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Peace Warriror Shimon Peres Witnessed Israel’s History, and Shaped it

In 1959, Peres was elected to the Knesset, Israel's parliament, serving in nearly all major Cabinet posts over his long career

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JERUSALEM, September 29, 2016: At every corner of Israel’s tumultuous history, Shimon Peres was there.

He was a young aide to the nation’s founding fathers when the country declared independence in 1948, and he played a key role in turning Israel into a military power. He was part of the negotiations that sealed the first Israeli-Palestinian peace accord, garnering a Nobel Peace Prize. He was welcomed like royalty in world capitals.

But only at the end of a political career stretching more than 60 years did Peres, who died Wednesday at the age of 93, finally win the widespread admiration of his own people that had eluded him for so long.

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Peres began a new chapter at age 83, assuming the nation’s presidency following a scandal that forced his predecessor to step down. The job cemented Peres’ transformation from down-and-dirty political operator or naive peace proponent to elder statesman and a wise, grandfatherly sage who transcended political divisions.

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“After such a long career, let me just say something: My appetite to manage is over. My inclination to dream and to envisage is greater,” Peres told The Associated Press in an interview on July 15, 2007, moments before he was sworn in as president.

He said he would not allow his age, or the constraints of a largely ceremonial office, to slow him down. “I’m not in a hurry to pass away,” Peres said. “The day will come that I shall not forget to pass away. But until then, I’m not going to waste my life.”

Israel’s Foreign Ministry said President Barack Obama, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Britain’s Prince Charles and French President Francoise Hollande, would be among the world leaders and dignitaries to attend Peres’ funeral in Jerusalem on Friday, a fitting tribute for a politician who reveled in the political limelight and loved to hobnob with celebrities, artists and the world’s rich and famous.

As president, Peres tirelessly jetted around the world to represent his country at conferences, ceremonies and international gatherings. He was a fixture at the annual World Economic Forum gathering in Davos, Switzerland, where he was treated like a rock star as the world’s wealthy and powerful listened to his every word, on topics ranging from Mideast peace to nanotechnology to the wonders of the human brain.

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He also became Israel’s moderate face at a time when the nation was led by hard-line Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Peres sought to reassure the international community that Israel seeks peace, despite concerns over continued settlement construction in the occupied West Bank and the paralysis of negotiations under Netanyahu. While Peres never tired of speaking of peace, he tended to avoid strident criticism of Netanyahu.

It was his 1994 Nobel Prize that established Peres’ man-of-peace image. He proudly displayed the prize — which he shared with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat — on the desk of his presidential office.

As foreign minister, Peres secretly brokered the historic Oslo interim peace accords with the Palestinians, signed at the White House on Sept. 13, 1993.

Accepting the award, he told assembled dignitaries that “war, as a method of conducting human affairs, is in its death throes, and the time has come to bury it.”

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Despite the assassination of Rabin, the breakdown of peace talks, a second Palestinian uprising in 2000, wars in Lebanon and Gaza, and Netanyahu’s continued re-elections, Peres maintained his insistence that peace was right around the corner.

“I’m sure I shall see peace in my lifetime. Even if I should have to extend my life for a year or two, I won’t hesitate,” he said in a 2013 interview marking his 90th birthday.

Peres was born Shimon Perski on Aug. 2, 1923 in Vishniev, then part of Poland and now in Belarus. He moved to pre-state Palestine in 1934 with his family, where he changed his surname to Peres, or songbird, in Hebrew. Relatives who remained in Poland, including his grandfather, a prominent rabbi, were killed when Nazis set a synagogue on fire during the Holocaust. Peres often spoke lovingly of his grandfather in speeches. The actress Lauren Bacall was a cousin.

Still in his 20s, Peres rose quickly through the ranks of Israel’s pre-state leadership, and served as a top aide to David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, after independence in 1948. Peres once called Ben-Gurion “the greatest Jew of our time.”

At 29, he served as director of Israel’s Defense Ministry, and is credited with arming Israel’s military almost from scratch. He later worked with the French to develop Israel’s nuclear program, which today is widely believed to include a large arsenal of bombs.

Still, he suffered throughout his political career from the fact that he never wore an army uniform or fought in a war.

