Good News Friday

I haven’t posted a Good News Friday installment for a while, what with travelling and then chagim, so it’s a pleasant change  to return to my (almost) regular Friday spot.

This week’s post starts with the three amazing, courageous mothers of Eyal, Gil-Ad and Naftali, the kidnapped teenagers from last summer. The mothers want to use their tragic loss for the most positive of goals – to generate more of the incredible unity amongst the Jewish people that was created during the whole episode:

Unity Day in memory of Eyal, Gil-Ad and Naftali HY’D

The families of the 3 boys, Iris and Ori Ifrach, Rachelli and Avi Fraenkel, and Bat-Galim and Ofer Shaer, the parents of Eyal Ifrach, Gil-ad Shaer and Naftali Fraenkel. write about their proposed Unity Day:

During that period of uncertainty we all shared an intense sense of unity unlike anything our people had experienced in recent years with the message of “Bring Back Our Boys” reaching people from so many different backgrounds and places. The feeling of togetherness, of belonging and caring for one another only increased in its fervor during the funerals and the shiva. And today we are incredibly inspired by the actions people have taken to continue this spirit in memory of our boys.

During the shiva, our homes overflowed with visitors seeking to offer us comfort, and so many conversations stood out.

But in one interaction with Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, who made his way to each of our homes, a seed of an idea was hatched that we knew needed to be developed. He said that we needed to find a way to harness that spirit of unity and keep it alive because this would serve as the ultimate legacy for our sons.

And so the idea of the Jerusalem Unity Prize was conceived.

Together with Barkat and working with the Gesher coexistence NGO and a professional team of organizers, we formed a not-for-profit organization named the Memorial Foundation for the Three Boys intended to highlight and promote the concept of Jewish unity that defined that period. Since announcing the establishment of the prize in January, we have received more than 200 applications. On June 3, three prizes for unity will be presented in an historic ceremony hosted by Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin. The award winners from Israel and the Diaspora were chosen for best reflecting those ideals of bringing Jews of different backgrounds and perspectives together for the common purpose of building a stronger Jewish community.

But we also began to appreciate that as powerful as the message of the prize might be, this concept deserved to be shared with the entire world. With that broader vision, we embarked on the concept of Unity Day. June 3, 2015, the one-year anniversary of the kidnappings, will serve as the first-ever Unity Day where Jewish communities all over the globe stop and consider the value of unity and how to work even harder to bridge the obvious divides that exist within our society.

I cannot adequately express my admiration and awe of these wonderful mothers, their husbands and families. Kol hakavod to them all, and may their efforts be fruitful and bring blessing upon them and upon all of Am Yisrael.

Preserving life is of the ultimate importance in Judaism, but unfortunately in Israel, road safety leaves an awful lot to be corrected.  In fact we lost a good friend and neighbour just last week when she was run over, in a moment of of distraction by a driver, on a zebra crossing not 100 yards from our house.

Therefore it is wonderful to see this great road safety video created by children for children at Karnei Shomron’s Atid Lemetzuyanut program (gifted children) (h/t Hadassah). If even one life can be saved by showing this video to your children, they have earned their place in Olam Haba. Watch and share it!

 

Speaking of saving life, what is more important than water to the existence of life? Israel has become world-famous for its water-conservation techniques and now Israel, together with the great state of Texas, has won a prize for their joint desalination plant:

One of the fruits of that collaboration — a joint desalination project involving researchers from the Technion in Haifa and the University of North Texas — has won the $125,000 Desal Prize competition sponsored by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) as part of the Securing Water for Food Grand Challenge, with support from Sida, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The Israeli and American winners of the award announced that they will use the prize money to help build a water treatment plant in Jordan.

Researchers at the Technion’s Stephen and Nancy Grand Water Research Institute joined the competition at the request of researchers from the electrical engineering department at the University of North Texas. The American researchers, who focused on developing a solution to the alternative energy aspect of the competition, asked Prof. Carlos Dosoretz and Prof. Ori Lahav, researchers from the Technion Faculty of Civil and Environmental Engineering, to design a solution for the desalination component of the project, and to submit a joint proposal. Other researchers from universities in Jordan, Nepal and Brazil worked on other components of the project.

Kol hakavod to all the researchers involved and mazal tov on their wonderful win. May they continue to bring the blessing of water to the entire world.

And one last item – just because. :-)   Because it defies all the preconceptions we (including myself) have about the haredim, and because it warms my heart, and because I think it will bring a smile to your face for Shabbat (h/t Chaim):

Shabbat Shalom everyone!

 

Posted in Israel news, Slice of Israeli life, Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Our “peace” partners internationalize their war against Israel

I’ve written about our “moderate” “peace” “partners” before, but it bears repeating. The people with whom the world demands of Israel to make peace is not peaceful at all. In fact their stated aim, openly and publicly declared and available for anyone to see if they are interested in looking, is not a state of their own, but a state instead of our own. They want to destroy Israel and will use any means possible. If war doesn’t work, then terrorism is to be used. Since Israel defeated the worst of the terrorist threat with the security barrier, then internationalization is the next step.

UN - Useless Nations

UN – Useless Nations

We see this internationalization at work constantly in all sorts of international forums, in particular the UN – which has its own dismal record with regards to Israel. The latest farce was the UN declaration that Israel is the world’s worst violator of health rights in the world! This at a time when Israel is granting – free – medical care to the worst kinds of terrorists as well as enemy combatants and civilians on the Syrian border.

GENEVA, May 20, 2015 – As Israeli hospitals continue their life-saving treatment for escalating numbers of wounded Syrians fleeing to the Golan from the Assad regime’s barbaric attacks, the U.N. reached new heights of absurdity today by accusing Israel of violating the health rights of Syrians in the Golan.

