Chag Atzma’ut Same’ach! Happy 73rd Independence Day Israel!

Independence Day celebrations in Tel Aviv

It’s Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day, and, as remarked upon by both local and foreign observers, the country swings in a schizophrenic kind of way from the mourning, sorrow and remembrance of Yom Hazikaron to the flag-waving patriotism and general merry-making of Yom Ha’atzmaut.

Prayers marking the transition from the mourning of Yom Hazikaron to the celebrations of Yom Haatzmaut were held in synagogues throughout the country.

Last night we attended the prayers in Petach Tikva’s historic Central Synagogue. It has been closed for a couple of years for renovations, which continued throughout last year’s lockdown, and the result is outstanding! The historic charm and authenticity have been preserved while improving safety, acoustics and comfort.

The ladies’ gallery in Petach Tikva’s historic 130-year old Central Synagogue

The prayers themselves were as uplifting and inspiring as ever, with the chazan accompanied by guitar, darbouka and trumpets.

The central Yom Ha’atzmaut ceremony took place at Har Herzl in Jerusalem with torch-lighting, parades, music and more. Besides the fantastic flag-bearers forming clever formations, the highlight was the 12 torchbearers:

Torch-lighters at the main event included doctors and nurses representing medical teams who have been at the frontlines of battling the coronavirus pandemic; Rabbi Eitan Schnerb, whose daughter Rina was murdered in a 2019 terror attack in the West Bank and who founded a non-profit aiding the needy in the city of Lod; Shira Isakov, who survived a murder attempt by her husband and has become a vocal advocate against violence toward women, alongside the neighbor who helped save her life; Abie Moses, head of an organization that helps victims of terror attacks; Major Maor Cohen, who volunteers with children with cancer; Zipi Harpenes, a school principal in Beersheba; Gabriela Sztrigler Lew, who volunteers in the Shalom Corps doing community work around the world;

Not mentioned here are the 102-year old Yemenite teacher who spoke and lit the torch like a man 50 years younger! And the very moving story of two Arab-Israeli nurses whose actions touched the nation during the corona pandemic:

Muslim male nurse Maher Ibrahim heads the nursing staff of Emek Medical Center’s Covid-19 ward where severely ill and ventilated patients fight for their lives.

Maher Ibrahim, head nurse on Emek Medical Center’s Covid ward. Photo courtesy of Emek Medical Center

Ibrahim was on duty recently when a religious elderly Jewish patient was nearing his end.

Emek spokesman Larry Rich describes the poignant scene to illustrate how coexistence pervades daily life in Israel even if it doesn’t always make headlines.

“The patient’s family would not make it in time for the inevitable farewell. Maher, trained in Jewish studies, applied his knowledge and deeply empathic spirit at that critical moment,” Rich tells ISRAEL21c.

“In a phone call with the man’s family, Maher the Muslim nurse recited aloud in Hebrew the Shema Yisrael prayer –‘Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One.’

“His act of loving empathy, kindness and understanding went far beyond the norms of nursing and in that brilliant timeless moment, he personified the spirit of Emek and Israel,” Rich says.

Yaish Giat, the Yemenite mori (teacher) and spice shop owner is an extraordinary man:

Giat, who was born in Yemen, is a “mori” (a religious teacher and spiritual mentor) and Torah scholar, as well as the owner of a spice shop in Ashkelon where he dispenses natural medicines.

Yaish Giat

Giat’s medicinal expertise is acquired from ancient methods, passed along through the generations. He bases his remedies off the practices of Maimonides, the influential medieval Sephardic Jewish philosopher and physician.

The 102-year-old serves as a guide to those who turn to him for advice, expertise and blessings. He continued to work during the pandemic, inviting people into his home, where he provided spiritual assistance to many in accordance with the unique tradition of Yemenite Jews.

Giat also volunteers as a Torah scribe and many of his Torah scrolls have been donated to synagogues across the country.

Giat explained his “secret” to living a long life. “First of all, it comes from the blessed Holy One,” he told Ynet.

He added: “You should relax and divide the day into three parts: eight hours for sleep, eight hours for work and eight hours to eat and drink. You don’t need to worry about anything. I am always free.”

“Giat, a representative of the older generation, a native of Yemen, symbolizes the pioneering, influential and overflowing aliyah of all Yemenite Jewry to Israel,” they said.

“He is a representative of the generation of grandparents, who symbolizes the eternal light of the generation of founders who immigrated to Israel, built and were built within it,” the announcement added.

“His material and human spices, the materials from which true love is made, along with his volunteer work as Jewish scribe, express the Israeli spirit, in all its virtues,” they said.

You can watch the entire show here:

In an incredible turn of history, Israel – which is used to being vilified and shunned by the rest of the world – was honoured by several world landmarks being lit up in blue and white in honour of Yom Ha’atzmaut:

Buildings and landmarks across the US and the globe lit up in blue and white Tuesday evening in celebration of Israel’s 73rd Independence Day.

