Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Paradox here in Israel

GS Don Morris, Ph.D.

It is the eve of Rosh Hashana here in Israel. I am so fortunate to sit outside over looking the beautiful deep blue Mediterranean Sea. A gentle sea breeze is blowing the warm and dry air onto our balcony, it is tranquil and families are scurrying about these last few hours before settling in for the start of the holiday celebrations. Secular, religious and people of all persuasions are anticipating these next few days. Each has his/her own set of commitments, you can literally “feel the changes” coming over this land and I have a few moments for reflections.

To read the news is a study in contrasts. Someone like me within a matter of minutes goes through a range of emotions that align with my thoughts. Unfortunately what may be broadcast to you is but a snapshot of what truly exists here.

Permit me to share what one reads today just to demonstrate the dynamic pace of events, people, situations and circumstances I define as Israel. A major news story is the attack by Hamas upon our army camp replete with horrific details of the injuries our soldiers sustained. This is followed by the cries for reprisal and of course the government’s desire to calm the public. Everyone reading this today has a point of view and the contradictions in views are enormous. A story that may never reach the West begins with a young man who has been invited to study at UCLA this year. He was to begin his doctoral studies but decided he needed to serve his country. He is a man of character, determination and by all accounts a most decent human being. However, in a world so often described as one that fosters only self-serving beings, this man chose to act upon his sense of duty. He gave up one dream to honor another. This morning he is fighting for his life!

Our eastern neighbor Syria has been rattling its sabers for quite some time. Last summer it helped Hizzbollah –it provided arms, rockets and munitions that were thrust upon our civilian population. You know the outcome of last year’s “war”. Since last September, it has continued to re-arm our enemy and has done nothing to stop the flow of arms or Iranian “advisors” into Lebanon, our northern neighbor. Additionally Syria has served as a pipeline for foreign terrorists into Iraq that are the primary actors currently causing the ongoing havoc in that country. All of this while their government leaders are under investigation for the murder of Lebanon’s former prime minister. I’d say the Syrians have been most provocative with respect to the stability of the local region.

Thus, it is the Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan proclaiming “outrage’ with Israel’s alleged IAF flyover of Syria. It is CNN’s upset with Israel because we may have violated Syrian air space, never mind the justification. It is CNN’s “reporting” scoop that draws the prime time air space without nary a mention of Syria’s provocative ongoing war behavior.

“All countries in the region must show respect to all countries’ sovereignty and carefully avoid acts that lead to tensions,” Babacan said during a joint news conference with his Syrian counterpart, Wallid Moallen.

Meanwhile, almost all other Arab regimes and their media have ignored the Syrian claims of the IAF flyover. Neither the governments nor their media have rushed to side with Syria. Of course Syria claims the Arab countries have once again turned their backs on an Arab country.

Ah, the gentle breeze continues to remind me of this kind of “normality” we all have come to live with here in the Middle East. The morning is rapidly moving to noontime. My thoughts turn to the reports of our government actions and once again a sublime sense engulfs me.

New reports of 7 more Kassam rockets falling on us this morning; State Attorney Shendar indicated that our state Attorney-General Mazuz should order two more criminal investigations on Prime Minister Olmert (how many is this now?); and more details are coming forward about the “secret” meetings he has had with Abbas. You know, the creation of the “document of principles” that basically is described by some as the “Israeli Liquidation sale”. While this is making big news today the headlines we read give us the customary holiday warnings (sample from one news source):

“The security establishment has announced Tuesday the highest state of alert throughout Israel over Rosh Hashana. Military sources told Ynet that the security establishment had eight specific indications of potential terror attacks over the holiday, as well as dozens of general indications of possible shooting and rocket attacks, suicide bombings and kidnapping attempts.”

