Kristallnacht – 83 years

Burning synagogue on Kristallnacht, 1938

It is the 83rd anniversary of Kristallnacht tonight, the massive pogrom against the Jews organized by the Nazi regime in Germany in 1938, signalling the beginning of the Shoah, the planned genocide of the Jews. There had in fact been many anti-Jewish laws enacted over the years since Hitler came to power in 1933, but Kristallnacht marked a new level of violence.

As always I would refer you to my Family History pages, and in particular the account written by my father Oskar Prager of his experiences as a 9 year old boy in Fuerth, Germany, on Kristallnacht. I quote his story here:

I was 9 years old a the time but remember everything as if it were today.

At about 2 in the morning having been asleep, I was woken up very
roughly and rudely by a man in brown uniform which I recognised his being a man of the S.A. (Stormtrooper). He and his mates broke into our apartment, broke down the door and got everyone up, shouting get up and dressed and out in the road. I was the eldest of 4 children, the youngest were twin girls of 2 years.

Well with all the shouting and screaming, we all got dressed and in the street were marched to a plaza in the middle of the town. It was freezing cold, foggy, and the sky was red and the air smelled of something burning. When I wanted to ask questions they yelled at me to keep quiet and walk. The streets were covered in glass shards and every now and again I saw bits of furniture, books, etc. lying in the road. Having arrived in that plaza we had to stand in rows, nobody was allowed to say and even whisper anything to anyone, and finally about 6 or so in the morning, having stood there for at least 3 hours, we were all marched to a sports hall.

There must have been about 1000 people or even more, of all ages from babies in prams to old people with canes. Having arrived in this sports hall, again we had to stand and men were separated from their wives and families. About 7 or so in the morning, one of these brown-shirts came to my mother and told her to go home with us but not to talk to anyone in the street. It was just about getting light.

When we got home we found the apartment in relative good order. The front door was of course broken. However, my father was not with us, and I asked my mother what happened to him and she said she had no idea. Obviously, there was no question of going to school. We actually had an apartment above the school building since my father was the director of the school.

At some time later in the day, he appeared at home and I could not recognise him at first as his beard had been shaved off. He said that the Gestapo told him to go home since he was the director of the school, and re-open the school as soon as possible as the law of the land demanded that children go to school. However, I do want to add that there were some men of the community I never saw again. Most of the men were sent to a concentration camp, Buchenwald or Dachau and possibly others. Some came back after some weeks but only for a short time. Most were released if they had possibility of emigrating from Germany and to get a release from a camp, they had to show that they have got or could get a visa imminently.

My father’s family were lucky enough to escape by the skin of their teeth on the last boat out, and arrived in England as part of the Kindertransport program. However my father’s grandmother did not manage to escape and eventually died in Theresienstadt.

The rest of my father’s story and my family history can be read at the various links within the Family History page in the main menu above.

Dad’s story was also published in Sir Martin Gilbert’s book on page 110.

Israel is commemorating the 83rd anniversary of Kristallnacht by lighting up synagogues around the country all night – in memory of the synagogues that were set on fire and destroyed in Germany on that terrible night.

Israel is preparing to commemorate the 83rd anniversary of Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass, a pogrom that targeted Jews in a series of attacks throughout Germany and Austria on the night of November 9, 1938.

During the pogrom, synagogues were heavily damaged and thousands of Jewish-owned businesses were destroyed. Estimates of the fatalities during the attacks vary – with low figures citing around 90 deaths – and as many as 30,000 Jewish men were arrested.

To commemorate Kristallnacht, International March of the Living, a Holocaust education program, launched an initiative known as Let There Be Light.

The movement encourages people and places of worship to leave their lights on during the night of November 9 to show solidarity with victims of hate.

See this beautiful video of synagogues around the world lit up in commemoration from a couple of years ago.

The post below is from Sussex Friends of Israel who write:

These are the worrying words of the German Ambassador to the U.K.
Worrying but absolutely necessary.
If this doesn’t scare you, I fear little will

As I have written in every post about Kristallnacht, I always mention the rise in antisemitism because it appears that the lessons of history are not being taught or learned. It is getting worse from year to year, and the last year feels like a new record, possibly exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic and all the conspiracy theories surrounding it and the vaccines. Just read this article by i24 News on the rise in antisemitism on social media for one small example:

Last year saw a significant increase in antisemitic discourse on social media networks, according to the latest report from the Israel-based nonprofit organization Fighting Online Antisemitism (FOA).

The movement, which released its study on Wednesday, is the only organization in the world working to monitor and report antisemitic content online, and eradicate hate speech in a variety of languages ​​and across seven major social networks, with the help of hundreds of volunteers from around the world.

The report summarizes content posted around the world over the past 12 months and focuses primarily on Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook.

According to FOA, Twitter was the platform that relayed the most antisemitic content (36 percent of overall antisemitic content), unlike TikTok, whose anti-Jewish posts represent only 2 percent of overall antisemitic content.

The Middle East was the most important source of antisemitic content, followed by Europe and the United States.

