Israelis Facing a Seismic Rift Over Role of Ultra Orthodox Women – New York Times

Veiled Ultra Orthodox Haredi Women

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.”


Middle East Matters: The Ten Most Significant Developments of 2011 – Council on Foreign Relations

Thousands of Egyptian anti-government protesters celebrate inside Tahrir Square after the announcement of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak's resignation in Cairo on February 11, 2011

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:


Iran Threatens to Block Oil Shipments, as U.S. Prepares Sanctions – The New York Times

An Iranian naval warship in the Strait of Hormuz as Iran began a massive 10 days military exercise which would simulate closing of the Strait, a vital artery for the world's energy flow. Around one-third of the world's oil passes through this narrow channel between Iran and Oman - the Strait of Hormuz..

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 Geographic

Chhin Boreak, 19, lost his right arm to a land mine at the age of 10. One of 12 children in his family, he came to live at the relief center in northwest Cambodia founded by mine removal expert Aki Ra for kids and young adults whose families can't care for them.

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 London Riots in Dramatic Pictures

Fire fighters and riot police survey the area as fire rages through a building in Tottenham, north London on Aug. 7, 2011. A demonstration against the death of a local man turned violent and cars and shops were set ablaze. (Lewis Whyld/PA/AP)

 

 

A policeman walks past the charred remains of the Reeves furniture store in Croydon on August 9, 2011, following a third night of violence on the streets of London. (Andrew Cowie/AFP/Getty Images) #

 


Why is London Burning? Laurie Penny a 24-year-old author and blogger from London reflects on the roots of the unrest.

Tonight in London, social order and the rule of law have broken down entirely. The city has been brought to a standstill; it is not safe to go out onto the streets, and where I am in Holloway, the violence is coming closer. As I write, the looting and arson attacks have spread to at least fifty different areas across the UK, including dozens in London, and communities are now turning on each other, with the Guardian reporting on rival gangs forming battle lines. It has become clear to the disenfranchised young people of Britain, who feel that they have no stake in society and nothing to lose, that they can do what they like tonight, and the police are utterly unable to stop them. That is what riots are all about.

The violence on the streets is being dismissed as “pure criminality”, as the work of a “violent minority”, as “opportunism”. This is madly insufficient. It is no way to talk about viral civil unrest. Angry young people with nothing to do and little to lose are turning on their own communities, and they cannot be stopped, and they know it. Tonight, in one of the greatest cities in the world, society is ripping itself apart.

Violence is rarely mindless. The politics of a burning building, a smashed-in shop or a young man shot by police may be obscured even to those who lit the rags or fired the gun, but the politics are there. Unquestionably there is far, far more to these riots than the death of Mark Duggan, whose shooting sparked off the unrest on Saturday when two police cars were set alight after a five-hour vigil at Tottenham police station.

A peaceful protest over the death of a man at police hands, in a community where locals have been given every reason to mistrust the forces of law and order, is one sort of political statement. Raiding shops for technology and trainers that cost ten times as much as the benefits you’re no longer entitled to is another. A co-ordinated, viral wave of civil unrest across the poorest boroughs of Britain, with young people coming from across the capital and the country to battle the police, is another.


BlackBerry Messenger Instrumental in Spreading and Coordinating Riots and Looting in London

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!”