The Day In Israel: Thursday Dec 31st, 2009

According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, Israel’s population stands at 7.5 million on the eve of the new decade, having grown at 1.8% over the past seven years. The breakdown is:

  • 5,664,000 Jews (75.4%)
  • 1,526,000 Arabs (20.3%)
  • 319,000 (4.3%) other

Other Israeli population facts:

  • 30% of the population is under the age of 14 and 9.7% is over the age of 65, compared to 17% and 15% respectively in most other Western countries.
  • Average Jewish family size increased since 2008, from 2.8 children per household to 2.96.
  • Average Muslim family size dropped since 2008, from 3.97 children per household to 3.84.
  • There are 979 men for every 1000 women

Updates (Israel time; most recent at top)

10:05PM: Terrorists in Gaza have fired at least one Grad rocket into the southern Israeli town of Netivot.

Although the Color Red early warning system did not go off – giving residents no warning – no one was hurt nor was there any damage.

Which I guess means the attack never happened according to the international community.

4:56PM: According to Ma’an News, Hamas has rejected Israel’s latest terms for a terrorists-for-Gilad Shalit exchange, but has told the German mediator they were willing to continue talks.

4:52PM: Photo of the day:

Palestinian Santa mannequin

Ho ho ho…KABOOM!

4:50PM: From the Department of Mistakes That Will Get You Killed:

The Iranian football federation sent its Israeli counterpart a new year’s greeting on Thursday, Army Radio reported, in what a Tehran official described as a mistake.

Mohammad Ali Ardebili, director of foreign relations for the Football Federation of the Islamic Republic of Iran, told Army Radio that he had not intended to send the missive to the Israel Football Association.

“It is a greeting sent to every country in the world,” Ardebili said. He quickly then inquired: “Are you talking from Israel? I can’t speak with you. It’s a mistake, it’s a mistake.”

The greeting was received in Israel by the head of the Israel Football Association’s legal department, Amir Navon.

“He came into my office asking me if I thought it was a mistake,” said body spokesman Gil Levanoni. “So I told him that I didn’t know, but that we should send in a reply.”

Levanoni and Navon said they replied to the greeting with a “happy new year to all the good people of Iran,” and said: “We also added a wink.”

“We wrote them that we hoped that they would have a happy soccer year,” Levanoni added.

4:15PM: Regular readers know I refer to the so-called prop-palestinian “activists” as terror enablers, since they either directly enable terror by acting as human shields, otherwise undermining Israel’s security, or at the very least by emboldening the terrorists.

What better proof of this last aspect can there be than this comment by Head Hamashole Ismail Haniyeh?

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh on Thursday told activists gathered on both the Israeli and Palestinian sides of the Gaza Strip border that residents of the besieged territory had not given up hope and would never stop fighting for a state with Jerusalem as its capital.

“Because of international solidarity and your support, we have become stronger,” Haniyeh declared. “The Palestinian nation will never give up its national aspirations or its right to Jerusalem, the capital of Palestine and the Islamic people.”

Meanwhile, it should be noted that these “activists” included Israeli Arabs and even members of the Knesset.

Haniyeh spoke to the 300 Israeli activists positioned at the Erez crossing via Israeli Arab MK Taleb A-Sana’s mobile phone. On the Gazan side of the border, nearly 100 international activists joined about 500 Palestinians, chanting and carrying signs denouncing the blockade.

During the rally, MK Jamal Zahalka threw harsh criticism at Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who he said enjoys “classical music and killing children in Gaza.

I fully agree with Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch:

Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch turned to Attorney General Menachem Mazuz and asked him to file charges against MK El-Sana for supporting a terror organization.

“After the minister learned of the phone call in which he broadcast the evil words of the Hamas leader, he sent an urgent letter to Mazuz, demanding that he prosecute him for supporting a terror organization,” an official at Aharonovitch’s office said.

“We cannot accept a situation in which every person, let alone a Knesset member in the State of Israel, serves as a pipeline for a terror organization whose only goal is to destroy the State of Israel. There is a limit to cynicism.

“Enforcing the law is the internal security minister’s supreme value, and we view this as a blatant offense. Even the bill for the phone the call was made on is paid by the State of Israel.”

11:15AM: Meet an African Israeli hero.

