Monday, August 31, 2009

Israel's Security Wall

by Kasey Bar

Did you know that 95% of Israel's "security wall" is actually a fence. Only 5% of Israel's territorial barrier is concrete wall? These areas of wall run alongside heavily traveled roads where terrorists have shot Israelis as they were driving. to protect vulnerable drivers Israel decided to build a wall in these sensitive areas.

After numerous terrorist attacks killing hundreds and wounding thousands of Israelis, the government initiated the construction of a security fence to separate Palestinian territory from Israel proper. Several nations have built fences to protect their borders. The US is currently building one to keep illegal Mexicans from crossing the boarder in Texas.

Every day Israel receives 40-60 intelligence warnings of terrorist activities. While the number of attempted attacks remains the same, the number of strikes has declined by more than 90% since the construction of the fence.

"Israel is not happy to build a fence, but a fence can be destroyed in days of peace. Victims of terror, however, can never be brought back to life," said IDF officer, Doron Schneider.

First written for the Grafted news letter:

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Forgotten Refugees:
Jewish exiles from Arab lands

By Kasey Bar

When referring to the Arab-Israeli conflict the word refugee is nearly synonymous with Palestinian. The reality is that when Israel became a modern nation in 1948 there were more Jewish refugees than Palestinian. As five Arab nations launched a regional war against the state of Israel, an estimated 670,000 Arabs fled the war and an estimated 860,000 Jewish refugees were expelled from Arab lands.

Historically this process is considered a "population exchange". Arabs fled to neighboring Arab states and Israel became the beacon of hope for hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees who were expelled from Arab lands losing substantial assets and the historical heritage of their family. Israel also became the haven for 600,000 European Jews who survived the holocaust.
In 1948 over a million Jewish refugees found security in the state of Israel. The infant state welcomed the refugees and sacrificed as a corporate community to provide housing, food, and even education to quickly transform their feeble refugees into functioning, prosperous members of society.

The Arab nations did exactly the opposite. Believing their armies would soon destroy Israel, they made a calculated decision not to absorb the Palestinian refugees into citizens or to re-establish their lives in any way. Untouched by the suffering of their fellow brothers, they chose to exploit the misery of the Palestinians as a political weapon against Israel continuing the war they began in 1948.

Sixty years and four generations later, the Palestinian refugees have grown to a number of over 4.4 million. Still all Arab nations continue to refuse citizenship to Palestinians. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the definition of a refugee pertains to an individual who has lost both their home and livelihood. The status of refugee is not transferred to his/her descendants. The UNHCR is responsible for all refugees worldwide, except for the Palestinians.

Under the pressure of several Arab nations, on December 8, 1948, the UN formed the agency of UNRWA, The United Nations Relief and Works Agency. The only agency in the UN dedicated to just one group of people, the Palestinians. Under UNRWA the definition of a Palestinian refugee is different from all other refugees worldwide in that the status of refugee is transferred indefinitely from generation to generation. Because of this the Palestinians are the only group of refugees whose numbers are growing rather than shrinking.

The US taxpayer supports 40% of UNRWA’s annual $300 million budget while the oil rich Saudi Arabia contributes a token 2% to the care of its Arab brothers in refugee camps they refuse to dismantle. UNRWA current mandate is scheduled to end on June 30, 2008. The best solution is to shut down UNRWA and to transfer its responsibilities to UNHCR in order to break the refugee cycle and to provide Palestinians with the ability to build a brighter future. The standing of UNRWA has continually been extended and will continue to be extended until enough people cry out against the injustice of the Arab nations toward Israel and their own Palestinians citizens.

Under the UNRWA standards, Palestinians will remain refugees until they are able to build communities inside all of Israel. Under these standards there will be no end to the Palestinian "refugee" issue until there is an end to the state of Israel, a nation built by over a million forgotten Jewish refugees.

First published here
for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem
Photo from the Israel News Agency

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Letter from Pastor Don Butcher

To those serving in Israel,
Greetings in the name of our Lord:

I am still saying prayers for you and for Israel. Keep faith, courage, and knowledge, that God has not forsaken you nor Israel. I know not when Christ is coming for 'His Church'. I do however know and understand that the gospel (Death, Burial and Resurrection) must be preached, in all nations, this is more so each day and "Praise God" for that fact. I also understand that one day what Jeremiah the prophet said in Jeremiah 23 verse 5-8 will be fulfilled:

Behold, the days come saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a Righteous Branch and a King [Jesus] shall reign and prosper and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. In His days Judah shall be saved and Israel shall dwell safely, and this is His name whereby He shall be called: THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUNESS. Therefore, behold the days come, saith the Lord, that they shall no more say, the Lord liveth, which brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt. But the Lord liveth which led the seed of the House of Israel out of the North Country and from all countries whither I had driven them: And they shall dwell in their own land.

