Israel, Greece, Cyprus set up regional emergency response force

 

Israel, Greece, and Cyprus agreed Thursday to create a regional emergency task force to respond to emergencies such as the fires that ravaged Israel a few weeks ago. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met in Jerusalem with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades. While the regional response team would start with these three countries, they said they “want to add additional countries to a joint operations center for emergency situations such as fires, earthquakes, flooding…” Both Cyprus and Greece sent teams to assist Israel in putting out the blazes last month. Netanyahu expressed Israel’s deep gratitude for the two countries’ help and said the response team “would greatly help security and assuring the lives of citizens of all countries here in the region as well as in other countries.”

A strategic relationship has recently developed between the three countries of the Eastern Mediterranean, which Netanyahu called one of “genuine friendship and sympathy of our three peoples to each other.” The three leaders met in the Cypriot capital Nicosia in January to discuss opportunities to leverage-newly discovered gas fields in Mediterranean Sea with the aim of increasing regional stability and security. These burgeoning ties are particularly significant because, as The Jerusalem Post notes, “Up until the early 2000’s, Greece and Cyprus were among the most critical countries toward Israel in Europe.” 

Such ties were “unthinkable” a decade ago. Relations improved after the discovery of the natural gas fields and in reaction to Israeli diplomatic tensions with Turkey, a rival to the other two countries. (Israel has in recent years largely restored its ties with Turkey, and returned an ambassador to Ankara this week after a six-year absence.)

 

Israel is working hard to keep chemical weapons out of the hands of the Iran-backed terror group Hezbollah, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman told a Knesset committee Thursday.

Israel does not usually acknowledge foreign military actions, but Liberman told European diplomats Wednesday—the same day that the Mazzeh military airport near Damascus was reportedly hit by surface-to-surface missiles, and a week after two strikes elsewhere in Syria—that his country was taking action to keep Hezbollah from acquiring “advanced weapons, military equipment and weapons of mass destruction.” His latest comments to the Knesset seemed to suggest that at least one of the strikes was in order to stop Hezbollah from acquiring chemical weapons.

“Our policies and our positions are very clear and are based on three red lines: We won’t allow any harm to the citizens of the State of Israel, we won’t allow any harm to the sovereignty of the State of Israel, and we will not allow the smuggling of high-quality advanced weapons and chemical weapons from Syria to Lebanon for Hezbollah,” Liberman told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

Liberman added that Israel has no interest in immersing itself in Syria’s civil war, but the country would enforce its “red lines” as necessary “without considerations for any other circumstances or limitations.” Israeli leaders have made it clear in public statements and conversations with foreign leaders that they will act to prevent Hezbollah from acquiring “game-changing” weapons or strengthening its positions on Israel’s borders.

 

The citizenship process for foreign same-sex partners of Israelis will soon be the same as that of heterosexual partners, Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit announced Thursday.

Mandelblit’s decision came in response to a petition from the Israeli Gay Fathers Association, which complained that same-sex couples were forced to wait seven years before their marriage would be recognized, compared to four years for heterosexuals. The non-Israeli partner in a same-sex partnership was also forced to give up his or her foreign citizenship to become an Israeli citizen, whereas a non-Israeli in a heterosexual partnership could keep his or her foreign citizenship.

“The mere presentation of foreign marriage documents and the couple’s intention to receive legal validity, is a significant indicator in relations to the seriousness of the relationship and to justify shortening the process,” Mandelblit explained.

Mandelblit’s announcement was “a huge victory against discrimination for same sex couples,” the Israeli Gay Fathers Association said in a statement. “The decision will ease the process for many couples with mixed citizenship that have suffered until today, which many times does not end with Israeli citizenship.”

For more on Israel’s strides in granting rights to its LGBT citizens and residents, read The Persistent Progress of Israel’s LGBT Community, which discusses the advances LGBT Israelis have made in gaining mainstream societal acceptance, and the challenges their community continues to face.

 

Upwards of 30,000 children in Iran are denied basic rights because their fathers are not Iranian, according to an article published Monday in Al-Monitor. Only children born to an Iranian father are considered Iranian citizens.

Children born to Iranian mothers are not granted citizenship rights, and many fear deportation. In an interview with Iran-based news outlet Parsineh in April last year, an Iranian Baluchi woman detailed her plight: She was married off to an Afghan man at the age of 12. He fathered seven children with her, then fled back to Afghanistan. She now lives in hiding without running water or electricity because she wants to protect her children from being uprooted by the state.

Ali Younesi, the presidential adviser for religious and minority affairs, has called Iran’s current nationality law “strict, old-fashioned and racist.” The code also cements a woman’s status as a second-class citizen: Men determine the nationality of her own children. 

Senate Democrats call for release of secret Iran documents

 

Several Senate Democrats, some of whom supported the Iran deal, have called for the release of documents related to the deal that have been stored in classified facilities despite not actually being classified.

The Daily Beast reported Monday that the administration is keeping several documents pertaining to the Iran deal in Sensitive Compartmented Information Facilities (SCIFs) on Capitol Hill, which are only accessible to members of Congress and staffers who have the proper security clearance. The documents reportedly contain details about exemptions from standard nuclear investigation procedures that Iran received, American promises regarding the opening-up of Iran’s economy, and details of a deal signed to release $1.7 billion to Iran in exchange for the release of American hostages.

Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) told The Weekly Standard, “Unless there’s a damn good reason to keep them out of the public eye, turn them over…I’m more on the side of transparency than not, that is for sure.” Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) said, “If they’re unclassified, what are they doing in a SCIF?…The entire purpose of a SCIF is to be a place where you can read classified documents.” Both Tester and Coons supported the Iran deal.

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), the leading Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, questioned the need to shield the documents from public view: “There are sorts of information you want to protect, and then there are strategic issues that you have to deal with because there might be continued negotiations…If it doesn’t fall in those two categories, I don’t think it should be a concern.”

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), a leading Democratic opponent of the deal, also called for the release of the documents, saying, “They are unclassified. There should be transparency, and that transparency ultimately helps inform the public.”

Numerous aspects of the nuclear deal have been surrounded by secrecy, a point highlighted last week by Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), who criticized the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for the lack of details in its reports on Iran’s compliance with the deal. Peters’ concerns echoed statements made in recent weeks by former IAEA deputy director-general Olli Heinonen.

 

Syrian rebels in Aleppo called Wednesday for a five-day cease-fire to evacuate civilians and the severely injured from neighborhoods of the city they still control—a turning point on the part of the opposition in what looks to be a losing battle. President Bashar al-Assad, who is backed by Russia and Iran, appears on the brink of victory in what was, before the war, Syria’s largest city and economic hub.

If a deal is reached under this plan, the Syrian government and rebels would negotiate the future status of the city. It would likely set the stage for a full rebel withdrawal from Aleppo, the latest in a series of opposition losses.

The leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the U.K. and the U.S. issued a joint statement on Wednesday condemning Damascus and Moscow for the violence in Aleppo.

“We condemn the actions of the Syrian regime and its foreign backers, especially Russia, for their obstruction of humanitarian aid, and strongly condemn the Syrian regime’s attacks that have devastated civilians and medical facilities and use of barrel bombs and chemical weapons,” the officials said in the statement.

 

A growing number of Arab Israelis are signing up to serve in the Israeli army, Reuters reported Tuesday.

“Because I’m from this country and I love the country and I want to contribute,” explained Sgt. Yusef Salutta, a 20-year-old Arab from the north of Israel who is in the Desert Reconnaissance Battalion. “Everyone should enlist, anybody who lives here should enlist.”

While service in the IDF is voluntary for Arabs, officials now say that Arabs make up several hundred out of the 175,000 soldiers currently on active duty.

Col. Wajdi Sarhan, the head of the IDF Minorities Unit, explained that serving in the army helps young people become part of society. “[It] can get easier when you hold an Israeli soldier or reservist ID card,” he explained. “To be a soldier in the army, it’s actually an identity certificate of Israeli-ness, which can help integration.”

The Times of Israel reported in August that non-Jewish enlistment for Israel’s civilian national service has increased 650% in just six years.

Maj. Alaa Waheeb, the highest ranking Muslim officer in the IDF, wrote an op-ed in the Jewish News in March expressing pride in the role he plays in Israeli society. He recounted being on a speaking tour of the United Kingdom with a a Jewish medic: “During my time in the UK, I spoke alongside a fellow soldier, a medic who has treated both Israeli soldiers and Palestinian terrorists without distinction. We were the Muslim who protects Jewish lives, and the Jew who saves Muslim lives. There’s only one country in the Middle East that could produce a couple like that – and it sure as hell isn’t an apartheid state.”

 

Colorful, lightweight plastic wheelchairs designed and made in Israel are being distributed through charitable organizations to needy children in Israel, the Palestinian Authority territories, Peru and Tajikistan thanks to the vision of Pablo Kaplan, a former executive vice president of Israel’s multinational company Keter Plastic. As ISRAEL21c reported  almost two years ago, Kaplan and his life partner and former Keter coworker, Chava Rotshtein, undertook a humanitarian mission – Wheelchairs of Hope – to produce innovative wheelchairs designed especially for mobility-challenged children in developing companies. The inexpensive lightweight chairs, made of rugged plastic in kid-pleasing colors, can handle off-road conditions, require no maintenance and are simple to assemble. Through their contacts with the World Health Organization (WHO) in Switzerland, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), they learned that some 7 million children are in need of a wheelchair. Some of these wheelchairs are earmarked for Syrian refugee children.“The idea is not the chair itself, but the mobility and independence it gives to children who would otherwise not have any access to school or community life,” said Kaplan. (via Israel21c)

IDF releases declassified map showing Hezbollah military infrastructure embedded in civilian areas

 

The Israel Defense Forces shared a declassified map of Hezbollah’s military infrastructure, located in residential areas in southern Lebanon, on its Facebook page Tuesday. The map shows hundreds of military emplacements, including weapons depots, rocket launchers, and terror tunnels, that Hezbollah has constructed in preparation for its next war against Israel. Hezbollah’s deliberate positioning of military infrastructure in Lebanese villages, a tactic that the IDF has called a “war crime,” is consistent with the Iran-backed terror organization’s history of exploiting civilians to launch wars against Israel.

It was reported in 2013 that Hezbollah was paying poor Shi’ite families in southern Lebanon to allow them to store weapons in their homes, effectively making them human shields. An Israeli defense official told The New York Times in May 2015 that Hezbollah’s buildup in southern Lebanese villages meant that “civilians are living in a military compound….We will hit Hezbollah hard, while making every effort to limit civilian casualties as much as we can…[but] we do not intend to stand by helplessly in the face of rocket attacks.” A few days later, a newspaper linked to Hezbollah confirmed the Israeli assessment.

Noting the threat posed by Hezbollah’s extensive rocket arsenal and its placement among civilians, Geoff Corn, an international military law expert, concluded earlier this year that the resulting devastation from a war with these conditions would “both legally and morally…lie solely at the feet of Hezbollah.”

 

The Israel Defense Forces carried out an exercise on Israel’s southern border with Gaza on Tuesday, to prepare for a possible incursion by Hamas forces in a future war. The defensive drill included a mock Hamas attack using motorcycles, which were found in cross-border attack tunnels by the IDF during Operation Protective Edge in 2014 and were meant to be used in operations to kidnap Israelis. According to an IDF official, “The exercise is meant to improve the Gaza Division’s preparedness to switch from its day-to-day activities to emergency, as well as to improve the connection and partnership with the other forces working with us.” The eleven-hour exercise took place in Israeli kibbutzim situated along the border with Gaza and included hundreds of army soldiers, as well as local government officials, police officers, and air force and navy personnel.

The drill was part of regularly scheduled training, and not in response to any specific incident or threats in the south, according to the military. It came days after sources in Gaza said that Hamas held its own exercises, which included firing rockets towards the Mediterranean Sea in what appeared to be preparation for a future conflict with Israel.

Hamas spends an estimated $40 million of its $100 million military budget on building tunnels into Israel that can be used in future terrorist attacks. In July, an Israeli official estimated that Hamas digs some six miles of tunnels every month.

 

Following the passage of a similar bill last week in the Senate, a bipartisan slate of leading members of the House of Representatives introduced a bill that would expand how the Department of Education defines anti-Semitism – including standards that address anti-Israel rhetoric. The measure expands previous guidelines to outline anti-Semitism; one of the proposals is adherence to a definition first published by the State Department in 2010.

Demonizing Israel, applying a double-standard to Israel, and delegitimizing Israel all constitute anti-Semitism as stipulated by the State Department. Famed Israeli politician and former prisoner of the Soviet Gulag Natan Sharansky advanced the definition.

Lobbying efforts were led by the Anti-Defamation League, who said the bill “addresses a core concern of Jewish and pro-Israel students and parents: When does the expression of anti-Semitism, anti-Israel sentiment and anti-Zionist beliefs cross the line from First Amendment-protected free expression to unlawful discriminatory conduct?”

 

An Israeli bone-graft product made of enhanced coral has received CE approval to start sales in Europe for dental and orthopedic procedures. This unique product is made from corals grown in a closed system using patented technology to provide bioactivity and eliminate biological contamination. Many practitioners and medical device companies have already contacted CoreBone to learn more about its advantages over currently available products for bone grafting, says CEO Ohad Schwartz. “Bone grafts ideally should have four features,” he explains. “They must be bioactive, not just a passive scaffold, in order to attract new bone cells; they must be strong enough to support the site, especially for implants; they must allow for being replaced as new bone grows; and they must be porous to enable vascularity,” meaning that blood vessels can grow through them naturally and produce growth of bone from the inside out. “If you have all those features, you have a very good bone graft,” Schwartz continues. “We have all of those.” (via Israel21c)

Four Palestinians killed in collapse of tunnel straddling Egypt-Gaza border

 

Four Palestinians were killed in a collapsed underground tunnel connecting the Gaza Strip and Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, Gazan officials reported on Sunday. The officials claimed that the collapse was due to flooding of the tunnel by the Egyptian military. While Egypt has not confirmed this report, the Egyptian military has demolished and flooded underground tunnels along the Gaza border to prevent the terrorist group Hamas from smuggling weapons into the Gaza Strip. The incident is the latest in a series of tunnel collapses that have killed and injured Palestinian militants.  

A Hamas operative who was captured in June after illegally crossing into Israel revealed that the terrorist group’s fighters can travel underground throughout the entirety of Gaza. According to the Jerusalem Post, “Hamas is said to be digging 10 kilometers of tunnels toward Israel each month.” Brig. Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser, formerly the head of the research division of Israeli military intelligence and later the director general of the Ministry of Strategic Affairs, told reporters in May that the discovery of the tunnels was a sign that Hamas was preparing for another war against Israel.

Regional analysts have said that Israeli-Egyptian relations are at their “highest level in history”: there has been significant security cooperation due to mutual concerns, such as the extensive coordination between Hamas and Sinai Province, an ISIS affiliate active in the Sinai Peninsula. Hamas finances ISIS operations, trains its fighters in planting deadly IEDs and firing anti-tank missiles, and smuggles weaponry across the border from the Gaza Strip into Sinai.

Egypt and Israel have also upped formal diplomatic ties, with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry visiting Jerusalem in July to offer his government’s assistance in restarting peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians. A month later, Shoukry defended Israeli policies to a group of high school students in Cairo.

Egypt has similarly agreed to cooperate with Israel on pragmatic issues such as desalinization and recycling, and introduced a ninth-grade textbook this spring that casts Israeli-Egyptian peace in a more positive light than previous editions. The textbook asks students to memorize the terms of the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty of 1979 and explain the “advantages of peace for Egypt and the Arab states.”

 

Documents containing previously-unpublished details of the nuclear deal with Iran could be released after Donald Trump is inaugurated as president next month, The Daily Beast reported Monday. The documents, which the Obama administration has refused to release publicly, are stored in special rooms in the Capitol complex called Sensitive Compartmentalized Information Facilities (SCIFs) that are normally used for storing top-secret information. However, the Iran documents are not officially designated as classified, and therefore could be released by the Trump administration relatively easily. 

