Yesterday Tim Montgomerie introduced his reasons for being in Israel. His first full daily report is pasted below.
I have been a ‘Friend of Israel’ for as long as I can remember. Although many Christians, particularly in America, support Israel for religious reasons my support has always been much more political. I’ve always viewed Israel as an oasis of democracy in a desert of totalitarianism. Unlike other parts of the region it allows significant religious and personal freedom. Jerusalem will soon be host to a gay pride event – Love Without Borders – and the anti-Israel lobby has been called for the event to be boycotted. Gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell makes a, perhaps, surprising defence of Israel:
“For all its faults, the Israeli state does not jail and torture [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people] because of their sexuality. The Palestinian state does. We find it shocking that much of the left is silent about this violent victimisation of Palestinian queers.”
One of Israel’s "faults", according to its many international critics, is the ‘security fence’ that it has erected along this narrow country – dividing many Israeli settlements from Palestinian settlements. The fence (only 3% of it is an opaque wall) has often caused economic difficulties for the Palestinians that lie behind it but it has dramatically reduced the number of suicide bomb attacks on Israel which had been escalating in number before Ariel Sharon chose to construct it. Our CFI delegation visited a command post for the security fence yesterday. The young lieutenant in charge of the centre – responsible for very advanced CCTV monitoring of the fence – was only 20. He and the other young Israeli men and women spend two to three years of compulsory military service in posts like this one – defending their country. Many meet their life partners during this time. At the post we saw how every ‘impact’ on the fence triggers a response. An alarm to the tune of ‘Another One Bites The Dust’ sounds and Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) are scrambled to intercept whoever is trying to breach the fence. The vast majority of triggers are false alarms. Most are attempts to waste IDF time. Just occasionally, however, something deadly is picked up and we were shown one video recording of a suicide bomber attempting to enter Israel. The monitoring technology had identified a suicide belt beneath a suspicious-looking middle aged man’s trousers. We watched Israeli soldiers shout commands to this man to undress and slowly but surely the belt and its deadly weaponry was revealed. The anti-terrorist fence has stopped many such attacks reaching Israel but not without further undermining Israel’s international reputation.
One major initiative of Israel – to bolster that reputation – is the education that it provides to farmers from all over the world in specialist agricultural technologies. This very hot, dry land has developed, for example, very advanced irrigation systems that carefully ensure only the most targeted use of water on crops. Yesterday at a college attached to a kibbutz I chatted to students from China, the former Soviet Union, Africa and Belgium who had come to learn about Israeli technologies and apply them in their own nations. Thinking of the water shortages in Britain I wonder if our own farmers could learn a few water-saving trips from their Israeli counterparts. On the right MPs David Amess and Nadine Dorries are inspecting a very cheap battery-powered system that monitors moisture levels in the soil. Ideal for Africa because of its cheapness the system sends the equivalent of a text message to the irrigation management system whenever the soil becomes too dry or too moist. When water is as scarce as it is in much of the world there is no room for overwatering. I was again reminded that technology will lead the way in the solution of many of the world’s environmental problems.
Today we visit the Holocaust Museum, the Knesset and representatives of the Palestinians.