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Film zooms in on 8-year-old amputee from Gaza living in an Israeli hospital

(Photo: Rina Castelnuovo)

(Photo: Rina Castelnuovo)

By Jessica Steinberg - February 15, 2018 

Originally appeared here in The Times of Israel 

In a documentary now making the rounds of film festivals, an Israeli photojournalist trained her lens on a small Gazan child whose remarkably paradoxical existence reflects the complicated mix of humanitarianism, hatred and bureaucracy that governs relations between Israel and the Gaza Strip.

Rina Castelnuovo, who spent 24 years as a New York Times photographer in Israel, devoted four years to closely documenting Muhammed El-Farrah, known as Muhi, an 8-year-old Palestinian boy from Gaza who has spent most of his life in limbo at Tel Aviv’s Tel Hashomer hospital.

The result of that closeup lens is “Muhi — Generally Temporary,” a documentary film in Arabic and Hebrew with English subtitles that she co-directed with Tamir Elterman focusing on the quirky, funny semi-permanent resident of Tel Hashomer, along with his grandfather and caretaker, Hamuda Abu Naim El Farrah.

It is a troubling, even devastating film, yet it offers hope in the figure of Muhi, who perseveres despite the amputation of his hands and feet. He scrambles around the hospital with his prosthetic limbs, and holes up with his grandfather in the hospital room that became his home. Read More

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Where a Druze Beekeeper, A Jewish Hotel Owner and a Bedouin Mother Talk Shop

(Photo: Wikipedia)

(Photo: Wikipedia)

By Diana Bletter - February 7, 2018

Originally appeared here in the Times of Israel 

At a class at Akko Center of Arts and Technology, ACAT, in Akko, Western Galilee, the other evening, I saw the inspiration of the Start-up Nation trickle down to a grassroots level. There were fifteen students, including a Druze beekeeper, a Bedouin mother and daughter who serve homemade meals in their home, and a Jewish woman who operates luxury guest cabins in a small town on the northern border with Lebanon. Studying Entrepreneurship in the Travel Industry, the students were trying to figure out how to reach more customers, use social media, and expand their start-up tourism businesses.

The three-month course is part of the youth and adult learning programs at ACAT. Directed by CEO Naim Obeid, born and raised in Akko, the non-profit art, education and job-training center is under the auspices of Manchester Bidwell Corporation of the United States.

The Corporation, which runs ten centers in the United States, opened its first center outside of the USA in Akko in November 2016. Read More

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Ethiopian Israeli teen wins X Factor Israel after wowing with audition

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By Rosa Doherty - February 7, 2018

Originally appeared here in theJC.com 

An Ethiopian teenager, who wowed audiences with her version of Demi Lovato’s “Stone Cold,” has won X-Factor Israel.

Eden Alene, 17, from Jerusalem, overcame a difficult childhood to enter the competition and win a recording contract.

The singer’s parents divorced when she was two and she was brought up by her single, Orthodox Jewish mother.

During the competition she talked about being ashamed of her origins, but as she grew up, she said she became proud to be Ethiopian.

A video of Alene’s audition went viral in October.

As part of the performance the aspiring singer explained why promoting coexistence was important to her. Read More

 

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How a Saudi publisher is helping Israel speak to the Arab world

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By Dov Lieber - February 9, 2018

Originally appeared here in the Times of Israel 

Over the past year, the Arabic-language news site Elaph has published an unprecedented series of interviews with senior Israeli officials. The interviewees included the Israeli army’s chief of staff, the previous defense minister, the intelligence minister and the leader of the opposition.

Stoking interest was Elaph’s connections to Saudi Arabia, with many asking whether the interviews are a sign of warming ties between Jerusalem and Riyadh.

The Times of Israel sat down recently with Majdi Halabi, a veteran Israeli reporter who conducted and then wrote up the interviews in a simple question and answer format.

Halabi, 54, who grew up in the Galilean Druze village Daliyat al-Karmel, said the interviews were his idea, and that Elaph’s publisher, Othman Al Omeir, “loved” the initiative.

