Friday, May 30, 2014

Welcoming the Pope with Lies About Israel’s Christians

Evelyn Gordon 26.05.20014

I’m a longtime fan of the Wall Street Journal. But I confess to mystification over why a paper with a staunchly pro-Israel editorial line consistently allows its news pages to be used for anti-Israel smear campaigns–and I do mean smear campaigns, not just “critical reporting.” A classic example was its assertion in an April 7 news report that Israel had agreed “to release political prisoners” as part of the U.S.-brokered deal that restarted Israeli-Palestinian talks last summer. The Journal was sufficiently embarrassed by this description of convicted mass murderers that it issued a correction in print, yet the online version still unrepentantly dubs these vicious terrorists “political prisoners.”

A more subtle example was last week’s report titled “On Middle East Visit, Pope Will Find a Diminished Christian Population.” While Israel is the glaring exception to this Mideast trend, reporter Nicholas Casey elegantly implies the opposite in a single sentence that’s dishonest on at least three different levels: “Syria has seen an exodus of nearly half a million Christians, and in Jerusalem, a population of 27,000 Christians in 1948 has dwindled to 5,000.”

First, while Casey never says explicitly that Jerusalem’s shrinking Christian population reflects the situation in Israel as a whole, it’s the obvious conclusion for the average reader–especially given the juxtaposition with Syria, which implies that both countries are treating their Christians similarly and thereby causing them to flee. This impression is reinforced by the only other statistic he gives about Israel: that Christians have declined as a percentage of the total population.
The truth, however, is that Israel’s Christian population has grown dramatically–from a mere 34,000 in 1949 to 158,000 in 2012, according to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics. That’s an increase of almost fivefold. And while Christians have fallen as a share of the total population, that’s mainly because they have significantly lower birthrates than either Israeli Jews or Israeli Muslims.

Second, even his statistics on Jerusalem are dubious. Since he doesn’t source them, it’s not clear how Casey arrived at his figure of only 5,000 Christians nowadays. But the most recent figure published by Israel’s internationally respected statistics bureau, in 2013, put the city’s Christian population at 14,700 as of the end of 2011. It is, to say the least, highly unlikely that after remaining stable at about that level for 44 years (more on that in a moment)–decades punctuated by repeated wars, vicious terrorism and deep recessions–the Christian population would suddenly plunge by two thirds in a mere two years at a time of strong economic growth and very little terror.

Third, while Jerusalem’s Christian population has undeniably plummeted since 1948 even according to Israel’s statistics, Casey neglects to mention one very salient point: The entirety of that decline took place during the 19 years when East Jerusalem–where most of the city’s Christians live–was controlled by Jordan rather than Israel. By 1967, when Israel reunited the city, Jerusalem’s Christian population had fallen by more than half, to just 12,646, from Casey’s 1948 figure (which does roughly match other available sources). Since then, it has actually edged upward, to 14,700.

Throw in the de rigueur innuendos that the Palestinian Authority’s declining Christian population is mainly Israel’s fault, and Casey’s verbal Photoshop job is complete: The one country in the Middle East whose Christian population is growing and thriving–a fact increasingly acknowledged by Israeli Christians themselves–has been successfully repackaged to the average reader as a vicious persecutor that is driving its Christians out.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Pope to visit PA Mufti who preached extermination of Jews

by Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik
In the course of his visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority next week, as a matter of protocol, Pope Francis, the most senior figure in the Catholic Church, is scheduled to meet with Israel's two chief rabbis as well as the most senior religious figure in the PA, the Mufti Sheikh Muhammad Hussein. What Pope Francis may not be aware of, is that the Mufti has an ongoing record of vicious Antisemitic hate speech, which has been condemned internationally. In 2012, the Mufti preached that it is Muslim destiny to kill the Jews. On another occasion, in the Al-Aqsa Mosque, he taught that Jews were "enemies of Allah," and in another speech he said that the souls of suicide bombers "tell us to follow in their path."
In his 2012 speech at a Fatah celebration in East Jerusalem, the Mufti linked the extermination of Jews to "Palestine," and claimed that Israelis know this religious war, "Jihad," is coming and are trying to protect themselves by planting a special tree that will hide them from Muslims when they come to kill them.  

