how the world sees america

Israel



November 26, 2007 12:11 PM

WELCOME TO ISRAEL

BEN-GURION-AIRPORT-0.jpg
Ben-Gurion Airport.

TEL AVIV - It's 130 miles from Beirut to Tel Aviv, about the distance between Washington and Philadelphia. But there's no peace agreement between these two Middle East hubs, so the journey takes a full day by air with a stopover in Amman, Jordan.

But for this American visitor, the real challenge doesn't begin until arriving in Tel Aviv.

The ceilings, walls and walkways of Israel’s Ben-Gurion International Airport are disconcertingly large. Towering sheets of glass around a long, slanted walkway segment the arrival concourse, making the planeloads of passengers look and feel small.

The walkway opens up to over a dozen passport controllers who ensure that the wait for the inspection is uncommonly brief. It also enables each controller to be thorough.

A woman with large, green eyes reviews my passport, once, twice. She looks up. I smile. She doesn’t. She says I must submit to further questioning in the back.

So I’m led to a waiting room where a Jordanian woman is leaning her head against the beige stone wall, and a Syrian businessman is snapping his briefcase open, closed, open. An Israeli-American student glances up at them as she turns pages in her textbook.

“Bakshi!” a firm female voice calls. “Come with me.”

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November 28, 2007 8:53 AM

Palestinian Pride Before Peace

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JERUSALEM - Every time former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker appeared in Jerusalem, Jawad Siyam says he ended up in an Israeli jail. He'd been in those concrete cells many times before, often for good reason: he and his teenage Palestinian peers made a game of throwing rocks at Israeli soldiers in the late 80s. But jail time courtesy of Baker's visit was different because it was preemptive. It made the U.S. official’s arrival, and America, particularly irksome.

One time stands out for Jawad. He was coming back from a late night out in a café in West Jerusalem. At Dung Gate, separating the historic Old City from the New, Jawad saw more Israeli soldiers than usual, but he didn't know why. Then two soldiers asked where he was coming from.

"They wanted to hear the hospital," or something they thought was permissible, Jawad says. "Just saying 'I was at a café' was not enough."

"I was at a café," Jawad said.

"We've been looking for you," the soldiers replied.

Moments later Jawad found himself in a familiar cell with twenty other teenagers who lived near him on Wadi Hilwah Road. "We were all friends in the jail -- in one small cell, with concrete beds and one stinking pot."

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November 30, 2007 10:06 AM

American-Israeli Settler Holds Out in Hebron

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HEBRON - "Make no mistake. The Americans are enemies," argues David Wilder, the spokesperson for the Hebron Jewish Community. "Under the leadership of Rice and Bush (in that order), the United States has been transformed into one of Israel's most dangerous foes."

Hebron is a heavily contested, Biblical town in the West Bank. Abraham is believed to be buried here, along with Isaac. Now one hundred thousand Arabs live here, and about ten thousand Jewish settlers surround the city in the Kiryat Arba settlement. But smack in the center of the Arab town live David and a group of eight hundred Jewish settlers. In addition, about 500 Israeli soldiers are assigned to guard them round-the-clock -- which is one reason many other Israelis dislike the settlers.

Together, the settlers' and soldiers' presence makes Hebron possibly the most tense city in the West Bank. The settlers have cordoned off the adjacent streets for security, evicting Arab storekeepers and delivering a blow to the local economy. The adjacent streets are empty, save a few Israeli armored vehicles and soldiers with assault rifles. It feels like a ghost town. A few large Hebrew signs curse their Arab neighbors with various epithets for "stealing their land." A bumper sticker on David's front door reads, "Without Arabs, there would be no terrorism."

David's devoted the past two decades of his life to settling Hebron and multiplying as fast as possible, in the hopes of one day "returning Hebron to Israel." But he fears his country of birth, America, will curb his ambitions if he doesn't act fast enough.

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December 4, 2007 8:00 AM

Israel's Silicon Valley

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BEIT SHEMESH - "Israel's ten thousand miles from Silicon Valley; but it takes a nanosecond to get there," says Jon Medved, one of Israel's leading high-tech venture capitalists and CEO of a new startup called Vringo, which allows users to share video ringtones on their cell phones.

Israel is a small country with seven million people, unfriendly neighbors, and relatively high taxes. So why does it have the second-largest concentration of startups per capita after Silicon Valley? Jon says the two places are more similar than one would think.

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December 5, 2007 2:58 PM

Americans Don't 'Get' Terrorism

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SDEROT, Israel - Do Americans really understand what terrorism is, what it does to a society, and how it can be defeated?

Five young Israeli soldiers -- nineteen- and twenty-year-olds stationed in Sderot, a small town bordering the Gaza Strip -- say Americans have much to learn. These members of the Israel Defense Forces should know: part of their job is to protect and comfort the traumatized youth who live here in the city where Kassam rockets fall from the sky.

The "Red Dawn" alarm bell sounds whenever a rocket has been shot into the air from Gaza, a Palestinian-controlled territory just a few kilometers away. When they hear the siren, people jump out of their cars, flee the roads, and hide behind bomb blast walls, trees, or the north faces of tall buildings. They cover their heads with their hands and wait for the homemade Kassam rocket to strike. These sirens usually go off early in the mornings or around two in the afternoon when kids are going and coming from school, or workers are commuting.

I meet with soldiers from the Home Front Command, which prepares communities for natural and man-made disasters, and the Education Corps, which tutors youth in need. In Sderot, the former mainly comfort panic struck children while the latter help educate delinquents.

I ask these young soldiers what their experience in the military working with the youth of Sderot has taught them about confronting terror tactics and raising kids not to hate. What about lessons would they share with Americans?

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