Add to the mix the last conflict between Israel and Hamas in May, and the rise in Jew-hatred and violence against Jews around the world reached record levels, both in Europe and the United States.

Theodore Herzl, in his seminal book Der Judenstaat (the Jewish State) where he proposed the establishment of a Jewish state in order to eliminate antisemitism did not take into account that the modern State of Israel would become the Jew amongst the nations, and that antisemitism does not die, it just changes its outward appearance. Not only has antisemitism not disappeared completely, but it has morphed into an additional mutant – anti-Zionism, or rather anti-Israelism. Instead of targeting Jews antisemites now target the Jewish state.

If we remain united, whether we are in Israel or the Diaspora, and no matter what denomination of Judaism we are, and if we can retain our faith in Hashem, we will not only survive but thrive.

Posted in Antisemitism, Family, History, Israel news, Lawfare and Delegitimization | Tagged , , , , , | 7 Comments

Good News Friday

I haven’t written one of these Good News Friday posts for a very long time, but today suddenly the muse has overtaken me. I have just a couple of items but they brought a smile to my face and I hope they will do the same for you too.

First we finally have some good news on the corona front: serious covid cases have dropped to the lowest level in 2 months:

The number of patients hospitalized in serious condition due to the coronavirus dropped to 460 on Friday, the lowest recorded number in nearly two months.

Of those patients, 349 were unvaccinated, 68 received only two of the three vaccine doses, and 29 patients had received all three shots.

Researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science said earlier this week that the total number of serious coronavirus cases could fall to as low as 250 by the end of the month.

There were 2,064 new COVID cases confirmed on Thursday, with active infections standing at 31,868 on Friday morning.

Of the over 100,000 samples tested on Thursday, 2.14 percent came back positive, also the lowest recorded rate in over two months.

According to the Health Ministry, 6,174,330 people in Israel have received at least one vaccine dose and 5,675,635 have gotten two shots. Another 3,706,434 — some 40 percent of the total population — have been administered a third dose.

Israel — the first country to officially offer a third dose — began its COVID-19 booster campaign on August 1, initially rolling it out to those over the age of 60. It then gradually dropped the eligibility age, eventually expanding it to everyone aged 12 and up who received the second shot at least five months ago.

Israel is also beginning to relax its quarantine rules for primary school children:

As cases fall, the Health Ministry and Prime Minister’s Office said Thursday that beginning next week, students in towns with low COVID-19 case rates will be able to avoid the quarantine mandated for those who come in contact with a coronavirus carrier.

This is all very good news – so if you haven’t already, go and get vaccinated! Protect those children and adults who can’t be vaccinated.

And now for something completely different. Last year Israel and the Gulf States signed the Abraham Accords (which I admit I was doubtful about at first) heralding a period of goodwill and normalization between Israel and the Arabs – something that Israel’s founders – and even ourselves only a couple of years ago – could only have dreamed of.  And both sides are now enjoying the fruits of what we all hope will continue to develop into a good friendship.

Last week Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid visited Bahrain on a first Israeli ministerial visit since the accords were signed, and inaugurated Israel’s embassy in Manama, and the two sides also several agreements on water, sports and the environment:

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (left) is received by his Bahraini counterpart Abdullatif Al Zayani at the airport in Manama, Bahrain, September 30, 2021. (Shlomi Amsalem/GPO)

MANAMA — Foreign Minister Yair Lapid landed in Bahrain on Thursday morning for the first ministerial visit to the island kingdom since relations were formally established last year.

He is set to open Israel’s embassy in Manama later in the day, and to sign agreements on water, environment and sports.

Lapid was received on the tarmac by Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Abdullatif al-Zayani.

MANAMA — Foreign Minister Yair Lapid landed in Bahrain on Thursday morning for the first ministerial visit to the island kingdom since relations were formally established last year.

He is set to open Israel’s embassy in Manama later in the day, and to sign agreements on water, environment and sports.

Lapid was received on the tarmac by Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Abdullatif al-Zayani.

Earlier this month, longtime diplomat Eitan Na’eh was tapped to serve as Israel’s ambassador to Manama. The nomination of Na’eh — who is still serving as an envoy to the United Arab Emirates pending his confirmation — came on the same day that Bahraini Ambassador to Israel Khaled Yousef al-Jalahmah met Lapid in the Knesset and presented the foreign minister with his credentials.

Two weeks later, Jalahma officially presented his credentials to President Isaac Herzog, a day before the one-year anniversary of the signing of the Abraham Accords.

Jalahma said it was “a great honor” to be Bahrain’s first ambassador to Israel, adding that he was “confident that this historic step will lay a solid foundation for relations between our two countries, based on the values of tolerance and coexistence between peoples, beliefs, and religions.”

Since becoming foreign minister in June, Lapid has also visited the United Arab Emirates and Morocco, two countries that Israel has normalized relations with over the past year.

These visits and accords are no mere political conveniences. The Muslim citizenship seem very interested in learning about Jewish life, as the Jewish High Holy Days were celebrated in the Gulf countries:

Ebrahim D. Nonoo, leader of Bahrain’s Jewish community and president of the newly founded Association of Gulf Jewish communities (AGJC), whose goal is to develop Jewish life in the region, told JNS that “the best thing about Rosh Hashanah this year is that we are able now to advertise it. We are saying ‘Happy New Year’ to our Bahraini friends and government officials. It’s beautifully really out in the open now.”