By a vote of 104 to 4, with 6 abstentions and 65 absent, the Jewish state was the only country in the world to be singled out as a violator of health rights when its alleged victims were spotlighted by the annual assembly of the U.N.’s World Health Organization.

The resolution on the plight of Israel’s alleged victims, which was the 2015 assembly’s only treatment of a specific country situation, sent an unmistakable message when it ordered “health-related technical assistance” for “the Syrian population in the occupied Syrian Golan,” and when it called on the director-general of the World Health Organization to report on “the health conditions in the occupied Palestinian territory, including east Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan” at next year’s session.

There was no debate on the health of the Yemeni people now under indiscriminate Saudi bombardment, no mention at all of the 1,850 Yemenis killed, the 7,394 wounded, and the 545,000 displaced, many of whom are desperate to find food.

On the contrary, the representative of Saudi Arabia’s theocracy took the floor today, without any sense of shame, to denounce “Israeli intransigence,” and to beseech “all peace loving states” to adopt the distorted and politicized resolution.

All of this while the Wahhabist regime advertises the hiring of eight more executioners to carry out beheadings, which have spiraled this year to more than double the amount in 2014. ISIS can only be jealous of what this UNHRC presidential candidate has achieved.

Nor is this year’s UN health assembly holding a single debate on the health rights of Ukranian civilians caught in a war with Russian-backed militias. The 6,000 people killed, and the one million displaced, are simply of no interest.

Preoccupied by the alleged sins of Israelis, the UN turned a blind eye to the latest warning by health experts, reported in Newsweek, that Ukraine is in imminent danger of experiencing the first polio epidemic Europe has seen for decades.

Most absurd of all, though, was that today’s text falsely claimed a dire need for “health-related technical assistance” for “the Syrian population in the occupied Syrian Golan” — who in fact have excellent treatment — and said nothing about the Syrian population being slaughtered in Syria.

In an outrageously disgraceful manner, most of the EU voted IN FAVOUR of this biased, absurd, upside-down resolution:

If the European Union—all of whose member states disgracefully joined the jackals by voting for today’s resolution—had wanted, they could have set the record straight, and taken a stand against such base demonization of the Jewish state.

Here’s the list of those who voted, to name and shame them (although they seem incapable of embarrassment, let alone shame):

Votes in favour: Afghanistan; Albania; Algeria; Angola; Argentina; Austria; Azerbaijan; Bahrain; Bangladesh; Belarus; Belgium; Benin; Bhutan; Bolivia (Plurinational State of); Bosnia and Herzegovina; Brazil; Brunei Darussalam; Bulgaria; Chile; China; Congo; Costa Rica; Croatia; Cuba; Cyprus; Czech Republic; Denmark; Dominican Republic; Ecuador; Egypt; El Salvador; Estonia; Finland; France; Germany; Greece; Guatemala; Hungary; Iceland; India; Indonesia; Iran (Islamic Republic of); Iraq; Ireland; Italy; Japan; Jordan; Kazakhstan; Kuwait; Latvia; Lebanon; Liberia; Libya; Lithuania; Luxembourg; Malaysia; Maldives; Malta; Mauritania; Mauritius; Mexico; Monaco; Mongolia; Montenegro; Morocco; Namibia; Netherlands; Nicaragua; Nigeria; Norway; Oman; Pakistan; Panama; Peru; Philippines; Poland; Portugal; Qatar; Republic of Korea; Republic of Moldova; Romania; Russian Federation; Saudi Arabia; Senegal; Serbia; Singapore; Slovakia; Slovenia; South Africa; Spain; Sri Lanka; Sudan; Sweden; Switzerland; Syrian Arab Republic; Thailand; the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia; Tunisia; Turkey; United Arab Emirates; United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland; Uruguay; Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of); Yemen.

Votes against: Australia; Canada; Israel; United States of America.

This seems to be an actualization of the wise words of Abba Eban:

If Algeria introduced a resolution declaring that the earth was flat and that Israel had flattened it, it would pass by a vote of 164 to 13 with 26 abstentions.

FIFA called to expel Israel

Our “peace” “partners” also use the sleazy BDS tactics of boycotts and sanctions in their latest attempt to destroy Israel via delegitimization and demonization. Latest is their petition to FIFA to kick Israel out of international soccer  – which I’m not sure if it is a new petition or a continuation of the failed one from last year – complaining that Israel is needlessly detaining their soccer players at checkpoints. No mention of the fact that the checkpoints are not needless at all, and if the Palestinian soccer players weren’t also terrorists, there would be no need for the security checkpoints in the first place.

FIFA’s head, Sepp Blatter, has admirably tried to deter the Palestinian petition, but without success. Now it will be going to the vote.

Shurat HaDin, the Israel Law Center, has now thrown the Palestinians’ FIFA petition back in their face by submitting a petition of their own to expel the Palestinian soccer chief Jibril Rajoub for his own terrorist activities:

The letter by Shurat Hadin’s President Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, sent on Tuesday to FIFA head Sepp Blatter, gives examples of PFA president Jibril Rajoub calling for terror against civilians while serving simultaneously in Fatah.

Shurat Hadin provided a slew of examples of Rajoub’s calls for violence and discrimination against Israelis which violates Article 3 of the FIFA Statutes and of Article 53 of the FIFA Disciplinary Code.

“It is outrageous that FIFA would allow a senior official of a terror organization to serve in a public position,” the letter stated.

It pointed out that Fatah is the parent organization of the murderous al-Aqsa Martyr’s Brigade, and that Fatah was the organization behind the killing of 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympic games in Munich.

“Rajoub, personally, and in combination with others on the Central Committee of Fatah, actively supports and renders aid to AAMB and engages in public conduct designed to foster discrimination and terrorist violence against Jews and Israelis, in
violation of the FIFA principles and of the FIFA disciplinary code.”

