US Secretary of State John Kerry left Israel this morning sounding optimistic about prospects for Israeli-Arab peace. On his 10th visit in less than a year, he held reportedly substantive discussions not only with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, but also the kings of Saudi Arabia and Jordan to shore up regional support for a deal.
Even Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who as recently as October said there was no point in pursuing negotiations with Mr. Abbas, expressed surprisingly strong support for Mr. Kerry’s efforts.
“Even with all of the doubts in my heart regarding the true intentions of the other side, dialogue between us is important. Even when we disagree, when we don’t really trust one another, the ability to engage in dialogue and live our joint lives in a reasonable way is of the utmost importance,” Mr. Lieberman told a meeting of Israeli ambassadors in Jerusalem, adding that Israel should accept Kerry’s proposal for a framework agreement because it was the best proposal Israel would receive from the international community.
But even as Kerry begins to win over skeptics on both sides of the conflict with his relentless shuttle diplomacy, he still faces significant resistance from influential quarters. Case in point on the Israeli side is a new settler campaign to discredit him as peddling impractical, damaging solutions.
A new website launched by three settler groups, MyIsrael, the Yesha Council, and the Binyamin regional council – “John Kerry Solutions, Ltd.: Because we need to do something” – is built around a satirical video mocking Kerry’s efforts.
The featured video opens with a man realizing his bathroom stall is out of toilet paper. A Kerry-esque figure approaches holding a porcupine, offering “porcu-shine” as a substitute. When the man takes his suggestion and then finds himself unable to walk without pain, “Kerry” suggests a tutu instead of pants, so he can “move freely around the office while cool air streams are refreshing your conflict zones.” Instead, the ridiculous outfit leads to snickers in the office, forcing the man to resign. He ends up as a beggar on the street – taking a few dollars of aid from the American diplomat who got him into the predicament in the first place.
"We don't have good solutions, but hey, we have to do something, right?" the Kerry imitator concludes.
The clip, available here with English subtitles, is meant to protest “John Kerry’s attempt to enforce an irrelevant, bad solution, simply since there is a need to find one,” says Miri Maoz-Ovadia, director of media relations at the Yesha Council, who adds that there are more videos on the way – though they are more general and do not target Kerry directly.
The website also includes other videos making historical arguments to support its opposition to US diplomacy across the region, as well as fake letters of appreciation from satisfied customers of John Kerry Solutions, Ltd.
One signed by “Farouz Hinawi,” says: “What a great life you brought us here on the shores of the Nile. Our whole government is in jail and we can do whatever we want. Come visit us in Tahrir Square, it’s a place to experience, to die for!”
While the Israeli settler campaign is meant to be humorous, those opposed to a two-state solution are quite serious. There are more than half a million Israelis living over the 1967 lines today, most of whom are in settlements in the West Bank deemed illegal by the international community. Though a minority in a country of about 7 million, settlers carry strong weight in the Israeli parliament and many oppose a two-state solution.
Palestinians, meanwhile, see ongoing settlement building – which has spiked dramatically since the 1993 Oslo Accords – as increasing Israeli claims on the land and jeopardizing a future peace agreement.
Just over a week ago, Israeli lawmaker Miri Regev of the right-wing Likud-Beiteinu bloc introduced a bill to annex the Jordan Valley – a key swath of the West Bank bordering Jordan. The bill cleared its first legislative hurdle, passing committee, before being put to the entire Knesset. Hilik Bar of the left-wing Labor party responded to the move by presenting a “two-state bill,” designed to prevent any unilateral annexation of territory that could undermine peace efforts, which goes before the Ministerial Committee on Legislation this Sunday.
“The final status of the territory will be determined only in the framework of an agreement that arranges ‘two states for two peoples’ between the State of Israel and the formal representatives of the Palestinian Authority," reads the bill. "The State of Israel shall not apply its sovereignty unilaterally to lands in the territory, except in such an agreement.”