He added “for us, in Bahrain, it’s about reciting the prayers, which we will be doing at home. But at the same time, we are sending packages of honey, pomegranates and other traditional Rosh Hashanah items to [Muslim] Bahraini families so they can join us in experiencing Rosh Hashanah.”

The largest Rosh Hashanah event in the region is slated to take place in Dubai, the UAE city that boasts the largest Jewish community, with an estimated 500 practicing Jews.

‘This is going to be an amazing experience’

Alex Peterfreund, a co-founder of Dubai’s Jewish community, its cantor and an AGJC board member who arrived in the country from Antwerp, Belgium, in 2014, told JNS that the community will be hosting services and kosher meals for several hundred guests in a local hotel under the leadership of Rabbi Dr. Elie Abadie, the Jewish Council of the Emirates’ (JCE) senior and resident rabbi.

Similar to comments made by Nonoo, Peterfreund said “the biggest difference between this Rosh Hashanah and in previous years is that we were a group of Jews coming together in a discreet way, and now it’s much more open and people feel more comfortable.”

He added that “in the past, some people were insecure and hesitant, and that is much less the case this year.”

Peterfreund said another big difference is that this year, local Muslims from Dubai would be joining the group to take part in the festivities.

Happily, and in stark contrast to the cold peace with Egypt, relations between Israel and the Gulf are mutually friendly, and a delegation from Bahrain is presently in Israel:

https://pbs.twimg.com/media/FBC8192WEAAdWqz?format=jpg&name=medium

Adil Hirabi from Bahrain prays at the Kotel

Just this week, Aldhirabi, whose Twitter bio says is an expert member of the Union of Arab Trainers and a certified trainer of the Council of Arab Economic Unity of the League of Arab States, and a member of the Sharaka organization  which connects the people of the Gulf and Israel for a brighter future, posted this beautiful tweet:

If we didn’t see these pictures with our own eyes, could we ever have believed it? Mashiachzeit indeed!

And regarding the cold peace with Egypt, perhaps they are “catching the peace” from the Gulf, because the first official EgyptAir flight between Cairo and Tel Aviv  landed at Ben Gurion Airport this week:

There are now due to be four nonstop commercial flights a week between Ben Gurion International Airport and Cairo.

Until now, the only flights between Israel and Cairo were operated by Air Sinai, a subsidiary of EgyptAir, which operated the flights in unmarked planes without the Egyptian flag.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (L) and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi meet on Monday, September 13, 2021 in Sharm el-Sheikh. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (L) and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi meet on Monday, September 13, 2021 in Sharm el-Sheikh. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi in Sharm el-Sheikh two weeks ago, marking the first public visit to Egypt by a serving Israeli leader in more than a decade. Following his visit, Bennett said he’d held “an important and very good meeting” with the Egyptian leader, in which the two “laid the foundation for deep ties moving forward.”

An Israeli flag was perched behind Bennett as he sat across from Sissi for a photo opportunity; the flag appeared in full when it ran in Al-Ahram, the Egyptian regime’s most well-known mouthpiece.

The news barely made a ripple in Israel or in the international media, but in fact this is extremely important and hopefully signifies a thawing of relations between the two countries.

And to cap it all off, yesterday was the 44th anniversary of my Aliya to Israel! Best decision of my life!

Wishing you all Chodesh Tov and Shabbat shalom.

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Yom Kippur 5782 – Gmar Hatima Tova!

May we be written in the Book of Life for a sweet and happy new year, blessings and success

Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is upon us once again. It begins in a few hours time here in Israel, when we will be entering a 25-hour fast to pray for forgiveness for any wrongs we have committed towards G-d. It is a day when we must ask forgiveness from our fellow man if we have wronged them, forgive those who have wronged us if they ask to be forgiven, and pray that Hashem will seal us in the Book of Life. This year, as with last year, that prayer, along with the line in the Avinu Malkenu prayer: אבינו מלכנו, מנע מגפה מנחלתך- Our father, our King, prevent a plague among Your inheritance, will be recited with extra favour.

We are almost back to pre-corona days, when we would attend services with day-long prayers, composed of beautiful, spiritual and emotional prayers and songs, being held in shuls and community centres throughout the Jewish world. This year attendance in shul is contingent upon having a Green Pass showing either vaccination or recovery from covid, or a negative PCR test. In addition, despite the heat (although it is slightly cooler than it has been in previous weeks) some windows and doors will be left open despite the air-conditioning to ensure fresh air flow.It has been recommended – though not required – to curtail the prayers because it is difficult to sit inside all day wearing a mask.

We should count ourselves lucky because in many countries shuls have been closed altogether.

In Israel, traffic comes to a complete halt throughout the country, even in the most secular towns, and a serene and holy calmness pervades throughout the land. Even the international airport and public transport close down for the day, starting from a few hours before the fast until an hour or so after the fast ends.

