Israeli minister supports gay conversion quackery

This 14 July 2019 video says about itself:

Israelis call to sack education minister over gay therapy comments | AFP

Israelis hold protest against Israeli Education Minister Rafi Peretz who has spoken of his belief in therapy to convert gays to heterosexuality and claimed he has engaged in the practice, leading to calls for him to be sacked.

From Associated Press, 15 July 2019:

Israel’s Education Minister Defends Gay‘ Conversion’ Therapy

Hundreds called for Rafi Peretz’s resignation after he made the controversial remarks in a weekend interview

By Shahar Golan

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel’s new education minister’s remarks in favor of “conversion therapy”, a controversial technique that seeks to turn gays into heterosexuals, came under widespread criticism and led hundreds to protest Sunday.

Rafi Peretz, who leads a small religious nationalist party, said in a televised interview over the weekend that he supports
conversion therapy and has performed it. …

It was Peretz’s second major controversy in just a month on the job. Last week, he elicited uproar, particularly from overseas Jews, when he compared intermarriage between Jews and non-Jews to a second “Holocaust”. …

Health officials have said that conversion therapy is scientifically dubious and possibly even dangerous.

Etai Pinkas-Arad, a Tel Aviv city councilman in charge of LGBT affairs, said that conversation therapy can “in some cases cause death by suicidal attempts” and called on Peretz to be fired.

Cynically, one might say that Mr Peretz is not even the worst homophobe in Israel. While this government minister advocates subjecting LGBTQ people to quackery which may kill them (but which they also may survive), Jerusalem’s Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar advocates killing them.

Peretz, a former chief rabbi in the Israeli military, “shouldn’t be holding this position any longer, or relevant position in the future,” he said.

Hundreds protested in Tel-Aviv on Sunday, calling on Peretz to resign. …

While [Prime Minister] Netanyahu likes to boast about Israel’s broad acceptance of gays, he has been attacked by LGBT activists for homophobic comments by members of his coalition, which is dominated by religious and conservative politicians. Last year he was also criticized for voting against surrogacy for gay fathers, presumably under pressure from his Ultra-orthodox coalition partners.

Ethiopian-Israeli rap music against police brutality

Associated Press news agency, 12 July 2019, writes about this video about music:

Ethiopian rappers challenging Israel police through song

In his song “Handcuffed”, rapper Teddy Neguse addresses police brutality against young Israeli men of Ethiopian descent.

Although the song came out in 2017, it has recently reached new heights in the wake of street protests across the country following the killing of an Ethiopian Israeli teen by an off-duty police officer last month.

This week the 23-year-old artist was invited to perform his song live on the popular news website Ynet.

Neguse’s appearance on Ynet illustrates the growing Ethiopian Israeli presence in the local music scene.

But it also reflects the ongoing struggles against alleged racism and discrimination, some three decades after Ethiopian Jews began arriving in Israel.

Large numbers of Ethiopian Jews began arriving in Israel via secret airlifts in the 1980s.

The new arrivals from a rural, developing African country struggled to find their footing in an increasingly high-tech Israel.

Throughout the decades, Ethiopians have suffered discrimination.

In the late 1990s, it was discovered that Israel’s health services were throwing out Ethiopian blood donations over fears of diseases contracted in Africa.

Accusations have also been raised that Israel has deliberately tried to curb birth rates in its Ethiopian communities.

Today there’s around 150,000 people in the Israel Ethiopian community, some 2% of the country’s 9 million citizens.

While some Israelis of Ethiopian descent have made gains in areas like the military, the police force and politics, the community continues to struggle with a lack of opportunity and high poverty rate.

Against this backdrop, Israeli artists of Ethiopian heritage are breaking out in the entertainment world, especially in the growing hip hop and dancehall scenes.

In his music video for “Handcuffed”, Neguse is dressed up as a soldier, riding a bicycle, when he encounters two policemen.

The officers then, seemingly unprovoked, beat him up.

The music video depicts a 2015 incident in which two policemen were filmed beating a uniformed Ethiopian Israeli soldier, sparking mass protests.

The most recent demonstrations erupted after the unarmed Solomon Teka, 18, was fatally shot by a police officer in a Haifa suburb on June 30.

Police say … at least 150 protesters were arrested.

The officer in question, who has claimed the youth was accidentally hit by a warning shot he had fired at the ground, is being investigated by internal affairs and remains under protective custody.

Another up-and-coming Ethiopian Israeli musician, Yael Mentesnot, says that in the past, the community has been “restrained” and “we end up coming off a bit naive.”

But this time she says the community is beginning to truly feel the despair.

“All the protests, they are not orchestrated, nothing there was organised,” she said.

“Everyone went to the streets frustrated and released their anger.”

While most of Mentesnot’s young solo career has been filled with upbeat party songs, she said the recent events have inspired her to address the Ethiopian Israelis’ struggle.

“Our whole life is a struggle, we face challenges, and we overcome them,” she said. “I want the public to see it. To understand what we feel.”

Neguse said he is pleased that Ethiopian musicians are on the rise, but said the recent protests should be seen as “a call for help, a cry of an entire community.”

Ethiopian Israeli speaks

This 4 July 2019 video is called Ethiopian Israelis and Systematic Discrimination.

By Avi Yalou in United States Jewish daily Forward, 3 July 2019:

My Fellow Israelis: Black Lives Matter Is Your Fight, Too

I grew up in Kiryat Malachi, Israel.

Scratch that.

I grew up black in Kiryat Malachi, Israel.

My family came to Israel from Ethiopia when I was somewhere between five and six years old. I was number eight of ten children, part of a veritable private tribe.

Generations of my family dreamed of making aliya. They dreamed that when they got to Israel, they would finally feel safe and welcome. In

mostly Christian, also Islamic

Ethiopia we were seen as foreign elements, strangers because of our Jewishness. In Israel, we thought, we would finally find acceptance. We would not be strangers. We would be Jews among other Jews.

We were wrong.

Monday’s killing of the unarmed eighteen-year-old Ethiopian Israeli Solomon Teka by an off-duty police officer shows us just how wrong we were.

After three days of mass protests, the Ethiopian Israeli community’s call is basic: We demand to be treated as equal among equals. We demand an end to racial profiling. We want full recognition of our community’s Jewishness.

These demands are simple, and they’re not just for us. When we fight for Ethiopian Israeli rights, we fight for every minority in Israel who has seen their rights trampled — Arab citizens, ultra-Orthodox citizens, LGBTQ citizens, and Israelis living in the periphery.

When I was invited to oppose the racist Nation State Law that demotes Palestinian citizens of Israel to second class status, I did so, loudly. I want to invite others in to join my fight, too. Because there is no other way to build an Israel where white, black or brown, the color of your skin does not determine the extent of your rights. We don’t have an Israel like that yet.

Ethiopian families like mine encountered racism from day one in Israel. Not just the kind of racism where people call you names in school, though we had that too. The built-in, systemic kind where, even if you’ve prayed all your life for the rebuilding of Jerusalem, you had to be “converted” to Judaism in the Orthodox fashion. Or where your elders, who had been the ritual leaders of our community for time immemorial, were now barred from performing circumcision, marriage, or any other significant Jewish ceremony.

But that was just the beginning. Then there were the gaps. Gaps in wages; gaps in education. And the higher rates. Rates of arrest, open police files, incarceration. And, on Monday, yet again, we saw an unarmed, Ethiopian Israeli citizen shot by police.

Solomon Teka’s name is only the latest in the growing list of Israeli youth of Ethiopian descent who are now dead because of police shootings. Earlier this year, another young man, Yehuda Biadga, was shot and killed by a police officer. He was twenty-four years old and suffering from mental illness. In 2015, footage of a police officer beating an Ethiopian Israeli soldier in his IDF uniform was caught on tape.

We protested then, like we are protesting now. We held signs with the names of the unarmed black men killed in Israel by police, side-by-side with signs those of the unarmed black men killed in Baltimore by police. We knew then that the struggle was a global one: that the same racial profiling that police employ in America is what they practice here in Israel. That racism is an infection that doesn’t go away unless you treat it. And Israel is not immune.

In Israel we aren’t just angry; we are disappointed. We have been betrayed. Ethiopian Jews had come to Israel seeking freedom, not as slaves. We had yearned to come; we were returnees! And still, we were met with the ugliness of racism.

Here’s what I don’t want: I don’t want to an apology. An apology won’t bring back Solomon. It won’t bring back Yehuda. It won’t bring back any of the kids who died because they happened to encounter a police officer.

What we want now is to prevent the next murder, the next senseless killing. For that to happen, we need justice. We need to see this police officer held legally accountable so that the next police officer will think twice before he puts his hand in his holster and starts to shoot civilians. No, I don’t want an apology.

Here’s what else I don’t want: I don’t want to be a lone voice. I don’t want to look into the faces of teenagers protesting and see the fear of isolation and aloneness. I don’t want to hear them asking, “Why are only black people marching?”

I want you to join me and join us. I want this struggle – the fight for the future of our country — to be shared. Because it is shared. Because I share in your pain and you share in mine.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on the Ethiopian Israeli community to show restraint and obey the law. But the law is not on our side. The law does not protect us. And so we are doing what is fully our democratic right: We are assembling. We are expressing our discontent. We are organizing.

We want you to join us. We won’t stop until the law works for all of us.

Avi Yalou is an Ethiopian Israeli activist who works on a variety of social justice issues in Israel. Follow him on Twitter @aviyalou.

While Monday’s demonstrators against police brutality and racism were largely Israelis of Ethiopian origin, on Tuesday and Wednesday workers and especially youth across all communities, as well as migrant workers, who have long faced racism and discrimination, were protesting in solidarity. Since the 2008 financial crisis, conditions for the working class have worsened as well-paying jobs have been erased and replaced with low-wage labour and wages eroded by the soaring cost of living: here.

Ethiopian Israelis protest against police killing

This 3 July 2019 video from Kenya says about itself:

An 18 year old young Ethiopian Jew has been killed in cold blood by an Israeli police[man]. According to the family, Solomon Teka was playing with his friends in a playground when an off duty policeman shot at him sniper style. Ethiopian Jews across Israel have been holding public demonstrations against the police.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

Young Ethiopian Jews rebel against discrimination in Israel

In Israel, great unrest has arisen among the Ethiopian-Jewish community since a police officer shot an unarmed young man of Ethiopian descent. On Tuesday and Wednesday, there were fierce clashes with police in various cities in Israel. Some 150 people were injured …

At least 135 demonstrators were arrested.

The long-standing discontent among Ethiopian Jews erupted after the shooting incident in Haifa last Sunday. A police officer was there in his spare time … in a playground, when he noticed a group of … black youth. … He shot. 18-year-old Solomon Teka was fatally hit. …

According to eyewitnesses, there was no need to shoot, the officer was never in danger. The man was arrested and being interrogated.

Discrimination and police violence

Ethiopian Jews see the incident as the umpteenth expression of discrimination and police violence against the community.

The Ethiopians were secretly evacuated by Israel from Ethiopia to Israel in the late 1980s to protect them from hunger and war. In Israel, with a population of 9 million, they form a separate and largely impoverished community of 150,000 people. They suffer from racism, discrimination when looking for work and structural police violence. The younger generation of Jews of Ethiopian descent refuses to accept the situation and has rebelled more often. …

The Israeli government, after the riots, has admitted that the group is being disadvantaged.

Protest against the killing of DSolomon Teka in Tel Aviv, AFP photo

Right-wing austerity in Israel

This August 2012 video says about itself:

Israelis protest over austerity measures

Thousands of Israelis have taken to the streets to protest against government budget cuts. Issues including housing and the high cost of living are matters which have increased public discontent. Al Jazeera’s Cal Perry reports from Tel Aviv.

By Jean Shaoul:

Israel to set pre-election austerity budget

19 June 2019

Israel’s Minister of Finance Moshe Kahlon is to introduce a budget for 2020 that will raise taxes and reduce public expenditure by $900 billion, over and above previously announced cuts in education

His aim is to reduce a growing budget deficit, projected to reach at least 3.5 percent of GDP, before September’s snap elections.

Kahlon plans to raise taxes on hybrid cars, introduce a new tax on industrial fuels expected to generate $200 million, and transfer $75 million from the national lottery fund.

He has yet to announce where the cuts will fall. That is likely to be the subject of protracted wrangling between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his prospective coalition partners, all of whom want to shore up their own support base in the settlements and ultra-orthodox communities.

The austerity budget comes just two months after an election campaign in which the various political blocs and parties barely mentioned their economic and social programmes, much less the conditions facing Israeli workers and their families.

The budget cuts and tax hikes flow inexorably from Israel’s defence budget, one of the highest relative to GDP in the world, much of which is not officially disclosed, and a tax regime that benefits the rich. The cuts and tax hikes will hit the poor hardest, in a society in which one-quarter of households already live in or near poverty.

The budget comes in the wake of a generous pension plan for the police and a hugely expensive housing programme, which was supposed to have made accommodation more affordable after huge demonstrations in 2011, when workers and young people took to the streets to protest the rising cost of homes and food. This ostensible concession was accomplished by the government “selling” publicly owned land to residential developers at give-away prices, leaving the real estate speculators free to reap the profits without any observable effect on housing prices. As a result, the price-to-income ratio of homes remain among the highest in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), a massive burden on household incomes that has not lessened since 2011.

With nearly 30 percent of families renting their home, at a total cost in 2017 of more than $5 billion, this serves to transfer wealth from low-income to high income households.

Last year, the OECD report on Israel’s economy insisted that the government’s “planned budget deficits are high” and warned, “Steady fiscal consolidation will be needed to reduce public debt relative to GDP.”

Israel’s economy, which is highly dependent upon international markets, is expected to slow to a growth rate of 3.1 percent in 2019, driven by declining revenues due to the global slowdown, an appreciating currency, and a decrease in technology sales. This slowdown comes under a gathering threat of trade wars, protectionism, and competitive devaluations globally, sparked by Israel’s benefactor, the US.

Irrespective of any minor criticisms, the main opposition bloc, the Blue and White party, supports an austerity budget. Yair Lapid, who once held the finance portfolio under Netanyahu and whose party Yesh Atid (There is a Future) is now part of the Blue and White alliance, said last March, “The State of Israel spends too much money… There is too much fat in the state budget… It was irresponsible to create this deficit, and it must be eliminated.”

A recent OECD publication points out that while the middle-income class—a strata associated with access to good housing, education and healthcare—has shrunk from the mid-1980s to the present decade in most OECD countries, the decline was particularly steep in Israel, Canada, Germany, Sweden and Norway. In Israel, the share of middle-income households in the total national income fell by about 8 percent, while the share of high-income households increased by 9 percent.

The latest Gini index, published by Israel’s National Insurance Institute for 2017, was 0.352, positioning Israel as one of the most unequal societies among the OECD countries.

A recent study by the social justice advocacy group Adva found a deeply divided society.

In 2016, almost half of Arab Israeli households fell below the poverty line and 14 percent were living near the poverty threshold, compared with 13 percent of Jewish Israeli households below the poverty line and 7 percent near the poverty line.

Among the Jewish population, Ethiopian immigrants had the highest poverty rate (23 percent). Immigrants (post-1990) from the former Soviet Union had the highest near-poverty level (12 percent). Second-generation Ashkenazim (Jewish Israelis from Europe) had the lowest rate of households living in near-poverty (4 percent).

Those households headed by a woman (i.e., where a woman worked the longest hours) made up 43 percent of all households living in poverty and 43 percent of households living in near poverty.

What was remarkable—and indicative of the low level of pay, declining income and high cost of living in Israel—was the near doubling between 2003 and 2016 of the percentage of households with two or more people working that are nonetheless living in or near poverty.

Even a college education did not guarantee a way out. Between 2003 and 2016, the percentage of poor households headed by a person with college studies grew from 13 to 22 percent, with similar figures for those living near poverty.

Welfare policy has, since 2003, when Netanyahu was finance minister in Ariel Sharon’s coalition government, been orientated towards slashing welfare payments, in particular child allowances, forcing people into work and subsidizing low wages—in effect a low-wage subvention that has benefited Israel’s employers and fueled soaring social inequality.

While social benefits constituted 62 percent of the income of households living in poverty in 2003, this fell to 44 percent in 2016, with a similar decline from 42 percent to 30 percent for households living in near-poverty.

Last March, Kahlon announced new measures aimed at reducing the cost of child care for working families, cynically rebranding it as “national early education plan” for one-year olds, in order to make low-paid, short-term, part-time and casual work more attractive.

While the share of income from work grew between 2000 and 2017, reflecting a rise in the minimum wage and work credits, this was largely because of the increase in the number of people working due to government measures. These included, in 2004, the raising of the retirement age and pension eligibility from 60 to 62 for women, and from 65 to 67 for men. But despite low levels of unemployment, currently around 3.5 percent, this has not resulted in any reduction in poverty.

This is the result of deliberate government policy in the service of a ruthless capitalist class …

The fight of the working class for its interests, including a vast redistribution of the wealth currently monopolized by a handful of families, an end to the ongoing conflict with the Palestinians, and the growing threat of war against its neighbours and Iran, raises the urgent necessity for a mass political movement of Israeli and Palestinian workers … against the capitalist system and its state, and for socialism.

Stop war on Gaza, demonstrations in Israel

This video is called Demonstration in Tel Aviv, Israel against the situation in Gaza. May 2018.

From the peace movement in Israel:

Emergency demonstrations throughout Israel: Stop the war! Move towards peace!

Press Release Nov. 13, 2018

Hebrew original forwarded by Standing Together, translation Adam Keller

Today at 20:00 – Haifa, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem

The Standing Together movement, along with various peace groups, will demonstrate today (Tuesday, Nov. 13) throughout the country, demanding a complete change of direction. Instead of war and fear and bloodshed we should lift the siege of Gaza, end the occupation, and actively pursue a comprehensive Israeli-Palestinian peace.

The pain of suffering casualties, the fear of another night without sleep and the question “why?` are now the lot of very many people. We want – we must – change this reality. This conflict has gone on far too long. Again and again it flares up. Again we hear arrogant statements about “It is time to teach them a lesson” which do not and should not give anyone a feeling of confidence.

We must take a new path. Residents of Southern Israel and residents of Gaza, Israelis and Palestinians – only peace can guarantee security to all of us. Only peace will ensure quiet nights – this is the only way. Let`s end for spreading hatred and sowing fear, let`s end this pain. Today, especially today, let us demand what should have taken place long ago, the only thing that can ensure life: lifting of the siege, ending the occupation and achieving Israeli-Palestinian peace. We deserve a happy ending to this sad and difficult story. `
The demonstrations will take place at:

Haifa – UNESCO Square in the German Colony, at the foot of the Baha`i Gardens

Jerusalem – Paris Square

Tel Aviv – The corner of Rothschild Boulevard and Allenby Street


For further details and coordination of interviews:

Hila +972-(0)54-2457680 or Doron +972-(0)54-4673320

Izzeldin Abuelaish’s three daughters were killed in Gaza – but he still clings to hope for the Middle East: here.

The resignation of Defence Minister and Israel Beiteinu (Israel is Our Home) party leader Avigdor Lieberman Wednesday has forced Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu’s Likud-led coalition—left with a one-seat majority—to bring forward national elections to early next year: here.

‘World’s oldest beer discovery in Israel’

This April 2016 video says about itself:

Israeli brewery make beer from Jesus’s time

A brewery in Jerusalem have resurrected a recipe for beer from Jesus’ time and discovered why the bible favoured wine. Report by Lydia Batham.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

‘Oldest brewery in the world’ discovered in Israel

In Israel, archaeologists have discovered a 13,000 years old brewery. According to Israeli and American scientists, this is the oldest known place where alcohol was produced.

The discovery was made in the Rakefet cave in Mount Carmel, south of Haifa city. That cave was used by the Natufians as a cemetery. The Natufians were a people of hunter-gatherers who lived in the Mediterranean region during the Stone Age.

In the cave archaeologists found a kind of mortars that had been carved into the rock. They have studied the mortars and it showed that two of the mortars were used to store grains. In the third one, the grains were ground and then fermented. Then a beer-like drink was made.

The fact that mortars were made in the cave indicates that the drink was used during the funeral ceremonies, says Dani Nadal, archeology professor at the University of Haifa. He speaks of an important discovery. “The finding shows that the production of alcohol did not necessarily come about because of the overproduction of grains that had to be processed.” Even before agriculture emerged [in the Neolithic], alcohol was apparently produced as part of a ritual process.”

According To History, We Can Thank Women For Beer: here.

Israeli peace activist Uri Avnery, RIP ceremony

This 30 August 2018 video from Israel says about itself:

Farewell ceremony for Uri Avnery

Sokolov Press House, Tel Aviv. Editing: Eran Vered and Anat Saragusti.

Sharp rise in right-wing attacks on Palestinians and Israeli peace and rights activists: here.

Israeli peace activist Uri Avnery, by Adam Keller

This 20 August 2018 video says about itself:

The Life and Legacy of Uri Avnery

Often criticized, Uri Avnery lived a life fighting for a cause that he believed was critical for peace for Israel: a Palestinian state next door. Even after his death, his left-wing ideas live on with his legacy and his followers’ struggle continues. Our Daniel Campos has the story.

From Israeli peace activist Adam Keller, 25 August 2018:

My Fifty Years With Uri Avnery

How to sum up in a few words 50 years of political partnership, which was also an intensive friendship, with the person who, I believe, had the most influence on me? The starting point: summer of 1969.

A 14-year-old from Tel Aviv, during the summer between elementary school and high school, I notice an ad in HaOlam HaZeh newspaper asking for volunteers at the election headquarters of the “HaOlam Hazeh – Koah Hadash” (“New Force”) party. I went.

In a small basement office on Glickson Street, I found three teenagers folding propaganda flyers into envelopes. To this day, the smell of fresh print takes me back to that very moment. Two hours later, we heard a commotion outside. Knesset Member Uri Avnery, the man whose articles brought us to this office in the first place, walked in. He was returning from an election rally in Rishon LeZion. He exchanged a few words with the volunteers, thanked us for our help, and went into a meeting room with his aides.

At that point, it was not Uri Avnery’s opinions on the Palestinian issue that motivated me to volunteer for the campaign. My own opinions on the matter were not fully formed yet. Only two years prior, in June of 1967, I had shared with many others in celebrating the fact that Israel expanded into “new territories.” I would not have imagined that I would eventually dedicate most of my life to trying to get Israel out of those territories.

I was attracted to Uri Avnery’s party primarily because it was a young, fresh political party that challenged the old, rotten establishment parties, and because it was opposed to religious coercion, and advocated for separation of religion and state, public transportation on Shabbat, and civil marriage. A few weeks after I began volunteering, I left a note on Uri’s desk with a few questions: Can we really make peace with the Arabs? Should we give back all the territories Israel occupied, or only some? And what will happen with the settlers? (The settler population at the time was a tiny fraction of what it is today.)

A week later, I received a letter in the mail – three pages of detailed answers to each one of my 10 questions. I still have that letter. I have no doubt that Uri wrote it himself – his writing style seeps out of every word. He took the time and energy, in the middle of running a political campaign, to provide thorough answers to the questions of a 14-year-old. I think it turned out to be a profitable investment.

The end point: Friday, August 3, 2018. A years-long political partner of Uri Avnery, at 63 years old, I receive his weekly column, as I do every Friday. In this article, he wrote about the Jewish Nation-State Law and Israel’s national identity, and whether it was Jewish or Israeli (he of course advocated strongly for an Israeli identity).

As I had done many times before, I wrote him an email commenting on the substance of the article, raising some fundamental objections. He suggested we discuss them further next time we meet.

I asked for his opinion on the protest against the Nation-State Law, scheduled for the following day by the Druze community. He said he was convinced that the demonstration would not focus on the Druze’s exclusive standing in Israeli society, or the unique bundle of rights they get for serving in the military, but that it will tackle the fundamental principle of equality for all citizens.

The last which I will ever hear from him was a one-line message on my computer screen: “I am going to the Druze protest tomorrow.” I assume that he did read what I had written him, that on that night he went to sleep in his bed and that he woke up the next day with the intention of participating in the protest. In the evening, when I was standing amidst the large crowd that amassed in the Rabin Square, I assumed he was standing somewhere around. I rang his phone twice, getting no reply and chalking it up to bad reception (which is common during mass rallies when very many people use their mobile phones all at once).

In retrospect I know that by then he had already been admitted to the emergency room at Ichilov Hospital, never to regain consciousness. It was the activists who planned to give him a ride to the demonstration who had found him lying on the floor of his apartment.

What filled the 50 years between the start and end points? The HaOlam Hazeh – Koah Hadash party, which merged into Peace and Eqaulity for Israel, a political party known as Shelli in Hebrew; the Council for Israeli-Palestinian Peace, which held meetings with the Palestinian Liberation Organization and became a faction of Sheli; the Progressive List for Peace, which we joined after Shelli broke up; and then Gush Shalom.

So many meetings, marches, protests and conversations. So many memories. Standing side by side, holding posters at a protest to prevent the closure of Raymonda Tawil’s news agency in East Jerusalem. The photo that Avnery’s wife, Rachel, took of that demonstration is still up on the wall of the room I am writing these very words in.

A conversation with Avnery the day that HaOlam Hazeh, which he edited for 40 years, officially shut down. I Said: “I know this is a difficult day for you”. He answered: “The paper was a tool, serving a purpose. We shall find other tools.”

It is early 1983. Uri Avnery, Matti Peled and Yaakov Arnon, known us the “Three Muskateers”, come back from a meeting with Yasser Arafat in Tunisia. As soon as he lands at the airport, he hands me photos of the meeting, and I bounce from one newsroom to another across Tel Aviv to distribute them in person. I then take a shared taxi to Jerusalem where Ziad Abu Aayyad, editor of the Palestinian Al-Fajr (“The Dawn”) newspaper, waited for me.

A bit later in 1983, the radio announcing the assassination of Issam Sartawi, a PLO member who often met with Avnery and was a close personal friend to him, and my phone call to Uri informing him of the sad news. The frustrating endless phone calls, in the couple of days that followed, proved to us that it was impossible to rent a hall in Tel Aviv to commemorate a PLO man – even one who advocated for peace with Israel and was killed for it.

December 1992. Prime Minister Rabin, who had not yet signed the Oslo Accords and had not yet become a hero of peace, expels more than four hundred Palestinian activists to Lebanon, and we put up a protest tent in front of the Prime Minister’s Office. A cold Jerusalem winter, and it is snowing, but inside the tent that was donated by Bedouins from the Negev, it feels warm and cozy. Uri, Rachel, myself and my wife Beate join other activists in a long conversation with Sheikh Raed Salah, head of the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, on Judaism and Islam, and how religion and politics converge and clash.

In 1997, in the middle of a protest in front of Har Homa – Netanyahu’s flagship settlement – Uri’s stomach wound, which he had been carrying since the war in 1948, breaks open. A Palestinian ambulance clears him to Al-Makassed Hospital in East Jerusalem; we are all very anxious. Rachel tells me, “even though I do not believe in God, I am praying.” But Uri recovers and lives on for 21 more years of intensive political activity.

May 2003, the Muqata’a (Presidential Compound) in Ramallah. That afternoon, there was a suicide bombing in Rishon LeZion, and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon drops a broad hint that he might send an elite IDF unit to “handle” Yasser Arafat that night. We are among 15 Israeli activists who go to Ramallah to serve as human shields. We call the media and tell them that “for the Prime Minister’s information, there are Israeli citizens sitting outside of Arafat’s door!”

Arafat shows Uri his gun and says, “if they come, I have a bullet in here for myself.” We spend an entire night at Arafat’s door, having conversations with young Palestinian guards in a mix of Arabic, Hebrew, and English, paying attention to every sound. Then it is dawn, and we understand that we made it through the night safely, and that the soldiers will not be coming. Another long, relaxed conversation when we stopped to eat something on our way back from a Progressive List meeting in Nazareth: “The Crusaders were here before us, they came from Europe and established here a kingdom that lasted 200 years. Not all of them were religious fanatics. Among them were people who spoke Arabic and had Muslim friends. But they were never able to achieve peace with their neighbors or adapt to this region. They had temporary agreements and ceasefires, but were not able to gain real peace. Acre was their ‘Tel Aviv,’ and when it fell, the last Crusaders were thrown into the sea – literally. Those who do not learn from history are bound to repeat it.”

