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Yitzhak Navon, Fifth President of Israel, Dies at 94

Posted by 14051948il en noviembre 9, 2015

Israel’s president from 1978 to 1983, Navon fought in the War of Independence, served as David Ben-Gurion’s bureau chief and held a number of ministerial positions. He was also a successful author and playwright.

Yitzhak Navon, who served as Israel's fifth president between 1978-1983. He was 94.
Yitzhak Navon, who served as Israel’s fifth president between 1978-1983. He was 94.

Navon was born in 1921 into a distinguished Jerusalemite Sephardi family who has lived in the city for over 300 years. His paternal family descended from Spanish Jews who settled in Turkey following the Spanish Inquisition. His mother was born in Morocco and immigrated to Israel at the end of the 19th century.

Navon joined the pre-state Betar movement when he was 12, and later enlisted in the Irgun. However, he left the Irgun when he was 18 over ideological differences and joined the Haganah.

In his youth, he attended the “Doresh Tziyon” beit midrash, the “Takhemoni” school and Hebrew University Secondary School, where he studied education, Islamic culture, and Arabic language and literature. He was a teacher for several years until 1946, when he joined the Haganah’s Arab intelligence unit until the end of the War of Independence.

Navon spoke to a local Jerusalem publication in 2009 about his experiences during the war. “It was a time of suffering and near starvation. But there was a feeling that this war was life-or-death, that we would finally win and have a state here or — God forbid — it would all end.”

“We were surrounded by the Egyptians, the Jordanians and the Palestinians — they all besieged Jerusalem. But Ben-Gurion, both the prime minister and defense minister, understood the great importance of protecting Jerusalem. He said that the fall of Jerusalem would be heartbreaking and would endanger our existence,” said Navon. “There were indeed many hard battles and many sacrificed themselves, and I’m pleased that our unit was able to contribute real-time intelligence information to combat units,” he added.

In a 2001 interview with Ma’ariv, published on his 80th birthday, Navon discussed Israel’s initial years. “6,000 people were killed, crippled and wounded during the War of Independence. The economy was devastated — there was no milk, just milk powder. No eggs, but egg powder. Meat was only once a week. Today, it’s in such abundance, you go into shops and buy whatever you want.”

Political career begins

Yitzhak Navon’s first job in the public sector was second secretary at the Israeli legation in Uruguay and Argentina. Upon his return to Israel in 1951, he joined the Mapai political party (a precursor to the Rafi and Alignment parties) and was appointed David Ben-Gurion’s political secretary. He was appointed Ben-Gurion’s bureau chief the following year, a position he held until Ben-Gurion’s resignation in 1963.

“Israel was very honored to have someone like Ben-Gurion at the wheel during such a critical time,” Navon later said. “A person like that is born perhaps once every few thousand years. The State of Israel would not have been established without him. He was a rare individual, a unique combination of vision, realistic perspective, courage and leadership abilities.”

“It was an experience seeing how a man with such a huge responsibility, acting under such pressure, maintained a balance — it’s not easy,” he continued. “Anyone who wants to be prime minister understands the heavy burden placed on his shoulders and surely has a sense of mission. There was much to learn from him and I miss him.”

Between 1963-1965, Navon was a department head at the Education and Culture Ministry, leading a campaign against adult illiteracy. Navon recruited hundreds of soldiers and volunteers to work with adults who could not read or write in Israel’s development towns and communities in the periphery.

According to data from this period, approximately 12% of Israel’s Jewish population was illiterate. Education Minister Zalman Aran said at the beginning of Navon’s operation: “It’s a shame and disgrace that more than 200,000 adults in Israel do not know how to read or write in any language, and we must do everything possible to erase this stain from us.”

In 1965, Navon was elected to the Knesset as a member of Ben-Gurion’s Rafi party, a predecessor of the Labor Party. Navon served as deputy Knesset speaker and chaired the Knesset Committee on Foreign and Defense Affairs for seven years.