A timely reminder of who exactly are our “peace partners”, although I’m sure I’m preaching to the choir here.

Palestinian “President-for-life” Mahmoud Abbas’s party Fatah declared on its Facebook page declares it wants to destroy Israel.

Palestinian “President-for-life” Mahmoud Abbas’s party Fatah’s militias say Israelis must leave Israel:

  • The international community and the media often ignore the fact that Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah has a number of armed groups. Their fight is to destroy Israel, eliminate the “Zionist entity” and achieve the “right of return” for millions of descendants of refugees.
  • The Palestinian Authority leadership has never distanced itself from the rhetoric and actions of these groups. Fatah’s militias will be the first to reject any peace agreement that includes the slightest concession to Israel.
  • Several Fatah leaders, in fact, often speak in English about the need for reviving the peace process, while in Arabic they praise and endorse the Fatah gunmen.

CAMERA has a partial list of anti-Israel, antisemitic and definitely anti-Israel statements made by Palestinian “President-for-life” Abbas:

Whether or not the Pope called Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas an “angel of peace” is the subject of debate. What there can be no credible debate about, however, is that Abbas is an anti-Israel –and even antisemitic– radical.

Since succeeding Yasser Arafat as Palestinian Authority president and leader of Fatah, Abbas almost invariably has been described by the press as a “moderate.” This, despite the fact that Abbas, Arafat and a few colleagues founded Fatah in 1959 to “liberate” Israel, not the West Bank (then occupied by Jordan) or the Gaza Strip (then held by Egypt).

Abbas continues to incite his people against Israel and recently described Jews who visit the Temple Mount as a “herd of cattle.” He has praised Haj Amin al Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem who cooperated with the Nazis during the Holocaust, and has lauded Dalal Mughrabi, a terrorist who perpetrated the Coastal Road Massacre of 1978 which resulted in the deaths of 38 Israelis including 13 children.

Official PA TV and other media outlets under Abbas’ control frequently describe Israeli cities as part of “Palestine,” exhibiting no inclination to recognize Israel’s right to exist or even the fact of Israel’s existence.

Some small comfort can be gained from the blowback emerging from the EU after a PMW report on how European aid money is being paid by the Palestinians to terrorists imprisoned in Israel and their families:

tamar Marcus, director of Palestinian Media Watch, appeared before Dutch, British and German parliamentarians last week to present PMW’s new report entitled: “Is the PA lying to Western donors? The PA claims to have stopped paying salaries to prisoners; PMW’s evidence shows otherwise.”

The MPs of three parliaments [Dutch, British and German] expressed condemnation of PA practices, from rewarding terrorism to promoting violence and glorifying murder of Jews.
Conclusion of the PMW report:
“This report exposes that the PA’s creation of a PLO Commission of Prisoners’ Affairs to fulfill the same services previously supplied by the PA Ministry of Prisoners’ Affairs, was done solely to satisfy Western donors’ demands that the PA cease paying salaries to terrorist prisoners. This report further documents that the existence of the PLO Commission has not changed the policy of paying salaries to terrorists. The PLO commission may have been created for the sole purpose of deceiving the European donors, who don’t want their money to the PA to be used to reward terrorists. The PA continues to pay salaries to terrorists in prison in spite of European and US demands that donor money to the PA not be used to reward terrorists.”



One final comment. Despite the fact that I mock “President-for-life” Mahmoud Abbas, the truth is that if proper elections were held today in the Palestinians territories, Hamas would win. That would take us out of the frying pan into the fire. Khaled Abu Toameh recommends reforming the PA rather than holding elections:

Free and democratic elections are the last thing the Palestinians need now. Such elections would only pave the way for a Hamas takeover of the Palestinian Authority and plunge the region into chaos and violence. As long as Abbas’s Fatah faction is not seen as a better alternative to Hamas, it would be too risky to ask Palestinians to head to the ballot boxes. Instead of pressuring the Palestinians to hold new elections, world leaders should be demanding accountability and transparency from the PA.

They should also be urging the Palestinian Authority to pave the way for the emergence of new leaders and get rid of all the corrupt old-guard representatives who have been in power for decades. Finally, the international community should be urging the PA to stop its campaign to delegitimize and isolate Israel, which drives more Palestinians into the open arms of Hamas and other radical groups, who assume that if the Israelis are as terrible as they are told, they might as well join the group dedicated to killing them rather than to discussing peace.

To paraphrase Binyamin Netanyahu, I can’t see peace between Israel and the Palestinians coming in my lifetime under these circumstances. The best we can hope for is to manage the situation and improve the life-style of their innocent civilians.

Posted in Boycotts and BDS, Lawfare and Delegitimization | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Obama preaches Jewish values to the Jews

Binyamin Netanyahu and Barack Obama at a White House meeting

In another long interview with his favourite unofficial spokesman, Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic Magazine,  President Barack Obama decided that Israel needed another dose of his tough love which, he seemed to imply, hurt him more than it will hurt us:

President Barack Obama defended his fierce criticism of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the wake of the March elections in Israel, arguing that such criticism lends him credibility when defending the Jewish state in international arenas, and rejected attempts to equate his censure of the Israeli government with anti-Semitism.

Obama, in a wide-ranging interview with Jeffrey Goldberg in The Atlantic, said that his criticism of Netanyahu, who on election day warned in a frantic video that Israel’s Arab citizens were streaming to the polls “in droves,” related to the very “nature of the friendship between the United States and Israel.” He also said that comments such as Netanyahu’s have “foreign-policy consequences.”

That criticism, which rattled the already fraught relationship between the two governments, was due to Netanyahu straying from “the very language of the Israeli Declaration of Independence, which explicitly states that all people regardless of race or religion are full participants in the democracy,” said Obama, who also took Netanyahu to task for asserting in the run-up to the election that there would be no Palestinian state on his watch.

