Israeli-Palestinian peace movement update

This video from Israel says about itself:

Mind of peace- Negotiating Israelis and Palestinians with no leaders in the room…

Today, an e-mail says:

Minds of Peace Grassroots Israel-Palestinian negotiations continue  in Jerusalem

November 14-15 New Location: Horse Square, Jerusalem, Israel

Despite considerable extreme-right violence on the previous occasion, Minds of Peace is continuing its campaign of grassroots Israel-Palestinian negotiations, held on the streets and public squares of Jerusalem between Israelis and Palestinians who are not professional diplomats – so as boost and promote the faltering official negotiations.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one of the most entrenched conflicts in the world with disastrous consequences for all the people involved. Many substantial peace-making initiatives have been carried out but have failed to produce a lasting peace.  The 22nd session of the Minds of Peace Mini Congress illuminated the stark differences between two sides.  Not the two sides at the negotiating table though.  The six Israelis and six Palestinians who met in Hamashbir Plaza, Jerusalem on October 24-25 worked to find common ground.  Led by Minds of Peace founder Sapir Handelman and Palestinian moderator Ibrahim Enbawi, the Israeli delegation and the Palestinian delegation negotiated possible solutions to their struggle.

The other more difficult side was the contingency of determined demonstrators in the audience who did their best to disrupt the negotiations.  The congress started to look like a battle field between right wing extremists and those who support the establishment of a Palestinian state. On Friday the negotiators were surrounded by a fence and police forces. Leaders of the large group surrounding the tables and objecting were invited to join the negotiations, but they preferred to stay on the sidelines preventing progress. Video link of Day two:

However, the two delegations concluded one preliminary agreement despite many efforts to spoil the events with whistles and shouting. Both delegations committed to meet again November 14-15 at Horse Square.  “The line between freedom of speech and chaos can be very thin,” commented Handelman. “In order to have peaceful negotiations on our part we have asked religious settlers, who are pro peace, to come to the event, participate in the discussion with the audience and try to relax the atmosphere and asked other people for other organizations, who are “experts” in peaceful dialogue, to participate in the dialogue with the audience.”

November 14-15 negotiations will tackle a conclusive peace pact

with discussions on borders, security, refugees and Jerusalem.

Dr. Sapir Handelman, Chairman of the Board of Minds of Peace is available for interviews

Dr. Daniel Mahgerefteh, of Los Angeles, is the chief executive officer of Minds of Peace and explains, “One of our goals is to directly involve the public in the difficult, messy, and painful peace making process the debate, struggle with compromise, and acceptance. The event is also designed to demonstrate the peacemaking creativity, zeal and power of the public without the political pressures faced by diplomats and government officials.” The congress comprises Israeli and Palestinian delegations made up of people from all walks of life that come to discuss debate and negotiate solutions to the conflict under the guidance of two moderators.

In the October Congress, the two delegations succeeded to conclude a preliminary agreement – Trust Building Measures – the topics are: Prisoners, incitement and violence, and settlements. The members negotiating agreed that the solution to the conflict is: Two states for two people in one land, located between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River.

The assembly has five sessions of two hours to conclude peace agreements. The Israeli delegation will include: Zeev Raz – Colonel (ter.) Ze`ev Raz, combat pilot the attack on the Iraqi reactor in 1981, Abie Moses , who lost his wife and young son in a terrorist attack, making him  a symbol of bereavement and of standing against terrorism, Orna Oshri,  graphic editor of Yedioth Ahronoth, Rabbi Haim Cohen and Yehoshua Meyer a religious settler Kibbutz Kfar Etzion. The Palestinian delegation included academics, educators, business people, former prisoners and students.

In almost all of the congresses, the delegations succeeded to reach peace agreements. “It is an amazing result because the various delegations included people with deferent political views and from all walks of life, for example: settlers and right wingers, ex Palestinian prisoners, generals, business people, academics and people that lost loved ones in the conflict, said founder of Minds of Peace, Sapir Handelman..

Dr. Handelman explains, “This congress demonstrates a classical symptom of intractable conflicts like the Israeli-Palestinian one. Any peacemaking initiative that can lead to a change will increase the level of violence. The extremists, on both sides, will try to crash it. Therefore, it is critical to involve the people in the peacemaking process.” 


More information on Minds of Peace:

Media Request: Sari M Cicurel

Dr. Sapir Handelman, Chairman of the Board of Minds of Peace

972-50-307-6927 and

Daniel Mahgerefteh, chief executive officer of Minds of Peace –



Blind mole-rats resistant to cancer

This video is called Spalax microphthalmus, Mole-Rat.

