The memory of Elie WieselBy: C4i

 
When confronted with horror beyond the scope of imagination, the natural response is the look away. To shield yourself from the terror and madness. For those who have experienced such things, those memories are as sharp as knives and must be kept safely locked away to avoid further harm. It’s a natural, human reaction, but one that can have tragic consequences. When we don’t learn to recognize evil, we are bound to be taken by it again.

Elie Wiesel stared directly into the greatest atrocity of human history. He experienced the full horror of the Nazi’s "final solution” to the Jewish people and somehow managed to survive. But, he did not look away, he did not bury his memories down where they couldn’t reach him anymore. No, Elie Wiesel brought his harrowing account of the holocaust to the world, so nobody could ever forget the mistakes and sins of the past.

Wiesel’s early life was like many other children. He was born in 1928 in Sighet, a town in Romania. He lived there with his family in a small Hasidic community. It was a quiet life.  Both of Elie’s parents were community figures in their own way, devout and introspective. They encouraged Elie to pursue literature and study the Torah along with his three siblings. 

These days would soon turn dark. WWII was brewing and in Sighet, like so many places in Europe, it was becoming increasingly dangerous to be a Jew. In 1940, Sighet was annexed by Hungary, who’s government was allied with Nazi Germany, creating an uneasy situation. 

Tensions would boil over into terror though in 1944 when Germany officially occupied Hungary and removed all pre-tense of allowing the state autonomy or control. Immediately, every Jew in the nation became a target of Hitler’s mad regime and it wasn’t long before Wisel’s entire family were arrested, corralled into a cattle car, and sent to Auschwitz. 

Elie’s mother and youngest sister, Tzipora were executed on arrival. Brutally murdered after a casual inspection could prove "no useful utility” for an ailing mother and young child. The rest of the family were separated, with Elie’s surviving two sisters taken to the women’s camp while he and his father were sent to be used for hard labour until they were no longer of use.
And work they did. Elie and his father Shlomo were pressed into slave labour under the most brutal conditions imaginable. A number was burned into Elie’s arm that he would carry with him the rest of his life. They worked through starvation, beatings, torture, and an inescapable miasma of constant death and dehumanizing savagery. They kept each other alive. What gave Elie the strength to survive another day was the knowledge that his father would die without him, that he couldn’t take the heartache. 
It was this connection that kept them alive in the camp, but nothing could have prepared them for the death march to Buchenwald. With the allies moving in, the Nazis enacted a strategy of hiding of their war crimes and ensuring that camps would not be liberated by moving large masses of prisoners to other camps by foot. Soldiers would first cull the number of prisoners with summary executions and then march the remainder through freezing conditions to a new camp, anyone who could not keep pace would be killed and left on the road. The Wiesel men made the march, but the toll was too much for Shlomo and he died at the end of January 1945. In April, the camp would be liberated.

Freed from the camp and reunited with his two surviving sisters, Wiesel relocated to France to pick up the pieces of his life. He returned to school after having his teenage years so cruelly interrupted to study journalism and soon worked with several French and Israeli papers. With his lifelong love of literature and nascent career as a journalist, it would seem natural that he would write about his experiences, but he couldn’t do it. The pain was still too searing, the wounds too fresh to examine.
It would be years before Elie could confront what was done to him and his family. For a decade Wiesel wrote nothing about the holocaust. It was only after years of healing and the urging of some of his closest friends, including novelist Fancois Mauriac, before he would address the topic.

The result was Wiesel’s first book, Un di Velt Hot Geshvign, or, And the World Remained Silent. Better known by it’s shortened name – Night.

Night was Wiesel’s first-hand account of his experience of the holocaust, a harrowing tome that brought the true, raw, horror of the holocaust into the laps of readers across the world. An account stripped of clinical language or euphemisms of casualty rates or procedures, one that spoke plainly to the true brutality of hatred. Of what happened in the darkest corners of the darkest period of human history. Words that spoke to the deep pain of betrayal and disbelief among the inmates that the world could allow this to happen to them.

Over 10 million copies of Night have been sold. It is considered a monumental text and historical document. 
From that time onward, all of Wiesel’s work would spring from his experiences in the Holocaust. It was like a dam had broken and he needed to let the tears flow free. He was determined to make sure that everybody understood what had happened and how it had been allowed to happen. As he said himself:

"Because I remember, I despair. Because I remember, I have the duty to reject despair.”
We must remember 

Elie Wiesel died in 2016 at the age of 87, but his words still live on. We must never allow ourselves to forget what happened in the Holocaust. We must never avert our eyes again.
[Comment]

When textbooks teach hate: Indoctrination in Palestine By: C4i

 
I remember my grade school text books, not always fondly, but I do remember them. I remember the frustration of math homework, the wonders of history, and learning about the scope of the world through geography. I remember how they introduced topics through the years, growing and changing with the students. The simple allegory of 3 baskets of 10 apples to teach early multiplication. The bizarre cartoons in the French textbooks where the punchline always got lost in translation. The puns and witticisms making Shakespeare and Bronte more approachable for modern teenagers. 