Here is a thought-provoking video from the late and very lamented Rabbi Jonathan Sacks z”l about finding your purpose on Yom Kippur:

In the spirit of the day, I would like to ask forgiveness from anyone whom I might have offended or hurt.

To those who are fasting I wish an easy and meaningful fast.

I would like to take this opportunity to wish my family, friends and readers Gmar Hatima Tova – May we all be inscribed and sealed in the Book of Life for a year of good health and blessings, and may Hashem bring an end to this plague.

גמר חתימה טובה

 

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Shana Tova Umetuka – 5782

Shana Tova Umetuka

Shana Tova Umetuka
שנה טובה ומתוקה

Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, begins tomorrow night (Monday night), and lasts for 2 days, until sundown on Wednesday night. The Jewish year follows the lunar calendar, and the number counts the number of years since Creation. This year we will mark the beginning of 5782.

I can’t help looking back at last year’s post with some degree of irony. We were so full of hope that by this year we would be back to normal. Well… not quite. We were almost there earlier this summer, and then the Delta variant of coronavirus entered Israel, and here we are again, with peak numbers of infected people (around 10-11,000 new cases per day). BUT  – there is one huge difference this year. We are now benefiting from the massive vaccination campaign of last winter, and now the booster vaccinations, which means that despite the huge numbers of infected people, the number of hospitalized and seriously ill people is much lower than it was when we had similar numbers of infected patients in the winter.

Nevertheless, caution is the name of the game, so although we are not imposed with a closure like last year, our synagogue services are going to be somewhat curtailed, windows will be left open, and entry inside the synagogue contingent upon having a green pass or a negative PCR test.

Similar to last year, many Israelis are in “bidud” – quarantine – after having been exposed to the virus and cannot take part properly in the Rosh Hashana prayers, so Shofar-blowers will be walking through the various neighborhoods to blow the Shofar for anyone who needs to hear it.

To quote from previous Rosh Hashana posts, Rosh Hashana is not marked by great parties and merry-making for the Jewish New Year is also known as the Day of Judgement, the day when all humans are held accountable before Heaven for their good deeds and bad, and their fate for the coming year is decided. A good part of the two days of the festival is spent in emotional and uplifting prayers in the synagogue where we acclaim G-d as the King of Israel and as King of the whole universe, and where we ask Him to write us in the Book of Life, which remains open until Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) in 10 days time, giving us time to repent and atone for our sins.

The holiday is marked with the blowing of the Shofar (the ram’s horn), which is meant to literally sound an alarm to wake us up from our bad ways and return us to the righteous path.

Here’s a short clip to give you an idea of what the Shofar sounds like. In the synagogue it will be sounded altogether 100 times in two sets of 30 and 4 sets of 10.

We also eat sweet foods to symbolise our wish for a sweet New Year. A classic staple at the Rosh Hashana table is the apple, which is round, symbolising the cycle of the year, dipped in honey for a sweet new year.

Round Challah for Rosh Hashanah

Even our Challahs are baked in a round shape to symbolise the circle of life and the circle of the year. They are often extra-sweet and have raisins inside for added sweetness.On the second night of Rosh Hashana it is traditional to eat a fruit from the new season. The most popular fruit is the pomegranate, because of the beauty of its shape, because it is one of the 7 species of produce native to the Land of Israel, and because it is traditionally believed that it has 613 seeds, the same as the number of mitzvot (commandments) that a Jew is commanded to keep.

Pomegranates already on sale at the shuk, ready for Rosh Hashanah

It has become a tradition that the Israeli Bureau of Statistics issues its annual population update at Rosh Hashanah. This year the number of Jews worldwide has risen to 15.2 million, of whom almost half live in Israel:

Days before the new Hebrew calendar year of 5782, the number of Jews worldwide stands at approximately 15.2 million, compared to 15.1 million in 5781, according to statistics newly released by The Jewish Agency for Israel.

Among the global Jewish population, the number of Jews in Israel is close to 6.9 million (compared to 6.8 million in 5781), while about 8.3 million live outside Israel, including around six million in the United States.

The updated estimates by Professor Sergio Della Pergola of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem will be published in the American Jewish Year Book 2021.

According to The Jewish Agency, the above numbers include those who define themselves as Jews and who do not identify with another religion. When also including those who are eligible for Israeli citizenship under the Law of Return, the world total rises to 25.3 million people, of which 7.3 million are in Israel and 18 million living outside Israel.

In other Rosh Hashanah-related news – I’m speaking of honey – Israel is leading the world in reviving bee colonies:

In a world where scientists acknowledge the important role bees play in our ecosystem yet worry about their dwindling numbers, farmers in Israel’s Arava Desert are working to grow bee colonies – and they are already achieving some very “sweet” results.

You would not expect to find a bee colony in the middle of a desert, yet the bees at Porat Farm in Ein Yahav, an area supported by Jewish National Fund-USA (JNF-USA), are not only surviving, they’re thriving.