The documents include projections of how Iran’s nuclear program is expected to progress under the terms of the deal, communications about the deal between Secretary of State John Kerry and other foreign ministers, and exemptions given to Iran by the commission that was created to oversee the deal’s implementation. Also included are a set of documents signed by State Department official Brett McGurk that outline the terms of the U.S. Treasury Department’s release of $1.7 billion to Iran in exchange for four American hostages.

Despite the fact that the documents are not classified, “a confidential clearance was required to see the McGurk documents and a secret classification was required to view the joint commission documents in the Congressional SCIFs,” The Daily Beast’s Tim Mak wrote. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), a leading Democratic critic of the deal, told Mak that the documents “ought to be released.”

Numerous aspects of the nuclear deal with Iran have been surrounded by secrecy, a point highlighted last week by Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), who called on the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to provide more details of Iran’s nuclear program so that Iran’s compliance with the deal could be confirmed. Peters’s concerns about the IAEA’s lack of details echoed statements made in recent weeks by former IAEA deputy director-general Olli Heinonen.

 

Hailing a “new phase” in bilateral ties, Israel’s new ambassador to Turkey on Monday handed his letter of credence to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, moving forward on the countries’ reconciliation. Eitan Na’eh is Israel’s first ambassador in Ankara in half a decade. Before he was greeted by Erdoğan in the Presidential Palace for a short ceremony, a military band played Israel’s national anthem, Hatikva

“I am very happy to be back in Turkey as ambassador. We have a lot of work to do,”Na’eh told reporters at the airport. “I want to thank Turkey for the support, the aid it sent Israel fighting fires last week. We have a history of helping each other.” Turkey was among several nations that sent planes and other equipment to help Israel extinguish over 1,000 wildfires which burned more than 500 homes and 32,000 acres of forests and national parks.

 

Turkish-Israeli ties had been strained since the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident, when a flotilla under the control of the Turkish Humanitarian Relief Foundation—a group designated as a terror organization by the Netherlands and Germany—attempted to break Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip. IDF troops faced an “organized and violent” assault from a group of passengers after boarding the ship, according to a UN report. Ten crew members were killed in the ensuing fight, and several Israeli soldiers were injured.

 

After the reconciliation agreement was reached, Israeli leaders noted the significant economic potential of closer ties. “Trade between Israel and Turkey has more than doubled from the Marmara event up until today,” said Maj. Gen. (ret.) Yaakov Amidror, adding that the deal will bolster that growth with “joint projects in government level. People are speaking about gas and there are other issues that might emerge.”

 

 

Twelve people who work in the Iranian fashion industry were sentenced to up to six years in prison for “spreading prostitution,” the BBC reported Monday. 

The twelve were convicted of spreading prostitution and promoting corruption by publishing images online that were considered obscene. They also were charged with causing Muslims to corrupt themselves by producing fashion shows and promoting a “Western-style culture of nudity.”

 

A lawyer involved in the case said that his clients were also banned from working in fashion or traveling abroad for two years. Some were also banned from photography or journalism.

Iranian authorities have been cracking down on “un-Islamic” behavior recently, especially by models and others who work in the fashion industry. In May, authorities arrested eight models who posted pictures of themselves on Instagram without head coverings. In July, police prevented a fashion show at the opening of a Levi’s store at a Tehran mall.

 

The crackdown has extended to people who work in other sectors. Over 30 Iranian students were given lashes earlier this year for dancing at a co-ed graduation party in the city of Qazvin. And a Tehran soccer player was arrested in June and suspended from playing soccer for six months for wearing SpongeBob SquarePants-themed pants. 

 

In October 2015, two Iranian poets were sentenced to jail and 99 lashes each for shaking hands with members of the opposite sex, and reports surfaced the following month that Iranian actress Sadaf Taherian was forced to flee the country after she posted pictures of herself with her hair uncovered on social media.

American-Iranian dual national, wife detained by IRGC, held without charge in Evin Prison

 

An American-Iranian dual national and his wife were arrested by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in July, and have been detained ever since without charge and without access to lawyers in Tehran’s Evin Prison. Karan Vafadari and his wife Afarin Niasari, before their arrest and detention, ran an art gallery in Tehran. Hadi Ghaemi, the executive director of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran (ICHRI), said, “Yet another case of a dual national snatched and held without charge or access to a lawyer represents an alarming continuation of a judicial system run by intelligence agencies with no respect for the law and no accountability.”

