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PAGE 16A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, APRIL 26, 2013 Bylmd Stors The MecUa Une MARAT NUMAN, Syria-- When the jihadist organization Jabhat al-Nusra announced it was joiningAI-Qa'ida lastweeL Syrians in rebel-held territories cringed. "Noweveryonewill thinkour revolution is nothing but ajihad- ist power grab," complained 28-year-old MubammadAnsari to The Media Line. "Who will support us now?" WRh the Syrian revolution faltering and secular rebel groups disintegrating amidst infighting and civilian abuses, it is the jihadists who have benefitted mosL But the atten- tion they have received from foreigners has angered Syrians who believe these groups have hijacked a secular revolution. Like many in this town, An- sail fought to dislodge regime By Linda Gradstein The Media Line Syrian Jihadis hijack revolution troops hunkering down in the city center last year. Since then the municipality has endured months of punishing airstrikes by regime fighter jets and long- range shelling. For most of the ordeal, itwashomegrown rebels who were directing the fight. But recently, Jabhat al-Nusra fighters have poured into the town, hoping to turn it into a base. Ma'arat Numan connects a number of cities in northwest Syria, making it a key locale coveted by the warring parties. "We don't want them here," shouted 35-year-old Ahmad Fartawiwhen queried about the organization. "We don't want them in our revolution. These people don't help our cause," the computer salesman told The Media Line while biting into a falafel sandwich. Fartawi and others are angry Jabhatal-Nusra is getting all the credit for liberating bases and taking towns. They claim it is the secular Free Syrian Army (FSA) which is responsible for the gains the opposition has made. In this city, where Jabhat al-Nusra has a higher public profile, many admire the orga- nization. But they are just as worried by the organization's affiliation with AI-Qa'ida. For months, Samir Maliki nodded with approval when the orga- nization's namewas mentioned. They helped him adjudicate a land dispute. "They are very ef- ficient, very good," explained the 51-year-old landlord in January. But as the battle for Syria's second largest city became a stalemate and the interna- tional community stepped up its concerns about Jabhat al-Nusra's influence, Maliki began having second thoughts about the organization. "We in Syria welcome everyone from the other religions," he noted. "But we don't want sectarian killing and Islamic emirates." Now, with the announcement that the organization is joining Al-Qa'ida, Maliki has turned against it, claiming that it is a black stain on a pure white revolution. Others in the city are equally concerned that the negative publicity Jabhat al-Nusra is bringing them will derail their support in Western capitals. "Westerners already don't like the revolution because they think we will not keep the peace with Israel like (President Bashar) Asad has done," says 43- year-old-pharmacist Walid Awajli. "If people think we are all Al-Qa'ida, then no one will support us." It is a problem American policy is driving home. A recent Wall StreetJournalarticle noted that the administration has informed Congress that it does notwant the rebels to overthrow the regime now because it fears the jihadists will take over the country. Though such sentiments are turning Syrians against Jabhat al-Nusra, they are also increas- ing anti-Western hostility. "The Jews who support Asad don't want us to overthrow him," says 51-year-old truck driver Hamid Shufi. "They know Asad has been protecting Israel. So they tell (President Barack) Obama that the rebels are al-Qa'ida." More level-headed Syrians are just as angry with the United States. "If Obama had given us weapons, then the jihad- ists would have never come," explains 49-year-old technician Salih Hamid. "Now everyone is mad not only that Obama did not help us, but also that our revolu- tion has been transformed into a jihadist adventure." Members of the Tawhid Brigade, the FSA's largest con- tingent in Aleppo, agree. "The revolution has been hijacked by the jihadists," laments a mem- ber of its military council who goes by the name of Abu Fadi. "They control everything--the weapons, the food, the strategy. We are losing to these outsiders." ThoughAbu Fadi admits that the Tawhid Brigade and other FSA units have joined forces with Jabhat al-Nusra in the past to attack regime bases, he now regrets it. "We legitimized them," he grumbles outside a Tawhid base that was once a school. "We showed them how we operate." Today Jabhatal-Nusra is oper- atingsoweilin the revolutionary jungle that it no longer needs its former secular allies to help the organization navigate the mayhem. And that has everyone here worried. Jahalin Bedouin fear new Israefi transfer plan Id Khamis Jahalin sits in his sparsely furnished, illegally- built shack, and worries about his future. A father of seven, he was born in this community of tents and shacks about 10 miles east of