Postcard from Israel: Banias.

Photos by AKUS and Israelinurse

“… the place is called Panium, where is a top of a mountain that is raised to an immense height, and at its side, beneath, or at its bottom, a dark cave opens itself”. 

Josephus, ‘The Jewish Wars’

At the foot of Mount Hermon rises a spring which feeds one of the four tributaries of the Jordan River – the Banias. Its name is derived from that of the Greco-Roman god Pan, to whom a temple was built at the site of the grotto from which the spring emerged. Niches bearing inscriptions mentioning the god Pan and the mountain nymph Echo can still be seen, along with the remains of a temple later built in front of the cave by Herod.

 Herod’s son Philip made Banias his capital, renaming it ‘Caesarea Philippi’, and the place later became a site of Christian pilgrimage, having been mentioned in the gospels. The national park also includes later Crusader era sites. 

 

Eleven years of rockets from Gaza.

On April 16th 2001 the first Hamas-orchestrated rocket attack from Gaza took place. In the eleven years since then, the one million civilians living within the range of fire have suffered over 12,700 additional rocket and mortar attacks. Forty four people have been killed and over 1,600 injured.

An estimated 55% of the residents of the southern Israeli town of Sderot – located less than a mile from the Gaza Strip – have suffered either physical or mental injury as a result of the rocket attacks. 86% of children between the ages of 12 and 14 suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. One in 24 of the town’s residents receive psychiatric care due to trauma stemming from the attacks.

When the ‘Colour Red’ warning of an incoming rocket sounds, Sderot’s residents have 15 seconds in which to take cover in one of the town’s fortified bus stops, fortified schools, fortified playgrounds or in the nearest air-raid shelter or safe room.

At intermittent junctures throughout the past eleven years, the UN has “urged” Hamas to stop firing rockets and called the attacks “unacceptable“. The EU has occasionally “condemned” them and Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have defined the rocket attacks on civilians as war crimes.

And yet, despite these platitudes, UN bodies host Hamas representatives and the EU allows various Hamas-linked lobbying groups to operate on its premises and take its MEPs on trips to Gaza.  European MEPs have even participated in Hamas-run anti-Israel publicity stunts and the European Parliament was quick to endorse the Goldstone Report which managed to largely avoid dealing with the highly significant aspect of Operation Cast Lead which is  Hamas attacks on Israeli civilians. Amnesty International, meanwhile, continues its flirtation with the most hard-core of Hamas supporters.

It is often said that no other country besides Israel would put up with 12,700 rocket attacks on its civilians and that may very well be true. Eleven years on, there are now thousands of Israeli children who have never known life without the 15 second run to the nearest bomb-shelter as part of their daily routine.

The UN, EU and Human Rights community bodies which aid and abet the mainstreaming of extremism and terror by collaborating with Hamas and its supporters are ensuring that many more Israeli children will have their lives shattered too.

‘Airflotilla 2′ & “normal, average Europeans”

Earlier in the week the organisers of the ‘Airflotilla 2′ (‘Welcome to Palestine’) campaign held a press conference in Bethlehem. Among the speakers the organisers chose to address journalists was the mayor of Bethlehem, Victor Batarseh who urged Israel to allow the flytilla activists in.

“These people are coming to talk about peace, they are not coming to wage war against Israel,” he said. “They are coming to visit the Palestinian people who are under occupation and to talk to them and to help them because these people are isolated.”

 “We are asking our neighbors the Israeli government to make it easy for these people to enter the Palestinian National Authority, so that we can have this message of peace starting from this holy city of Bethlehem.”

He called on Europe and the United States to support the protest. People who speak out about Israel’s policies are called “anti-Semitic,” he said, but urged the US and Europe not to fear this label.

Whilst he can certainly talk the talk, Mayor Batarseh’s ‘message of peace’ should be seen in light of the fact that he recently took part in the ‘Christ at the Checkpoint conference held in his town, during which he told the audience that the Palestinians were being crucified by Israeli security measures, Bethlehem was a giant prison and that Jesus Christ, embodied by the Palestinian people, was imprisoned in the city by the security barrier.

