Kristen S. Stevens

atlanta-san francisco-madrid-ohio-jerusalem-gaza-istanbul

Israel, Gaza and the West Bank: 2005

From January to September 2005, I was in Israel writing for The Associated Press. From the election of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to the evacuation of Jewish settlers from Gaza, I want to share some of what I covered. 

   

I've written more than 50 articles on the Mideast conflict, World Cup qualifiers, arms deals, religious intrigue and some divisive walls.

 

Some of my articles:

8-22-05    Jewish family of 13 last to leave Gaza EXCLUSIVE 8/27 notes

8-22-05    Last Jewish settlement forced out of Gaza TOP U.S. SELLER

8-19-05    Gaza pullout resumes after violent clashes  8/21 notes

8-6-05      Arab town mourns four killed by Israeli TOP U.S. SELLER

8-5-05      Jewish extremist kills Israeli Arabs  8/15 notes

8-5-05      Israeli beach paddleball: What's all the racket? FEATURE

7-20-05    Spitz leads U.S. in 'Jewish Olympics'

7-7-05      Israel opens high-tech checkpoints EXCLUSIVE

7-3-05      Giants’ Tiki Barber coaches kids to cross boundaries 

6-30-05    Marchers stabbed in Pride parade TOP U.S. SELLER 7/7 notes

6-12-05    Muslim in Nazareth takes on Holocaust FEATURE

5-5-05      Israel praises defense ties with Turkey

4-29-05    Putin bar a tribute to Russian leader FEATURE

4-24-05    Last Passover in Gaza 4/27 notes 

3-31-05    Israel's latest soccer heroes... are Arab FEATURE

3-30-05    Venus statue surfaces in Israel museum

3-20 05    Israel to thwart settler resistance TOP U.S. SELLER 4/11 notes

3-27-05    Thousands mark Easter Sunday in Jerusalem TOP U.S. SELLER

3-22-05    Rabbi convicted for blocking home demolitions

3-8-05      Israel to phase out Palestinian workers by 2008 EXCLUSIVE 3/19 notes

3-5-05      Ex-Korn Rocker baptized in the Jordan River

3-3-05      Israeli children learn to speak Arabic FEATURE 3/13 notes

3-2-05      Pilgrims mark Palm Sunday in Jerusalem TOP U.S. SELLER 4/2 notes

2-24-05    Natalie Portman confronted by angry worshippers 

 

 

Jewish family of 13 last to leave Gaza The Detroit News

By KRISTEN STEVENS, Associated Press, Aug. 22, 2005

Settler Hanan Visner talks to Israeli army officers Monday. The Visners were overlooked by the army during evacuation from the Gaza Strip. (Ariel Schalit / Associated Press)

NETZARIM, Gaza Strip — The last Jewish family in the Gaza Strip spent Monday night alone in their house after the army overlooked them while evacuating every one of their neighbors. 8/27 notes

"It was a mistake," said Hanan Visner, 47, who was still packing up his 11 children when the last bus left the last settlement to be evacuated.

For Hanan and his wife, Dvora, the forced departure from their home was deja vu. Twenty-three years ago, they were evicted from the Jewish settlement of Yamit when Israel handed back the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt under terms of their 1979 peace treaty.

"I never thought this could happen again," Dvora Visner said.

Alone with a handful of soldiers, the Visners finished putting goods into boxes as children romped in the garden. The automatic sprinklers came on as usual in the evening.

"It's a great sadness, for the settlements, for the people ... for our complete life here," said the blond-bearded school teacher.

It was especially sad for the Visners, who lost relatives in the bitter fighting between Israel and Palestinian militants in the last five years. Hanan's father was stabbed to death by a Palestinian who rushed into Netzarim's synagogue during prayer services. vora's sister was killed by a Palestinian mortar which hit another settlement.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, long a champion of the settler movement, ordered the army to evacuate the 8,500 settlers who lived in Gaza amid 1.3 million Palestinians, saying that keeping Gaza was no longer tenable. The forced evacuations of 21 Gaza settlements began last week.

Hanan Visner said the army gave them permission to stay until morning.

The Visners plan to go to one of the largest settlements in the West Bank, Ariel, where many Gaza settlers have temporarily relocated, until their community can find a new place together.

 

 

Gaza pullout resumes after violent clashes ABC News

By KRISTEN STEVENS, Associated Press

  Israeli security forces storm the Kfar Darom synagogue where settlers barricaded themselves to resist forced evacuation, in the Jewish settlement of Kfar Darom in the southern Gaza Strip, Thursday, Aug. 18, 2005. (AP Photo/Moshe Milner, GPO)

GADID, Gaza Strip, Aug 19, 2005 — Israeli troops pushed through a barricade of flaming cars in this small settlement Friday, a day after youths holed up on a synagogue rooftop pelted soldiers with acid, oil and sand in the most violent protest against Israel's Gaza pullout. 8/21 notes

 

The mission to clear out Gadid followed daylong clashes at two centers of hardcore resistance synagogues at Neve Dekalim and Kfar Darom.