A JNF-USA supported R&D station in Israel’s South experiments with growing new types of flowers in the desert. Courtesy of JNF-USA

Despite its arid moonscape-like environment, the Arava region in Israel’s Negev Desert provides the ideal conditions for growing bee colonies. With limited pollution, the air remains pure, which in turn helps prevent many of the diseases that are decimating bee colonies around the world.

And the conditions that help bees thrive in the arid environment are benefiting local farmers as well.

In addition to the variety of delicious honeys that comes from bees, local farmers in the Arava and JNF-USA supported agricultural scientists rely on bees to pollinate their crops. In fact, farmers will rent beehives from beekeepers like Porat and place them in their fields, resulting in more profit for their businesses and better quality fruits and vegetables for Israelis and consumers around the world.

According to Noa Zer, JNF-USA Liaison in the Arava and owner of a two-acre pepper farm, “Without the bees we wouldn’t be able to grow what we grow. There would be no source of income. The bees are the best helpers.”

There are two types of bees that are being used to help boost local agriculture: the honeybee and the bumblebee. As Dr. Oded Kanan from JNF-USA’s R&D center in the Arava explained, honeybees are more commonly used in open greenhouses, whereas the bumblebee is used in closed greenhouses.

While the bumblebee does not produce honey, they are still essential for pollination. Bumblebees move their wings hundreds of times per second, and the vibrations from it allows them to pollinate a flower before they move along to the next plant. This process is called “buzz pollination.”

This new approach is a major upgrade from previous pollination techniques in the region, when farmers would have to go by themselves, flower by flower, with a special device to pollinate them. Today, thanks to the helpful cooperation of bees and innovative researchers, farmers were able to increase their yield by 60 percent. And today, farms in the Arava are responsible for producing more than half of all of Israel’s produce.

As Dr. Kanan points out, “Without bees there is no world, and this is something scientists everywhere are working on.” Communities in other countries, like Nepal, are catching on and adopting the methods that they saw being used in Israel. It modernizes the way food is being grown, helps with economic security, and ultimately has a ripple effect throughout society. It’s what farmers like Zer call, “the bee effect.” By helping Israel’s desert bloom, these little bees, with the help of local farmers and JNF-USA, are making a big impact. And that’s something that is pretty sweet and worth celebrating this year!

This really is something sweet to celebrate!

May Hashem hear our prayers wherever they are held, whether in grandiose synagogues, temporary prayer halls or in outdoor spaces. May He grant us all good health and an end to this terrible plague.

If I have offended anyone during this past year I ask forgiveness of them and sincerely apologize.

May Hashem grant us good health, peace, joy and prosperity, and may He inscribe us all in the Book of Life.

תכלה שנה וקללותיה, תחל שנה וברכותיה

Let the current year and its curses be over, let the new year and its blessings begin.

לשנה טובה תכתבו ותחתמו

May you be inscribed in the Book of Life for a happy new year.

 

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Tisha B’Av 5781 – 2021

https://www.93fm.co.il/radio/554670/

Tisha B’Av

Today it is Tisha B’Av, the 9th day of Av, the saddest day in the Jewish calendar. Today we remember the destruction of our two Holy Temples, both destroyed on this day, along with a host of other calamities.

As I wrote in a previous Tisha Be’Av post:

The fast commemorates the destruction of both the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem as well as a whole slew of tragic events that befell the Jewish people on that day:

These include the capture of Bethar, which marked the final defeat of Bar Kokhba‘s rebellion against the Romans, and the razing of Jerusalem by the Romans. The edict of King Edward I compelling the Jews of England to leave the country was signed on the ninth of Av in 1290, the Jews were expelled from Spain on that day in 1492, and World War I broke out in 1914. The sadness and mourning that Jews feel on this day are reflected in the various practices of Tisha B’Av, including abstaining from joyous activities like study of Torah, from eating and drinking, from sexual activity, and from wearing leather.

You can read a chronology of the major events leading up to the Churban (the destruction of the Temples and Jerusalem) at the link.

Since we are so far removed from the destruction of our Temples, it is extremely hard for a modern Jew to truly mourn the loss, even though that loss led to so many more tragedies and innumerable massacres and persecutions of the Jewish people throughout the centuries of the Diaspora. Especially today, living in the thriving independent State of Israel, mourning the loss of our sovereignty seems so hard when we are living in it today.

However, here is a story to bring this all into perspective, and to show us how we should really be mourning on Tisha B’Av:

We can also mourn the lack of our sovereignty in many parts of Eretz Yisrael, but particularly on Har Habayit, the Temple Mount, where our Temples once stood in all their glory but is now the site of the Al Aqsa Mosque. The Waqf, the Muslim trust that rules the site, would like to ban all Jewish worship from the site, but at last the Israeli government, first under Netanyahu and now under Naftali Bennet, is insisting that Jewish worshippers be allowed to ascend and maintain their freedom of worship.

However, it doesn’t usually work out quite as smoothly. Today over 1,000 Jewish worshippers were permitted to ascent to the Har Habayit, but not without clashes with the Muslims who were incited that “settlers are storming the Al Aqsa mosque” and other outrageous lies.