Batarseh is known to be allied to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) – a terrorist organization proscribed by Canada, the EU and the US. In January this year Batarseh attended a memorial service for PFLP founder George Habash held in Beit Sahour.  Terror attacks perpetrated by the PFLP include:

  • On July 22, 1968, the PFLP hijacked its first plane, an El Al flight from Rome to Tel Aviv.
  • In September 1970, the PFLP hijacked three passenger planes and took them to airfields in Jordan, where the PLO was then based; after the planes were emptied, the hijackers blew them up. In response, King Hussein of Jordan decided that Palestinian radicals had gone too far and drove the PLO out of his kingdom.
  • In 1972, PFLP and Japanese Red Army gunmen murdered two dozen passengers at Israel’s international airport in Lod.
  • In 1976, breaking a PLO agreement to end terrorism outside Israeli-held territory, PFLP members joined with West German radical leftists from the Baader-Meinhof Gang to hijack an Air France flight bound for Tel Aviv and landed the plane in Entebbe, Uganda. In a now-famous raid, Israeli commandos freed the hostages. [Despite the overall success of the raid, three hostages were killed in the firefight and one was killed by Ugandan Army officers in a nearby hospital.]

Also speaking at the ‘Welcome to Palestine’ press conference was project organizer Mazin Qumsiyeh who said of the campaign’s participants:

“These are not hooligans. The people who are coming are normal, average Europeans who want to learn and visit people under occupation,”

Hooliganism is defined as ‘rowdy, violent or destructive behaviour’ or alternatively; ‘willful, wanton and malicious destruction of the property of others’. Some might say that the attempts of Mazin Qumsiyeh and his Palestine Justice Network to eliminate the Israeli state amount to little less.

Certainly, Mazin Qumsiyeh and Mustafa Barghouti –  an endorser of the ‘Air Flotilla 2′ – do not qualify as being best placed to define hooliganism in light of their equally suspect definition of the recent March 30th ‘Global March to Jerusalem’ events  (which they also co-organised) as ‘non-violent resistance’ and Barghouti’s active participation in the Qalandiya riots.

Neither, of course, is Qumsiyeh’s definition of the ‘Air Flotilla 2′ participants as “normal, average Europeans” at all accurate. Average Europeans do not – unlike the members of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign or London BDS  (both of which are involved in ‘Welcome to Palestine’)  – align themselves with the oppressive human-rights abusing, terror financing and supporting  Iranian regime by promoting and participating in ‘Al Quds Day marches.

Normal Europeans do not march under the flags of terrorist organisations such as Hizbollah and Hamas who indiscriminately murder civilians. Average Europeans do not disrupt cultural events and call for boycotts of a democratic country as a means of bringing about its dismantling. And ordinary Europeans certainly do not try to deliberately get themselves deported from other countries by knowingly engineering provocations.

As for Qumsiyeh’s claim that the ‘Air Flotilla 2′ participants wanting to “learn” about the conflict – that of course is highly dubious. Seasoned activists such as these are precisely what they are because of the fact that they have no desire to have their well-entrenched opinions challenged by facts and knowledge.

But let’s say they did. A viewing of this video made by Mustafa Barghouti shows exactly what participants in the ‘Air Flotilla 2′ will be ‘learning’ on their trip – should they actually arrive.

Postcard from Israel: Avdat

We’re off back down to the desert this week for a virtual visit to the UNESCO World Heritage Site at Avdat. This ancient Nabataean town was located on the incense route along which perfume, incense and spices were transported from Arabia, via Petra, to the port of Gaza.

Later Roman and Byzantine settlement also left its mark on Avdat and today one finds there a rich mix of relics including a third century inscription on a Roman watchtower, Byzantine churches and a winepress and the restored gateway of the Nabataean temple, all overlooking the dramatic desert landscape.