Moderator at Fatah ceremony: "Our war with the descendants of the apes and pigs (i.e., Jews) is a war of religion and faith. Long Live Fatah! [I invite you,] our honorable Sheikh."  
Palestinian Authority Mufti Muhammad Hussein: "47 years ago the [Fatah] revolution started. Which revolution? The modern revolution of the Palestinian people's history. In fact, Palestine in its entirety is a revolution,
since [Caliph] Umar came [to conquer Jerusalem, 637 CE], and continuing today, and until the End of Days. The reliable Hadith (tradition attributed to Muhammad), in the two reliable collections, Bukhari and Muslim, says:
'The Hour [of Resurrection] will not come until you fight the Jews. 
The Jew will hide behind stones or trees. 
Then the stones or trees will call: 
'Oh Muslim, servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.'  
Except the Gharqad tree [which will keep silent].'  
Therefore it is no wonder that you see Gharqad [trees] surrounding the [Israeli] settlements and colonies. [Gharqad trees] surrounding, surrounding and surrounding. That's the Palestine we are talking about, with the beginning of the Jihad and the continuation of the Jihad with the struggle and the procession of the Martyrs." [Official PA TV, Jan. 9, 2012] 

It is unknown whether the Mufti knew in advance that the moderator would refer to the Jews as "descendants of monkeys and pigs," and declare that the Palestinian - Israel conflict "is a war of religion and faith." However - as can be seen in the video - the Mufti did not hesitate, retract or condemn the statement, asserting instead that Palestinians are destined to exterminate the Jews. 

When Palestinian Media Watch publicized this hate speech, the Mufti's words were condemned by Israel's Prime Minister Netanyahu, the British Foreign Office, the European Union and many others. (See condemnations of the Mufti's hate speech below.)

In another speech, the Mufti praised numerous suicide bombers who had murdered Israeli civilians as an "elite group of Martyrs." He added an explicit call to murder: "The souls of the noble Martyrs envelop us, and their souls tell us to follow in their path." [Official PA TV, May 31, 2012]

In another sermon the Mufti called the Jews "enemies of Allah" who "have even deviated from their humanity." [Al-Aqsa Mosque forum, June 25, 2010]

The Mufti also promotes hatred by  rejecting Jewish rights in Jerusalem by denying that a Temple ever existed in Jerusalem:
"In truth, there never was a Temple in any period, nor was there, at any time, any place of worship for the Jews or others at the Al-Aqsa Mosque site (built on the Temple Mount, 705 CE)." [Official PA TV, Jan. 5, 2012] 

In addition, the Mufti makes a point of publicly rejecting Christian tradition, teaching that Jesus was not a Judean, but a Palestinian who preached Islam. 

Click to view the Mufti calling Jesus "a Palestinian par excellence" and claiming that Jesus and his mother Mary were Palestinians. 
The Mufti has also issued religious rulings presenting women as subservient to their husbands, declaring on PA TV that "in general, a woman must [only] leave home at the discretion of her husband," and that a woman must not refuse her husband's demand to have sexual relations: 
"It's his right [to have sex]... it is his right. This woman may not and has no right to deny him this right, especially during the permissible time, which is nighttime." [Official PA TV, Aug. 12, 2012]  

Clearly, the Mufti's preaching of Antisemitic and genocidal ideology will destroy any chance for peace. As long as Jews are portrayed as Allah's enemies destined to be killed by Palestinians, peace talks are irrelevant. Adjusting a border or signing a peace treaty will not erase the stigma attached to the Jews by the PA's most senior religious leader.   

In spite of the Mufti's call to exterminate Jews and the subsequent international condemnations, PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas did not remove the Mufti from his office, nor did he demand a retraction.

Palestinian Media Watch is confident that the Pope, a symbol of peace and tolerance, will not knowingly honor a Palestinian religious leader who promotes hatred and intolerance. PMW is confident that should Pope Francis choose to meet with the PA Mufti, he will do his utmost to impress on the Palestinian religious leader the necessity of retracting his promotion of genocide of Jews by Palestinians and the abhorrent nature of those opinions. 

The following are a few of the condemnations of the Mufti's hate speech that were expressed immediately after PMW publicized his speech in 2012.

