Shana Tova Umetuka – 5778

Shana Tova!

Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, begins tonight, and lasts for 2 days, until sundown on Friday night.  This year, since Rosh Hashana falls on Thursday and Friday, we then run straight into Shabbat, giving us a 3-day festival (so I won’t be online again until Sunday at the earliest).  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 5778.

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.

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. Here are my very own challot freshly baked out of the oven 🙂

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. May, the British Prime Minister, invited dignitaries of the Jewish community to a reception to wish us all Shana Tova. She also expressed strong support for Israel:

The US President Donald Trump also wished us Shana Tova, reaffirming the unbreakable bond between the US and Israel:

Every Rosh Hashana, the Israeli Bureau of Statistics issues the latest population figures, and this year, as in every previous year, we are delighted to learn that our population has grown, now hitting 8.7 million:

Israel’s population stood at 8.743 million on the eve of the Jewish new year, up some 156,000 people from the previous year.

The population growth rate was 1.8 percent, similar to recent years, according to data published Monday by the Central Bureau of Statistics to mark Rosh Hashanah.

Jews make up nearly three-quarters of the population at 6.5 million, while Israel’s almost 1.8 million Arabs make up just over one-fifth of the population. Those of other backgrounds, such as Druze, non-Arab Christians, and those not categorized as members of a religious group, make up less than 4.5% of the population, at 396,000 people.

Israel’s birth rate was 3.11 on the year, with 181,405 babies being born.

The birth rate, the highest in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a club of mostly Western developed economies, was four times greater than the death rate, with 43,000 people dying over the last year.

I am proud to say that our family “contributed” two babies to this wonderful total. ❤


Yonatan is shocked at the news!

The article continues:

The country also saw 27,000 people move to Israel over the last year, of whom 25,000 were new immigrants. Of the new immigrants, the highest number came from countries in the former Soviet Union, followed by France and the United States.

The CBS said Israel’s population would continue to grow in the years ahead and is expected to reach 10 million people by 2024 and 20 million by 2065.

The even better news comes at the end:

Among Israelis aged 20 years and over, 88% said they were content or very content with their lives, while only 6% said they often felt lonely.

Considering the volatile and dangerous region in which we live, this is fantastic news on all levels – the immigration rate, the birth rate, and the level of happiness. It shows that we are on the right path, that Hashem is with us, and that we are doing something right after all! Long may this continue!

And yet with the turmoil all round us in the Middle East we shall have to pray with special fervour to Hashem that He grant us a year of tranquillity and peace, and that He grant our leaders and the leaders of the free world the wisdom and the courage to act wisely and for the good of all of us.

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

May I wish all my family, friends, and readers worldwide שנה טובה ומתוקה – Shana Tova Umetuka.  A Happy and Sweet New Year.  May we all be blessed with a year of good health, joy, prosperity and peace.  May we all be inscribed 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.

Posted in Israel news, Judaism, Slice of Israeli life | Tagged , , , , | 10 Comments

Good News for the end of the year

I missed my Good News Friday post last Friday because I ran out of time before Shabbat. This Friday will be the second day of Rosh Hashana so I won’t be posting a good news installment then either. So I decided to bring you some good news today to close the year before we head into 5778.

Let’s start with a huge public relations success for Israel in London – and a great #BDSFail while we’re at it 😈  15,000 people attended the largest-ever Israeli cultural festival in Europe: – The largest-ever Israeli cultural event in Europe, TLV in LDN, attracted some 15,000 people to the five-day event to celebrate Israeli culture and diversity in London.

The Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy, the British Jewish community and the British Embassy in Israel hosted the event Sept. 7 – 11.

Some of Israel’s top female singers, including Ethiopian-Israeli Ester Rada, performed for hundreds of locals during Sunday’s celebration, under the theme “Woman in Power,” at the historic Roundhouse Music Hall in London.

“We came from Tel Aviv to bring you love,” said Rada, as she opened the evening before a soul music performance from Maximilian Blumin.

Israeli-Arab singer Mira Awad also performed and sang in English, Hebrew and Arabic, with Yemenite-Israeli trio A-WA concluding the three-hour show with their performance.

The festival saw some 15,000 Londoners revel in Israeli culture, fashion and cuisine. Locals enjoyed culinary workshops provided by Israeli master chefs, as well as performances from an eclectic group of 120 Israeli vocalists, and an LGBT party over the weekend.

