Sunday, July 30, 2006

Photos that damn Hezbollah

More evidence that Hizbollah is deliberately placing its missile launchers in residential areas - Photos that damn Hezbollah.

Lebanese Political Journal

For some fascinating analysis of the internal Lebanese situation, see Lebanese Political Journal. Lebanon Profile's postings are helpful in understanding (or trying to understand) the incredibly complex sectarian politics of Lebanon. (Reference from Oleh Girl, an Israeli blogger).

Hizbollah's hostages

Another report on a Lebanese town that Hizbollah is trying to hold hostage - a Druse town named Mari not far from the Israeli town of Metulla.
Not all villages in southern Lebanon are Shiite. Just above the abandoned SLA base at the old Majidiyya estate on the Lebanon-Israel border sits a small, quiet Druse village called Mari. You will not find Mari on any maps, but at the beginning of the current conflict Mari found itself caught between the Israeli Air Force, which apparently wanted to avoid bombing the village directly, and Hizbullah, which wanted to enter the town at all costs. You see, Mari's location would provide the militia an excellent overview of the Israeli city of Kiryat Shmona (and the settlement of Metulla, which is closer but much smaller), and finding a way to operate there would give Hizbullah increased civilian cover for their Katyusha rocket fire.

Hizbollah - hiding behind civilians

It's becoming clear that one reason so many innocent Lebanese civilians are being killed by Israeli bombs and missiles is that Hizbollah fighters are launching their missiles from the middle of Lebanese towns. There was an article in today's New York Times about this and also Jan Egeland, the UN refugee chief, said the same thing a couple of days ago. For a really disheartening, first-person account, read this posting and comments from a Lebanese blog, Free Ain Ebel.
The situation in Ain Ebel is unbearable. Thousands of civilians have fled to the village from nearby villages and more than 1000 rockets have hit the village, there is no more food neither clean water and diseases r spreading.

Now here comes the most sickening part:
Hezbollah has been firing rockets from the village since Day 1 hiding behind innocent people’s places and even CHURCHES. No one is allowed to argue with the Hezbollah gunmen who wont hesitate to shoot you and i ve heard about more than one shooting incident including young men from the village and Hezbollah.
Urgent appeals have been done through phone calls from terrified people who wouldnt give out their name fearing Hezbollah might harm or even eliminate them.

This is the true image of our brave Islamic Resistance, putting the civilians and their homes as body shields to the Israeli bombardements.

Let the message spread and let those criminals move out of the village once and for all.
Free Ain Ebel from the terrorists !
Have I mentioned recently that this war is making me so sick? It is so sad that all these innocent Lebanese are being killed, having their homes and businesses destroyed, being driven from their homes - I can't stand it. I think that Israel is justified in defending itself, and in trying to destroy Hizbollah - but this has got to stop before even more of Lebanon is destroyed.

Secretary of State Rice is apparently back in the Middle East (in Israel tonight) supposedly trying to get a UN resolution passed this week calling for a ceasefire, along with a whole list of other demands. Why couldn't this have happened two weeks ago? Why didn't she stay in the Middle East during her previous visit? Why hasn't the U.S. done its best to crack heads together and tell Israel, Syria, Lebanon, and anyone else who would listen, that it's time to stop the killing? I don't understand. It certainly looks to me that she and Bush have dragged their feet on insisting on a ceasefire in order to further their grand strategic plan for the Middle East - and said plan doesn't involve any care or concern that hundreds of innocent people have died in the last two weeks.

The War at Home

I lived in Seattle from 1979-1981. It was there that I began to take part in Jewish community life again, after losing much of my connection to Judaism in my late teenage years and early college years (reading Nietzsche didn't help - all that "death of God" stuff).