IDF KenyanThe orphaned son of an Israeli man and a Kenyan woman was saved by Israel and is returning the favor

Today, Cpl. Arusi Madalya speaks Hebrew fluently and is a combat soldier in the Givati Brigade. But his life was not always so typically Israeli. Arusi grew up in Kenya, became an orphan after a tragic car accident killed both his parents, and was left alone with no family and no means of support.

The inspiring story of how he came to be the man he is today begins in the port city of Mombassa, Kenya, which he describes as a mixture of sunshine and games. His father, the late Moshe Madalya, left Israel in order to open a business in the tourist city. He opened a restaurant and it was while looking for a chef for the restaurant that he met Josephine Malasi, a local woman. After dating for five years, the two of them got married and brought Arusi into the world. “My mother was Christian, and as a child I celebrated the Christian holidays and the Kenyan national holidays even though they gave me a Brit Milah (Jewish circumcision),” he says. “I have three siblings, one sister from my mother’s previous marriage and two Israeli brothers from my father’s previous marriage, but they are not in touch with me.”

“At home I spoke English and in school I learned Swahili, and because I grew up around many tourists I also know a bit of German and French,” Arusi says. “My parents worked together in the restaurant my father opened, and they also worked as cooks in a hotel in the city.” Despite his father’s past, Arusi did not hear a lot of stories about Israel. “Every time they would talk about Israel in the History classes they would say that I was ‘the son of someone who came from the Holy Land’ and they would ask me questions about Israel but I couldn’t answer. I remember that one evening I was watching CNN with my parents and they showed the Western Wall. My father told me that he too had been a soldier in the Paratroopers’ Brigade and that in the Six Day War he was in the first squadron that entered Jerusalem,“ Arusi remembers.

“I already had a feeling that something bad had happened”

One year, when the academic year was coming to a close, Arusi’s school held a Parents’ Day. All of the parents were supposed to arrive for meetings with the teachers. “I was 16 years old,” Arusi recalls. “At that time my father was working in the hotel restaurant and had just opened an additional restaurant. In addition, my father’s business manager stole the money he had set aside for the business. He had a lot on his mind at that time.”

Arusi, who at the time did not know about his father’s problems, waited for his parents at the school. Arusi waited a while until his father’s friends came to the school to get him. “I was angry that neither of them had arrived. My father’s friends came, took me aside and told me that they wanted to talk to me about my mother and my father. I already had a feeling that something bad had happened,” Arusi recalls. His father’s friends had come to tell him that on their way to the school, his parent’s car was hit by a truck. They took Arusi and even from far away he could already see the crash site. “When we stopped there, my heart also stopped,” Arusi remembers. “I tried to convince myself that we just happened to stop by the side of the road, and the entire time I kept telling myself ‘please don’t tell me that that’s them’. They took me aside, told me what had happened and I fainted. Even when I woke up and arrived home I didn’t believe it and I waited to see my parents but the house was empty.”

After his parents’ death, Arusi was all alone. The Israeli children from his father’s previous marriage did not want any connection with him, and his mother’s family lived hundreds of kilometers away from Mombassa with no money to help him. He had no choice. Arusi left his studies and began working to survive. “In the beginning I worked a lot and earned very little money,” he remembers. “I always loved to dance and after I saw a movie about street dancing, a friend and I had the idea to form a break-dance group called ‘Nice and Slow’. We began performing in clubs all throughout Kenya and it was a big hit. That’s how I met my girlfriend Jamima. I moved in with her family and returned to school to finish high school.”

After he began getting used to his new life, Arusi received a phone call from the Israeli Embassy in Kenya. “They called so that I would return my father’s passport,” Arusi says. “They also told me that in my father’s will, he requested that the State of Israel would help me if I were ever to be left alone. Apparently when I was 18 years old they had tried to move me to Israel but at the time it was not possible, and since then the procedure had changed. In order to be Israeli, they told me that I would have to give up my Kenyan citizenship, but in fact I did not even have a Kenyan passport. I arrived at the Embassy and received an Israeli passport. I was so excited, in Kenya a passport is an extremely rare thing. I had to leave Kenya within 24 hours. I took a small bag with me and that was it, because they told me I would be taken care of once I arrived in Israel.”

