Tag Archive: Tel Aviv

Los Angeles Times  Local

Killing of chickens in Jewish ritual draws protests in L.A.

Anti-kaparot protest

Protesters debate with a woman, right, outside the Ohel Moshe synagogue on Pico Boulevard in Los Angeles. Kaparot rituals have been held at the synagogue’s parking lot. (Lawrence K. Ho, Los Angeles Times / September 10, 2013)

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The Jewish ritual of <em>kaparot</em> Photos: The Jewish ritual of kaparot

In a parking lot behind a Pico Boulevard building, inside a makeshift tent made of metal poles and tarps, a man in a white coat and black skullcap grabs a white-feathered hen under the wings and performs an ancient ritual.

He circles the chicken in the air several times and recites a prayer for a woman standing nearby whose aim is to symbolically transfer her sins to the bird. The young man then uses a sharp blade to cut the hen’s throat.

In the days before Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, this ritual will be repeated untold times in hastily built plywood rooms and other structures in traditional Orthodox Jewish communities from Pico-Robertson to Brooklyn. Promotional fliers on lampposts in this neighborhood advertise the kaparot service at $18 per chicken or $13 apiece for five or more.

But the practice is increasingly drawing the ire of animal rights activists, and some liberal Jews, who say the custom is inhumane, paganistic and out of step with modern times.

“An animal sacrifice in this day and age?” said Wendie Dox, a Reform Jew and animal rights activist who lives nearby. “That is not OK with me.”

This year, activists have launched one of the largest, most organized efforts ever in the Southland to protest the practice, known variously as kaparot, kapparot or kaparos.

Over the weekend, a coalition of faith leaders and animal rights proponents held a “compassionate kaparot ceremony” during which rabbis used money rather than chickens for the ritual, an accepted alternative. Organizers say that more than 100 people attended and that some stayed to demonstrate late into the night.

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PHOTOS: Ultra-Orthodox Jewish Kaparot ritual of swinging chickens over the head

Posted Sep 11, 2013

Swinging chickens over the head is part of the Ultra-Orthodox Jewish Kaparot ritual in the Ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak near Tel Aviv, Israel,Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013. Observers believe the ritual transfers one’s sins from the past year into the chicken, and is performed before the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish year which starts at sundown Friday.


An Ultra-Orthodox Jewish man swings a chicken over his head as part of the Kaparot ritual in the Ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak near Tel Aviv, Israel,Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013. Observers believe the ritual transfers one’s sins from the past year into the chicken, and is performed before the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish year which starts at sundown Friday. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)


Ultra-Orthodox Jews hold chickens as part of the Kaparot ritual in the ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak near Tel Aviv, Israel, Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

An Ultra-orthodox Jewish man swings a chicken above his head during the Kaparot ceremony in the central Israeli city of Bnei Brak near Tel Aviv, on September 11, 2013. AFP PHOTO/JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images
An Ultra-orthodox Jewish woman swings a chicken above her head during the Kaparot ceremony in the central Israeli city of Bnei Brak near Tel Aviv, on September 11, 2013. AFP PHOTO/JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images


The Euless neighborhood is mostly quiet, a sleepy suburb of pleasant ranch-style homes, winding creeks and mossy oaks that looks as if it could have been plucked from any American city. Except, of course, for the ancient gods that populate the home and religion of one of the area’s most controversial residents.

Jose Merced

Brandon Thibodeaux
Jose Merced
Inside Jose Merced’s shrine room, devotees of all ages participate in the cleansing ceremony for Virginia Rosario-Nevarez as part of her seven-day initiation into the Santer&iacute;a priesthood.

Brandon Thibodeaux
Inside Jose Merced’s shrine room, devotees of all ages participate in the cleansing ceremony for Virginia Rosario-Nevarez as part of her seven-day initiation into the Santería priesthood.
The deities, or Orishas, communicate through cowrie shells, telling one woman about her past, present and future in a divination reading.

Brandon Thibodeaux
The deities, or Orishas, communicate through cowrie shells, telling one woman about her past, present and future in a divination reading.
A Santer&iacute;a priest performs the cleansing ceremony on Nevarez (center) before 60 or so deities, which sit in pots on the shelves to her left.

Brandon Thibodeaux
A Santería priest performs the cleansing ceremony on Nevarez (center) before 60 or so deities, which sit in pots on the shelves to her left.
Money is part of the ritual offering to the Orishas during a cowrie shell reading.

Brandon Thibodeaux
Money is part of the ritual offering to the Orishas during a cowrie shell reading.


Web extra: More photos from the feast day at Jose Merced’s home.

But Jose Merced doesn’t shy away from controversy—and he has no plans of doing so on this crisp day in late September. No matter that his neighbors remain uneasy with the ritual singing and drumming that are part of his Santería religion; no matter that they might, as before, call the police if they feared he was engaging in animal sacrifice; no matter that the city of Euless, even after losing a drawn-out lawsuit that tested the boundaries of religious liberty in Texas, is still searching for new ways to shut down Merced’s spiritual practices. For him, the deities who reside in the back room of his house have been silenced long enough.