Denver’s city call lights up in blue and white in honor of Israel’s Independence Day on April 14, 2021. (Israeli-American Council)

The initiative, which in the US was spearheaded by the Israeli-American Council, saw New York’s Cuomo Bridge along with city halls in Austin, Beverly Hills, Boston, Denver, Hollywood, Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and San Francisco light up in the colors of Israel’s flag.

The San Francisco City Hall is seen lit up in blue and white. (photo credit: SHANIE ROTH)

Outside the US, Ukraine joined in on the festivities, lighting up its city hall in Kyiv in blue and white. In Zagreb, Croatia, an Israeli flag was being projected on a fountain in the city center. In Uzbekistan, the Israeli flag was being projected on a hotel overlooking the central Amira Temura Square in the country’s capital of Tashkent. Similar gestures were seen in Vancouver, Winnipeg, Ottawa, San Paulo and Vilnius.

My favourite Israeli commentator Sivan Rahav Meir had beautiful inspiring words as she wrote about the 12 torchlighters:

שום מחלוקת פוליטית לא יכולה לקלקל את התמהיל המיוחד הזה. מי שמחפש לו הסבר יצטרך ללכת יממה אחורה, לנאום הרמטכ”ל, שפתח את דבריו ברחל אימנו, הזכיר לנו שאנחנו חלק מתוכנית גדולה ונצחית, וציטט את מה שנאמר לרחל: “וְשָׁבוּ בָנִים לִגְבוּלָם”. ככה זה נראה כשהם מתחילים לשוב.

No political argument can ruin this special mix. Anyone looking for an explanation will have to go back one day, to the speech given by the Chief of Staff, who opened his words with our Matriarch Rachel, reminding us that we are part of a large and eternal plan, and quoted what was said to Rachel: “And the children shall return to their borders”. This is what it looks like when they start returning.

To celebrate this year’s Independence Day, a beautiful song, “Listen to me my brother” was performed by veteran Israeli singer Yehoram Gaon and Yishai Levi:

The words are so fitting as the theme of this year’s Yom Ha’atzmaut is brotherhood. May we merit to see many more years of love and brotherhood in this crazy, wonderful little country of ours, till 120 and beyond!

זה היום עשה ה’ נגילה ונשמחה בו

This is the day that Hashem made, we will rejoice and celebrate on it.

Posted in Israel news, Slice of Israeli life, support Israel | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Yom Hazikaron 5781 – Israel’s Memorial Day 2021

Yom Hazikaron – Israel’s Memorial Day 2021

Yom Hazikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day for fallen soldiers and victims of terror, began last night at sundown, as Israelis commemorated their fallen with a one minute siren at 8 pm and a ceremony at the Kotel.

Israelis paid tribute to the country’s 23,928 fallen soldiers and terror victims starting on Tuesday evening, bowing their heads for a minute of silence as sirens sounded around the country to mark the start of Memorial Day.

The one-minute siren at 8 p.m. was immediately followed by the state ceremony at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. On Tuesday night, additional public memorials will be held, including at Tel Aviv’s Hayarkon Park and in the Knesset in Jerusalem.

Speaking at the ceremony, Netanyahu said Israel will make “every effort” to return its captives, which include two civilians and the bodies of two IDF soldiers believed to be held by the Hamas terror group in Gaza.

“This is a sacred mission that we’re not letting go of,” he said.

Speaking at the official state ceremony held at the Western Wall, President Reuven Rivlin said the message of the day was that citizens of the Jewish state must not take it for granted.

“From here, I want to speak to you, the commanders, the soldiers, those soon to enlist, the young generation. I grew up as a child at a time when we did not have a state. For me, for those of my generation, the State of Israel is not something to be taken for granted. This strong and powerful country you see was established by the heroism and dedication of young people of your age,” Rivlin said.

“Today, the task of protecting the State of Israel, is on your shoulders. Remember, without love of the homeland, dedication to mission, aiming for victory, comradeship, purpose, personal example and the purity of weapons, a free people will not be established here. The Israel Defense Force and the State of Israel, we, need you young, strong, united, united, united, determined to lend a hand, determined to continue to prevail, ready when necessary, to pay a price,” he entreated.

An aerial view of female Israeli soldiers saluting at the graves in the Kiryat Shaul military cemetery in Tel Aviv, Yom HaZikaron (Israel’s Memorial Day) (JACK GUEZ / AFP)

The IDF Chief of Staff, Gen. Aviv Kochavi made a remarkable speech which has earned the title “the Three Mothers Speech“. He connects the Jewish Biblical matriarch Rachel with two other mothers:

In his speech, Kochavi recalled three mothers who suffered so that the people of Israel could live and establish themselves in their land.

“The journey of the people of Israel back to their land is an unprecedented event in the history of nations. It is a kind of miracle, even if the current generation sees the country as a natural event. The achievements recorded here from the day the first person stepped on the shores of this blessed land and joined the old Yishuv are extraordinary. It is a journey of faith, determination and creativity, during the entire length of which generations of defenders stood and paid a heavy price price, a price in blood,” Kochavi said.

