Oznia, a blog of Israel things

~Election Followup

There I sat on February 10, the night of the Israeli election, repeatedly clicking the “refresh” button every few minutes on the Yediot Achronot website. Each time, percentage of seats won by Kadima and those won by Likud seemed insignificantly different. This raised an important question: What happens if the margin of victory by one party over another is tiny.

The way Israel dealt with that question was, in a sense, to disregard the results of the election. When the results are as close as they were this year, Israel brings the final decision to the President. So it was, that on February 20, President Shimon Peres announced that he has the most confidence in Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu’s ability—not the ability of Kadima’s Tzipi Livni, the candidate who won the most votes—to form a stable coalition, and thus a stable government.

To us, this seems ludicrous. For a country to go through all motions of an election—making campaign promises, ordering ballots, setting up voting booths, tallying the preferences—and then throw away the votes because it can’t be sure that the selected person will make a good leader: what was the point of voting?

February’s election showed something important about Israeli society today. The election showed the division amongst Israelis over what to do about the current situation, and displayed the appeal to large camps of Israelis of both major candidates and their platforms. But what the election failed to do was precisely what it was supposed to: decisively deliver a new Prime Minister to the Israeli people. Continue reading


~The war spills to facebook
January 28, 2009, 6:09 am
Filed under: movies/television, opinion, politics | Tags: , ,

War is absurd. But never has it been more absurd than today, than the war that enveloped Gaza and Israel, and their supporters worldwide, for over twenty days. Because this war has spilled into the lives of everyone who owns a TV, who listens to the radio, who has access to the internet. 

This war has called on reservists from the Internet Armies to donate their Facebook statuses, to post videos, to delve deeply into charters and and pamphlets, to enter debates on Youtube. Essentially, this war has incited pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian sentiments among the millions of people who use social networking sites, like Facebook, to share their concerns and opinions.

When I searched “Operation Cast Lead” in facebook, I got 53 group results, ranging from “We oppose Israel’s Operation Cast Lead in Palestine!!!” to “Support Israel’s ‘Cast Lead’ operation to stop Palestinian Hamas terrorism.” The groups have sprung up, and every discussion board has intense debates. Israel-supporters join pro-Palestinian groups, and vice-versa, to try to diminish the effect that the group’s “sincere” members have in the discussion boards and wall-posts. 

The groups are everywhere, and not just in America. Facebook is used as a political outlet the world-round, as documented by the New York Times last week. Samantha Shapiro focuses on the use of Facebook in Egypt to create civic participation in politics, and on the diversity of grassroots Facebook groups that have resulted from the current conflict. In Egypt, where so much of the public media and activism is regulated, political participants have focused their efforts in an unregulated medium: Facebook. Via Facebook, they have been able to organize a variety of groups from the basic ones calling for an end to the war in Gaza, to ones criticizing President Hosni Mubarak’s response (or lack thereof) on behalf of the Palestinians living in Gaza.
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~A Note on Advocacy


My email has been flooded every time I check it.

Which is a good thing, considering the situation in Israel and the nature of the emails.

Earlier this year I put myself on the listerv for the Penn Israel Coalition (UPenn’s pro-Israel organization.) While they get a lot of their information–especially now–from Stand With Us, the organization is a great resource for updates on what’s going on in Israel, policies, and also pro-Israel events.

I get similar emails from the Jewish Federation, although those are more specifically related to Chicago and Chicago area events.

But perhaps the best tool since the most recent und of fighting began is facebook. Facebook has a plethora of proIsrael groups (and, unfortunately, many groups that are full of hate against Israel). Facebook’s ability to communicate quickly with people around your school and around the country makes it the ideal location for sharing information about the situation, news updates, and announcements about pro-Israel rallies and events going together. Especially since many of the rallies have been put together very quickly, the high turnout is astonishingly impressive, and much of it is due to Facebook.

Other organizations to check out are AIPAC, The Israel Project.

If you encounter bias in the media (which there’s a lot of), please DO NOT hesitate to report it to CAMERA and/or HonestReporting.

Please feel free to check out my two blog posts relating to Israel for a class I’m taking.

B’hatzlacha, good luck, in your advocacy!

~Gap Year in Israel

As December 31st approaches and the first of my college applications is officially due, I’m beginning to browse through another set of applications and supplements: the ones for Israel gap-year programs.

I’ve been told over and over again that “You’re never as free as  you are before college. During college there are classes, then there’s internships and jobs, and then maybe grad school, and then jobs, and a family, and kids… and it becomes harder and harder to pick up and travel.”

So I’m going to Israel next year. I haven’t decided yet which program/s to apply for. There are a lot of great ones out there, some affiliated with each movement of Judaism, others pluralistic, some specifically designed with social justice in mind, others for nature lovers, some for studying, others for volunteering, some for musicians, others for dancers, some for five months, some for ten, some for just Americans, some for people from all over the world.

The internet is probably the most fantastic resource for finding a program that’s good for you, and the Masa organization offers scholarships for many of the programs it advertises.

I want a program that allows me to live like Israelis: speaking Hebrew, making friends, meeting kids, going to museums. But I also want to learn. I want to travel. I want to gain a firsthand experience of what it would be like to be seventeen-going-on-eighteen year old living in Israel.

Check it out some programs, but do it soon. Bring up the idea with your parents (you can even play the maturity card: You’ll be living on your own thousands of miles away for a while year, making decisions and friends… it will give you a step ahead of your classmates freshman year of college, when they’re just starting to hold those responsibilities).

~Israel is normal (?)
September 9, 2008, 2:38 pm
Filed under: politics | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Most of us don’t associate “murder” with the type of news coming from Israel that make newspapers around the world.

Unfortunately, this has been the big news coming out of Israel for the past two weeks. It’s a very complicated story, involving twisted and abnormal family dynamics:

A four-year-old French girl, Rose, was murdered by her grandfather, Ronny Ron. The Rose’s mother (a French immigrant to Israel named Marie Pisam) had left her husband, Rose’s father. Marie left her husband after falling in love with her husband’s father–Ronny Ron. Then, Rose’s father took her back to France with him, while Marie and Ronny remained in Israel together. Marie won custody of Rose in December, after hearing that her father was negligent back in France.

Due to some severe learning disabilities, Ronny and Marie didn’t know how to care for her properly. Instead, Ronny’s mother (Rose’s great-grandmother) took care of her. After having a dispute with his mother, Ronny came to take Rose back. Two months later, after having not seen Rose since Ronny took her back, Ronny’s mother came to Israel’s child welfare authorities with her concerns.

Ronny has admitted to killing Rose (although there are alternate details to the story), stuffing her body in a bag, and throwing it in the Yarkon River. Ronny and Marie are currently on trial.

Needless to say, Israel is shocked—but more shocked than another country might be.

The general sentiment in response to the developing case is disbelief: “Israelis like to tell each other that in America you can fall in the street and nobody will care. Now we fear this is happening to us here,” a New York Times article quotes Israel’s channel 2 news broadcaster Oded Ben Ami as saying. The sentiment is particularly strong, because the missing and neglected girl had gone virtually unnoticed by Israeli society until a gag order was removed on August 26.

Yigal Palmor, a Foreign Ministry official, says, “We think of [Israel] as a place where everyone is in everyone else’s business. Yet this happened here.”

~Israel for the Very First Time
June 13, 2008, 3:03 pm
Filed under: opinion, religion | Tags: , , , , , ,

From 23 days, the countdown has come down to under 12 hours. I leave for my first trip to Israel in less than 12 hours. Actually, to be precise, I have to be at the airport for my first trip to Israel in less than 12 hours.

It’s exhilarating, exciting, and somewhat nerve racking: what should I expect? I’m not going on a tourist trip–although, of course, we’ll still visit the Kotel–and I’m not visiting family. I’m going with a program for high school journalists called Write On for Israel and we’re going to be meeting dignitaries, TV hosts, mayors, Knesset members, and other high-ra

nking officials.

I know it’ll be great, and I’m sure I’ll have “that moment” (that’s the only way I can describe it, forgive me) sometime when I’m there, but I honestly cannot imagine what it’s going to be like. Sure, I’ve seen our itinerary (“subject to change on a moment’s notice”), and I listen mostly to Israeli music, speak Hebrew and know a lot of people that live in Israel, but all of those things–even combined–I’m sure cannot measure up to visiting.

I’m so excited for this trip I can’t even begin to explain. I’ve got my camera, batteries, journal, and everything all set away, ready to be used all the time. I’m all ready to take a deep breath, get on a plane, and have the experience of my life.

Have a wonderful summer!

~The Lemon Tree

Looking for some summer reading? Try,The Lemon Tree by Sandy Tolan, a story of a young Palestinian man (Bashir Khairi) and a Bulgarian-Israeli woman, Dalia Eshkenazi.


Before Tolan wrote the book, however, the story was recorded as a radio documentary, which you can listen to here: http://www.thirdcoastfestival.org/audio_library_2001.asp

Dalia’s family escapes from Bulgaria to Palestine when she is a toddler. After the war in 1948, they move to a house (with a lemon tree in the back yard) in Ramle, which had been an Arab neighborhood. In 1967, when Israel acquired the territories, the soldiers weren’t guarding the borders (they were fighting or guarding the new borders), giving Arab families who had left in 1948 the opportunity to see what their old homes were like. Bashir (a few years older than Dalia) had lived in Dalia’s house before Israel was established, and in 1967 he knocked on Dalia’s door. She was 19, and home alone, and made the decision to open the door for the young man; she had often thought about whose house she was living in, and although she was told they were the Arabs’ houses, wasn’t satisfied by that answer.

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