Jerusalem. Sitting on a thin mattress that substitutes for a couch during the day and a bed at night, ld Khamis told The Media Line that a new Israeli plan to relocate the Jahalin Bedouin community, "is the worst one yet- It is not appropriate for us at all. The place they want to move us to is surrounded on all foursidesanditisvery crowded. I am a Bedouin, and I want to live like my parents." Id Khamis says he used to have more than 100 goats, but as grazing land became more limited, he ate or sold most of them. He also used to work in nearby Jewish communities built on post-1967 land such as Kfar Adumim, less than a mile away. But in 2009, when residents illegally built a new school out of mud and tires, he says all of the Bedouin here lost their jobs. Since all of the homes are built without the approval of government authorities, there is no access to water or electricity. Id Khamis has installed solar panels outside that produce enough power to run a television and lights. He has no refrigerator. "My wife has to work very hard preparing all of the food fresh," he says with a smile. Several years ago, Israel tried to move these Jahalin Bedouin, along with 22 other communities--a total of 2,300 people--to another location near a garbage dump. Israeli lawyers hired by human rights organizations appealed to Is- rael's Supreme Court to thwart that plan. Id Khamis says the new plan is even worse. "This is private land. It is not appropriate forBedouin. It's like a prison. It is surrounded on all four sides. I am a Bedouin...but this is not acceptable to me. Israelis wouldn't want to live like this, either." Id Khamis says Israel is try i ng to remove all Palestinians from Area C, the 60 percent of land Israel acquired in the 1967 war over which it continues to hold both security and administra- tive control pursuant to the 1994 Oslo Accords. He sees it as proof that Israel is not interested in a long-term peace with the Palestinians. "Once they have removed all the people, they will say that the land belongs to them," Id Khamis argues. "This is like the last bullet in the head of the peace process." Israeli officials say the plan has not been finalized and they are not sure why the Jahalin are launching theirobjections now. "Theyare livingthere illegally and we are looking at a series of options," Guy Inbar, spokesman for the CivilAdministration, the Israeli body which administers the post-1967 areas, told The Media Line. "One option is to relocate them to the Jordan Valley. We are working with the Palestinian Authority on a proposal for 800 building units, but it has not been decided." Inbar said the plan is being drafted by a Palestinian compa- ny was awarded the project in a bidding process, and that Israel is simply trying to improve the Jahalins' quality of life. "We are trying to improve the living standards of both Palestinians and Israelis," he said. "We want the Bedouin to live in an area where they get all the infrastructure they need, like water and electricity, instead of living in tents that could be demolished." All of the structures in this village, including the school, have outstanding Israeli de- molition orders against them. Inbar said he was not sure why the plan's detractors were coming forward now but in- sisted that nothing has been finalized. Butattorney Shlomo Lecker, who showed The Media Line a copy of the plan, said he had information that it will be pre- sented in the next 2-3 weeks. "The homes will be built on the outskirts of Jericho in Area A (which is under complete Pal- estinian control)," he explained. "Then Israel will use it as a bargaining chip in negotiations with the Palestinians. They will offer to give the Palestinians this area in exchange for annexing part of Area C--[where there are Israeli communities built on post-1967 lands]." Lecker also says that tempera- ture in the Jordan Valley reaches 120 degrees during the summer and most Bedouin will not be able to afford air conditioning. Speaking to The Media Line, Stephen Wilkinson of the nonprofit organization Dikania explained the position of those who accuse Israel of violating international law, a charge it denies. "According to the Ge- neva Convention, Israel, as the occupying power, has very clear obligationswhen it comes to the occupied people, in this case the Bedouin. Forcible transfer of protected populations is prohibited. International law can be very complicated, but on this issue it's very clear that it is illegal," he charged. Fewer high school students travel to Israel ByGil Shdler NEWYORK (JTA)--With the summer travel season fast ap- p$providersofIsraelpro- grams for teenagers are bracing themselves for what several say could be a season of historically low travel in a year unaffected by major security concerns. Over the past decade, Israel travel among  aged 13 to 18 has seen a dramatic falloff. Though exact figures are diffi- cult to come by, leaders of several leading North American teen programs say they have seen drops of 30 percent to 50 percent in participation in their Israel trips since 2000. Two recent studies point to a roughly 40 percent drop in the number of NorthAmerican 13-to 18-year- olds going to Israel. "Ithinkeveryyear [theoverall number of high schoolers go- ing to Israel] is getting smaller and smaller," said Avi Green, the executive director of BBYO Passport, a provider of travel programs for teens.' 