In 1970, he received a visiting delegation from Gaza at the Knesset. “One way or another, Gaza’s residents must live in peace with Israel. Therefore, the key question is whether you want to live in peace with Israel,” Navon said to the delegation. Mayor Ragheb al-Alami, the delegation’s head answered that “intense hostility toward Israeli authorities will only improve once the rights taken from Gaza’s residents are returned to them.” Navon replied: “How can there be peaceful coexistence with Israel when you act like this… do you want to eat the grapes in the vineyard or kill the guard?”

Navon elected Israel’s fifth president

Navon was elected Israel’s fifth president in 1978. His inauguration ceremony was televised in color, creating a stir within the Israel Broadcasting Authority, as Haaretz reported at the time. “The IBA’s executive committee decided to soon hold a fundamental debate regarding the introduction of television broadcasts in color. At yesterday’s committee meeting, the IBA decided to recommend to the communications minister to allow President Yitzhak Navon’s ceremony to be broadcast in color. The board of directors determined that yesterday’s decision will not determine a principle or precedent regarding future color broadcasts.”

He was a popular president who traveled throughout the country and worked for mediation between ethnic groups, religious and secular groups, Jews and Arabs and peripheral and central communities. In 1980, Navon visited Egypt as President Anwar Sadat’s official guest after the Israel-Egypt peace treaty was signed. Navon received a warm welcome after speaking Arabic during his visit.

“Sadat’s covenant with peace is an authentic covenant. Although the path we have decided to take is not without obstruction, Sadat and [Israeli Prime Minister Menachem] Begin have already come a long way,” Navon said. Haaretz columnist Yoel Marcus wrote that “Navon visited Egypt once and received what Begin failed to achieve in five visits.”

In 2009, Navon spoke to a local Jerusalem paper about his tenure as president. “I had a feeling of great responsibility, but also of great satisfaction. I knew all segments of the population. There are Jews who came from 102 countries and speak 81 languages — how do you consolidate them into one nation? This is where I saw my role.”

“On the one hand, to find what everyone holds common, whether they come from Georgia or Morocco — usually this is through history or the Bible — while allowing each individual tribe of Israel and community to express what makes them special: their heritage, their folklore, their poetry. These are two things that seem to contradict, but actually complement each other,” he said.

Navon is the only Israeli president to return to political life following his presidential term. In 1984, he was elected as deputy prime minister and served as education and culture minister from 1984-1990. Navon stressed the teaching of Arabic studies and Mizrahi Jewish studies, and oversaw the “culture basket” program that annually showcased students’ contributions and performances. He left the Knesset and politics in 1992.

Outside of his political career, Navon was a successful author and playwright whose work was influenced by his Spanish heritage. “Bustan Sephardi,” a work that deals with the life of a Spanish family in Jerusalem, achieved great success and critical acclaim at Tel Aviv’s Habima theater.

In 2014 the play celebrated its 2,000th performance. Navon’s involvement in Sephardic Jewish culture also manifested itself in his work as chairman of the National Authority for Ladino Culture.

In 1963, his marriage to Ofira Navon was dubbed “wedding of the year.” “The best man was David Ben-Gurion and Jerusalem’s chief rabbi, Eliyahu Pardes, officiated. Blessings were recited by the Israel Defense Forces chief rabbi, Maj. Gen. Shlomo Goren. Ophira Navon, who was a psychologist, was active in public life and starred in beauty contests. Her own fight against breast cancer set an example for many women. She died of the disease in 1993. The Navons had two children. For the past 20 years Navon’s life partner has been Miri Shafir, whom he met when he was 75 years old, two years after Ofira died.

On Navon’s 80th birthday, he was asked in the Ma’ariv interview how he summarized his life so far. “All in all I can’t complain. I had — wait a minute, why am I speaking in the past tense — I have life with a great deal of honey and a great many stings.” This year, Navon’s autobiography, entitled “Yitzhak Navon, All the Way,” was published in Hebrew by Keter.

“Yitzhak Navon’s legacy is his work for justice and peace among the nations,” said Labor Party leader Isaac Herzog.