The haters can’t help hating – but they were overcome by Israeli desserts! 😀

The festival encountered some opposition, and saw some anti-Israel BDS protestors demonstrate at the event. An unusual scene unfolded when Israeli Chef Shaul Ben Aderet handed out sweets to the protestors, which had originally been prepared for festival attendees.

Watch the pathetic protestors who are only worried that the desserts are Israeli, heaven forbid!


The importance of this festival should not be understated:

“Recently, thousands of Londoners have had the chance to experience Israeli culture, something which we can and should be proud of, especially in places where individuals try to portray in a bad light,” said Israel’s Minister of Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy Gilad Erdan, who initiated the festival in collaboration with the British Jewish community.

Kol hakavod to all the organizers of this wonderful festival, from Minister Gilad Erdan to the British Jewish community. May we see many more of these joyful festivals in the year to come.

One country, or rather one nation with (hopefully) a country in the making, is the Kurds, and their support for Israel is extraordinary. This is a sign of respect and thanks for the support that they receive from Israel for their desire for a country of their own. We have just seen the amazing spectacle of Israeli flags flying at Kurdish independence rallies: as Seth Franzman reports in the JPost:

In recent weeks Israel flags appeared frequently among the sea of Kurdish flags at pro-independence rallies across Europe and in the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq. In Cologne in late August and then Geneva and Oslo, Israel flags were waved proudly by attendees. On September 16 the blue and white appeared at rallies in Brussels, Hamburg and Stockholm. The unprecedented embrace of the Israeli flag comes amidst Israel’s support for Kurdish rights and historic connections between the two nations.

The rallies are in response to an independence referendum planned by the Kurdistan Regional Government for September 25. Announced in June, the Kurdistan parliament in the autonomous region in northern Iraq approved it on September 15. Since September 5 the Kurdistan region and diaspora communities have been holding increasingly large rallies in support of the nation’s hopes for independence. This has been more than 100 years in the making, say many Kurds. The Kurdish people live in Turkey, Iran, Syria and Iraq, divided by the colonial borders set down after the fall of the Ottoman Empire. In Iraq they have enjoyed autonomy since the 1990s. After three years of war against ISIS the local government thinks it is time to show the world that the people want independence.

The international community’s response has been tepid. On September 15 the White House released a statement saying the United States does not support the intention to hold a referendum. Other members of the international coalition fighting ISIS, who have been working with the Kurds and the Iraqi government, have also pressured the KRG to postpone. Israel is the only country to openly back Kurdish aspirations. “Israel supports the legitimate efforts of the Kurdish people to achieve their own state,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said on September 13. Speaking at the ICT’s World Counter-Terrorism summit on September 11, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said, “Israel and countries in the West have a major interest in the establishment of the state of Kurdistan.”

While Israeli flags never appear in the Middle East unless they are being desecrated, Israeli flags are often also banned from rallies in Europe because they are seen as inflammatory:

Even across Europe and the West, Israeli flags are often a point of controversy, banned from events or the recipient of ire at anti-Israel protests.

Yet the Kurds have no problem with Israel. On the contrary they appreciate our support.

As the referendum date nears, there is a growing presence of Israeli flags and a feeling that the West has not stood by Kurdish democratic desires and demands for the same freedoms and referendums that have been held in Western states such as the Scottish referendum or Brexit. So far the flags have not engendered much controversy. Historically in Arab nationalist circles, Kurdistan was accused of being a “second Israel.” Ofra Bengio noted in a 2014 article for Middle East Quarterly that as early as 1966 Iraqi defense minister Abd al-Aziz al-Uqayli used this accusation. Given the long history of accusations against Kurds, it seems the visibility of the Israeli flag represents the maturation of decades of cultivation of this unique relationship.

The fear is that trouble will erupt after they hold their independence referendum, which looks likely to pass. Let us all support the Kurds and their demand for independence. They are a much more worthy nation to have a state of their own than any of our neighbours, in particular the invented Palestinian nation. I wish them luck and success in their endeavour.