This was no secret understanding between Riyadh and Jerusalem, said Halabi, but merely a successful story pitch in Elaph’s offices in London.

The idea was simple, Halabi said. “We are a paper that is published in London. We are not subject to the laws of Arab countries, where, except for Egypt and Jordan [which have peace treaties with Israel], it is illegal for journalists to interview official Israeli sources.”

Halabi said that readers of Arabic-language news have always read statements from Israeli leaders through second-hand sources that raise doubts about the authenticity or accuracy of the quotes. Read More

 

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Can barn owls fly a path to peace in the Middle East?

(Photo: Abigail Klein Leichman)

(Photo: Abigail Klein Leichman)

By Brian Blum - February 8, 2018

Originally appeared here in Israel21c

 The path to peace in the Middle East might be navigated not via a dove carrying an olive branch but by a lowly barn owl.

Barn owls have been used in Israel since 1982 as an alternative to toxic chemicals for killing voles, which at the time plagued Israeli agricultural fields. The preferred chemical against rodents – known as compound 1080 – had been banned a decade earlier in the United States, although not in Israel.

Ornithologist Yossi Leshem thought that owls might be able to control the rodents more naturally.

Leshem set up an experiment at Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu in 1983. Three decades later, the barn owl approach has spread throughout the Palestinian territories and into Jordan as well.

“Birds have the power to bring people together, because they know no boundaries,” says Leshem, who teaches at Tel Aviv University.

That’s in part how 22 participants from 10 countries (including Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Cyprus, Greece, France and Switzerland in addition to Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Jordan) came together in January to share research from their barn owl vs. rodent experiences.

The group met at the Crowne Plaza resort hotel on the Jordanian side of the Dead Sea where they discussed scientific findings and hatch plans. Read More

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Writing Program Empowers Israeli, Palestinian Youth

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By Selah Maya Zighelboim - January 31, 2018

Originally appeared here in jewishexponent.com

When President Donald Trump announced plans to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, individuals from across the political spectrum voiced their opinions.

One voice missing, though, said Robert Vogel, professor emeritus at La Salle University, was that of young teenagers impacted by the conflict. So he reached out to the Israeli Jewish, Israeli Arab and Palestinian students in his program, Writers Matter, to collect their thoughts.

“I don’t understand why it is a big deal that Trump says Jerusalem is the capital of Israel — it always has been. I just think that if he were really a leader he would know what we all learned in the kindergarten — it’s best to share,” a 13-year-old Jewish Israeli girl wrote.

“I will not keep my hands tied … but I struggle with all of what I have, I feel a revolution inside me that arrests my heart, so much sadness clouds me resulted from this occupation that steals from us all good and precious things,” a 13-year-old Palestinian girl wrote.

Writers Matter, which operates out of the University of Pennsylvania, has 250 students participating in eight schools in Israel and the West Bank. The program encourages 12- to 14-year-olds to express themselves through writing.

“The important thing is not for the readers who want to read this to take a side, it’s to take a step back and listen to these young kids and what they’re thinking about,” Vogel said. “These are the young kids who are going to grow up and hopefully make some changes down the line.”

The Israeli program is based on a Philadelphia program of the same name. While the Philadelphia one seeks to empower students in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods, the focus of the Israeli program is to empower students whose entire lives have existed in the context of political conflict.

In the program, the young teens write about themselves, their families, their challenges, how they live their lives, their aspirations, their dreams and their fears. Occasionally, they do other assignments as well, such as responses to the moving of the embassy, or the 2015-16 knife attacks in Israel. Sometimes, specific teachers will have their students write about other topics in addition, such as religion or the environment. Read More

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Israelis, Christians Work Together to Bring Medical Attention, Love to Syrians

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By Julie Stahl - February 1, 2018

Originally appeared here in CBN.com

One Christian ministry is partnering with Israel to provide food, medical help and other assistance year round to Syrians caught in the ravages of civil war.
 
