Friday, December 02, 2016

From Ian:

The KGB's Middle East Files: The fight against Zionism and world Jewry
Break-ins, forgeries, creating front organizations and even planting bombs – all means were justified in the battle that the Soviet intelligence agency waged against the Zionist movement, the emigration of Jews from the USSR and the world’s major Jewish organizations. Classified documents now reveal that the agency’s leaders saw Zionism as a real threat to the Soviet empire, and did everything in their power against it.
In January 1972, Operation Simon entered its final stage. A team from Service A, a key department in the KGB’s First Chief Directorate (which was responsible for collecting intelligence and special operations outside the USSR) traveled to Paris to gathered intelligence ahead of the operation. Service A was responsible, among other things, for the operations against Zionist and Jewish organizations, an issue of utmost importance as far as the omnipotent KGB head, Yuri Andropov, was concerned.
In the Soviet intelligence’s glossary, Operation Simon meets the definition of “active measures.” Their practical meaning was “aimed at exerting useful influence on aspects of interest in the political life of a target country, including its foreign policy; the solution of international problems; misleading the adversary; undermining and weakening the adversary's positions.”
Operation Simon included secretly infiltrating the World Jewish Congress (WJC) offices in Paris and copying internal material—mostly documentation on the members of the large international organization— in order to map its ties to other key Jewish organization. The Russians’ surveillance of the headquarters, located in the heart of the City of Lights, revealed that the employees did not sense any danger. While the threat of global terrorism had already been raised at the time, no one in the WJC bothered to install an alarm system or have the offices guarded at night. A KGB team obtained a key to the front door from one of the employees and copied it. (h/t Elder of Lobby)
Ruthie Blum: Note to Israelis: The US is not racist
Since Donald Trump won the U.S. presidential election last month, Israelis have been engaged in a heated debate about how the victory of the billionaire businessman who gets into fights on Twitter will affect the Jewish state.
The Left, which has been fawning over Barack Obama for eight years, has been attributing all the ills of his country and the world during this period to a combination of piggish capitalism and racism ostensibly so indigenous to America that even the Great Black Hope was unable to stomp them out. Members of this very vocal sector of the Israeli media and academia are naturally appalled by Trump, but point to his success as evidence that their analysis of the character of the United States is accurate.
According to this position, it was not the failures of the Democratic Party that led to its defeat, but rather the very nature of the voting public. The holders of this view went as far as to claim that a country with such a number of yahoos and evangelical Christians was simply not ready for a woman president.
This is exactly how these same Israelis interpret the fact that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has just broken David Ben-Gurion's record for the length of tenure in the office of the premiership, though the primitive and religious voters whom they put down are Orthodox Jews and those of North African descent. Different culture, same snobbery. And a virtually identical -- delusional -- outlook on peacemaking in the Middle East.
In contrast, the Israeli Right has been celebrating Trump's win, highlighting two causes for optimism. One is the assumption that the president-elect is sympathetic to the settler enterprise -- since he does not consider it to be at fault for a lack of peace with the Palestinians -- and therefore will not respond to every additional Jewish apartment built in the West Bank with the apoplexy exhibited by the Obama administration.
Ken Livingstone's Aide Claims His Staff “Celebrated 9/11”
Atma Singh, an aide to Ken Livingstone when he was Mayor of London, has claimed he saw Ken’s staff “cheering” 9/11 as they watched events unfold in the mayoral press office:
Q: “You were in the Mayor’s Office during the actual attacks. What was your and others’ reaction inside the Mayor’s Office?”
Singh: “I watched the attacks unfolding while I was in my office as one officer had come into my office in the Mayoral corridor to inform me about them. Then, as the situation unfolded, I went into the Mayoral Press Officer’s room to watch the terrible events. I was disturbed to see a few people cheering the events. Others watched soberly and others talked matter-of-fact about the consequences for London.”
Q: “Celebrating the attacks?
Singh: “Yes.”

Quite an allegation from a former aide…

  • Friday, December 02, 2016
  • Elder of Ziyon
Someone sent me this article written by Glenn Greenwald:


One gets the impression that Greenwald is far more concerned about the pro-Israel position of these movements than their anti-Muslim positions.

And indeed - he mentions Israel 55 times and Muslims or Islam only 16 times. Being pro-Israel is much more dangerous, to Greenwald, than being Islamophobic.

I will be the first to agree that Zionists should be careful about accepting support from people whose political positions have traditionally been associated with antisemitism, as well as from those whose positions towards Islam go beyond the political and into personal faith issues.Many of the groups being painted now with the broad brush of "Islamophobia" aren't, some are, and there is a lot of grey there.

But progressive Greenwald doesn't understand grey. He writes absurd sweeping idiotic statements like this:
But what is clear is that these far-right parties are embracing Israel and are often being embraced back. And that’s not hard to understand. Any party driven by antipathy toward Muslims will obviously find common cause with an Israeli government that has spent decades occupying, bombing, and denying basic political rights to Muslims. 
Yes, according to Greenwald, Israeli officials are all bigots, driven to bomb Muslims simply because of Islamophobia. It's a miracle there are any Muslims left in Israel. let alone the territories.