Moments before a rock smashed through the window of his car in the center of the Palestinian Jerusalem neighborhood of Sur Baher, leaving a deep gash in the back of his neck, Israeli lawyer Daniel Seidemann remembers noticing the banners.
"I thought, 'Is it my imagination or are the flags greener here than before?'" he recalls. Green is the color most associated with political Islam, as well as Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist political party.
For more than two decades, Mr. Seidemann – an expert on municipal planning policy in East Jerusalem who has advised Israeli, Palestinian, and foreign governments – has traversed the Palestinian neighborhoods of the city through periods of uprising and calm.
He has represented both Israelis and Palestinians before the municipal planning board on issues of development, such as new Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem. He also runs an NGO which provides information to diplomats and world leaders on Jerusalem with the goal of promoting a two-state solution in the city.
Most Israelis consider the Palestinian parts of Jerusalem unsafe, but Seidemann has spent days in Jerusalem’s Shuafat refugee camp, a crowded slum monitored by the Israeli army. At the start of the Palestinian intifada in 2000, Palestinian officials called off a meeting at their former headquarters, Orient House, a few blocks into the Palestinian section of the city because they were worried for his safety.
Until that Saturday last month, which ended with him driving himself to a nearby hospital for stitches and treatment for a head concussion, Seidemann had counted just two close calls during all his years of such work.
The day after, prominent residents of Sur Baher made the one-mile trip to his home in the Jewish neighborhood of Arnona, crossing the invisible border into the part of Jerusalem recognized as part of Israel, to express their regrets.
Reflecting on the attack last week, Mr. Seidemann said he considers himself a casualty of a random act of violence in a neighborhood where extremism is growing. He sees the Islamist flags in Sur Baher as a sign of frustration amid a peace process that seems to be going nowhere, even though it has raised expectations. In recent weeks, Israeli police arrested a group of Palestinian youths who targeted and attacked Israeli motorists in the neighborhood.
Seidemann said he doubts his own attack was planned because it came during a moment of road congestion.
"Ninety-nine percent of the time I say, there’s no problem, and 1 percent of the time I say it’s too dangerous," he says, "and a small fraction of that 1 percent is when I make the mistake, and you get hit in the head.’’
Last Sunday, Mr. Seidemann finally decided it was time return to Sur Baher – but not to the center of the village where the attack occurred. Instead it was to visit a friend, a longtime employee of the municipal planning department, who lives on the edge of the village. The tension there needs to calm down before he goes back to the site of the attack, he says, insisting that eventually he will.
"Will I go back to the center of Sur Baher tomorrow? No. Will I continue the evaluate the calculated risks? Yes. It may take me three weeks, it may take me three months…. There’s no martyrdom in what I’m trying do."
Ana, a Palestinian-American from New Jersey, has been looking for love for years.
She lists the typical gamut of desired qualities in a man: respectful, self-sufficient, and ready to share her love for books, cooking, and music. But there’s one non-negotiable requirement: he has to be Muslim.
Finding Muslims who match not only her taste but also her level of piety has been daunting, she says.
Moreover, dating is frowned upon by her parents, who uphold the marriage norms of Palestinian society. There, customs are often marked by pragmatism rather than romance. In many areas, parents or other relatives arrange – and sit in on – initial meetings between prospective couples, who typically decide whether to become engaged after only a few visits.
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So Ana was thrilled to one day stumble upon HipsterShaadi.com, a new site catering to young Muslims “tired of all the ‘possibilities’ the aunties keep bringing up at every get-together,” according to its Facebook page.
The project was born when Sheereen Nourollahi, a 26-year-old Iranian-American, and Humaira Mubeen, a 24-year-old Pakistani-American, were discussing dating in an online forum for Muslim hipsters, or “Mipsterz.”
“We fill in that space that maybe our community or mosques don’t. We’re giving them a space to come, maybe not for marriage, but at least to test the waters,” says Ms. Mubeen, while stressing that the site’s features – such as access to profile photos only after a connection is made – offer an experience vastly different from Western-style dating site.