These simple, healthy images may be familiar to us, but they aren’t to other children. Under the Palestinian Authority’s watch, children in Palestine are learning very different lessons from their texts. Lessons in hate and fear designed to further racial and ideological divides in the troubled nation.

A report by the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education examined the k-12 textbooks published for the Palestinian Authority’s curriculum since a major revamp in the year 2000. The results were disturbing. Basic educational texts for foundational studies such as math and grammar have been heavily politicized, often incorporating violent themes. They found that across all grades and subjects, these texts are "teaching Palestinian children that there can be no compromise”.
The report details many examples that cut across all grades and topics; subjects needlessly laced with poisonous commentary designed to indoctrinate young minds while they are trying to learn. For example, fourth graders learning their multiplication tables are walked through an example counting the number of martyrs killed by Israel; a blood-soaked example designed to inspire fear and distrust.

Another example the report details takes place in a high school physics text. In what might be considered grim humor if it wasn’t so tasteless, Newton’s Second Law of Motion, that the acceleration of an object as produced by a net force is directly proportional to the magnitude of the net force, is illustrated by way of a Palestinian firing a slingshot against IDF troops. This is a particularly irresponsible piece of flare for such a simple topic. Inspiring teens to confront armed soldiers with slingshots puts their own lives in danger, which will only feed the cycle of violence.

Most distressingly, according to the report, the texts frequently conflated "Jews” and "Zionists,” essentially using the terms interchangeably. This is notable since most racial bias against the Jewish people is cloaked under the cover of "Zionist” opposition. Conflating the two terms reveals the real target of the Palestinian Authority’s ire, the Jewish people.
While the report elaborates on a few bright spots such as the acknowledgement of Palestinian terror attacks against Israel, the overall summation is still distressing. A generation of children are growing up with a warped perspective of the world, and a specifically cultivated prejudice against the Jewish people.

This kind of hatred needs to be confronted and countered. Palestinian children deserve educational texts that do not predispose them towards the cycle of violence and aggression that has plagued the area for decades. And the Jewish people do not deserve to be slandered and scapegoated to an entire generation. 

Reconciliation can only happen when both sides decide to move forward. The Palestinian Authority can not hope to see peace while it uses its own children’s minds as a battleground.  
[Comment]

How safe is it to visit Israel?By: C4i

 
The Holy Land is a place every Christian should try to visit at least once in their lives. It’s a land steeped in history, culture, and biblical importance that simply must be experienced first hand. Unfortunately, it is also a land steeped in conflict. 

When you watch the news and see reports of Hezbollah rocket attacks, indiscriminate kite bombings, and continued skirmishes along border fences, it’s can seem like Israel is a land under siege. For as valuable as a trip to the Holy Land may be, it begs the question – is it safe to visit Israel?

The answer, despite what you may think, is yes.

Nobody is going to say that Israel is a nation without issues. Yes, there are numerous groups and neighbouring states that have sought to destabilize and intimidate the Israeli people for decades, and yes, this often takes the form of violence. But that is only a small part of Israel’s story, and one that should not prevent you from exploring and experiencing its many wonders.

It’s not preventing other people! 2017 was a record-breaking year for Israeli tourism, with more people coming from more quarters of the world than ever before. 3.6 million people safely enjoyed their time visiting the Holy Land last year with no notable incidents of violence or terrorism harming any of them. With 2018 shaping up to exceed 2017’s record numbers, you should be more worried about long lines to some of the most popular sites than anything Hamas is getting up to.

One thing you need to keep in mind is that while Israel has problems, those issues are concentrated in a few key areas. If you go to the Gaza strip for example, you run a higher risk of being involved in an attack because that is an active conflict zone (and has been for years). If you go to the Syrian border, you may be at a higher risk. But these are comparatively small portions of the country. In the vast majority of the country, things work like anywhere else. People go about their business, they travel, gather, go to night clubs, eat at restaurants, and live their lives.
Israel is a very security conscious state, it has to be considering what they’ve been up against historically. As a visitor from a comparatively more peaceful country such as Canada or the US, it may be jarring to see soldiers with rifles at the airport or heavily armed police in some of the larger metropolitans. But those soldiers and police are there not because they are responding to an immediate threat, but to establish a presence and deterrence in those areas -- and it’s been working. The security measures Israel has adopted have been widely successful at deterring large scale attacks, which is why the attacks you do see along the Gaza border, like those balloon bombs for example, are so random and hands-off. Malicious actors know they can’t operate anywhere else with impunity.