Obama was being very disingenuous on both points here. True, Netanyahu made a serious and embarrassing mis-step in his call to rally the voters by mentioning the Arabs streaming out to vote. He ought to have realised how a hostile world would jump on his words and misinterpret them. It doesn’t matter that Netanyahu did not deny the Arabs the vote and didn’t call for them to be disenfranchised; he just wanted to jolt his followers out of their complacency. Nevertheless, the poorly phrased threat was uttered. However, if he so wished, Obama could have kept his criticism private, just between the two leaders. He also needn’t bring it up at every opportunity.

Obama’s criticism of Netanyahu’s assessment that there would be no Palestinian state on his watch is also highly misplaced. Netanyahu wasn’t stating a wish or an aim, he was simply stating a fact. No one could possibly think that in the present circumstances a Palestinian state, which would agree to live in peace with Israel and recognize its right to exist, will come into existence any time soon.

Obama seems determined to impute the worst meanings and motives to Netanyahu’s words.

The Times of Israel continues:

Goldberg asked Obama if the fact that the Iranian regime is anti-Semitic, and thus possessed of a warped view of the way the world works, shouldn’t preclude a negotiating strategy that treats Tehran as a rational player. But the president replied that the regime’s survival instinct is more powerful than other calculations, including its hatred of Jews and imperialist aspirations.

“Well, the fact that you are anti-Semitic, or racist, doesn’t preclude you from being interested in survival,” he said. “It doesn’t preclude you from being rational about the need to keep your economy afloat; it doesn’t preclude you from making strategic decisions about how you stay in power; and so the fact that the supreme leader is anti-Semitic doesn’t mean that this overrides all of his other considerations.”

Tehran, he continued, won’t make irrational decisions — an apparent reference to the regime breaking away to a nuclear weapon or attacking another country — that would threaten its very survival.

It is dismaying to note Obama’s lack of understanding of the nature of the Iranian regime. Indeed they would make irrational decisions when it comes to destroying Israel. In fact they have made several irrational decisions already, chiefly the building of a vast nuclear program which is completely unnecessary for energy or economic purposes given their vast oil reserves, and with which they are continuing unabated despite suffering from severe (and now not-so-severe) sanctions.

Rebecca Shimoni Stoil, also in the ToI, addresses another part of Obama’s interview, where he talks about Israel’s settlement policy:

Obama’s interview was at times defensive, arguing that criticism of Israel’s policies did not constitute a lack of support for Israel and the Jewish people as a whole — and, for that matter, that he was not “bifurcating” the American Jewish community. Obama’s opponents have pointed to his pursuit of an Iranian nuclear deal as linked to his very public run-ins with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over topics that include both Iran, the two-state solution, and the status of Israeli Arabs.

“If you are questioning settlement policy, that indicates you’re anti-Israeli, or that indicates you’re anti-Jewish. If you express compassion or empathy towards Palestinian youth, who are dealing with checkpoints or restrictions on their ability to travel, then you are suspect in terms of your support of Israel. If you are willing to get into public disagreements with the Israeli government, then the notion is that you are being anti-Israel, and by extension, anti-Jewish,” he continued. “I completely reject that.”

Obama’s argument echoed those made by leftist groups like J Street. If this was a trial balloon for Friday’s speech, the argument is unlikely to win over many beyond the already-converted – who have been making this argument themselves for almost a decade.

Obama’s red lines for the US-Israel relationship do not preclude criticism. Obama also rejected arguments made by many American Jewish leaders that suggested that even if criticism is necessary, the acrimony should not be public.

“You should be able to say to Israel, we disagree with you on this particular policy. We disagree with you on settlements. We think that checkpoints are a genuine problem. We disagree with you on a Jewish-nationalist law that would potentially undermine the rights of Arab citizens. And to me, that is entirely consistent with being supportive of the State of Israel and the Jewish people,” he argued.

If that is support, I dread to think what would open hostility look like.

… While most of Obama’s interview seemed to offer a traditional set of guarantees – ensuring Israel’s security, fighting international actions that unfairly single Israel out, maintaining security and intelligence ties – he also occasionally seemed to mix messages about the red lines.

Obam asserted that under certain conditions, anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism were clearly linked. …

But at a different point in the interview, referring to his critiques of Israeli policy, he said he maintained the right to “speak honestly and truthfully about what I think will be most likely to lead to long-term security, and will best position us to continue to combat anti-Semitism” – a statement that seemed to tie willingness to criticize Israel’s policies with the ability to combat anti-Semitism. “I make no apologies for that precisely because I am secure and confident about how deeply I care about Israel and the Jewish people,” he stated.

If Obama’s interview is any indication of his case to American Jews as a whole, it does little to break ground in appealing to the center-right who are likely to remain unconvinced by the argument that his criticism is a sign of tough love. The “we’re such good friends that we should be able to criticize each other” argument has been tried before, with little resonance outside those who already leaned toward supporting the president.

Obama in a kipa preaches Jewish values to the Jews

On Friday, following the Atlantic interview, Obama addressed a Jewish audience at the Adas Israel Synagogue in Washington DC, where he asserted that the Palestinians have a right to a state of their own – and then had the chutzpah to claim that the establishment of such a state is integral to Jewish values, as if he is the expert on Judaism:

President Barack Obama on Friday called for the establishment of a free Palestinian state alongside Israel, saying it was necessary for the preservation of Israeli democracy and security, and integral to Jewish values.

“Just as Israelis built a state in their homeland, Palestinians have a right to be a free people in their land as well,” he said.

“That’s not easy,” he went on. “The Palestinians are not the easiest of partners. The neighborhood is dangerous and we cannot expect Israel to take existential risks with their security, and so any deal that takes place has to take into account the genuine dangers of terrorism and hostility.”