It’s been nearly three and a half years since he stopped the ritual slaughter of four-legged animals in his home to pursue litigation against the city over his right to do so. With a decision from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in his favor and against the city’s health and safety concerns, Merced, a flight attendant, will resume his full religious practices tonight.

As the sacrificial hour approaches, several priests (Santeros) are preparing the 40 assorted goats, roosters, hens, guinea hens, pigeons, quail, turtle and duck who grow noisy and nervous in their cages. Their lives will be taken in an exchange mandated by Olofi, Santería’s supreme god and source of all energy, to heal the broken body and spirit of Virginia Rosario-Nevarez and to initiate her into the Santería priesthood. No medical doctor has been able to alleviate her suffering—the intractable back pain that makes walking unbearable, her debilitating depression and loneliness.

During a spiritual reading, lesser deities have told Merced that for Nevarez to be healed, she must become a priestess. In the initiation ceremony for priesthood, a high priest will sacrifice animals, which must die so she can live a healthy and spiritual life. In a theology similar to Christian grace in which Jesus died to forgive the sins of his followers, the animals will be offered in sacrifice to Olofi and the other deities (Orishas), who will purge her of negative energy as she makes her commitment to them.

Mounted against a wall in the back room shrine in Merced’s house are shelves containing clusters of small ceramic pots, ornately decorated and filled with shells, stones and other artifacts—the physical manifestations of the Orishas that reside in the room. To initiate Nevarez as a priestess, new godly manifestations of the old gods on Merced’s shelf must be born. To make this happen, animal blood will be spilled onto new pots, which the priestess will take home to begin her own shrine with her own newly manifested gods.

Much of theology behind Santería’s rituals remains unknown to Nevarez, though more of its secrets will be revealed to her as she grows in her commitment.

Secrecy defines the Santería religion, which is why estimates, even by its own followers, of the number of its U.S. adherents vary widely between one and five million. The religion’s clandestine nature was also a point of contention during the lawsuit. At trial, the city asked Merced if its health officials could witness a sacrifice to determine if it violated Euless’ ordinances prohibiting animal cruelty, the possession of livestock and the disposal of animal remains, but Merced said only initiated priests were permitted to see one. The exclusion of outsiders stems from the long history of persecution Santería’s followers suffered. Santería came to Cuba from West Africa during the slave trade centuries ago, a peculiar melding of the Yoruba religious traditions of captured slaves and the Catholicism of their masters. Slaves were forbidden from practicing their indigenous beliefs, so they hid that practice from their oppressors, adopting the names of Catholic saints for their Orishas (Saint Peter for Ogun, for example) whose divine intervention they could call upon when seeking protection, health and wisdom.

But tonight, Merced has had enough of secrecy. The litigation has taken a toll on his physical appearance. He looks heavier, grayer, worn out. The national media generated by the case, however, has left him more comfortable with the presence of strangers in his house, even with local news trucks parked in his front yard. And this evening Merced is allowing his first nonbeliever to witness an animal sacrifice.

“I’m going to let her see one and that’s it,” he says, standing in front of a long, flowing curtain concealing the entrance to his shrine. He is unwilling to listen to any who oppose the outsider observing the ceremony. Some in the shrine raise their eyebrows but return to the task at hand. They figure Merced’s deities are in control today. If he’s allowing the Orishas to be seen by a nonbeliever, then the gods must be OK with it.

Merced has recently disregarded other premonitions of danger. Three days earlier in his home, he held a séance for Nevarez in preparation for her priestly initiation. Ten members, all wearing white, gathered inside his converted garage, now a spare kitchen. On top of a white tablecloth sat a crucifix, prayer books, pencils, paper and a fishbowl of water—there to cleanse the spirits from negative to positive. Hanging on the wall were decorative hollowed-out gourds, painted in primary colors to represent a handful of the 60 or so Orishas in Santería. In one corner sat a life-size female black doll dressed in a flowing skirt and bandanna, a half-empty bottle of rum and lighted candles placed nearby.

One of the Santeros at the table knotted his face, his expression troubled. He began to grunt and take short breathes, acting possessed by the spirit, which came alive through him and asked for some rum. A woman handed him a gourd brimming with white Bacardi. As he gulped the rum, he walked hastily toward Merced.

This was a negative spirit, and it had a message: It would be best for Merced to leave the area or send everybody away from his home and remain alone.

Merced folded his arms defensively across his chest. Time and again, throughout his legal troubles, lawyers, neighbors, friends and even Santeros had proposed he do the same. Why didn’t he just leave Euless? Worship somewhere else? Why come out and create so much controversy when he could just keep things secret and live in peace like the others? To Merced, this spirit represented an insult to everything he had accomplished.

“How dare you?” accused Merced, reminding the spirit that it was “immaterial”—and in Merced’s house. “I don’t have to go anywhere. I’m going to keep up the fight.”


Jose Merced never intended to be the face of Santería in North Texas, although he might argue that it was his fate.