It's called Camp Ichay – a Christian medical clinic operating inside the Israeli border under the protection of the Israel Defense Forces. It provides urgent medical care to Syrians caught in the middle of a devastating six-year war.

About 80,000 Syrians, many of whom need medical help, live in this area. They arrive by truck at the border where they come through a gate to be checked for security. After that they enter Camp Ichay where they receive medical attention and love.
 
"From the time they come through the gate they become the most important person in the world, and we don't speak the language so we have to speak the language of love," Don Tipton told CBN News.
 
Don and Sondra Tipton started Friend Ships, a Christian aid organization working with Israel's Good Neighbor Project to help the Syrians. Read More

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Muslim woman is ‘powerhouse of lifesaving’ as Israeli EMT

(Photo: United Hatzalah)

(Photo: United Hatzalah)

By Abigail Klein Leichman - January 21, 2018

Originally appeared here in Israel21c

On a recent Wednesday morning, volunteer emergency medical technician Sanaa Mahameed was the first responder on the scene as fire and rescue personnel extricated two injured people from their vehicles following a car crash.

Unfortunately, motor vehicle accidents aren’t a rare occurrence. What was unusual about this scene is that the woman tending the wounded was a religious Muslim who modestly covers her hair and neck with a hijab.

Sanaa Mahameed holds the distinction of being the first female Muslim volunteer EMT in the United Hatzalah of Israel voluntary first-responder network, whose total volunteer force of 4,000 includes about 320 Muslims and 330 women.

United Hatzalah international spokesman Raphael Poch describes Mahameed as one of the most active volunteers in Umm al-Fahm, an Arab town in the Haifa district. Read More

 

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Gazan teenager saved by kidney transplant in Israel

(Photo: RMC)

(Photo: RMC)

By Rebecca Stadlen Amir - January 11, 2018

Originally appeared here in Israel21c

A 13-year-old boy from the Gaza Strip received a lifesaving kidney donation from his brother, an undergraduate student in Algeria, in an operation performed at Rambam Medical Center in Haifa.

The result: a functional kidney, a reunion between family members, and proof that conflict doesn’t penetrate hospital doors.

It wasn’t the first time the boy, K., had traveled to Israel for treatment. He was born with a hereditary kidney defect, leading to hospitalizations and surgeries at Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center and Sheba Medical Center in central Israel.

His condition worsened in recent years. When he reached Rambam in May 2017, his kidney function was estimated at less than 20 percent.

The dilemma for his mother, a resident of Gaza and mother of six, was whether to start dialysis or to seek out a kidney donation from a relative. After compatibility tests for her and the boy’s 24-year-old brother, also from Gaza, were deemed unsuitable, they needed to look elsewhere for a lifesaving solution. Read More

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South African Zulu King Invokes Fight Against AIDS, Drought, in Plea to ANC Government to Retain Close Israel Ties

(Photo: JN / JDP / Reuters)

(Photo: JN / JDP / Reuters)

By Algemeiner Staff - January 11, 2018

Originally appeared here in the Algemeiner

The king of South Africa’s Zulu nation has urged the country’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) to retain close ties with Israel, following last month’s vote by the ANC at its national conference to downgrade the South African Embassy in Tel Aviv to a “liaison office.”

King Goodwill Zwelithinii — the constitutionally-recognized monarch of the 12 million Zulus who make up South Africa’s largest ethnic group — told a delegation of the ANC’s senior leadership that he had developed a close relationship with Israel and the South African Jewish community since his 2009 decree introducing medical circumcision for boys in a bid to halt the spread of the AIDS virus.

According to the World Health Organization, there is “compelling evidence that male circumcision reduces the risk of heterosexually acquired HIV infection in men by approximately 60%.” More than 700,000 males have been circumcised since the decree was issued by the king.

“There are two clinics that have been built by Jewish organizations in this kingdom,” the king told the ANC delegation, whose members included the new party president, Cyril Ramaphosa, at last week’s meeting.