When they launched in late October, the site’s creators were hoping to reach out to “third-culture kids” exactly like Ana – singles in their 20s and 30s, who are often highly educated first-generation Americans and are struggling to balance multiple cultural identities.
Today, the site has 650 users, and growing. It’s recently gone global, and is now available in cities like Washington and London, as well as in the Middle East, in places like Egypt and the Palestinian territories.
Browsing usernames like KhanyeWest, Pakiswagger, and MakeChaiNotWar, Ana says she was optimistic about meeting “someone that was more of a ‘modern/Americanized’ Muslim.”
She immediately signed up and crafted a brutally honest profile meant to ward off men too conservative.
“Not looking for someone more religious than I am (I fast, don't pray yet),” she writes. “If you think a woman belongs in the kitchen and shouldn't work or get an education then I am not interested.”
Ana has refrained from telling her parents that she’s joined the site, fearing reprimand for dating. But “those taboos are going away rapidly,” says Hassan Shaikley, one of the site’s young programmers.
It serves a modern generation of Muslims who, he says, are still fully aware that “in the religion, marriage is encouraged – and marriage is said to embody half of the faith.”
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It was 1934, and an adventurous group of young Zionist pioneers decided they wanted to hike around the Dead Sea, located in what was then a desolate border region.
So the youths, against the orders of their commanders in the pre-state Haganah paramilitary organization, loaded nine guns and crossed clandestinely into Transjordan. With no good maps, they hit impassible gorges on the Jordanian side of the sea and ran out of water.
After robbing Bedouins at gunpoint for their water, the youths scaled the cliffs down to the salty sea and floated around the huge canyons, eventually completing the full circuit.
From dangerous adventures like these to pleasant field trips to rigorous outings that doubled as military reconnaissance, young Jews developed an intimate knowledge with the land that not only deepened their Zionist goals of statehood but also fulfilled them. They helped Israel win its war of independence against Palestinians and their Arab allies in 1948-49, and went on to develop the 7th-largest hiking network in the world relative to country size.
“Because hiking is something that crosses such a big sector of society, this is not a minor part of Israeli history…. it cuts to the heart of the Israeli experience to the land,” says Shay Rabineau of Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass., who wrote his dissertation on the subject and is working on a book about it. “And in a country where land is so contested, the nature of the Israeli relationship with it is important to know about.”
The very first trail, on the shores of the Dead Sea north of Ein Gedi, was approved on the eve of partition – when Arabs were slated to get that very land – with Palmach commander Yitzhak Rabin helping to secure funding and personnel for establishing the trail. (Editor's note: The original version misstated the location of the trail and the precise role of Rabin.)
Hillel Birger, a Polish-born engineer who grew up hiking with a Zionist youth organization in eastern Europe, and Yossi Feldman, who earned the nickname Yossi the Arab for his Bedouin-like ability to move quickly through the desert, then went on to create a unified system of marking and mapping for the entire country – something that few if any other nations have. Many of the early figures, like Feldman, spoke Arabic and learned their tradecraft from Bedouin, but as political tensions heightened in later years there were clashes between Jewish hikers and local Arabs.
Today, the ideological undertones may not be as strong, but many schools still take annual hikes, and families often celebrate holidays by heading off down a marked trail with kids in tow.
Dr. Rabineau’s own curiosity about Israel’s trails was piqued seven years ago when he hiked the Israel National Trail, which starts near the Lebanon border and ends at the Red Sea. Though it was ranked one of the top-20 “epic hikes” in the world by National Geographic last year, very few foreigners have walked it – or any of the other 10,000 kilometers (6,200 miles) of hiking trails in Israel, which are not only marked but complemented by 20 highly detailed topographical maps.
Part of the reason is that the topographical maps are only available in Hebrew, and there are few English-language resources with the notable exception of the Jesus Trail in the Galilee, whose guidebook and maps have brought thousands of foreigners over the past few years. In addition, many trails are difficult to access by public transportation, limiting access for carless travelers.