Many of you are seeing, first hand, God at work. A foundation through you and our Lord is being laid for our Lords Reign and Rule. I have never been to Israel in person, yet one day, I shall reign and rule with you and our Lord. What a wonderful day that will be.

Keep Faith: Forsaking all, trust in Him.
Keep Courage: You can do all things through Christ.
Keep Love: For your Lord, your faith, your families.

Many prayers for you all!
Your brother in Christ
Rev. Don C. Butcher
Sand Run Baptist Church

Friday, August 21, 2009

ACE is the place, even in Israel!

by Kasey Bar

First published for Travelujah at

I should probably say especially in Israel! After two years of jumping back and forth from the US to Israel, my husband and I have finally decided to settle down in Israel and set up house. I've spent the last two weeks shopping for appliances, furniture, paint, shower curtains... if you need it for your house I probably recently purchased it. I may have to start my own "Do it yourself in Israel" blog. Well, maybe just surviving the process doesn't make me an expert, but it sure has been a lot of fun!

On my first tour to Israel I really thought that outdoor markets, like the "shuk", were the only places to buy things. I never saw a mall or department store. In fact, my first experience shopping for groceries at Shuk Machane Yehuda in Jerusalem was so overwhelming that I came away with only two bananas and a mango. My refrigerator was empty! Thank God I found a real grocery store within a few days or I think I would have met an untimely end. I am not one to fight for a good deal. The whole process makes me feel really stressful.

I am the typical Western shopper that owners love to see walk in their stores or by their little booths. I have two faults, I can't easily say no and I don't like arguing over prices. There is a famous shuk in old Yaffo called Shuk ha Pishpishim (it actually deserves and entry in and of itself for those who love flea markets). Friends told us that we had to go there and buy furniture for our house. I tried it and I'm sure if I needed one or two things I could have managed, but when it comes to setting up an entire house the crowded streets and endless shops were just a tad too overwhelming for me. I was so happy to find a few familiar names like ACE and IKEA! I know I probably spend much more money in those places but seeing a price tag on an item and knowing it is the final price gives me a strange peace of mind.

Ace Hardware needs little description. It's great, the people are friendly and you can buy all types of paint including the "wash" to make fresco walls that I love. With my limited Hebrew it was challenging to buy the right stuff but in the end, with the help of very patient Ace employees opening all sorts of paints for me to touch, I came away with just what I needed.

IKEA, well it is an event none should miss. If you want to experience it to its fullest go on Friday just before it closes for Shabbat around 2pm or when it opens after Shabbat on Saturday at 7:30pm. My husband and I generally end up going at one of those times because of our do most Israelis. Last Saturday, on our way home from visiting family in Haifa, Yuval and I thought we would stop at the only IKEA in Israel located in Natanya. For some reason the store delayed opening for another 30 minutes. When we pulled up a crowd of literally hundreds were waiting for the doors to be open. Until that point I had only seen things like that for grand openings. It was so bizarre to me, and yet we didn't really think twice about parking the car and waiting along side everyone else.

When the doors finally opened people filed in and up the escalators to the first floor starting point. I felt like I was at the beginning of the Tel Aviv Marathon! I've learned a few things since coming to Israel about lines. Actually the word "line" needs its own definition in Israel, especially for lines at the airport and IKEA. It really isn't about who was there first, it is about who is best at navigating space. It took me about 30 minutes to learn this after my first flight to Israel.

My friend and I were coming to the ICEJ Feast of Tabernacles, a particularly busy time of year with thousands of tourists flooding the airport. It was our first Israel experience and once we filed out of the plane and into the customs line we literally didn't move for 30 minutes while a steady flow of people navigated around us like a rushing stream around a river rock. It wasn't that we didn't want to move, we were just trying to maintain our personal space. Once we learned the "heal to toe shuffle step" we progressed quite nicely. Well, this is the kind of line you have in IKEA as well.