 

Some 14,000 soldiers have carried out Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan to cede Gaza to the Palestinians. At the beginning of the third day of forcible evacuations Friday, all but five of the 21 Gaza settlements stood empty.

 

About 2,000 forces were participating in Friday's evacuation of Gadid, where a few holdout families, along with about 60 extremist "reinforcements" who came from outside Gaza to resist, remained.

 

In what has become a familiar scene this week, settlers set two cars and wooden planks on fire to block the arriving soldiers. A military bulldozer quickly cleared a path. The forces halted briefly when they encountered two more flaming roadblocks, which sent a thick plume of black smoke in the air, then spread out through town.

 

Most of the outsiders were holed up in the settlement's synagogue, where they gathered for morning prayers. Several young protesters stood on the roof of an abandoned house, and two weeping families hugged each other outside their neighboring homes. Police said they planned to begin taking away protesters later in the morning after prayers ended.

 

A man with a long grey beard, identifying himself only as Itzik, said he had come to Gadid with his wife and four children from the northern city of Haifa in a show of unity with the settlers. "I feel only sadness," he said.

 

The government began the forcible removal of Gaza's settlers on Wednesday after a two-day grace period expired. While tears and emotion characterized the first day of the operation, the second day turned violent.

 

On Thursday, dozens of protesters at the hardline settlement Kfar Darom barricaded themselves behind razor wire on the synagogue roof, at first singing and waving flags, then attacking soldiers below with caustic liquids and objects, including paint-filled lightbulbs.

 

Stunned police and soldiers, shaking in confusion, ripped off their helmets and clothes after being splashed by what police said was acid. Comrades quickly poured water on their heads and bodies. Some of the men gasped for air, and one sat on the floor, seeming disoriented.

 

To break the siege, army cranes lowered metal cages filled with helmeted troops onto the roof, as cannons sprayed protesters with blasts of water. Other troops carrying wire cutters climbed ladders slick with oil. Then the troops removed the protesters one by one.

 

At Neve Dekalim, troops wrestled for hours against some 1,500 extremists making their last stand inside Gaza's largest settlement. Protesters lay on the synagogue floor with their arms linked, kicking against the Israeli forces while supporters held their shoulders in a tug-of-war.

 

After breaking the human chain, troops dragged protesters out of the synagogue, holding them by their arms and legs as they twisted and squirmed. Other protesters chanted "blasphemy, blasphemy."

Most of the unrest has come from young settler activists from the West Bank who infiltrated Gaza in recent weeks to resist the evacuations.

 

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said the attacks on troops in Kfar Darom infuriated him and said the rioters would be prosecuted. Investigators would also check "who sent them (the rioters) and who incited them," he told the Haaretz daily.

Sharon said he was saddened when watching the evacuation of Kfar Darom on television. "But in the evening, when I saw the tossing of those bottles of poisonous substances, or harmful substances, and the injury to … soldiers and police, my mood altered and the pain turned to rage," he said.

 

Some Israelis were offended that the extremists chose houses of worship for their last stand against the Israeli military. However, experts on Judaism say it's not necessarily taboo for a synagogue to be used as a place of refuge.

 

Several hundred protesters slowed traffic at the entrance to Jerusalem late Thursday, but widespread disruptions throughout the country, pledged by extremists, did not materialize. 

 

Stunned police and soldiers, shaking in confusion, ripped off their helmets and clothes after being splashed by what police said was acid. Comrades quickly poured water on their heads and bodies. Some of the men gasped for air, and one sat on the floor, seeming disoriented.

 

To break the siege, army cranes lowered metal cages filled with helmeted troops onto the roof, as cannons sprayed protesters with blasts of water. Other troops carrying wire cutters climbed ladders slick with oil. Then the troops removed the protesters one by one.

 

At Neve Dekalim, troops wrestled for hours against some 1,500 extremists making their last stand inside Gaza's largest settlement. Protesters lay on the synagogue floor with their arms linked, kicking against the Israeli forces while supporters held their shoulders in a tug-of-war.

 

After breaking the human chain, troops dragged protesters out of the synagogue, holding them by their arms and legs as they twisted and squirmed. Other protesters chanted "blasphemy, blasphemy."

Most of the unrest has come from young settler activists from the West Bank who infiltrated Gaza in recent weeks to resist the evacuations.

 

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said the attacks on troops in Kfar Darom infuriated him and said the rioters would be prosecuted. Investigators would also check "who sent them (the rioters) and who incited them," he told the Haaretz daily.

