NSWJBD/Honest Reporting Israel Mission Day 1

November 21, 2013 by  
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Rachel Lustig and Lynda Ben-Menashe report from Israel….



Welcome to Israel by Brig.Gen (Res.) Yosef Kuperwasser

by Rachel Lustig



Brig.Gen (Res.) Yosef Kuperwasser presented us with a comprehensive summary of events leading up to the present situation in Israel.  I’ll attempt to summarise his incredibly detailed one hour presentation, here…

For many years Israel’s main threat was existential.  By 1973 we were able to convince our neighbours that using standing armies to dislodge a Jewish sovereign presence wouldn’t work. The PLO switched to terrorism as the main means to replace Israel with a Palestinian state. After the 1st intifada came the Oslo Agreement, yet PLO leader Yasser Arafat continued with terrorism as though nothing had happened!

The ongoing battle is the fight against terrorism.  Israel has managed to send a message to the Palestinians that terror won’t work, and the proof of Israel’s victory in this respect is that there’s been no 3rd intifada.  The strength shown by the Jewish nation has had a major impact.

What is the Palestinian goal? Having a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, with the ultimate aim of reaching Haifa & Jaffa. According to Kupferwasser, the reason there’s no peace and no Palestinian state – despite the territorial offers made by Israeli leaders including Olmert’s 98% of the West Bank plus parts of Jerusalem – is that all offers have been conditional on recognising Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people. Refusal to allow any Jewish presence in the land is  the main issue, which most people don’t understand.  Kupferwasser says this is because of what he calls ‘dishonest reporting’.
Israel, a Spokesperson’s Challenge in a Digital World,  Lt.Col. Avital Leibovich

by Rachel Lustig


Lt Colonel Leibovich

Lt.Col. Avital Leibovich comes across as calm and confident, and obviously knows her stuff.  She explains that the digital arena is a separate war zone.  People have about 3000 visual encounters per day, and the average person only retains approximately 15 of those images.  The media war is all about the strength of the picture.

The IDF It releases information in 6 languages, via a blog which reaches 95 million people worldwide: http://www.idfblog.com , Twitter: https://twitter.com/IDFSpokesperson and a Youtube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/idfnadesk .

In 2012, social media hardly reported the fact that 700 rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel. Now it’s down to about 33 a day.  How often is it reported in the media that Palestinians are treated in Israeli hospitals at Israel’s expense, or that each day approx. 250 truckloads of goods are sent from Israel into Gaza?  Social media becomes the tool for closing the gaps that the regular media overlooks.

Also in 2012, a game was developed by a 20 year old IDF soldier called IDF Ranks.  http://www.idfblog.com/idf-ranks-game/. This month IDF Rescue was set up to tweet all about the rescue efforts of the IDF in other countries (eg, currently the Philippines): https://twitter.com/IDFrescue

 Tour of the Security Barrier with Lt Colonel Shai Shemesh

by Lynda Ben-Menashe

Lt Colonel Shai Shemesh of the Central Command leads approximately 500 men and women, mostly concentrated in the Wild West Bank. He looks the part: fit, burnished and dark-haired, but with a few strands of silver belying his apparent youth. He represents an indeterminate Israeli ethnic mix which turns out to include Indian, Iraqi and Polish. He is one of the third generation of men in his family to have fought to build and defend this land.


Lt Colonel Shai Shemesh

Lt Colonel Shai Shemesh leads indeed. He leads with courage and commitment – with passion  and compassion. He moved me to the point of tears because he reminded me that behind all the theoretical talk of facts and figures and policies and plans, there are a million human stories.

Shai spoke in depth about his mission: the protection of the civilians of the West Bank, both Israeli and Palestinian. The maintenance of peace between uneasy neighbours. The prevention of crime and terror. A ‘simple’ mission which can only be achieved through the  mastery of a million complex details monthly, daily, hourly and minute-by-minute.

He took us to the Eyal Crossing at Kalkilya, ten minutes from Kfar Saba, and gave us facts:


  • he said that 100,000 Palestinians enter Israel each day with work permits and a further 100,000 enter without permits in search of work. Or on their way to committing acts of terror, like the boy from Jenin who this week stabbed to death an Israeli soldier boy on a bus near Afula
  • about half of the checkpoint crossings are now administered by private security contractors, not the IDF – because this checking work, exactly like airport security checking anywhere in the world, is a job for security professionals
  • every IDF action is filmed using cameras mounted on soldiers’ helmets or weapons or operated by communications personnel – filmed so the soldiers’ behavior can be monitored by the commanders and used for training purposes or presented as evidence in case of claims of wrongdoing. And each night Shai trawls the Facebook pages of the Palestinian towns and villages and individuals under his command to understand the perspectives of the local Palestinians on what has gone down that day.
  • about 17% of the population of the West Bank is Jewish – close to 500,000 people, over 80% of those living in the legal ‘consensus’ settlements including 12 suburbs of Jerusalem, but the rest in illegal ones: caravans on windswept hilltops, makeshift buildings which Shai’s men are periodically charged with dismantling. Without diminishing its importance, Shai gave some context and balance to this issue of ‘illegal settlements’, reminding us that there are also illegal Palestinian settlements in the West Bank – houses and structures built without permission from the PA. And illegal Bedouin Arab settlements inside Israel too, in the Negev. He reminded us of the nuance in this discussion, so often conducted in only black and white.

Earlier, as we had watched the real-time, minute-by-minute movement of Shai’s brigades on the screen behind him, and he had given us feelings too:

He had told us how it makes him feel to enter a home in the middle of the night to arrest a father who may or may not have committed a crime or act of terror – how it makes him feel to wake a mother and terrify children, whose cries sound exactly like the cries of his own children. How the heart always reacts, no matter that what the head understands.  How he recognises that a soldier might choose to ‘Break The Silence’ to clear his conscience or simply release some of the confronting emotions such acts inevitably provoke.

Lt Colonel Shai Shemesh of the Central Command, who at perhaps 30 years of age leads 500 men and women, moved me to the point of tears because he is a human being who accepts the heavy, endless responsibility of maintaining some semblance of peaceful co-existence between two nations in an apparently infinite state of conflict. Because he fulfills this mission with astounding mental, physical and spiritual strength and most incredibly of all, without shirking emotional engagement. Shai does this without losing his humanity or overlooking the humanity of the thousands of Israeli and Palestinian men, women and children under his protection.

We in the Diaspora TALK in abstract terms about security and settlements and policies and peace plans. Shai and his soldiers, who are just people – most as young as my oldest child – WALK in dusty boots on stony ground carrying heavy rifles they don’t wish to use so that we can have the luxury of just TALKING.




24 Responses to “NSWJBD/Honest Reporting Israel Mission Day 1”
  1. Rachel says:

    I’m shocked at the constant stream of negativity that stems from the Jewish community here in Sydney. If I was an alien just dropped from another planet, and was asking how the Jewish community in Sydney is fighting increasing worldwide antisemitism including here in Australia, and someone pointed me here to this website, I’d be saying “okay, so it’s actually just the Jews who hate each other and spend all their time in mind-numbing totally unconstructive back & forth slander, namecalling and other totally time-wasting activities, is it?”

    So what about joining forces and REALLY making a difference to Israel and the state of the Jews in the diaspora? Obviously all the bullshit that’s gone back and forth in about 13 of the 23 comments on this website is indicative that basically no-one actually wants to DO anything about it, just have a never-ending totally abusive whinge. How’s the old saying go, whinging whining Poms? Seems the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree…

  2. Otto Waldmann says:


    Otto’s problem is not his problem, it’s the Board’s problem.
    If you attention span is longer than two words, read the whole of my “hysterical” account of the real stuff.
    Just in case it escaped you, whatever/whoever gutsy one name Michael you’d be, Otto’s talkin’ bout the loss of some 125 speaker tours per year manned by terriffic people, hysterics like me, who were only happy to put in the hours after hours to face all kinds of crowds all over the place on behalf of the Community.
    With current supporters of your calibre little wonder there is pride in lot less of what could be done. Better one-eyed than totally blind.

  3. Lynda says:

    Very happy to meet you for a coffee to discuss offline, Gil. Pls contact my office – I am back the week beginning Dec 2.

    • Gil Solomon says:


      I am still waiting for your reply to my question below.
      That is, if you did in fact, as you stated, raise the question with the IDF about the 100,000 Palestinians who enter Israel on a daily basis WITHOUT a work permit. I ask again, what was the IDF’s reply?

      I am certainly not going to come on one of your missions next year to “ask the same question myself.” This security breach needs to be fixed immediately and for you to have suggested I come next year to ask the same question is absurd. It implies that the breach will still exist 12 months from now!

    • Otto Waldmann says:

      Hello, hello, who’s double timing here, Ms Lynda !!??
      I thought you and I were some kinda item discussing ….items and stuff.

      Gil, buddy, you saw the LONGER message Lynda sent me, so just butt out !!!

      ( Lynda, confidentially, how many more “coffees” are you having with all these blokes pickin’ onya !!??)

  4. Sam Rosenwax says:

    You ask what they are coming away from these courses with. Nothing much and a waste of communal money. It is, by all accounts, the “NSWJBD/Honest Reporting Israel Mission”. They cannot fill it which goes to show how much interest it attracts. They advertise Australia wide and overseas. Like the last one where people from the USA joined. I heard somewhere on this mission too.

    What is a mission? According to the dictionary a mission is:-

    a. A body of persons sent to conduct negotiations or establish relations with a foreign country.
    b. The business with which such a body of persons is charged.
    c. A permanent diplomatic office abroad.
    d. A body of experts or dignitaries sent to a foreign country.
    a. A body of persons sent to a foreign land by a religious organization, especially a Christian organization, to spread its faith or provide educational, medical, and other assistance.
    b. A mission established abroad.
    c. The district assigned to a mission worker.
    d. A building or compound housing a mission.
    e. An organization for carrying on missionary work in a territory.
    f. missions Missionary duty or work.
    3. A Christian church or congregation with no cleric of its own that depends for support on a larger religious organization.
    4. A series of special Christian services for purposes of proselytizing.
    5. A welfare or educational organization established for the needy people of a district.
    a. A special assignment given to a person or group: an agent on a secret mission.
    b. A combat operation assigned to a person or military unit.
    c. An aerospace operation intended to carry out specific program objectives: a mission to Mars.
    7. An inner calling to pursue an activity or perform a service; a vocation.

    • Michael says:

      What an unhappy person you must be! I had the privilege of participating in last year’s inaugural “mission” (and I didn’t need a dictionary to define what it was!). I cannot speak highly enough of the experience both from the Israel advocacy viewpoint and the personal angle of simply being in that wonderful place with like-minded people no matter their background or where they came from.

    • Lynda says:

      I’m not sure where you get your information from, Sam. This Honest-Reporting/JBD Mission is NOT communally funded, each participant pays their own way. You are confusing this with our Mission for journalists. And we do fill them – that’s why they run. Missions don’t run without a minimum number of participants. I invite you to join us next year.

      • Otto Waldmann says:

        Lynda you must be so right, but ever more righter (!!) if no emplyee of the NSWJBD accompanied the self-paying participants at Board’s/community’s expense. So, did any such necessary person accompany them !!?? And WHY !!????

        • Lynda says:

          Hello Otto! I would love to sit down and tell you what I learned myself from the professional development of my accompanying the group this year. Many ideas from many clever people, including today Gerald Steinberg of NGO Monitor, Nitzan Darshan-Leitner of Shurat HaDin and others. Maybe you’ll have some ideas to contribute of what we can bring to our community from the efforts of these and others.

          • Otto Waldmann says:

            Wow, Lynda, do you really, really mean it !!!!
            Glad to oblige. So, contact me and we shall have a serious session about ideas and initiatives.
            All yours………….can’t wait for the Board to make the best of my dedication.

            Good ol’ Board of Deputies, always anxious to hear what I’ve got to say…all ears or any other parts will do.
            Howz gonna work, you call me first or you’ll call me last !!?

  5. Gil Solomon says:


    So exactly what wisdom are you attempting to impart with your comment:
    “We in the Diaspora TALK in abstract terms about security and settlements and policies and peace plans. Shai and his soldiers, who are just people – most as young as my oldest child – WALK in dusty boots on stony ground carrying heavy rifles they don’t wish to use so that we can have the luxury of just TALKING.”

    So no one in he Diaspora should express an opinion where blatant negligence occurs? Is no one even to raise the obvious question when Lt Colonel Shai Shemesh admits that 100,000 Palestinians enter Israel each day with work permits and a further 100,000 WITHOUT work permits but still in search of work or to commit acts of terror! One has to ask what kind of security apparatus is in place that allows 100,000 to enter in search of work without a work permit? I’m sure the mother of the young man stabbed to death would be asking the exact same question.

    Maybe you should read both Michael Kuttner’s last posts re. “The Poisonous Plague Continues” (especially his comments in the second last sentence) and Isi Leibler’s titled” “Chaotic Govt. Undermines our Global Standing”. Both these gentlemen live in Israel.

    So in spite of what they say, is it your opinion Diaspora Jews should just shut up so as not to express a viewpoint one way or another, even if that viewpoint is constructive?

    What are you people coming away with from those courses?

    • Lynda says:

      Gil, as one whose professional life involves speaking on behalf of the Jewish community and Israel, and who runs courses designed to help others upgrade their knowledge and skills to do so as well, it is most certainly NOT my opinion that “Diaspora Jews should just shut up so as not to express a viewpoint one way or another”. I imagine some of our 700 ‘Talking About Israel’ course graduates would be able to confirm this to you.

      I addition to visiting Israel at least once a year, I also lived there for seven years and believe both Israelis and Diaspora Jews have every right to speak – and act. If you are concerned about the IDF’s performance perhaps spending some time in Israel serving in the IDF or other Israeli institutions might be a more effective avenue to improve it than criticizing it from Sydney.

      “What are ‘we people’ coming away with from those courses?” I would say a broad, deep and nuanced appreciation of the issues and therefore an enhanced ability to discuss them within and outside our local Jewish community. An improved ability to contextualize those issues and convey Israel’s legitimacy and reasons for some of its actions. And from first hand experience on the ground on Israel Missions like this one, greater credibility with any audience for the above-mentioned conversations.

      • Gil Solomon says:

        Very interesting Lynda,

        Unfortunately you haven’t even once attempted to answer how is it that 100,000 Palestinians enter Israel without any work permit looking for work or awaiting for an opportunity to commit mayhem.

        Maybe you should concentrate on asking these types of questions instead of trying to impress me with the number of visits you make or the fact that you lived in Israel for 7 years.

        • Lynda says:

          Gil, I am no military expert but we did indeed ask the IDF about how so many illegals manage to enter. Come on a Mission with us next year and you can ask them the same yourself! I am certainly not trying to impress you with any information about my connection to Israel – simply to give you some context for my comments. Anyway, again I invite you to join us next year. I’m off now to the Kotel for Shabbat – I hope you have a peaceful one too.

      • Otto Waldmann says:

        So right once more Lynda.
        If so, then tell us about that famous “Speaker Service” the Board used to run, where , at one stage, about two dozen members of the Board would visit in one year up to 125 communal groups, schools etc., mostly non Jewish and do a fantastic job. At one (!!) stage, in one year, some TWENTY YEARS ago I did in ONE year alone, some FIFTEEN such talks all over Sydney and beyond. For the past 15 years that service has been dead in the water, so tell us where are these best informed self-funded “missionaries” going to spread there acquired knowledge, because if you are telling me that they are uselful within their orgainisations you are asking for more comments from me…………. and I supose that you would not welcome that.

        ( that’s if you would answer this one at all, which I doubt, anyway )

        • Lynda says:

          Hello again Otto – speaker service most definitely not ‘dead in the water’! Alive and kicking with many presenters including Rabbi Lawrence and other rabbis from across the congregations, stalwarts like Josie Lacey, new additions, Vic and myself – last year I addressed over 2,000 people in various venues just myself, so with my, Vic’s and others’ ongoing presentations we are full steam ahead. I am sorry you didn’t ask sooner 🙂

          • Otto Waldmann says:

            Once again, impressive, but we all know, dear Lynda that what you try to replace here with the community stalwarts is not at all the same gischeft.
            Josie, Rabbi Lawrence and mainly you and Vic were always doing the stuff we are talking about ( well other Rabbis before Rabbi Lawrence graced us with his presence ) but well IN ADDITION to them/you we had the GENUINE speaker service, and you know what I’m talkin’ about. I shall repeat: up to twenty ordinary little Yids doing up to ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY FIVE visits per year to all kinds of of places. One of the most active was Ms. Shapiro, history teacher, visiting scores of schools etc. My mate Ben Apfelbaum once wnent all the way to Canberra, after office hours and with two kids AND a wife at home, on the way back to Syd., past midnite he was pinched by the cops for “speeding” on an empty highway, some 10 kay over the limit, charged a few hundred bucks fine and lost points etc. THAT’S what I CALL speaker service and communal dedication BEYOND what the stalwarts AND employed Board officers do !!! Show me that functioning, dear Lynda, because it ain’t there no more.

            Anyways, next week is a date.
            One decaf cappuccino, no sugar and one Gelato Bar quality volnat schtrudell for me…………………

        • Lynda says:

          Otto, pls call the office any time next week after Monday to set up a time. If you are serious, fine. If not, I imagine I won’t hear from you.

          • Michael says:

            What is Otto’s problem? The Board’s profile and professionalism have never been higher! Anyone reading Otto’s hysterical raves might question his credibility and motives; and that applies to some of the other one-eyed correspondents as well!

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