Changing the subject completely now, here is a wonderful, heart-warming story of generosity and kindness of spirit. In “a Bat Mitzvah from the heart” we read about a young American girl who preferred giving to the elderly rather than enjoying an opulent party for herself:

When Eva was 3-years-old, she took the cookie given to her at nursery school and broke it in half to share with her grandfather, who had brought her to school that day. “You didn’t get one,” she said. “Let’s make sure you have one.”

Since then, Eva has blossomed — and so has her love for seniors. In her New Jersey hometown, she spends much of her free time in local nursing homes and assisted living facilities, listening to the life stories of the senior residents. Eva seems to revel in their histories, their anecdotes, and their mere presence, says her mom, Heather. “Ever since a class trip to a senior center about four years ago, Eva has really connected with members of the older generation,” continues Heather, “so we help her foster that connection by maintaining the relationships.”

When the time came to plan her bat mitzvah, Eva forwent an opulent dance party with her friends, opting instead for a chesed-based, inclusive celebration with seniors… in Israel.

Eva’s family was apprehensive, at first, by the logistics of such an event: where would be the best place, how many people could they involve, and what kind of activity would work for the seniors? Then they thought of Melabev, a day center for seniors with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, and where Eva’s great grandmother had been a client for many years.

Recalling one of the famous Paint Nights Eva and Heather attended as the craze swept America, and the fun they had that evening, Eva suggested it as her bat mitzvah activity. But would they find it in Israel?

One of the seniors enjoying the Paint Party at Eva’s Bat Mitzvah

The answer was a resounding YES! Heather found Nina, the owner of Paint Party Events Israel, and together with Dvora and Nina, Eva’s family hosted an inspiring, magical simcha for nearly 50 seniors.

The bat mitzvah started out with a sing-along for the group with more advanced dementia. “Most can’t speak, but their eyes lit up. New people, and especially kids, are an attraction around here,” Dvora explains.

Nancy, the activity manager for the group with more advanced dementia and a 13-year Melabev veteran, added, “Music is very therapeutic for our clients. It uses a different part of the brain than the part that forms words; the part that has deteriorated. People who have lost their capability to communicate via words can still sing a song; they often remember every single word, even if they’re normally non-verbal. And my seniors love to sing!” Eva’s grandmother played keyboard and everybody belted out melodies — from old-school Israeli folk to “You Are My Sunshine”. She even took requests! Afterwards, all the seniors with verbal skills gave a bracha to Eva.

“Everyone felt magnetic. Energized,” described Dvora. “They felt honored to be included. To be respected.”

The paint party followed, with both the beginning stage and middle-stage dementia groups, and succeeded beyond expectations. “It was remarkable,” declared Dvora. “There were people who never participate in art, who participated in this! Something about being part of a simcha, something about the youth being here. It looked like a party, it felt like a party, it was a party.”

Eva approached every single member of the party individually. They each gave her a bracha and she said something about them and their painting.

It was a powerful experience. Dvora explains, “When the younger generation not only acknowledges but also respects and includes the elderly in their life and their simcha, it generates tremendous joy and a real feeling of I’m still somebody.

“Our clients, at this event, were recognized. They were full fledged participants in the bat mitzvah. The simcha came to them. They were honored.”

Dvora continues, “The most telling result is that all these seniors with Alzheimer’s and dementia… the were moved. It made an impression. They remember a special event with a special girl. They remember a feeling. They don’t remember her name or the balloons, but we couldn’t believe that they all retained an impression. There is a cognizance locked in there about it, and we are so proud of Eva for fostering that. We are grateful.”

This story has brought tears to my eyes. Eva is such a special girl, I wish we knew her full name so that we could thank her properly. Her act of chesed – loving-kindness – is extraordinary in one so young, and even in people of a more mature age. She is a shining example to all of us and a credit to her parents and her community. Kol hakavod too to Melabev and PaintPartyEvents who joined together with Eva and her family to make this wonderful party happen.

!מי כעמך ישראל – who is like unto Your people Israel!

And one more item on the subject of support in the community: The town of Karnei Shomron adopted a young couple from Brazil with no family, and with no means to make a wedding. The children of the town held craft and fun fairs to raise money, and the yeshiva boys made sure it was a joyous occasion. The local council provided the setting in their beautiful park, and the wedding took place this week:

Karnei Shomron’s mayor Igal Lahav wrote on his Facebook page (my translation):

The youngsters took upon themselves a task before Rosh Hashana to assist a young couple, new immigrants from Brazil.