And their attraction to political parties who profess their love of Zionism and support of Israel is not driven by, um, their love of Zionism and support for Israel, but by their shared hate towards Muslims. His default position on Zionists is that they are haters.

Who's the bigot?

Anyone who has ever taken a walk down the street in Israel knows that Israeli Muslims have less fear of being attacked or insulted than Muslims in just about any Western nation today. Unlike many liberal Western democracies,  Israel allows minarets and burqas, and the latest "Muezzin bill" being considered would allow ear-splitting calls to prayer four out of the five times a day. Right-wing Islamophobic Israeli Jews somehow allow tens of thousands of Muslims to go to Judaism's holiest place every day. Bigoted Israel is more tolerant of Muslims than most European nations. The idea of a "burqini ban" in Israel is laughable.

I noted last summer that I witnessed giggling Muslim girls wearing full hijab and clothing at an Israeli beach, not a tourist beach, showering themselves off next to Israeli men in bathing suits. No one blinked. No one was nervous or scared of even thought twice about it - besides me, who would not routinely see scenes like that in Florida nor in France. And, no, I didn't have a wild desire to murder the giggling girls, as Greenwald implies all right-wing Jewish Zionists do.  In fact, I have more in common with them than with self-righteous far left morons like Greenwald.

Now, if anti-Muslim violence is increasing in the US in concert with the rise of the far-right - which is a reasonable assumption - then if the Israeli government has spent "decades" attacking Muslims, then why are there still so few anti-Muslim attacks in Israel? (Of course there are some, but not as many as in Western nations led by supposedly enlightened liberal governments.)

By any measure, the Likud-run Israel is more tolerant of Muslims and Islam, and accord Muslims more rights, than most other Western nations.

Greenwald only proves one thing: he is the one who is consumed by irrational hate, not Israelis.

(h/t Ronald)



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From Ian:

Caroline Glick: Israel’s constitutional identity crisis
The same flawed premise at the heart of Netanyahu’s claim that approving the bill will cause Israel to be prosecuted for war crimes stands at the heart of his claim that passing the law will increase the possibility that Obama will allow an anti-Israel resolution to pass in the UN Security Council.
The problem with this argument is that it ignores the basic fact that Obama’s desire to stick it to Israel at the UN Security Council has been a consistent feature of his presidency for eight years. Obama has wielded this threat against Israel without regard for its actual policies. He has threatened us when the government froze Jewish building rights. He has threatened us when the government respected Jewish building rights. If Obama decides to enable an anti-Israel resolution to pass through the UN Security Council during his remaining seven weeks in office, he will do so regardless of whether the Knesset passes or scuppers the settlement regulation bill.
The only thing likely to prevent Obama from harming Israel at the Security Council at this point is a clear message to the UN from the incoming Trump administration.
For instance, if President-elect Donald Trump announces directly or through an intermediary that Security Council action against Israel over the next seven weeks will induce the Trump administration to withhold US funding from the UN, UN officials will likely stuff draft resolutions to this effect into a drawer.
Netanyahu’s actions do more to harm his future relations with Trump than advance his current relations with Obama. If Netanyahu blocks passage of the settlement regulation bill, he is likely to enter the Trump era as the head of a government on the verge of collapse. Rather than be in a position to reshape and rebuild Israel’s alliance with the US after eight years of Obama’s hostility, Netanyahu may limp to his first meeting with the new president, the head of dysfunctional government beyond his control, and at the mercy of a legal fraternity and an international judicial lynch mob that he will have just empowered.
Analysis: Is the next 'Arab Spring' implosion around the corner?
After the deaths of tens of thousands of youths during the nearly sixyear- old Syrian civil war, it is difficult to know how much credence to give to attitude surveys in the region. After all, 15 Syria youths painted a slogan on a wall in the city of Deraa in 2011 declaring: “The People Want the Fall of the Regime.” The regime carted them off to torture cells. Are they preoccupied with the Israel-Palestinian conflict? As the report notes, “Young people’s awareness of their capabilities and rights collides with a reality that marginalizes them and blocks their pathways to express their opinions, actively participate or earn a living.”
The report omits any reference to the ubiquitous anti-Americanism and antisemitism in the region. The reliance on fundamentalist theology is approached indirectly: “Young people remain vulnerable to victimization by groups that misuse religion to benefit from its pivotal role in shaping identities,” notes the document.
Political Islamic movements such as the Muslim Brotherhood are cited once. There are no warnings that mirror the comments of the distinguished Middle East historian Bernard Lewis who told the Post in 2011: “I don’t think it [the Muslim Brotherhood] is in any sense benign. I think it is a very dangerous, radical Islamic movement. If they obtain power, the consequences would be disastrous for Egypt.”
Writing in his book The Arabs: A History (2009), the Oxford University Middle East historian Eugene Rogan said, “If the Arab peoples are to enjoy human rights and accountable government, security and economic growth, they will have to seize the initiative themselves.”
On December 17, many Arabs will commemorate the self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi, the Tunisian fruit vendor who on that day in 2010 set himself ablaze to protest corruption in the now-defunct police state of former president Ben Ali, and set off the Arab Spring.
The UN report largely shifts the onus to the ruling class in the Arab world to bring about change.
There will be more Arab revolts and more self-protests along the lines of Bouazizi.
Burning the Land
Reflecting on the immense damage caused by the arsonists this month in Israel. We pray for a full recovery to all those injured and assistance for all those who were affected by the fires.