“They came here because I requested them to come,” the king said. “They (the South African Zionist Federation and South African Friends of Israel) built these clinics the day I announced circumcision on December 6, 2009.” The two clinics, in Mathubathuba and Emondlo, provide HIV-related health services and education for the surrounding communities. Read More

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Israeli surgeon enables Palestinian teen to stand again

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By Brian Blum - January 9, 2018

Originally appeared here in Israel21c 

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict doesn’t enter into Israeli hospitals, where patients are treated equally, regardless of citizenship, religion or ethnicity.

That’s how Yusef Rabaya, a 19-year-old from Jenin, located in the Palestinian Authority territories, received a revolutionary treatment in Israel that has transformed his life and got him walking again for the first time in nearly a year.

Rabaya was born with cerebral palsy and a neuromuscular kyphosis – a curve from the front to the back of his body that looks like a hump.

When Rabaya hit his teens, the curve became so pronounced that he could no longer stand and was in terrible pain. His parents searched for a cure in Europe, to no avail.

Finally, the family made a connection in Boston where surgery was performed to implant rods into his back to strengthen his spine. But the rods broke and Rabaya was now confined to bed in even worse pain.

The solution to Rabaya’s misery turned out to be not in Europe or Boston, but right here in Israel. Read More

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Israeli tech powers major wave-energy station in Ghana

(Photo: Shutterstock.com)

(Photo: Shutterstock.com)

By Rebecca Stadlen Amir - January 8, 2018

Originally appeared here in Israel21c

Israel’s Yam Pro Energy  signed a partnership with Indian business conglomerate Shapoorji Pallonji (SP) Group to begin production on the world’s first commercial-scale wave energy power station in Ghana.

The $180 million station, located along the coastline near the capital city of Accra, will be designed to generate up to 150 megawatts.

“We are very excited today reaching such a substantial milestone as one of the largest EPC [engineering, procurement, construction] companies in the world is giving confidence in our technology and company and are willing to start a cooperation in Ghana,” Yam Pro’s joint CEOs, Zeev Peretz and Laser Rothshtein, said in a statement. “We are hoping this will be a start of a global cooperation with SP that we can together revolutionize the energy market around the world.” Read More

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Cultural flavors of the Galilee

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By Miriam Kresh - January 4, 2018

Originally appeared here in The Jerusalem Post

Hebrew-language cookbooks that offer recipes from Galilee minorities exist, but there’s none in English to compare with this one. With 95 recipes and photographs on every page, The Galilean Kitchen: Cultural Flavors is not only a cookbook but also a window into the landscape and cultures of the Galilee’s Druse, Arab and Beduin women.

Author Ruth Nieman spent a year with eight housewives of those communities, cooking with them and painstakingly translating their measure-by-eye methods into cupfuls and spoonfuls, to create the book’s recipes.

Her teachers concoct the most delicious food, but don’t think in terms of recipes.

“They don’t have cookbooks,” said Nieman in a telephone interview. “Not one has a recipe out of a magazine. They cook as their mothers taught them, without measuring anything. I had to stand next to the cook with my measuring cups and spoons and measure each ingredient before she stirred it into the dish, then write it down quickly.”

Essays on ingredients considered essential staples, such as olive oil and bulgur, bring the patriarchal village atmosphere to life on the page. With a touch of humor, Nieman writes about pressing the olive harvest: “Debate rages among the Druse producers as to the quality of the oil that is pressed using the old stone press versus using modern machines. Undoubtedly, modern methods yield more oil, but a stronger flavor is definitely produced by the stone press. The argument over the quality has yet to be resolved and may well continue for centuries to come, over a strongly brewed coffee.”

Many village families maintain vegetable gardens where they harvest their own tomatoes, peppers and other ingredients. In late winter and spring, some of the older women still forage wild greens in nearby fields. A section on springtime greens illustrates some of the wild edibles that good cooks have known how to use to feed their families for generations. Incidentally, this is the time of year when mallows, purslane and other wild greens noted in this book pop up all over Israel. They will vanish when summer sets in, so this is the time to go foraging. Read More

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2,700-year-old seal impression cements existence of biblical Jerusalem governor

(Photo: Yoli Shwartz, Israel Antiquities Authority)

(Photo: Yoli Shwartz, Israel Antiquities Authority)

By Amanda Borschel-Dan - January 1, 2018

Originally appeared here in The Times of Israel 

Past and present collided last week when an extremely rare seal impression discovered in Jerusalem’s Western Wall plaza and bearing the inscription “Belonging to the governor of the city” was presented to Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat.