Israel is as safe to visit as any other modern, high-population state. There is no reason to deny yourself an incredible experience. Use common sense, check for any travel advisories before leaving for your trip, avoid the most conflict prone areas, and you can be 99.9% sure to enjoy Israel with no problems!
[Comment]

What is Yom HaAliyah?By: LifeWEB Admin-NR

 
We’re all familiar with major Israeli holidays like Yom Kippur and Hanukkah, but when it comes to Yom HaAliyah, it’s entirely possible you’ve never even heard of it! That’s not surprising, Yom HaAliyah is a new addition to the Israeli calendar. However, despite being only a few years old, it is still a significant holiday and worth knowing about to have a deeper understanding of Israeli culture.

Yom HaAliyah, or Aliyah Day, is celebrated annually on the tenth of the Hebrew month of Nisan and observed in schools on the seventh of the Hebrew month of Cheshvan. This year, it was celebrated on April 5th and is being observed on Oct 15th. The days are set aside as a recognition and celebration of Aliyah (those of Jewish descent immigrating to Israel), recognizing immigration as a core value of Israel, and acknowledging the many contributions immigrants have made to the nation. 

The push to have a national day of recognition for Aliyah began in 2012. A grassroots campaign of regular citizens and non-profit groups began to push for a special day to celebrate a key aspect of Israeli life and culture. The message proved popular and gained support from other organizations and enjoyed bi-partisan support across party lines in the Knesset. In 2016, the holiday was officially formed.

The date for the holiday was specifically chosen due to its biblical significance. According to the Book of Joshua, the Israelites crossed the Jordan River at Gilgal into the Promised Land on that day. This would have been the first Aliyah by a large group of people.
The day of observation was also chosen due to biblical significance. The seventh of Cheshvan coincides with the date in which Abraham is told to leave his home to go to what is now Israel. The idea is to make a direct modern connection to the historical roots of the state of Israel.

On Aliya Day, schools set aside their regular lesson plans for special classes and presentations. They learn about the history of the nation, the cultural significance of Aliyah, and the contributions immigrants have made and continue to make to Israel. A ceremony is also preformed at the President’s Residence that is broadcast and shared throughout the nation.

It is a powerful message. Aliyah has always been a fundamental building block of the nation, there is no other country in the world where former residents and the descendants of former residents have returned to their land en masse and reclaimed it as their own. Almost half of all Israeli residents are immigrants, and that is significant. This is not a population that exists as an accident of birth and circumstance, but a population of conscious choice. Of men and women from across the world seeing something worth believing in and taking the chance to relocate to a new place and start a new life in their ancestral home. 

That is a truly daring action, one worth celebrating! When you consider the sheer magnitude of what immigration means to the individual and then think of an entire nation built on that impulse, the only mystery is why Israel didn’t have a holiday to celebrate it sooner!
[Comment]

The Ramon Crater, a natural wonder that needs to be seen to be believed By: C4i

 
Makhtesh Ramon (commonly known as the Ramon Crater) is one of Israel’s greatest hidden treasures. You might wonder how an 839-meter-tall massive cliff face can be considered a "hidden” treasure, but you have to remember that this is Israel, a nation abundant in both historical and natural splendor. The Ramon Crater has stayed off the popular tourist radar only because of a sheer glut of other famous historic and natural locations.

But it won’t stay a secret for long. The town of Mitzpe Ramon is quickly becoming a popular tourist spot for those eager to see another side of Israel. From the majesty of the Makhtesh Ramon cliffside, to the many other natural attractions in the area, and the development of several intriguing dining options and comfortable lodgings, Mitzpe Ramon has a lot to offer anyone who is willing to step off the beaten path of the typical tourist spots.

Established in 1951, Mitzpe Ramon has humble origins. Originally designed as little more than a camp for workers laying down the road to Eilat, the small town became something of a pitstop as people made their way to the Southern point of Israel. Never a booming area by any stretch, but with just enough traffic and interest to support a small community. 

But that’s changed in recent years thanks to both positive developments inside the small town, and the changing demographics of Israel. Route 40, the road that winds through Mitzpe Ramon, has become a popular alternative to the busy and chaotic Road 90. This route has not only increased the number of people passing through and supporting local businesses, but also the number of eyes on the Ramon Crater, highlighting what a natural beauty it really is. Combine this with the election of a new mayor intent on expanding the town and establishing the Ramon Crater as one of Israel’s top tourist spots, and things have slowly turned around for the town.
Today, Mitzpe Ramon is home to a thriving community of artists, restaurateurs, and thrill seekers, eager to explore everything the area has to offer. If you’re visiting, the question isn’t "what can we do here?” but "what should we do first!?”

The easy answer to that is of course, "go see the crater!” The Visitor’s Center at the top of the Crater provides an absolutely perfect vantage point to witness the sheer scope and size of the crater. You can grab a few pictures and have a splendid time just touring the various perches and perspectives available here. If you want the full experience though, you’ll want to take a tour of the crater itself.