I went to a couple of seders organized by a progressive Jewish group named Kadima, which eventually became a chapter of New Jewish Agenda. Looking at their website it seems that they're now affiliated with the Reconstructionist movement; their concerns seem to be about the same as they were when I went to their events, including "a commitment to social, economic, gender, and racial justice, the eradication of anti-Semitism..., The survival of Israel as a Jewish nation based on its pursuit of democracy, pluralism, civil rights, equality, and a peaceful co-existence for all," and "Peace in the Middle East that includes the co-existence of an Israeli state and a Palestinian state."

I remember attending a several session class on the history and nature of anti-semitism; I also remember going to one of their rallies, which probably had something to do with Israel but I don't remember the issue. I think I also went to a Purim celebration that they organized - it was the first time I read the book of Esther, and I was shocked by the violence of the book. Another project of theirs now is the Middle East Peace Camp on which they collaborate with the Arab Center of Washington.

In Seattle I also joined a newly born synagogue (Tikvah Chadashah) and became its first female co-president. I remember going to services also at a Reform Synagogue named Beth Am, and being moved by the prayers. I was searching for meaning - my mother had been diagnosed with lung cancer in the summer of 1980, and I felt adrift. I started to believe in God again - just spontaneously, no sudden revelation - it made more sense than being an atheist or agnostic or wherever I had been wandering before.

I left Seattle in the summer of 1981, when it became clear that my mother's cancer was returning after radiation treatment, and it seemed likely that she did not have much longer to live. For a year or so after I left, I kept my subscription to the local Jewish newspaper, published by the Seattle Jewish Federation, to keep up on what was happening in Seattle. I only returned to visit a couple of times after that - I think the last time was in 1984. But I still have very fond memories of Seattle.

So it was a great shock when I heard on the news this morning that a Muslim American man had entered the offices of the Seattle Federation yesterday and started shooting randomly, killing one woman and injuring five more, including a pregnant woman. Pam Waechter was the woman who was killed, and the five other staff members were Cheryl Stumbo, Dayna Klein, Carol Goldman, Layla Bush and Christina Rexroad. Mrs. Waechter was a leader in the local Jewish community, most recently serving as director of the annual fundraising campaign for the Seattle Federation.

The man identified as the killer, Naveed Haq, grew up in Richland, and his father was one of the founders of Richland's Islamic Center. Haq apparently has a history of mental illness.

The attack came only a day after "the FBI had warned Jewish organizations nationwide to be on alert after Hezbollah leaders in Lebanon and al-Qaida's second in command urged that the war raging in the Middle East be carried to the U.S. However, the law-enforcement source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said there is no evidence that Haq was involved with any group. 'He said he hates Israel,' said the source, who is part of the Seattle Joint Terrorism Task Force, which was called in to help investigate the shootings. David Gomez, the assistant special agent-in-charge of the Seattle FBI office, said there is 'nothing to indicate he is part of a larger organization....We believe he is a lone individual with antagonism toward this organization,' said Gomez." I certainly hope that the FBI is correct.

Reaction by one of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer columnists
"For every argument there is a gripe, a countergripe and a gripe to the countergripe. But pulling a semiautomatic trigger before the evening rush hour is not the answer. Violence never is. Whatever thread of intelligence might have been inside the shooter's mind has become forever lost in a tragic act of exceptional rage directed at Jews. If he had entered the building with an open mind -- instead of declaring open season -- he could have learned something.

The Jewish Federation has opened its doors to many, including me, so that we can better understand Israel's plight. I've sat in the very offices that Friday became a crime scene and listened to community leaders talk about foreign policy, a sincere hope for peace abroad and the challenges faced by Seattle's small but vibrant Jewish community. The gunman would have come to understand how central Israel is to Jewish life. He would have gained an appreciation for the diversity of Jewish opinion, inside the organization, across the city and the globe.

