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The Fence and the real Israel No-one sees
Last uploaded : Friday 20th Feb 2004 at 23:06
Contributed by : Sheila Raviv


Shalom Friends,

This week was an extremely interesting one, and a very positive one.

We are very lucky, once out of our street one gets on to the main road and drives down one street which changes name constantly to reach the centre of town!! Golomb, Herzog then Gaza Street which was named after the old caravan trade routes which led from the Old City to various places in the area, this one of course led to Gaza! Anyway, there I was stuck in a traffic jam on the Rehov Golomb section, looking around me to find some more almond blossom to talk about in my next letter?. when there they were!!!!! An entire herd of deer, or, to be more exact, gazelle, in a field next to the road. I was so excited! Everyone told me about the gazelle, and the area is a reserve for them, but this was my first siting. Those delicate, creatures, normally so fearful, knew they were safe and protected as they stood on their beautiful field between the main road to town and the highway, grazing peacefully.

Lots of friends are here just now and we try to see them all... The most positive part of the week has been the new people I have met. A fabulous group of people were here for a conference organised partly by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and aimed at European hasbara. My dear friend Joy Wolfe brought me, together with other Israelis, to an evening at the AACI.[English-speakers' group in Israel.]

What amazing people! Young men and women from Austria who are on the very far left of the political spectrum but understand the deep importance of Israel and her right to exist and defend her existence. From Latvia, Spain, Austria, Luxembourg and the UK they spoke openly of their amazement when they saw the fence. The media descriptions of the "Wall", including photos of tiny Palestinian children beside a huge and intimidating wall, had brought up horrific thoughts but when they saw the fence they were amazed!!! A fence. Not scary, not tall, not aggressive, not frightening, just a fence like in any other country. The walls are just 3.5% (even less than I thought) of the total length of the fence and only in areas where sniper fire became a serious danger. They all said that this was the primary message they wanted to take home because it epitomized the disinformation machines in the world's press. After the discussion the young people asked where they could go to find a good pub and some young people?and were amazed at the variety of responses! They thought that everything would be closed and we would all be cowering in our houses! They took my option of Rivlin Street and Yoel Solomon Street downtown where there are lots of pubs and restaurants filled to overflowing with young people, which are open until the small hours of the morning.

Next morning I set off for the Inbal Hotel in Jerusalem for the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organisations in America conference. The inimitable and unstoppable Malcolm Hoenlein had lined up a truly incredible group of speakers and panelists. Ehud Olmert spoke to us with his usual eloquence and openness of the meaning of the fence and the intended pull-out from Gaza and some areas of Judea and Samaria. The fence is taking a flexible route and any human rights issues are taken into account. Deputy Premier Olmert emphasised Israel's commitment to the Road Map. Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to us of the economic measures he has taken and their impact on society. He openly compared his decisions to those of Margaret Thatcher, decisions which took the UK out of the economic mire. Shimon Peres also spoke of the withdrawal from Gaza and Yehuda and Shomron, talking of the need to keep Israel as a Jewish nation.

Mr Peres said that in his opinion the coming months are the most crucial in Israel's history with many tough choices to be made. Mr Peres feels that the USA cannot leave Iraq now; they must stay to see it through. He made an interesting analogy to the Second World War and the need to drop the bomb on Hiroshima caused by the Kamikaze attack on Pearl Harbour and that the attacks of 9/11 were no less Kamikaze than Pearl Harbour.

In the introduction to a panel discussion on Defence and Intelligence with MKs Haim Ramon, Yuval Shteinitz and Etti Livni, the speaker spoke of the fact that Israel is the only country where the Defence and Intelligence committees of the Knesset are one and that they have a non-partisan make up. Members of that committee consist of all parties which ensures that decisions are not politically motivated. Later Prof. Gerald Steinberg, journalist Aluf Benn and Eli Levite of the Israeli Nuclear Energy Org. discussed world nuclear proliferation and Islamic nuclear proliferation in depth, but both discussions were off the record so I have no intention of telling you what was said! Another group of Israeli law specialists discussed the significance and legality of the Hague International Court of Justice hearing the case against "The Fence". It is common knowledge that the ICJ was formed to settle disputes between countries, and the PA is not a country yet. In addition the ICJ can only make recommendations, which are not legally binding.

A large group of people are going to the Hague to offer support for Israel (Israel is not going to the Hague to testify nor are most of the European countries, USA, Australia, New Zealand, Myanmar and many others); it is hoped that they will demonstrate quietly and with dignity, without name calling or hatred as our opponents surely will.

The final guest was Dr Fayad, the Finance Minister of the Palestinian Authority. Dr Fayad spoke with knowledgably and with great charm. He has wide experience in the IMF and other financial institutions and outlined his efforts to bring order and transparency to the accounting of the PA. We wish him all the best in his efforts may he succeed in bringing the PA to financial viability.

Kinneret [suicide bomb victim] is coming home this week! I will talk to her again today; she is already a star in Boston, she is amazing!!!! She is such a charismatic person and from what Yaffa tells me the entire clinic staff has fallen for her charms. The reconstructive surgery has been painful but she smiles throughout, except when alone with her Mummy. The story of her fight for survival is incredible in itself, and it is easy to suggest she is beautiful within and her outer appearance is irrelevant, but do not forget that she was a stunningly beautiful girl and she wants to return to liking what she sees in the mirror and RECOGNISING the person who looks back at her.

Now for the best news of all! The Dan David Prize is a highly prestigious prize given by Mr Dan David, a philanthropist who lives in Italy. The prize is administered by the Tel Aviv University. The 2004 prizes are presented for three dimensions past present and future. The past dimension this year is for transmitting historical heritage of cities from the past to the future; the present is for the person who wishes to improve our world and the future for brain research. In the past dimension there were many entries and my lovely husband Zvi and the New Jerusalem Foundation put forward four projects in the name of Jerusalem; outlining its past, its importance in the development of monotheism and as a city whose heritage is entwined in the three monotheistic faiths.

The final decision is made by an international board headed by Dr. Henry Kissinger, former US Sec. of State. Many cities around the world entered but the decision was made to share the prize equally between Rome, Istanbul and??JERUSALEM! The idea is wonderful: a Christian City, a Moslem City and a Jewish City, although arguably Jerusalem fits all three categories!!! While it is true that the shared financial prize will not allow all of the Jerusalem projects to come to fruition, the honour outweighs this by far.

The ceremony will take place at the Tel Aviv University on May 16th and the celebrations will continue in Jerusalem two days later for Jerusalem Day! The projects devised and introduced by Zvi and the New Jerusalem Foundation were exceptional and I am very proud of them winning this honour. On May 16th, when Mayor Uri Lupuliansky goes up onto the stage to receive the honour in the name of Jerusalem Zvi will be sitting in the stalls reaping "naches" (great pleasure in Yiddish).

With love from the prize-winning, glorious, happy and bustling city of Jerusalem, which is out of the snow and into spring!

Shabbat Shalom



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