In 1959, Peres was elected to the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, serving in nearly all major Cabinet posts over his long career. As finance minister, he imposed an emergency plan to halt triple-digit inflation in the 1980s. He also was an early supporter of the Jewish settler movement in the West Bank, a position he would later abandon.

But he had trouble breaking into the prime minister’s post, the top job in Israeli politics. He was hampered by a reputation among the public and fellow politicians as both a utopian dreamer and a political schemer.

He ran for prime minister in five general elections, losing four and tying one, in 1984, when he shared the job in a rotation with his rival Yitzhak Shamir.

His well-tailored, neck-tied appearance, swept-back gray hair and penchant for artists and intellectuals seemed to separate him from his more informal countrymen. He never lost his Polish accent, making him a target for mimicry.

One of the lowest points of his political career came in 1990, when he led his Labor Party out of a unity government with Shamir’s hardline Likud on the strength of promises from small factions to support his bid to replace Shamir.

At the last minute, several members of parliament changed their minds, approving a Shamir government without Peres and Labor. The incident became known in Israeli political lore as Peres’ “stinking maneuver.” Rabin scorned him as a “relentless meddler” and in 1992 replaced him as party leader.

The two eventually repaired their relationship and worked together on pursuing peace with the Palestinians.

After Rabin’s assassination by a Jewish ultranationalist opposed to Israel’s peace moves in 1995, Peres became acting prime minister. But he failed to capitalize on the widespread sympathy for the fallen leader and lost a razor-thin election the following year to Netanyahu.

In one famous incident, an angry Peres rhetorically asked a gathering of his Labor Party whether he was a “loser.” Resounding calls of “yes” rained down on him.

Peres would later blame a wave of Palestinian suicide bombings for his defeat. He described his visit to the scene of a deadly bus explosion in Jerusalem, where people started screaming “killer” and “murderer” at him. “I knew that I lost the election,” he said.

He suffered another humiliation in 2000 when he ran for the presidency, a largely ceremonial position elected by Parliament. Peres believed he had wrapped up the election, but the religious Shas Party broke a promise to him and switched its support to Likud candidate Moshe Katsav. Peres was a loser once again.

Even so, he refused to quit. In 2001, he took the post of foreign minister in a unity government led by his rival Ariel Sharon, serving for 20 months before Labor withdrew from the coalition. In Peres’ final political defeat, Labor overthrew him as party leader in 2005, choosing instead the little-known Amir Peretz.

Peres subsequently followed Sharon into a new party, Kadima, serving as vice-premier and maintaining that post under Sharon’s successor, Ehud Olmert.

He was able to attain the presidency when Katsav was forced to step down weeks before his term ended to face rape charges. Katsav was later convicted and sent to prison.

Seeking to stabilize the cherished institution, parliament turned to Peres and elected him president.

Peres cultivated an image as a grandfatherly figure, frequently inviting groups of children and teens to the presidential residence. He embraced social media and promoted Israel’s high-tech industry in meetings with top officials at Google, Facebook and other major companies.

Peres also launched his “President’s Conference,” which became an annual high-powered gathering in Jerusalem of artists, thinkers and business leaders from around the world.

Derided by critics as extravagant and unnecessary, the gathering drew some of the world’s most powerful personalities. The 2013 conference also became a 90th birthday party, with figures such as Bill Clinton, Barbara Streisand and Robert DeNiro in attendance.

He also exhibited a humorous side. When he left the presidency in 2014, he appeared in a video his granddaughter produced where he jokingly tried out new jobs including a supermarket cashier, gas station attendant and standup comedian — peppering his comments with puns and visionary slogans. Just hours before his stroke, Peres had posted a video to Facebook encouraging the public to buy locally-made products.

While widely loved at home, Peres remained a controversial figure with the Palestinians, who appreciated his peaceful rhetoric but also saw him as being responsible for a deadly Israeli artillery strike that killed dozens of civilians in Lebanon in 1996 and for allowing continued settlement construction on occupied lands. President Mahmoud Abbas, a negotiating partner of Peres in the 1990s, remained conspicuously silent throughout the day Wednesday.

Asked about his secret to longevity, Peres said he never dwelled on the past.

