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Beyond the Conflict: Local Israelis Speak Out

Beyond the conflict: Local Israelis speak out
By Gail Rubin
January 16th, 2010

Special to The Enterprise

While media coverage of Israel tended to focus on the war in Gaza and the controversial Goldstone Report, behind the headlines 2009 was a year of significant developments in health, technology, the environment and coexistence. While other countries struggled in the grip of recession, Israel's economy and that of the West Bank forged ahead.

Local companies, researchers, engineers and doctors continued to develop and create a series of innovative new products and projects of benefit not only to Israel, but the entire world. In the West Bank's largest city, Nablus, the city is bursting with energy, life and signs of prosperity. Palestinian economic growth has been an impressive 7 percent according to the International Monetary Fund, and, in fact, 11 percent as reported by Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayad (himself a former World Bank and IMF employee). All of this growth is partly due to the strong economic performance in neighboring Israel.

In fact, this was the vision of Israel's first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion: that through the hard work and efforts of both Jews and Arabs, the Middle East could be transformed from a backward, neglected region under the rule of the Ottoman Empire, to a region where Arabs toiling under the hardship of the effendi rulers (aristocratic landowners) and Jews, who also had suffered under tyrannical regimes, could together build a new region for prosperity for all its inhabitants.

Although Arabs living under Palestinian leadership in the West Bank and Gaza Strip face harassment, punishment and even “extra-judicial” killings for attempting normalization or coexistence with the Jewish state, building a better future together for all people is still possible. A recent joint Israeli-Palestinian venture has planted strawberry fields to boost the West Bank economy and provide produce for export.

Israel is the world leader in water conserving agricultural practices. Its drip irrigation systems are sold throughout the world, even relabeled for the Arab market. One can only hope that these Arab farmers are safe and not shot as “collaborators.”

Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian Authority health officials are working together to diagnose and contain the H1N1 flu virus as part of a mission to fight infectious disease and pandemics. A group of Israeli and Palestinian midwives are working to ensure that pregnant mothers in Israel and the Palestinian territories have safe and natural births.

A joint Israeli-Palestinian biofuel project will alleviate thousands of tons of organic waste and produce 1 million barrels of biofuel, powering peace in the Middle East. The idea was initiated in 2008 by the Peres Center for Peace, which is an independent, nonprofit, nongovernmental organization founded in 1996 by Shimon Peres, president of Israel and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate ( For further listings of coexistence projects, see and

If you wish to read more about economic successes in Israel, read the recently released “Start-Up Nation” by Dan Senor and Saul Singer. Their book is not only an exposé of historical and business facts, but portrays Israel as a model for individuals and nations seeking to build their own enterprises and boost their economic confidence.

“Beyond the Conflict: Local Israelis Speak Out” will be presented as a panel discussion by Israeli residents of Davis at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 26, at the United Methodist Church of Davis, 1620 Anderson Road.

The program is presented by the Davis Interfaith Coalition for Peace and Justice in the Middle East and is being hosted by the church's Contemporary Issues Forum. Panelists will talk about life in this tiny, democratic, multicultural nation, which despite its land mass of only one-sixth of 1 percent of the Arab world (about the size of New Jersey), and despite having no natural resources, has excelled in making significant contributions to medicine, technology, agriculture and environmental protection.

Israel has only 7.4 million people, with 75 percent being Jewish and 20 percent Arabs, with the remaining residents being either Christians, Druze or Baha'i. This compares with the approximate 300 million Middle Eastern Arabs and Muslims.

The panelists will tell life stories about survival in the Middle East's only democracy despite the more than 60 years of the terror war against it.

The format will be a panel discussion by four individuals, followed by a question-and-answer period. For more information, contact Gail Rubin of the Davis Interfaith Coalition for Peace and Justice in the Middle East at or Jim Cramer of UMC's Contemporary Issues Forum at

Learn more

What: Panel discussion by Israeli residents of Davis, hosted by the Davis Interfaith Coalition for Peace and Justice in the Middle East and the United Methodist Church of Davis' Contemporary Issues Forum

When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 26

Where: United Methodist Church of Davis, 1620 Anderson Road

Info: Gail Rubin,, or Jim Cramer,


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