Multiple companies are currently running jeep and walking tours through the crater. Jeep is definitely the way to go here, allowing you to see more of the area (not to mention being a lot easier on the knees).  A tour won’t just show you the crater in detail, but also nearby locations like Zin Valley, an actual oasis featuring natural springs and vegetation concealed by walls of rock and desert sand! 

If you are feeling particularly daring, you might be interested in rappelling down the side of the crater. Definitely not for the faint of heart! Experienced guides can help outfit you with the gear and skills you need to safely step over the ledge and get a real sense for just how tall the crater truly is.

After a day of risking life and limb (or maybe, wisely, just watching experienced hands do it), come back into town and relax and unwind. Hit up the Spice Route Quarter for a variety of lovely restaurants and cafes featuring the local cuisine. There are some real gems here with menus you won’t find anywhere else in the country, so be sure to sample a few!

Rather than make the drive back to one of the big cities, stay the night. The luxury Beresheet Hotel in town offers an upscale relaxation option if you feel like cooling off in a pool or (if you maybe overdid it rappelling the crater earlier) ordering some room service. But of course, that’s just one option. Mitzpe Ramon also offers a number of smaller, more intimate hotels and B&Bs that will give you a taste of life in the area. There are options for all kinds of budgets and experiences, so be sure to ask around and find a place that suits your tastes!

Mitzpe Ramon is a bit out of the way, but if you’re looking for something unique and special to mark your trip to Israel, you won’t find a better spot. 

Join Rev. Dr. John Tweedie on the Encounter Israel tour, April 4-14, 2019 and see the Ramon Crater for yourself!
[Comment]

How Mossad used a fake resort to safely rescue Ethiopian JewsBy: C4i

Arous was a rare treat in the Sudanese desert. A top-quality resort with the finest of amenities. Fresh food and wine? Check. A beautiful sun-dappled beach? Check. SCUBA diving and sea wreck exploration and adventure? Check. A hidden Mossad intelligence agency working in their midst?

Check.
- Gad Shimron

Arous wasn’t just a unique resort due to its location and the clientele it served. The trapping of the luxury resort concealed a hidden secret. Arous was the base of operations for Israeli intelligence agents conducting a massive humanitarian mission. From the ground up, they planned, bank rolled, and re-opened the resort to support their mission. And for more than four years, they carried out a highly successful operation right under the noses of staff, tourists, and Sudanese forces. 

Between 1983 and 1985 Ethiopia was hit by the worst famine to ever ravage the desperate nation. Drought exacerbated by the totalitarian actions of Ethiopia’s government (done under the veil of crushing a nascent insurgent movement) led to the deaths of more than 400,000 individuals. The crisis kicked off an Ethiopian civil war that would last for a decade, throwing millions into chaos, homelessness, and desperation.

Both the international community and the public responded. The mega-concert Live Aid was created to both raise awareness of the plight of the Ethiopians and fundraise for relief. However, the international response was stilted. Despite numerous countries providing aid, little was done to address the structural causes and conflict that accelerated the famine, leaving millions in a precarious situation. 
Among them, thousands of Ethiopian Jews, who not only suffered from the famine like everyone else, but also became a specific target for their government, were prohibited from practicing their religion and barred from traveling. Seeing the writing on the wall, and knowing all too well what happens when a government starts singling out Jews as a specific threat, Ethiopian Jews started fleeing the area en masse. Many ended up traveling to neighbouring Sudan by foot, enduring some of the most miserable conditions on the planet just for a chance at freedom.

The Israeli government was determined to deliver them this freedom, and so "Operation Brothers” was conceived. A massive effort to locate, safeguard, and smuggle Ethiopian Jewish refugees to safety.  But Sudan was an avowed enemy of the state of Israel, a nation with its own prejudices against the Jewish people. Discretion was necessary, and the Mossad hatched a plan to hide its refugee operation in plain sight.
The Arous resort was originally the brain child of Italian developers in the 1970s. They had big ambitions for a tiny beach resort in an area of the world they saw as underserved and ripe for tourist opportunities. Unfortunately, the project was a boondoggle from day one. With no electricity or running water, and difficulties in attaining these basic utilities, the project never got off the ground. The Italian investors built a dozen bungalows and a kitchen out in the desert and abandoned them. Rough break for those businessmen, but just what the Mossad needed.

Engineering false passports and a series of phony shell companies that would allow them to pose as a Swiss investment group, Mossad agents rented the property for a paltry sum and began renovations.

The plan would have been too obvious if some weird "Swiss” guys simply rented out an abandoned resort and drove truckloads of unaccounted for materials out of it for years. No, if this was going to work, the resort had to be functional, it had to genuinely support tourism. The resort was renovated, utilities were brought online, and staff were poached from local restaurants and hotels by means of Mossad’s deep pockets (after scouting out professional and discreet staff members at local establishments, staff members were recruited by being offered double or even triple their normal pay). 