Today, there was news about “deaf” frogs which turned out to be not really deaf.

Now, about blind mole-rats which turn out to be blind indeed; however, they turn out to have other strong points.

From the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the USA today:

Blind mole-rats are resistant to chemically induced cancers

Like naked mole-rats (Heterocephalus gaber), blind mole-rats (of the genus Spalax) live underground in low-oxygen environments, are long-lived and resistant to cancer. A new study demonstrates just how cancer-resistant Spalax are, and suggests that the adaptations that help these rodents survive in low-oxygen environments also play a role in their longevity and cancer resistance.

The findings are reported in the journal Biomed Central: Biology.

“We’ve shown that, compared to mice and rats, blind mole-rats are highly resistant to carcinogens,” said Mark Band, the director of at the University of Illinois Biotechnology Center and a co-author on the study. Band led a previous analysis of in blind mole-rats living in low-oxygen (hypoxic) environments. He found that genes that respond to hypoxia are known to also play a role in aging and in suppressing or promoting cancer.

“We think that these three phenomena are tied in together: the hypoxia tolerance, the longevity and ,” Band said. “We think all result from to a .”

Unlike the naked mole-rat, which lives in colonies in Eastern Africa, the blind mole-rat is a solitary rodent found in the Eastern Mediterranean. Thousands of blind mole-rats have been captured and studied for more than 50 years at Israel‘s University of Haifa, where the animal work was conducted. The Haifa scientists observed that none of their blind mole-rats had ever developed cancer, even though Spalax can live more than 20 years. Lab mice and rats have a maximum lifespan of about 3.5 years and yet regularly develop spontaneous cancers.

To test the blind mole-rats’ cancer resistance, the Haifa team, led by Irena Manov, Aaron Avivi and Imad Shams, exposed the animals to two cancer-causing agents. Only one of the 20 Spalax tested (an animal that was more than 10 years old) developed after exposure to one of the carcinogens. In contrast, all of the 12 mice and six rats exposed to either agent developed cancerous tumors.

The team next turned its attention to fibroblasts, cells that generate extracellular factors that support and buffer other cells. Previous studies of naked mole-rat cells have found that fibroblasts and their secretions have anti-cancer activity. Similarly, the researchers at Haifa found that Spalax fibroblasts were efficient killers of two types of breast and two types of lung cancer cells. Diluted and filtered liquid medium drawn from the fibroblast cell culture also killed breast and lung cancer cells. Mouse fibroblasts, however, had no effect on the cancer cells.

To help explain these results, Band and his colleagues looked to the gene expression profiles obtained from their previous studies of blind mole-rats in hypoxic environments. The researchers had found that genes that regulate DNA repair, the cell cycle and programmed cell death are differentially regulated in Spalax when exposed to normal, above-ground oxygen levels (21 percent oxygen) and conditions of hypoxia (3, 6 and 10 percent oxygen). These changes in gene regulation differed from those of mice or rats under the same conditions, the researchers found.

Spalax naturally have a variant in the p53 gene (a transcription factor and known tumor suppressor), which is identical to a cancer-related mutation in humans, Band said. Transcription-factor genes code for proteins that regulate the activity of other genes and so affect an animal’s ability to respond to its environment. The research group in Israel showed “that the Spalax p53 suppresses apoptosis (programmed cell death), however enhances cell cycle arrest and DNA repair mechanisms,” he said.

Hypoxia can damage DNA and contribute to aging and cancer, so mechanisms that protect against hypoxia – by repairing DNA, for example – likely also help explain the blind mole-rat’s resistance to cancer and aging, Band said.

“So now we know there’s overlap among the genes that affect DNA repair, hypoxia tolerance and suppression,” he said. “We haven’t been able to show the exact mechanisms yet, but we’re able to show that in Spalax they’re all related. One of the lessons of this research is that we have a new model animal to study mechanisms of disease, and possibly discover new therapeutic agents.”

Explore further: The naked mole-rat’s secret to staying cancer free

More information: “Pronounced Cancer Resistance in a Subterranean Rodent, the Blind Mole-Rat, Spalax: In Vivo and In Vitro Evidence,”

Israeli soldiers punished for dancing peacefully with Palestinians

This video from Palestine is called Israeli soldiers dance to Gangnam Style at Palestinian wedding.

From Associated Press:

Hebron style: Israeli soldiers’ dance with Palestinians angers top brass

Gangnam Style remix causes moment of K-pop unity in West Bank as video shows patrol group joining dance hall party

Associated Press in Jerusalem

Thursday 29 August 2013 08.27 BST

A group of Israeli soldiers has danced up a storm of criticism after they were filmed boogying alongside Palestinians while on patrol in the West Bank.