“What happened until now is over, unchangeable. I’m not going to spend time on it. So I am really living in the future,” he said. “I really think that one should devote his energies to make the world better and not to make the past remembered better.”

Peres’ wife Sonya died in 2011. He leaves a daughter, Tsvia Valden, a university professor, and two sons, Nehemia, a leading Israeli venture capitalist, and Yonatan, a veterinarian.

Peres represented “the essence of Israel itself,” President Barack Obama said.

“There are few people who we share this world with who change the course of human history, not just through their role in human events, but because they expand our moral imagination and force us to expect more of ourselves. My friend Shimon was one of those people,” he said. “A light has gone out, but the hope he gave us will burn forever.” (VOA)

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Iraqi Parliament puts a Ban on Display of Israeli Flag and ‘Zionist’ Symbols Across the Country

Speaker of the Iraqi parliament announced the raising of Israeli flag in the country as a punishable offence that would be dealt with criminal prosecution

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Israeli Flag
An Israeli Flag Flies on a hill near Bethlehem. VOA.

Erbil, November 1: Following the display of Israeli flag in pro-independence Kurdish rallies, the Iraqi parliament, known as the Council of Representatives, voted Tuesday to ban the Israeli flag, describing it as a Zionist symbol.

“A dangerous phenomenon, representing the hoisting of the Zionist entity flag during public rallies in front of the media, has recently appeared that breaks the basic constitutional principles of Iraq,” Salim al-Jabouri, Speaker of the Iraqi parliament, said while announcing the law that vows criminal prosecution against those who raise the Israeli flag in the country.

“This is an exercise that damages the reputation of Iraq and its nation and the law punishes it by the maximum penalties,” the speaker added.

The law was introduced by the parliamentary bloc of the Shiite Supreme Islamic Council and was unanimously approved by other members of the Iraqi parliament. It ordered law enforcement to pursue criminal charges against “those who promote Zionist symbols in public rallies in any form, including the hoisting of the Zionist flag.”

Israeli flags were appearing frequently during Kurdish rallies in the run up to the Kurdish referendum vote that was held Sept. 25, with 92 percent voting in favor of secession from the central government in Baghdad.

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has said their hoisting at the gatherings was “spontaneous” and did not reflect the position of the government, which cannot formally establish relations with Israel due to the policy of the government in Baghdad that does not recognize Israel as a state.

Israeli Flag
Salim al-Jabouri, Speaker of the Iraqi parliament announced the display of Israeli flag as a criminal offence. VOA.

‘A second Israel’

Some officials of the central government in Baghdad and elements in the neighboring Turkey and Iran have accused Kurdish leaders of secret ties with what they termed “Zionists” and have described the Kurdish bid for independence an orchestrated plan to establish “the second Israel in Middle East.”

Israel is denying any involvement in the controversial referendum, but it is the only country that has openly supported the Kurdish aspirations for independence.

“The Kurds demonstrate national maturity and international maturity,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said earlier this month. “We have very great sympathy for their desires and the world needs to concern itself with their safety and with their future.”

Other countries — including the United States and EU members which consider the Kurdistan Regional Government a reliable ally, particularly in the current fight against IS — have publicly opposed the Kurdish referendum, arguing that the move diverts attention from the more crucial fight against the Islamic State in the region.

U.S. officials say the cooperation between the Kurdish forces known as Peshmerga and the Iraqi army played a critical role in removing the Islamic State fighters from Iraq’s second-largest city of Mosul. They say the Kurdish vote for independence has disrupted that cooperation and resulted in clashes between the region and the central government, particularly on the fate of territories disputed between both sides. (VOA)

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There Are Much More Commonalities Between Jews and Hindus Than You Think, Read on to Know More!

Indian and Jewish people have had a very long and fruitful relationship

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jews and hindus
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, left, shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during their meeting at the King David hotel in Jerusalem Wednesday, July 5, 2017. Israel and India have signed a series of agreements to cooperate in the fields of technology, water and agriculture. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner) (VOA)

by Jai Nath Misra

New Delhi, September 18, 2017 : Although I had always wanted to visit Israel but for security reasons my wife and I decided against it but that was a few years ago.However after prime minister Modi’s highly successful visit to Israel I decided to follow suit and go to Israel. I asked my travel agent in Mumbai to arrange a tailor made itinerary for my trip to Israel and he did not let me down. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of my time in Israel.

