JERUSALEM — In the three months since the Israeli Health Ministry awarded a prize to a pediatrics professor for her book on hereditary diseases common to Jews, her experience at the awards ceremony has become a rallying cry.
The professor, Channa Maayan, knew that the acting health minister, who is ultra-Orthodox, and other religious people would be in attendance. So she wore a long-sleeve top and a long skirt. But that was hardly enough.
Not only did Dr. Maayan and her husband have to sit separately, as men and women were segregated at the event, but she was instructed that a male colleague would have to accept the award for her because women were not permitted on stage.
Though shocked that this was happening at a government ceremony, Dr. Maayan bit her tongue. But others have not, and her story is entering the pantheon of secular anger building as a battle rages in Israel for control of the public space between the strictly religious and everyone else.
At a time when there is no progress on the Palestinian dispute, Israelis are turning inward and discovering that an issue they had neglected — the place of the ultra-Orthodox Jews — has erupted into a crisis.
And it is centered on women.
“Just as secular nationalism and socialism posed challenges to the religious establishment a century ago, today the issue is feminism,” said Moshe Halbertal, a professor of Jewish philosophy at Hebrew University. “This is an immense ideological and moral challenge that touches at the core of life, and just as it is affecting the Islamic world, it is the main issue that the rabbis are losing sleep over.”
Here it is: the first annual “Middle East Matters” year-end roundup listing the ten most significant Middle East developments of the year. As 2011 was such a tumultuous year in the region, almost any one of these items could have been deemed the most significant development in a “normal” year. So identifying significant developments is relatively easy. The hard part is winnowing down the events to just ten. Consistent with the blog’s theme of focusing on the interplay between U.S. foreign policy and the region, these were the items that were most significant from a U.S. foreign policy perspective. So in roughly chronological order are MEM’s top ten developments of 2011:
WASHINGTON — A senior Iranian official on Tuesday delivered a sharp threat in response to economic sanctions being readied by the United States, saying his country would retaliate against any crackdown by blocking all oil shipments through the Strait of Hormuz, a vital artery for transporting about one-fifth of the world’s oil supply.
The declaration by Iran’s first vice president, Mohammad-Reza Rahimi, came as President Obama prepares to sign legislation that, if fully implemented, could substantially reduce Iran’s oil revenue in a bid to deter it from pursuing a nuclear weapons program.
Prior to the latest move, the administration had been laying the groundwork to attempt to cut off Iran from global energy markets without raising the price of gasoline or alienating some of Washington’s closest allies.
Apparently fearful of the expanded sanctions’ possible impact on the already-stressed economy of Iran, the world’s third-largest energy exporter, Mr. Rahimi said, “If they impose sanctions on Iran’s oil exports, then even one drop of oil cannot flow from the Strait of Hormuz,” according to Iran’s official news agency. Iran just began a 10-day naval exercise in the area.
Killing Fields to Healing Fields : On rehabilitation of landmine victims in Cambodia – National GeographicPosted: December 27, 2011
Delicately brushing away the soil with his fingers, Aki Ra uncovers a dark green land mine buried two inches beneath the overgrown dirt road. The size of a large soup can, the mine was planted by the Khmer Rouge about 15 years ago on this ox track in northwestern Cambodia—the most densely mined region of one of the most heavily mined countries in the world.
“This is the type 69 Bouncing Betty made in China,” says Aki Ra, his breath fogging the blastproof visor of his helmet. Bouncing Betty is the American nickname for a bounding fragmentation land mine. The pressure of a footstep causes it to leap out of the ground and then explode, spraying shrapnel in every direction. It can shred the legs of an entire squad.
Land mines once crippled a war-ravaged Cambodia. Today the nation is a model for how to recover from this scourge.
The quick spread of the riots and violence in London over the last few days seem to have taken Britain by surprise. Not enough police were on the streets; the prime minister did not come back into town until two days of violence rocked the city; and, Monday night, the violence spread to cities beyond London.
It seems the rioters had a key assist from a technology not often making headlines: BlackBerry Messenger (or BBM for short). It’s put Blackberry at the center of the riots, with a London MP asking the company to turn off the technology to calm the chaos and a hacking group infiltrating the Blackberry site threatening riots at the Blackberry headquarters if the company releases any BBMs to the police.
While Twitter and Facebook have gotten the lion’s share of attention in helping to fuel protests in the Middle East, the public nature of those sites has kept most Londoners away from the open networks. The Guardian reports that many of the rioters organized on the private messaging system BBM, which allows for a group text messaging to be sent to people within a chosen network.
One such message shown to the Guardian read: “Everyone from all sides of London meet up at the heart of London (central) OXFORD CIRCUS!!, Bare SHOPS are gonna get smashed up so come get some (free stuff!!!) f*** the feds we will send them back with OUR riot! >:O Dead the ends and colour war for now so if you see a brother… SALUT! if you see a fed… SHOOT!”