Within a month the production was organized. The celebration is taking place now at Hapisga Park, with the help of the Karnei Shomron chapter of Bnei Akiva, dozens of youngsters and with the help of the local council.

Mazal tov and to the young couple and wishing a successful start to their new life. And to the youth – you are amazing, with a huge heart … and thank you for the privilege of being able to participate.

I echo Mayor Lahav’s congratulations to the young couple. May their lives be filled with joy and success. And I also echo his warm appreciation to the youngsters of Karnei Shomron – of whom I am proud to count my grandchildren, who eagerly took part in the fundraisers and joyfully attended the wedding yesterday. You can see one of them in one of the pictures 😉

Kol hakavod to every one who had a part to play in this important mitzvah.

May the coming year be filled with many more such celebrations!

For the moment I wish you all a continued good week. Stay tuned for my Shana Tova post tomorrow. 🙂

Posted in Culture, Arts & Sports, International relations, Israel news, Mideast news, Slice of Israeli life, support Israel | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

The Rogue’s Gallery at the UN Human Rights Council

In the unlikely event that we might have forgotten what the UN is really about (hint: it is not all sweetness and light, or democracy and peace), here is UN Watch’s Hillel Neuer to remind us, as he reports on last week’s Human Rights Wrongs Council debating imposing sanctions on dictatorships. The panel of course was populated by a rogue’s gallery of dictators:

Even within the rogues’ gallery that is the U.N. human rights Council, today’s council panel attacking Western democracies for imposing sanctions on dictatorships was the mother of all rogues’ galleries.

The panelists:

1. Lead panelist was UN expert Idriss Jazairy, who described Putin’s Russia as a human rights victim. Coincidentally, as UN Watch revealed today, Jazairy received $50,000 from the Russian government. As Algerian ambassador to UN, he once said “antisemitism targets Arabs.”

2. Alena Douhan, a Belarus academic with a soft spot for Russia, whose doctorate was on the principle of “non-interference” in countries’ “internal affairs.”

3. Alfred de Zayas, the Cuban-appointed expert for a “democratic and equitable international order.” Zayas has defended Iran’s right to nuclear weapons, and writes books claiming Germany suffered a “genocide” in 1945. Zayas is a hero to Holocaust deniers.

4. Jean Ziegler, co-founder & 2002 recipient of the Qaddafi Human Rights Prize. In his presentation, Ziegler actually defended the murderous Maduro regime of Venezuela, which he said was being victimized by a U.S. “economic war.”

5. Panel Chair: the ambassador of Venezuela’s Maduro regime, Jorge Romero. He effusively thanked Ziegler for his kind words.

6. Peggy Hicks, a top official in the office of UN high commissioner Zeid, delivered the opening statement. A former Human Rights Watch official, we hoped she would provide a dissenting voice. Instead, she echoed the same line. And when Ziegler spouted pro-Maduro propaganda, Hicks was silent.

Welcome to the U.N. human rights council.

Watch the video:


UN Watch was also busy with Venezuelan opposition figures who held a panel objecting to the plenary address by the Venezuelan Foreign Minister at the Human Rights Council:

GENEVA, Sept. 11, 2017 – Venezuelan opposition figures, family members of political prisoners, and human rights activists gathered today at the 47-nation U.N. human rights council to refute the plenary address by foreign minister Jorge Arreaza.

Venezuelan opposition figures, family members of political prisoners, and human rights activists protest the plenary address of the Venezuelan FM at the Human Rights Council

UN Watch, the Geneva-based non-governmental human rights group, together with Venezuela por Iniciative, organized a panel of leading Venezuelan voices, at a side event held below the human rights council chamber, to represent the views of the pro-democracy opposition.

UN Watch has submitted a draft resolution (en español) calling or the suspension of Venezuela from the UNHRC, which has been published as an official UN document.  Executive director Hillel Neuer urged member states, especially Peru on behalf of the Lima Group, to adopt a resolution.

Diego Arria, the former Venezuelan ambassador to the UN and Security Council president, called for the dictator Nicolas Maduro to be indicted by the International Criminal Court. Click here for Arria speech | En Español

Julieta Lopez, aunt of pro-democracy leader and political prisoner Leopoldo Lopez. Click for speech.