The President displays a woeful ignorance of history. The Palestinians were already given a state of their own at the time of the San Remo Conference in 1920 – the state of Transjordan, which became Jordan, was intended for the Arabs. The only Palestinians at the time were the Jews, who lived in Palestine, and they were given the territory which is now Israel to be their homeland.  In fact a huge chunk of territory was ripped off and given to the Arabs to placate them for the “crime” of allowing Jews to live in the Middle East. The Palestinians of today have no right at all to any state of their own, and if they are so given such a country, there is no justification in the world for this to be on land belonging to Israel. They should address their grievances to HM King Abdullah of Jordan.

Obama continued in this self-righteous vein of preaching Jewish values to the Jews:

Obama drew lines between his pursuit of equality of opportunity in America and his support for Israel and for combatting anti-Semitism, adding that “the rights of the Jewish people compel me to think about the rights of a Palestinian child in Ramallah who feels trapped without opportunity.”

“That’s what Jewish values teach me,” he said.

I can tell Obama what Jewish values teach me. They teach me that “he who rises up to kill you, you rise earlier to kill him”. Self-preservation is not antithetical to Judaism, and the only people who are expected to act as good Christians and turn the other cheek to life-threatening violence are the Jews.

Boaz Bismuth in Israel Hayom analyses Obama’s interview, saying that in the Middle East, Obama’s sole problem is Netanyahu:

“I want Israel, in the same way that I want the United States, to embody … what I believe are human or universal values that have led to progress over a millennium,” Obama said. “The same values that led to the end of Jim Crow and slavery. The same values that led to Nelson Mandela being freed and a multiracial democracy emerging in South Africa.”

Obama essentially compared apples and oranges. Israel’s policies are security-related, but in South Africa, racial segregation and apartheid were the goal itself.

It appears that Obama cannot bring himself to forgive Netanyahu for his election day video message on Arab voters. God may forgive, but Obama does not. So what if Obama called on Hispanic Americans to vote in droves to punish their Republican enemies in 2012? Just who are those enemies? Are they Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, both of whom are of Cuban descent?

…  So what if British Prime Minister David Cameron has warned of the dire consequences of an alliance between the nationalist Scots and the Labour Party. So what. It only matters when Netanyahu speaks.

Obama is nostalgic for an Israel of a distant era. The Israel of the kibbutzim. When Obama was in his teens, in the 1970s, the Israel he knew was defined by then-Defense Minister Moshe Dayan and then-Prime Minster Golda Meir. In case you forgot, Mr. President, Meir was the one who said that “there is no Palestinian people. Has there ever been a Palestinian people that lived in its own country called Palestine? They were never a people.”

Former Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman

An altogether different – and much friendlier – view of Israel was expressed by another US Democrat, former Senator Joe Lieberman, as the Elder of Ziyon writes in the Algemeiner:

“I think there will be a friend of Israel in the White House,” he said, noting that both Clinton and the leading Republican candidates all have pro-Israel records. “It will be a new beginning, a new opportunity. Is it going to be better than it has been under President Obama? Probably, yeah.”

Lieberman expressed concern over support for Israel in the Democratic Party. While almost all Democratic lawmakers support Israel, he said, Lieberman worried that younger party activists are more skeptical of the Jewish state.

“It’s something people who care about Israel are really working at,” said Lieberman, a four-term senator from Connecticut, who won as an independent in 2006 after losing the Democratic primary — in part because of his continued support for the Iraq War. “Part of it is to remind people who are liberal Democrats that, without saying everything Israel ever does is perfect, Israel is by far the most liberal country and society.”

The last 2 years of Obama’s presidency can’t go by fast enough.

Posted in International relations, Lawfare and Delegitimization | Tagged , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Chag Shavuot Same’ach!

Chag Shavuot Same’ach!

The Jewish People are heading into another festival this weekend, with Shavuot running straight on from Shabbat and beginning on Saturday night (so I will be offline until Sunday night at the very earliest).

The festival of Shavuot (“Feast of Weeks” or Pentecost) is the culmination of the 7 weeks (hence the name) of counting the Omer – Sefirat Ha’Omer. We are instructed by G-d (ויקרא כ”ג:ט”ו – Lev. 23:15) to count, from the 2nd day of Pesach, 7 weeks, at the end of these 7 weeks, a measurement (Omer) of first fruits (bikurim) were brought as a sacrifice to the Temple in a joyous parade.

The one-day festival also commemorates the giving of the Torah to the Jewish People at Mt. Sinai, and we mark this by learning Torah throughout the night (or at least for part of the night), including a special text that is customarily read – the Tikun Leil Shavuot. Synagogues have all-night study sessions, as do schools, youth groups and social groups (including my own women’s group). It is a wonderful feeling to be outdoors in the middle of the night and still see groups of people going to and from their study sessions.

On Shavuot we eat dairy foods, for various reasons, including the following possible explanations:

Shavuot celebrates the giving of the Torah to the Jews. Included in the Torah are the laws of kashrut (kosher dietary laws), which tell Jews what can and cannot be eaten and in which combination. For instance, dairy and meat cannot be mixed in the same meal and animals must be killed in a certain way in order to be considered kosher. Before the Torah was given the concept of kashrut did not exist. Hence, one explanation for the eating of dairy on Shavuot is that when the Jews received the Torah they did not have the tools they would need to prepare kosher meat. As a result their first meal after receiving the Torah was a dairy meal. (Mishnah Berurah 494:12; Talmud – Bechorot 6b.)

Another possible explanation has to do with Shir HaShirim (the Song of Songs). Verse 4:11 says “milk and honey are under your tongue” and some have said that the Torah is like the milk in this verse. Like milk, the Torah sustains us. Hence, a dairy meal on Shavuot celebrates the nourishing quality of the Torah.