The soldiers were making their rounds in the city of Hebron when they entered a dance hall and joined dozens of Palestinian men dancing to South Korean rapper Psy’s hit Gangnam Style.

The Israeli military said on Thursday that it considers the incident serious, adding “the soldiers exposed themselves to unnecessary danger and were disciplined accordingly,” without elaborating.

Footage aired on Israeli Channel 2 TV shows the solders in uniform, flak jackets and carrying guns.

One was shown hoisted on the shoulders of Palestinian dancers. Other soldiers joined hands and grooved with the partygoers. The channel said the incident occurred on Monday.

Hebron has been a flashpoint of violence between Israelis and Palestinians for decades.

So, these Israeli soldiers were punished for peaceful acts. While, on the other hand, Israeli soldiers committing violence against Palestine civilians, including children

These Israeli soldiers and these Palestinians in Hebron gave an example of non-violence which the whole Middle East and the whole world should follow.

Please, Psy, if you happen to read Dear Kitty. Some blog: then, please take the first plane from Korea to Hebron. Organize the biggest dance party ever there. Invite all Palestinians who were at that wedding. Invite all Israeli soldiers who were at that wedding. Invite all Israeli soldiers and Israeli civilians who want peace. Invite all Palestinians who want peace. Let peace spread throughout the whole world from Hebron.

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Irish politician’s hen harrier scandal

This video says about itself:

Hen Harrier – Circus cyaneus

A Digiscoping video of Hen Harriers coming into the magnificent bird of prey roost at the Hula Valley Nature Reserve, Israel during the Bird Festival week in November 2011.

Filmed using a combination of Swarovski ATS65HD Scope, 25X50WA Zoom Eyepiece and Panasonic G2 using a DCA to attach. Not bad considering it was almost dark!

In England, there was a scandal of Prince Harry killing rare protected hen harriers.

Now, in Ireland, there is a politician emulating Prince Harry in this. A politician of the Rightist Fine Gael party, the biggest party in the coalition government, ramming austerity and bankers’ special interests down the throats of the Irish people. One might almost suspect a connection with the political party Cumann na nGaedheal, from which the present Fine Gael arose, having been founded in 1923 by politicians who did not mind Irish parliamentarians having to swear an oath of loyalty to the British monarchy :)

From Ireland’s Wildlife blog:

Leader of Limerick County Council calls “open season” on endangered hen harrier

July 25, 2013 by

Councillor John Sheahan, Cathaoirleach of Limerick Co. Council, has called for “Open Season” on the hen harrier, a protected bird of prey that breeds in the county.

Cllr. Sheahan, who is a member of Fine Gael, said that unless the restrictions on land use in EU sanctioned Special Protected Areas (SPAs) in the county were relaxed before the upcoming Budget 2014, that “open season” should be declared on this legally protected bird species.

The hen harrier is a species of high conservation concern in Ireland and is protected under The Wildlife Act 1976 & Amendment Act 2000 in the Republic and under The Wildlife (Northern Ireland) Order 1985 in Northern Ireland. The species is listed on Annex 1 of the EU Birds Directive and is currently considered an All-Ireland Species of Conservation Concern and a UK priority species.

Six sites in Ireland have been designated as SPAs for the Hen Harrier under legislative framework laid out by the EU Birds Directive. Two of these affect Co. Limerick: The Slievefelim to Silvermines Mountains SPA (Counties Limerick & Tipperary; Site Code: 4165) and The Stacks to Mullaghareirk Mountains, West Limerick Hills and Mount Eagle SPA (Counties Cork, Kerry & Limerick; Site Code: 4161).

Hen Harriers are Ireland’s only breeding harrier species, and despite ongoing conservation efforts populations are still struggling following decades of persecution and inappropriate land use. Suggestions that these conservation measures should be relaxed is bad enough, and shows a disturbing lack of understanding of the underlying environmental issues. What”s far worse is inciting people to acts of wildlife crime by suggesting they intentionally harm hen harriers, as Cllr. Sheahan clearly appears to be suggesting in his comments.

Here’s a transcript of Cllr. Sheahan’s remarks as reported by the Limerick Leader (via the Raptor Persecution Scotland website). It is outrageous that a serving politician in a position of authority and influence should make such an ill-informed and potentially damaging statement.

