A total settlement freeze in the West Bank still looks a long way off. But there is a scaling back of Israeli activity in another disputed area — the Golan Heights, where the Israel Defense Forces have halted operations on Mount Hermon. Is it a “confidence-building measure” requested by the U.S.? Or could it even be a gesture to Syria preceding talks over the Golan? The answer lies in neither of the above. Rather, it reflects a newfound enthusiasm in the IDF for … flowers.
Mount Hermon, as well as being widely regarded as strategically significant, is also a home to special flora and fauna, and numerous species of birds. The IDF has agreed to halt all operations in the natural habitat of the Hermon, so that flora and fauna can grow without disruption from tank tires and birds can nest without the noise of bullets.
It is one of the perennial questions asked in Israel: How effectively does the country absorb its immigrants?
Traditionally, the answer is that Israel has effectively forged a national identity from diverse immigrant groups, and has done a pretty good job. But this is a point for discussion. For decades now, Eastern Jews have claimed neglect and/or discrimination and many Ethiopians say that their integration into Israeli society is far from complete.
A new piece of research, that second generation immigrants are poorer and stand a greater chance of dropping out of school than the children whose parents were born in Israel, reinvigorates the debate.
One in ten children in Israel has immigrant parents. But In 2007 a quarter of all children living below the poverty line were children of immigrants, according to a new report by the Absorption Ministry and the Israel National Council for the Child. Given that immigrants from western countries are often better off than others, this seems to paint a depressing picture of the process of absorption among immigrants from other places, including Ethiopia.
The research also raises a question about whether education can be relied on to help poor second-generation immigrants climb out of poverty. Just 1.8% of all Israeli children drop out of school. However, the report showed, among the children of immigrants, the figure is 3.8%.