Instead, he arrived with closed heart and mind. One person is dead. Five people are injured. It is sad and infuriating and frightening to think that conflict in the Middle East can ruin peace of mind here at home. It doesn't matter if the target of a hate crime is a mosque, a synagogue or a community center. An attack on any such institution is an attack on anyone who believes in the freedoms of this country and importance of community. On a sunny Friday afternoon in Seattle, a man filled with hate attacked every one of us.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Nazareth: 2 children killed in rocket barrage

Two brothers, three and nine years old, were killed Wednesday afternoon when a Katyusha barrage hit the town of Nazareth. The rockets pummeled the town, hitting various neighborhoods. The two children were killed when their house sustained a direct rocket hit. Reports of a third fatality were being verified.

The two casualties Wednesday raised the civilian death toll since the beginning of the fighting to 15. Magen David Adom reported that 76 people were injured in rocket attacks on the Valley area, including 26 who suffered from shock....

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert called Nazareth Mayor Ramez Jiraisi to express his condolences over the killing of the townspeople and to offer aid. Jiraisi told Ynet he heard the reports while driving.

During the morning hours, the Home Front Command recommended alertness and caution. "Today we held children's camps inside buildings. This is a very crowded neighborhood. I have no idea what the identities of those killed are," Jaraisi said.
These were two Israeli Arab children who were killed. Katyushas don't distinguish between Jews and Arabs.

Two Israeli soldiers were also killed in fighting with Hizbollah terrorists just north of the border near Kibbutz Avivim. I mourn for the soldiers, but at least they had a chance; they were armed and theatened other armed men. The two children were doing nothing except playing.

Just as Lebanese children are dying, since Israeli bombs don't distinguish between Hizbollah terrorists and children. When Hizbollah decides to stop firing rockets on Israel, and stops threatening Israeli communities in the north, then the dying will stop in both Israel and Lebanon.

Ithaca and "peace"

What is "peace"?
************************************************************
ITHACA WAR AND PEACE REPORT
************************************************************
Are you upset about the escalation of violence in Gaza, Lebanon and Israel, the civilians being killed every day, and the infrastructure being destroyed in Gaza and Lebanon?

Tuesday July 18, the Ithaca Journal reported "By nightfall Monday, 209 Lebanese had been reported killed in the six days of fighting. At least 24 Israelis have been killed."

Today, Wednesday July 19, gather on the Commons between 10:00 am and 6:00 pm to share your views and hear perspectives that haven't been reported in mainstream media. 10:00 am-4:00 pm, Occupation Witness, a new local group, will have a photo display and pass out literature. They are also distributing a petition that calls on members of Congress to stop all U.S. military aid to the Israeli government until the Israeli military pulls out of Gaza and Lebanon.

From 4:00-6:00 pm, a gathering on the Commons will include music, some information about current activities, including a very recent statement by the Democratic candidate for the Senate, Jonathon Tasini, and an opportunity to share your own views.
I don't know what the group "Occupation Witness" is - I've never heard of them before - but they seem to have an entirely one-sided perspective on the current war. Haven't they figured out that Israel started attacking Hizbollah in Lebanon because Hizbollah attacked Israel with no provocation whatsoever? I am also upset at the Lebanese civilians who have been killed and the infrastructure that has been destroyed, and wonder if Israel could have acted in a way to limit deaths and destruction - but what about the fact that a million Israelis are currently sitting in bomb shelters? What about the fact that Israelis continue to die at the hands of Hizbollah? There's no mention in this piece that Hizbollah has any responsibility to stop bombing Israel.

I've been reading enviously about other communities where people are organizing solidarity rallies to support Israel. We definitely need one here too.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Jerusalem

In a location I recently visited in Jerusalem, police foil a terror attack.
A great disaster was avoided Monday in Jerusalem, when an explosive device was found in the bag of a 25-year-old Palestinian at the city's Tzahal Square. Police officers operating a metal detector noticed a Palestinian walking toward them, carrying a bag. They demanded that he undergo a security check, and then he told them he was carrying an explosive device.

The police arrested the man, handcuffed him and took him into interrogation by interrogation by security forces at the Jerusalem Police's minorities department.

In his interrogation, the man said that he planned to carry out a terror attack, and according to estimations the target was the center of the capital. It is still unclear whether he planned to detonate himself with the device or leave it in the area and flee.

Following the incident, the police closed the entire area and dispatched a helicopter to the air in an attempt to locate the terrorist's accomplices. Sappers were dispatched to the area to examine the device.

The security establishment currently holds dozens of warnings on plans to carry out terror attacks in the home front, in an attempt to expand the fighting arena and hurt more civilians.

Tzahal Square

Tzahal Square is quite close to the Old City. This photo from Ynet shows the location of the capture of the terrorist. On the day I decided to visit the Old City, I walked through Tzahal Square on my way into the city.

Women praying at the Kotel

I had been somewhat nervous to visit the Old City once things got hot in Gaza, about two weeks after I arrived in Israel, but my visit was uneventful. I went to the Kotel and wandered through the Muslim Quarter, where I bought some scarves as gifts for friends, as well as a dress for myself. It was a totally uneventful, pleasant trip.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Chirac

As usual, French President Jacques Chirac takes his usual evenhanded line - Israel 'wants to destroy Lebanon'. He also claims to speak on behalf of "all Europeans" - "the current reactions are totally disproportionate." I wonder how Mr. Chirac would react if French territory was being shelled from a neighboring state and French citizens being killed and injured by rocket fire? I doubt he would be so sanguine about the lives of his own country's citizens.

A lighter note

In the middle of the rotten news from Israel and Lebanon: more Katyushas landing in northern Israel - a residential building hit in Safed, another one in Nahariyah (several people seriously injured); continued Israeli bombing in Lebanon, including again on the Beirut airport and on a base of the Palestinian terror group PFLP-CG which is only 2 km from Syria; thousands of Lebanese fleeing the south because of the Israeli attacks; at least 60 Lebanese killed thus far - a lighter note.

A couple of days ago, a multicolored van pulled up across the street, and several shaggy guys filed out. On one side of the van was painted the title The Jugtown Pirates. They greeted my neighbors with hugs, and then later on in the evening I heard the sound of (acoustic) guitars playing from the house across the street. Yesterday the van was gone all evening, only coming in around midnight. They appear to have just left for another gig. I just snapped a photo of them from my window:


From their website, it appears that they're a jugtown band in Vermont.

Reminders of normality in Jerusalem


When I left Jerusalem on very early Monday morning, there was a full moon - I captured a photo of it over one of the buildings in my apartment complex.


And here's a photo of one of the beautiful flowers in the garden - I don't know what it's called, but they certainly don't grow in nature here in Ithaca!

Blogger updates on Israel

For updates on what's happening in Israel, see Jameel at The Muqata (this is obviously a pseudonym!). He's been keeping pretty good track of events of the last two days.

See also Lisa Goldman in her latest post: "If there is one thing we can always count on in the Middle East, it is this: Just when there are signs of positive developments toward peace, just when we start to hear the voices of sanity, the extremists - the madmen with the crazed eyes who are convinced they have a direct phone line to God (and that God likes to see people kill each other) - spring into action and take us backward. That is what has been happening over the last two weeks, starting with the Hamas incursion from Gaza into Kerem Shalom and culminating yesterday morning with a Hezbollah "operation" inside Israel's northern border."

Chayyei Sarah writes: "It was only tonight that I realized that we'd crossed the line from 'tensions' and 'crisis' to 'war.' I hadn't wanted to believe it before then. It's a strange thing. Nothing in my neighborhood in Jerusalem is different. If I didn't read the news, I wouldn't know anything is happening. Today, to get out a little, I went to the new park behind my house, where dog owners have a daily 'dog park' from 6-7 pm, and no one brought up Lebanon at all. We just talked about the dogs, and watched a family playing baseball on the grass."

The park she's writing about is just across the street from where I was just staying in Jerusalem. A friend of mine has a cute pooch named Charlie, and every evening between 6 and 7 she goes to the dog park to let the dog run around and schmooze with friends.

I talked to another friend of mine in Jerusalem earlier today (it was around 10:30 p.m. her time), and asked her if anything felt different. She said that it was quieter than normal - no one was playing basketball in the park across the street, and that the streets were fairly empty.

Everything *is* exploding

I'm finding it truly bizarre that two days after I leave Israel, where it was not exactly peaceful but on the other hand there was not a full-scale war being waged - Hizbollah just killed 8 Israeli soldiers, kidnapped two others, and rained down over 100 missiles on northern Israel, including a longer-range one that hit Haifa this evening. I had no idea that the northern border was so volatile. But I should have, since I read Michael J. Totten's two prescient articles on the dangers of Hizbollah and Iran, which he published on his blog in late April/early May.

In the end of April, Totten wrote "Everything Could Explode at Any Moment" and "On the Rim of a Volcano." I remember reading the two articles and finding them incredible, since I hadn't read anything else that pointed out how dangerous the border was. During Totten's trip to Israel, he traveled with blogger Lisa Goldman on a visit to the northern border. Before they went, he said to her, "Something is wrong on the border. Something bad is going to happen.” And he was right. When they went up, they had a conversation with an IDF spokesman, Zvika Golan. Golan told them they weren't safe, because "Hezbollah is planning an operation." An IDF lieutenant said to them, "Any minute now something huge could break out....I am afraid to go home and leave my soldiers. When Hezbollah decides to do something, they do it. And they’re pretty good at it.” When Totten asked him what that could be, he said - "Kidnapping. Sniper."

The lieutenant also said to them: “I say this to my guys every morning: Everything could explode at any moment. Just after I said it this morning a bus load of pensioners showed up on a field trip. An old woman brought us some food. It’s crazy. They shouldn’t be here. You shouldn’t be here.”

Totten then pointed to an article published in the Daily Telegraph on April 4, 2006. This article spells out how Iran has entered directly into southern Lebanon.
Iran has set up a sophisticated intelligence gathering operation in southern Lebanon to identify targets in northern Israel in the event of a military confrontation over its controversial nuclear programme. Senior Israeli military commanders say Iran has spent tens of millions of pounds helping its close ally, Hizbollah, the Shia Muslim militant group that controls southern Lebanon, to set up a network of control towers and monitoring stations along the entire length of Israel's border with south Lebanon. Some of the new control towers, which are made of reinforced concrete and fitted with bullet-proof reflective glass, are less than 100 yards from Israeli army positions and are clearly visible for long stretches along Israel's border. "This is now Iran's front line with Israel," a senior Israeli military commander said. "The Iranians are using Hizbollah to spy on us so that they can collect information for future attacks. And there is very little we can do about it."

Israeli military officers report that teams of Iran's Revolutionary Guards travel regularly to southern Lebanon to help train local Hizbollah fighters in terrorist tactics. Tensions between Iran and Israel have intensified dramatically since the election last summer of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as Iran's new leader. Israel has repeatedly threatened to take military action to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, and the new Iranian government has responded by calling for Israel's destruction. Senior Israeli military officers believe Iran is deliberately exploiting the power vacuum caused by Syria's withdrawal to intensify pressure on Israel's northern border.

Although the Lebanese government technically controls the border area, its military is not considered strong enough to control Hizbollah, which takes its orders directly from Teheran. "Iran is playing a very dangerous game of cat and mouse on our northern border and it could easily spiral out of control at any moment," said the officer.

In recent weeks Hizbollah sent unmanned aircraft on reconnaissance missions over the border to photograph sensitive Israeli military installations. The spy planes returned to base before being detected by air defence systems. In addition to providing intelligence-gathering and communications equipment, Iran has also equipped Hizbollah with improved weapons and ammunition to launch attacks against Israel, including heavy mortars and rockets with a range of up to 30 miles.
I suspect it is one of these Iran-provided missiles that hit Haifa tonight. Ynet quotes the Hizbollah television station as saying that they fired a Raad 1 missile at Israel: "That's the missile used by Hizbullah to respond to Israeli attack and to hit military strongholds of the Zionist enemy. The rocket is of 333 mm in diameter and has a warhead of 100 kilograms. Our fighters used it today when they attacked the military base in Har Meron which was severely damaged and set on fire." There was an attack on Mt. Meron (in northern Israel, near Safed) in May.

So now it seems that Iran is getting the confrontation it wants. What's going to happen next? Will everything continue to spiral out of control? Will Iran actually get involved in the fighting? Ahmehdinejad just said: “'If the Zionist regime commits another stupid move and attacks Syria, this will be considered like attacking the whole Islamic world and this regime will receive a very fierce response,' Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying in a telephone conversation with Syrian President Bashar Assad. The president made the comments after Israel struck Beirut airport and military airbases and blockaded Lebanese ports in reprisals that have killed 55 civilians in Lebanon since Hizbullah guerrillas captured two Israeli soldiers a day earlier. 'He (Ahmadinejad) also said it was a must for the Organization of the Islamic Conference to become more active regarding the new crisis created by the Zionist regime,' State television reported."

Sunday, July 09, 2006

A walk in Jerusalem

Yesterday I took some photos of a path I very frequently walk - along Emek Refaim St. towards the apartment where I'm staying. Some images from that walk:


This shows a frequent graffito around here - בשר = רצח, "meat=murder," presumably referring to the eating of meat. Another local graffito, for which I unfortunately don't have a photo: צמחונות מצילה חיים - "vegetarianism saves life."


This is a local shop that sells prepared goodies, including stuffed grape leaves, various cheeses, smoked fish, etc.


48 Emek Refaim St., a Realtor.


A plant store, also selling lots of flowers - see below.


Flowers for Shabbat.


Cafe Hillel - a plaque marking the suicide terrorist attack in which 7 people were killed.


Flowers in the window of Pizza Meter, an Israeli pizza chain.


A bicycle, chained to the fence that prevents people from parking their cars on the sidewalk (I am not making that up, it's a frequent plague in Jerusalem that forces pedestrians to walk on the street).


The gate of a house on Yehoshua bin Nun St.

In Israel

I've been in Israel since June 8, but obviously have not been posting to the blog, undecided whether in fact I wanted to continue writing a blog. But since I'm about to leave Israel to return to the U.S., and I don't really feel like leaving Israel, I thought I'd at least post some thoughts about my trip.

Going to Istanbul was being on vacation - a learning vacation, but a vacation nonetheless. I got to see some fabulous places I had never been to before (including the Blue Mosque, pictured here inside and out), I learned quite a bit about Ottoman history, I was fortunate to be able to get a glimpse of some of the dilemmas of modern Turkey - but this was a vacation in a foreign country.

Coming to Israel, however, felt like I was coming home, in a sense, even though I am an American citizen, not an Israeli. I've lived a total of four years in Israel, and have visited many times in addition to that. My first trip to Israel was in 1983, on a trip organized by New Jewish Agenda. I returned in 1987 for two years to study at the Hebrew University as part of my graduate studies in religion. I came back again in the 1992-93 academic year to do dissertation research. And then in 1998-99 I received another grant to do research at the Hebrew University. But that sounds like my only attachment to Israel is intellectual or academic.

It's much stronger than that, however. In 1990, I had been planning to visit Israel for part of the spring semester of 1991. But then, of course, Iraq invaded Kuwait on August 2, 1990, and it slowly became clear through the autumn that the U.S., in coalition with many other nations, would attack the Iraqis in Kuwait and force them back. Thus, I did not visit Israel in January of 1991, even though I wanted to. Throughout the Gulf War, I was constantly watching CNN, calling friends in Israel to make sure they were all right (racking up quite a phone bill in those days before real competition for international calling!), and wondering if I should go visit, nonetheless. I finally decided to go - to stay for six weeks, from Purim to Pesach. I flew to Israel on Purim, 1991 - which, as it happens, was the day the ceasefire was declared. When I landed at the airport, they were still giving people gas masks, but fortunately there was no need for them. I took the shared taxi to Jerusalem, and went to the reading of the book of Esther. People were wearing costumes that related to the Gulf War - one person had torn down the plastic sheeting from his windows and wrapped it all around himself, and stuck photos of Yasser Arafat (remember him? He supported Saddam Hussein) and Saddam Hussein on himself. What was he coming as? As the Gulf War!

Since then I've visited many more times, inbetween my year-long stays. I was here for a visit in the summer of 2001 - after the second intifada had broken out. It was unnerving to hear the gunfire on Gilo and the Israeli tank fire in reply. Since then, I visited several times in the winter, during the break between semesters, but this is the first time since then that I've come in the summer, and it's been quite lovely. I've been going to the National Library at the Givat Ram campus of the Hebrew University and doing research, which has gone very well - I've sent off one article and another one is close to being finished. I've seen lots of friends and even had dinner with some third cousins - of whose existence I didn't even know until my brother, the family genealogist, found them in his researches.

Some people might find that surprising, given the current political/military events - the attack on the Israeli military post near Gaza, in which two soldiers were killed and a third - Gilad Shalit - was abducted by the Hamas military wing; the murder of Eliyahu Asheri, a resident of Ithamar on the West Bank, killed right after his kidnapping; of the continuing rocket fire on Sederot and now on Ashkelon, from Gaza; and the Israeli military response, entering Gaza for the first time since the disengagement last summer. It's all certainly on my mind, but it's not the only part of my experience. I feel ambivalent about what Israel is doing. On the one hand, how can any government refuse to act when its cities are being attacked by random rocket fire that is aimed at civilians? On the other hand, why punish all the residents of Gaza by destroying the electrical station (insured by an American company), and depriving hundreds of thousands of people of electricity in the middle of the punishing heat of summer? Why warn the civilian residents of Beit Hanun (the region in Gaza from which Hamas and the other terror groups have been launching rockets at Sederot and Ashkelon) that they should leave when Israeli tanks and troops enter to chase those launching the rockets? Are they to blame? No.

But I think the Israeli government is really in a hard place - I can't say what I think they should do. How can they really negotiate with the Hamas government, as some are demanding, when even they don't seem to have any control over the Hamas military wing? And should they negotiate with kidnappers at all - won't it just encourage more kidnappings? But then, when I hear the remarks of Noam Shalit, the father of Gilad, pleading with the government to negotiate for the safe return of his son - how can Israel close off the avenue of negotiation completely?

I find myself really torn here - I listen to left-wing friends, and I agree with them that the Israeli government is being entirely unjust with the Palestinians, and that the separation fence/wall is an injustice and a disaster to innocent Palestinian civilians. But then, I listen to other friends, more centrist in their politics, who say that the wall is protecting innocent Israeli civilians from suicide bombings. Back in the U.S., I have other friends who are so certain that whatever Israeli does is absolutely wrong, and others who think that whatever Israel does is absolutely correct. From here, things seem so complicated - my own moral sense pulls me back and forth, I'm not sure how to judge.

But as I just wrote above, most of the time I've simply enjoyed myself here. In Jerusalem, it's generally pretty hot during the day, but then it cools off at night. Cool breezes start to blow in the late afternoon, and then as the sun sets it becomes comfortable. Tonight it's a lovely temperative, and I'm listening to the automatic sprinklers watering the garden of the apartment complex where I'm staying. When I go out on the mirpeset (porch) there is the scent of sweet flowers wafting upward. The photo on the left is a view from my garden.