Another factor may be that unlike Switzerland or Nepal, some of Israel’s trails pass through rather mundane scenery – the flat desert around the southern city of Beersheva, for example – though others lead through spectacular canyons or lush fields carpeted in spring wildflowers. For Rabineau, that just drives home the larger purpose behind Israel’s trail network.
“To me, the fact that they did all this reflects a passion for the land, a desire for the land that goes way beyond just wanting to see the sites, or encounter nature,” he says. “It has to do with the idea that you’re developing a relationship with the land.”
But he still managed to find time to tweet not once but three times about Iran’s successful second launch of a monkey into space. After noting that the monkey had returned "safe and sound," he tweeted:
International media noted reports of the monkey launch with both skepticism and concern, as some doubt the veracity of Iran’s purported technological feats and others worry that the space program may be used as cover for developing long-range missiles.
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The second monkey launch – which used liquid fuel, allowing for a slower, safer journey – was impossible to independently verify, and state media did not make clear when the event took place. Official photos of the first alleged monkey astronaut in January 2013, which traveled in a faster rocket powered by solid fuel, featured two different monkeys, raising questions about whether the primate had died in space. Iranian officials admitted the mistake, the Associated Press reported at the time.
Iranian officials later said one set of pictures showed an archive photo of one of the alternate monkeys. They said three to five monkeys are simultaneously tested for such a flight, and two or three are chosen for the launch. Finally, the one that is best suited for the mission is chosen for the voyage.
The male rhesus macaque monkey used in the most recent launch weighed 3 kilograms (6.6 pounds). Iran’s state news agency said the next launch will feature a larger animal, with the eventual goal of being able to send people into space within five to eight years.
"The launch of [the rocket] Pajohesh is another long step getting the Islamic Republic of Iran closer to sending a man into space," the official IRNA news agency said.
Western officials have raised concerns that such a program could enable Iran to develop long-range missile capabilities. Experts interviewed by the New York Times at the time of the first launch said it didn’t represent “any militarily significant technology” – yet.
James E. Oberg, a former NASA engineer and author of a dozen books on human spaceflight, said Iran’s civil space advances also had propaganda value, since the peaceful flights could take global attention off the nation’s military feats and ambitions.
“To a large degree, it’s a fig leaf,” he said in an interview. “Like the North Koreans, they get to present their program as peaceful when lots of it has to do with weapons development.”
For decades, space powers have lofted ants, spiders, mice, rats, frogs, snails, fish, turtles, guinea pigs, cats, dogs, monkeys and chimpanzees as cover stories for military programs and as high-flying experiments meant to pave the way for sending humans into orbit. Iran in recent years has said it has launched a mouse, a turtle and a number of worms.
If President Rouhani has anything to say about it, more animals should follow soon, a post on his website suggests. “The president also congratulated the supreme leader of the Islamic revolution Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the Iranian nation on the significant achievement. He wished further success for the Iranian experts."
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Updated at 1:05 p.m. Friday, Dec. 13.
The heaviest December snowstorm in 60 years is sweeping through Jerusalem, prompting Palestinian kids with plastic-bag mittens to engage in rousing snowball fights. Others are just reveling in the white stuff as it continues to fall for a second straight day, nearing a foot on the ground despite significant melting.
Across the Middle East, landmarks from Istanbul's Blue Mosque to the Roman ruins of Baalbek in Lebanon are blanketed in snow, as seen in this Washington Post photo gallery. And Cairo got its first snowfall in decades.
But while snow is a rare if cold delight for many, the stormy weather – expected to worsen tonight before winding down – brings a harsher sting for the 2.2 million Syrian refugees in the region.
Nearly half of those Syrians are in Lebanon, where the refugee population has grown tenfold since last December, according to Oxfam. Of those refugees, about 2 in 3 are living in the cold Bekaa Valley or the northern part of the country, where the wintry conditions are especially severe. Many are living in tents and some are struggling to afford wood for their stoves, which costs about $5 a bag.