The Chief of Staff recalled the beginning of the Jewish people’s history. “This journey was not just the Exodus from Egypt but the Exodus from the East and the Exodus from the West. It was an entire people who woke up and started walking, old and young, fathers and mothers, three of whom I want to talk about. The first was our mother Rachel, who did not get to live in her own country, and knew alienation and a lack of belonging. She managed to reach Israel but did not manage to live in it and when her children were forced to depart from Israel they passed by her grave. Most of the life of the Jewish people passed beyond the limits of its land, when the people was insecure, unprepared and repeatedly persecuted and slaughtered. Zionism changed this situation fundamentally. Determined leadership in the face of many difficulties has done an incredible act, swept away and inspired many who have developed into a great people and the State of Israel. We are the generation of children who returned to our borders. We returned to the world in this time, but the return journey was and still is unbearably difficult.”

“The other mother, Nehama, also took action. She left her home in Ukraine and together with her husband Joseph, who fled Nazi Austria, immigrated to the land of Israel to establish a family and a state, changed their last name to Yisraeli and established their home in Kibbutz Dovrat. It was a house saturated with Zionism and values. “A resurrected people need children,” said Nehama – and gave birth to five, two of them sons: Effi and Dedi, were friends in heart and soul. Effie became an officer and instructor in an armored officers course and Dedi followed his brother and became a trainee in that course, the course that did not end. The Yom Kippur War interrupted him and the two brothers were sent to Sinai.

“On the second day of the war, Dedi’s tank was hit, and although he was badly burned all over, he returned to rescue a crew member and only then was he taken to the hospital. His brother Effie remained on the battlefield, and although his tank was hit he moved to another tank and continued to fight. On the 12th, when the IDF was already fighting on the west bank of the Suez Canal, he was hit once more and killed. A familiar knock on the door of an Israeli family’s house, the knock which bodes evil tidings, became the heartbreak which is part of the Israeli story, part of the Israeli pulse.

“Many, too many families, have heard the knock followed by a great outcry, a heartbreak and pain that could not be contained. Dear families, you have lost that which is the most precious of all. All around everything continues to develop and change, and only your sorrow is fortified in its place, deepening its roots and burdens. We try to understand the intensity of the pain and insist on remembering and reminding ourselves to learn from the events and to teach and see them as part of the defenders of the state. For our part, out of a commitment to the current generation of soldiers and their families, we will do everything to send them solely on worthy missions, we will improve the IDF’s capabilities to carry out the missions successfully but no less to guard and protect the soldiers. Tens of thousands of soldiers and commanders now perform an infinite number of missions and return home safely as a result of the professionalism and concern of their commanders. This concern also includes caring for the injured, and a supreme effort to return the captives and missing persons to their families and country.

“The fallen defended the country, and we continue in their shoes. Standing guard. At times, the security that the State of Israel enjoys may seem obvious, but behind every protected and safe day stands an entire army that collects intelligence, prevents intrusion or shooting, raids, attacks, stops threats and prevents weapons and attacks. Even those who are immersed in defense and operational activity do not always see the magnitude of their act, whether it is the soldier who is currently marching on the northern border, as well as the officer who revealed many enemy targets this week, as well as the pilot who returned a few days ago from an attack.

“The security enjoyed by the citizens of the country consists of the achievements of all security organizations and all IDF soldiers, but the first to bear the burden are the combat soldiers and combat units who hold state security on their shoulders. Their actions should serve as an example of good citizenship, an ideal for education, and a role model in every family, school, community and locality. Exemplary organization is also the additional role of the IDF – an army that unites and unites all parts of the people, expresses the common good and is a model to emulate and identify with. IDF soldiers train together, fight together, win together, and when a friend is killed – bury them together.

“I do not know the name of the third mother, but she represents many mothers who fill the land. They have started a family, and their children are fulfilling themselves and continuing to build the State of Israel. They are secular and religious mothers, from the village and the city, Jewish, Druze, Christian, and Muslim – and they have grandchildren and great-grandchildren and they all live in their own country protected and safe. Nehama Yisraeli, the Palmach fighter who lost her two sons who served in the IDF, and whose many descendants served in combat units, is a symbol of values ​​and strength, and is an outstanding example for all of us. I salute her and her family and salute the many families for whom the bitter news has knocked on their door twice. On behalf of all the soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces, I salute all the bereaved families: mothers and fathers alike, widows and widowers, brothers and children. You all deserve deep appreciation. I salute you, hugging and strengthening you as much as possible,” Kochavi concluded.

You can see some of the speech here:

This past year saw the smallest number of soldiers and victims of Palestinian terrorism, and yet each loss is almost too much to bear, especially for their families:

Three Israelis — a soldier and two civilians — were killed in violent, nationalistic attacks over the course of the past year, by far the lowest number in the country’s history.

