Worldwide emergency assistance

Australian Ambassador to Israel Andrea Faulkner recently visited ZAKA headquarters in Jerusalem within the framework of plans to expand the ZAKA International Rescue Unit into Australia, the UN-recognized emergency assistance organization announced Tuesday. Mati Goldstein, the International Rescue Unit commander, told Haaretz Thursday he explained to the ambassador about ZAKA's work, which has expanded from dealing with the remains of disaster victims in Israel to taking care of the injured worldwide. "She said she'd make the effort to connect us with the right people to have a team by the summer," said Goldstein, who was born in Rehovot to parents from Lakewood, New Jersey. He added he plans to go to Australia this summer with an instructor for a week of training what will become ZAKA's 18th team outside Israel.

Another kind exodus

As Jewish families prepare for the annual retelling of the exodus from Egypt, Beit Avi Chai is preparing for another round of its newly established tradition of presenting plays for those who made the exodus from English-speaking lands. The Stage One: #4 festival "spotlights the thriving subculture of Israel's English –language theater groups," and this year opens with an original work by U.S. born Sura Shachnovitz and the festival's artistic director Rafi Poch. "It's Not You... Well, Maybe it is" is about dating in Jerusalem's religious world, Poch, a Toronto native, told Haaretz Thursday. "We crowd sourced for true stories about what happened to people when they were single," said Poch, so the "entire play is a mosaic of real stories." Opening night will also feature a performance by popular local folk singer Sandy Cash and "Karen's Way," a play by Vanessa Rosenthal, who has broadcast over a dozen plays for BBC4 radio. The festival runs at Beit Chai in Jerusalem. March 27-29. For more info, call 02-621-5900.

Women and power

While Israel was busy with the arrival of President Obama, female civil society leaders in Jerusalem discussed what can be done to bring change from the grass roots level. Marking International Women's Day, the panel at the American Colony Hotel addressing the issue of "Women and power" included Cincinnati-born Galia Golan, founder of Hebrew university's women' studies program; Oxford native Lucy Nusseibeh, founder-director of Middle East Nonviolence and Democracy; former PA ambassador and minster Hind Khoury; women's rights specialist Sonia Najjar; MK Michal Rozin; and public opinion researcher Dahlia Scheindlin, who moved to Israel from New York. The panelists there were also addressing their articles published in the latest special issue of the Palestine-Israel Journal. Sheindin told Haaretz Thursday that while her research shows no consistent difference between men's and women's attitudes towards peace, women activists can leverage the renewed feminist agenda brought on by the recent increase in women's political power in Israel to advocate peace. Nusseibeh said women can change perceptions by moving from an emphasis on security of guns to security of daily life, with safe access to school and health care. "Some call it soft security, I prefer the term human security," she told Haaretz Thursday. She added, "Women have contributed worldwide to this shift of perceptions."

Making the desert bloom

Mitzpe Ramon residents Yoni and Shoshana Rappeport have launched an Internet campaign to help make the desert bloom. The couple is trying to introduce Argon, a native Moroccan tree that hardly needs any water to grow, to Israel on a commercial scale. Yoni, a former Missouri farmer, and Shoshana, originally from upstate New York, turned to the Web in part because it is virtually impossible to secure a loan for a business venture where the payoff is four or more years down the line, Shoshana told Haaretz yesterday. Noting that the neighbors have planted grapes, she added, “Argon is more ecological and more sustainable but will truly be plentiful because the nut produces oil that has an international market. It is used mostly in the cosmetics industry, and market research shows the price will remain high for the foreseeable future.” The experimental trees are currently growing at Kibbutz Ketura‚Äôs Center for Sustainable Agriculture under the care of renowned scientist Elaine Solowey. The campaign, which has raised nearly $20,000 on Indiegogo.com, ends April 15.

Rank and File was compiled by Steven Klein.

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