“We’ve been here for two days and we have no clothing or blankets, and people are feeding us,” says a 54-year-old Syrian man, who chose to remain anonymous, surrounded by his three sons seeking some warmth in Khaled’s tent. “Refugees are feeding refugees. We don’t know what will happen to us. We don’t even have shoes.”
In Israel, the snow and rain caused major highways to shut down, and even the Tel Aviv's international airport briefly closed. In Gaza, heavy flooding pushed thousands from their homes, many taking shelter in schools. In Jordan, many refugees saw only rain, but that caused significant problems as well, flooding tents and sending sewage into the muddy pathways of camps.
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres has called the displacement of Syrian citizens – both the 6 million within the country and the more than 2 million outside its borders – "unparalleled in recent history." Indeed, the Syrian refugee crisis, now the largest in the world, has stretched the capacity of international aid organizations as well as local host countries.
Oxfam, for one, is planning to distribute blankets, gas heaters, and plastic sheeting for tents to better protect against the snow and earlier this month Downtown Abbey star Michelle Dockery helped the agency launch a $1.6 million campaign, “12 days of Giving,” to support such efforts.
While aid agencies have had difficulty raising funds for the Syrian refugee crisis, which unlike an earthquake is complicated by politics, perhaps the “white Christmas” weather will spur more giving.
It’s hard to say something new to Israelis about Syria's Bashar al-Assad after more than two years of civil war in the neighboring country. But contemporary artists Yanay Geva and Lilac Madar have tried to do just that in an exhibition that features everything from a gas canister to a family photo of the Assads, placed on a lace-covered side table with a bowl of Arab sweets.
It is that dissonance, rather than any graphic depictions of war – all too common on the news here – that have really caused visitors to think, says Mr. Geva.
“We see horrifying images every day,” he says. “If we used the same tools as the mass media, we wouldn’t be able to achieve any impact… People are already immune against being shocked again.”
Geva and Ms. Madar recruited a handful of fellow artists and pulled the exhibit together in a mere seven weeks, after the chemical weapons attack in late August that led to US threats of air strikes against the Assad regime. While the attack hit a raw nerve in Israel, given the historic echoes of Nazi gas chambers, Geva and Madar saw little impact on Israeli policy.
So at the Binyamin Gallery in Tel Aviv’s scruffy Florentin district, they combined outdoor graffiti with delicate paintings and pieces that incorporated physical objects, such as Aleppo pistachios featuring miniature paintings. These paintings create a critique of a notoriously flattering Vogue profile of Assad’s wife, Asma, that ran just before the uprising began in March 2011.
The artists' goal was to push visitors to go beyond the one-dimensional narrative in Israel – how does the war impact Israel's security – and puzzle over the central figure behind the war.
“Officially, the state of Israel chose to restrain itself and look to the other way,” they wrote in an explanatory note. “Art, in and of itself, does not offer solutions to bloody conflicts such as the war in Syria. Rather, art elicits questions and presents dilemmas that may have otherwise gone unnoticed.”
Case in point is one of Geva’s installations, called “Laughing gas.” On first glance, visitors may smile at seeing the gas canister marked off by red-and-white industrial tape in a corner of the gallery. But then you notice the label on the canister is “toxic gases,” a somber note in the context of the recent gas attacks.
It’s that dissonance that can spur Israelis to wrestle more with what’s happening to its northern neighbor, says Geva.
“Once people leave, and keep on thinking about it, I’ve reached my goal,” he says. “They’re not really sure what it is, but now they think about Syria.”
The three-week exhibit wrapped up Dec. 7. Geva and Madar hope to take the exhibit abroad, working with local graffiti artists to broaden the perspective beyond Israel and help others around the globe to rethink their perceptions of Syria and its ebullient dictator.
Sulieman Abdallah Al-Assa, the mayor of this West Bank town, slows his municipal vehicle to a halt and city engineer Maher Abu Sarhan points to the home on the nearby slope. There is a long pipe running over the ground from the home to a makeshift hole in the ground, covered with assorted wood scraps.
