This is actually a two-week report. It covers a major storm, which brought snow to Israel and lots of it, as well as a few comments about the on-going, but somewhat stalled negotiations between Israel and the “Palestinians”. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry came for another visit and the chief Roman Catholic cleric in Israel blames Israeli construction for the lack of progress in the talks. I have a few things to say about negotiating over Jerusalem and the possibility of giving up sovereignty, but not military presence, in the Jordan Valley. Two Israeli chemists are Nobel Prize Laureates, Iran doesn’t seem to be slowing down its nuclear ambitions and Hizb’allah leader Nasrallah again threatens Israel. Finally, a note about Israel’s interest and activities to become a “cashless society”.
The nation shivers, school children rejoice, traffic snarls and electric bills increase.
Such is the way that Israel responded to the cold wave this past week, which brought freezing rain, hail and yes, even large quantities of snow, to some parts of the country. Many major traffic arteries were closed, along with schools, as we succumbed to the elements which accompany a true winter in Israel, the likes of which we haven’t seen for more than 50 years. Clearly, the biggest news of the week here was the storm and snow.
Jerusalem was snowed under. Government offices were closed and over 25,000 households lost electricity, mostly in the nation’s capitol. Other places that were hard hit were locations in the north. Temperatures dropped to 0 degrees C (32 degrees F) in a number of locations and there was considerable property damage. By the end of last week, after Shabbat was over, there were still about 15,000 households and businesses that were without electricity. Cars were stuck on the highways and some drivers were unable to get assistance and needed to remain in their vehicles overnight, as winds reached 100 km/hr (62+/mph).
One driver was caught up in a flash flood in the Negev Desert and was swept away some 300 meters before he was rescued by soldiers. A number of private houses were flooded by the downpour of rain and some streams overflowed their banks.
Mount Hermon, in the northeast of Israel, had almost 2 feet of snow after the first day of the storm. Once there was enough snow, which only took an extra day to accumulate, the ski season in Israel was officially launched.
Interestingly enough, in Haifa where we live, we didn’t have any snow. The last time we had snow in Haifa was in 1992. Our two oldest children were still very young at that time and by the time we got them dressed to go outside, the snow not only stopped, but whatever had fallen already melted! Still, we did have freezing rain last week, pounding hail and sleet, as temperatures dipped down to right around 0 C here, too. Most of Israel put on extra layers of clothing in an effort to keep warm. For those who live in climates where sub-freezing temperature is a norm for this time of year, you would probably laugh at 0 C and say that it was warm, compared to the -20, -30 or more that you regularly experience. But, for Israel, it was a major event. The storm has ceased and most of the electricity has been turned back on, but there are still several thousands of residences that are without, even as this is being written.
Snow also fell in Egypt, as well as in Syria and Lebanon, where it is reported that hundreds of thousands of refugees have fled from the the civil war that continues to rage in Syria. The severe weather has affected all who live in the region, particularly those who are living in tents and temporary shelters.
The snow didn’t seem to phase U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who chalked up more frequent flyer miles with his 9th visit this year to our fair neck of the woods. He joked and expressed gratitude for making him feel at home with the abundance of snow. “I have heard of making guests welcome and feeling at home. This is about as far as I’ve ever seen anything go … giving me a New England snowstorm.” For those who may have forgotten, Kerry is a former Senator from Massachusetts.
Fire and hail, snow, and clouds, stormy wind, fulfilling His word (Psalm 148:8).
In the midst of the storm and the extraordinarily cold weather that this region has been experiencing since last week, something was overlooked. The weather forecasters totally failed to take into account that God has a genuine interest in His creation, particularly in this part of the world. He brought this first-world country, located in a third-world region, to a standstill. He brought government offices to a close. He moved the winds and stirred up the waters. He turned the rain to hail and blanketed the region with a carpet of snow. He gave our leaders time to pause and to think about their actions, particularly regarding the “negotiations” that continue to take place. It doesn’t seem as though they paid any attention.
Speaking of Kerry’s visit…
Apparently, the Secretary of State was somewhat concerned that the parties might not reach a “final status agreement” by May, 2014, as originally planned back in August. So, he hoped to push a “framework accord”, which would outline the specific principles of a “final status agreement”, without setting forth the specific details. It this could be done, then the negotiations would continue beyond the nine-month original time frame that Kerry set up.
But, at the beginning of this week, Yasser Abed Rabbo, a top aide to “Palestinian” Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, expressed that Kerry would be breaking a promise to try to negotiate a final agreement in the current round of talks, if he succeeds in bringing about a “framework accord”. Their primary concern was that such a “framework” would be more accommodating to Israel, because of security concerns, than to the “Palestinians”. This followed Kerry’s statement that Israeli security concerns must be addressed first, if the negotiations are to progress. However, the interim “framework” proposal seems to have been buried by Kerry himself when, in response to a reporter’s question, he said that the goal of the negotiations remains a permanent settlement of the Israeli-“Palestinian” conflict, rather than an interim solution.