Long Established Indo-Israel Relations

As you know that Jews and Hindus have had a very long and fruitful relationship. Baghdadi Jews came to India over a thousand years ago and settled happily in various cities and became a part of society. Antisemitism or dislike of Jews has existed in many parts of the world  and still does e.g in Arab countries and most of Europe but in India this word is unheard of and of course this fact is well known to all Israelis. 

jews and hindus
Misra infront of western wall ,a very sacred place for Jewish people

If you were to compare India and Israel then you will find there are some startling similarities between the two countries.Both countries are democracies,India being the largest democracy in the world , both became independent at the same time i.e in the year 1947. Israel is a Jewish state with a Muslim minority and India is a mainly Hindu country with a Muslim minority. These two countries have not broken  link with their past cultural traditions ,religious history etc. In other words these two countries have continued to follow the ancient customs and the way of life like their forefathers. But the course of events in the rest of the world has been very different and as a result of that we find that the population of the world today is just under half Christians and a similar proportion Islamic. 

Are Jews and Hindus At Risk From Dominant Religions?

My concern is that taking all the above factors that I have mentioned India and Israel have to work very closely together or else the Jews and Hindus run the risk of being squeezed out of existence by the two large group of countries i.e Christian and Islamic. Although it may sound rather a startling suggestion but the probability of such a situation occurring is worth bearing in mind.


The author is a London-based NRI and a political activist, most notably known for his efforts in support of the Chanda Bandh Satyagraha against Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)

 


 

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World’s Oldest Board Game Backgammon Being Used by Jerusalem Double to unite Jews and Arabs

Backgammon is acting as a peace maker between Israelis and Palestinians. Every one in Middle-East irrespective of one's religion has an attachment with this game.

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Backgammon- An ancient board game that is acting as a bond to unify Jews and Arabs.
Backgammon- An ancient board game that is acting as a bond to unify Jews and Arabs. Pixabay.
  • An ancient game turning out to be a peace maker between Arabs and Jews in Jerusalem
  • Backgammon is a deeply rooted game in the Middle-East, which is uniting segregated neighbors
  • Backgammon is one of the oldest board games in the world

Jerusalem, September 11, 2017: No one had ever imagined the power of Backgammon. And about how this ancient game could act as a game changer in the Middle-East.

Backgammon is one of the world’s oldest board games that is currently being used to bring back peace in the Middle-East.

Jerusalem Double project is a series of Backgammon tournament that takes place in Jerusalem. It is an inter cultural initiative by Jerusalem Foundation to create more interaction between the Israelis and Palestinians.

Israel is the only Jewish state in the world which is located just at the east of Mediterranean Sea. Jew is a word used for those people who profess Judaism irrespective of the place they live in.

Palestinians consist of the Arab population that hails from the land which is now controlled by Israel. They want to establish a state by the name “Palestine” on all or part of the land, which is currently controlled by Israel.

“We wanted to bring Jews and Arabs together beyond the daily grind. We wanted to create a joint cultural event in which everyone can share and we wanted to create cross over between neighborhoods that for generations have been completely segregated”, believes Zaki Djemal from Jerusalem Foundation.

Jerusalem Double chose Backgammon as a medium to break the walls between the Jews and Arabs because Backgammon is deeply rooted in the Middle-east. It is highly accessible and inclusive.

Initially, the project Jerusalem Double had faced a lot of resistance from both the communities. But, they went against the wind and left no stone unturned to make this project work. As a result, the Backgammon proved to be a catalyst towards a positive change.

In 2106, when the first Backgammon championship had happened, only 150 people showed up. But this time, 250 people participated in the tournament and competed for a cash prize of 6,000 USD.

Play can create empathy between strangers and apparent enemies and it can give us the confidence that we need to trust in each other and in the world we have been slighted, even after we have experienced pain, suffering, and fear said Zaik Djemal.

Backgammon is an outstanding initiative towards a peaceful morning in the Middle-East.

-prepared by Shivani Chowdhary of NewsGram. Twitter handle: @cshivani31