Ofer Aderet


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Joseph Zaritsky

Posted by 14051948il en mayo 14, 2013

Joseph Zaritsky, Painter. b. 1891, Ukraine. Immigrated 1923. Studies: 1914 Art Academy, Kiev. 1916-19 Served in Russian Army. Teaching: 1932-33 Opened studio in the cellar of his home in Rehov Mapu, Tel Aviv. Prizes: 1941, 1951, 1960 Dizengoff Prize; 1959 Israel Prize for Painting; 1967 Sandberg Prize, Israel Museum, Jerusalem. 1924 Participated in famous David’s Tower Exhibition. 1927 Visited Paris. Returned 1929. Was flag-bearer of new Israeli painting. 1948 A founder of New Horizons Group, together with Moshe Castel, Avigdor Stematsky, Yehezkel Streichman. 1954 Lived in Paris, Amsterdam and Brussels. 1963 Returned to Israel, lived in Tel Aviv and on Kibbutz Tzova. Was Hon. President of the Association of Painters and Sculptors. Died 1985.(The Israel Museum Web Site)

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Technology To Protect Your Children From Dangerous Online Relationships

Posted by 14051948il en septiembre 13, 2011

David Schwimmer’s latest movie, “Trust”, says it all: In the face of the enormity of the online world, protecting your child from potential predators is near impossible. In the movie, a 14-year-old girl enters into a virtual relationship with a man she believes is 19-years-old. When she discovers, months later, that he is actually a middle-aged pedophile, it is already too late.

This extreme scenario is every parent’s worst nightmare. Other problems for children on the internet are the impossibility of controlling their access to sexually explicit content or the relatively new phenomenon of cyber-bullying.

Building on the need for better protection, an Israeli company, Sensegon, has developed a technology, called Kangaroo, to detect and protect young internet users from dangers in the virtual environment. Inspired by advanced military intelligence software and developed with algorithms designed to identify predatory behavior patterns online, Sensegon informs about potential high-risk developments in virtual relationships.

Some services and programs already exist that use a textual scan and show a warning if a “hot” word is detected. Those “hot” words are words that either have sexual connotations, or show an attempt to meet with the child. But this textual analysis is not always effective or relevant for detecting real threats.

Sensegon’s system is based on artificial intelligence for analyzing and detecting patterns using a “virtual body language” of the sides involved in the online relationship. The system alerts about offensive or potentially criminal relationships – without exposing the content itself, in order to protect the child’s privacy. Sensagon’s technology is based on behavioral analysis modules that can differentiate various kinds of relationships and analyzes 200 different parameters in order to identify whether a relationship is taking a problematic direction.

Sensegon’s CEO Omer Efrat, says his goal is for his software to train children to understand the danger themselves: ”Instead of acting like a police officer censoring certain words, [Sensegon] acts as an advisor to your child so that he or she can learn to recognize danger and change behaviors to stay safe. The technology works by mapping the child’s interactions and the roles played by various online friends over time, then predicting what turn relationships will take based upon patterns and probabilities. This enables the child to think critically about his or her online relationships and look at indicators that he or she might have missed.”

One of the projects that Sengsegon is taking part in is on the Israeli children’s social network “Daf Kesher” (Hebrew for contact list). The system is embedded into the social network and can alert when suspicious realtionships start to form.

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President Peres Sends Letter to America on 10th Anniversary of September 11th

Posted by 14051948il en septiembre 11, 2011

On this solemn day, Israeli President Shimon Peres sent this letter to U.S. President Barack Obama.

Dear President Obama,

Ten years after the heinous terror attacks on the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and United Airlines Flight 93, that killed over 3,000 innocent people in their wanton destructive intent, in my name and on behalf of the people of Israel, I want to express our solidarity with the American people and the bereaved families in this hour of remembrance.