This is how windsurfing was introduced to Sudan, as one of the many new exotic European recreation options for the resort. Including diving, where bright faced "Swiss” instructors demonstrated how to safely dive and swim with SCUBA gear. 

In fact, this was the cover most of the Mossad agents in the resort used. Smoothing over any suspicions by playing up the role of young, eager European instructors, brought on to manage the more unique aspects of the resort. The diving supply room was kept "out of bounds” for guests and other staff, presumably because it housed expensive equipment. And it did. Expensive radio and communications equipment for organizing their real mission.
Refugees were never housed at the hotel, that would have been too risky. Instead, working in collaboration with local Israeli sympathisers, the group would organize daring rescues that would see trucks from the resort "touring” the area and discreetly picking up groups and depositing them into the waiting hands of Israeli military transport. First by boats, and later as that became too risky after a few close calls, Hercules cargo planes landed in the dead of night deep in the desert. 

The sheer scope and danger of this operation boggles the mind. The Sudanese government was a declared enemy of Israel. If any of the Mossad agents had been discovered, they wouldn’t have even received a trial, they would have been hung in a public execution. Any boats or planes caught operating in the area would have brought down the full force of the Sudanese military. Wars have been started over much smaller intelligence operations.

But the agents stayed committed. To operate in one location for years at a time while knowing that a single slip – a staff member who sticks his head where it didn’t belong, an overheard conversation, a too curious tourist asking the wrong questions – could bring the entire thing down on their heads doesn’t take just courage, it takes a true belief in the value of that mission.

The Mossad agents involved knew exactly how bad things in Ethiopia were, how desperate the plight of Ethiopian Jews must have been to compel them to flee to Sudan, a state hostile to their very existence. They knew that those people deserved to live real lives, lives free to practice their beliefs, free from hunger, and war, and persecution. And they risked everything to make it happen for them.

Operation Brothers rescued more than 6000 Ethiopian Jews from starvation and death. It’s an accomplishment that should be remembered and admired by anyone who believes in the triumph of mercy and kindness over brutality and conflict. 
[Comment]

Are these sci-fi pods the future of transportation in Israeli cities? By: C4i

Netanya, 2020: It’s the morning rush hour and the city teems with life and motion. All around the city, children make their way to school, young professionals fight through café lines for their morning jolt of caffeine, and workers start their day. Above all the chaos, a series of sleek silver pods blow past the street vendors and cars below. Suspended on an intricate network of rails, the pods reach dizzying speeds, in excess of 300 km/h, shuttling people across the entire downtown core in mere seconds.

Sounds like some sci-fi mumbo jumbo doesn’t it? The kind of image you’d see depicted in water colours on the cover of some prog-rock album or in the pages of some retro-future comic. But it’s not. This is the future Netanya’s Local Planning and Building committee and their partners at SkyTran are working to make a reality.

skyTran Overview from skyTran on Vimeo.

 
SkyTran, a US based company from California, is no stranger to comparisons to sci-fi fantasy. Their ambitious vision for revolutionizing public transport has been dismissed before as wild-eyed dreaming, but they insist the tech behind their pods is solid. Building on research conducted by NASA, SkyTran marries proven mag-lev technology (the kind that powers Japan’s famous bullet trains) to a condensed form factor that can work inside a city. The idea is to solve a common public transportation problem – where do you put it?
 
Subways are massive, horrendously disruptive projects that are notoriously prone to setbacks and delays. Elevated trains are much the same, but with the added flaws of being noisy and rattling nearby windows all day. Busses can only carry so many and introduce yet more traffic to the roads.

SkyTran uses the one piece of unoccupied real estate in the modern city – the sky. By building rails overhead and using smooth, quiet, non-disruptive mag-lev vehicles, the goal is to introduce a public transportation system that is fast, safe, and non-disruptive to the community. 

Where SkyTran differs from other forms of public transit is that it favors speed over capacity. Most public conveyances are based on maximizing seats and the total carrying capacity per unit on a route. SkyTran instead only offers two people a ride at a time in a single pod. However, the pods are continuously arriving and departing, ensuring no long lines for a ride.

It’s an ambitious plan, and one that has its fair share of detractors, but the city council of Netanya believes in it. They are planning for a network of these pod rails that will operate between the Sapir railway station to the coastal highway Route 2, covering more than 600 meters of the most densely populated and trafficked area of the city.

The goal is to relieve traffic congestion that has plagued the city for years and cut down on emissions. This is something of a test bed for the SkyTran model. If it works and the pod based network relieves pressure on the roads and helps to combat the rising levels of pollution in the city, it can be expected that other cities in the area will also adopt the program. Tel Aviv and Herzliya have already been in talks with SkyTran. While all of this may seem a little far-fetched today, it may be totally normal in just a few years. 