According to site excavator Dr. Shlomit Weksler-Bdolah, “This is the first time that such an impression was found in an authorized excavation. It supports the biblical rendering of the existence of a governor of the city in Jerusalem 2,700 years ago.”

At the presentation, Barkat said, “It is very overwhelming to receive greetings from First Temple-period Jerusalem. This shows that already 2,700 years ago, Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, was a strong and central city.”

The minuscule clay seal impression, or docket, was found while researchers were examining the dust from a First Temple structure 100 meters northwest of the Western Wall at a site the Israel Antiquity Authorities has been excavating since 2005. The excavations have offered up insights into Jerusalem’s Second Temple and Roman periods, as well as a massive Iron Age four-room building where an eclectic collection of six other seals were uncovered, whose origins point to a thriving cosmopolitan Iron Age center or settlement.

“The seal impression had been attached to an important transport and served as some sort of logo, or as a tiny souvenir, which was sent on behalf of the governor of the city,” said Weksler-Bdolah in an IAA release. Read More

 

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Christian Group Helps Ethiopian Jews Make Aliyah to Israel

(Photo: IceJ via Vimeo)

(Photo: IceJ via Vimeo)

By CBNnews.com - December 29, 2017

Originally appeared here on CBN

Eighty-two Ethiopian Jewish immigrants landed at the Ben-Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv last week, bringing to 1,200 the total number of Jews from the East African nation relocated to Israel by the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.

The Christian group is helping the Israeli government relocate 1,300 members per year of this ancient Jewish community until all of the remaining 9.000 Falash Mura tribe are reunited with their families in Israel.

A decision concerning the second year of these flights is still tied up in the Israeli cabinet. However, once approved, the ICEJ has promised to raise the necessary funding needed in order to continue to make this dream a reality.

In 2017, the ICEJ has donated $1.2 million toward the immigration project, including funds to help the immigrants transition to a new language and culture. Donations for the project have come from around the world, including generous donations from African Christians.

"The great ingathering of the Jewish people to Eretz Israel is still continuing and it is a real privilege and joy for our organization to play such a central role in this historic return to Zion," said Dr. Jürgen Bühler, President of the ICEJ said in a statement. Read More

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Jaffa: Israel's ultimate model of coexistence

(Photo: touristisrael.com)

(Photo: touristisrael.com)

By Daniel K. Eisenbud - November 23, 2017 

Originally appeared here in The Jerusalem Post

More than any community in Israel, the port city of Jaffa has proven itself to be an enduring bastion of coexistence where Arabs, Jews and Christians have peacefully lived, worked and socialized together for decades.

Located adjacent to Tel Aviv, Jaffa has approximately 46,000 residents – including 30,000 Jews and 16,000 Muslims and Christians.

And while it is best known for its picturesque beaches, restaurants, heralded flea market and shops, what is perhaps most notable about this small city is its uncommon camaraderie between otherwise warring factions.

Indeed, in Jaffa, Jews and Arabs frequent the same streets, eat in the same restaurants, drink in the same bars, work in the same stores, know one another’s families, and often greet one another with warm smiles and embraces. Read More

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How debating teaches tolerance among Jewish, Arab teens

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By Abigail Klein Leichman - December 21, 2017

Originally appeared here in Israel21c

It took Steven Aiello about 20 minutes to drive from a high school in the Jewish Israeli city of Petah Tikva to a high school in the Arab Israeli city of Kafr Kassem to lead debate clubs based on the Model United Nations (MUN) model he so enjoyed during his graduate diplomacy studies at IDC Herzliya.

But the two schools’ geographic proximity belied a wide cultural gulf separating them. And even the most talented members of the two clubs could not get into official MUN groups due to a lack of English fluency and money.

So Aiello, a Jewish interfaith activist who served on the national Israeli MUN team, solved both problems by organizing MUN-style debates between Jewish and Arab schools in 2012.

Assigned to represent a particular country, whether or not they personally agree with that country’s stance on the issues, the novice debaters were given a cost-free way to polish their English and rhetorical skills while making friends. Aiello’s students loved it.

In 2016, he formalized the program as Debate for Peace (DfB),  a volunteer-run project of the Interfaith Encounter Association in partnership with Jerusalem Peacebuilders and supported by the US Embassy in Tel Aviv. It grew quickly. Read More

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Israel invites Christians to come choose a Christmas tree

(Photo: Mira Zar/KKL-JNF)

(Photo: Mira Zar/KKL-JNF)

By Brian Blum - December 21, 2017

Originally appeared here in Israel21c

Every December, freshly cut trees are made available in heavily Christian areas of Israel for Christmas celebrations.

This month, Keren Kayemeth L’Israel – Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF) will sell Arizona cypresses to members of Galilee Christian communities from its sites in Shfaram, Moshav Beit Lehem HaGlilit and the KKL-JNF office in Nazareth. The trees, selling for ₪80, have been grown to a height of 1.5 to 1.8 meters.

Jerusalem is continuing its annual tradition of distributing complementary Christmas trees to residents in advance of the holiday. This year’s distribution will take place on the morning of December 21 at the Jaffa Gate Plaza. Read More

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Light and water flow to rural Africa due to Israeli tech

(Photo: Innovation: Africa)

(Photo: Innovation: Africa)

By Abigail Klein Leichman - December 17, 2017

Originally appeared here in Israel21c

The scene was shocking: Villagers in Akuyam, Uganda, hadn’t eaten in three days when Sivan Ya’ari and her Innovation: Africa staff met them in February 2017 on their way to check on the organization’s solar water-pumping and drip-irrigation projects in six nearby villages.

“The state of poverty we saw there was nothing like we’d ever seen before. During the week we were there, 37 people died. The drought and hunger is truly incomprehensible,” says Genna Brand, iA’s director of communications.

Ya’ari, the Israeli founder of the nine-year-old NGO, immediately added Akuyam to iA’s list of projects in the Karamoja region. She also mounted iA’s first-ever emergency feeding appeal – an exception to the organization’s mission of using Israeli technology to raise the long-term standard of living in African villages.

“We went back to Israel and raised $110,000 for a food relief mission and sent maize, beans and other food through an African supplier. It was very challenging logistically but we couldn’t turn a blind eye to what we saw,” Brand tells ISRAEL21c. Read More

 

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Saudi Academic Calls on Arabs to Recognize Jewish Connection to Jerusalem

(Photo: screenshot from @alhurranews)

(Photo: screenshot from @alhurranews)

By Ben Lynfield - December 18, 2017

Originally appeared here in The Jerusalem Post 

A Saudi academic has voiced backing for US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and called on Arabs to recognize the city’s sanctity to Jews.

Abdulhameed Hakeem, head of the Middle East Center for Strategic and Legal Studies in Jedda, told US-based Alhurra television on Saturday that Trump’s move, which touched off protests across the Muslim world from Tunisia to Indonesia, constitutes a “positive shock” to the peace process.

Hakeem added: “We as Arabs must come to an understanding with the other party and know what its demands are, so that we can succeed in peace negotiation efforts, so that negotiations not be futile. We must recognize and realize that Jerusalem is a religious symbol to Jews and sacred to them, as Mecca and Medina is to Muslims.”

Hakeem – who in a March article for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy stressed that Israel and Saudi Arabia face a common Nazi-like threat in Iran – said the “Arab mind must liberate itself from the legacy of [former Egyptian President] Gamal Abdul-Nasser and the legacy of both the Sunni and Shi’a sects, which has instilled for political interests the culture of Jew hatred and denial of their historic right in the region.” Read More

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