Sharon said he was saddened when watching the evacuation of Kfar Darom on television. "But in the evening, when I saw the tossing of those bottles of poisonous substances, or harmful substances, and the injury to … soldiers and police, my mood altered and the pain turned to rage," he said.

 

Some Israelis were offended that the extremists chose houses of worship for their last stand against the Israeli military.

 

However, experts on Judaism say it's not necessarily taboo for a synagogue to be used as a place of refuge.

Several hundred protesters slowed traffic at the entrance to Jerusalem late Thursday, but widespread disruptions throughout the country, pledged by extremists, did not materialize.

 

 

Israeli children learn to speak Arabic 

San Diego Union Tribune

By KRISTEN STEVENS, Associated Press, Feb. 28, 2005

My Photo  Israeli fifth-graders learn Arab phrases at Kalanit Elementary School in Karmiel (Kristen Stevens/AP)

 

KARMIEL, Israel (AP) — Amit Goldner, a Jewish fifth-grader, uses gestures to communicate with his friend Mohammed, an Arab, since neither boy speaks the other's language. 3/13 notes

 

A pilot project launched in February in 14 elementary schools in northern Israel is meant to break the pattern. Over the next two years, hundreds of Jewish fifth-graders will be taught conversational Arabic, and learn about Arab culture and traditions.

 

The project, financed in part by the Abraham Fund, a U.S.-Israeli non-governmental group, focuses on Jewish children. Hebrew is mandatory in Israel's Arab schools and most Arab youngsters can speak the language to some degree by middle school.

 

The main trigger for developing the new curriculum was rioting by Israeli Arabs in October 2000 in support of the Palestinian uprising in the West Bank and Gaza, and against decades of government discrimination. Thirteen protesters were killed by police fire in what a government commission later ruled was excessive use of force.

 

The riots deepened distrust, and local Jewish and Arab educators decided to step in, said Menachem Chishel, head of the education department in the Jewish town of Karmiel in northern Israel. As a first step, they set up joint after-school programs for children from Karmiel and surrounding Arab towns.

 

However, the language barrier proved a persistent problem.

 

Malka Gilboa, an educator in Karmiel, said Arab and Jewish youngsters were eager to get to know each other in the after-school meetings, but couldn't communicate. "They hug, then ask us how to say things to each other," Gilboa said.

 

The language program hopes to fix that with four hours of instruction a week.

In one of the first sessions, at the Kalanit Elementary School in Karmiel, about 20 Jewish pupils practiced meeting Arab children on a bus and repeated Arabic greetings after the teacher.

 

"When I'm on the bus, I just want to know what they're talking about ... and are they talking about me?" said Amit Goldner. Nodding, many of his classmates said they felt the same way.

 

Hala Tannan, 11, doesn't have that problem, because she began learning Hebrew in elementary school. Along with hundreds of pupils from surrounding Arab towns, Hala participates in activities with Karmiel's Jewish kids. She said she expects the Arabic-language program to help the area's two communities live together with "a better peace, a stronger peace."

 

She said of her Jewish friend Liya, "I ask questions about her life. We talk about our families." Hala said she and her Arab friends like to speak Hebrew and want Jewish kids "to speak Arabic like us."

 

Teachers echo that, hoping they will raise a more open generation. "My dream is to succeed at what the politicians have failed to do, bring peace to the Galilee," said Roshde Khalaila, head of the education department in the Arab town of Majd el-Kurum, near Karmiel, which sends kids to the joint after-school activities.

However, many of the barriers will be difficult to tear down.

 

Only a few towns in Israel have mixed populations, including the northern port city of Haifa, widely seen as a model of coexistence. Twelve of the 14 schools participating in the pilot program are in Haifa, and mayor Yona Yahav said his goal is to make his city bilingual.

 

Across Israel, schools remain largely segregated, reflecting the preference of both communities. However, the relationship remains lopsided.

 

A three-year-old government report acknowledged that Arab schools get 40 percent less investment than Jewish schools. At the same time, Education Minister Limor Livnat, a member of the hard-line Likud Party, wants more "patriotic" content in all schools, including flying the Israeli flag, singing the national anthem each day and teaching a course on Jewish heritage and Zionism.

 

Hebrew is a graduation requirement in Arab schools, while Arabic is only mandatory for Jewish youngsters between grades 7-10. However, most Jewish schools don't comply with the requirement, offering Arabic only as an elective. In grades 7-9, fewer than 60 percent of pupils take Arabic, and in 10th grade, the figure drops to 18 percent, according to the Education Ministry.

 

Most schools teach literary Arabic, which is very different from the spoken language.

 

Daniel Aschheim, 16, student body president at a public high school in Jerusalem, said his two years of Arabic in junior high school were not sufficient for starting a conversation with Arab teenagers who share the neighborhood park near his home.