The Revelation at Sinai (when the Torah was given to the Jews) occurs directly after their Exodus from slavery in Egypt. This journey is described as one “from the misery of Egypt to a country flowing with milk and honey…” (Exodus 3:8-17). Thus, eating dairy on Shavuot commemorates the sweetness of freedom and the new life that lay before the Jewish people.

I have to admit the cheesecake is one of my favourite parts of the festival! :-)

We also decorate our synagogues and homes with flowers and greenery to commemorate Mt. Sinai burst into flower in honour of the Torah.

In the morning we read Megillat Ruth (the Book of Ruth) in the synagogue for a couple of reasons: the story takes place at harvest time; and more importantly, Ruth, an ancestor of King David, was a Moabite convert who voluntarily became a member of the Jewish nation.

If you would like to learn more about Shavuot, here are some more resources: Judaism 101 and Aish.com.

Wishing my family, friends and all of Am Yisrael Chag Same’ach!

חג שמח!

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Guest Post: Our Roots trip to Germany – How the Stolpersteine project was born

This is a guest post by Heinz-Otto Haag, who together with his wife Heidi was our host in the town of Michelstadt during our recent roots trip to Germany.

Heinz-Otto and Heidi Haag and Klaus Schimmel

 The Haags also did extensive research on our behalf to help us locate sites of family interest in Frankfurt. Below he explains how the Stolpersteine project – those “stumbling blocks” placed on the pavements – began and was carried out by Heidi and himself, and many of their friends and town officials.


The Stolpersteine, “stumbling blocks”, commemorating my mother’s 3 brothers David, Herbert and Uri in Michelstadt

The idea was first proposed by a Cologne artist about 20 years ago and has since then spread to all the countries and territories which the Wehrmacht had occupied during WW II. Stolpersteine are 10 x 10 cm brass plates inserted in the pavement in front of the houses in which Shoah victims had once lived. Each such plate bears the name of the victim, his year of birth, and the date of deportation and/or death in the camps. More than 50.000 Stolpersteine have meanwhile been installed in more than 750 towns and cities throughout Europe.

The purpose behind this idea is threefold:

Firstly, Stolpersteine shall keep the memory alive of the victims and remind passers-by of this part of German history.

Secondly, they give the victims their names back. Every deported person who was not killed right away without any registration had his name taken away and replaced by a number. He had lost his identity. Stolpersteine are thus also a means of restoring the victims’ identity.

Thirdly, the victims have no graves or, as Paul Celan put it, “Sie fanden ihr Grab in den Lueften”. Remembering this, Stolpersteine are also a place where survivors and descendents can mourn and pray for their dead.

The initiative for installing Stolpersteine in a town may be taken by the town administration, by schools or other institutions , or by private groups or individuals. The activity is normally financed by private sponsors.

Photo of the “stumbling blocks” before they were implanted in the ground

In our little town of Michelstadt, we started in 2008 with a group of five or six people asking locals to contribute money to our activity. In 2010, we were thus able to have a total of 59 Stolpersteine installed in our town.

Through our Stolperstein research we found contact to many descendants of Shoah victims from Michelstadt. Most of them let us generously have whatever documents, photos etc. they still had in their possession and told us their family stories. It was only natural therefore that we collected all this material and wrote a book about the Jewish families of Michelstadt which appeared in 2013 under the title “Ich gebe ihnen einen Namen” [These words “I give them a name” come from the Hebrew, from the Prophet Isaiah 56:5: ונתתי להם בביתי ובחומותי יד ושם – Venatati lahem beveiti uvechomotai yad vashem: “And I will give to them in my house and within my walls a memorial, lit: Yad Vashem, whence the name for Israel’s Holocaust Museum. -Ed.] Thereafter, we prevailed upon our town administration to send out an official invitation for a one-week’s visit of Michelstadt to all the descendants with whom we had been able to establish contact. In order to finance this initiative, we again collected money from local sponsors and in this way have meanwhile enabled our town fathers to welcome some 20 descendants of former Michelstadt Jews.

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The people of Michelstadt at the annual commemoration at the Stolpersteine

In all our activities, our primary objective was to cooperate closely with the Christian, Jewish and Alevitic communities of Michelstadt and, above all, with our local schools. In this way, we have since 2010 each year held a ceremony on November 9th (the anniversary of Kristallnacht) during which students of our schools lay a rose and a pebble next to every Stolperstein as a Christian and a Jewish symbol to honour the dead. The ceremony ends in front of each house by the crowd taking one another by the hand and together pronouncing in Hebrew and in German the words “Shalom alejchem! Friede sei mit Euch!”


Heinz-Otto and Heidi sent us the following beautiful message after we returned from our trip:

It has been a great pleasure for our Stolperstein-Initiative to welcome Anne Klausner and her husband, as well as her brother David Prager and his wife, here in Michelstadt – the place from which their grandparents had once been expelled during the dark Nazi era.

We are fully aware that for them the decision to set foot on German soil was not an easy one and we are deeply grateful that they have come nevertheless.

For us, the days which we were able to spend together with the two couples have been a wonderful experience and we have learnt a great deal during this visit. We were able to exchange opinions in an atmosphere of frankness and openness which has greatly impressed us. All topics could be discussed between us without any political taboos on either side. We will never forget this experience which has so much enriched us. It has also given us courage to continue our work, especially in contact with our local schools, in order to ensure that the coming generations may never forget this part of our history and defend our democratic system against any resurgence of neonazism.


Anne adds:

Heinz-Otto, thank you for this very interesting explanation of the Stolpersteine project.  This wonderful initiative raises many emotions in all those who read about it. May G-d grant you and Heidi the courage and strength to continue with your blessed work.