According to the ICHRI, Vafadari belongs to the Baha’i faith. In October, representatives of the Baha’i religion accused Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s government of “ongoing efforts to destroy the Baha’i community.” Since Rouhani took power in 2013, more than 151 Baha’i have been arrested and 388 acts of economic discrimination — including threats, intimidation and the closing of Baha’i-owned businesses — have been documented against members of the faith, according to the report. Thousands of Baha’i have also been denied entry into universities, while 28 have been expelled on the basis of their religion, which has been outlawed by the Islamic Republic.

Iran has a history of arresting dual nationals, which it does not recognize, meaning that the individuals cannot receive consular assistance; according to Reuters, as of July, the imprisoned dual nationals comprised “the highest number of Iranians with dual-nationality detained at one time in recent years to have been acknowledged.” Many analysts believe that Iran is “seeking concessions from the West in exchange for releasing” dual nationals, the Associated Press wrote in August.

 

George Mitchell, the former Democratic Senate Majority Leader who served as President Obama’s Special Envoy for Middle East Peace, said in an interview Thursday that he disagreed with President Jimmy Carter’s New York Times op-ed published earlier this week, which suggested that Obama impose terms of an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord through the United Nations Security Council.

Although Mitchell praised Carter’s efforts to broker a peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, he told NewsMax TV’s Steve Malzberg that “on this issue I don’t agree with President Carter.” Mitchell explained that for the United States to take sides and “unilaterally decide” acceptable outcomes of key issues, or to recognize a Palestinian state, “would be a reversal of what had been American policy for several years.”

The argument is made that, well, 137 countries have done so, which is true—something which ought to and does concern Israel. But the United States is not one of 138 countries; the United States is the world’s dominant power, [and] will play a decisive role in whatever happens in that region. And so I think we should continue the policy that we had and try to encourage the parties to negotiate the two-state solution, at which time, if successful, there will be not just a nominal Palestinian state, but a real Palestinian state.

Aaron David Miller, who also served as an American peace negotiator, wrote in an analysis for CNN.com earlier this week that choosing to follow Carter’s advice would “leave Obama’s legacy in tatters.”

 

So far Israel has arrested 23 arsonists connected to igniting the hundreds of fires that raged across Israel last week, and they are positioned to receive financial rewards, Palestinian Media Watch President Itamar Marcus wrote in the Jerusalem Post Wednesday. The fires have burned more than 500 homes and 32,000 acres of forests and national parks.

Palestinian law stipulates anyone imprisoned for “resisting the occupation” receives a high monthly salary. A recent research paper produced by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs asserted these payments constitute a violation of the Oslo Accords.

The United Kingdom froze roughly $30 million in aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA) in October over concerns that taxpayer money is being used to pay the salaries of Palestinian terrorists. The frozen funds amount to around one-third of the UK’s yearly aid to the PA.

Critics have long called for greater transparency in distribution of foreign aid payment to Palestinians, the largest per capita recipients of international development aid in the world. A Global Humanitarian Assistance report cited in The Wall Street Journal found that Palestinians received $793 million in international aid in 2013, amounting to $176 for each Palestinian. That same year, Syrians were given $106 in development assistance per capita, while eight of the remaining top ten recipients — Sudan, South Sudan, Jordan, Lebanon, Somalia, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo — received an average of $15.30 per capita. Foreign aid amounted to about a quarter of the PA’s entire budget in 2012.

 

Israel “Izzy” Papa decided to make helping others his vocation when he was in high school. The 22-year-old paramedic with Magen David Adom (MDA) started volunteering at Israel’s national emergency medical service and disaster-relief organization as a teen “because it was cool.” “I saw some people in really awful situations and I realized that someone needs to help. I felt like I need to do it. That’s what I want to do; help people,” he tells ISRAEL21c. “It’s also so satisfying. When you save someone and he gets to live another day, that is a crazy feeling. The best feeling I’ve ever had in my life.” Papa hit the headlines in Israel recently after becoming the first paramedic, and the first Israeli, to join the Red Cross and the Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) vessel in the Mediterranean Sea. (via Israel21c)