Israelis may sound really rude to some Westerners but in most cases it just isn't the case - it is simply cultural. The fact is, most Israelis are quite friendly and will be happy to have lively conversations with you as you stake your claim in line. And if you can build a quick friendship, your new ally will probably yell at the person trying to squeeze by you much better than you ever could. And if anyone gets hurt, everyone clears out immediately to make sure that person is ok. I really don't want to tell you why I know this, as it will deeply affect my pride, but it may find its way into a future blog entry at some point.

Needless to say, setting up house is an adventure in Israel, but the process has made me feel much more independent! My husband says I am becoming a true Israeli because I can hold my place in line, sometimes haggle with prices, and, what is especially exciting for me, navigate the Hebrew version of Craigslist called Yad2, which means second-hand in Hebrew. Yad2, found at is a great website with used furniture and all sorts of second-hand goods. Because there are so many transient people here, such as foreign government workers, students and short-term business investors, it is possible to find some great, lightly used, items.

Well, I can breathe a deep sigh of relief as most of my walls are painted and furniture in place thanks to a variety of outlets. While I hope to get better at shuk shopping, I am thankful for stores such as Ace and IKEA. What I love about Israel is that you can go to several department stores and feel like you are in any other modern country, and within moments head to an outdoor shuk where you know there is no place like this outside the Middle East.

First published for

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Feast of Tabernacles:
Why come up to Jerusalem?

by Kasey Bar

This year, October 2-8, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ) will be hosting its 30th celebration of the biblical Feast of Booths or Succot or aslo called the Feast of Tabernacles.

So why do Christians come to Jerusalem to celebrate this event? The International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, since its inception in 1980, has kept the 7-day celebration, encouraging pilgrims from all nations to join them in anticipation of the prophesy spoken by Zechariah, "All the nations that have come against Jerusalem shall go up year after year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Booths."
You may be asking, "But isn't this a future event? Why come now?" This prophecy may seem abstract and unrelated our current lives. However, there are many reasons encompassed in the invitation to join with Israelis to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles.

Traditionally, it is a time to remember God's provision in the wilderness. The Jewish people remember this by building small booths to dwell in as was commanded in Deuteronomy 16. Journeying to Israel in this tumultuous time of God's ingathering is a practical way to fulfill the Biblical mandate in Isaiah 40 to comfort the Jewish people.

These reasons, prophetic vision, remembrance of God's provision and comforting the Jewish people are Biblically sound and good reasons to join in the celebration of Booths, but do these reasons in and of themselves get to the root of why we come or is there a more foundational purpose? There is a deeper and broader call from which all reasons flow and find their source of meaning.

When King Solomon dedicated the Temple during the Feast of Tabernacles, he prayed for the foreigner who would come to the temple to pray and worship. his words uncover the very essence of why we come. "When a foreigner, who is not of your people Israel comes from a far country for your name's sake (for they shall hear of your great name and your mighty hand, and of your outstretched arm), when he comes and prays toward this house, hear in heaven your dwelling place and do according to all for which the foreigner calls to you in order that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you. I Kings 8:41-43

God's Name's Sake
Did you hear it? For God's name's sake the foreigner will come because they will hear of 1) God's great Name, 2) His mighty hand and 3) His outstretched arm. Psalm 9:10 says, "Those who know Thy Name put their trust in Thee." How do we know the "Name"? God's names are as infinite as His character. In Scripture we find that He is "The I AM"; "the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness"; "The Alpha and the Omega." These excerpts are but a thumbnail sketch of all that God's name represents. The sovereign Lord is gloriously free from sin, He is omnipotent and omniscient and this is why we come to praise Him in Jerusalem during the Feast of Tabernacles.

God's Mighty Hand
How do we draw a picture in our minds of God's mighty hand? Peter exhorts believers to humble themselves under God's hand (I Peter 5:6). Sometimes His touch is gentle and heals, other times it is full of wrath and extends judgement. The Lord said to Jeremiah. "Take from my hand this cup filled with the wine of my wrath and make all the nations to whom I send you drink it" (25:15). If we were to meditate solely on God's mighty hand we might be paralyzed with fear, for there is "no one righteous no not one." We are all deserving of His wrath, yet He made a way for us to experience His grace and mercy through His outstretched arm -- this is what separates our faith from and elevates it above all others.