 

"I wish I'd continued studying Arabic, but I chose French," Aschheim said.

Livnat has promised to expand the language program nationally if it succeeds.

 

Dan Pattir, executive vice president of the Abraham Fund, said it was in the interest of the Jewish majority to learn more about the large Arab minority, and that schools should play a key role in teaching Jewish children how to relate to their Arab neighbors.

 

"Israeli understanding of Arabic is vital to the fabric of life – and security – of Israelis," he said.

 

Their difficulties reflect the deep divide between Israel's Jewish majority and the 20-percent Arab minority, a result of decades of segregated lives.

 

 

Arab town buries residents killed by Israeli extremist 

Washington Times

By KRISTEN STEVENS, Associated Press

  Mourners light candles on the site where a Israeli soldier opened fire on a bus, killing four in the northern Israeli town of Shfaram, early Friday, Aug. 5, 2005. (AP Photo/Ancho Ghosh)

 

SHFARAM, Israel, August 6, 2005 — Thousands joined funeral processions yesterday for four residents of this Arab-Israeli town killed by a Jewish soldier opposed to the Gaza Strip pullout, and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon sought to calm the nation's angry Arab minority. 8/15 notes

Israeli officials struggled to determine how they failed to prevent the attack by 19-year-old Eden Natan-Zada, who recently deserted the army with his weapon to protest the Gaza withdrawal and had been identified as a security threat.

Mr. Sharon condemned the attack as "a despicable act by a bloodthirsty terrorist," and Israeli newspapers referred to the shooting as an act of terrorism -- language usually reserved for Palestinian suicide bombers.

The prime minister spent the day with community leaders and Israeli Arab lawmakers "expressing his sheer outrage and shock and sending his condolences to the families of those killed and wounded," said David Baker, an official in Mr. Sharon's office.

Natan-Zada's body was held in a morgue as officials tried to determine where to bury him. Jewish law requires swift burial.

Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz refused to grant Natan-Zada a military funeral, and officials in his hometown of Rishon Lezion and the West Bank settlement where he recently lived refused to accept the body.

Yitzhak Natan-Zada, the young man's father, appeared on Israeli TV at the morgue demanding release of the body so that it could be buried according to Jewish law, but he was refused. 

For months, Israeli security has warned that extremists might try to sabotage the mid-August pullout from Gaza and four small northern West Bank settlements by attacking Arabs in a bid to raise tensions and divert forces carrying out the withdrawal.

Eden Natan-Zada, who had recently moved to a hard-line Jewish settlement in the West Bank, boarded a bus Thursday bound for Shfaram, a town of 35,000 Muslims, Christians and Druse Arabs.

The soldier, who was wearing the skullcap, beard and sidelocks of an ultra-Orthodox Jew, opened fire on the driver when the bus entered Shfaram, then proceeded to kill three other passengers before he was subdued and beaten to death by an angry crowd. More than a dozen people were wounded.

The shooting enraged Israel's Arab minority, which enjoys citizenship but has long suffered from poverty, unemployment and discrimination.

Thousands of police were deployed in northern Israel and in Jerusalem in anticipation of possible rioting. But prayers at the Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem and the funeral processions in Shfaram proceeded without incident, though Hamas militants in Gaza threatened retaliation. 

Many residents in Shfaram said they work closely with Jews and that it was not the local "mentality" to turn violent.

Authorities struggled to determine how Natan-Zada managed to carry out the attack, despite their knowledge that he had deserted the army with his weapon.

Natan-Zada's father said he had asked the army to find his son, saying he was concerned his son's weapons would fall into the hands of fanatics.

 

 

Israel opens high-tech checkpoints Australian TV7

By KRISTEN STEVENS, Associated Press

  Israeli soldiers prevent Palestinians from entering Nablus (AFP)

 

Efraim, Israel (AP) July 5, 2005 — Palestinians began using a new high-tech crossing into Israel from the northern West Bank, part of Israel's plan to incorporate the checkpoints into its contentious separation barrier.

Israel hopes the terminal, the first of 11 such points, will protect Israeli security while making the daily passage for tens of thousands of Palestinians more dignified, said Colonel Tamir Haiman, the area army commander.

The project is designed to eliminate most contact between Palestinians and Israelis at the crossings and shorten the checking process, which can take hours.

The Defence Ministry said the 11 checkpoints will cost about 200 million shekels ($A62.12 million).

But one of the first workers to cross complained the new checkpoint appears to make Israel's occupation of the West Bank permanent, because at least part of the new facility juts into the West Bank. The line itself is not marked.

Even though Israel says it plans to phase out Palestinian labour by 2008, the terminal's expense is a reasonable security cost, Haiman said.

"Three years is a long time," he said. "Any one of them could carry a bomb, which could ruin the whole process and take us back to war." More than 100 Palestinian suicide bombers have infiltrated from the West Bank and killed hundreds of Israelis during four years of violence.