September 11 was the epitome of evil, and the symbol of courage of the American people. September 11 also served as a milestone in the collective war against terror, headed by the United States, with the aim of building a better and safer world for our children and grandchildren. In its aftermath, America waged an uncompromising war on terror, culminating in the death of Osama bin Laden and freeing the world of this scourge that threatened humanity, without losing sight of
the freedom and the rights of man.

We share this hour of mourning of the people of the United States, as we share the same values of democracy, freedom and respect for human life. America is an example and inspiration to us all – a nation that has strived to promote the well-being of humanity without seeking to dominate others.

We are proud to be close friends and allies with the U.S.A. The people of Israel have shared in the joys of your nation, and cried with you a decade ago on the day America was attacked. And today, we again bow our heads as America mourns its loss.

Nobody can destroy freedom. You preside over the promise that all of mankind, all human beings, can enjoy it. We trust your leadership, and are thankful for your outstanding contribution in saving the lives of the members of our delegation in Egypt at the most crucial moment.

With enormous appreciation,

Shimon Peres

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Israel and France form new partnership to assist developing countries

Posted by 14051948il en septiembre 9, 2011

Israel and France will cooperate in supplying expert advisors and professional training to African states and Haiti.

Israel and France signed (September 5) a declaration of intent for cooperation in extending aid to Haiti and to emerging countries in Africa. The agreement includes joint actions in the fields of agriculture and irrigation, public health and gender.  Implementation of the agreement will be through MASHAV – Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation, at the Foreign Ministry.

Development is an important subject on the international agenda, especially against the backdrop of recent global crises (food, climate change, energy, etc.), which mainly hurt developing countries, many of which suffer from extreme poverty and hunger. Both Israel and France view this joint activity as adding a new phase to their relationship.

The Israeli-French cooperation will focus on sending experts, counseling, professional training and the like, appropriate to the needs and desires of the country receiving the aid. In the first stage, the countries designated to receive aid are Cameroon, Senegal, Ghana, Burkina Faso and Haiti.

A steering committee composed of representatives from Israel and France, charged with monitoring implementation of the agreement and approving the work plans, will meet once a year.

by the MFA

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Al-‘Ilmi: Israel Is at the Pinnacle of Scientific Research, the Arabs at Its Nadir

Posted by 14051948il en septiembre 8, 2011

“Tawasul is the official website of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, and, unlike Arab websites, it updates its entries every 12 minutes around the clock and offers them in Arabic, Hebrew, Farsi, English, French, and Russian. On January 20, the website published a report which revealed that the only registry in the world for Arab bone marrow donors is located in the Hadassah Medical Center, associated with the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. It should be noted that the Arabs living in Israel constitute no more than 1.2 million of the world’s Arabs, who number upwards of 400 million.

“The report, prepared by Avigayil Kadesh, notes that Dr. Amal Bishara, who oversees organ donations at the Hadassah Medical Center – an Arab woman with a doctorate in life sciences and immunology – has single-mindedly visited more than 60 Arab villages and cities since the bone marrow registry was founded in 2008. [She did so] to further her own research and to supplement the Jewish registry, which has been active at the hospital for 22 years. Through lectures and social networking, the Arab doctor added 9,000 [Arab] donors, thereby enabling six [transplants] of donated bone marrow… It should be noted that 60% of Arabs [in need of such transplants] find donors within their families, and 90% of the requests for bone marrow transplants are for Arab children suffering
from hereditary diseases due to consanguineous marriages.

“Before these Arab [donors] were registered, the Hadassah Medical Center largely failed to expand its donor registry, or to [arrange] donations from Jew to Arab or vice versa. But, thanks to the Arab doctor, perceptions have changed, and Arabs and Jews are willing to donate bone marrow [to one another] in order to save the life of someone they don’t even know.

“This year, Israel published numerous scientific studies that put it in first place worldwide in terms of the number of studies [published] per capita – 12 studies to every 10,000 people. America is in second place, with 10 studies [to every 10,000 people], followed by Britain, with nine. As for the Arab countries, they are all at the bottom end of these statistics.

