Sderot, Israel — With a friendship confined to opposite poles of the Israel-Palestinian war zone — this southern border town and a Gaza refugee camp — the two men have not seen each other in about a year because of an escalating cycle of violence.
But they have been reunited in the blogosphere, writing a joint diary to stave off their own despair and prove that a dialogue is still possible across their bloody divide.
Tel Aviv — A government program to encourage volunteer work by Arab Israelis as a substitute for army enlistment enjoys wide support among the country’s one-fifth minority, despite a campaign by Arab political leaders to discourage youths from participating.
According to a survey released this week by University of Haifa sociologist Sammy Smooha, support for the national service project among Arab youths and the general Arab Israeli population runs between 75 to 80 percent.
The nugget of philosophy emerged on a walk in a verdant field below the hills of the Haifa suburb of Kiryat Tivon. It was just a few weeks before Israel’s 50th birthday and I asked a friend, an Israeli commando veteran and a prize-winning military engineer, what Zionism meant to him.
“What is Zionism? This is Zionism,” he said pointing to the lanes of blooming wildflowers, and dozens of others catching the late winter-early spring spectacle.
Jerusalem — Jerusalem has changed dramatically in the past couple of decades. Entirely new neighborhoods have been built, upscale shopping malls now dot the landscape, and the percentage of green space has dwindled proportionately to the booming construction.
That’s one of the many reasons to savor Mahane Yehuda, Jerusalem’s sprawling open-air market, which, despite its cleaner, more polished appearance in recent years, remains the most lively and authentically Israeli place in an ever-changing city.
Eli Sinai, Gaza Strip — As Israel’s army began pulling out of Palestinian cities this week and terrorist groups pledged a three-month cease-fire, Israelis in this northern Gaza Strip settlement could find little evidence that the daily fighting going on just outside their window was really over.
“It still hasn’t proven itself yet,” Sarah Kahani, a nursery school teacher, told The Jewish Week. “I want to hope but I’m not 100 percent.”
Gaza City — Hours before narrowly escaping an assassination attempt by the Israeli military, Hamas leader Abdel Azziz Rantisi dismissed the U.S.-sponsored Middle East peace plan and claimed that most Palestinians opposed it as well.
“It’s a big mistake. You won’t find any Palestinian who will tell you otherwise,” said the Hamas hardliner in an interview with The Jewish Week Monday at his home here on the Gaza Strip.