This is a trend with Israeli cities. Combine this ambitious approach to public transport to other modern initiatives such as the nation’s massive investments in solar energy, cyber infrastructure, and world leading water desalination technology, and it becomes clear that the cities of Israel are not content to merely house treasures of the past, they also want to define the future.  
[Comment]

Celebrating Israeli Icons: Joseph TrumpeldorBy: C4i

 
Russia in the late 1800s was not a place where the Jewish identity was permitted to thrive. The Czarist culture routinely discouraged Jewish practices and norms, and the nation’s press was rife with propaganda of Jewish "cowardice” and "weakness.” It was not exactly where one would expect to be the birthplace of a Zionist hero, but for Joseph Trumpeldor, it was home.

Born in Piatygorsk, Russia in 1880, Joseph’s early life was not an easy one. While a gifted student who won a scholarship into a private school, his family was not particularly wealthy or well off. His father, a lifelong conscript in the Czar’s army, tried to provide him with what he could though. The greatest gift he could give his son was a sense of pride in his Jewish heritage. In a culture that seemed to oppose Jews at every step, Joseph learned to hold his head up high from an early age and kick back against the insults and slander that met him in his day to day life. 

This sense of pride guided him through his life. In 1902, when drafted into the Russian army hostilities escalated in the Russo-Japanese War, Joseph wanted to show exactly what Jewish men were made of and volunteered for a station defending Port Arthur from Japanese attack. The fighting was fierce, and Joseph served with distinction.  
It was during this battle where Joseph would sustain a critical injury to his left arm, necessitating full amputation. For most, that would have been enough -- duty done. But Joseph, after receiving medical care and a 100 day leave, elected to return to his post. His doctors and superior officers couldn’t believe him, but when pressed, Joseph said "I still have another arm to give to the motherland.” 

Fighting again in the protracted battle, the Port was lost and Joseph, along with many other soldiers, was taken prisoner by the Japanese. He put his time in captivity to good use printing a newspaper on Jewish affairs and organized history, geography, and literature classes for other prisoners. It was during this time that he met fellow Jewish enlisted men who shared his dream of Aliyah and founding a communal farm in the Holy Land.

When eventually released as part of a peace agreement between the two nations, Joseph’s efforts were recognized and he was awarded with a promotion to non-commissioned officer status along with several commendations for bravery. This made him the most highly decorated Jewish soldier in the Russian army and the first to receive an officer's commission.

Having seen the worst of Europe and surviving, Joseph spent a few years studying law in St. Petersburg before deciding to make good on his dream and travel to the Holy Land. He gathered a small group of fellow Zionists he met in his academic pursuits and emigrated to Palestine to join an early Kibbutz known as Degania.
This was a prosperous time. The work was hard and the conditions at the Kibbutz were often precarious, but it was good work building the kind of Jewish community Joseph had always dreamed of when listening to his father. Good days, but not to last. This was 1914, and the world teetered on the brink of the first great tragedy of the century.

When World War I broke out the Ottoman authorities who were in control of the area at the time began rounding up and ejecting Jews. They were seen as a disruptive presence, one that couldn’t be trusted. It seemed like the dream was over. But, while in Egypt, Joseph met Ze’ev Jabotinsky, a fellow Russian Jew and Zionist activist. Together, they came up with the idea of a Jewish fighting force, a unit inside the British army that would help liberate their home, Israel, from Turkish control.

This was a radical idea. The war was more brutal than anyone had ever anticipated, and paranoia hung heavy in the air. The British were initially resistant to the idea of giving arms and support to some Jewish group they knew little about. But Joseph and Ze’ev were persistent, and a compromise was struck. The Jews could assist the war effort as their own unit, but not in a combat capacity. And so, the Zion Mule Corps was founded, a "transportation” unit designed to ferry supplies to needed destinations.
Don’t let the name or stated mission fool you, this was not some warehouse job where the men moved crates around. The very first deployment the Mule Corps was assigned to was the bloody killing fields of Gallipoli, a military disaster where allied forces met overwhelming opposition at every turn. The Zion Mule Corps were ordered to deliver ammunition and supplies to areas that were already pinned down by artillery and machine gun fire. They were being asked to march into a meat grinder with no weapons of their own, weighed down by hundreds of pounds of supplies, while managing live, terrified animals across uneven terrain.

And they did.

While Gallopoli was ultimately lost, the Mule Corps won praise and distinction from allied forces. Lieutenant-Colonel John Henry Patterson, commander of the attack, said of the unit "Many of the Zionists whom I thought somewhat lacking in courage showed themselves fearless to a degree when under heavy fire, while Captain Trumpeldor actually revelled in it, and the hotter it became the more he liked it ..." For his part, Joseph was wounded again in the battle, this time taking a bullet to the shoulder. Like before, he would not leave his duties and carried on despite the wound.