“That’s a cesspit,” Mr. Abu Sarhan tells me from the front seat.
Is that legal?
“No,” admits the young environmental engineer with a hint of resignation; there’s not a lot he or the mayor can do about it. “There is no other option. We try to pressure people to make a lining or concrete box or a septic tank.”
Raw sewage is seeping into the ground across Ubiedyeh, where most people can’t afford septic tanks and there is neither a city sanitation system nor a larger network for the city to connect to. Yet.
But Abu Sarhan and Mayor Al-Assa, who came to office in 2007, have launched an international campaign to improve sanitation, wastewater treatment, and other environmental and health issues in this city of about 12,000, which lies southwest of Jerusalem on the main road between Bethlehem and Ramallah. In one success, the US-built road is dotted with solar lighting, but in another challenge 15 million cubic meters of raw sewage from Jerusalem and Bethlehem flow annually through the three culverts underneath the road.
“We like to be a friend of the environment, this is our goal,” says Abu Sarhan. “This is the goal of the whole world.”
The mayor, a former building contractor, was pressuring the municipal council to improve sanitation even before he came to office in 2007. Since then, he and Abu Sarhan have prioritized wastewater issues, staying late at the office instead of working the normal six-hour days. Al-Assa says 80 percent of his time is devoted to wastewater.
“This is not normal work…. It’s a challenge,” says the mayor. “This is our challenge now, to achieve our goal.”
He and Abu Sarhan have been to conferences from Rio de Janeiro to the World Water Forum in Marseille, France, and many delegations from those events have since paid them a visit. The duo is working closely with international organizations and experts as well as Israeli engineers, architects, environmental activists, and tourism promoters to rehabilitate the Kidron Valley – which runs from Jerusalem past Ubiedyeh and out to the Dead Sea – and to pressure the Israeli government to allow them to build a wastewater treatment plant in Ubiedyeh. In addition, Al-Assa has gotten several local Palestinian mayors to back the Kidron master plan, which supporters say would not only improve health and environment, but also open the possibility for green tourism and economic development.
Their willingness to work with Israelis as well as foreigners to solve environmental and humanitarian issues is a courageous step at a time when many Palestinians still working – or just talking or playing soccer – with Israelis are being pressured to cut ties until the Israeli occupation of Palestinian areas comes to an end. (Editor's note: This paragraph was updated to more accurately reflect the scope of their work.)
“We are talking about humanity, environment, health – not politics,” says Abu Sarhan. “We don’t talk about the occupation, we refuse the occupation. But we cannot refuse any human thinking…. We are always thinking about the humanity.”
The passing of Israeli singing legend Arik Einstein has sparked an outpouring of appreciation for a man whose songs became the soundtrack for a nation, uniting Israelis of all stripes through the ups and downs of an adolescent country beset by social divisions, religious strife, and war.
"He was our Frank Sinatra, our Elvis Presley, our Bruce Springsteen all rolled into one," wrote Chemi Shalev in the daily newspaper Haaretz, calling Mr. Einstein the embodiment of the new, liberal, secular Israel. "He was unencumbered by history, unburdened by Jewish suffering, undaunted by the bombastic ideology of his elders and peers.... he sang of the mundane, day-to-day things that a normal Israeli would wish for, if he could only be normal."
While Einstein's songs are always on the radio, they have been playing nonstop since his passing Nov. 26 as everyone from secular leftists to ultra-Orthodox Jews commemorate the words that shaped an era of Israeliness that some say has now ended. Some 10,000 people came to bid him farewell in Tel Aviv, and at a time when the Iran nuclear deal was dominating headlines, Einstein's passing commanded the first 10 pages of one of Israel's most prominent daily newspapers, Yediot Aharonot.
“His songs accompanied us at all the stations of our lives — in our loves and disappointments, our ups and downs,” Mr. Netanyahu said.
When former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated in this square by a Jewish ultra-nationalist two years after signing the 1993 Oslo peace accords, it was Einstein's rendition of “Cry for You” that became the unofficial funeral hymn.