EU statement condemns hate speech by Jerusalem Mufti:  
"The EU missions in Jerusalem and Ramallah condemn the Mufti of Jerusalem's inflammatory speech on January 9 at a rally marking the 47th anniversary of Fatah's founding...
In line with Article 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the EU firmly rejects 'any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence'."  
[ , Jan. 28, 2012]

British Minister for the Middle East Alistair Burt condemns Mufti's hate speech:  
"I condemn the inflammatory words used by the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and others at a recent event marking the 47th anniversary of the Fatah movement. To refer to the Jewish people in such a way and to talk of killing Jews is anti-semitism, pure and simple."
[, Jan. 23, 2012]

Excerpt from the Associated Press on the Mufti's statements:
"The Palestinians' top Muslim cleric faced sharp Israeli criticism Sunday for a speech in which he quoted a religious text that includes passages about killing Jews in an end-of-days struggle."
[Associated Press, Jan. 22, 2012]


Thursday, May 15, 2014

Why it is hypocritical to boycott Israel

By Jake Wallis Simons May 5th 2014

We're not normally called upon to justify a decision to travel abroad. Few people would challenge me if I were visiting China, despite that country’s appalling human rights record, repression of free speech, and colonisation of Tibet. If I was travelling to America, even though Predator drones kill hundreds of innocent people each year, and even though Guantanamo Bay still holds 154 detainees, nobody would complain.

I would not be criticised for travelling to Egypt, which has become a police state that imprisons journalists, attacks protesters, and sentences political opponents to death. Nobody would suggest that I boycott India; or Pakistan; or Venezuela; or Saudi Arabia; or indeed Britain, which – I seem to recall – ignored the United Nations and attacked Iraq.

I could go on. But later this month, I am planning to travel to Israel to appear in the Jerusalem literary festival. As surely as night follows day, I have received an “open letter” from a group of 71 activists calling themselves the British Writers in Support of Palestine (BWIP), led by a poet and “professional Tarot card reader”. They were, I was informed, “extremely disappointed” by my decision, and “respectfully encouraged” me to boycott the event. But I am honoured to have been invited to Israel, and will be proud to attend. Here’s why.

It is my strong belief that Israel is, relatively speaking, a force for good in the world. I’m not saying that it is free from controversy, and I’m not saying that I have no sympathy with Palestinians. But every country that abides by the democratic process, enshrines in law the rights of women and minorities, and conducts itself with compassion both in war and in peace – or at least aspires to do so – deserves our support and respect.

But what about Israel’s flouting of international law, I hear you ask? Very well: but has Britain always been squeaky clean? I have already mentioned the example of Iraq. Britain intentionally bombed civilian targets during the Second World War, which was the last time we were under existential threat (the Area Bombing Directive ordered the RAF to attack the German workforce and destroy morale). Moreover, the Army’s Combined Services Detailed Interrogation Centre, based in Kensington Palace Gardens, London, between 1940 and 1948, carried out systematic torture on enemy prisoners. If we were at war again, against an enemy that was able to strike at the heart of our civilian population centres, how would we behave?

Would we, perhaps, be tempted to react as we did when the IRA were terrorising the streets of London? Would we reprise the British Army’s Operation Demetrius of 1971, which allegedly included detention without trial, beating, starving, hooding for long periods, harassment with dogs, placing nooses around prisoners’ necks, forcible head shaving, denying prisoners clothes, forcing them to run barefoot behind Army vehicles, burning them with cigarettes, dragging them by the hair and pressing guns to their heads? Would Bloody Sunday, in which 26 protesters and bystanders were shot by British paratroopers, happen again?

These examples are particularly relevant when you consider the geographical, topographical and historical context in which Israel exists. The Jewish state is roughly the size of Wales, with a ridge of high ground running along the middle of the West Bank. If Britain were surrounded by hostile neighbours at such close proximity, some of which contained terror groups bent on the destruction of the country, would we be doing any better? And would a fearful British public be outraged at the Army’s brutality? Or relieved that it was keeping us safe?

It is significant that a man who knows war, Colonel Richard Kemp – the former commander of Britain’s armed forces in Afghanistan testified to the UN Human Rights Council that the Israeli military does “more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare”. It is right that every instance of military abuse should be treated gravely. But this does not justify a boycott.

From a historical point of view, Israel has been attacked repeatedly by an enemy bent on its destruction (when the Arab world attempted to liquidate the Jewish State in 1967, the settlements had not yet been built). The country has suffered terror attack after terror attack, tragedy after tragedy. Clearly, whatever the boycott activists may say, to draw a parallel with pre-1994 South Africa is ludicrous.

Of course, Israel presents many areas of concern. In particular, the situation on the West Bank is disturbing, as are the societal disadvantages that confront minorities in Israel, particularly Israeli Arabs. The army has been guilty of heavy-handedness many times. And it is sad to witness the tit-for-tat violence the plagues the region, not to mention the heavy civilian losses that are sustained by Palestinians in warfare.

Again, I could go on. But to boycott Israel alone reveals a deeply partisan approach to the conflict, and a ridiculously na?ve and even hypocritical one.

By the standards of the pro-boycott activists, should the Palestinians not also be boycotted? Their society is severely intolerant of homosexuals, many of whom go to live in Israel rather than face oppression at home. Both on the West Bank and in Gaza, the authorities regularly harass and imprison journalists who criticise their leaders; last year, 26-year-old Anas Said Awwad was sent to prison for one year for "insulting" President Mahmoud Abbas by depicting him as a member of the Real Madrid football team on Facebook.

Moreover, the Palestinian government has signed a reconciliation deal with a terror organisation, and within weeks they may form a unity government. And as I reported in the Telegraph last week, the Palestinian leadership pays huge financial rewards to those convicted of terror offences, and cold-blooded child killers are celebrated as heroes when they are released.

If all of this does not merit a boycott, I don't know what does.

While we’re on the subject, shouldn’t the BWIP have called their group “British Writers In Support of Palestine and Israel”? And if not, why not?

For these reasons I am proud to be travelling to Israel later this month. As a journalist I value objectivity above all, and am not interested in closing my ears to one side of any story, particularly a story as complex as this. And as a novelist, my concern is with the human condition; attending a festival with fellow writers and artists who are not afraid of challenging ideas can only be a good thing.

And given that according to a YouGov poll, three-quarters of Britons “see no reason why British performers should not travel to Israel” and fewer than one in five Britons believe that Israeli artists should be barred from the UK – I travel in the knowledge that I have public opinion on my side.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Palestinian Magical Thinking

The campaign to place pressure on Israel through activism on the international stage is the latest example.