This bittersweet distinction comes as Israel on Wednesday commemorated Memorial Day, remembering the 23,928 people recognized as having fallen on behalf of the state since 1873.

Over the past year, 112 names have been added to that list — 43 of them active servicemembers and 69 who were recognized as having died of wounds sustained in wars or terror attacks. Those 112 people includes those killed in accidents or died of illness over the past year, as well as people who died years ago but have only now been officially recognized as having died of injuries related to their military service or an attack.

Of those, only three were killed in violent attacks in the past year: Esther Horgen, Rabbi Shay Ohayon and Staff Sgt. Amit Ben-Ygal.

Esther Horgen, 52, was found dead near Tal Menashe after a terror attack on December 20, 2020. (Courtesy)

Horgen was killed on December 20 in a brutal terror attack outside her settlement of Tal Menashe in the northern West Bank. According to the indictment against her suspected murderer, Muhammad Mruh Kabha, Horgen went out for a walk when she was attacked by Kabha, who had been hiding out in the woods outside Tal Menashe, waiting for a victim.

According to the indictment, Kabha ran after her and knocked her to the ground. Horgen, a mother of six, tried to fight him off but he pinned her down and then repeatedly hit her over the head with large rocks, causing her to bleed and breaking bones in her arms and chest, until she stopped moving. Her body was found in the early hours of the next morning after her husband, Benjamin, reported her missing.

Ohayon, a father of four, was stabbed to death in the central Israeli town of Petah Tikva on August 26 by a Palestinian man, Khalil Abd al-Khaliq Dweikat, 46, who had a permit allowing him to work in Israel.

Rabbi Shai Ohayon, who was stabbed to death in an apparent terror attack at Segula Junction on August 26, 2020 (Courtesy)

Ben-Ygal, who served in the Golani Brigade’s Reconnaissance Battalion, was killed during an arrest raid in the Palestinian village of Yabed on May 12. As his unit was moving through the village, a Palestinian man, Nizmi Abu Bakar, allegedly threw a brick at Ben-Ygal, striking him in the face and fatally wounding him. Ben-Ygal was taken to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead of his injuries a short while later.

Amit Ben Yigal Hy’D

To conclude this post, Haviv Rettig Gur has written an incredibly moving, elegiac article about Yom Hazikaron: When the whole world weeps:

On Israel’s Memorial Day, we borrow one of the oldest and strangest insights of our religion: that the world is infused and saturated with our emotions. When we grieve, the land grieves, the heavens grieve. The divine itself weeps with us for our fallen children.

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In some of the oldest sections of talmudic literature, the two opposing forces of holiness and impurity so central to Jewish ritual are depicted as real forces in the world, able to move in and out of closed spaces, able to spread, and susceptible to being beaten back by human action. It’s not about cleanliness. A mud-stained child is pure; a sanitized hospital is impure. Impurity is driven by death; a corpse is its original, primal source. Priests, kohanim, may not walk into cemeteries. The meat of death may not be cooked in the milk of life. Two fundamental forces of the human experience are locked in perpetual battle, susceptible at every turn to human intent and action. We can drive back impurity — the symbol and agent and acknowledgement of death — but never defeat it. And we can sanctify our lives, and thus all life, and thus discover that life is the sanctification of the world itself.

That insight is in some ways the beating heart of three millennia of Jewish law and thought.

The world is full of holiness and of contamination, heart-breaking purity and endless despair. We feel it, we react to it, we wade through it as we go about our daily lives and emotions.

In an important sense — forgive me, rabbis, for such a sweeping statement — Judaism is the art of navigating through that world, not the measurable one outside us, but the chaotic one within, the world in which we all actually live our lives.

From our modernized lives, whose measured boundaries are set by stern scientists and anthropologists with their methods and explanations, we are drawn for a day back into the old ways. The world weeps, the air is weighed down with its heavy burden of tears and memory. Our communal world becomes, for a day, what we feel within us.

There’s someone I happen to remember today, the memory unbidden, even unwanted. He has a story, he has a name, but I’m not the sharing sort. I know he is gone, but I know, too, that he hears me remembering. How could he not? The whole world weeps for him at my side.

Read it all.

Let their deaths not be in vain. “In their death, they bequeathed us life”.

במותם ציוו לנו חיים

Posted in History, Israel news, Terrorism | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Yom Hashoah 5781- 2021

Yom HaShoah
Israel’s Holocaust Memorial Day

Yom Hashoah began at sundown yesterday evening with the annual ceremony at Yad Vashem with torches lit in memory of the 6 million Jewish victims of the Shoah.

You can watch the entire ceremony here:

Six Holocaust survivors lit torches in memory of the six million Jewish men, women and children murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators. Roza Bloch spoke on behalf of the survivors.

You can read the biographies and chilling life-stories of these six survivors at these links:

Manya Bigunov, Yossi Chen, Sara Fishman, Halina Friedman, Zehava Gealel and Shmuel Naar.