God's Outstretched Arm
Our Lord is not a god that is disconnected and preoccupied, but the God who is intimately involved with His creation. He is Immanuel, God with us (Isaiah 7:14). The God of the universe became incarnate in the form of a Jewish man from Nazareth. This was necessary so that God's mighty hand of wrath could fall upon His Son so that we can be reconciled to God. The Feast is a time when we can express our love and praise for the God of Israel who made a way for the gentiles to be grafted into the Jewish promises and covenants. This is why we walk in the steps of our Savior and come to worship the Lord in Jerusalem at this time.

The Call to the Nations
The last petition of king Solomon's prayer is a call to all who come to the Feat of Tabernacles to go forth and share the glory of God's name with all nations. It is equivalent to the "Great Commission" found in Matthew 28:19.We live in a fallen world, groaning as in the pains of childbirth for the fulfillment of all things (Romans 8:20). But Matthew reminds us that the gospel of the Kingdom must first be preached in the whole world "as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come." This is our call. We must proclaim the Name to the nations that they may know Him. Let our unified cry by "Lord, we wait for you, your Name and renown are the desire of our hearts" (Isaiah 26:8).

Let us embrace the prayer of Solomon and the vision of Zechariah and long for the day when all the nations will come up to Jerusalem "year after year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Booths."

Sunday, August 16, 2009


Reported by Jordanna McMillan
Written by Kasey Barr
August 2009
Israel In Our Day Listen online:

Today more and more communication is being done online. Whether drafting formal business emails, instant messaging or posting updates on social networking sites such as Facebook or Twitters, writing is an integral part of our daily lives. To dyslexics, these interactions can become overwhelming and potentially limiting to their social and professional experiences.

According to the International Dyslexia Association, an astounding 15-20% of the population have a language-based learning disability most likely associated with Dyslexia. Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurological in origin and characterized by difficulties with accurate word recognition, letter decoding and incorrect spelling.

The complicated relationship most dyslexics have with the written word frustrates their writing abilities. More often than not the complication is rooted in their difficulty to spell words. Often times their attempts are not recognized by conventional spell-checkers which require the user to be very close to the intended word.

Israeli businessman, Ofer Chermesh, partnered with a technology graduate from the Weizmann Institute in Israel, and together they created Ghotit, “G”, “H”, “O”, “T”, “I”, “T”. Ghotit is a context spell checker with an integrated dictionary and a text-to-speech function. It was developed by dyslexics for dyslexics. Chermesh, a dyslexic himself whose struggle led him to create Ghotit, says “Only a true dyslexic can understand the pains of a dyslexic and translate these pains into an effective solution.

Chermesh believes that confidence in spelling often has a profound effect on a writer's self-image. He claims that with Ghotit, dyslexics can communicate more confidently, with the assurance that Ghotit will highlight spelling and grammar errors and not only offer the right corrections but also help the writer to decide which option is the best choice.

Ghotit was founded in 2007, and is based in Netanya. The algorithm, or engine that Ghotit runs on is constantly being improved and updated. A community of dyslexic regularly offering valuable insights and ideas for improvement which are quickly tested and implemented.

Unlike most new devices on the market, Ghotit is not bragging high-tech bells and whistles but rather simplicity and ease of use which is intended to give dyslexics some peace of mind.

Ghotit is free for all educational institutions. There is also a free application for online users. For those who want to integrate Ghotit with Microsoft applications on their personal computer, they can download the application for just $10 a month. About 30 schools in the US are already providing the application to their students with great satisfaction. Also schools in Germany and the UK are increasingly plugging into the program.

If you have a complicated relationship with the written word and find writing and reading comprehension to be difficult, Ghotit may be just the thing you need to help you get it!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Jerusalem's religious freedom

by Kasey Bar

There is much being said about Jerusalem in the news these days. It is Israel's capitol city, though most of the world does not recognize it as so. I lived in the city for a few years and though I now live in Ra'anana (a city north of Tel Aviv), I still make it to Jerusalem about once a week. It is a weighty city with a beautiful yet violent history. I like to walk the ancient streets and try to imagine the many events that occurred. It takes a bit of imagination because the reality today is quite different.

In Jerusalem there is tension between the vast varieties of people, yet it is a product of the openness of the city. Only under Jewish control of Jerusalem has there been religious freedom for all people. And it comes at great risk and a high price as Jerusalem has been one of the hot spots for terrorism. There is no other place in the world where I can walk the streets and find myself brushing shoulders with not only multiple sects of Judaism, but also the Eastern Orthodox Christians, Catholics, Muslims, and Armenians. Even the Mormons have their spot here. The list could go on and on. Sometimes I feel like I am walking around the ancient version of Manhattan. Walking through the old stone streets of Jerusalem are monks, Imams, and my personal favorite, the evangelical tour groups who are occasionally found singing hymns.