Roadblocks, set up to stop the bombers, have created constant friction between soldiers and large crowds of frustrated and angry Palestinians, who are often held up for hours.

The checkpoints themselves have become targets, and some officers say they often create more problems than they solve. Captured bombers have cited the humiliation at roadblocks as a motive for launching attacks.

According to Israeli human rights group B'tselem, the number of checkpoints in the West Bank has dropped from 73 to 29 in the past year, while 24 checkpoints have cropped up along the line between Israel and the West Bank.

The barrier is supposed to stop bombers and could lead to removal of more roadblocks. But Palestinians complain that in some places, the route of the barrier dips into the West Bank to encircle some Israeli settlements.

 

 

What's all the racket? Arizona Daily Sun

By KRISTEN STEVENS, Associated Press


Israeli beachgoers play paddleball on the beach in Tel Aviv Tuesday July 5, 2005. Matkot, or beach paddleball, is played without shoes, a net or a score. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

TEL AVIV, Israel, August 5, 2005 — A nervous beachgoer scans the sand for a safe spot when — THWAAP! — sure enough, a stray rubber ball strikes her shoulder.

 

Sunbathers, surfers and sandcastle-builders beware: this is "matkot" country. Israelis know who has beachfront right-of-way.

 

Matkot, or beach paddleball, is unofficially the national sport of Israel

 

Israelis cannot remember a time on the beach before people were swatting squash balls between wooden rackets that are slightly larger than the ping pong paddle. The sport is played with no net, no shoes and no score. 

 

Matkot players commandeer the water's edge hitting balls as hard as they can, generating the incessant "phwap phwap" sound that characterizes Israel's populated 130 mile (273 km) coastline. 

 

Yone Haim, 53, said he used to watch his Kurdish father play on the same stretch of Tel Aviv beach where he now plays almost every evening. His friends tell similar stories. 
  

Exporting the game to the world as "kadima", Hebrew for "forward", Israelis began manufacturing the paddles for sale overseas some 20 years ago, said Morris Zedek. Zedek, a renown power-hitter, owns Olympic Sport, a brand of rackets sold in Israel

 

American kadima enthusiasts mostly make a leisurely go of the game to break up vacation beach bathing. The goal is to keep the ball "alive".

 

Israelis scoff at this idea of the game. 

 

Hundreds of the game's devotees play two or three hours a day, seven days a week. People discuss the game in terms of strategy, style, tempo, even chemistry. Players are skilled in the short game or the long game, offense or defense, and use different rackets accommodate their specialties. 

 

Matkot players claim their game improves with age. The game requires little footwork, a precise shot and sensitivity between partners that matures over time, said Haim. 

 

The accident insurance lawyer with Marlon Brando good looks stood 100 meters from his partner playing "rom" style, the high and long game, for several minutes without missing the ball. 

 

Players agree that Haim, 53, is one of the country's top three players and is known as a "complete player" who can play with any type of player.

 

"With each partner, it turns into a different game completely," Haim said.

Partner selection is akin to a ritual mating dance; players know their place, but some of the more adventurous like to experiment with players outside their level.

 

Haviazelet Reut said the game is like a tango as she watched her husband match up with a higher-level player. 

 

"There's a passion about it. These people, they're addicted." Reut said.

She explained how her husband has struggled to find the right level since returning to Israel after living abroad. 
   

A bit bewildered and panting after half an hour of play, Tuvia Reut said the man had never asked him to play before. 

 

"It's like love or intimacy, really," Reut said. "You need chemistry. With the wind factor it was hard to tell, but I think there was something there." 

 

Some partners act more like old married couples, critiquing one another's game. 

 

"Your hitting was a little strange today, like you were dropping the racket too low," Haim told his friend as they trudged through sand to their cars in the dark. 

 

These guys are among the matkot elite, considered by Israelis to be the "professionals" even though the sport offers no money or official rank. 

 

Haim joins two of the game's masters one evening at the group’s favorite hangout: the matkot museum. Matkot designer and retailer Zedak, 55, met Amnon Nissim two years ago, and the two men decided to create a museum with their combined boatload of matkot memorabilia.

 

Nissim's apartment in Tel Aviv is a wall-to-wall archive of the game, cataloguing important moments and odd mementos of the sport.  Nissim, 69, speaks in a high pitch, eats only olives and bread and simply sparkles when he talks matkot. They call him the "president".

 

Deferring recognition, Nissim said Zedak embodies the true spirit of the game.

"That guy's got saw dust in his veins,” Nissim cackled.

 

A kitchen and two twin beds are the only domestic indicators amid the trophies, racket-shaped tables and photographs of matkot players from the 1940's to the present. The museum serves as the headquarters for the game's faithful, a group of more than 150 players and their wives.

