement criticizing the suspension.

Cruz, of course, wasted no time plastering this decision — which was made independently by the FAA — on President Obama. This has become a common theme from Cruz and other loudmouthed Republican lawmakers: Let’s be sure to politicize this any way we can and, oh yes, be sure to put the blame squarely on the president; and in this case, let’s be sure to imply that he is following some kind of “anti-Israel” policy, which of course is standard for someone with “pro-Muslim” leanings.

Their stupidity is mind-boggling.

And to think Republicans still rail at those who — they contend — still want to blame George W. Bush for the nation’s economic mess and all these foreign-policy crises.

Well, the ban on U.S. carriers’ flights to David Ben-Gurion has lifted. That’s a good thing. The FAA assessed the security risk and determined that it’s OK to fly there.

Take it from me, as one who’s flown in and out of that terminal: You haven’t lived until you’ve been interrogated by an Israeli airport security official prior to boarding an outbound flight from David Ben-Gurion International Airport.

They know how to protect themselves against terrorist attacks.

As for the FAA, they were being extra cautious. Given the stakes involved, I’m glad they locked down those flights.