Isn’t this wonderful holiday cheer? Wait, the best is yet to come. We have also been told that Syria, nervous that we are going to attack them, have in their possession stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons. We are told there are mounting war tensions. Now where did I put my gas mask? Oh, that’s right we all turned them in last year after the last “war”. No, we have not received them back-why? Mr. Defense Minister Barak, you remember him-our former Prime Minister? The PM who had us run away in the dead of night from Lebanon with no agreement in place; this action created a power vacuum filled by you know who-Hizzbollah! Mr. Barak is in charge of re-distributing the masks but today we are told:

“There was a fear that if gas masks were distributed, the move would be interpreted as Israeli preparations for war and that Syria would, as a result, decide to attack.” This is one of those “huh, you must be joking” moments we face regularly here in Israel. The caveat tossed to us today is that “anyway, we only have enough masks for 1.5 million citizens.” Nothing like telling your enemy your vulnerabilities!

Now I must tell you that my mood at this point is not high even though the beautiful sea is before my eyes and the scent of gorgeous garden flowers surrounds me. How to get beyond this, after all the holiday is soon upon us.

Like most of my Israeli friends, colleagues and people, I allowed myself to reflect upon some of our finer moments, people and accomplishments. Look what Israelis have accomplished in less than 60 years. From ashes they created vibrant towns, villages and cities; an infrastructure that is the envy of not only its Arab neighbors but also of countries worldwide. We are exporting our hydro-business to serve other countries that also face water shortages. I sit now with pride as I remember the following:
Israeli-developed auditory device makes walking easier for MS patients
BioPetroClean has developed an innovative technique to clean up oil spills - natural microorganisms that consume and destroy the oil

A team of Israeli scientists has developed a new method to produce hydrogen fuel cheaply

A new movement in Israel is bringing together Jewish and Arab children in the most natural of ways - they are learning together in a school environment that joins both languages and both cultures

An Israeli company has developed a hand-held device that digitally mimics the human nose to sniff out would-be terrorists trying to sneak through an airport or port with homemade explosive devices.

Soon, your note writing can go digital with The Scribbler - an electronic screen that sticks to your fridge door and connects you remotely to your PC.

A unique new Israeli-developed treatment that uses electrical fields to interfere with the cell division of cancerous cells, causing them to stop proliferating and die off

In the last five years, Israel's top 35 companies on NASDAQ have appreciated by 120%.

Two architects pursuing PhDs at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology have devised a low-tech way to collect dew from the air and turn it into fresh water.

An Israeli company has developed a simple blood test that distinguishes between mild and more severe cases of Multiple Sclerosis.

The Movement Disorder Surgery program at Israel's Hadassah Medical Center has successfully eliminated the physical manifestations of Parkinson's disease in a select group of patients with a deep brain stimulation technique.

Israel is developing a nose drop that will provide a five-year flu vaccine.

Most of Windows operating systems were developed by Microsoft-Israel.

The Pentium NMX Chip technology was designed at Intel in Israel. Both the Pentium 4 microprocessor and the Centrum processor were entirely designed, developed, and produced in Israel.

Finally, today’s story about Hy Brown. He has made aliya. He has come to us, along with his delightful wife, to share his knowledge, skill and life with Israel. He has is bringing to us fully equipped solar homes, inexpensive homes ($50,000) complete with all of the modern appliances operating from solar energy. His dream is to open the Negev to current and future Israelis. At age 65, he starts life anew and as his wife says, “helping to develop the Negev is actually your purpose in life." This is the man who helped design and build Disney World in Florida. Instead of spending his years playing golf, he is determined to help those who were forced out of Gush Katif and build them a new community. The dream has become a reality.

The sun is moving closer to the western horizon, cars are moving more rapidly to get home to their families, to make sure they are home before the sun sets. The air is beginning its gentle evening cooling-should be quite a distinguished sunset today. A sense of peace settles over our area albeit 10 miles from our enemy. Netanya is a beautiful city, resting next to the sea. Our promenade is filled with people enjoying the last of today’s sun. We each will return to our homes no matter where that neighborhood may be. We shall rejoice tonight each in our own way; we come from so many different countries and honor so many different cultures the celebration will be unified. For some moments in time we come together as one, simply desiring some time to enjoy life’s joys.

Shana Tova to all-we wish you peace and a renewed enthusiasm for living!

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