Rosaura Valentini, wife of political prisoner Yon Goiechocheca, said people are completely dehumanized. Child mortality declined to 1950s figures. Elderly die for lack of essential drugs. There is widepsread malnutrition. Mayors have been taken prisoner, despite having been chosen by the vote of the people. Violinist playing music was also taken as a prisoner. Hundreds of protesters are taken as prisoners. Click here for UNHRC plenary speech.

Unfortunately it appears that UN Watch’s appeal to bar the Venezuelan Foreign Minister has fallen on deaf ears at the UN HRC. Sadly that was unsurprising. Our expectations from that rogues gallery of villains could hardly sink any lower.

Nevertheless Hillel Neuer and UN Watch have to be commended for their unstinting work in pursuing dictators and tyrants at the UN, showcasing their bias and hypocrisy for all the world to see.

Posted in Incitement, International relations, Lawfare and Delegitimization | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Shabbat Shalom

No time for a Good News Friday post this week so I wish you all Shabbat Shalom!

Posted in Israel news | 2 Comments

Stupidity or malice? The US plans to return stolen Jewish artifacts to Iraq

Looted Jewish artifacts from Iraq

When the news hit the headlines this week that the US plans to return Jewish artifacts to Iraq – artifacts, it should be noted, that were stolen from the Iraqi Jewish community by the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq and rescued by US forces – I thought the story sounded familiar. A quick search on my blog revealed that this decision had already been discussed 4 years ago! To be honest, I thought that this absurd decision to return the artifacts to their unlawful owners had been shelved once Donald Trump became President. Sadly this is not the case.

The JTA reports:

NEW YORK (JTA) — The United States will return to Iraq next year a trove of Iraqi Jewish artifacts that lawmakers and Jewish groups have lobbied to keep in this country, a State Department official said.

A four-year extension to keep the Iraqi Jewish Archive in the U.S. is set to expire in September 2018, as is funding for maintaining and transporting the items. The materials will then be sent back to Iraq, spokesman Pablo Rodriguez said in a statement sent to JTA on Thursday.

Rodriguez said the State Department “is keenly aware of the interest in the status” of the archive.

“Maintaining the archive outside of Iraq is possible,” he said, “but would require a new agreement between the Government of Iraq and a temporary host institution or government.”

Detail of Tik (Torah case) and Glass Panel from Baghdad, 19th-20th centuries, part of the Iraqi Jewish Archive. (National Archives)

The archive was brought to America in 2003 after being salvaged by U.S. troops. It contains tens of thousands of items including books, religious texts, photographs and personal documents. Under an agreement with the government of Iraq, the archive was to be sent back there, but in 2014 the Iraqi ambassador to the U.S. said its stay had been extended. He did not say when the archive was to return.

Democratic and Republican lawmakers and Jewish groups have lobbied to renegotiate the deal, arguing that the documents should be kept in the U.S. or elsewhere where they are accessible to Iraqi Jews and their descendants. JTA reached out to lawmakers who have sponsored resolutions urging a renegotiation of the archive’s return but did not hear back in time for publication.

Iraq and proponents of returning the archive say it can serve as an educational tool for Iraqis about the history of Jews there and that it is part of the country’s patrimony.

Addressing the points that I highlighted above in bold, Caroline Glick scathingly attacks the “State Department’s strange obsession” while also answering the question in my headline:

The law of Occam’s Razor, refined to common parlance, is that the simplest explanation is usually the correct one.

If we apply Occam’s Razor to recently reported positions of the US State Department, then we can conclude that the people making decisions at Foggy Bottom have “issues” with Jews and with Israel.

The books and documents were looted from the Iraqi Jewish community by successive Iraqi regimes. They were restored by the National Archives in Washington, DC.

Before Treatment: Passover Haggadah, 1902. One of very few Hebrew manuscripts recovered from the Mukhabarat, this Haggadah was hand-lettered and decorated by an Iraqi youth.

The Iraqi Jewish community was one of the oldest exilic Jewish communities.

It began with the Babylonian exile following the destruction of the First Temple in Jerusalem 2,600 years ago. Until the early 20th century, it was one of the most accomplished Jewish communities in the world. Some of the most important yeshivas in Jewish history were in present-day Iraq. The Babylonian Talmud was written in Iraq. The Jewish community in Iraq predated the current people of Iraq by nearly a thousand years.

