2008 – Olympics

By Reuben Green (Boger and Rosh)

Israel sent Forty-Three world class Athletes to compete at the 2008 Summer Olympics,
making Israel’s fourteenth participation in the Summer Olympics the second biggest team
they have ever sent (47 participated in 2016). Despite such a large team Israel achieved
only one medal, a bronze in the men’s sailboard event by athlete Shahar Tzuberi. However
the Israeli team performed incredibly well winning notable positions in several other events.
A fourth place for the duo Vered Buskila and Nike Kornecki in the women’s 470 class sailing
and a fifth place for Judoka Gal Yekutiel in the men’s 60Kg Judo, despite winning Bronze at
the European championships the year before. Most notably despite being Israel’s first
appearance in the team events for the rhythmic gymnastics, the Israeli team achieved a 6th
place, just tailing the world leaders of the sport Russia, China, Belarus, Italy and Bulgaria.
However the Israeli Paralympic team fared much better, sending 42 athletes and winning 6
medals, five silver and one bronze. Inbal Pezaro won an incredible 3 silver medals in three
swimming events, Doron Shaziri won a silver in the men’s shooting, the duo of Boaz Kramer
and Shraga Weinberg won silver in the mixed quad tennis doubles and Eli Nawi won a
bronze for Israeli Rowing in men’s single sculls. Again significant achievements were made
by athletes who just missed out on medals, the men’s wheelchair basketball team achieving
6th place the three person Keelboat sailing team just missed out on a medal at 5th place.
The Israeli athletes in the swimming events achieved several top ten places and even a 8
top five places and the table tennis men’s doubles team just missed out on a medal at 4th
place. Despite not winning the vast quantity of medals that larger nations like China, the
USA and Russia win Israel has still made significant contributions to world class sport and
will continue to up its game and win many more medals in the future.

2007 – Founding of Hapoel Katamon

By Yoni Stone (Incoming Movement Worker)

2007 saw Shimon Peres elected as president, Israel’s first Muslim minister, the teachers’ association staging the longest strike the Israeli education system has seen, the opening of the 471 highway, the Annapolis Conference and the death of Teddy Kollek.

All were significant events in one way or another and most likely featured in national news. However, away from the headlines, the football club that is now Hapoel Katamon Yerushalayim was founded and played its first game, beating Hapoel Nahlat Yehuda 2-1.

At its founding, Katamon was the first fan-owned club in Israel and has since been followed by four others. It successfully combines an inability to play football or string passes together, with an ability to support important political causes and engage in community work. Their project “the Social Initiative” includes instructing students in Jerusalem schools and teaching Hebrew to new immigrants. At games, LGBT, ‘Welcome Refugees’ and flags supporting other important causes are always prominent.

So with all the political and national events listed above, why have I chosen to mark 2007 by talking about a third division, but promotion-pushing football club? For me, whilst the other events are relevant on the timeline of Israeli and Zionist history, Hapoel Katamon encapsulates a reason why Israel and Zionism are important to us. Cultural Zionism believes that the modern State of Israel is the stage for the cultural revival of the Jewish People. Through musicians such as Shai Tsabari and TV series such as Fauda, Jews are being united and our culture is flourishing. A part of this is sport, where we have seen Israelis compete at the Olympics and in European football competitions. Hapoel Katamon is an informal cultural arena which presents a Zionism which cares for the oppressed in society and fights on social issues. The ability for Jews to freely express all facets of their Jewishness is a vital success of Zionism and Israel.

2006 – The Second Lebanon War

By Noa Lessof Gendler (Bogeret)

2006 was the year of the Lebanon War. It was brutal and bloody, with accusations of indiscriminate targeting of military and civilians on both sides. The thirty-four day conflict resulted in two thousand deaths, thousands more injured, and a military stalemate - both sides stubbornly claimed victory. In remembering this period of violence we should strengthen our resolve to campaign for peace in the region and the obligation of all parties to curtail the suffering that such violence causes.

2005 – New technologies

Sam Kelly (Madrich)

2005 was an interesting and ground-breaking year for technology in Israel, especially from the stand point of automobiles. In 2005, Israel developed the world’s first self-sustaining car that generated its own renewable fuel. The car, developed by Engineuity, created hydrogen using metals such as Magnesium and Aluminium. The system was developed to solve the problems associated with the packaging and transport of hydrogen for use in other automobiles. The aim of the technology was to reduce the carbon footprint and minimise emissions especially in large cities by using a natural gas like hydrogen to produce power for a car rather than a carbon emitting source like petrol.
In other news in Israel, away from technology, in 2005, The Israeli government under Ariel Sharon ordered and implemened the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, forcibly removing Israeli Jewish settlers and giving over control to the Hamas authorities.

2004 – Gal Fridman takes gold

By Maia Stanton (Movement Worker 5777-8)

Gal Fridman is an Israeli windsurfer and Israel’s only Olympic Gold Medalist and was born in 1975. He won a Bronze Medal in the Atlanta 1996 Summer Olympics, and his Gold Medal in the Athens 2004 Summer Olympics. He is the only Israeli athlete to win two Olympic Medals, and the first (and so far the only) Olympic Gold medallist in Israeli history.
He is Jewish and the second out of three children. He grew up close to the Mediterranean Sea, and was introduced to Windsurfing by his father. He started sailing at the age of 7, and began racing when he was 11. He began competing internationally in youth categories while still at school. After his service in the IDF he began competing as an adult.

2004 – Gold with Gal Friedman

By Maia Stanton (Movement Worked 5777-8)

Gal Fridman is an Israeli windsurfer and Israel’s only Olympic Gold Medalist and was born in 1975. He won a Bronze Medal in the Atlanta 1996 Summer Olympics, and his Gold Medal in the Athens 2004 Summer Olympics. He is the only Israeli athlete to win two Olympic Medals, and the first (and so far the only) Olympic Gold medallist in Israeli history. He is Jewish and the second out of three children. He grew up close to the Mediterranean Sea, and was introduced to Windsurfing by his father. He started sailing at the age of 7, and began racing when he was 11. He began competing internationally in youth categories while still at school. After his service in the IDF he began competing as an adult.

2003 – Road Map for Peace

By Gaby Schwarzmann (Bogeret, Madricha and CCR and Kehilla representative on Va'ad Tnuah)

As the Second Intifada continued, the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia (“the Quartet on the Middle East”) to propose the “Road Map for Peace” to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The final draft of this plan was announced by George W Bush on 30 April. The Roadmap had three phases intended to create an independent Palestinian state and end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by 2005. On 29 June a unilateral cease-fire was declared, joined by Hamas, and on 1 July, Ariel Sharon and Mahmoud Abbas held the first ever ceremonial opening to peace talks, televised in both Arabic and Hebrew. However, the cease-fire quickly collapsed when the IDF killed 2 civilians in an operation to arrest Hamas members on the 3 July. By the end of 2003, the Palestinian Authority had not prevented Palestinian terrorism and Israel had neither withdrawn from Palestinian areas, nor frozen settlement expansion. The requirements of Phase I of the Roadmap were therefore unfulfilled and it eventually reached deadlock.

2002 – I Raise Up my Eyes during the Second Intifada

By Rabbi Roni Tabick

During the height of the Second Intifada, I was in Jerusalem studying at the Conservative Yeshiva – something my parents back in London had very mixed feelings about.

On the one hand, as rabbis, they were proud that their son had chosen to spend his year out between school and university studying Torah and learning Hebrew. On the other hand, 9/11 had just happened, and the Second Intifada was in full swing. They must have been sitting at home quite nervously watching the news, hoping not to hear of any trouble in Jerusalem.

Apart from the amazing Torah I studied, the wonderful friends I made, the teachers that set me on the path towards becoming a Masorti rabbi, I remember three images vividly from this time.

I remember sitting in Yeshiva and hearing a loud bang. And every time, the Yeshiva would quieten down and listen. If there was nothing, then we all breathed a sigh of relief – a car back-firing, or something else blissfully benign. But if there were sirens within a minute of the bang, then we knew something terrible had happened. Sometimes, I still do a double-take when I hear a loud bang, before remembering that we’re in London and it’s November.

I remember learning to recite Psalms in times of trouble, and in particular Psalm 121 – “I lift my eyes up to the hills, from where will my help come? My help comes from God, who made the heavens and the earth”. The tune haunts me to this day.

I remember running across the street to the payphone across the road, putting in money and leaving messages on my parents answering machine: “You’re about to hear that there’s been another bombing in Jerusalem, but don’t worry, I’m okay.”

It’s very different seeing this stuff on the news and actually being there. Very different for my parents, watching it on television to knowing that their son was in the middle of it. When I pray for peace in Jerusalem, in Israel, in the Palestinian Territories, these are the images that I think of, and what it means for people to live with those feelings, not just for a year out, but every day of their lives.

2001 – The course of the conflict shifts; separation ensues

By Leonie Fleischmann (Mazkira 2008-9)

In 2001, the Intifada continued to rage on with around 670 people from both sides killed as a result of the conflict. Prime Minister Ehud Barak resigned following the failed agreements with the Palestinians and Ariel Sharon from the right-wing Likud party was elected Prime Minister.
Ariel Sharon was a decorated military commander, who had previously served as the Minister of Defence during the 1982 Lebanon War and was criticised for his role in the Sabra and Shatilla massacres. It was his decision to visit the Temple Mount complex, the site of the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque, in September 2000 that sparked the flames that would lead to the second Intifada.
Sharon did support a two state solution and embarked on a process of unilateral disengagement from the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank, which at the time was seen as a step towards a peace settlement.
However, his decision to build a wall that would separate Israel from the West Bank sparked debate within Israeli society and resistance among the Palestinians. The building of the wall would change the course of the conflict, separating the two sides from each other physically, but also mentally. The daily interactions between Israelis and Palestinians would be diminished as a result of the wall, thus enabling the fear and hatred of the ‘Other’ to further fester.
Some Israelis were against the treatment of the Palestinians during the early years of the Intifada, such as collective closures of Palestinians towns, the demolition of houses of the families of suicide bombers, and an increase in checkpoints restricting freedom of movement. Israeli Jews would travel to the West Bank, initially to provide humanitarian aid to the Palestinians, and later to assist them in farming their land and harvesting their olives. Such assistance and cooperation was only on a small scale, but its significance should not be underestimated, given the growing separation and animosity between the two sides.

2000 – Israel in turmoil

By Abe Tolley (Madrich)

At the turn of the millenium, and 52 years old, the State of Israel endured a tumultuous year.

Events started to unfold in June, when Israel withdrew entirely from Lebanon, having invaded in 1982 and occupied a security zone (comprising 10% of the country) since ‘85. As a result of the Israeli pullout, the South Lebanon Army (trained by Israel) collapsed and Hezbollah seized control of the area. The following years saw several cross-border raids by Hezbollah, which would eventually climax in the 2006 Lebanon War. Despite support for an Israeli withdrawal at the time, in hindsight it may have been the catalyst that allowed Hezbollah to become so formidable and precipitated the 2006 War.

Separately, the Camp David Summit took place in July where Israeli PM Ehud Barak met with Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat and US President Bill Clinton to negotiate a settlement of the Israel-Palestine conflict. However, the Summit broke down with both sides partly to blame.

It left both sides, in the words of journalists Robert Malley and Hussein Agha, with an “experience of how far [the two sides] had come and how far they had yet to go, and with the sobering wisdom of an opportunity that was missed by all, less by design than by mistake, more through miscalculation than through mischief.”
The summit was a reality check for the elusive hope that is peace.

The domestic situation deteriorated when Ariel Sharon, leader of the Likud Party, then the opposition, conducted a provocative visit to the Temple Mount, one of many sticking points in the peace process - and violent rioting broke out amongst Palestinian demonstrators leading to the arrival of the Israeli Army. Events escalated swiftly and led to the start of the Second Intifada - the second Palestinian uprising against Israel. Fighting would continue until 2005 - and in the last few months of 2000 alone, there were 100s of casualties on both sides. Ehud Barak was forced to resign as Israeli PM, under pressure from the Israeli right for not using enough force and from abroad for using excessive force. The poorly-timed visit to Temple Mount just sparked conflict - the real causes are complex. The breakdown of talks at Camp David was key to the rising tensions that led to the conflict and as before, both sides were somewhat to blame.

The events in 2000 highlight the need for open dialogue between both sides - and show that violence tends to escalate uncontrollably, and will rapidly burn bridges that took years to build. With a more nuanced understanding of the other side’s situation, more productive peace talks are possible.