While the group was discharged after the end of the war, the legacy of the Zionist Mule Corps would reverberate throughout Israeli history. With the Mule Corps disbanded, Joseph and Ze’ev petitioned the British government to create the Jewish Legion and were successful doing so. Future first Prime Minister of Israel, David Ben-Gurion was a member, and the organization and fighting spirit of the Mule Corps/Jewish Legion would later be a direct inspiration for the formation of the IDF.  Without Joseph’s efforts, this key piece of Israeli identity might never have existed.
With the war over, Joseph returned to the British-ruled Mandatory Palestine. Rather than return to Degania, he stayed serving in a military capacity, working to defend Jewish settlements in the area. It was in this capacity that he would meet his fate.

On March 1, 1920, Joseph was dispatched to Tel Hai to respond to worries of an imminent Arab raid. These fears were validated. Joseph and a dozen fighting men soon found themselves surrounded by hundreds of Arabs. It was a tense situation, with the Arab forces operating under the mistaken idea that the fort was harbouring fleeing French officers. 

Words escalated to violence and a small handful of Jewish defenders were pitted against a far larger aggressive force. Joseph was grievously wounded in the assault. 

Those are the facts we know. This last part is somewhat more disputed, but accounts from the battle claim it to be true. When a doctor examined the horrifically wounded Trumpeldor, mere moments away from death, he asked how he was feeling. Joseph replied, "It does not matter, it is good to die for our country.”
Some say Joseph’s Hebrew was too stilted for him to make such a poetic final statement. Other argue that a man who received the kinds of wounds he did would be incapable of speech. It doesn’t matter. Actions speak louder than words, and Joseph Trumpeldor’s entire life was a series of actions that demonstrated duty, honour, and a commitment to his people. For that, he deserves to be remembered and celebrated as a true Israeli icon. 
[Comment]

Understanding Israel’s KibbutzBy: C4i

 
The Kibbutz is a uniquely Israeli type of community and a foundational piece of the nation’s culture. With the roots of the Kibbutz system stretching back to 1910, and more than 120,000 Israeli’s still living in modern Kibbutz’s today, it’s important to understand how these small communities have helped shape the nation of Israel.
So, what exactly is a Kibbutz and how does it differ from a normal neighbourhood? To answer that, we have to look back at the history of the Kibbutz, starting with the first one, Kibbutz Degania. 

If you were to go to Degania today, you’d never guess that it was originally built on swamp land. Settled by early Zionist pioneers at the Southern end of the Sea of Galilee, the land was a true labour of love. Building the community wasn’t a matter of staking together a few cabins, it required years of backbreaking work and toil to transform it into the habitable, fertile fields it is today. When the settlers arrived, the land was rocky, covered in marsh, and unsuitable for almost any kind of farming. To make matters worse, those early settlers had limited farming experience and were decidedly unwelcomed in the area. Early irrigation efforts were met with sabotage, and they were targeted for harassment.

Yet, they persevered. They survived by banding together and relying on each other. They founded their community on egalitarian principles forged out of this shared struggle. When translated, "Kibbutz” means "gathering” and that’s exactly what Degania was, a gathering of like-minded people. They organized the farm around the creed "give as much as you can and get as much as you need” a proclamation that they would stand together to face whatever might come. They would not allow the elements, the conditions, or any kind of outside hatred stop them from living their lives. Dagania became a role model for other communities facing similar challenges who quickly adopted the Kibbutz system.
There was something special about Dagania. Not only was it one of the earliest of the Zionist settlements in the area, and not only did it become a model for other communities to follow, but it was also the place that gave us some of Israel’s greatest minds and most striking figures. Some of the community’s members included David Ben Gurion, the man who would become the first Prime Minister of Israel, Moshe Dayan, a legendary military commander, and Joseph Trumpeldor, war hero and founder of the Zion Mule Corps, an organization some credit as the ideological starting point for the IDF.

Hundreds of Kibbutz sprung up across Israel in the following decades. Most of these were agricultural communities, focused on farming. These were essentially self-sustaining communities that operated under a flat structure where each member was accorded equal respect and share in the bounty of the community. But as time has passed and the economy of Israel matured, many have moved to other pursuits such as industry, commercial trade, and increasingly, tourism. 
While only about 4% of Israeli’s live on Kibbutzim today, the impact they have had on Israeli culture and the mindset of its people cannot be underestimated. That same spirit of civic duty lives on in modern Israel. From compulsorily duty in the IDF which is taken as a rite of passage for youths entering adulthood, to the way the nation responds to crisis. Take the 2016 wildfires, a series of blazes that pushed thousands out of their homes and into the streets. Israelis throughout the country opened their doors to those left homeless from the fires, relying on that same Kibbutz spirit of sharing what you have with those in need and supporting your neighbour through adversity.