Jonathan Spyer May 7th 2014

So April 29th has passed, and the nine-month period allotted by the current U.S. administration for its effort to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian dispute has come and gone.  Entirely predictably, it has failed, in its entirety.
What can be learned from the failure? And what may be expected to happen now?
The failure of the talks was predictable first and foremost because of the irreconcilable positions of the sides.  This is not a matter of small details, as is sometimes maintained.  It isn’t that the Palestinians want 99% of the West Bank while Israel will offer only 98%.
Palestinian nationalism in both its Fatah and Hamas variants rejects the possibility of accepting the permanence of Jewish statehood in any part of the area west of the Jordan River.
For the Palestinian Authority, the nine-month period of negotiations came as an unwelcome interruption to a very different strategy to which it will now return.  This strategy consists of an attempt to place pressure on Israel through action in international forums to isolate and delegitimize the Jewish state.  Presumably the intended result of this is to induce Israel eventually to make concessions in return for nothing. The struggle would then continue for further concessions.
This strategy is unlikely to bear fruit, but its adoption follows a notable pattern in Palestinian politics – namely, the constant attempt to find an alternative to a negotiated peace based on compromise.
At the root of Palestinian perceptions is a very notable strategic optimism.
The Palestinians see themselves as part of the local majority Arabic-speaking Sunni Muslim culture.  From this point of view, the establishment of a non-Muslim sovereignty in Israel was not only an injustice, it was also an anomaly.  Israel, being an anomaly, is therefore bound eventually to be defeated and disappear.  So there is no need to reconcile to it, with all the humiliation therein.
This core perception leads to the momentary embrace of all kinds of unlikely strategies, which are invested with tremendous hopes.
This pattern has been around for a while.
In the 1970s, in their first incarnation as an independent national movement, Palestinians believed that the long war strategy of the Palestinian terror organizations would serve to hollow out and destroy the hated Zionist entity, on the model of the FLN in Algeria.
In 1990/91, almost forgotten now, Palestinians en masse embraced the empty promises of Saddam Hussein to “burn half of Israel.”  Arafat went to Baghdad to embrace the Iraqi dictator.
In 2000, after the short Oslo period, Palestinians looked to Hizballah and its ideology of resistance as the model for what they hoped would be a successful military and terror campaign against Israel.
All these strategies failed.  All turned out to be based on illusion.
In the meantime, the Jewish state went from strength to strength – absorbing millions of new immigrants, leaping ahead economically, diplomatically and militarily.
The campaign to place pressure on Israel through activism on the international stage is the latest example of this Palestinian magical thinking.  It is likely to share the fate of its predecessors.  The noisy BDS movement  notwithstanding, Israel’s position on the global stage remains strong.
Its alliance with the U.S., despite the utter lack of warmth from the current administration, remains strong at its core, reflected in cooperation on myriad levels, both military and economic.
Israel is forging ahead in constructing positive relationships with the emergent powers of India and China.  It maintains very close and warm relations with Canada, Australia, Germany and other important western players.  None of this is under threat from the automatic majority the Palestinians enjoy at the UN because of the Arab and Muslim blocs of states.
So Palestinian optimism regarding  the model for defeating Israel is hard to understand. But then  the faith placed in the previous approaches noted above also made little apparent sense.
What we are in for now is a period in which the current chimera will need to be played out.  On the bright side, this means that a return to large-scale political violence is unlikely.  The Palestinians were defeated heavily in the 2000-4 period, and there is little energy for a return to war.
The Palestinian elite and their children live comfortable and privileged lives in Ramallah and elsewhere in the region and beyond it.  Combining this with diplomatic and political activity can be pleasant and rewarding.  Combining it with military activity, by contrast, could be harmful and has already been proven not to work.
So expect more furious and pathos-filled denunciations of Israeli crimes from various UN committees largely staffed by the representatives of sundry dictatorships.
Expect Saeb Erekat and the others to come up with yet more inventive reasons as to why Islam and Arabic are “indigenous” to Jerusalem while Judaism and Hebrew represent foreign implants.  And so on, and so forth.
And at the end of all this, expect more failure, more bewilderment and a pause until the next alternative to a negotiated peace is stumbled upon.  This is the nature of the  magical thinking that lies at the core of Palestinian Arab politics.
This politics, in its various manifestations, exists to reverse the verdict of the war of 1948. It has no other purpose.
Its  credo was perfectly rendered in the words of the Moroccan scholar Abdallah Laroui, as quoted by Fouad Ajami: “On a certain day everything would be obliterated and instantaneously reconstructed and the new inhabitants would leave, as if by magic, the land they had despoiled; in this way will justice be dispensed to the victims, on that day when the presence of God shall again make itself felt.’

The language is elegant. The message is one of politicide and destruction. For as long as this credo remains at the root of Palestinian politics, peace between Israelis and Palestinians will remain unachievable. All else is mere detail.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Defaming the IDF on Remembrance Day

Michael Dickson, May 4th 2014

The air hangs heavy in Israel on Yom HaZikaron.
Poignantly, Israel commemorates the re-establishment of the State with the pain of memorializing thousands of fallen soldiers and victims of terrorism. The sirens wail and the nation comes to a halt. It’s a collective tribute to those heroes who have fallen so that we Israelis may live in freedom. And thus, Yom HaZikaron flows into our Independence Day celebrations.
This year, as Israelis pay tribute to their servicemen and women, a very different event will be taking place on Independence Day in London. Yachad – the British version of lobby group J-Street – together with the New Israel Fund, will be hosting “Breaking the Silence”, a notorious anti-IDF group. No one serious would suggest that Israel is beyond criticism but this is strange yet deliberate timing. Should we surmise that if Israel-bashing is a year-round sport, why should this night be different from any other?
Israeli soldiers stand still as a siren sounds nationwide during a ceremony marking Memorial Day at the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City. Photo by REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

If past experience is anything to go by, the audience will be treated to a flurry of half-truths and accusations aimed solely at blackening the name of Israeli soldiers. Indeed, “Breaking the Silence” has made its name by promoting a distorted and unfair portrayal of the IDF via its website and tours.
Breaking the Silence is hypocritical about its aims and even its name. If it wanted to present a true picture of the IDF, it would not blatantly omit the context of terrorism, the goals of Israel’s enemies, the deadly rockets fired from Gaza. It would not omit how the enemy hides behind Palestinian civilians and attacks Israeli civilians. It would raise awareness about the moral dilemmas the IDF faces. But instead, it omits this vital context in its reports, which often consist of anonymous, unverified testimony. Instead, their representatives embark on worldwide campus tours, meet with political leaders and speak at the UN in order to lobby and punish Israel.

There isn’t even any “silence” to “break.” Israel is an open and democratic society that regularly criticizes its own actions, and anyone is free to present complaints and findings to government officials and the courts.

Funders of Breaking the Silence include Christian Aid and OXFAM, who have both launched vitriolic anti-Israel campaigns, as well as the European Union, which has funded them for years to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars in order to “contribute to an atmosphere of human rights respect and values” and “to promote prospects for peace talks and initiatives.”

The EU is deceiving taxpayers if it is telling them that the funds used to support this organization help promote peace. (It’s worth reading Jake Wallis Simon’s Daily Telegraph expose of what he calls “a radical group”.)
Indeed, as Haaretz writer Amos Harel has written:
  “Breaking the Silence…has a clear political agenda, and can no longer be classed as a ‘human rights organization.’ Any organization whose website includes the claim by members to expose the ‘corruption which permeates the military system’ is not a neutral observer. The organization has a clear agenda: to expose the consequences of IDF troops serving in the West Bank and Gaza. This seems more of interest to its members than seeking justice for specific injustices.”

The truth is, as the hosts of the London event should know, no army faces the same kind of complex regional strategic threats as Israel’s Defense Forces. Few armed forces inculcate the need for the highest of humanitarian values and compassion for those in the conflict zone in their soldiers training (“in Hebrew: tohar haneshek”). And this, when facing off against the asymmetric warfare perpetrated by some of the worst terrorist groups like Hamas, Hizbollah and Islamic Jihad who fight out of uniform and embed themselves deliberately among civilians.
Let’s say an event similar to the Yachad-New Israel Fund evening was held in London on Remembrance Sunday weekend, when British fallen soldiers are remembered. What would we say about an event aimed at smearing the actions of the British Armed Forces in Afghanistan? We would likely say that it was ill-timed at best, and seditious at worst. The Breaking the Silence event should summon up a comparable response.

And let’s lay to rest the accusation that sometimes comes as a defense of these type of events: criticism of Israel is fine. No-one is stifling debate. (To the contrary: does anyone really claim that there is notenough criticism of Israel?). Israel is a robust enough democracy to take on the debate.

But here’s a question for supporters of Yachad and the New Israel Fund: Is it too much to ask you, on Independence Day, to celebrate Israel? Yachad’s motto mimics J-Street’s “pro-Israel, pro-peace” slogan. But doesn’t being pro-Israel mean celebrating as well as criticizing, at the very least at this time of year?
After all, these organizations profess to love Israel but don’t you sometimes – just sometimes – have to show that love rather than relentlessly bash Israel? One look at the events, the statements, the social media posts of these Jewish organizations who are ultra-critical of Israel, yet claim to care about Israel, gives a different impression than one of love. If anything, it’s like the love of a wife-beater: “I love you”, he says as he hits his wife; “I love you” he says as he pushes her down the stairs. A relationship built on criticism alone, surely, is not a healthy one.
And yet, it is this kind of a relationship that certain groups are espousing to young people on university campuses, to high-school students, to the Jewish community and to the wider public. Conditional love of Israel based on their arrogant view that only they know what is best for Israel’s future. It is a worrying position that aims to link the next generation’s relationship to Israel to positions which may be very wrong and over which Israel, in any case, only has partial control.
As we approach Israel’s Independence Day, there is much to celebrate. The thriving, modern and diverse democracy, 3,000 years old and 66 years young, that we see today did not just happen. It came about because of the actions of determined individuals, the Zionist pioneers and those who supported them. It came about through immense personal sacrifice in the face of incredible odds and opposition. And it came about due to the bravery and sacrifice of our soldiers who consistently put themselves in harms way so that my family and countless others in Israel can live freely.

We owe it to them to celebrate their service with gratitude, especially at this time of year.