If you’d like to contact Cllr. Sheahan you’ll find his contact details on the Limerick County Council Website here (and if sending an email consider copying in Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Simon Coveney — — and Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Phil Hogan —

The Raptor Persecution Scotland site also has details of how you can make a formal complaint about Cllr. Sheahan’s remarks, and you can show your support for protecting Irish Hen Harriers by signing this online petition.

Hen harriers have failed to hatch any chicks this year, and are on the verge of extinction in England. Picture: Andy Hay / RSPB

Hen harriers have failed to hatch any chicks this year, and are on the verge of extinction in England. Picture: Andy Hay / RSPB

Hen harrier on the brink of ‘extinction’ in England – For the first time since the 1960s, hen harriers have failed to nest successfully in England: here.

England: Police appeal for witness after ‘senseless’ shooting of Kestrel in Ripon: here.
See also here.

Biblical archaeology controversies in Israel

This video says about itself:

Biblical Archaeology: City of King David | BBC Documentary

Jun 18, 2013

Dr Francesca Stavrakopoulou examines how archaeological discoveries are changing the way people interpret stories from the Bible. Stavrakopoulou visits key archaeological excavations where ground-breaking finds are being unearthed, and examines evidence for and against the Biblical account of King David.

Was the God of Abraham unique? Were the ancient Israelites polytheists? And is it all possible that God had another half? Marshalling compelling evidence from archaeology, Islam and the Bible text itself, she identifies and visits the exact site of Eden.

Did King David’s Empire Exist?

Dr Francesca Stavrakopoulou goes on the trail of the Biblical King David and his fabled empire. A national hero and icon for the Jewish people, and a divine king for Christians, David is best known as the boy-warrior who defeated the Philistine giant Goliath. As king, he united the tribes of Israel. But did he really rule over a vast Israelite kingdom? Did he even exist?

Stavrakopoulou visits key archaeological excavations where ground-breaking finds are being unearthed, and examines evidence for and against the Biblical account of King David. She explores the former land of the Philistines, home of the giant Goliath, and ruins in the north of Israel and in old Jerusalem itself purporting to be remains of David’s empire.

From Associated Press:

King David’s Palace Found? Biblical Archaeology Contentious

July 21, 2013 10:17 am

A team of Israeli archaeologists believes it has discovered the ruins of a palace belonging to the biblical King David, but other Israeli experts dispute the claim.

Archaeologists from Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Israel’s Antiquities Authority said their find, a large fortified complex west of Jerusalem at a site called Khirbet Qeiyafa, is the first palace of the biblical king ever to be discovered.

“Khirbet Qeiyafa is the best example exposed to date of a fortified city from the time of King David,” said Yossi Garfinkel, a Hebrew University archaeologist, suggesting that David himself would have used the site. Garfinkel led the seven-year dig with Saar Ganor of Israel’s Antiquities Authority.

Garfinkel said his team found cultic objects typically used by Judeans, the subjects of King David, and saw no trace of pig remains. Pork is forbidden under Jewish dietary laws. Clues like these, he said, were “unequivocal evidence” that David and his descendants had ruled at the site.

Critics said the site could have belonged to other kingdoms of the area. The consensus among most scholars is that no definitive physical proof of the existence of King David has been found.

Biblical archaeology itself is contentious. Israelis often use archaeological findings to back up their historic claims to sites that are also claimed by the Palestinians, like the Old City of Jerusalem. Despite extensive archaeological evidence, for example, Palestinians deny that the biblical Jewish Temples dominated the hilltop where the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, Islam’s third-holiest site, stands today.

In general, researchers are divided over whether biblical stories can be validated by physical remains.

The current excavators are not the first to claim they found a King David palace. In 2005, Israeli archaeologist Eilat Mazar said she found the remains of King David’s palace in Jerusalem dating to the 10th century B.C., when King David would have ruled. Her claim also attracted skepticism, including from Garfinkel himself.

Using carbon dating, the archaeologists traced the site’s construction to that same period. Garfinkel said the team also found a storeroom almost 15 meters (50 feet) long, suggesting it was a royal site used to collect taxes from the rest of the kingdom.

Garfinkel believes King David lived permanently in Jerusalem in a yet-undiscovered site, only visiting Khirbet Qeiyafa or other palaces for short periods. He said the site’s placement on a hill indicates that the ruler sought a secure site on high ground during a violent era of frequent conflicts between city-states.

“The time of David was the first time that a large portion of this area was united by one monarch,” Garfinkel said. “It was not a peaceful era.”

Archaeologist Israel Finkelstein of Tel Aviv University agreed that Khirbet Qeiyafa is an “elaborate” and “well-fortified” 10th century B.C. site, but said it could have been built by Philistines, Canaanites or other peoples in the area.