We wish to thank you for arranging a fascinating, educational, enlightening and emotional visit to Germany. You helped us to reconnect to our family history and also to the history of the Jews in Germany, something which too many people are not fully aware of. We also thoroughly enjoyed being in your company, just being able to get to know each other as regular friends.

The meticulous planning and arrangements for all our visits and trips were greatly appreciated, and of course how can we adequately thank you for hosting us at that beautiful hotel, Zum Gruenen Baum.

Since we’ve returned, all our friends and acquaintances, and especially our family, have been very interested in hearing about our experiences and have reacted very enthusiastically to our reports.

May G-d bless you all for the good work you are doing, for your courage and persistence in the face of objections, for fighting to preserve the memory of the Jews of Michelstadt.


One final postscript to our story. We were put up at a beautiful historic hotel in Michelstadt, Zum Gruenen Baum.

Zum Gruenen Baum Hotel, Michelstadt

The hotel has been in the same family’s hands for over 350 years. Barbara, the charming owner of the hotel, showed us a very old photo of the grounds of the hotel, from around 100 years ago, which hangs in the dining room where we had our gala dinner. In that drawing one can see the back of the synagogue where my grandfather prayed, and also the house next door which became my grandparents’ and my mother’s home. That house does not exist any more. What was of even greater interest was the little shack between the synagogue and the hotel. As Barbara explained, in that shack was the Mikve, the Jewish ritual bath, which was fed by the local river.  The river and the shack were both on the hotel grounds, but the family gladly allowed the Jewish community to use the ground for their own community’s use.

Behind the hotel Zum Gruenen Baum 100 years ago, showing the synagogue and the Mikve

 

Behind the hotel today. The shack and the house are gone.

We saw this as an excellent example of the way the two communities, Jewish and Gentile, communicated and cooperated all through the ages until it was all destroyed.

Having travelled to our parents’ home-towns and spoken to many Germans, we came back to Israel with a great appreciation of the sincere efforts of so many good people to atone for the sins of the fathers, to make amends with the next generation of Jews, and most importantly to educate the next generations that such a terrible crime as the Holocaust shall never be able to happen again.

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Roots trip to Germany: Frankfurt and Fuerth visits, updated

I will repost part of what I posted in my previous post and add more information and photos.

Frankfurt

On Wednesday we travelled to Frankfurt where Otto and Heidi Haag (in particular Heidi) had arranged for us a very full and intense itinerary according to a list of places that we had asked to see, plus a couple of extras. Otto and Heidi and their friend Klaus accompanied us throughout the day.

We had a short guided tour of one of the exhibits in the Jewish Museum, the one dealing with the history of the Jews in Frankfurt, which was very educational and I felt we could have spent hours more there perusing the exhibits because of our families’ long connection to Frankfurt. It was horrifying to learn of the anti-Jewish laws which began way back in the Middle Ages and even before, and then how the age of enlightenment and emancipation eased their lot, followed by the renewal of the evil anti-Jewish laws under the Nazis.

At the museum there was a huge display board with the names of all the Jewish Frankfurt residents who had been killed in the Shoah (similar to the display of the little stones at the cemetery) where we found the names of our mother’s brothers.

Uri Strauss HY’D on the memorial board at Frankfurt Jewish Museum

After a wonderful lunch at the kosher restaurant in the Jewish community center (where, in a sad sign of the times, the security was so strict we had to present our Israeli passports in order to enter) we visited  the site of the Hirsch Realschule where my father in law and his siblings studied. There is now a modern state school standing on the site, but there is a memorial plaque both outside and inside recalling that this was once a Jewish school that was destroyed during the war.

Memorial plaque for the Hirsch Realschule which once stood on the site of a new state school in Frankfurt, and where my father-in-law’s siblings studied

We also had a short chat with one of the teachers and a couple of her students, and the teacher informed us that she was leaving that night with her class to Krakow in Poland. We were pleasantly surprised and impressed that despite these trips not being compulsory or funded by the government, most schools do go on these Holocaust education trips.

Back in our minibus we passed by the places where my grandfather and my father-in-law once lived. In both places, neither the houses nor the streets themselves exist any more.

Memorial plaque for the Bornerplatz Synagogue in Frankfurt where my father-in-law would pray on occasion

We were taken on a short visit to the Westend Synagogue which was the most fabulous and ornately decorated shul we have seen in a long time.We learned the history of the shul, how it started out as a Liberal or Reform congregation, and then after the war and its renovation was turned into an Orthodox shul. However, unlike most synagogues elsewhere, this shul still has a Liberal congregation upstairs and a haredi Kollel (yeshiva) in the side rooms. And all the congregations get on with each other! Surely a miracle!

The West End Synagogue in Frankfurt

We concluded our trip with a visit to the Old and New Jewish cemeteries.  The walls of the Old Cemetery are embedded with tiny stones with the name, birth date, and date and place of death if known, of every single Jew from Frankfurt who was killed in the war. It was the first time that I shed any tears in Germany and am still processing all that I saw and felt.  It has been said that 6 million deaths is a statistic but one person is a tragedy. Seeing those stones, and finding the names of my mother’s three brothers, was a personal emotional jolt, yet seeing the hundreds of yards of stones along all the walls of the cemetery, going round the corner and then again, emphasized the sheer numbers, the statistics, the magnitude of the Holocaust. It is a very powerful memorial.

David Strauss, eldest of my mother’s brothers killed in the Shoah

Elchanan (Herbert) Strauss, the 2nd of my mother’s brothers killed in the Shoah

Uri Michael Strauss, third of my mother’s brothers killed in the Shoah

Wall of memorial stones around the Old Cemetery of Frankfurt, with the names of all the Frankfurt Jewish citizens killed in the Shoah. The names continue around 3 walls of the cemetery, 30,000 in all

The cemetery itself looks almost empty, with large expanses of grass and trees, and strange looking monuments dotted around. It took a few minutes to realise that the “monuments” were piles of gravestones that had been found after the war (whether destroyed by the Nazis or by the Allied bombing), and since no one knew where the graves were any more, the gravestones were simply piled together in different arrangements.

