Dome on the Range
After the failure of the Bill Clinton-moderated 2000 Camp David peace talks between Palestinian Chairman Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, Palestinians launched the Second Intifada, a violent uprising against Israel that regularly featured terror attacks targeting Israeli civilians. The initial terror tactics involved shootings into outlying buildings in Israeli towns or on Israelis driving along roads.
. Israel responded by erecting barriers and blocking Palestinian access to roads where many such attacks were occurring (e.g., Route 443 between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem). Unable to conduct successful shooting attacks, terror organizations like Hamas and Islamic Jihad next turned to suicide bombings targeting Israeli civilians, and from 2001-2004 murdered many Israeli civilians with this heinous tactic. As shown, suicide bombings crested in 2002 following which Israel launched Operation Defensive Shield which, through combined intelligence gathering and intel-directed interdiction efforts, stopped most suicide bombing attacks before they could be mounted. Israel also constructed the separation barrier along the border with the West Bank to further interrupt attacks, an effort that has proven highly effective. However, in the tactical game of terrorism and counterterrorism, the next terror move came in the form of rockets fired from Gaza. These Qassam rockets were fired with increasing frequency in the early 2000’s, and in several years since then thousands of rockets have been fired, including during May of this past year (see graphs).
Many have argued that these rockets are merely symbolic as they are low tech, have no guidance systems, and most of them cannot travel long distances. Indeed, many have claimed that Qassam rockets don’t really kill anyone or cause much damage as they are just metal tubes with some TNT that puff a nice smoke trail and make a bang but that’s it.
Wrong! Take a look at the pictures below. On the left we see Hamas terrorists proudly displaying their prized weaponry; that’s what Qassams look like before liftoff. As whatever goes up must come down, the second picture shows what happened when a Qassam landed on the roof of a house in the Israeli town of Sderot. Not a pretty picture.
So why has the Israeli death toll from these rockets remained relatively low? Israeli investments in basic civil defense like bomb shelters and the Red Dawn early warning system to give just enough time to get people into shelters deserve much of the credit. In the town of Sderot alone, it has been estimated that such civil defense saved about 100 lives from 2001 – 2010.
With the frequency and range of such rockets both increasing, however, it became clear that Israel needed a better solution. Enter the Iron Dome, Israel’s latest defense game changer. This amazing system is designed to shoot incoming missiles out of the sky before they can cause damage to persons or property. The Iron Dome first calculates whether the trajectory of the incoming rocket will end in a populated area; if not, the system does not react and said rocket falls harmlessly to the ground. Otherwise, with a marvelous combination of radar, ballistics and computer technology, Iron Dome launches interceptors that zero in on missiles in flight and quite literally blow them out of the sky (see below).
As with most things developed in Israel, the Iron Dome also has its naysayers. One commonly heard argument is that the Iron Dome is a terrible misallocation of resources since it costs Hamas less than $1,000 for each of their primitive rockets while Iron Dome interceptor missiles cost up to $100K each, a factor of 100 greater expense. But this is a silly argument – the correct computation from Israel’s standpoint is to compare the cost of damage and loss of lives caused by rocket fire absent the Iron Dome, and the (greatly reduced) cost of the same with the Iron Dome while considering the cost of deploying and operating the system. While some find the placement of a monetary value on a human life distasteful, security and other strategic calculations regularly require such a figure, and economists have conservatively valued human lives as at least $10M each. Consider for a moment the estimated 100 lives that were spared in Sderot alone; at $10M each that amounts to a billion dollars in total.
Which brings us to the real reason for this month’s Israel Matters column. Recently the $1 billion US contribution to Israel’s Iron Dome program was voted upon in the US Congress. The so-called “Squad” of Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, Cori Bush and others voted no (Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez changed her vote from no to present). Tlaib claimed the bill was a “…replenishment for weapons apartheid Israel used in a crisis it manufactured…,” Omar said that “…given the human rights violations in Gaza…we should not be ramming through a last-minute $ billion increase in military funding for Israel…” while Bush said “Palestinians deserve freedom from militarized violence too.” So, there you have it. Iron Dome is a purely defensive system that saves many lives both Israeli and Palestinian: absent the Iron Dome, Hamas and friends would shoot many more rockets with the hope of scoring direct hits, and faced with escalating rocket fire Israel would have no choice but to launch a ground offensive to secure territory to halt the rocket fire, an operation that would undoubtedly claim the lives of many Israeli soldiers and Gaza citizens (and Hamasniks/Islamic Jihadis as well).
A final comment to Congresswoman Bush – Palestinians (and Hamas in particular) have within their means the world’s most foolproof, cost-effective approach to protecting Gaza citizens from military violence. In fact, the approach within their grasp is not only cost-effective, it’s free. STOP SHOOTING ROCKETS!!
Eating like an Israeli
Israelis are known for being very generous with food (think “Jewish Mother”). They love to feed and share deliciousness with their friends and family in their homes and even at social affairs.
At an outdoor event I attended a few years ago in Israel, my friends Shlomi and Lilach called me over, opened up a cooler and offered me some fresh Malabi (pronounced MAH-la-bee). I’d never heard of it before, but as someone with a big sweet tooth, I was eager to give it a try. First, they gave me a small cup of pudding, then they pulled out several smaller containers of toppings to add to it, and voila – DELICIOUS Malabi!
Malabi is a milk pudding, but what makes its flavor so distinctive (and interesting!) is a hint of rosewater (available at local health and specialty food stores). It’s usually topped with a sweet fruit syrup, nuts and coconut. (Various versions of this pudding – thickened with rice flour or cornstarch – are traditional in not just Israel, but many middle eastern countries.)
- 3 cups milk (whole, 2% or even a plant-based milk are all fine). For a richer version, substitute one of the cups of milk for cream. The higher the fat of the milk, the richer it will be. (We use 2% and it’s great, by the way.)
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon rose water
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- 2 tablespoons seedless raspberry jam
- 1 teaspoon rose water
(You might be able to find raspberry syrup in a store – in Israel you can actually buy “Malabi syrup!” Also, some people use date or pomegranate syrup instead of the traditional raspberry. We prefer to make this simple version above, which also includes that special rose water flavoring.)
- chopped pistachios or peanuts (not salted) are most traditional, but we often use chopped almonds or walnuts (because we have them in the house) and they work just fine
- shredded coconut (unsweetened)
- First make the pudding, which needs to be refrigerated for several hours or overnight before finishing with syrup and toppings:
- Combine ½ cup of the milk with cornstarch, rose water and vanilla. Mix it until smooth (may need to use your fingers to get rid of the lumps. Be patient – it will smooth out. Set it aside.
- Put the remaining 2 ½ cups of milk and the sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring almost continuously. When it boils and sugar is dissolved, reduce to low and stir in the cornstarch mixture. Keep stirring to blend completely.
- Gently simmer the pudding (keep stirring!) for about 5 minutes, until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. (If you don’t stir continuously, it may stick to the bottom of the pan and when you scrape it you’ll get lumps… but don’t worry – it tastes just as good. 🙂
- Spoon or pour the pudding into individual serving bowls or cups (paper cups are even ok, but it’s prettier in glass)! Let cool a bit, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
- While the pudding is thickening in the fridge, make the syrup (assuming you don’t have pre-made syrup).
- Combine the sugar, water and jam in a small saucepan. Over a medium heat, bring to a simmer, and keep stirring to mix all together.
- Once it’s a nice smooth syrup, remove from heat and add the rose water.
- Refrigerate the syrup until you are ready to add it to the pudding. Everything is cold when you eat it.
Put it all together! Spoon or pour a spoonful of the syrup over the pudding and add chopped nuts and coconut flakes … and you’ll be eating like an Israeli!