All photos taken by Israelinurse

A: Avdat

Postcard from Israel: Tsippori

Perched on top of one of the limestone Galilee hills, with wonderful views as far as Haifa to the West, the ancient town of Tsippori (Sepphoris) dates at least from the seventh century BCE and was developed by the Hasmonean king Alexander Yannai in the second century BCE.  Described by Josephus as ‘the ornament of the Galilee’, it was the administrative capital of the region in the first century, hosted the Sanhedrin in the third century and was home to Rabbi Yehuda Hanassi.

Tsippori’s archaeological attractions include the synagogue –probably dating from the earlier half of the fifth century – with its impressive mosaic floor which features the signs of the zodiac alongside depictions of Jewish festivals such as Shavuot and stories from the Torah.

For more information on the zodiac floor in this and other ancient synagogues, see here.

Roman, Byzantine and Crusader era remains are also to be seen, including mosaic-floored villas and public buildings, a 4,500 seat Roman theatre, a Crusader citadel which is today a museum, Crusader-era churches and the cardo with its mosaic pavements and chariot wheel ruts still visible.

For more on the history of Tsippori, see here and here. 

All photos taken by Israelinurse

A: Tsippori

Postcard from Israel: Korazim

We’re in the Galilee region again this week with a visit to the ancient town of Korazim. Founded in the first century CE, the town covers around 100 dunams (24.7 acres) and has five neighbourhoods.

It is mentioned in the Babylonian Talmud for the high-quality grain grown by its inhabitants and was one of three towns (together with Caperneum –Kfar Nahum – and Beithsaida) mentioned in the New Testament as having been condemned by Jesus because its population would not accept his teachings.

The beautiful late third to early fourth century south-facing synagogue boasts wonderful stonework, including human figures which are thought to have been brightly painted. Later, the same figures were deliberately defaced and this iconoclasm is thought by some researchers to be the result of later, more strict Jewish interpretations of the second commandment.  

The synagogue also boasts a carved stone seat bearing an Aramaic inscription and nearby is the town’s mikve (Jewish ritual bath). Reconstructed houses and the ancient olive press give an idea of what life must have been like in this town which was mentioned by the French naturalist Pierre Belon in his accounts of his travels in 1547 as having a population of Jewish fishermen and was inhabited until the beginning of the 20th century.  

All photos taken by Israelinurse

Postcard from Israel – Tiberias waterfront.

With a history spanning almost 2,000 years, the town of Tiberias – built by Herod Antipas between 17-22 CE and named in honour of his Roman emperor – has multiple faces.

One of the four Jewish holy cities (along with Jerusalem, Hevron and Safed), it was the site of the writing of the Aleppo Codex , the Jerusalem Talmud and the completion of the Mishna as well as home to the Sanehdrin.

Tiberias has significance for Christians too and in the 12th century the Crusaders built the Church of St Peter, which later became a mosque and then a caravanserai (khan) before reclaiming its original use.

Today, along the waterfront of Tiberias are surviving mosaics from a 6th century synagogue, a 19th century synagogue, a Greek Orthodox monastery, St Peter’s Catholic Church, a mosque built by an 18th century Bedouin chieftain, Russian Orthodox and Church of Scotland churches – all within the basalt Byzantine city walls and nestled in among high-rise and boutique hotels.

All photos taken by Israelinurse

Postcard from Israel: Caesarea

“What did the Romans ever do for us?” goes the old Monty Python line.

Well, they certainly left us some pretty spectacular places to visit here in Israel, so this week our virtual trip takes us to Caesarea with its amphitheatre and hippodrome, luxurious mosaic-floored bath-houses and later Byzantine and Crusader additions, all on the beautiful Mediterranean coastline.

Of course Hanna Senech captured it best in her delightfully simple poem The walk to Caesarea:

My God, My God, I pray that these things never end,

The sand and the sea,

The rustle of the waters,

Lightning of the Heavens,

The prayer of Man.

All photos taken by Israelinurse

Harriet Sherwood reports hearsay from Gaza: Lazy journalism, ideologically-driven or both?

On March 12th Harriet Sherwood filed a report from Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip which dealt extensively with the death of 15 year-old Nayif Qarmout.