He said there was no way to verify who built the site without finding a monument detailing the accomplishments of the king who built it. Last week, for instance, archaeologists in Israel found pieces of a sphinx bearing the name of the Egyptian pharaoh who reigned when the statue was carved.

Researchers Lidar Sapir-Hen and Erez Ben-Yosef from Tel Aviv University have discovered what may be a discrepancy in the history laid out in the Bible. Using carbon-dating to determine the age of the oldest-known camel bones, the researchers determined that camels were first introduced to Israel around the 9th century BCE: here.

African refugees in Israeli prison camp

This video from Israel says about itself:

Protest against the internment of refugees, Saharonim prison, Negev Desert, Israel

Eritrean refugees and Israeli activists protesting on August 31, 2012, against the imprisonment without trial of asylum seekers and refugees in a new, massive prison under construction in the Negev desert.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Israel MPs hit out at desert prisons

Monday 24 June 2013

Opposition politicians laid into the Israeli government today over the atrocious conditions in a camp for unwanted African migrants.

Hundreds are languishing in the Sahronim detention centre in southern Israel, where families may only meet once a week and women and children sleep in a prison-like compound.

“It’s not a camp. It’s a prison,” said Meretz party MP Michal Rozin.

“You have guards. You are not free do what you want. These people are not criminals. Their only crime is asking for a better life.”

A parliamentary delegation recently visited the facility which is central to Israel’s efforts to stem the flow of people who have crossed the porous desert border with Egypt in recent years.

Prison authorities allow few visitors and reporters are banned.

Many of the 1,400 men live in tents holding about 10 people each.

Fences separate them from the 200 women and 11 children, housed in a low-slung building around a courtyard.

Families are allowed to meet only on Thursdays for a few hours.

Just 136 people have left Sahronim since last year, said Sigal Rozen of the Hotline for Migrant Workers.

African migrants designated as refugees may be released, but many say Israel has dragged its feet on thousands of refugee applications it has received.

It has ruled on just 17 cases, rejecting them all.

While the majority of Israel’s radical left focuses on the Prawer Plan or ending the occupation, it tends to neglect the hardships of the LGBT community: here.

‘Extinct’ frog rediscovered

This video from Israel is called Rare Frog Returns From Extinction.

From the BBC:

4 June 2013 Last updated at 15:12 GMT

Rediscovered Hula painted frog ‘is a living fossil

By Rebecca Morelle, Science reporter, BBC World Service

A species of frog that was recently rediscovered after being declared extinct has been reclassified as a “living fossil”.

Israel’s Hula painted frog had not been seen for nearly 60 years, but in 2011 one was found lurking in a patch of swampy undergrowth.

Tests have revealed that the frog belongs to a group of amphibians that died out 15,000 years ago.

The study is published in the journal Nature Communications.

Professor Sarig Gafny, from the Ruppin Academic Center, in Israel, told BBC News: “We felt like we had a great finding when we first rediscovered it – this (frog) was like an idol in Israel.

“But then we found it was a living fossil: this was amazing.”

Spotty belly

Even before it was declared extinct in 1996, the Hula painted frog was an elusive creature.

Despite its distinctive black-and-white-spotted belly, only three adults had ever been seen.

When Israel’s Hula valley was drained in the 1950s, its swampy home was destroyed. Scientists thought the species had been lost forever.

But two years ago, a frog was spotted by a park ranger, and since then another 13 have been discovered.

Prof Gafny explained: “We’ve only found the specimens so far out of the water on land.

“You have to crawl in the dense vegetation, there are blackberries there, which are spiny, and then you have to dig in the decaying detritus… It’s not very attractive to go and look for it.”

But the discoveries have allowed the scientists to study the species in detail.

The frog had been classified as a member of the Discoglossus group of amphibians, but genetic tests and CT scans have revealed that it in fact belongs to the Latonia group.

These frogs were once widespread throughout Europe for millions of years, but all apart from the Hula painted frog died out about 15,000 years ago.

“Nobody ever had a chance to see a Latonia because it went extinct in Europe. The only way anyone could see it was through looking at fossils,” explained Prof Gafny.

“But then with every characteristic that you look at in the current Hula painted frogs, it matches that of the fossils of Latonia and not that of the Discoglossus… So this is a living fossil.”

The researchers said the frog was “a strikingly resilient” species – but added that it was now vital to ensure its future survival.

They believe that work to re-flood parts of the Hula valley would help to provide it with a habitat where it could thrive.