“Reports on the gaps in science and technology between the Arabs and Israel show that the annual education expenses of the [average] Arab citizen has dropped to $340, while in Israel it is more than $2,500. Indices… that measure income, education, and health levels place Israel at 23rd place worldwide, while Egypt has dropped to 199th place, Syria to 111th, Jordan to 99th, and Lebanon to 82nd. As for the number of scientists engaged in research per one million citizens, Israel has 1,395, versus 136 in the Arab world… UNESCO’s statistics indicate that, on average, scientific research expenses in the Arab countries do not exceed 0.2% of the annual budget, whereas in Israel the figure is 4.7%, placing it in first place worldwide…

“For ten years now, Israel has been forming strategic ties with scientifically advanced countries in order to merge [its research] with their research centers, and in order to encourage its scientists to take part in international development programs. Today, there are 21 international science companies in Israel… It knows before everyone else the results of [these companies’] studies, reaping their fruits and using their scientific expertise to advance Israeli inventions.

“The Israeli strategy in science and technology is based on finding new approaches in scientific research and technological invention by training new generations of scientists – especially in physics, chemistry, and the natural and social sciences, as [Israel] is convinced that these sciences will allow it to control the world and direct its course.

“Since 1949, Israel has established marine geology and nuclear physics institutes, as well as [institutes] for the study of desert regions and information technology. Israel makes use of scientific research and technological development to secure its coasts and meet its [other] strategic defense and security needs, and in order to protect the environment, discover and develop natural resources and use them before others, produce electricity, communications, and information technology, and research [alternative] energy…”

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Al-Harbi: “Do We Really Still Believe that Israel Is a Temporary Entity Bound to Disappear?”

Posted by 14051948il en septiembre 8, 2011

Al-Harbi wrote: “When we were young, the teachers exhausted us by reiterating that Israel is, without question, a temporary and transient country. When we got old enough to read, newspapers and books filled our heads with reasons why Israel could not [continue to] exist in its Arab surroundings. For years, we waited for the moment when Israel would disappear, and here we are [today, witnessing] the moment when the Arab countries are beginning to topple, one after the other.

“A few days ago was the 44th anniversary of the naksa [i.e., the defeat in the 1967 war], when Israel swallowed up Arab lands… A week or more ago, [Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu delivered a brilliant speech before the American Congress in which he emphasized that Israel would not return to the 1967 borders. This statement means that Israel has achieved such a degree of complacency and tranquility that it is no longer willing to negotiate even over those lands it has admitted to occupying [in 1967], much less… over the lands it occupied in 1948. Do we really still believe that Israel is a temporary entity bound to disappear?

“Perhaps Israel will disappear in another 100 or 200 years, as no one can foresee what will happen in the future. However, looking at the current state of its Arab neighbors, I see addled countries, political entities that lack the ability to maintain their national unity, and armies that are not trying to wipe out Israel so much as to wipe out their own peoples…

“The secret to Israel’s survival, despite all the great challenges it has faced, lies in democracy and respect for the worth of the [Israeli] individual, regardless of [Israel’s] racism and brutality vis-à-vis its Arab enemies. The secret to the collapse of the Arab countries, one after another, lies in dictatorship and in the oppression of the individual… It is impossible for an Arab country, a neighbor of Israel, to succeed in liberating Palestine while denying dignity to individuals [within its own borders].

“Israel won war after war, and scooped up Arab lands larger than [Israel itself] in both size and population. It then went on [to develop] manufacturing, industry, and invention. The [average] income there is double [the average income] in the neighboring Arab countries. [Israel] has rendered itself an inescapable fact. Throughout all stages [of its development], it drew its power from the honor it granted to its citizens, while its Arab neighbors trampled the [poor] creatures known as their citizens under military boots.

“If only we could get in touch with our teachers to let them know that Israel still exists, while the Arabs are headed for destruction. In order to know who will remain and who will perish, one must always check who has democracy, human rights, and social justice.”

‘Okaz (Saudi Arabia), June 7, 2011.