He grew up in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and recalls his childhood as happy and stable—that is, until his father left the family. Merced, at 12, felt abandoned and grew physically ill, developing a sharp, chronic pain in his stomach and intestines. A medical doctor suggested exploratory surgery, but his mother wouldn’t hear of it.

She had grown up in a home where regular séances took place between family members. When pregnant with Jose, a stranger stopped her in a shoe store and told her she would give birth to a male child on April 20 who would possess the gift of spirituality. Merced was born on April 19 and early on became intrigued with the spiritual realm.

After Merced became ill, he asked his mother to bring him to a woman his mother had been seeing for private spiritual readings. Even without him mentioning it, the woman told him about his intestinal pains and his nightmares. Hoping she could cure him, Merced began attending weekly séances at her home. Many of those attending wore colorful, beaded necklaces, and he asked the woman how he could get some. She told him those who wore the necklaces were followers of Santería, and he could only get them when he needed them, not when he wanted them. A year and a half later, she did a reading for him with the deities of Santería and told him it was time.

At 14, he donned his collares—necklaces that represented the protection granted by the Orishas. For a short while, Merced, who weighed 210 pounds, began to feel better, but it didn’t last. “Spirits also can bother you when you’re not knowing or understanding what it is you come in life to do,” he now explains.

The woman became his godmother in Santería, and she continued to treat him with herbal potions and spiritual readings. Over the next 18 months, he lost 60 pounds and had good months as well as bad.

Finally, Merced says that the Orishas spoke through the woman and told her that the only way to make his pain disappear was to get initiated as a priest. Merced was ready, but the ceremony was expensive, $3,000, and he didn’t have enough money. For a year after graduating high school, Merced saved up, working as a clerk for the Puerto Rico Department of Education in San Juan. By early 1979, with his mother’s help, he had saved enough money, though he still had no idea what to expect.

He had helped with other initiations at his godmother’s house but was never allowed inside the shrine-room. “I saw the animals going in alive and coming out dead,” Merced recalls. But he had no idea why. He helped by cleaning or cutting up the meat or plucking chicken feathers. Sometimes he would ask the people outside the room what was happening inside. “And when you asked something, all they answered was, ‘It is a secret.’ If you’re not crowned [a priest], you’re not supposed to know. So when I went in to my ceremony, I didn’t have a clue.”

On the day of his initiation, he was called inside the shrine and told to keep his eyes closed. Four hours later, he was dressed in regal-looking robes, his head completely shaven. Later he was told he had been possessed by his Orisha, but he remembered nothing.

After the crowning ceremony, it was time for the animal sacrifice. As the animals were brought in, he was told to touch his head to the animal’s head and its hooves to other areas of his body. The animal was absorbing his negativity. He had to chew pieces of coconut, swallowing the juice but spitting the coconut meat into the animal’s ear.

He would later learn that this was necessary for the “the exchange ceremony,” which came next. The pieces of coconut represented Merced’s message—his thoughts, feelings, needs—which were transferred to the goat for direct passage to Olofi. His physical contact with the animal was also symbolic of his commitment to God. As soon as the animal’s blood was spilled, Merced’s negativity, which had been absorbed by the goat, was released. The purified blood then spilled into the pots.

Shortly after the initiation, he says his stomach pains subsided. “I never, ever have felt again the same pain that I used to feel before,” he says.

Although he had little contact with his father, a nonbeliever, he invited him to his divination readings two days later. His father also visited him at his mother’s house immediately after the seven-day ceremony concluded. Merced was wearing all-white, his head shaved clean, and his father insisted this was all his mother’s doing—she was the one who had become a priestess a year earlier. His father demanded he end these religious practices and join the National Guard like he had. Merced told him, no: He had become a priest for health reasons, and he refused to let him shake his faith, particularly after his father had been so uninvolved in his life for so long.

If his father had learned anything from the divination readings, he would know what the Orishas had in store for his son. The priest had told him he would travel the world. He told him he would become a priest who would initiate others. And he told him that people would have reason to remember his name.


The first year of his priesthood was a difficult one. At the department of education, many of his co-workers would shoot him strange, even hostile glances when he wore his necklace and dressed in the all-white attire his religion required him to wear in the year following his intiation.

In 1989, he learned about a job opening with a commercial airline, and the next year he began to work for the company in Dallas. The work was good, but his spiritual life suffered.

He didn’t know any Santeros here and removed his necklaces to avoid drawing attention to himself. “I didn’t want people to know [about my religion],” Merced says. “That’s hiding. And I lived hiding for a long, long time.”

A closet in his apartment in Euless served as the shrine for his Orishas, which he had brought in cloth bags when he first traveled from Puerto Rico to Dallas.

A year after the move, he bought his first home and dedicated an entire room to his deities. Using the Yellow Pages, he located a botanica (a spiritual supply store) on West Jefferson and felt brave enough to introduce himself as a Santero. Here he would find others who shared his beliefs.

Over the years, he would become godfather to at least 500 followers and initiate at least 17 priests. As these new priests went out into the community and gave out necklaces to their own godchildren, Merced’s own house grew. He estimates that today there are close to 1,000 believers in his Santería community.