'And there's no reason to believe this year won't be the smallest." Though leaders of teen pro- Friedman & Friedman Excellence in Real Estate Call Jeffrey at 407-719-0135 Call Barbara at 407-222-6059 One Team. Twice the Knowledge, Service and Experience OPENING DOORS00 Specializing in Winter Park and Maitland grams acknowledge the role of Middle East violence during the second intifada and the 2007 financial crisis in depressing participation, they unanimously point to one central cause of the decline:Taglit-Birthright Israel, a program created to provide free Israel trips for Jews aged 18 to 26. Founded in 2000 to counter the decline in Israel attachment and Jewish identity among North American Jews, the program has brought hundreds of thousands of Jewish young adults to Israel on the 10-day trips, including a projected 20,500 North Americans this year alone, which would be a record. Yet the promise of a free Israel trip seems to have had a flip side: thousands of parents of Jewish high schoolers deferring Israel travel until their children are eligible for Birthright. According to an internal survey conducted in 2008 by BBYO Passport, 30 percent of parents whose children were BBYO members said they preferred sending their kids on Birthright. Another 28 percent said they preferred high school trips, while 40 percent were undecided. "Birthright is an extraor- dinary experience," said Paul Reichenbach, the director of Union for Reform Judaism's Camping and Israel Programs. "We're a big supporter of it. Yet at the same time it's made it dif- ficult for sponsors ofhighschool trips to get traction." According to a 2010 report, the overall number of 13- to 18-year-olds traveling to Israel from around the world dropped fromarecord20,000in2000,the year of Birthright's founding, to 12,000 in 2009. Elan Ezrachi, a fellow at the Center for Jewish Peoplehood Education and the study's author, said approxi- mately half of those participants are North Americans. Ramie Arian, who conducted a separate 2011 study focusing specifically on teen travel from North America, came to a simi- lar conclusion: the number of high schoolers going to Israel has dropped 40 percent since 2000, though the numbers have since stabilized. Meanwhile, Birthright participation has surged, with the program strug- gling to keep up with demand. Len Saxe, a Brandeis Uni- versity professor who has done extensive research on Birth- right, acknowledged that some programs have taken a hit, but claimed the overall numbers of teens traveling to Israel may have risen--particularly if one includes the Poland-Israel March of the Living trip, which the two studies did not. "Based on the available data, I believewhat's happened is that there has been a shift," Saxe said. "The shift is toward shorter programs that engage younger people--middle school trips, in particular, have grown and there are other short-term programs, including March of the Living. Instead of the normative pro- grams [being] six weeks during the summer late in high school, there are more two-week trips." With no central body tracking data, it's hard to evaluate such claims. But several academics said the move away from longer term high school travel is both clear and detrimental. Experi- encing Israel as an adolescent rather than as a young adult, Ezrachi said, is more impactful. And teenagers have more follow- up opportunities through syna- gogue youth groups or Jewish day schools than those who return to college campuses, a drawback Birthright has belat- edly sought to address. "Its not enough for the Birthright people to say this is not my problem," said Jack Wertheimer, a history professor and former provost at the Jew- ish Theological Seminary. "The question is whether they are willing to invest their resources to maintain these teen trips. The summer teen trips are much longer, much more impactful, and may end up bringing teens to Israel to study and work there. Something ought to be done." Proponents of teen travel have offered a number of ways to level the playing field, including dis- tributing philanthropic dollars more equally between trips for adolescents andyoungadults, or creating an Israel voucher that could be used for any number of travel options. Gideon Shavit, the head of Lapid, a coalition representing 30 providers of teen programs to Israel, said the Israeli gov- ernment should be support- ing teen travel as it supports Birthright--to the tune of $40 millionin2013.Butsendingkids on a costly multi-week Israel summer trip in high school is a tough sell when there's a free trip in the offing a year or two down the road. "Given the choice of spending $7,000 or $8,000 on a two-week trip or nothing on a 10-day trip," Reichenbach said, "it's a no-brainer."