Within the ancient walls of Jerusalem's Old City lie four ancient and distinctive cultures. The Old City is divided into four quarters--The Jewish Quarter, Muslim, Quarter, Armenian Quarter and Christian Quarter.Constant streams of pilgrims visit the most holy site to the Jewish nation, the Western Wall, also known as the Wailing Wall. Five times daily, one can hear the Muslim call to prayer being sounded from the El Aksa mosque located right above the Western Wall. Armenians fulfill their daily ritual prayers in the Church of the Holy Archangels--a structure dating back to the medieval period. And throughout the year, Christians retrace the steps of Jesus, visiting the temple ruins, Gethsemane, The Church of the Holy Sepulcher, and the Garden Tomb.

The diversity of the ancient city of Jerusalem rarely, if ever, makes headline news, but it should. While Israel's so called "intolerance" toward its Arab citizens dominates the mainstream media focus, individuals of every race and creed are granted cultural and religious freedom throughout Israel and most visibly in Jerusalem -- the most holy city of the Jewish faith. This can hardly be said of any other country in the region and certainly not Saudi Arabia which will not even permit a Jewish person entrance into their country or any non-Muslim/ infidel into Mecca.

Jerusalem is a shining example of religious and cultural freedom in an area of the world where religious persecution is practiced regularly and quite brutally. Jerusalem has seen much bloodshed in the past from religious conquests to dominate the region and the minds of her citizens. Thankfully today, there is freedom of conscience for all peoples. I am thankful to Israel and the Jewish people that I, as a Christian, can come here and celebrate the life of Jesus and worship freely without fear of intimidation or persecution.

First published for Travelujah:

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Visidot to Improve Shipping

Israel In Our Day Listen online:
Reported by Shalle McDonald
Written by Kasey Barr

Making sure packages get from point A to point B is no easy task in today’s global economy. Most business relationships are incredibly complex resulting in products being shipped, transshipped and reshipped before they finally reach their destination. Manufacturers and distributor have little control over their packages once they are in the hands of the shipping companies and often suffer significant profit losses from misplaced or delayed shipments which can be fatal for companies operating within thin profit margins.

So how do companies keep track of the global web of deliveries? The most widely used method is to manually scan bar codes and record the information through a computerized inventory system. This system relies on manual scanning, which adds labor cost and yields a high rate of error from incorrect or incomplete scanning.

An alternative method for tracking packages called REID or radio-frequency identification, uses tags and radio waves to record information into a computerized inventory system which yields far fewer stray packages, however the tags are expensive and beyond the budget of companies with high-volume shipping.

Israeli company ImageID of Hod Hasharon, has developed an innovative image recognition application called “Visidot” that has already been field-proven and deployed throughout the globe providing an effective low cost solution.

Visidot Reader is a high-speed, large field of view automatic identification and data capture system. It is comprised of industrial, high resolution cameras attached to mounting infrastructure and linked to a PC-based processing unit via high-speed Firewire connections. Once triggered, the Visidot Reader powers up its illumination units and initiates image capture, simultaneously scanning hundreds of assets in a single pass. Captured images of asset labels, bar codes or other attributes are quickly analyzed, decoded and stored in XML data files. This decoded date represents the number of items and their XY location coordination. Sophisticated algorithms enable detection of tags in any orientation and even of partially damaged tags, and are capable of identifying the location of missing or illegible tags.

In case of shipping error, a real-time alert is presented, along with visual guidance for corrective action on a user-friendly touch screen interface. Visidot maintains an image bank with archived visual proof of delivery and asset condition to help resolve delivery-related dispute.

“Visidot enables users in a broad range of industries to track and trace hundreds of thousands of assets a day - with 100% accuracy - maintaining lean logistics and complete supply chain control," says ImageID marketing director Ayelet Avriel.

Their field studies reveal far greater efficiency and accuracy than the hand-held scanning systems. Several companies throughout the world are already using the system with great success. Some, such as SeaChill, a fresh fish supplier in the UK, claim the technology moved them from red to black by practically eliminating fines for late-delivered merchandise.

This is just one of the many business Israel ID and their Visidot system has helped return to profits in a tough global economy where every cent counts. This report is brought to you by Israel 21C and Front Page Jerusalem.