Since her arrival in the region, one of the hallmarks of Sherwood’s reporting from the Middle East has been her unquestioning repetition of versions of stories told to her by partisan sources and the presentation of hearsay as fact. Typically, in this report Sherwood stated:

“The boys had set off for school but spotted some militants running away after firing a rocket. They went to investigate the launcher – perhaps out of simple teenage curiosity, perhaps to see if there was something they could salvage for sale. Then an explosion killed Nayif and injured five others.”

In the next sentence, Sherwood added:

“Israel denied it had carried out an air strike.”

Revealingly, she made no attempt to expand upon the Israeli announcement or to investigate the possibility that Qarmout might not have died as a result of an air strike, despite the fact that at the time of the publication of her report an AFP journalist on the scene had already reported that there was no evidence of such a strike.

“According to an AFP correspondent at the scene, there were no signs of any impact on the ground which could have been caused by a missile, with the most likely cause of his death being some kind of explosive device he was carrying.

The victim lost his legs in the blast and his body was covered with shrapnel wounds, he said.”

Pictures from the scene appear to support the opinion of the AFP reporter and the BBC also pointed to the lack of evidence of an Israeli strike.

Sherwood, however, continued her report by stating that:

“Nayif was one of 23 Palestinians killed since Friday in an escalating round of attack and counter-attack between militants in Gaza and the Israeli military.”

And later:

“Five civilians – two teenage boys, two men in their 60s and a woman aged 30 – are among the Gaza dead, since Israel assassinated a militant leader in order, it says, to prevent an attack aimed at its citizens.”

Sherwood not only neglected to inform her readers that the vast majority of those killed in the Gaza Strip were terrorists actively involved in shooting missiles at Israeli civilians (continuing to employ the sickening euphemism ‘militants’ to describe terrorists carrying out war crimes), but also failed to provide accurate background for the killing of Popular Resistance Committees leader Zuhir al Qaisi and the terror attack he and his organization were about to perpetrate.

Rather than lazily parroting the claims of Qarmout’s family and friends, any reporter worth their salt would have investigated the possibility raised by the AFP reporter that the youth’s injuries suggest that he may have been carrying an explosive device. It is, of course, common knowledge that terrorist groups – including the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which is one of the main players in this latest round of violence – recruit child soldiers.

Another potential factor totally ignored by Sherwood in her reports of civilian casualties in Gaza is the frequent falling short of rockets aimed at Israeli towns and villages. It is estimated that since the latest barrage began last Friday, some 50 rockets launched by the PRC or PIJ have landed inside the Gaza Strip, endangering the civilian population there.  

Sherwood’s highly emotive and superficial reporting is, of course, not benign. Unknown numbers of readers now believe that Nayif Qarmout was killed in an Israeli air strike despite there being no proof of that claim.

The question which Harriet Sherwood and her editors need to answer is why they chose to publish this non-evidence-based report when information pointing to its unreliability was already available and why no qualifying update has (at the time of writing) yet been added to Sherwood’s article. 

Postcard from Israel: Hula Valley Nature Reserve

This week our virtual trip takes us north to Israel’s oldest nature reserve in the Hula Valley.

The best time to visit (un-virtually) is in the spring and autumn when millions of migrating birds use the Syrian-African Rift Valley as a highway for their long journey to and from Europe.

Beat the crowds by getting there early in the morning when there’s a good chance of having the water buffalo, birds and papyrus swamps all to yourself.  And don’t miss the 3D film on bird migration – it’s an experience you’ll remember for a long time. 

All photos taken by Israelinurse

A: Hula Valley

Fascist Chic: Pippa Bartolotti moves into the world of Reality TV

Our old acquaintance Pippa Bartolotti (best known perhaps for her fight last year with a pair of sliding doors at Ben Gurion airport) appears to have made a career move from agitprop to reality TV.