While the modern Kibbutz might not function exactly the same as Degania and its immediate successors, the most important element of the Kibbutz spirit is alive and well throughout Israel. A devotion to one’s community and empathy for one’s neighbours. 
[Comment]

The Jerusalem Biblical ZooBy: C4i

 
Jerusalem has no shortage of famous historical attractions to visit and must-stop locations to see. While anyone visiting is sure to already have a packed itinerary, there is one more place you should put on your list – the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo.

The zoo is one of Israel's biggest tourist attractions, beloved by families and people of all ages. If you're looking for information on the zoo, you should know that officially it is referred to as the "Tisch Family Zoological Gardens.” That said, if you were asking someone on the street for directions to it, it is known more commonly as the Biblical Zoo. Why? Because the zoo features animals found in the Bible! This blending of biblical education and fun is what has made the zoo such a beloved location for Jerusalem residents and tourists alike!

In fact, you can see our own Rev. Dr. John Tweedie at the Biblical Zoo during season 12 of Israel: The Prophetic Connection! Keep an eye out for it!

But, it wasn't always like this, in fact, the zoo has had quite an interesting history. Far from the institution it is today, there was a time when the zoo was considered a nuisance!

From humble beginnings

Established in 1940, the zoo was originally opened on Rabbi Kook Street in central Jerusalem. At this time, it was a tiny attraction called the "animal corner.” It was founded by a professor, Aharon Shulov, of the University of Jerusalem as a kind of passion project. He needed a place where his students could gather, study, and interact with animals, but he also was very mindful of class and privilege. Part of making the zoo publicly accessible was in the interest of breaking down the "invisible wall” between the general public and the intellectual cliques on Mount Scopus. He wanted university students and professors to rub elbows with the public and find common ground in the beauty of nature.

While his heart was in the right place, Shulov's first attempt with the zoo didn't exactly go as planned. The animal corner became a source of consternation with the locals. Neighbours complained of the loud noises the animals would make (especially at night) and the smell. Some even claimed they were worried about escaping animals (a little hyperbolic considering the zoo mostly held lizards and birds at the time). So the zoo was moved to another small lot on Shmuel HaNavi street where it again became a source of friction. Eventually, in 1947, the zoo was moved to Mount Scopus. At this point the zoo had grown in size and scope and was holding a variety of exotic animals. Sadly, this was just in time for the 1948 Arab-Israeli War and the siege of Jerusalem.

The conflict forced the zoo to be moved again, to the neighbourhood of Givat Komuna where thankfully it would stay put for more than 40 years. Shulov still ran the zoo as a passion project. At this time the zoo had been ravaged by the conflict and the keepers where only able to save a few animals, a shadow of what it had grown into at Mount Scopus. Shulov never lost hope though and worked hard to rebuild the zoo, often forgoing his own salary in the interest of supporting the zoo. 

After his retirement, mayor Teddy Kollek, a long time supporter of Shulov and the zoo hatched a plan to move it one last time. The zoo would be moved to a larger location with the support of the city, commercial developments, and private foundations. It would be located in an area accessible to both Jewish and Arab families alike in the Malha valley.

The modern zoo 

Today, Aharon Shulov might not even recognize his animal kingdom! The modern location spans a massive 62 acres and is home to more than 170 species of animals! The vast majority of which are still connected to the Bible in some way. And that's not all, even the trees and plants of the landscaping are all biblically connected, drawing on flora found in the Bible. Even the Visitor's Centre is designed to resemble Noah's Ark. It's an incredible experience that is fun for the entire family.

Other attractions include the monkey islands. These are a series of habitats at the bottom of the waterfall at Moses' Rock. Between the locations and across the water are a series of ropes the monkeys use to swing across and explore! It is a sight that has to be seen to be believed. 

Then there are the aviaries for the Lesser Kestrels, designed to resemble the building from the Morasha district of the city. You might ask why an aviary would try to look more like a city, but there is a very good reason! The neighbourhood used to be a popular nesting ground for these birds and every year scores of baby Kestrels would hatch across its rooftops. So the design honours are part of the neighbourhood's past while also providing the Kestrels with a safe and healthy habitat.

Preservation and conservation is a huge theme at the zoo. Endangered local species are collected for the express purpose of persevering the species with a progressive breeding and reintroduction program that has seen great results. Even the construction of the zoo was done with the local environment in mind, with the goal of minimal impact on the existing landscape. Because of this, animal enclosures were dug directly into the rock face of the hills, rather than flattening these natural slopes and putting up artificial enclosures.

And of course, there is a petting zoo. The hands-on shows are only available during certain days of the week, but they are always a thrill for children (and their parents). If you're visiting Israel with the family, be sure to check the dates and plan accordingly!

If you're going to be in Jerusalem, you owe it to yourself to visit the Biblical Zoo! 
[Comment]

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The PURPOSE of C4i is to call Christians to express love in action to the people of Israel.

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