As Merced grew more confident in his job and in himself, he stopped hiding his religion to outsiders and would tell them about it when asked. He took the same approach in his personal life. And in 2002, when his boyfriend, Michael, decided to take his last name, their commitment to each other seemed a natural progression. “This is me,” Jose says. “And everyone will accept me for what I am.”

In 2002 Merced moved into the house he currently owns in Euless, but it wasn’t until 2004 that he started attracting the attention of the authorities. On September 4, Euless police and animal control officials showed up unannounced at his home. An anonymous caller had complained that goats were being illegally slaughtered in his backyard. When the authorities arrived, Merced was in the middle of a sacrificial ceremony inside his shrine. The police told him to stop—that if he didn’t they would fine him or arrest him. But the animal control officer intervened: Merced was allowed to continue the ritual and would not be arrested, at least not that day.

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Great Cuba documentary


Uploaded on May 15, 2007

Scenes from 2005’s “Havana Centro” by Paul Johnson. Rare scenes of a Santeria ritual taking place in Havana, Cuba


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The exposure of the PRISM data-collection program might not fall squarely under the heading of the third annual International Cyber Security Conference, which concluded on Wednesday at Tel Aviv University. The secret data-collection program, by which U.S. intelligence agencies routinely vacuum up huge amounts of private communications from Internet users, stands outside the realm of safeguarding the cyberworld from attacks. PRISM is defended as an antiterrorism measure, necessary to detect plots as they are hatched between evildoers communicating with one another online.

But it turns out that, from the point of view of the watchers gathered in Tel Aviv, it’s all about expanding their gaze even further. The chairman of RSA, the digital-security company best known for its password key fobs, made the case for “full visibility into all data” as essential to detecting and thwarting threats to the cyberworld as well. Art Coviello, who is also executive vice president of EMC, which now owns RSA, said computer security is no longer about throwing up a fire wall between a piece of equipment and the outside world. Consumers now move between so many digital devices, and entrust information to the cloud, that the idea of “a perimeter” has been falling apart since 2007. Coviello gestured to zettabytes — four levels up from a gigabyte — to drive home his point that there’s just too much data moving out there to protect on site: understanding, he said, that 1 zetta is equal to 4.9 quadrillion books, the world traffic in data was a quarter of a zettabyte in 2007, but had become 2 zettabytes in 2013 and by 2020 might be 40, or even 60.

RussiaToday RussiaToday

Thousands of protesters in Istanbul clashed with police in the most violent rally Turkey has seen in years. Hundreds have been injured and dozens arrested in fierce rioting which the media has dubbed the Turkish Spring as it spreads across the country. FOLLOW LIVE UPDATES: http://on.rt.com/2dow77 PHOTO GALLERY: http://on.rt.com/3fto6s



Activists in Tel Aviv protest police violence in Turkey

Bearing signs reading ‘Occupy Gezi,’ 50 people demonstrate outside Turkish Embassy

June 2, 2013, 10:05 pm
Demonstrators outside the Turkish Embassy in Tel Aviv in solidarity with protesters in Taksim Square. (photo credit: Ricky Ben-David/Times of Israel staff)

Demonstrators outside the Turkish Embassy in Tel Aviv in solidarity with protesters in Taksim Square. (photo credit: Ricky Ben-David/Times of Israel staff)

Though it paled in comparison to the throngs gathered in Istanbul’s Taksim Square, several dozen protesters on Sunday evening gathered outside the Turkish Embassy in Tel Aviv in a symbolic act of solidarity with the Turkish people.

Demonstrators outside the Turkish Embassy in Tel Aviv in solidarity with protesters in Taksim Square. (photo credit: Ricky Ben David/Times of Israel staff)

Demonstrators protest against Turkish government policies outside the Turkish Embassy in Tel Aviv, Sunday, June 2 (photo credit: Ricky Ben-David/Times of Israel staff)

Holding aloft placards in Turkish and English and waving a black flag, the small crowd of human rights activists chanted slogans in Hebrew against Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and denounced police violence against peaceful protesters.

“Enough with the violence by the state and the police,” they said. ”Democracy or rebellion,” said others.

Asaf Nisan Guler, a young Turkish-Israeli citizen, gave his opinion:
“I’m speaking to my friends in Turkey who are out protesting; they are not afraid, their hearts are transformed. They are against oppression in their country. The way the government handled the protests was wrong, violent, fascist, illegitimate … all those things.

“I don’t think this is a Turkish Spring, not quite yet. Not like the Arab Spring, which was some sectors of society against others. The Turkish protesters are peaceful; they don’t do provocations … they just want the oppression to stop. I don’t see it turning into something like the Arab Spring. Turkey is, after all, an established democracy.”


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Turkish People victory against Erdogan Government, Police withdraw from Taksim Square

Date and Time:2 June 2013 – 8:23

turkey2Police in Istanbul have withdrawn from Taksim Square, allowing the mass protest to continue unabated, Turkish media report. Istanbul and Ankara are entering the third day of violent protests, with tear gas and water cannon deployed and over 900 arrested.


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Hebrew Speaking “FBI” at Sandy Hook, December 14, 2012, says Tel Aviv Embassy Intel Official (former)

By Gordon Duff, Senior Editor

Veterans Today

In much of the West, Press TV has been shut down, censored, blocked or smeared and attacked.  This was only a first step.

Now there is irrefutable proof that plans are in motion to put police agencies in control of all information published on the internet, approval will be needed for, not just “facts,” whatever they are, but opinions as well.

We are talking news, blogs, social networks, “the whole thing.”

Former Top Tel Aviv Embassy Officer Says FBI Speaking Hebrew

YouTube – Veterans Today –

The assault on “gun rights” is a feint; “Sandy Hook” will go much further, with current moves aimed at dismembering the last vestiges of the America only a few believe still exists.

There has never been anything like “Sandy Hook.”

Sandy Hook is the first terror attack meant to be unraveled, exposed and debunked, not once but week after week, month after month, one bizarre revelation after another.

Were Sandy Hook a television show, it would now be in its third season, another “psyop” to go along with “Homeland” and “Zero Dark Thirty.”

The murders were not about punishment and suffering, not in a primary sense.  The sea of lies surrounding Sandy Hook is an outright assault on every institution, including, oddly enough, the press resources that had to have been readied and briefed, not just days but weeks in advance.

As many had postulated, Sandy Hook, the highly organized brutal murder of twenty small children by military trained special operations monsters is an act of pure political terror nearly identical to the “Breveik” slayings in Norway.

In the wake of the Sandy Hook terror attack, the United States is being subjected to a broad assault on its basic constitutional rights and freedoms.  This is a carefully planned and orchestrated attack, not just on gun ownership but now includes broad assaults on freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and is aimed, quite specifically, not just to demonize gun ownership but to also demonize anyone who uses their mental acuity to question the mythology of the controlled “pop culture media.”

Very genuine threats are now being made to end all independent internet communications, labeling it a hotbed of “hate speech” and “conspiracy theory.”

The stories filling the internet and newspapers are not from real police but are highly misleading references to non-existent policies and governmental directives, all invented, as we have clearly proven, by AIPAC lobbyists and their intelligence assets seeded among, not just major media, but throughout the internet “lunatic fringe” rumor mills.

Sandy Hook was carefully planned, not just as a slaughter of children or terrorist attack.  Studies of the operation, and Sandy Hook was clearly a terrorist operation, are ongoing.

Thus far the attack called upon broad assets, applying many of the methodologies of game and chaos theory warfare.


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Earth Watch Report  –  Extreme Weather

A car damaged by a fallen tree in Jerusalem, Monday (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

A car damaged by a fallen tree in Jerusalem, Monday (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

07.01.2013 Extreme Weather Israel [Statewide] Damage level

Extreme Weather in Israel on Monday, 07 January, 2013 at 20:13 (08:13 PM) UTC.

Heavy rain fell from the North to the Negev overnight Saturday, with the stormy winter weather expected to continue on Sunday and throughout the week. Forecasters expect the coming week to be one of the rainiest in recent memory with some 100 millimeters of rain expected in central Israel and as much as 250mm. expected to fall in the North. Mount Hermon is also expected to see continued snowfall throughout the week. Melting snow from Mount Hermon and the Golan will add some 30 centimeters to Lake Kinneret, according to forecasts.The Israel Meteorological Service said that snow could fall in Jerusalem as well on Wednesday. Authorities warned the public to prepare for winds up to 100 km/h on Sunday evening, especially in coastal areas. The advised tying down or taking inside garden items that could be swept up in the wind. The Israel Electric Company instructed the public to keep heating thermostats at 18 degrees Celsius to prevent causing power surges and electrical outages.

As lights flickered and falling tree branches batted down power lines across the country on Monday, Israelis continued to brace themselves for a week of torrential rains and thunderous winds. Showers and storms pounded nearly all of Israel, with extremely strong winds – of up to 85 kilometers per hour from the North down to Beersheva, decreasing to about 65 kilometers per hour in the Arava and 35 kilometers per hour in Eilat, according to Israel Meteorological Services (IMS). Snow continued to fall over the Hermon, closing the area’s ski resort, and temperatures dropped to colder than usual all over the country. Ongoing flooding plagued coastal towns, as well as risks of flash floods in riverbeds of the South, Jordan Valley and the Judean Desert, the IMS said. As in previous winters, Modi’in’s Azrieli Mall was completely flooded on the first floor, causing police and firefighters to evacuate all the stores. Eyewitnesses described water streaming into the mall, creating a veritable river through the building. No one was injured and shoppers left the building without incident.

“Stormy weather caused flooding to the municipal drainage system, leading to the overflow of water in some areas of the mall,” an official response from the Azrieli Group said, as of Monday afternoon. “To ensure the safety of visitors, in the coming hours the mall shall be drained of water and will reopen as usual.” In Jerusalem, firefighters scrambled to deal with downed trees, some of which fell against electricity towers, causing damage. Firefighters also cleared away downed antennas and trees that had fallen on cars across the municipality, as periods of rain alternated with bouts of hail. In a rather empty Mahaneh Yehuda shuk, merchants cheered, mostly with boredom, every time the hail started to pound earnestly on the plastic roofs of the shuk, creating an incredible racket. A resident of one older apartment in Nachlaot said she rushed around trying to mop up leaks with towels as the wind tore her balcony roofs to shreds. If the storm maintains its current intensity over the week, Jerusalem may experience snow on Wednesday, the IMS has predicted. The municipality said that it is therefore increasing preparations for the possibility of snow. Similar episodes have likewise already rattled the city of Tel Aviv-Yafo, with 217 problematic events already taken care of by the city by midday Monday. The municipality had treated four flooded apartments, seven flooded yards, one flooded land plot, 55 fallen trees and branches, 21 road obstacles, 20 fallen lights and signs, 13 holes, 11 blocked antennas, three sewage issues, 10 fallen building parts, five fallen roof objects, 16 torn electricity cables, one fallen fence, four road erosion incidents, 20 problematic road puddles and five incidents with Bezeq, the city said.

In addition, the municipality warned drivers and pedestrians that there are faults in traffic light systems in many parts of the city. Also, at a building site at the corner of Rothschild Boulevard and Nahalat Binyamin, a crane had fallen and hit glass of the building next door, according to the city. The total amounts of rain for this storm thus far were 16 millimeters in central Tel Aviv, 13.1 millimeters in Ramat HaHayal and 9.3 millimeters at Sde Dov Airport, as of midday Monday. In anticipation of the storm, the municipality had been making constant preparations for the potential ravages of the stormy weather and has increased the presence of its operational teams as well as social services staff to distribute blankets and hot drinks to the homeless. In the past few years, the city has been giving increased priority to preventing flooding during the winter season, particularly with the entire overhaul of the urban drainage and sewage systems in most parts of the city. The municipality is also working in cooperation with the Ayalon Highway Company, to handle the possibilities of flooding on the Ayalon, the city added. As a precaution, the municipality stressed that residents should make sure there are no objects on their terraces that could fly off in the strong winds, as well as ensure that all walls are maximally strengthened. Swimming at beaches where rescue services do not operate is absolutely prohibited, the municipality stressed.

In order to be as prepared as possible, the city increased all of its operational teams – including those responsible for handling flooding, falling trees, potholes, traffic light systems, as well as the fire department. Prior to the onset of the storm, the city checked all of its tunnel systems, dried open drainage ditches, fenced off construction sites, pruned tree branches, treated coastal cliffs, plugged potholes and sinkholes, printed guidelines for the public and more, according to the municipality. Anyone requiring assistance should contact the municipality at *106, the city added. Just north of Tel Aviv, the Herzliya train station, which had been closed since midday Sunday due to flooding, began operating once again at about 12:30 p.m. on Monday, a spokeswoman from Israel Railways said. The company, however, warned travelers that trains would be moving slowly due to the weather throughout the duration of the storm. Outside of the Jerusalem and Tel Aviv regional hubs, the Health Ministry warned that due to the possibility of contaminated storm run-off mixing with drinking reservoirs, residents near the Dead Sea – including Almog, Kalya, Beit HaArava, Avnat, Vered Yericho, and tourist sites in the area – should boil their water for a minimum of two minutes until further notice. In cooperation with the regional council as well as Mekorot National Water Company, the ministry said it would continue to conduct testing. In the West Bank, heavy rain and lightning damaged 19 houses on Monday in the Al-Janeed area, west of Nablus, causing considerable damage to the properties, Palestinian news agency Ma’an reported. Torrential rain also fell from Sunday into Monday in Tulkarm, flooding homes and roads throughout the town, according to Ma’an.

While much of the country faced the inconveniences – and sometimes dangers – of the storm, Lake Kinneret was reaping its benefits. By Monday morning, the Kinneret basin’s level was at 211.72 meters below sea level, 10 centimeters below that of the morning before and still 2.92 meters from being full. Throughout the country since morning hours, Israel Electric Company teams were working in the field to fix the damage caused to the power grid lines thus far by the storm. The teams were operating around the clock in harsh weather conditions, under strong winds, rain, cold temperatures and mud, to correct the localized electricity glitches and return people to full power supplies as soon as possible, the IEC said. Most of the damage caused by the storm thus far was related to tree branches collapsing on power lines, causing them to tear, according to the company. The IEC reminded the public to make use of its service and information center at *103, which is at the moment only responding to calls about storm-related electricity problems. Emergency teams have been prepared on high alert for a number of days already with lifting platforms, vehicles and cranes, so the company encouraged the public to be vigilant about reporting damages to the grid. Updated information is also available on the IEC’s website as well as its Facebook page, the company added.

It is likewise crucial that the public take certain safety precautions, such as removing storage units that can fly away from balconies and hit electrical wires, and make sure that window shutters are connected properly to the buildings, the IEC said. In addition, if there are broken electrical wires in the street, it is critical to refrain from touching them due to risk of electrical shock. Any torn wires should be reported immediately to the IEC at *103 or to the police, the company stressed.


Earth Watch Report –   Extreme Weather


Today Extreme Weather Israel [Statewide] Damage level

Extreme Weather in Israel on Thursday, 20 December, 2012 at 16:40 (04:40 PM) UTC.

Stormy weather caused damage all over Israel on Thursday. Snow fell for hours on Mt. Hermon, beginning in the early morning, where the ski slopes have been closed due to heavy fog and slippery conditions on the road leading up to the site. Highway 75 between Ha’amakim Junction and Kiryat Tivon was closed for several hours due to a fallen electric pole. A tree fell on a parked car in South Tel Aviv. No one was injured in the incident. On Hannah Szenes Street in Givatayim, two electric poles were damaged when a tree fell into a private courtyard. No casualties or property damage were reported in the incident. Municipal workers have removed the tree, and Israel Electric Corp. workers on the scene are dealing with high-voltage wires. Trees went down in other parts of the Tel Aviv suburb, without casualties or property damage. Shaul Ohana, manager of the Hermon ski site, said that snow had not accumulated in the area because the temperature, at 2 degrees Celsius, was too high. He said he hoped the site would be open to visitors by next Tuesday, after the storm had passed. Haifa’s municipal emergency center said that numerous calls were received about weather damage from local residents. There were more than 20 reports of trees that had fallen, or were about to fall, in various parts of the city. Traffic lights failed at four intersections and there were blackouts experienced at several locations.

The Meteo-Tech forecasting service predicts continued heavy rain on Thursday and Friday in northern and central Israel and scattered rainfall in the south. Temperatures will be 4-7 degrees (Celsius) lower than Wednesday, and strong winds of 50 kph, gusting up to 80 kph, will cause sandstorms and haze in the south. According to the forecast, strong winds in the evening will cause waves of up to 7 meters in the Mediterranean, at distances of up to several kilometers from the shore. The Israel Meteorological Service predicts the sea-level to rise to up to 9 meters. The rain will reach its peak overnight and in the early hours of Friday morning, with snow continuing to fall on Mt. Hermon. Winds will diminish but remain strong, temperatures will remain low, and there is the danger of flooding along the coastline. Rainfall will decrease on Saturday, and Sunday is expected to see a break in the stormy weather. But the storm, accompanied by heavy rains, is expected to return on Sunday night and Monday. Accumulated rainfall is expected to reach 100 mm in several areas. Forecasts also predict that there will be 118 mm of rainfall at Kfar Giladi in the Upper Galilee, 113 mm in Haifa, 80 mm in Tel Aviv and 53 mm in Jerusalem. The source of the stormy weather is a cold air mass coming from Turkey. The clash between the cold air in the atmosphere and the still warm Mediterranean water (21 degrees) creates unstable weather conditions expressed in large quantities of rainclouds and strong winds.



Netanyahu: Israel ready for fresh attacks

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
“I know there are citizens that expect a harsher stand in Gaza – and we are prepared to make one. We choose when to act, against who to act and how to act,” he was quoted as saying on Thursday.

Netanyahu said Tel Aviv was “giving the ceasefire a chance.”

Earlier in the day, the Israeli Minister for Military Affairs, Ehud Barak also said the Tel Aviv regime was prepared to resume deadly attacks on Gaza, alleging likewise that the ceasefire might founder.

Also on Thursday, the democratically-elected Palestinian Prime Minister, Ismail Haniyeh dismissed the possibility of the resumption of violence in the coastal sliver.

“I want to say to the Palestinian people in Gaza, in the West Bank and everywhere that the option of invading Gaza after this victory is gone and will never return,” he said.

The Cairo-mediated ceasefire agreement, which took effect on Wednesday, ended the Israeli attacks, which started on November 14, killing more than 160 Palestinians and injuring about 1,200 others.

Prior to the ceasefire, Palestinian resistance fighters incessantly fired retaliatory rockets and missiles towards the Occupied Palestinian Territories, killing at least five Israelis, including one trooper.


30 Air Strikes – 30 Minutes delivered by Israeli Terrorism


The Israeli Army continued to escalate the attacks carried out against the civilian population in the Gaza Strip, early on Friday morning, with more than 30 air strikes against different areas of Gaza in less than 30 minutes.

Child Ahmad Abu Sha’ar Injured By Israeli Shells
Media sources in Gaza reported that at approximately 6 a.m. Friday, Israeli war planes carried out 30 attacks, targeting civilian areas, resistance centers and buildings that belong to the Ministry of Interior leading to extensive damage; several injuries were reported.

One of the bombarded buildings is a school run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in Gaza.

The army also bombarded several Palestinian security centers in addition to firing missiles into the Civilian Branch of the Ministry of Interior, west of Gaza City; extensive damage were also reported.

In Khan Younis, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip, the army bombarded another UNRWA school also leading to extensive damage.

Furthermore, the Ahrar Center for Detainees’ Studies, reported that the Israeli army also bombarded an under construction church in Gaza City leading to excessive damage.

The latest Israeli military escalation claimed that lives of 19 Palestinians, including seven children, since Wednesday evening, while at least 180 were injured.

Children, infants, women and elderly are among the casualties, including children whose bodies were severely mutilated and burnt due to Israeli shells. A pregnant woman and her unborn fetus are among the killed.

Responding to the Israeli military escalation, Palestinian armed groups in Gaza claimed responsibility for firing dozens of shells into Israel, including shells that hit Tel Aviv, Ashdod, and several other areas.

The resistance said that it will continue to defend its people, living under constant Israeli attacks and violations, and as long as Israel continues to kill and injure civilians, including children. Three Israelis were killed by Palestinian shells, and several others were injured.

23 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli shells since last Saturday; most of the casualties are civilians, children and women. Among the casualties are 7 children, a pregnant woman, and two elderly. More than 180 Palestinians have been injured; dozens are in serious conditions.

Four Palestinians killed, 25 injured in Israeli attack on Gaza

An Israeli soldier sits atop a tank near the northern Gaza Strip. (File photo)

An Israeli soldier sits atop a tank near the northern Gaza Strip. (File photo)

Israeli artillery targeted the Palestinians in the besieged territory on Saturday. Most of the injured are said to be in critical condition.

Witnesses say Palestinian resistance groups also fired a rocket at an Israeli jeep that exploded on the edge of the border, critically injuring four Israeli soldiers.

Another five Palestinians were also wounded near Khan Yunis in southern GAZA.

The Israeli military carries out ground incursions and airstrikes against Gaza on an almost regular basis. Tel Aviv claims the attacks are conducted for defensive purposes.

However, disproportionate force is always used, in violation of international law, and civilians are often killed or injured.

In addition to attacks on the Gaza Strip, Israel denies about 1.7 million people in the besieged Palestinian territory their basic rights, including the freedom of movement and the right to education and the right to decent living, work, and health conditions.

Gaza has been blockaded since 2007, which is a situation that has caused a decline in the standard of living, unprecedented levels of unemployment, and unrelenting poverty.


Nine Gaza Rockets Hit Israel After Quiet Night

Israelis look at the damage to a house after a rocket fired by militants in Gaza landed in the southern town of Netivot November 12, 2012. REUTERS/Amir Cohen
Israelis look at the damage to a house after a rocket fired by militants in Gaza landed in the southern town of Netivot November 12, 2012. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

JERUSALEM: Gaza militants on Monday fired nine rockets at southern Israel, one of which exploded next to a house, police said, shattering an overnight calm even as Cairo sought to broker an end to 24 hours of bloodshed.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said nine rockets had hit Israel, all of them fired after 7:30 am (0530 GMT).

“Seven were fired at the Negev (desert) region and two towards the Ashkelon (coastal) area,” he told AFP, adding that one had landed in the yard of a house in Netivot.

Medical sources said 26 people had been treated for shock in the town.

The latest rocket attacks put an end to what had been a quiet night on the Israeli side of the border, with the army saying there had been no launchings since Sunday night.

In Gaza, the Israeli military carried out series of air strikes, targeting “a terror tunnel and a weapons facility” in the north and a rocket-launching site in the south, the army said. There were no reports of injuries.

The relative quiet came after Cairo stepped into its usual role as mediator on Sunday night to try to broker a truce, Egyptian security sources told AFP after 24-hours of cross-border fighting left six Palestinians dead, and saw armed groups firing more than 110 rockets at Israel, injuring eight.

Palestinian officials confirmed the truce initiative and said the two main militants groups in the Gaza Strip, Hamas and the Islamic Jihad, had affirmed their readiness to observe it “provided Israel commits to doing the same.”

The latest flareup began on Saturday evening, when militants fired an anti-tank missile at an army jeep, injuring four soldiers.

The military hit back, killing six Palestinians, including two militants and two minors, and injuring more than 30.

Militant groups then fired more than 110 projectiles in southern Israel, injuring four people in the town of Sderot near the border.

Talk of a truce surfaced as Israel warned Gaza’s Hamas rulers that it would strike back with “ever-growing intensity” if the rocket attacks were to continue.

“Hamas is responsible for the rocket fire and all other attempts to harm our soldiers and civilians, even when other groups participate. And it is Hamas that will pay the heavy price,” said Defence Minister Ehud Barak.

“We will strike with an ever-growing intensity.”

The spike in violence, which comes as Israel is in the middle of an election campaign, raised the spectre of a broader Israeli military operation in Gaza, along the lines of its devastating Operation Cast Lead over New Year of 2009.

“During the last two days, the IDF (Israel Defence Forces), on my instructions, has been evaluating the host of options for harsher responses against Hamas and the other terror organisations in Gaza,” Barak said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that Israel was “prepared to escalate” its response to Palestinian rocket fire.

“The army is acting and will act forcefully against the terror organisations in the Gaza Strip,” Netanyahu told his cabinet.

“The world must realise that Israel won’t sit by idly in the face of attempts to attack us,” he said. “We are prepared to escalate our actions.”

In late December 2008, just six weeks before the last general elections, Israel launched a 22-day operation in Gaza to stamp out persistent rocket fire, which claimed the lives of 1,400 Palestinians — half of them civilians — and 13 Israelis, 10 of them soldiers.