For those unfamiliar with the British Channel 4 show ‘Come Dine With Me’, the format involves a group of people holding dinner parties for each other which are then graded by the participants, with the winner receiving a cash prize. This week Ms. Bartolotti – described in the blurb as a ‘peace activist’ (which appears to have become an occupation; other contestants are described as a radio journalist and a housewife) hosted the meal.

Although it is not possible to view the show from outside the UK, the comments on the program’s Facebook account appear to suggest that Pippa did not make much of an impression on some of  the viewers with her locally sourced  spicy lettuce soup and egg curry.

Commenters’ remarks included “If i had that at my indian i would have sent it back”, “No offence but looked totally minging”, “Sounds disgusting”, “she mad as a box of frogs”, “That was a truly awful menu!!” and “Pippa’s food was slightly odd”.

The trick with important dinner parties is, of course, to stick to tried and trusted recipes one has used frequently in the past. Here then, is a suggestion for Pippa’s next soiree.

 

Menu:

Sliding Door Soup with Suitcase Croutons

Fascist Flag Fricassee served with a side dish of Steamy Islamist Rhetoric

Greens Salad

 Flambe a la Flynn with Dual-Loyalty Sauce

Ethically-sourced Free Trade Organic Caffeine-free Coffee substitute (produced in Merthyr Tydfil to reduce food-miles) with ‘Not the kind, loving British Jews I have known all my life thin mints

And for entertainment, rather than fortune-telling with witch-doctor bones, perhaps Ms Bartolotti could go for something more conventional and show her guests some holiday snaps.

Pippa Bartolotti holding the flag of the Syrian Socialist National Party – a fascist organization: http://www.danielpipes.org/5788/radical-politics-and-the-syrian-social-nationalist-party.

Pippa Bartolotti with Hamas co-founder Mahmoud al-Zahar

Pippa Bartolotti with Hamas' Ismail Haniyeh

Postcard from Israel – Belvoir Crusader fortress

There’s nothing quite like a good castle. So this week our virtual trip will take us to the most complete Crusader fortress in Israel: Belvoir (Kochav HaYarden) in the Jordan Valley.

With a ‘belvoir’ – fine view – of the Jordan Valley from the Sea of Galilee right down to Beit Shean on one side and to Mount Tabour and Nazareth on the other, the fortress was of great strategic importance.

But in 1189, after an 18 month siege and knowing that the rest of the Crusader kingdom had already fallen, the knights of Belvoir surrendered and the fortress was abandoned. Next to the castle there is a sculpture park featuring works by the Israeli artist Yigal Tumarkin.

All photos taken by Israelinurse

Postcard from Israel: Wild Flower spotting

Any good springtime trip in Israel – virtual or not – has to include wild flowers. The contrast between the short-lived riot of colour and greenery and the long, dry months of monochrome yellowish-brown which swiftly follow is so dramatic that it makes those precious few weeks in which the spring flowers can be enjoyed even more of a delight.

So let’s pack our virtual bags and go off to admire some of the wild flowers which decorate the Israeli countryside in this season. 

All photos taken by Israelinurse

Propaganda by wife of Islamic Jihad terrorist, Khadr Adnan: Courtesy of the Guardian

Islamic Jihad terrorist Khadr Adnan, imploring Palestinians to launch suicide attacks

Articles penned by high-ranking members of terrorist organisations proscribed by the British government – and also by UK-based supporters of those organisations – are, as we all too well know, nothing new to Comment is Free.  Now we have the WAGs version of puff pieces whitewashing terror groups and their actions in the form of an article written by Randa Musa. (My husband, Khadar Adnan has shed a light on Israel’s disregard for human rights, Feb. 22).

Mrs Khadr Adnan, as she is also known, seeks to inform readers about her husband’s supposed exposure of “Israel’s disregard for human rights”. With considerable drama she tells us that as a result of Adnan’s arrest last December she “would not be surprised if even our unborn baby which I now bear will also be affected”.

Randa Musa’s concern for human rights apparently does not extend to the trauma her husband’s terror group, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, has caused to the thousands of family members of those murdered or maimed in its car bombings, suicide bombings and other terror attacks.

In fact, she tries to pass Khadr Adnan off as a “student activist” which, to British readers probably conjures images of someone whose activities stretch to handing out flyers or drawing placards.

The truth is of course very different.

The Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s own website describes Adnan as a “leader” of the organisation on more than one occasion. Reuters described him as a “senior figure in the Islamic Jihad” in 2010 and AP as “a top Islamic Jihad leader” in 2005. The Gulf Daily News has him down as “West Bank spokesman of the militant Islamic Jihad group” whilst Middle East Online and IMEMC both describe him as an “Islamic Jihad spokesperson”.

And if there were any further doubts about Adnan’s terrorist ideologies and affiliations, they are quickly dispelled in this video from 2007 in which he solicits suicide bombers.

Apparently banking on her readers’ lack of geographic knowledge, Musa tells us that “life under Israel’s military occupation has turned our dream into a nightmare”. However, their village – Arraba – has in fact been under Palestinian Authority control since the Oslo Accords in the earlier part of the 1990s.

Randa Musa makes the ridiculous claim that Administrative Detention is “part of an immoral policy used to keep Palestinians in a state of perpetual poverty and under-development”. In fact it is a means used by many democratic human rights-respecting countries around the world including the United States and the United Kingdom.

Despite having a degree in Islamic Law, Musa displays her ignorance of other forms of law when she states that:

“When a military commander issues an order for administrative detention, no evidence is produced. No charges are brought against the victims, and the occupation has no obligation to give reasons for the detention. This is by no means a legal mechanism. It is simply an arbitrary draconian measure used to inflict psychological and physical harm on its victims. When they are fortunate enough to be brought before a judge, he can detain them for periods of six months that can be extended indefinitely. “

In fact, the laws of Administrative Detention require that the detainee be brought before a judge within a short period of time. Detentions must be based upon evidence and all detainees – including members of terrorist organisations – have Habeas Corpus rights before the High Court of Justice.  

Musa states that “the occupation has decided under pressure to free my husband in April” (emphasis added) whereas in fact Adnan’s detention was due to come to an end on April 17th in any case.

This self-described “devoted wife” is of course no less a propagandist for Islamist terror than her husband. Her concern for human rights, “freedom and dignity” is not universal and certainly does not apply to the ultimate right – the right to life – which her husband and his fellow PIJ members seek to deny Israelis.

She is also apparently prepared even to use her own children in furthering the Islamist cause. The picture illustrating Musa’s article is captioned as showing her daughter holding “a picture of her father, Khader Adnan, who is on hunger strike”. 

The caption omits the fact that the child is also holding the flag of Islamic Jihad – a movement well-known for its indoctrination of children with hatred and glorification of terrorism. 

Palestinian Islamic Jihad scouting boys wear uniforms and painted faces during a protest demanding the release of Palestinian prisoners being held in Israeli jails, at the Palestinian Legislative council in Gaza city, Monday, Aug. 16, 2004. (http://tiny.cc/w0b62)

A Palestinian woman supporting Islamic Jihad attended a Gaza Strip rally Friday marking the 13th anniversary of the death of the group’s leader, Fathi Shekaki (http://tiny.cc/6s2su)

In indulging its now infamous addiction to terrorist chic, the Guardian long since ditched its liberal credentials to such an extent that it is not ashamed to publish unchallenged fact-free articles by terrorists and their collaborators.

One would, however, have hoped that a terrorist organisation’s exploitation of a child for propaganda purposes would have been a step too far even for the Guardian. Apparently not. 

Postcard from Israel: Sde Boker

Our virtual trip this week takes us down to the south of Israel to some of the most beautiful and dramatic landscapes the country has to offer.

First, we’ll visit Ben Gurion’s ‘hut’ at Kibbutz Sde Boker where he spent the last years of his life and his archives and impressive library are stored.

Then we go on to the nearby site of his grave overlooking Nahal Zin and the biblical ‘Wilderness of Zin’, where Nubian Ibex mingle nonchalantly with the visitors. 

All photos taken by Israelinurse