  • Friday, December 02, 2016
  • Elder of Ziyon
The New York Times has a long Sunday magazine piece about how terrible life is in the Shuafat neighborhood and camp, which is within Jerusalem's city limits but outside the separation barrier.

Writer Rachel Kushner spent a lot of time talking to prominent citizen Baha Nababta:
So few nonresidents enter Shuafat that my appearance there seemed to be a highly unusual event, met with warm greetings verging on hysteria, crowds of kids following along. “Hello, America!” they called excitedly. I was a novelty, but also, I was with Baha Nababta, a 29-year-old Palestinian community organizer beloved by the kids of Shuafat. Those who followed us wanted not just my attention but his. Baha had a rare kind of charisma. Camp-counselor charisma, you might call it. He was a natural leader of boys. Every kid we passed knew him and either waved or stopped to speak to him. Baha founded a community center so that older children would have a place to hang out, because there is no open space in Shuafat Refugee Camp, no park, not a single playground, nowhere for kids to go, not even a street, really, where they can play, because there are no sidewalks, most of the narrow roads barely fitting the cars that ramble down them. Younger kids tapped me on the arms and wanted to show me the mural they painted with Baha. The road they helped to pave with Baha, who supervised its completion. The plants they planted with Baha along a narrow strip. Baha, Baha, Baha.

It was like that with the adults too. They all wanted his attention. His phone was blowing up in his pocket as we walked. He finally answered. There was a dispute between a man whose baby died at a clinic and the doctor who treated the baby. The man whose baby died tried to burn the doctor alive, and now the doctor was in critical condition, in a hospital in Jerusalem. Throughout the two days I spent with Baha, I heard more stories like this that he was asked to help resolve. People relied on him. He had a vision for the Shuafat camp, where he was born and raised, that went beyond what could be imagined from within the very limited confines of the place.

....I got the impression Baha was something like an informal mayor, on whom people depended to resolve disputes, build roads, put together volunteer committees and try to make Shuafat safe for children.

Readers of EoZ would have known the emotional punchline of the story before the author, Rachel Kushner, got to it. Because this was one of the very few sites, in English or in Arabic, that highlighted the story of Baha Nababta's murder.

As I wrote then, Nababta was a true Palestinian hero. He worked tirelessly to improve the lives of his community. Yet his death was barely mentioned in Palestinian media, because he wasn't "martyred" trying to kill Jews.

Kushner mentioned that Nababta told her that he was threatened, and that she would never have written about the threats if he hadn't been killed:
Later I told myself and everyone else how wonderful it was in the Shuafat camp. How safe I felt. How positive Baha was. All of that still feels true to me. But I also insisted, to myself and everyone else, that Baha never expressed any fears for his own safety. In looking at my notes, I see now that my insistence on this point was sheer will. A fiction. It’s right there in the notes. He said he was nervous. He said he’d been threatened.

Also in my notes, this:

Baha says, two types

1. Those who want to help make a better life

2. Those who want to destroy everything


And in parentheses: (Arms trade. Drugs trade. Construction profits. No oversight wanted.)
I had guessed in my tribute to Baha that he might have been killed by people who were upset at his speaking to Israelis to help improve the camp, the crime of "normalization." Kushner indicates that Baha's enemies were less ideological - they were simply criminals and his efforts to clean up the town hurt their profits.

Two men were arrested in August for the murder, but I have not yet heard what their motives were.

Whatever the reason, though, the story that Kushner missed was how people like Baha Nababta are not the role models that Palestinian Arab youngsters are taught about in their schools. He is not the type of martyr that Mahmoud Abbas will extol in speeches. His very desire to improve people's lives is what made him a target and ultimately a victim.

This is the real story, a story that the New York Times and the other media, Western or Arab, will not normally mention.




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  • Friday, December 02, 2016
  • Elder of Ziyon



Hany Elsadek is the head, and possibly the only member, of the "Moyen-Orient des droits et libertés" human rights group in Egypt.

Its Facebook page shows that it sometimes gives out human rights awards, or adds its name to sponsors of small conferences. For the most part, the organization seems to be a scam, with no webpage of its own and only Elsadek being seen on its Facebook page.

I really need to learn how to start a human rights NGO so I can get funding for doing nothing.

Anyway, this "human rights activist" also happens to be a big fan of Adolf Hitler. And not only because he got the trains to run on time.

In October, he said on video:
"In the name of Allah the Merciful, the Compassionate. This is an instructive attempt to correct false notions. Why is the media hostile to someone whom they label an arch-killer - Hitler? Why Hitler, of all people? There have been many such criminals throughout history, so why was Hitler specifically labeled a killer, a murderer, a criminal, and so on?

"The problem is that Hitler was the only one who confronted two power hubs - the socialist Communists and the Jews. Hitler believed that they posed a great danger to his country, Germany. When Hitler killed or burned some 4,000-5,000 Jews, the Jews inflated the number and said that six million were burned - not 4,000 or 5,000. Secondly, Hitler attacked the greatest superpowers of that time, England and France, and started taking over their lands, posing a threat to the thrones of other countries. He became a bogeyman in their eyes.

"But what Hitler did is no worse than what France did in Algeria. It's no worse than what Begin did to the Palestinians, or what Moshe Dayan or Napoleon did. But Hitler became a specific target because he alone exposed the truth about the Jews. He wrote in his memoirs: 'They call themselves the Chosen People, while they spread prostitution in secret.' This is just a short presentation about this great man, Hitler, who loved his people and his country. We should all read Hitler's life story so that we will know the truth, and realize that the terrorism of the Jews, through their media, is distorting the image of Hitler. Thank you, and goodbye."

When MEMRI exposed his admiration, he doubled down and made another video about how great Hitler is for exposing how evil Jews are.



(h/t Yoel)




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  • Friday, December 02, 2016
  • Elder of Ziyon
US Consulate in East Talpiyot, Jerusalem

From Times of Israel:
 President Barack Obama on Thursday renewed a presidential waiver, again delaying plans to relocate the American Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem for another six months.

In keeping with every other presidential administration over the last 20 years, a White House statement cited “national security interests” in waiving Congress’s 1995 decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and transfer its embassy there.

Every president since Bill Clinton has cited national security in presidential waivers signed every six months that have postponed the embassy’s relocation.
What will Trump do on June 1, 2017, the next time the issue comes up?

On one level, all he has to do is to not do anything. If he doesn't sign the waiver, the embassy will be moved. This would seem on the surface to be the main argument that Trump will move the embassy - he doesn't actually have to do anything and it will happen pretty much automatically. Or, to be precise, a provision would be triggered where Congress would withhold specified funds from the State Department on how much it can spend on embassies and consulates worldwide until the embassy is officially moved.

But it is a little more complicated than that.

There are actually two reasons that presidents have consistently signed the waiver.

The first is a "national security" argument, which the Jerusalem Embassy Act allows: if the president fears that moving the embassy would upset Arabs enough initiate terror attacks against US interests, then it could be waived.

But the second argument is more fundamental: every president since Clinton has stated that the act infringes on the Presidential prerogative where he or she has exclusive authority to recognize foreign sovereignty over territory. In short, they argue that it is unconstitutional. And the Justice Department agrees, in this memo they wrote in 1995:

In general, because the venue at which diplomatic relations occur is itself often diplomatically significant, Congress may not impose on the President its own foreign policy judgments as to the particular sites at which the United States’ diplomatic relations are to take place. More specifically, Congress cannot trammel the President’s constitutional authority to conduct the Nation’s foreign affairs and to recognize foreign governments by directing the relocation of an embassy. This is particularly true where, as here, the location of the embassy is not only of great significance in establishing the United States’ relationship with a single country, but may well also determine our relations with an entire region of the world. Finally, to the extent that S. 770 is intended to affect recognition policy with respect to Jerusalem, it is inconsistent with the exclusivity of the President’s recognition power.

...It does not matter in this instance that Congress has sought to achieve its objectives through the exercise of its spending power, because the condition it would impose on obligating appropriations is unconstitutional.

...For the above reasons, we believe that the bill’s provisions conditioning appropriated funds on the building and opening of a United States Embassy in Jerusalem are unconstitutional.
So if Trump is serious about moving the embassy, and he wants to maintain the constitutional rights of the Presidency, he would need to pro-actively move the embassy and recognize at least part of Jerusalem as being in Israel, not merely avoid signing the waiver this coming May.

The big question is therefore - will he?




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Thursday, December 01, 2016

From Ian:

Martin Gilbert: Winston Churchill and the foundation of Israel
While Churchill was in Jerusalem, in March 1921, he spoke sternly to the Palestinian Arab leaders telling them: “It is manifestly right that the Jews, who are scattered all over the world, should have a national centre and a National Home where some of them may be reunited. And where else could that be but in this land of Palestine, with which for more than 3,000 years they have been intimately and profoundly associated?”
Churchill envisaged Britain holding the ring in Palestine until such time that the Jews formed a majority of the inhabitants, whereupon the Jewish State would come into existence. Pressed as to whether he meant that the Jews would have “control of the government,” Churchill replied to the Canadian Prime Minister at the Imperial Conference on 22 June 1921: “If, in the course of many years, they become a majority in the country, they naturally would take over.”
This the Palestinian Arabs refused to accept, and in London on 22 August 1921, they once more urged Churchill to bring a complete halt to Jewish immigration. Churchill rejected this appeal, telling the Arabs: “The Jews have a far more difficult task than you. You have only to enjoy your own possession; but they have to try to create out of the wilderness, out of the barren places, a livelihood for the people they bring in… they were in Palestine many hundreds of years ago. They have always tried to be there. They have done a great deal for the country. They have started many thriving colonies and many of them wish to go and live there. It is to them a sacred place.”
Churchill reiterated this view when he spoke to the Peel Commission in 1937, telling them that he had always believed that the intention of the Balfour Declaration was that Palestine might in the course of time become “an overwhelmingly Jewish State.” During the Second World War, although most of his Cabinet colleagues rejected this idea, Churchill clung to it and on many occasions intervened with senior Cabinet Ministers to prevent “an Arab solution” of the Palestine question being permanently fixed.
On 19 May 1941, in a secret memorandum, he wrote of his hope for the establishment after the war of a “Jewish State of Western Palestine” with not only the fullest rights for immigration and development, but also with provision “for expansion in the desert regions to the southwards which they would gradually reclaim.”
His electoral defeat at the end of the war meant that he could not carry out the policies he had outlined and had to watch powerless as Labour’s Palestine policy was put into effect. In 1952, four years after the establishment of the State of Israel, Churchill wrote, comparing the Greeks and the Jews: “Centuries of foreign rule and indescribable, endless oppression leave them still living, active communities and forces in the modern world, quarrelling among themselves with insatiable vivacity.
“Personally I have always been on the side of both, and believed in their invincible power to survive internal strife and the world tides threatening their extinction.”

Michael Oren: France Should Be Ashamed of Labeling Products Made By Jews
For Israelis, as well as many Jews worldwide, France’s labelling decision cannot be viewed in isolation from French history. From the Dreyfus trial at the end of the 19th century, to Vichy’s anti-Jewish laws 50 years later, France has much to atone for in its relations with Jews. During World War II, French Jews were prohibited from serving in the army or working as doctors, lawyers, journalists, or state officials. Jewish students were expelled from schools and banned from commerce and industry. The French government and police participated in the roundup of 75,000 Jews, almost all of whom were murdered by the Nazis.
Does the France that once extended these racist laws to the North African countries—Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia—under its control really want to inflict damage on Jews living in areas they consider part of their ancestral homeland? Does the France that once mandated the registration of Jewish businesses and made Jews wear the yellow star now intend to mark Jewish-made goods?
As a sovereign state, France of course has the right to express its opposition to another state’s policies. But as an ally of Israel which wishes to advance, rather than impede, the peace process, and to disassociate itself from former atrocities, France must find other means than labelling Israeli products. Such actions may appeal to a sense of self-righteousness or satisfy certain parts of public opinion, but they will only prevent France from playing any serious role in Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy. In the end, France will be negatively labelled, not Israel.
Israel is also a sovereign state, and one with an especially painful past. We have survived many other boycotts, formal and implicit, and thrived. Still, we have the right and the duty to defend ourselves from unjust practices, even when adopted by our friends. Israelis should not boycott French products, but we should certainly think twice before buying them. Or perhaps we should just label them with a sticker stating: “Made in a country that singles out Jewish goods”?
Why is France again labeling Jews?
Last week, as Palestinian and Arab terrorists were busy setting fires all across Israel, France decided to join the fray by committing an act of diplomatic arson against the Jewish state.
In a move as hateful as it is hypocritical, French President Francois Hollande’s government chose to become the first European Union state to begin to enforce guidelines which single out Jewish-owned businesses in the Golan, Judea and Samaria by requiring that their products bear special labels of origin.
French authorities published the guidelines in the official government gazette, and they require that items state, “product originating in the Golan Heights (Israeli settlement),” or “product originating in the West Bank (Israeli settlement),” a move they claim is intended merely to provide the consumer with more information.
That, of course, is complete hogwash.

  • Thursday, December 01, 2016
  • Elder of Ziyon


One week after my city was set on fire, I’m having a hard time writing about what happened. It’s different when something traumatic happens to you.
I don’t even have a full picture of the day in my head. It’s like scenes in a play, disjointed blips and in between, blank.
Last week, before the fire:
“I have to water the garden. Everything is dry as bone. The plants will die.”
My house is surrounded by greenery that makes the area seem tranquil, although we are actually just a few steps away from one of the main centers of Haifa.
In the beginning of last week, looking at the garden I saw thirsty plants, pitifully shriveled from the too dry weather.
On Thursday I saw a death trap.
Suspicion (Wednesday):
Fires in Zichron Ya’acov, a small town, 30 minutes down the road.
Suspicions of terrorist acts of arson were in the forefront of my mind. Yes, the weather was dry. Yes, it was very windy. These conditions make it very easy for fire to spread but fire burning people’s homes?! That’s not common in Israel. Every winter there are a few electric fires in homes due to heater malfunctions. Every summer there are a few bush fires when dry conditions combined with human negligence, turns a spark from a cigarette or an improperly extinguished bonfire into a serious fire. None of these are like the raging, uncontrollable flames that were consuming people’s homes. The pattern was different.
In addition, the firefighters and authorities were beginning to hint about their suspicions, saying, but not saying, what they thought was causing the fires. Fire experts would investigate and tell us conclusively what caused the fires but first it was necessary to get control of the flames and see that everyone was safe.
Thursday morning:
I went outside and looked at the garden. One spark. That’s all it would take. Once the plants began to burn, the wind would do the rest and the house would quickly be on fire too.
I watered the garden, pouring loads of water. I soaked the trees, their dry leaves and even the side of the house.
I knew it wouldn’t be enough. The plants would be grateful but the wind would make the water evaporate quickly. No matter how much I poured it wouldn’t be enough to stop potential flames. I went inside. Alone at home, it seemed a good time to clean the house for the weekend and do some cooking.
Suddenly there was no water in the taps.
Smoke
I smelled smoke. Looking outside, I saw big billowing clouds of grey smoke overhead. On the radio there was a report of a fire in Haifa. It was one neighborhood away from mine. Close but not too close.
I caught the cat and made sure he stayed in the house with the dog.
Evacuation
Mor (Lenny’s 17-year-old son) called me and asked if I was listening to the radio. He said the pre-military academy (which shares the campus with his high school) was on fire and he would be coming home.
A fire to my left and a fire to my right. Two separate, non-connected places with my neighborhood in between. The pre-military academy. Coincidence?
Fire spreads with the winds. Sparks do fly. They don’t jump over entire neighborhoods.
I called Lenny. He was in a meeting on the other side of Haifa, said he would be home soon.
Mor called again saying he thought we should pack suitcases and evacuate the area.
Not sure what to do I turned off what I was cooking, stopped cleaning and went back outside. The smoke wasn’t worse. Knowing it wouldn’t help, I started watering the garden again. The sounds of sirens on the road, very close. Fire extinguishing planes were flying overhead.
What do you do when someone sets your city on fire?
Our neighbor leapt over the fence and flew into the yard shouting for his mom to pack up his son so they could get out of the area. His wife came running from a different direction and within minutes was carrying their three-year-old to the car.
Mor arrived, explaining that everyone had been evacuated from the school. Lenny arrived. He could barely get to the house. He had seen the smoke in the distance and, as he came closer, people streaming away from the area on foot. The roads were beginning to be blocked, fire-trucks and people driving in all directions.
Fires all around us, the authorities requested everyone in our neighborhood (as well as the neighborhoods that were already on fire) to evacuate the area.
Asnalyzing the danger
In a swiftly changing situation it isn’t easy to know what is the right thing to do. Where is it safe? How do you get there? What do you leave behind?
Lenny had a few heartbeats to analyze the situation. First our safety, then the house, the car and the chaos on the road. He put the car in the underground parking lot of the hospital that is a few minutes’ walk from our house. There it wouldn’t get ruined by fire-trucks trying to get by, fire, trees falling... Driving in to the chaos on the roads wasn’t a good idea. If we had to evacuate the house, the underground parking lot of the hospital (which can also serve as a bomb shelter) would be a safe place to go. If we had to go there, we would have to run.
While putting on his police uniform (Lenny is a volunteer policeman), Lenny explained to Mor that he was unwilling to evacuate the house, although we had been given the order to do so.
Lenny went back outside to help people and so did Mor. Like father, like son.
Scattered
Tal (Lenny’s eldest son) was somewhere en-route, on the way home from his army base. He heard the news and was unsure what to do when he arrived in Haifa. We couldn’t pick him up. He couldn’t come to us. Possibly he could go to his mother’s house or to his grandparents who live in different neighborhoods of Haifa. I told him to check when he got closer. Who knew what the situation would be then?
Unnerved by the apocalyptic images he was receiving on social media, Tal was distressed to hear that his father and brother were outside in the neighborhood when we were supposed to be evacuating the area.
“Where are they?! What are they doing outside?!”
“I don’t know! Why?! Because they are two of a kind. That’s why!” I was upset that I didn’t know where they were or what was going on. I knew Lenny was helping people. I was sure Mor was with him and OK but I would have felt better to have them home, with me.
Impossible to breathe
Lenny called me and asked that I bring him cloth to cover his mouth so he wouldn’t inhale too much smoke while he continued to help people. I didn’t know what to bring so I grabbed a few options and ran out of the house. Almost immediately my eyes started to burn and I began to find it difficult to breathe. The sky was grey with smoke and the air thick with ash. Smoke clogged my throat, soaking in to my pores. I went towards the main road looking for Lenny.
I saw Mor on the other side of the street. He had covered is mouth with a shirt and was busy helping people.
An elderly neighbor saw me and asked me what she was supposed to do. As if I knew… An elegant woman, she was perfectly put together, like she always is. She was carrying a small bag in her hand and had a wild look in her eyes. I told her to come with me to where Lenny was. He would know what to do. Then she explained that her son in law told her to leave the house, that he was on the way to pick her up. Phew. If he was coming to get her she’d be OK, the only issue was being able to breathe. I gave her one of the cloths I brought for Lenny to choose from and told her to cover her mouth so she could breathe better. After I saw that she did as I instructed I ran off to find Lenny.
On the other side of the street I saw three women, carrying small bags and a cat carrier frantically trying to flag down a car leaving the area.
I found Lenny on the main road where he was helping direct traffic so people could evacuate the area or get to the hospital, if necessary. The police didn’t know which way to send the traffic. More and more fires were appearing. Smoke was everywhere and roads were jammed with cars. Which direction would be safest? Almost impossible to tell.
I went back towards the house and a fireman saw me. “You can’t go that way! It’s too dangerous, there are fires down the street!”
I kept on walk-running telling him “I have to, I have animals in the house.”
Following me he said, “Get them and get out fast. You have to go NOW.”
OK, OK, I’m going” I said, expecting him to leave me alone.
“I’m coming with you and will leave when you leave.”
He stood by the door while I grabbed my computer, purse (keys and money), shoved the cat in the cat carrier and tied up the dog. While I was grabbing the most crucial things I was calling Lenny, telling him what was going on.
I thought the fireman was going to pick me up and carry me away from the house. He was really upset, worried about me. When he saw Lenny (in his police uniform) running up to the house, he realized he could turn over responsibility to him and left.
The poor man must have thought I was insane. He was doing his job thoroughly, going door to door, checking to see who needed to be evacuated, who needed help. All he wanted was to protect people, to save lives. It is thanks to people like him that no one died in the fires that swept the country.
Suddenly there was no electricity in the house.
Inside
Mor came home, telling us of the fires he had seen in the neighborhood. Lenny asked me to close the shutters. We have metal shutters that would provide a little bit of protection from flames. That’s one of the benefits of having an older house. Most people have plastic shutters. Those just melt in the heat.
I let the cat out of the carrier and locked him in one of the rooms to make it easier to catch him in case we would have to run out of the house.
Mor wanted to pack a suitcase and evacuate. He had seen the fires and was nervous. Lenny had seen our neighbors battling fires in their yards and saving their homes. Mor had helped a neighbor extinguish a fire in his yard so he understood the benefit of staying. The fire-fighters couldn’t handle so many fires on their own. People battling the small fires could stop them from becoming the infernos that consumed homes and trees.
What do you take?
Leaving would mean grabbing what we could carry and running to safety. My hands had to be free for the dog and the cat. No room for anything replaceable. Photos? Lenny is a photographer. We have bookcases full of albums, many of them from before the digital age – in other words, there are no digital images that could be reprinted to replace lost albums. There is no way we could take all of them. Not even a few. I suggested to Mor he pack up what he’d like to take. I packed a few precious photos, a thin handmade quilt my mother made for me, bellbottoms she embroidered when she was 18, my computer, the book I was reading, cash, jewelry, a hairbrush, toothbrushes and toothpaste for everyone. That’s it.
Lenny went to the far side of the house and looked out. He came back in a rush.
“Ok. We have to leave. Pack up things and be ready. NOW.”
“What did you see?”
“There are flames as high as the house, very close by.”
Lenny put some important documents in a suitcase. I ran to get the cat, my heart pounding. I could smell smoke inside the house.
Hysteria
The cat had already been stuffed in the cat carrier once that day and knew something was very wrong. With the window closed, the shutter down and no electricity, the room was completely dark. I couldn’t see him and he didn’t want to be found. I dove under the bed, flailing my arms around until I caught him.
Phew. In to the box, again.
I put the cat carrier alongside everything packed to take, by the door. Lenny wasn’t ready to leave quite yet.
The cat was in hysterics, trying to get out of the cat carrier. I sat next to him, trying to quiet him but in his panic, he didn’t seem to notice me. I tried covering the box with a blanket but he just began pulling the blanket in to the box, scratching the sides, frantically trying to find a way to get out.
I didn’t blame him. I felt trapped too.
I took the blanket away and the dog came to look in to the box, shaking.
Lenny went to check on the flames. They had been put out! We didn’t have to go. Yet.
It was only later on, when Lenny went back outside that we found out exactly what had happened.
Behind our garden there are steps leading from our street up to the main road. On each side of the steps there are fences covered in bushes, higher than my head. On one side is our yard. On the other side of the steps is an old age home. Someone threw something burning in to the bushes on the side of the old age home. The fire ate a specific section of the bushes and spread in to the garden of the old age home. Those were the flames Lenny saw, so close to our building.
The wind could have easily blown sparks across the path, spreading the fire into our garden as well. The garden is bone dry; had the trees caught fire our home would have quickly gone up in flames as well. The old age home has fire hoses suitable for battling this type of fire but the workers there didn’t know how to connect the hoses! To our great luck a (volunteer) policemen that lives on the other side of the old age home was there, saw what was happening, helped connect the hoses and made sure the fire was extinguished. This is footage he sent Lenny of the fire being put out.
They had seen the arsonist ignite the fire but they were too busy putting it out to catch him.
Not knowing is scary
Friends started calling me to see if I was safe. What was I supposed to answer? My house wasn’t burning. Some of my neighbors’ homes were. Could my house begin burning? Yes, at any moment.
It gets dark very early these days and there was no electricity in the house so it was pitch black. No TV. We had to be careful to conserve the power in our mobile phones as well. Who knew when the electricity would come back? A battery powered radio helped us stay informed about what was happening in our city. The report was that the fire-fighters were beginning to gain control of the fires in the different locations. Hopefully there would be no new ones but the high winds could reignite sparks into full blown, very dangerous fires.
How do you go to sleep when your house could go up in flames? We could all die from smoke asphyxiation.  
Everything smelled like smoke, even inside the house. We were all too tired to care.
The news report said the investigation of the fires in Zichron showed that they were caused by arson terrorists. The authorities suspected that the fires in Haifa were also caused by terrorists but they would only know for certain after the investigation was over.
When it was safe to drive on the roads. Tal came to our house and Mor went to his mother’s house. The boys wanted to see both their parents.
The electricity came back. It had been turned off to prevent fire from reaching live wires and igniting even bigger flames.
We went to sleep with our bags still packed, in case it became necessary to evacuate the house. It was only then I noticed that I had kept my shoes on all day, although I had been inside. I almost never wear shoes in the house.
Aftermath
The next morning our stairs were covered in ash and the air reeked of smoke.
Lenny and Tal went outside to survey the damage while I listened to the news. Over 1,800 homes were damaged and of those 527 were deemed uninhabitable.
The head of the parents’ committee at Mor’s school had her home burnt to the ground. She described how the fire-fighters at work on her home were called to an even worse fire, leaving her and her neighbors the fire hoses so they could battle the flames on their own. The interviewer, safe in some studio in Tel Aviv, couldn’t imagine the situation. Stunned, he asked, “How were you supposed to know what to do?! You aren’t fire-fighters!” Calmly she explained: “We stood should to shoulder with our neighbors and poured water on the flames. My home is gone but our neighbors’ homes are OK. Thank God my family is fine.”
Another woman who lives one neighborhood away from me described driving through a wall of flames to escape the fires on Thursday. On Friday, she came back to her house and found that the bottom floor is burnt. Her reaction? In a shaky voice, she said: "It's OK. We're OK. Others have it worse."
Over and over I heard Israelis express gratitude - for life, for the people that helped them save their lives, for the people taking care of them now. Not rage at those who stole away their homes, their memories - gratitude. Life matters more than stuff. 
This past week has been full of volunteers. Teenagers helping families clear out their ruined homes, covering holes so the coming rains won’t ruin what is left in people’s homes. Enormous amounts of clothes, food and toys have been donated. The government is looking for ways to cut bureaucratic procedures to ensure that compensation is given swiftly – to those who had home insurance and also to those who did not. Between the government assistance and volunteers opening their homes to shelter those whose homes have been damaged, no one is left without a roof over their head.
It will take a long time for the people who lost their homes to put their lives back together. It is heart wrenching to think of the memories lost, the historic artifacts that survived other traumas only to be destroyed now. I don’t know if people will ever be able to regain the same sense of safety in their homes…
We are all grateful that lives were saved. Some people were unable to save their pets. Many walked through fire to rescue animals. I shudder to think of the wildlife that has been incinerated.
The experts say it will take 30 years to bring the trees back to the same level of growth we had before the fires.
These are the things I want people who live elsewhere to know:
The fires that swept Israel were arson-terror. It wasn’t negligence. It wasn’t forest fires. It was fires directed at homes.
You need to pay attention to this because what begins with us, ends with you.
This event showed, yet again, the true face of Israel – in times of trouble we don’t loot our cities, we help each other. We don’t wait for the authorities to save us or fix things for us. We do it together, with gratitude to be alive. Most of all, although unthinkable hate is directed at us, we don’t respond with hate.
And finally – we will rebuild. We will rebuild homes and plant new trees. We will make this land even more beautiful than it was before. This is our home and we aren’t going anywhere.
*********************************
This is what Haifa looks like after the fires, from a drone’s view. It gives you an idea of the damage although it doesn’t show the terrible destruction of homes and nothing conveys the impact of the smell.
Now it is raining, finally. That will help wash our city clean, make the air fresh and pure again.




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Elder of Ziyon - حـكـيـم صـهـيـون

This blog may be a labor of love for me, but it takes a lot of effort, time and money. For over 12 years and over 25,000 articles I have been providing accurate, original news that would have remained unnoticed. I've written hundreds of scoops and sometimes my reporting ends up making a real difference. I appreciate any donations you can give to keep this blog going.

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