But the jury is out on the anthem for Einstein's passing. Some have mourned it as the end of a kind of golden era for Israel. "It was as if a link in a chain to the Good Old Days had suddenly snapped, and we were left dangling," wrote Liat Collins for the Jerusalem Post.
Others say, however, that it would be a mistake to pigeonhole the modest Einstein as simply a symbol of good old Israeliness, when really he was a revolutionary figure in many ways, the quintessence of Israeli masculine cool who championed Zionism but also challenged it.
“They say that once there was a wonderful dream here, but when I came to look, I didn’t find a thing,” he sang in his hit, “Maybe it’s all over.”
He also challenged social mores, bringing a new voice in the 1960s, at a time when the government banned the Beatles fearing it would corrupt the country’s youth.
Israelis, aware of the freewheeling movements sweeping the rest of the world, were ready, says radio personality and music journalist Liron Teeni.
“With only one TV station, a few radio stations, we all gathered around the ‘campfire’ to see Arik … who came in bigger than anything, with songs that focused on the language, on the Israeli character,” Mr. Teeni says.
In the 1970s, Mr. Einstein forged a new sound for a generation disillusioned by the wars and conservatism of their “pioneering” parents. With new waves of Sephardi immigrants – Jews from Arab countries – often marginalized by the dominant Ashkenazi Jews from Europe, ethnic and social tensions boiled. While Einstein's roots were Ashkenazi, his music was highly critical of such social injustice.
He also sang of simpler things – family, relationships, and an indefinable love for the land and its people. One of his most popular hits, "Ouf Gozal" (Fly away, young chick) speaks of children leaving the nest – but perhaps also a young country growing up.
In the 1980s, as the country moved toward capitalism, and the right-wing and religious establishment would come to gain an unprecedented political influence, Einstein withdrew from the public eye but continued producing albums and was still the most widely played singer in Israel as of 2010, at age 71.
"... we sang along with him: 'You and I will change the world,'" wrote Ms. Collins for the Jerusalem Post. "And if he did not change the entire world, he certainly helped shape Israel and make it a better place."
America’s post-turkey shopping spree is taking off around the world, and Israel is one of the most enthusiastic adopters.
Last year, Israelis spent seven times more over the Black Friday and Cyber Monday weekend than their daily average – second only to Colombians, who spent 11 times more, and tied with the Irish – according to a survey by FiftyOne, an international e-commerce solution provider.
After living here for a year, it’s easy to see why American deals would be so appealing for Israelis. Despite the fact that the average Israeli wage is significantly lower than the average American wage – 9,297 shekels a month ($2,640) compared to $3,084, according to the countries’ respective national statistics – almost all consumer products are more expensive in Israel than in the US.
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Gas costs roughly $8 per gallon, as does milk, despite the fact that you can almost see Saudi Arabia – one of the most oil-rich countries in the world – from southern Israel. Furniture at Ikea is about 30 percent more than in America. Clothes are so expensive that some people wait for their once-a-year trip to the US to shop, bringing home an extra suitcase full of Old Navy or Gap items.
Books are hard to find and similarly overpriced (though clever folks have developed work-arounds; I knew one young soldier whose dad traveled to the US frequently for work, so he joked that he had his own personal Amazon air courier service). And Israel imposes taxes of close to 100 percent on new cars, though there are deductions for greener cars.
Of course, Cyber Monday deals probably don’t extend to international car shipping. But when imports of all kinds put such a dent in your pocketbook, saving $20 on a pair of sneakers here and $50 on some electronic equipment can help keep the car full of gas.
Israeli websites such as Buy2USA, which enables Israelis to buy stuff at US e-commerce sites like Amazon or Zappos and then have it shipped to them, have offered special deals for this weekend, according to the Jerusalem Post.
Thanks to such arrangements, US retailers saw international sales triple last year, according to the FiftyOne survey.
But Israeli retails are standing to benefit as well, as they take a page out of the American playbook and offer their own Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals, the Post reports.