Jerusalem: An inseparable part of the history, religion and soul of the Jewish people
Among the various issues that are still up for grabs, such as security, borders of a future “Palestinian” state and “Palestinian” refugees, the one that stands out as a symbol of the Arab-Israeli conflict is the status of Jerusalem. This city, of all places in Israel, should never be the subject of negotiation with anyone for any reason. David Ben Gurion, the first Prime Mnister of Israel, said in his address to the Knesset (Israel’s legislative body) on December 5, 1949: “Jewish Jerusalem is an organic and inseparable part of the history and religion of Israel and the soul of our people”. He was referring, of course, not to a divided Jerusalem, but to the historic, undivided Jerusalem, which has been and remains our Capitol. The Psalmist referred to it as the place “to which the tribes go up … to give thanks to the name of the LORD”. (Psalm 122:4) The millennia-old prayer and encouragement are associated with that city: “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: ‘May they prosper who love you…May peace be within your walls and prosperity within your palaces…May peace be within you…I will seek your good’.” (Psalm 122:6-9) How can that which is such an inseparable part of our history, religion and the soul of our people be the subject of negotiation? Jerusalem is being placed on the altar of compromise. We are forgetting that all that the hopes, longings and aspirations of our people over the almost 2,000 years of being in the Diaspora were focused on our return to Zion, to Jerusalem, the city of the Great King (Psalm 48:2). We break a glass in our wedding celebrations in remembrance of the destruction of Jerusalem, as the bridegroom recites Psalm 137:5-6: “If I forget you, O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget her skill. May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth, if I do not remember you, if I do not exalt Jerusalem above my chief joy.” Every Jewish head of household pronounces a curse upon himself – that he would suffer a stroke, if he “forgets” Jerusalem, what it is, what it represents and Who gave it to us. If our leaders act in this manner, should we not wonder whether we will suffer a national punishment as a result? There are 500 references to Jerusalem in the Scriptures. Not a single mention is made of Washington, D.C. or the United States. Maybe the Obama administration should consider giving up its Capitol city, instead of ours, to the “Palestinians”.
Roman Catholic cleric: “Don’t touch East Jerusalem – It is still on the negotiating table.”
The Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, Fuad Twai, during his traditional, Christmas message this week, sounded more like a spokesman for the “Palestinian” Authority than the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, saying that Israeli settlement construction was hampering peace efforts. Twai, the top Roman Catholic cleric in Israel, also blamed Israel for the difficulties being experienced by Christians living in the Middle East and added that: “As long as this problem is not resolved, the people of our region will suffer”… [The] Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains crucial to the region and is a major obstacle in the development of our society and stability in the Middle East.”
The chief Roman Catholic cleric in Israel was born in Jordan. He has religious oversight for the tens of thousands of those of his denomination who live in Israel, Jordan and Cyprus, including those in the “Palestinian” Authority and Gaza. It would have more appropriate for him to direct his comments to the real issue of Christian persecution in the Middle East, namely, attacks against them by radical Islam. Such attacks take the form, among other things, of rape (including of nuns) and beheadings (including of priests), along with confiscation of private property. There is a religious war taking place in Islam-dominated countries and the safest place for Christians in the Middle East is in Israel, where the population is actually increasing. Persecution of Christians in the Middle East is totally unrelated to the ongoing conflict with the “Palestinians”.
Then, sounding more like a “Palestinian” politician, he stated: “What is the important thing is not to ‘touch’ east Jerusalem, as it is still on the negotiating table. We do not want these agreements to have a political implication that changes the status of east Jerusalem, which was occupied in 1967.”
His comments speak for themselves and it would have been better if he had kept his comments to himself.
Israel may give up the Jordan Valley, but keep a military presence there.
Much political talk over the last two weeks has focused on the negotiations, with particular emphasis on the possibility of Israel yielding its sovereignty over the Jordan Valley.
Shlomo Brom, a former head of strategic planning in the IDF and Fellow at the Institute for National Security in Tel Aviv, stated that changes in the region “make a difference” how negotiations will deal with the security issue. He added: “What is left is the issue of border control…The problem is that Israel doesn’t trust the Palestinians.” Even U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry recognizes that the issue of Israel’s security is an essential element that needs to be resolved first, in order for the talks to proceed.
In this regard, Israel may not insist on continued sovereignty over the Jordan Valley, but it should, hopefully insist that it maintain a military presence there, with or without the presence of international forces on the ground. Certain reports indicate that Netanyahu wants a military presence there for several more decades, while others believe that a ten-year military presence would suffice. Maybe they will end up with a 7-year agreement, which will have prophetic significance for this country and the rest of the world.
Two Israeli scientists and their Jewish American colleague were named as winners of the 2013 Nobel Prize for Chemistry, joining 10 other Israeli Nobel Prize winners.
The work of Professors Arieh Warshel and Michael Levitt, who worked together at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, and that of their U.S. colleague, Professor Martin Karplus, allowed computer scientists to uncover various chemical processes, such as the activity of catalytic converters and photosynthesis. Their work enabled classical physics to work alongside the completely different quantum physics.
Israeli Communications Minister Gilad Erdan, who was in Stockholm on another matter, joined the three Nobel Prize winners at a reception held in their honor, stated: “I am excited and proud to stand here as an Israeli citizen and as a minister of the Israeli government and to once again see Israeli researchers winning the most prestigious prize for their accomplishments and discoveries for the human race…Your accomplishment brings to light the power, ability and excellence that lie in the world of Israeli scientists and Israeli research institutions, and in the Weizmann Institute, which was a significant place for you in your research endeavors.”
Statement to remember:
During his meeting with Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina, Netanyahu linked the present negotiations with the “Palestinians”. With the Iranian nuclear threat, saying: “We share a desire to see a peaceful and stable Middle East, and the greatest threat to that and to the peace of the world is Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons. It’s therefore critical that the final deal with Iran prevent that from happening”. This was just before Kerry left the U.S. for his ninth trip to this developed stretch of desert sand.
Before he left to come here, Kerry delivered a speech to the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, an international humanitarian organization with out reaches in over 70 countries. In it, he tried to diminish concerns that the recent agreement reached by six world powers with Iran allows Iran to develop a nuclear weapon and, therefore, the agreement did nothing to remove the threat against Israel. In reaffirming the U.S. commitment to Israel, Kerry said: ”We will not allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon. Not now. Not ever.”
I wonder who the “we” was that Kerry was talking about. Despite strong opposition from the White House, a bill was just introduced into the U.S. Senate, which calls for a global boycott of Iran’s oil exports, among other economic sanctions. it was an act of defiance, agreed to be 26 Senators, half of them Twenty-six senators, Democrats. The purpose of the bill was stated by one of its proposers as representing “an insurance policy to defend against Iranian deception”, if Iran fails to agree to a final deal within the six-month period allotted in the “interim agreement”.
But, according to White House spokesman, Jay Carney, “If [the bill] were to pass, the president would veto it.”
Iranian Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif said: “The structure of our nuclear program has been maintained and the 20 percent enrichment can be resumed in less than 24 hours…The statement that ‘all options are on the table’ is an outdated statement because all options are not on the table, at least for the countries that claim to be law-abiding.”
So, where does that leave us? Remember, we still have the above statement of Kerry.
I guess that leaves it up to us.
Nasrallah: Israel will be ‘punished’ for al-Laqqis’ death
Hassan Nasrallah, leader of the terrorist organization, Hizb’allah, held Israel responsible for the assassination of Hassan al-Laqqis, a Hizb’allah operative and leader of the Shiite party, who was killed earlier this month. Nasrallah referred to al-Laqqis as a “friend and brother” to him.
“The killing of Hassan al-Laqqis is not a simple matter between us and the Israelis…There are scores to settle between us and the Israelis; there are old accounts and new ones…The murderers will be punished sooner or later. His blood was not shed in vain. The punishment will take part when we decide. Those who killed will not be safe anywhere in the world. Vengeance is coming…If the Israelis think…that Hezbollah is busy and that Israel will not pay the price, I say to them today, ‘You are wrong’.”
Nasrallah and the Shiite faction in Lebanon are under severe condemnation from the Sunni Moslem population, for their assistance to Syrian President Bashir al-Assad.
Israel has denied any involvement in the killing of al-Laqqis.
Electronic purchases for everything and a provable record of ALL transactions? Careful. Big Brother will be watching! Yes, “the times, they are a changin'”.
And THOSE Were The Weeks That Were.
“My covenant I will not violate, nor will I alter the utterance of My lips. Once I have sworn by My holiness, I will not lie to David. His descendants shall endure forever and his throne as the sun before Me.” (Psalm 89:34-36)
“‘Therefore behold, the days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘when they will no longer say, “As the LORD lives, who brought up the sons of Israel from the land of Egypt,” but, “As the LORD-lives, who brought up and led back the descendants of the household of Israel from the north land and from all the countries where I had driven them”. ‘Then they will live on their own soil’.” (Jer. 23:7-8)
Bless, be blessed and be a blessing.
Have a simply great week.