Dozens of Muslim worshipers barricaded themselves on the Temple Mount in the early hours of Sunday, ahead of the arrival of the Jewish visitors. Some of them briefly chanted: “With spirit, with blood, we’ll redeem Al-Aqsa.”

Israeli police entered the site and used sponge-tipped bullets and “crowd dispersal methods” to clear the area. Israel Police said that some Palestinians threw stones.

In Ramallah, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas condemned what he deemed “the dangerous and ongoing Israeli escalation.”

“The Palestinian Presidency…considers this a grave threat to security and stability, and a provocation to the feelings of Palestinians, and holds the Israeli government responsible for this escalation,” Abbas’s office said in a statement.

The European Union’s mission to the Palestinians said it was “concerned over [the] ongoing tensions.”

“Israeli authorities, religious, and community leaders from all sides should act urgently to calm down this explosive situation,” the organization wrote in a tweet. [And they should butt out of our domestic affairs – Ed.]

Hamas, the Palestinian terror group that rules Gaza, mocked the “straying herds of settlers” ascending the Temple Mount.

“That the occupation is giving free rein to these straying herds of settlers does not reflect control or sovereignty, but rather is an attempt to cover up for impotence and deficiency,” Mohammad Hamadah, a Hamas spokesperson, said in a statement.

The Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group called the clashes “terrorism and aggression that affects all Muslims in the world.”

Senior Palestinian Authority official Hussein al-Sheikh — one of PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s closest advisers — condemned Israeli police actions at the site.

“The storming of  the Al-Aqsa Mosque is an Israeli political decision to establish facts on the ground, in defiance of the international community’s will, and bodes poorly for the orientation of the new government in Israel,” al-Sheikh tweeted.

“Storming settlers” aka Jewish worshippers on the Temple Mount on Tisha B’Av

Muslim clergy in East Jerusalem called on followers to come to the site, as this week marks the start of Eid al-Adha, one of the holiest festivals in the Islamic calendar. The holiday often sees mass congregational prayer on the Temple Mount. [ It should be noted that Hamas launched the last war with the pretext of Jews storming Al Aqsa].

Jewish men pray at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, during the annual Tisha B’Av fast day on July 18, 2021. (AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)

And here we have the true reason for the Muslims’ hysteria about Jewish prayers on the Temple Mount – they fear they are losing control (about time too):

Sunday’s clashes came a day after a report said Israel has quietly started allowing Jewish prayers on the Temple Mount in recent months, in what would appear to be a major change to the status quo that has existed at the holy site since the Jewish state captured the Old City of Jerusalem from Jordan during 1967’s Six Day War.

Anxious to reduce friction with the Muslim world, and given that Orthodox sages generally counsel against ascending the Temple Mount for fear of treading on the sacred ground where the Temple’s Holy of Holies stood, Israel since 1967 has allowed the Jordanian Waqf to maintain religious authority atop the mount.

Jews have been allowed to visit under numerous restrictions, but not to pray.

A Channel 12 reporter, however, in recent days filmed prayers taking place at the site, as policemen — who in the past would eject any person suspected of prayer, and sometimes kicked people out for merely citing a biblical verse while speaking — passively looked on.

The report said that in addition to prayers, lengthy Torah lessons have been held on the Mount, again with the tacit approval of the police.

This is a definite improvement over past procedure but there is still a long way to go to ensure Jewish religious rites on our own holiest site.

But let’s move on to better news. Since we are now past midday, it is permissible to talk and think about more heartening and encouraging subjects. And recently there has been a slew of wonderful discoveries in Jerusalem and elsewhere in Israel:

A 3,000 year old inscription with the name of one of the Biblical judges was found near Kiryat Gat in southern Israel:

An inscription dating back some 3,100 years ago bearing the name of a biblical judge Jerubbaal was uncovered in the excavations at Khirbat er-Ra‘i, near Kiryat Gat in the Southern District of Israel, the Antiquities Authority (IAA) announced on Monday.

The writing, inked on a jug, marks the first time that the name Jerubbaal has been found outside the biblical text. It is believed that the owner penned his name on the jug.

The Jerubbaal inscription, written in ink on a pottery vessel. (photo credit: DAFNA GAZIT/ISRAEL ANTIQUITIES AUTHORITY)

“The name Jerubbaal is familiar from biblical  tradition in the Book of Judges as an alternative name for the judge Gideon ben Yoash,” according to Prof. Yosef Garfinkel and archeologist Sa‘ar Ganor from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Garfinkel and Ganor co-direct the excavations at the site with Dr. Kyle Keimer and Dr. Gil Davies from Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia – a partner in the dig together with the IAA.

“Gideon is first mentioned as combating idolatry by breaking the altar to Baal and cutting down the Asherah pole,” they explained. “In biblical tradition, he is then remembered as triumphing over the Midianites, who used to cross over the Jordan to plunder agricultural crops. According to the Bible, Gideon organized a small army of 300 soldiers and attacked the Midianites by night near Ma‘ayan Harod.”

At around the same time we learned of the discovery of 2,000 year old “Freedom to Zion” coins from the time of the Bar Kochba revolt – the revolt which ended in the fall of Betar on Tisha B’Av and which is commemorated today:

Two coins dating back some 2,000 years were found in the Binyamin region of the West Bank during an archaeological survey conducted by Bar-Ilan University, the university and the Binyamin Regional Council announced Tuesday.

he 2,000-year-old coins that date back to the period of the Jewish revolts against the Romans, July 13, 2021. (Credit: TAL ROGOVSKY)

The coins date back to the period of the Jewish revolts against the Romans.

The area is located in the northern part of the Judean Desert.

One coin was discovered near Wadi Rashash, and another in a location known as Hirbet J’bait.

The artifact found in Hirbet J’bait was minted around 67 CE. It features a vine leaf and the Hebrew inscription Herut Zion (Freedom for Zion) on one side, and a goblet and the inscription “Year Two” on the other. Just three years later, in 70 CE, the Romans would destroy the Temple in Jerusalem. Several other remains from that period, including a ritual bath, have been uncovered in the area.

The second coin dates back to the time of the Bar Kochba Revolt some 70 years later. It bears a palm branch surrounded by a wreath and the inscription LeHerut Yerushalayim (Freedom to Jerusalem) on one side and a musical instrument and the name “Shimon” on the other – the first name of the rebellion’s leader Bar Kochba.

The revolt – also known as the Third Jewish Revolt – broke out over the religious restrictions imposed by the Romans, as well as their decision to build a Roman city over the ruins of Jewish Jerusalem, including a pagan sanctuary where the Temple had stood.

Most exciting of all though is the incredibly exciting discovery of First Temple era walls of Jerusalem, still unbreached!

In a potential contradiction to the biblical account of the 586 BCE destruction of Jerusalem, continuing excavations in Jerusalem’s City of David National Park have revealed a previously unseen section of the First Temple-period fortification wall that was breached — but apparently not entirely razed — by the Babylonians.

The exposed section of the First Temple-era protective wall on Jerusalem’s eastern perimeter. (Koby Harati/ City of David)

According to 2 Kings 25:10, “The entire Chaldean [Babylonian] force that was with the chief of the guard tore down the walls of Jerusalem on every side” (The Jewish Publication Society Tanakh). But this newly found extant section of the eastern city wall, connected to two previously excavated and documented sections, means that potentially the entire length of the eastern border was not in fact torn down by the conquering Babylonians.

With this discovery, archaeologists are now able to reconstruct the run of the wall that encircled the ancient Kingdom of Judah capital on the eve of its destruction, which is commemorated by the Jewish holiday of Tisha B’Av on Sunday.

The new eastern section connects with two other previously discovered adjacent wall sections found in the 1960s by British archaeologist Kathleen Kenyon and in the 1970s by archaeologist Yigal Shiloh. By connecting the dots on the map, there is now an almost continuous 200-meter (656-foot) fortified wall on the eastern slope of the City of David facing the Kidron Valley. This new section was uncovered during excavations in 2020.

The new find puts to rest an ongoing debate among archaeologists over whether the previously known wall sections were indeed used for fortification or instead as support walls for construction on the steep 30-degree slope on the eastern side of the city. Part of the reason archaeologists traditionally argued that these existing sections could not have been used for fortification is the fact that the biblical narrative relates that the fortification walls had been shattered by conquering soldiers. Presumably, then, the argument went, sections of wall found to be still standing must have served a different purpose.

But now, “with the current exposure of the section that almost physically connects between the two [previously known sections], it is clear that there’s a wall that’s running for hundreds of meters,” said Uziel. This lengthy wall section on the eastern slope, put together with previously known sections of Jerusalem fortification in other parts of the city such as the Jewish Quarter’s Broad Wall (45 meters/148 feet long, 23 meters/75 feet thick) means that it “only makes sense” that it was a fortification surrounding the city, said Uziel.

As always, these discoveries put paid to the lie that the Jews are an alien race in the Land of Israel. Every one of these treasures proves our millennia-old connection to Israel.

May this be the last Tisha B’Av that we have to fast. May we celebrate next year in rebuilt Jerusalem with the reconstruction of the Third Temple.

כל המתאבל על ירושלים זוכה ורואה בשמחתה

Those who mourn Jerusalem will merit to see her in her joy

 

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In memory of my mother Judy Prager z”l

My mother, Judy Prager z”l

Baruch Dayan Emet. A month ago exactly my dear mother Judy Prager passed away after nearly two years of illness, and the last month in a very serious condition in hospital.

Mum died on 4th June 2021, 25th Sivan 5781 on Friday night. The funeral was held on Sunday, 6th June, in Segula Cemetery in Petach Tikva.

My intention was to tell you all about my Mum and her life here but it is a daunting task. I will give you a short summary, and you can read the hespedim (eulogies) from her funeral, and from the Shloshim (30 day memorial service) and thus gain a deeper understanding of who Mum was.