 

Hundreds of rackets in the museum are dated with colorful descriptions of a rally or tournament.

One broken racket recalls a rally kept alive despite the power hitting that had mangled the wood.

 

When the crowd did not have a Jewish religious holiday or birthday to celebrate recently at the museum, they found an anniversary of some racket to kick start the fun. Wives prepared food and men opened beers with racket-shaped bottle openers. At some point, an Israeli song praising matkot was playing for a seventh time.

 

While record of the game dates back 75 years to the shores of Palestine, today's Israel, the origin of the game remains a mystery.

 

"Libyans used this racket to play an underhanded style of paddleball around the turn of the century," Zedak said pointing to a round-handled racket in the museum.

 

Approximately 5,000 Israelis play each week along Israeli beaches, Zedak said.

 

Some say they take up precious real estate in a small country.

 

Sitting within earshot of a few matkot games one morning, Beni Goldner and his wife Amit said they came to the beach early to avoid the crowds of matkot players late in the afternoon.

 

"You hope you can come here to quiet your mind, but you can't even wander along the shore without being in heads-up mode," Beni Goldner said.

 

"But they are dedicated," Amit said. "It must relax their mind somehow. Whatever it takes."

 

 

 

Israel's latest soccer heroes... are Arab 

San Francisco Chronicle

By KRISTEN STEVENS, Associated Press, March 31, 2005

(Photograph)  Israel's Abbas Suan, left, celebrated with his teammates after scoring a critical goal against Ireland. ARIEL SCHALIT/AP


 

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel suddenly has two Arab heroes. In a country where Jewish-Arab alienation runs deep, a pair of critical goals in World Cup soccer has created an instant connection across the divide.

For years, Abas Suan and Walid Badir endured racist taunts from the bleachers. Now they're the toast of the predominantly Jewish state.

Badir scored Israel's only goal in a 1-1 tie with France on Wednesday in a World Cup qualifying match, repeating Suan's feat in a Saturday match against Ireland — and keeping Israel in contention for a tournament slot.

The two are among Israel's minority Arabs, who make up about 20 percent of Israel's 6.8 million people. Many Israeli Arabs complain they are second-class citizens and targets of discrimination in employment, education and living conditions.

Their rage has spilled over from time to time. Conversely, four years of Palestinian-Israeli violence has kindled Jewish anger against Israeli Arabs for identifying with their relatives in the West Bank and Gaza.

Most Israeli soccer teams have Arab players, and often they are greeted with racist chants. "No Arabs, no terrorism," goes one.

Now that the two Arab players have rescued Israel's World Cup hopes, though, there's a new slogan being carried in banner headlines in Israeli newspapers: "No Arabs, no goals."

Ahmed Tibi, an Israeli Arab lawmaker, said Arabs have mixed feelings about rooting for Israel in the fervor following the goals by Suan and Badir.

"As Arabs, we're normally pushed away from the Israeli political issues, and then suddenly we're pulled into this ultra-national patriotism," Tibi said.

The euphoria and goodwill of the moment may be transitory, said Zouheir Bahloul, an Israeli Arab sportscaster for Israel Radio and TV.

Part of the problem is how Israel's Arab citizens fit into the nation, dominated by its Jewish majority.

Bahloul said when Israeli Arabs see the athletic accomplishments of Suan and Badir, they feel more a part of Israel. But sports creates a virtual reality, he said, generating successful examples for Arabs while doors continue to close in other areas.

"If the state can create more opportunities in other fields, this type of inspiration gives Arabs the confidence to make things happen for themselves," Bahloul said.

Badir, a tall, rangy defender, burst into the penalty area Wednesday and headed a bullet shot past famed French goaltender Fabien Barthez, salvaging a tie score.

Badir's first comments were about his sport. "You have to give 200 percent in your job. I'm doing my best to fulfill my dream of reaching the World Cup," he said.

But his family's history in Israel is tainted by conflict and tragedy. His grandfather was one of about 50 Arabs killed by Israeli border police in 1956 at the Arab town of Kafr Kassem in an incident described by Jewish Israelis as a terrible mishap and by Arabs as a massacre.

Yet Badir stands at attention with the rest of the Israeli national soccer team as the Israeli anthem is sung before games, with its lyrics about Jews returning to their ancient land. It makes him uncomfortable, he says.

At a conference on racism in soccer last year, Badir said he hoped that one day the anthem would incorporate something that represents him as an Arab Israeli.

"Then I'll be able to sing it as well," he said.

As for Suan, he hopes the goodwill can endure.

After scoring his fateful goal, he told The Associated Press: "Now Jews and Arabs have something to agree on ... I only hope that Israelis will respect Arabs."

A native of Sakhnin, an Arab town in northern Israel, Suan said that through sports, athletes can set an example by relating to each other through friendship and dialogue.

"I think we get along better than politicians do," Suan said.

 

 

Israel praises defense ties with Turkey The New Anatolian

By KRISTEN STEVENS, Associated Press

Lod, Israel (AP) May 5, 2005 — Israeli and Turkish defense officials discussed plans on Thursday to upgrade Turkish fighter planes and supply Ankara with long-range Israeli drones, officials said, cementing the two countries' strong defense ties despite past political hiccups.
Speaking during the visit of Turkish Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul to Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) headquarters near Tel Aviv, Amos Yaron, the director of the Israeli Defense Ministry, said relations between the two countries defense establishments were "excellent" and set to get stronger still. 

"Israeli pilots are going to Turkey and training over there, and the Turkish sometimes come here," Yaron said. "We will do our best to enhance this cooperation."

IAI spokesman Doron Suslik said Turkey was interested in upgrading more of its F-4 aircraft. Israel has already refitted 54 of the aircraft, and Israeli officials say the emerging deal is for the work to be done on a further 44, at a price of around $400 million.

IAI chief Moshe Keret said the sale of long-range Heron unmanned aircraft to Turkey was also in the pipeline.

Israel and Turkey signed a cooperation agreement in 1996, and Israel has since renovated almost 200 of Turkey's M60 tanks and dozens of combat aircraft. Also, the two countries have co-produced air-to-ground missiles. Since the agreement was inked, Israeli weapons sales to Turkey have amounted to $3 billion.

Suslik said Turkey was Israel's second-largest defense customer after India, which last year alone signed a $1.1 billion deal for the supply of three advanced airborne early warning (AEW) systems.

Israel and Turkey, have long had strong military ties and important trade links, but relations grew strained last year when Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan strongly criticized Israel's treatment of the Palestinians.

In a move to clear the air and boost Turkey's international image, Erdogan visited Israel Sunday and Monday, meeting Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, President Moshe Katsav and other Israeli leaders.

 

 

 

 

Putin bar a tribute to Russian leader Boston Globe

By KRISTEN STEVENS, Associated Press, April 26, 2005

 Regular clients of the Putin nightclub, decorated with photos and caricatures of the Russian President Vladimir Putin, gather in this bar in downtown Jerusalem Tuesday April 26, 2005. Vladimir Putin arrived in Israel Wednesday for talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)


JERUSALEM (AP) — The walls of the smoky "Putin" bar in Jerusalem are a pictorial tribute to the Russian president.

One photo shows Vladimir Putin working a pottery wheel. Another has him clamping a judo hold on a helpless comrade. Other pictures, rattled by blaring Russian pop music, project Putin's likeness onto a portrait of a czar and a statue of a pagan idol.

But the bar is less a serious glorification of Putin than a campy send-up of the Russian president, who is currently visiting in the first-ever trip by a Kremlin leader to the country.

And the two dozen Russian immigrants inside swilling Russian and Ukrainian beer -- as well as some Israeli brands -- were far from unified in their opinions of the bar's namesake.

"Putin is a leader. A president must be a man of decisions. He's good enough," said Arkaili Kreichman, 23, who was nine years old when he moved to Israel from Kazan, a city 480 miles east of Moscow, immediately after the fall of the Soviet Union.

"Putin" is located in downtown Jerusalem just down the street from an imposing White Russian church next to a historical, if rundown, landmark known as the "Russian Compound." It is a place where immigrants speak their minds and their native language. Everyone has an opinion about Putin's visit, forcefully expressed.

"I fought against Arab Palestinians who used Russian weapons," said Kreichman. "I expect he'll talk about peace, but what Russia actually does is something else."

More than a million immigrants from the former Soviet Union have made Israel their home over the past 15 years. Along with bars, there are groceries, video libraries and newspapers that cater to Russian speakers, who make up about 20 percent of Israel's population.

Opened in 2000 by a Russian from the Ural Mountains town of Chelyabinsk, "Putin" is tough on outsiders. This is a Russian-speaking joint. Vasilly, a weather-beaten 63-year-old who refused to give his last name, punctuated this point by pounding the table with his fist, insisting that all conversation should be in Russian.

Nikolai Gurov, 28, a professional mover who immigrated from Russia five years ago, said, "Putin does a fine job. He's old guard, old Russia, a KGB man."

Roman Sukholutsky, 25, immigrated to Israel from Ukraine 10 years ago through a special program for children from former Soviet republics because "I saw people's parents dying of old age at 60."

He said he and his friends don't like Putin very much but added, "If he comes to this place, I'll drink with him."

The "Putin" was not on Putin's schedule. The Russian leader left Jerusalem Friday.

 

 

 

 

Ancient Venus statue surfaces in Israel museum Boston Globe

By KRISTEN STEVENS, Associated Press

 A headless Roman sculpture of Venus, the Goddess of Love is unveiled at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, Wednesday, March 30, 2005. Museum officials claim the rare second-century statue represents one of the most important discoveries of Roman sculpture ever found in Israel and possibly the world. (AP Photo/Kevin Frayer)

JERUSALEM (AP) Mar. 30, 2005 — A centuries-old statue of Venus, headless but vibrant with color and detail, went on display Wednesday at the Israel Museum, a decade after it was discovered in northern Israel.

The life-size marble work represents one of the most important discoveries of Roman sculpture in the world, said James Snyder, director of the museum.

The statue was discovered in 1993 in an ancient bathhouse during an archaeological dig in Beit Shean, a small city near the Jordan River and the Sea of Galilee. The Hebrew University archeologists who excavated the Venus sculpture uncovered several works also intended to decorate the lavish bathing area, including Dionysus, a goddess Athena, a headless emperor and a nymph.

The flesh-toned pink figure of the Venus strikes a sensuous pose against a back wall as the last exhibit in a long hall of archaeological treasures at the museum.

With locks of hair curling around the collarbone of the headless sculpture, the figure is modeled after a stance called the "timid Venus," particularly striking because the sculpture's missing hands reveal parts of her female body that the artist intended to partially hide. A winged Eros as a pudgy child riding a dolphin supports her left leg.

Archaeologist Gideon Foerster said the half-ton statue stood for 400 years. He and his colleagues believe the Venus was sculpted in the town of Aphrodisias in modern Turkey.

Dudi Mevorach, chief curator of the museum's Roman, Hellenistic and Byzantine exhibits, said the statue has the best-preserved color of any Roman-era sculptures discovered in the world.

"The Christian society in ancient Beit Shean must have had tolerant rulers and administrators who chose not to tear down the pagan statues while their contemporaries removed them in most other places," Mevorach said.

 

 

Engineers re-enact Red Sea Crossing - with wine CNN

By KRISTEN STEVENS, Associated Press

HAIFA, Israel -- Student engineers sent their gadgets whirring, spinning and buzzing across a pool of water in a competition to re-enact the biblical Jewish crossing of the Red Sea and pour a ceremonial glass of wine -- all without anyone touching anything.

The Technion, Israel's leading technical university, hosted the tongue-in-cheek competition with real prizes, a way of tickling the imaginations of budding engineers while providing a laugh or two along the way.

The school timed the contest to coincide with the run-up to the Jewish holiday of Passover, marking the exodus of the biblical Israelites from Egypt through the parted waters of the Red Sea.

The special contraptions had to cross a 10-foot distance with pool of water representing the Red Sea in the middle, pour wine into a glass and place it on the far side.

No one thought it looked easy, but some were confident of winning first prize -- a check for $4,400.

Sitting beside his little engine that couldn't, head in hands, Yuval Shelef had thought he had the winning combination. After his device succeeded a hundred times in practice, Shelef had already planned to spend the winnings on a trip to Central America with his girlfriend.

"No offense to the others, but I knew mine was better, a winner," Shelef said, dejected after his machine ground to a halt, just shy of the required distance.

"I forgot to check the simplest part. I even had a checklist," Shelef said, referring to a steel rod that caused additional friction and brought his crossing to a sorry end.

Women contestants were the exceptions. Standing on the wine-soaked area beside the stage, sisters Meytal and Batel Gabay were a crowd favorite with their failed but glittery contraption prominently featuring pumps and hoses.

Second place winner Aria Huminel said he and his partner found the materials for their wooden accordion-like device in the trash -- their philosophy was, "keep it simple."

"I wish I knew how to build these things other people have made here, but I don't," said Huminel, 27, a mechanical engineering student from Efrat, a West Bank settlement, adding, "and we're cheap." Their entry was powered by rubber bands.

With tension mounting toward the end of the final round, Peleg Harel sent off his gadget and won the prize.

"Robust" was the word several judges and onlookers used to describe Harel's entry. Timers, motors, pulleys and gears humming, Harel's miniature go-cart slapped two aluminum rails over the water and moved toward a smooth, swift victory.

As the strange machine walked across the pool, a wine bottle tipped slowly, slowly in the direction of the glass, filling it by the time it reached its destination and planting it on the ground.

Harel, 28, a mechanical engineering student from Kibbutz Gan Shmuel, a collective village in Israel's north, said he switched from psychology to engineering in graduate school. He said he looked forward to cashing the US$4,400 winner's check.

Since his kibbutz had already paid for him to earn an undergraduate degree in psychology and wouldn't pay for a second one, Harel said he would "spend the money right here on tuition."

"I like this stuff," said the winner. "I changed my career to do this kind of thing."

website stats

look it up

Online Reference
Dictionary, Encyclopedia & more
Word:
by: