There Is a Place Where Christians, Jews and Muslims Get Along Peacefully . . . It’s Mbale, Uganda! 

mirembaThe Times of Israel reports that there is a place where Christians, Jews and Muslims get along peacefully: Mbale, Uganda.

Christians are the majority in Uganda as a whole but Muslims are a majority in the Mbale region. Jews are a tiny minority in Uganda, with only 2,000 members, mostly around Mbale.

Mbale hosts a cooperative of 2,000 Jewish, Christian and Muslim coffee farmers who grow coffee called “Mirembe Kawomera,” which translates as “Delicious Peace” in the local language of Luganda.

The cooperative started in 2004.  Previously, Jews and Muslims had argued over land ownership issues because some synagogues had been appropriated as mosques and churches during the Amin years. Today members of the three faiths enjoy celebrating their holy days together. Muslims and Christians are regulars at the Passover seder table and Jews regularly join Christmas celebrations or Eid festivals.

Ugandans are worried about the influence of extremist Muslim violence. . . . This interfaith cooperative is a preemptive strike against fanaticism, by creating close working relationships across religions so children grow up in a more tolerant environment.”

Click here to read the full article.

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The Spotlight On: Mira Awad

She’s a Christian-Arab-Israeli-Palestinina-Femalesinger-actress-songwriter. It’s “complicated.”

Mira Awaḍ is a Christian-Arab-Israeli-Palestinian singer, actress, and songwriter

She was the first Arab Israeli to represent Israel at the Eurovision Song Contest, singing the first Israeli Eurovision song with Arabic lyrics. When she was selected to represent Israel at Eurovision she became the target of harsh criticism from pro-Palestinian groups; the global movement to boycott Israel, BDS, even issued a petition calling for her to be boycotted.

At the same time, she says “I experience racism in Israeli society in all sorts of ways, especially if they don’t realize that I’m an Arab.” . . . Early on, when they didn’t know yet who Mira Awad was, I would show up to sign a rental contract for an apartment. I looked fine, I spoke fine, but as soon as I would say ‘Mira Awad’ and take out my identity card, then they said ‘Um… um…’ And suddenly there were all kinds of delays.

It isn’t simple today, either [she says]. In Israel, no matter how successful you are – if you’re an Arab, the moment there is security tension, you don’t know if you’ll have work in the foreseeable future. . . .

She also reports that, “Today, the situation of women is amazing compared to when I left home and began to sing. But there are still challenges. It is not just a matter of wage gaps. At all companies, there is contempt for women. Even the most senior female CEO will be less respected than a male CEO in the same role.

[She also says that] in a conservative society like the Arab one, it is even more complex and complicated, because there is patriarchal silencing of women.. .

“An Arab woman can have a fulfilling career, but she is expected to preserve the family honor. She does not have sexual freedom, her body is ‘on loan’ until her parents transfer the kushan [an Ottoman land deed] to the husband. The moment a woman says, ‘No, I’m deciding what to do with my body,’ it’s a problem. ”

It’s “complicated” being a female Christian-Arab-Israeli-Palestinian.

This article has been excerpted from an interview Awad recently gave to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. Click here to read it.

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Do you think you know Israel and Israelis?  Then there is an article in Mosiac you should read.  Think of it as a reality check.

“The story of Israel, as most people know it, is well trod—perhaps even tiresome by now. It begins with anti-Semitism in Europe and passes through Theodor Herzl, the Zionist pioneers, the kibbutz, socialism, the Holocaust, and the 1948 War of Independence. In the early decades of the return to Zion and the new state, the image of the Israeli was of a blond pioneer tilling the fields shirtless, or of an audience listening to Haydn in one of the new concert halls. Israel might have been located, for historical reasons, in the Middle East, but the new country was an outpost of Europe. Its story was a story about Europe.

This story was a powerful one, and it has not changed much over the decades, certainly not in its English version. A recent example is Ari Shavit’s best-selling My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel. . . A confluence of interests has endeared this same narrative to Israel’s enemies, who have used it to increasing effect. In Israel, goes one variant of the story, Arabs were made to pay the price of a European problem. A less benign variant posits that Israel is not a solution to anyone’s suffering but instead a colonialist European state imposed by empowered Westerners upon a native Middle Eastern population . . .

It is 2014, and it should be clear to anyone on even passing terms with the actual country of Israel that all of this is absurd. Israel has existed for nearly seven decades and, like most things on earth, has turned into something that would have surprised the people who thought it up. Half of Israel’s Jews do not hail from Europe and are descendants of people who had little to do with Herzl, socialism, the kibbutz, or the Holocaust.  . . . Hard as this is for those of us whose minds were formed in the West, [we need to put] aside the European morality play that so many still see when they look at Israel, and instead viewing non-Europeans as main characters.

In what follows I will not try to offer anything resembling a comprehensive history but only trace an alternative way of seeing things and point out what this might yield by way of insight into the life of the country that exists today.” 

Click here to read the full article. 

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Haredi in Cyberspace; Part 2: The Women

The Christian Science Monitor Reports that:

Increasingly, the Israeli government is looking to harness hi-tech Haredi talent to fuel what has been dubbed the “Start-Up Nation” – Israel’s outsized ability to create new tech companies, many of which are acquired by multinationals.

Erel Margalit is the founder of Jerusalem Venture Partners (JVP), one of Israel’s most successful venture capitalist firms, and a member of the Israeli parliament, where he chairs the lobby for Haredi integration in the workforce. He says it was actually Haredi women who first entered Israel’s hi-tech world. The field is ideal for Haredi women, who often have as many as seven to 10 children and serve as the family breadwinners while their husbands study. High wages allow them to earn more for fewer hours, and the ease of working remotely from a laptop allows mothers flexibility.

Take Racheli Ganot. In 2007, she founded her own semiconductor company, Rachip, and today employs 100 engineers, all women. Demand is high – in the past two months Mrs. Ganot says she hired eight new engineers from about 100 applicants.

That uptick has been made possible in part by the introduction of new academic programs for Haredim. They help fill in educational gaps in math, science, and English, which take a backseat to religious learning in most ultra-Orthodox schools, and also provide technological training.

By 2025, an estimated 45 percent of Jewish high school students will be Haredim, and by 2050 some 40 percent of Israel’s entire population is expected to be Haredi.

Click here to read the full article.

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Haredi in Cyberspace; Part 1: The Men

The Christian Science Monitor reports that:

Increasingly, the Israeli government is looking to harness hi-tech Haredi talent to fuel what has been dubbed the “Start-Up Nation” – Israel’s outsized ability to create new tech companies, many of which are acquired by multinationals.

Through a program known as a hesder yeshiva,16 young ultra-Orthodox men come together every evening for intensive training to defend Israel’s newest battlefront: the cyber domain. The men spend their daytime hours poring over religious texts and engaging in vigorous theological debates – the bedrock of a Haredi man’s often lifelong education. But in the evenings, they apply those critical thinking skills to the 1,000 hours of cyber training required as preparation for their military service. 

“There is a high demand for these ultra-Orthodox soldiers,” says Capt. Natan Hanina, one of the program’s founders, who says they bring a unique maturity and dedication to service.

This is the first such initiative for ultra-Orthodox men, who have traditionally eschewed both army service and traditional employment in favor of religious learning. While modest, the program is growing quickly and parallels broader efforts to integrate Israel’s burgeoning ultra-Orthodox, or Haredi, population into the army and workplace. …

“This year, after massive efforts … we started with eight boys,” says Rabbi Karmi Gross, who worked with the army to establish the program. . . But he is already up to 16, and total enrollment is on track to reach as high as 50 students next year. (Their participation is still highly sensitive within their community, however, so the Monitor was not permitted to speak with the students.) 

Haredi participation is also on the rise in academic programs, including at top technological schools like the Technion; in the military, where 90 percent of Haredim in the Air Force serve in hi-tech jobs; and in the start-up scene, where the government recently announced a new program to provide Haredi entrepreneurs with 85 percent funding for hi-tech ventures. 

Dramatic change is coming from men entering the sector . . . Over the past five years, overall employment among Haredi men has jumped from 38 to 44.5 percent; the mainstream Israeli population’s employment rate is 81 percent.

Click here to read the full article.


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In Israel, Women Still Earn 30 percent Less Than Men

The Media Line reports that: 

“A new report issued by Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics in advance  of International Women’s Day, finds that women in Israel earn 66.1 percent of the average male salary. Some 58 percent of women work, compared to almost 70 percent for men. Of the women, two-thirds work full-time.

Only about one-third of high-tech workers were women, the report found. Throughout the economy, men were more than twice as likely to be managers than men.”

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Will A Haredi Woman Be the Next (and First Female) President of Israel?

Haaaretz reports that “More than a decade after founding a Jerusalem college designed for the ultra-Orthodox, the oldest daughter of the late Shas [a powerful Israeli religious party] spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, Adina Bar Shalom, looks set to seek the Israeli presidency, succeeding Shimon Peres.  But  Shas support is far from assured.   Shas does not select female candidates for its Knesset slate, and that’s no accident. “A woman cannot serve in the Knesset, according to our outlook,” former Shas MK Nissim Dahan has reportedly said. Reflecting a view that is common among ultra-Orthodox leaders, he adding that women “cannot be exposed” by being placed in the public eye.”  Click here to read the full article. 

The Forward reports that “The position of president is largely a ceremonial one in Israel, where actual political power resides with the government, and with the prime minister most of all. But the presidency, which represents the state above and beyond the daily struggles of politics, is an office that still carries substantial symbolic and even moral weight….[Considered a dove] Bar Shalom doesn’t see any contradiction between her dovish views and her respect for her father, a man whose comments on Palestinians, African Americans and other groups of non-Jews were on multiple occasions widely criticized as racist. . . . 

After her arranged marriage at age 17, Bar Shalom worked as a seamstress. Her career aspiration to study psychology was aborted by the veto of her father and her husband, Ezra Bar Shalom, a rabbinic judge who has since retired. Nevertheless, in 2000 she established a college to give Haredim in their late teens and early 20s — initially women and now both sexes — secular qualifications that would enable them to enter the workforce.” Click here to read the full article

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