A surprising welcome

Arusi’s arrival in the Holy Land was not easy. Despite the fact that he had with him a letter from the Embassy, when he landed and they saw that he had an Israeli passport with no previous signatures, the police arrested him. Furthermore, because he did not know how to speak Hebrew, it was very hard for him to try to explain himself. Once the misunderstanding was solved, Arusi met his sister Jaqueline from his mother’s previous marriage, who lives in Israel with her daughter Stav and works in the Kenyan Embassy in Israel. “I lived with her for a little bit of time in Tel Aviv,” Arusi says. “After about a month I received a phone call telling me to go to Jerusalem, and from there I would go to live on a kibbutz and study in a Hebrew course. I lived and learned in Kibbutz Na’an for six months, after which I waited a year to enlist.”

Once he knew Hebrew and was familiar with the country from various trips, Arusi enlisted. Before he even really knew the place he would put his life in danger for, he already knew he would enlist out of obligation. But since that time, the picture has changed. “I always saw soldiers in the movies and I wanted to be one, to acquire the skills and the discipline that soldiers have. But the more time I spent in Israel, the more I also wanted to contribute as much as possible to the country that saved me,” Arusi says.

Arusi’s military service began in the Mihve Alon training base. There he understood that he really wanted to be in a combat unit. The General Staff Reconnaissance Unit especially appealed to him. “I was good and I tried twice to be accepted to go to tryouts, I passed the tests that day but my Hebrew wasn’t good enough,” Arusi explains. “In the end I got to the Paratroopers’ Brigade, where my father served. There, too, I didn’t give up and I got to the Maglan elite unit.” After a year and a half, Arusi left the Maglan Unit because of disciplinary issues and he was brought in for an interview with the previous Givati Brigade Tzabar Battalion Commander, Lt. Col. Oren Zini. “In that discussion it was decided that I would try being in his battalion for two months. I arrived to the support squadron and fell in love on the spot. Everyone accepted me so warmly,” Arusi says.

“The difference between Maglan and Givati was significant. In the elite forces it was really competitive, and here in the battalion it’s different, everyone is family and from the moment I arrived I haven’t once looked back. When I had financial problems at home, everyone pitched in here to help me. Here we love one another unconditionally. I am happy here with my friends, and a bonded unit like this is impossible to stop. The brothers from my father’s side showed me that they didn’t want any connection with me, and here I found the family I was searching for. Here it’s the real thing.”

When he thinks about the beginning of his path, he remembers how hard it was. “After every tough week or difficult advanced training, I saw that everyone around me would call home to their family or friends and I didn’t have that. I had a phone but it was used mainly to get incoming calls from the army,” Arusi tells. “I know that if my mother and father could see me they would be very proud of me. My father especially would have gone crazy with excitement if he could have seen me in uniform, he would have picked me up in the air from all the excitement, and my mother would have worried about me but would have been supportive. I know that I would have brought them a lot of respect.”

As a son of two chefs, the homesickness for his mother’s Kenyan food grew. “My mother would cook more traditional food and my father loved to make Italian food,” he tells. The food Arusi misses the most is Ugali, a dish made with corn flour, which his mother used to prepare. “Kitchens always remind me of my parents, and that is where I feel comfortable. Whenever it was my turn to work in the military kitchen everyone wanted me to stay there. When I went to the homes of Ethiopian friends from my platoon, I got to know the dish Anjara. My adopted family in Kfar Aza, where I now live, introduced me to the deliciousness of Jahnun. My goal now is to bring Ugali to my squadron.”

And Arusi’s aspirations don’t stop there. In the future he wants to go become an officer and continue to serve in the squadron. If that will not be possible he wants to join the Israel Security Agency or the Special Police Unit. His main desire is to give of himself to the country that took care of him when he was alone. Soon Arusi will begin the conversion process. Next year Arusi will fly to visit his family in his birthplace, temporarily leaving behind his home in Kfar Aza, his adopted family and the girlfriend he met during his Hebrew course. In conclusion, Arusi says: “I am constantly thinking about what my parents would say if they could see me at different stages in my life, but I’m sure they are always looking down on me from above.”

6:02AM: Terror enabler George Galloway loses his (already short) temper with an Al Jizz reporter.

Here’s hoping he bursts a blood vessel in that ugly noggin of his.

About Aussie Dave

An Aussie immigrant to Israel, Aussie Dave is founder and managing editor of Israellycool, one of the world's most popular pro-Israel blogs (and the one you are currently reading) He is a happy family man, and a lover of steak, Australian sports and girlie drinks

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