It was a huge community. In 1948, Jews were the largest minority in Baghdad.

Jews comprised a third of the population of Basra. The status of the community was imperiled during World War II, when the pro-Nazi junta of generals that seized control of the government in 1940 instigated the Farhud, a weeklong pogrom. 900 Jews were murdered.

Thousands of Jewish homes, schools and businesses were burned to the ground.

With Israel’s establishment, and later with the Baathist seizure of power in Iraq in the 1960s, the once great Jewish community was systematically destroyed.

Between 1948 and 1951, 130,000 Iraqi Jews, three quarters of the community, were forced to flee the country. Those who remained faced massive persecution, imprisonment, torture, execution and expulsion in the succeeding decades.

When US forces overthrew the Baathist regime of Saddam Hussein in 2003, only a dozen or so remained in the country.

Today, there are none left.

As for the current Iraqi government that the State Department wishes to support by implementing its 2014 agreement, it is an Iranian satrapy. Its leadership and military receive operational orders from Iran.

The Iraqi Jewish archive was not created by the Iraqi government. It is comprised of property looted from persecuted and fleeing Jews. In light of this, it ought to be clear to the State Department that the Iraqi government’s claim to ownership is no stronger than the German government’s claim to ownership of looted Jewish property seized by the Nazis would be.

On the other hand, members of the former Jewish community and their descendants have an incontrovertible claim to them. And they have made this claim, repeatedly.

To no avail. As far as the State Department is concerned, they have no claim to sacred books and documents illegally seized from them.

When asked how the US could guarantee that the archive would be properly cared for in Iraq, all State Department spokesman Pablo Rodriguez said was, “When the IJA [Iraqi Jewish archive] is returned, the State Department will urge the Iraqi government to take the proper steps necessary to preserve the archive, and make it available to members of the public to enjoy.”

It is hard not to be taken aback by the callousness of Rodriguez’s statement.

Again, the “members of the public” who wish to “enjoy” the archive are not living in Iraq. They are not living in Iraq because they were forced to run for their lives – after surrendering their communal archives to their persecutors. And still today, as Jews, they will be unable to visit the archives in Iraq without risking their lives because today, at a minimum, the Iraqi regime kowtows to forces that openly seek the annihilation of the Jewish People.

And the State Department knows this.

The question then arises, surely this new American administration under President Donald Trump would be more sympathetic to Jewish concerns, and would overturn this surreal decision made by the Obama administration?

Apparently it’s not so clear-cut. It appears that Trump’s Chief of Staff John Kelly has been blocking most conservative news sites from reaching Trump, thus limiting his awareness of what is happening outside of his immediate circle (h/t Dan Miller in Panama).

Daniel Greenfield reiterates his call to the President – which he made in 2013 to Barack Obama (and which I quoted in my blog post at the time) – and demands that Trump should block Obama’s move to return these stolen artifacts to Iraq: (emphases are added):

… The archive doesn’t belong to the Iraqi government, but to the Jewish population that was ethnically cleansed from Iraq.

The United States recovered the archive and should have turned it over to the Jewish community. Instead we had a bizarre Kafkaesque process in which the archive was restored to be turned over to the thieves who stole it.

Jewish political leaders have invested a lot of energy into looted art in Europe. And that’s a worthwhile cause. Yet this is a far more compelling issue. The archive contains the history of a Jewish community. It matters far more than a Klimt painting. Sadly, the priorities are those of a secular Ashkenazi leadership that is uninterested in the Iraqi Jewish archive because it’s Sephardi and religious.

“This is Jewish communal property. Iraq stole it and kept it hidden away in a basement. Now that we’ve managed to reclaim it, it would be like returning stolen goods back to the thief,” Urman told JTA on Friday.

It’s exactly like it. Meanwhile here’s the bizarre anti-Semitic justification on the Iraqi side for wanting the archive. Here’s Al Arabiya’s explanation

Experts add that Israel is keen on obtaining the manuscripts in order to prove their claim that the Jews had built the Tower of Babel as part of its attempt to distort the history of the Middle East for its own interests.


Harold Rhode, who discovered the trove while working as a Defense Department policy analyst assigned to Iraq’s transitional government, said he is “horrified” to think the material would be returned when it had been “stolen by the government of Iraq from the Jewish community.”

“It would be comparable to the U.S. returning to the German government Jewish property that had been looted by the Nazis,” he told The Jewish Week.

It’s exactly like it.

I don’t expect Tillerson to care. Between McMaster at the NSC, Mattis on Defense and Tillerson, foreign policy is under the control of the usual Islam Firsters who are very concerned with Muslim feelings, particularly in the oil states, and very little else. And so the old Obama plan to turn over stolen Jewish religious items to a hostile Islamic regime is moving forward.

But President Trump can and should block the move. It’s the right thing to do. And Jewish activists should make that case.

If at the end the State Department’s decision cannot be overcome by President Trump’s executive veto (or whatever it is called in American politics), we can safely say that this decision is motivated more by malice than stupidity.

As before in 2013, there is a petition (possibly still the same one) which you should all sign, demanding that the artifacts do not return to Iraq.

Please sign and share the petition.

Posted in Antisemitism, Culture, Arts & Sports, Judaism, Mideast news | Tagged , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

One man’s victory against BDS

BDS – Bully Deceive Smear

Reader and commenter Jeff Polaski left a comment on my last Good News Friday installment which deserves a post of its own.

Jeff very courageously took the initiative, when choosing a retirement home, and challenged the home on its support for BDS. He used the letter and spirit of the law and turned it against their support for BDS – and scored a victory!

Here is his comment:

… the good news here in Philadelphia: after months of research, while we are planning to move into a retirement community, it turned out that four levels up in the ownership is the Presbyterian Church (USA), that two years ago adopted the BDS movement’s resolution. That created a serious conflict for me, but instead of brushing things off and looking elsewhere I decided to do something about it. After all, these residents are friends, former neighbors, some Jewish. They also have no idea what BDS is or what four levels of corporate bureaucracy above them has done.

My state of Pennsylvania is one of 21 states (so far) that have outlawed adopting BDS resolutions if doing business with the state. First, find the business that’s being done. I found that they have nursing home beds certified, contracted, and when occupied by indigent patients, are paid for by the state. There’s the hook, complete with the barb.
The law, sent to me by the supervisory state agency, requires the business to certify they are eligible to do business with the state, including no sponsorship of BDS. There’s the rod and reel. They cannot survive without using what is called state medical assistance. That’s the net.

And, because I care about the community and the people, all they have to do at the local level is disavow BDS resolutions of upper levels. That’s the release from the net, and one less BDS “advocate”. Mission accomplished at the first retirement community!

What’s left to do? The rest of the facilities in the state. And then the 20 other states. And the other churches. You see, I built and opened the first Kosher Life Care Retirement Community in the US. I was deeply hurt to learn that years later it was bought by a Wesley organization, whose parent national church also adopted BDS. Churches are susceptible to being fooled by BDS. There’s much work to do, but this particular one is very personal.

One thing that can help is advice and some small assistance from some Jewish organizations. Unbelievably, none were interested. For instance, The Brandeis Center focuses on fighting BDS on college campuses. They do a great job, but just for colleges, not old people. It would be great if someone could refer me to an outreach of Israel that is dealing with BDS. Then we would have such a greater chance of wider, maybe national American success with this particular business sector. A business often operated by Churches.

Success that doesn’t cost more than time and postage, and the very significant act of disavowing at the local level what the politicians and the busy executives at the tops of these peace loving organizations have done. Perhaps giving other organizations reason to think twice. If it works, it’ll be great. Join the fun!

Maybe they’ll only have to think — carefully — once.

Anne adds:

Jeff, I salute your courage and admire your persistence in countering the BDS-supporting Presbyterian Church (which has a dismal record in this respect – see the link for an example) and following through with that one step further in getting the retirement home to disavow BDS. That is a step that you average layman doesn’t always think about, and even if they do, they don’t know how to go about combatting it.

Kol hakavod on your principled stance!

If you would like more support in countering BDS you could get in touch with one of the following – they will no doubt have more resources and advice for you:

And for my readers, Jeff’s actions could be easily emulated by every one of us in our day to day lives. If we work together we can erase this antisemitic scourge of BDS.

Posted in Boycotts and BDS, Lawfare and Delegitimization, support Israel | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments