This week’s headlines: Not much ado about nothing, Israel’s Olympic failure and the events in Sinai- are we seeing the whole picture?

 The summer months are a time when not much happens. School children are enjoying their summer vacation, universities are in their semester break and even the Knesset summer session has adjourned until “after the Hagim” (after the holidays).

The Israeli saying “after the Hagim” refers to the Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashana (New Year), Yom Kippur and Succot. The Jewish high holidays usually fall near the end of September and continue for a period of over three weeks well into October (Rosh Hashana is on the 1st and 2nd of the Hebrew month of Tishrei, Yom Kippur on the 10th, and Succot on the 15th-22nd). Schools start on September 1st, but end up wasting most of September and October, because students have vacation for most of the period. Subsequently, many things in Israel, including the true end to the summer vacation spirit get put off until “after the Hagim”: Israel’s version of the Spanish “Mañana”.

 The result of this lack of happenings is that there is not much news, and rather inconsequential and even ridiculous things have a much better chance of getting into the headlines. Last summer, Israel’s social protest managed to use the lack of news to its advantage and succeeded in totally dominating news headlines for many weeks.

 Nevertheless, I do have a few things to write about in this week’s post.

Israel‘s Olympic failure

As the Olympic Games draw to a close, it has become a certainty that Israel’s Olympic delegation of 37 athletes will be returning with zero medals. Not a one.

Arik Zeevi. photo: wikimedia, אני, cc by

 The most promising athlete, the judoka Arik Ze’evi, who won a bronze medal in the 2004 Athens Olympic Games and has taken part in four Olympic competitions, was defeated by a German opponent after a mere 47 seconds (the link is in Hebrew, but includes video). Israelis were heartbroken and so was Ze’evi.

On Friday, Neta Rivkin achieved what is considered to be Israel’s biggest achievement in the 2012 Olympic Games: 7th place in the rhythmic gymnastics finals. She will carry the Israeli flag in the closing ceremony in recognition of her achievement.

Neta Rivkin, Photo: wikimedia, Bauken77, cc by sa

You can watch Rivkin compete in this article (sorry, the article itself is in Hebrew).

 Israelis’ responses to Israel’s failure have varied. While some are merely disappointed, others have blamed the failure on low governmental expenditure on sports. Meanwhile, many Facebook users have turned to the “closest best thing”, Jewish-American artistic gymnast Aly Raisman, who won a gold medal after performing to the tune of “Hava Nagila” and dedicating her medal to the 11 Israeli athletes who were murdered by Palestinian terrorists at the 1972 Olympic Games.

 The Israeli Foreign Ministry had campaigned for a moment of silence at the opening ceremony in memory of the 11 athletes, but the request had been rejected. Raisman’s gesture and the fact that she, as a Jewish athlete, won a gold medal has made her the new ‘Israeli’ hero of the 2012 Olympics.

Aly raisman, Photo: wikimedia, Xxjenesaispasxx, cc by sa

Meanwhile, Israel’s marathon runner came in 81st (out of 85) in the marathon today. If it had been me, I would have come in 85th, but seriously?!


 The events in Sinai- are we getting the whole picture?

Last Sunday, Egypt got a taste of terrorism. A group of 35 gunmen captured an Egyptian police outpost in Sinai, murdered 16 policemen and wounded others. They then stole two armored personnel carriers and attempted to cross the border into Israel where they planned to attack Israeli civilians. One of the carriers was stopped inside Egypt. The other was destroyed by the Israeli air force inside Israeli territory.

Following the attack, Egypt flooded Sinai with military units, including fighter jets and attack helicopters and launched a counter attack against “terrorist strongholds”.

 According to the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty of 1979, Sinai is supposed to be a demilitarized zone, with only a small number of necessary police forces in place. When Israel left Gaza in 2005, Israel agreed that Egypt could post a few hundred more border policemen near the border. However, it is unclear from news reports whether Egypt received Israel’s agreement to the current reinforcements. One Egyptian general was quoted as saying that Egypt doesn’t need permission from the likes of us. This adds up to a series of disturbing statements made by various Muslim-Brotherhood members, including President Mursi himself, regarding their willingness to uphold their end of the peace treaty.

 While on the one hand, the current crackdown on Islamic terrorists in Sinai has been portrayed to be a new chapter in Israeli-Egyptian military cooperation, I can’t help but notice that Egypt’s new ruler, the Muslim Brotherhood, was the ideological movement that spawned Hamas, the Gaza based terrorist organization behind the attack, in the first place.

 I’m not one to buy into conspiracy theories, but could the terrorist attack have been ordered by Egypt’s new rulers as an excuse to circumvent the military restrictions imposed on the Egyptian military in Sinai? This would certainly add up with the fact that Egypt’s Defense Minister, Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, a last remnant of the old and moderate regime and Mursi’s biggest adversary in his struggle for power, was fired today, along with the Egyptian chief of staff. Tantawi represented the old regime, but he also represented a firm control over a level-headed military that had relatively good ties of cooperation with Israel.

Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi. Photo: Public Domain



And more fire

Last week another wave of forest fires devastated large stretches of Israeli greenery. A large fire “broke out” in the Moshav of Even-Sapir outside of Jerusalem. Some of the residents were evacuated, but luckily there was no damage to houses or casualties. Another fire broke out the same day outside the Galilee town of Kiryat-Tivon. Several houses were completely destroyed. In both cases, arson is suspected.

 By the way, if ever you need this information, I usually smell forest fires in the area of Jerusalem from my apartment near the center of town a few minutes before they are advertised on the news.

And one last thing

One of the most immemorial sentences in Israeli history is the words of Lt. Gen. Mordechai “Motta” Gur in 1967 when he led his troops into the old city of Jerusalem and declared “Har Habayit beyadeinu!” (The Temple Mount is in our hands). His words managed to bring grown men in uniform to tears, when they finally stood at the foot of Judaism’s holiest site.

On Friday it was revealed that a group of teenagers from the religious-Zionist youth group Bnei-Akiva, requested to hold a march in Jerusalem while holding signs with Motta Gur’s famous words printed on them. The police refused to allow the march, claiming that the historic words of Motta Gur could be interpreted as incitement.

Famous photo of IDF soldiers staring in awe at the Western Wall


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