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Express Your Support for the People of Israel

Posted by 14051948il en agosto 30, 2011

Hundreds of rockets, missiles, roadside bombs, and terror attacks have  taken many lives, injured even more, terrorized hundreds of thousands, and destroyed property.  Now is the time to show your love and concern  for the people of Israel by signing on to the letter below, which will be sent to Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Peres and to the  mayors of the Israeli cities under fire. Organizations are also invited to join the Conference of Presidents as  sponsors and will be so listed.  Organizations and individuals are asked to immediately distribute this to their own lists linking to this site  so the letter can be forwarded to Israel’s leaders as quickly as possible.

Dear Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres:

We, the undersigned, express our support and solidarity for the people  of the State of Israel as you once again face the dangers of missile and terror attacks.  We especially wish to convey our concern to the  residents in the south of Israel who are in range of the ever more sophisticated rockets and missiles launched from Gaza.  We ask that you convey our condolences to the families of those who lost their lives and our prayers for those who were wounded in the recent terror attacks.

We support the Israeli government taking the necessary steps to protect the citizens of Israel and to prevent their further endangerment.  That hundreds of thousands of innocent people should have to live under constant threat, which itself takes a heavy toll especially on the young, is something no country could accept.  We note that despite the great restraint Israel has demonstrated, the media often fails to distinguish the attackers from the victims and equates the responsibility of both sides.  We regret that too many in the  international community remained silent in the face of the escalating  attacks.

But we will speak out!We pledge our continued and unwavering support for all the people of  Israel.
Please Sign

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Ahmadinejad: Iran determined to eradicate Israel

Posted by 14051948il en agosto 26, 2011

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that  Iran was determined to eradicate Israel.

‘Iran believes that whoever is for humanity should also be for  eradicating the Zionist regime [Israel] as symbol of suppression and  discrimination,’ Ahmadinejad said in an interview with a Lebanese  television network, carried by ISNA.

‘Iran follows this issue [the eradication of Israel] with  determination and decisiveness and will never ever withdraw from this  standpoint and policy,’ the Iranian president added in the interview  with the Al-Manar network.

The remarks by Ahmadinejad came one day before the annual  anti-Israeli rallies named Qods (Jerusalem) Day, which are held  nationwide in Iran on the last Friday of the fasting month of  Ramadan.

Ahmadinejad on Monday said that Iranians and Muslim nations  worldwide should hold Qods rallies and show their willingness to  dispose of this ‘infectious tumour and this regime full of  rascality.’

The Iranian president provoked international condemnation in 2005  when he said that Israel should be eliminated from the map of the  Middle East and transferred to Europe or North America.

The international isolation of the Islamic republic escalated  after Ahmadinejad held a Holocaust conference in 2006 in which he  questioned whether the killing of 6 million Jews in Europe during  World War II actually happened.

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PM Netanyahu’s Statement Following Events in the South 18-08-2011

Posted by 14051948il en agosto 21, 2011

When the citizens of Israel are attacked, we respond immediately and with strength.

Firstly, I would like to express my condolences to the families of the civilians murdered, and to those of the soldiers who fell while responding to today’s terrorist attacks.

I share their pain. I know that their lives will never be the same. I also want to express my hopes for a speedy recovery to those injured in these attacks and are currently undergoing treatment in hospital.

We all witnessed today an attempt to escalate the terrorist war against Israel by launching of attacks from the Sinai. If there is someone who thinks that the State of Israel will let this pass, he is mistaken.

I have set out a principle – when the citizens of Israel are attacked, we respond immediately and with strength.  That principle was implemented today.  Those who gave the order to murder our citizens, while hiding in Gaza, are no longer among the living.

I commend the IDF and the security services who eliminated today in Gaza the senior figures of the organization which carried out the terror attacks in the south. I commend the soldiers, police, and members of the security services who acted swiftly, determinately and bravely against the terrorists, and who thereby prevented an even greater tragedy.

If the terrorist organizations believe that they can attack our citizens and get away with it, they will soon learn how wrong they are. We will exact a price, a very heavy price.

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