Mum was born in Michelstadt, in the Odenwald in Germany on 7th May 1935. At the age of 3 the family moved to Frankfurt. After Kristallnacht and the arrest of my grandfather, who was incarcerated in Buchenwald, my grandmother sent Mum’s 3 older brothers to Holland on a kindertransport for safety. After my grandfather secured his release by paying a ransom to the Nazis, the family left for England. The 3 boys remained in Holland and were rounded up and murdered by the Nazis in Sobibor in 1943. You can read the story in my Family History pages.

Mum grew up in a very busy household in London with 4 younger sisters, 2 cousins rescued by my grandfather from Europe after the war, and assorted lodgers and visitors. After finishing school Mum learned to be a very skilled and talented dressmaker.

She met my father through the Jewish youth groups and got married when she was all of 19.

Mum was a very active member, and eventually honorary life member of her Emunah group both in England and then in Israel after my parents made aliya in 1992.

Besides her voluntary work in Emunah, Mum volunteered for 22 years, together with her sister Ruth, in the gift shop of Schneider hospital. Sometimes I think she kept the shop afloat by buying gifts for her multitudes of grandchildren and great-grandchildren. 🙂

Mum was a devoted wife and mother, running the house like clockwork and looking after our father (may he live to 120), all while instilling in us four children the values of her Jewish upbringing, a fierce love of Israel, and an outstanding sense of justice and fairness which stayed with her till her dying day.

She was also a very hands-on devoted grandmother and great-grandmother. Before my parents made Aliya, mum would keep a suitcase permanently half-packed, ready to fly at a moment’s notice whenever the travel agent would call her and ask her if she wanted to fly that afternoon since there had been a cancellation. Grandma’s arrival “from the sky” (where my children thought she lived!) was a highlight of my children’s childhood.

Mum took huge delight in her great-grandchildren too, and thought nothing of travelling cross-country with me to visit my own grandchildren living in their far-flung yishuvim.

Mum was a huge inspiration to me, especially in her love for Israel and her fervent defence of the country in the media and online. Her letters to the Jerusalem Post are legion and legendary.  She, along with my father, gave me her blessing to leave home and make aliya alone to Israel, and I was so excited when 15 years later my parents joined me.

Mum was a huge supporter of my work on this blog and you can read her many comments here (as “JudyinPT”) particularly on my earlier posts.

I could go on and on but I will stop here, and post recordings and the transcripts of the hespedim from the levaya, followed by the Shloshim and the stone-setting which took place earlier today.

May Mum’s memory be blessed, may she be a melitzat yosher in Heaven for all of Am Yisrael.

יהודית בת יהודה ודיה, תהיה נשמתך צרורה בצרור החיים

The Levaya (Funeral)

You can watch a recording (apologies for the sound and video quality) of the levaya at this clickable link here.

Here are the Hespedim, in order of presentation:

My younger brother Mark
Rabbi Moshe Lifshitz (Rabbi of Mekor Chaim shul in Petach Tikva)
My niece Talya Brown
My older brother David.

I don’t have a transcript for Rabbi Lifshitz’s hesped. Here are the others:

Mark’s Hesped for Mum

Talya’s hesped for Mum

David’s Hesped for Mum

Here is a recording of Henry singing El Maleh Rachamim at the Levaya:

 

Erev Limud for the Shloshim

We held an Erev Limud (an evening of learning and memories) on the shloshim, the 30th day after Mum passed away, the evening of 4th July 2021, 25th Tamuz 5781. It was a very moving event, attended by about 50 people, all family. My mum’s sister Eva and her husband Leo flew out from London (first time in a year and a half at least because of corona), and other cousins and relations drove in from all around the country.

It was a very sociable if poignant event, and I feel (hope) we did Mum proud.

We held the event in our shul hall, and several people spoke.

My nephew Chanan made a siyum.
My brother-in-law Eli spoke
My son Zvi spoke
My sister Reeva spoke
I spoke.
Henry sang El Maleh Rachamim again.

We broadcast the entire proceedings on Zoom for the benefit of our family members living abroad. Click on this link to watch it all.

Here is the transcript of Zvi’s beautiful speech:

Zvi’s Dvar Torah 30 Grandma

Here are the transcripts of Reeva’s speech and my own:

Reeva Shloshim azkara talk for Mummy zl

Anne Shloshim memories of Mum z”l.

Gilui Matzeva – the Stone-setting

At 5.30 pm. Israel time today, 5th July, 25th Tamuz, we held the ceremony of the גילוי מצבה – the “stone-setting”, dedicating the Matzeva (the gravestone) to Mum.

Mum’s Matzeva

The flat stone of Mum’s Matzeva, with the names of her 3 brothers David, Elchanan and Uri Michael Strauss who were murdered by the Nazis in Sobibor in 1943

We began with the traditional Tehillim (psalms) said at the graveside, followed by Kaddish.

Then David read out the words on the Matzeva and explained their meaning.

Henry sang El Maleh Rachamim once again, and then David added a few words:

This was followed by the very large crowd of family and friends laying a stone on her grave as a sign of respect and memory. This brought to a close the month long period of mourning. For us children the mourning period will continue for a year.

May Mum z”l be a melitzat yosher for us and for all of Am Yisrael. May her memory be for a blessing.

תהי נשמתה צרורה בצרור החיים

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