“If I ever get the chance to serve as a minister, I would want to have Education Ministry. That is the most important portfolio in the cabinet. The Defense Minister may be able to send soldiers to die in war, but the Education Minister can shape children’s consciousness. The policies of today’s Education Minister will still bear manifest results in 50 years, when today’s children become grandparents and talk to their own granchildren. If I were the minister, the first thing I would do is remove the [Biblical] Book of Joshua from the curriculum. That book advocates genocide, plain and simple. It is also a historical fiction – the events it describes never happened. Rachel was a teacher for 40 years, and every year she succeeded in avoiding teaching this trash.”

Rachel accompanied him everywhere, an active partner to everything he did, editing his articles and dealing with the all the logistics of organizing protests. We all knew she was a carrier of hepatitis B – a time bomb that might explode at any moment. And when it finally did, Uri spent six months with her in the hospital, day and night. He almost disappeared from political life. One day, I happened to bump into him in the hallway of Ichilov Hospital as he was pushing her in a wheelchair, from one checkup to another. In her final weeks, someone told Uri of an experimental treatment that might save Rachel’s life. Although he knew the chances were slim, Uri spent large sums of money to purchase the medication in America and have it flown to Ben Gurion Airport, and from there, transported directly to the hospital.

When she passed away, Uri asked that nobody contact him for three days, and he completely disengaged from the world. Once those three days were over, he went back to his routine of protests and political commentary ­ or so it seemed.

How to finish this article? I will go back to 1969, to an article by Uri which I read under the table during a very boring class in eighth grade. I still remember it, almost word for word; it was a futuristic article that attempted to imagine what the country would look like in 1990. The page was split into two parallel columns, representing two parallel futures. In one of the futures, Independence Day in 1990 is marked by a tremendous manifestation of military power, with new tanks on display in Jerusalem. Prime Minister Moshe Dayan congratulates IDF soldiers who are on alert in the Lebanon Valley and the Land of Goshen near the Nile, and declares: “We shall never give up the city of Be’erot (formerly Beirut), this is our ancestral homeland!” In the second future, on Independence Day in 1990 festive receptions are being held at Israeli embassies across the Arab world, but the most moving photo was captured in Jerusalem, of a warm embrace between Israeli President Moshe Dayan and Palestinian President Yasser Arafat.

Israeli peace activist Uri Avnery’s cremation

This 20 August 2018 video says about itself:

Uri Avnery, veteran Israeli activist for a Palestinian state, dies at 94:

The man known as the first Israeli to meet Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat died in Tel Aviv on Monday at the age of 94. Peace activist and former Knesset member Uri Avnery was also one of the first Israelis to actively push for the establishment of a Palestinian state, more than 70 years ago.

A controversial figure among fellow Israelis, Avnery was hailed as groundbreaking by his supporters and an enemy of the people by critics.

Israeli publication Haaretz on Monday described the left-wing journalist as an advocate of co-operation between Palestinians and Israelis under a joint name and an opponent of the 1947 UN Partition Plan — that is to say, a supporter of a single state. His stance, however, changed after 1948-49 Arab-Israeli war.

“During the war, I was filled with compassion for the Arab population. You know, I entered a dozen villages whose inhabitants had fled a few minutes before — the pot on the stove was still hot”, he said in an interview with Haaretz in 2014. “The war totally convinced me there’s a Palestinian people, and that peace must be forged first and foremost with them. To achieve that goal, a Palestinian nation-state had to be established”, Avnery wrote in his memoir.

From Israeli peace movement Gush Shalom today:

Public figures, Knesset Members of various parties, a high level delegation from the Palestinian Authority and the gathered mourners who cherish his memory will today (Wednesday), between 5.00 to 6.00 pm, gather in front of the coffin of veteran peace activist Uri Avnery, which will be placed in the vestibule at Beit Sokolov, (Journalists’ Association Building) at 4 Kaplan St., Tel Aviv. Words will be said in his memory by those who knew and respected him. All those who want to pay their last respects are heartily invited to come.

At the end of the event, Avnery’s body will be taken to cremated, according to the instructions he left in his life. The location of the cremation facility is kept secret due to attempts by extremist religious groups to sabotage and destroy it. Uri Avnery’s ashes will be scattered at sea, again in accordance with the request he left, as were the ashes of his wife Rachel who died seven years ago. The scattering of the ashes will be carried out privately by its close friends, without a public or media presence.

Anat Saragusti +972-54-2151991
Adam Keller +972-54-2340749