Gravestones piled up together in the old Frankfurth Jewish cemetery

Kever of the Pnei Yehoshua זצוק”ל

We found the grave (at least assumed to be) of the Pnei Yehoshua, Rav Yaakov Yehoshua Falk,  a famous Rabbi from the 18th century, and recited a Psalm in his memory.

We continued to the new cemetery where we first found the grave of Rabbi Shimshon Refael Hirsch, who could be considered the founder of Modern Orthodox Judaism.

Grave of Rav Shimshon Rafael Hirsch זצ”ל

We also looked for – and eventually found – the graves of our great-grandparents, David and Miriam Strauss, the parents of our grandfather Leopold.  The gravestone on Miriam’s grave was in very good condition, but sadly the stone on our great-grandfather David’s grave was crumbling and barely legible.

A very strange thing happened during that search. The weather had been cloudy but warm, but as we progressed through the cemetery it became darker and a gentle rain began. The rain got heavier as we neared our great-grandparents’ graves, and as we got there a short sharp downpour began. We stood in the rain and recited a few prayers and psalms, and as we concluded our prayers, the rain eased off. When we left the sun came out.  Now that might have been coincidence but we have a different theory…

Grave of Miriam Strauss z”l, my great-grandmother

Grave of David Strauss z”l, my great-grandfather

We returned to Michelstadt exhausted physically and wrung out emotionally, but we were all very glad we had made the trip and accomplished so much. It left us all a taste for more.

Fuerth

On Thursday, we travelled to Fuerth, our father’s home town where we had a fascinating tour of the Jewish Museum which is situated in an old Jewish house, and viewed the ancient Mikve (ritual bath) which still existed and was still filled with water rising from an underground well situated underneath the museum.

The mikve underneath the Jewish museum, still filled with fresh water from a well

The director of the museum, a delightful young American woman named Daniela Eisenstein, served as our guide throughout our visit and she had prepared our itinerary meticulously. After seeing the museum’s exhibits (the museum is supposed to be expanding in the coming months) we saw the house where my father lived which was also in the same complex as the school where my paternal grandfather taught, and that in turn was next door to their shul.

Fuerth shul

Photo of the Fuerth shul, still in use today

We were pleased to note that the building still served as a Jewish community center, and in the courtyard outside, we looked up and saw our father’s old bedroom window! It could be identified by a fault in the wall where there once was a balcony.

My father’s old bedroom window, top floor, 3rd from the left

A plaque on the wall commemorated the Jewish soldiers who had fallen in the First World War (fighting for the Kaiser) – including our grandmother’s brother Heinrich (Chaim) Heinemann.  Another plaque commemorated Dr. Isaac Hallemann, the director of the orphanage in Fuerth who chose to accompany his 30 young charges to the concentration camps rather than use his exit visa to get himself to freedom in Palestine. His children did escape, and his daughter was a member of our shul here in Petach Tikva until she died very recently.

Plaque commemorating Dr. Hallemann, the director of the Fuerth Orphanage, who was killed with the orphans in the concentration camps

Memorial to the Jews of Fuerth murdered by the Nazis in the Shoah

Memorial plaque for the Jewish soldiers who fell in WWI fighting for the Kaiser

We also went by the house where my father’s grandparents lived. They were lucky enough to escape to Brazil with their daughter, our grandmother’s sister, and thus survived the war.

We proceeded to the town square (now an underground train station) where my father’s family was marched to on Kristallnacht, (see my family history page for Dad’s story) and then to the library, which is now a theater, where my grandfather and the other men were taken to after the initial “assembly”, to be beaten by the Nazis. Again, it was shocking to actually see the places, and to absorb how innocuous these sites seem to be today.

We continued to the Old and New cemeteries to find graves of long deceased relatives, and then finished with a visit to the Schulhof, the square where 4 synagogues once stood together.  As in the Frankfurth shul, these 4 congregations of different denominations would all meet after Shabbat services for Kiddush together. The unity of these communities is something that really should be emulated everywhere.  The synagogues were all burnt down on Kristallnacht, and all that is left now is a rather ugly monument, and a modern housing estate around the square.

Memorial to the Shoah at the Schulhof, the site of 4 synagogues, in Fuerth

My father recalls asking his mother “why is the sky red?” as they returned from their forced march to the square on Kristallnacht, and his mother saying “Quiet! Don’t say a word!”. I’m trying to imagine his trauma as a 9 year old child, and cannot fathom it.

We left Fuerth rather subdued at the depressing memories and the sight of the rather grim-looking town and went further back into history.

Schopfloch

We continued our journey to the little village of Schopfloch – which I used to think was a made-up name :-)  – an altogether happier affair, where we saw the village where our paternal grandmother grew up.

It really exists!

We had imagined a little dumpy town but it is in fact quite a pretty little village. Our great-grandparents Heinemann owned a knitting factory there, and the building still stands though it is now residential. We met a couple of locals who remembered the factory and the family name, but none of them could speak Lachoudish – the curious mixture of Hebrew and German (not Yiddish) that became the local dialect amongst both Jews and Gentiles.

A street in Schopfloch. We think the lower house was my grandmother’s school

Memorial to the Jews of Schopfloch murdered in the Shoah

Even in this tiny village of 2,000, the Holocaust did not pass over the Jews and we found the memorial plaque in the memory of those murdered.

This intense and emotional day ended at Frankfurt Airport where we stayed at a hotel overnight before boarding our plane home.

I will post one more installment about our roots trip in the coming days, with a little of the history of the hotel in Michelstadt where we stayed, and general feelings and conclusions about our trip.

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