You can also watch and hear their stories in the video above.

President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu addressed the audience at the ceremony last night. Netanyahu sent a warning to the US that “Israel will not be bound by any Iran deal that threatens Israel”, since the Biden administration is back to the Obama ways of making needless overtures to Iran.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Wednesday that Israel will not be bound by a revitalized nuclear deal between world powers and Iran, declaring that the Jewish state is obligated only to defending itself against those who seek to destroy it.

In a speech at the Yad Vashem memorial museum during Israel’s official Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony, Netanyahu referred to negotiations in Vienna aimed at bringing the US back into the 2015 nuclear pact while getting Iran to abide by its commitments to the unraveling deal.

“A deal with Iran that threatens us with annihilation will not obligate us,” Netanyahu declared.

In his speech, the prime minister also railed against the International Criminal Court’s “outrageous” decision to investigate Israel for potential war crimes against Palestinians.

“The Jewish people were defenseless in the face of the Nazis but are no longer so, and have every right to defend themselves from their enemies,” he said.

The ICC, he noted, was formed in the image of the courts of the Nuremberg trials that brought Nazis to justice. But “from Nurenberg to The Hague things were turned upside down. A body formed to defend human rights has become a body that in actuality defends those who trample on human rights.”

President Reuven Rivlin, speaking before the prime minister, dedicated his address to the 900 Holocaust survivors who died over the past year in the coronavirus outbreak.

Having survived the Nazi atrocities and the perilous journey to Israel in the years between the end of World War Two and the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, “the last battle of their lives they fought alone, behind masks and gloves, distanced from their loved ones, thirsty for contact.”

“Tonight our hearts are with them and with their families who are here with us,” Rivlin said.

“The burden of remembrance that we carry in our hearts is a sacred duty,” Rivlin said. “Whether we want it or not, the memory of the Holocaust shapes us as a nation. The Holocaust presents us and our country, the State of Israel, with the endless mission of remembrance.”

Because of the coronavirus pandemic still raging across the world – with the very notable exception of Israel which has more or less emerged from the pandemic due to its amazing vaccination program, and a couple of other countries – the annual March of the Living in Poland was cancelled. Instead other programs are being held in Israel:

In his speech, Rivlin spoke of the 900 Holocaust survivors who died over the past year due to COVID-19.

“They survived the ghettoes and the death camps, the immigrant ships and the internment camps,” he said. “But the final battle of their lives was fought with them bewildered and isolated, behind masks and gloves, yearning for contact but parted from their loved ones.”

On Holocaust Remembrance Day, many survivors typically attend remembrance ceremonies, share stories with teenagers and participate in memorial marches at former concentration camps in Europe.

But with March of the Living’s annual Holocaust commemoration in Poland canceled for a second year running due to the virus, the organization will instead hold an online symposium featuring Holocaust survivors, medical professionals and researchers discussing “medical resistance during the Holocaust, the legacy of Nazi medicine and what the Holocaust can teach us about the ethics of care.”

Highlighting the threat to survivors from the coronavirus pandemic, this year’s event is paying “special tribute to the medical resistance and heroes of the Holocaust,” and will include Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla, the son of Holocaust survivors, and US President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Messages of support poured in from around the world:

The European Union mission to Israel tweeted that as part of its “Memory in the Living Room” project, EU Ambassador to Israel Emanuele Giaufret will host Holocaust survivor Bat-Sheva Dagan in an event to be broadcast live at Friday 1 p.m. on the commission’s Facebook page.

In a statement, the EU mission said: “We pay tribute to those who survived the unthinkable horrors of the Holocaust and rebuilt their lives in Israel, Europe and across the world. It is our collective duty to make sure that the horrors of the Holocaust are never forgotten.”

“We pledge to do everything in our power to fight attempts to deny, trivialize or distort the Holocaust,” it said, noting that the EU has tripled the budget for for Holocaust remembrance, education and research beginning 2022.

The Auschwitz Memorial museum, which is in charge of preserving the former concentration camp, tweeted: “Memory comes in many forms. Here on Twitter it is in your hands. On #YomHaShoah we kindly ask you to amplify our voice.”

Earlier in the week, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken tweeted, “Each year, the US observes Days of Remembrance to reflect upon the Holocaust. We remember that evil on a grand scale can and does happen, and we have a responsibility to do everything we can to stop it. We honor the lost by remembering and by learning.#NeverAgain #YomHashoah”

It would be nice if the Europeans had as much respect for living Jews in their renewed homeland and not only for those who are dead, murdered in that very same Europe. It would be much better if the EU would stop interfering with Israel’s sovereignty in places like Area C.

However despite all the goodwill displayed on special occasions like today, it is almost unbelievable to see that Holocaust denial is rife in certain circles. Watch this short but shocking, very sickening video to understand the lies, conspiracy theories, ignorance and plain old Jew-hatred: (via Lee Kern on Twitter):

Not only do Jews suffer from Holocaust denial, but in this past year of the pandemic Jews have been the targets of conspiracy theorists of the worst kind, either accusing the Jews of inventing and spreading the virus, or of using the vaccine to somehow poison non-Jews. The brain-twisting distortions needed to believe these mad theories are… well… mind-boggling. I’m sorry I keep using that word.

The significant rise in extremism and the widespread increase in antisemitic conspiracy over the last year could have profound effects on Jewish communities in a post-Pandemic world, Dr. Moshe Kantor, President of the European Jewish Congress, said at the release of the Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide 2020, by the Kantor Center at Tel Aviv University.

“2020 has been a year like no other in recent memory. Our worlds and daily lives were changed and altered, leading to a global social crisis in many countries and for many around the world,” Dr. Kantor said.

“As a result, there has been a deep global polarization, with the extremist margins increasing due to conspiracy theories and the search for answers in a challenging world. This led to a change in the type and distribution of antisemitism.”

Fewer physical attacks took place, because of lockdowns and severe restrictions. Far more hate against Jews was spread online where accusing Jews and Israel for the Coronavirus was easily spread, resulting in the expansion of extremist groups.

“Anti-Jewish hatred online never stays online. We have to be prepared that antisemitic conspiracy theories could lead to physical attacks on Jews when lockdowns end,” he added.

According to the report, in most countries a decrease was observed in violent incidents, attacks on both people and property, threats and arson, but the number of attacks against Jewish sites and communal property increased.

  • The number of violent antisemitic incidents decreased by 19%, from 456 incidents in 2019 to 371 in 2020, due to lockdowns.
  • In addition, the number of physical injuries decreased by 37%, from 170 in 2019 to 107 in 2020, and damage to private property was also reduced by 35%, from 130 to 84 incidents, simply because people mostly stayed at home.
  • However, a rise of 25% was observed in desecrations of Jewish cemeteries and vandalizing of Holocaust memorials and other Jewish monuments – from 77 to 96 incidents in 2020, because these sites are open and unprotected.
  • The number of vandalized synagogues also increased, by 19%., from 53 to 63 incidents in 2020. Most recently, the synagogue of Norrköping, Sweden, was desecrated by Neo-Nazis, on the first night of Passover.

A rise was registered in Ukraine, and a decline in Australia, the UK and especially in France and Canada.

Worrying trends continued in Germany and the USA. In Germany, a rise was recorded in the total number of incidents, with the opposition to vaccines generating comparisons to the Holocaust, and continued desecration of Jewish memorials and cemeteries.

In the US, antisemitic activities on the internet intensified, conspiracy theories have become more rampant and boosted the activities of white supremacists and QAnon.

The pandemic, and measures taken to stem its spread, live restrictions and the vaccines, have led to inappropriate comparisons with Jewish suffering during the Holocaust.

“The use of Holocaust imagery surrounding the Coronavirus has become rampant,” Dr. Kantor said. “Whether comparing the restrictions to ghettos or Nazi laws against Jews and the vaccine as akin to Mengele’s experiments, these terms have minimized the murder and suffering of the Six Million Jews.”

But it’s not only Holocaust denial that is a problem. In fact one could quite legitimately think that this is the province of cranks and eccentrics. More worrying at the moment is a relatively new phenomenon – I would call it “antisemitism denial”. Antisemites know that antisemitism is unfashionable and un-woke. But they still want to have their cake and eat it. They want to be able to be antisemitic without being called out as such. Therefore the latest move by these woke Jew-haters is to attempt to debunk or annul the IHRA (International Holocaust Remebrance Alliance) working definition of antisemitism, which has become the accepted yardstick in most academic and political institutions worldwide for determining what constitutes antisemitism.

The method these Jew-haters have chosen to combat the IHRA definition – which would most certainly classify them as antisemites – is to create a definition of their own – the Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism, which of course declares them to be as pure as the driven snow and Heaven forbid, not antisemitic at all.

Emily Schrader in the Jerusalem Post writes that the Jerusalem Declaration is unneeded:

 In recent weeks, a new definition of antisemitism has popped up, titled the “Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism,” aimed at undermining the widely accepted International Holocaust Remembrance Association definition. But at a time of rising antisemitic incidents around the world, in particular those in the name of “anti-Zionism not antisemitism,” we don’t need another definition of antisemitism, and certainly not by some of the same groups who are making antisemitism a political issue like the fringe groups IfNotNow and Jewish Voice for Peace.

The new definition, signed onto by 200 academics, criticizes the IHRA definition by claiming it is overly broad not in the definition itself, but “in its use.” The IHRA definition is used as a tool for the US government, the EU and 30 other nations to help them define and recognize antisemitic incidents. It is also widely accepted by numerous academic institutions, sports teams and even private companies. It is unique in that it outlines specific examples of what antisemitism looks like today – from classical antisemitic tropes, to comparing the Jewish state to Nazis, to demanding Jews abroad answer for the policies of Israel, to using “Zionism” as a replacement word for Jews. Naturally, this concerns not only classical antisemites, but also modern ones who have made it a priority to demonize and defame Zionists.

The controversy over the IHRA definition has arisen as a result of several fringe Jewish groups launching a campaign against IHRA, falsely claiming it “censors” free speech and that it “silences” Palestinian advocacy. This is not only untrue, but tremendously offensive to pro-Palestinian activists in claiming they cannot advocate for Palestinians without being antisemitic.

Among those advocating for this antisemitism-revisionism are at least two discredited persons: Peter Beinart and Richard Falk:

It should also be noted that among the signatories of the JDA are Peter Beinart, who routinely uses his platform to demonize both Israel and Zionists; Naomi Chazan, the former president of the left-wing New Israel Fund and Richard Falk, who served as the UN special rapporteur on “the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories.” Falk, a conspiracy theorist who believes 9/11 was an inside job, has been widely criticized for his comments on both Israel and Jews, including but not limited to: claiming that Israel was planning a Holocaust of the Palestinians,…

Dave Rich, Director of Policy of the CST in Britain, writing in the Algemeiner notes:

You might expect any definition of antisemitism to prioritize the views of Jewish communities over the interests of those who want to campaign against something Jewish, but that is not the case here. It would be bizarre, for example, if a definition of antisemitism went out of its way to protect the right to campaign for shechita or brit milah to be banned, yet the Jerusalem Declaration’s authors felt the need to explicitly say it is not antisemitic to call for the world’s only Jewish state to disappear.

Maybe we ought to simply refer to the Jewish blogger Elder of Ziyon who has come up with his own simplified definition of antisemitism:

Antisemitism is
hostility toward
denigration of or 
discrimination against
Jews 
as individual Jews
as a people
as a religion
as an ethnic group or 
as a nation (i.e., Israel.)

Some Jews identify as being part of the Jewish religion, some are atheists but identify with the Jewish people, some as an ethnic group, some as Zionist – part of the Jewish nation. All of these are legitimate aspects of Jewishness, and attacking any one of them is antisemitic, no matter how individual Jews identify.

 

As I have done in the past, I draw your attention to my Family History pages where I have recorded the history of my family during the Shoah, especially the murder of my mother’s three brothers, David, Elchanan and Uri Strauss HY’D, in Sobibor. Below is an updated photo that my cousin’s son Noam Corb found and inserted into his book on our family history. Noam says:

The pictures were taken by the Dutch authorities at the border, just after they arrived to the Netherlands. Every child in this kindertransport from Frankfurt to Naarden got a number.

Never forgive. Never forget. May the memory of the 6 million be for a blessing.

ה’ יקום דמם. יהי זכרם ברוך

 

Posted in Antisemitism, History, Judaism, Lawfare and Delegitimization, support Israel | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

Guest Post: The state of antisemitism in Britain today

This is another guest post by Brian Goldfarb. This article is very timely, coming on the eve of Yom Hashoah. One would think that 76 years after the end of the war, antisemitism would have become a thing of the past. However as we all sadly know, the opposite is true. Here Brian has a look at the latest scandals plaguing British academia.

There will be another post (from me) [posted on Yom Hashoah] where I will discuss more political antisemitism in the form of the outrageous “Jerusalem declaration”.


Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you!”

Yes, I know, I wrote about antisemitism a few weeks ago,  but, sadly, antisemitism has become the gift that keeps giving. I added a comment concerning the antics of Prof David Miller of Bristol University to that article to demonstrate the method I use to determine whether something is or is not antisemitic.

It would have been nice to have been able to leave it there for a while, but the world fails to move on and, in the space of only two or three days, 4 articles popped up in different places online that showed that antisemitism is far too alive and flourishing for comfort.

There is a 5th article in hard copy which I failed to keep which kick-started this article. Daniel Finkelstein (Associate Editor of The Times of London and grandson of Alfred Wiener, founder of the eponymous Library), wrote, in his weekly column on 23rd February, a strong article on David Miller: “Bristol University should sack conspiracist professor“. The article is behind a paywall but you can get the gist of it from the title itself.

Conspiracy theories

David Miller and his conspiracy theories in the chart behind him

Given that I have used his name in the opening paragraph, I need to present David Miller in more detail. By now, many people will know that he is the Professor of Political Sociology at the University of Bristol and that he has characterised Jewish students at Bristol as, essentially, agents of Israel. This is rich, coming from someone whose Wikipedia page notes that he has asserted that one of the Assad regime’s chemical attacks on its own people was, rather, a “false flag” attack by the White Helmets. The latter, of course, are the unarmed and voluntary first responders to all such attacks by the regime and its opponents in Syria. Also within that Wikipedia entry is a reference to 315 academics signing a petition in support of Miller, including such notable fellow-travellers of the anti-Israel brigade as Noam Chomsky,  Norman Finkelstein (no relation to Daniel), Judith ButlerIlan Pappé and John Pilger.

As the proverb has it “by their friends shall you know them”.

So why, in Daniel Finkelstein’s words, should Bristol University expel David Miller? Among much else (and we will get to that shortly), Miller has said the following: “Jewish students [are] pawns of a racist regime engaged in ethnic cleansing”. He means Israel, of course. I shouldn’t need to say it, but this is arrant nonsense. 20% of Israel’s population and full citizens, with all the usual rights of citizenship, are Arabs. In case Miller hadn’t noticed, they too were able to  vote in the Israeli election, which took place on 23 March, and for whoever they wish. Further, 20% of the students at The Technion in Haifa are of Arab origin. If that’s ethnic cleansing, then it’s remarkably inefficient, especially given Israel’s incredible track record in technical and technological innovation. While much more could be said on this particular issue, I’m more than happy to discuss this in any comments thread below the article.

He also caused uproar after he accused Jewish students of running a “campaign of censorship” on behalf of the Israeli government, branding Jewish communal institutions as working for the ‘Israel lobby’, and being “pawns of a racist regime engaged in ethnic cleansing”.” (from the same article linked above). While I remember, as a student in the early 1960s, the Jewish Society and the Labour Club (and I was a member of both) combining their efforts to successfully block an invitation to one of the sons of Sir Oswald Mosley, we had evidence of continuing fascist activity by this son (Sir Oswald’s other son – the one who inherited the knighthood – had long before repudiated his father’s politics). Miller produces only slogans: so far, none of the sources I have found have produced any evidence of Bristol University Jewish students doing anything of the sort. That is, no-one has produced any evidence that Miller’s Jewish students – or anyone else’s – were doing what he claimed they were doing, making his statements even more disgraceful: falsely accusing students (who have far less power than he does) of doing things they haven’t done. Very McCarthyite.

Further into the article, it is argued that “[t]his comes after the government was urged to look into the matter after it was raised in Parliament, while hundreds of MPs joined Jewish leaders in writing to the vice chancellor.”

I don’t think UK readers will find their MP in the list if they have an official Government or Shadow position: I would have expected to see my MP’s name there, but she holds a Shadow Cabinet post. However, Lord John Mann, the Government’s official antisemitism Czar (despite being a Labour Peer) and Lord Eric Pickles, a former Minorities advisor for Theresa May’s Government, are there.

Also to be found in this article is what appears to be a copy of the full statement made by the University in announcing the setting up of the inquiry.

However, note the following comment from the (national) UJS and the local Jewish Society:

“In a joint statement, the Union of Jewish Students and Bristol Jewish society welcomed the announcement, but said it is taking place “far too late, after Jewish students have endured weeks of harassment and abuse, during which time the University has failed to protect Jewish students, who have been singled out and targeted.”

The open letter responds to Miller’s comments by saying that “Prof. Miller’s depiction of Jewish students as Israeli-directed agents of a campaign of censorship is false, outrageous, and breaks all academic norms regarding the acceptable treatment of students.”

It has to be stressed that the comments by Miller were made, not on a personal website or a personal Twitter or other social media account (where they would be covered, to some extent, by the rules of freedom of speech),  but in open class. These comments (and others to be found in the article) were aimed directly at students whose course work and examination papers he would be marking. Further, he is teaching a subject (Political Sociology) in which these matters might legitimately be part of such material and student answers. Were I a student in such a situation, I suspect that I would be, to say the least, apprehensive and, at a deeper level, intimidated. And I can claim special knowledge here: during my academic career, Political Sociology was one of my areas of special interest.

A shorter article, also containing the details of the University inquiry, can be found here at the Campaign Against Antisemitism website.

I have also discovered that “the matter of David Miller is a live issue under discussion within the BSA. David is a member of the association.” The British Sociological Association was, when I was teaching, my professional association (but it is not a trade union: they could only expel him, which need have no consequences for his career, present or future).

The whole issue took on a wider dimension when The Algemeiner published an article on “the evolving strain of antisemitism on the Left”. In it, The Reut Group (a think tank in Israel) published a report which argued, among much else, that:

“Erasive anti-Semitism is a de-facto undermining of Jewish narrative self-determination: the very right to define Jewish identity, experience, and vulnerability according to concepts and language that reflect the unique nature of Jewish vulnerability, including that it tracks differently from other dominant experiences of oppression”.

Signs at a pro-BDS protest in New York following the US decision to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. Photo: Reuters / Carlo Allegri.

If we unpick that relatively opaque sentence for those of us not up to the current use of semantics, this is saying that Jews aren’t able to define or explain, let alone understand, their own history and collective experience. In short, this is another form of antisemitism, denying Jews agency in their own collective lives. However, this “strain” of antisemitism isn’t evolving: it’s already evolved. Anne posted an article of mine in July 2019, over a year and a half ago on Alexandria Ocasio Cortez  in which I argued that the controversy about AOC deepened “when the Jerusalem Post dived into the argument in its article from June of [that] year, with its headline calling the controversy ‘the latest attack on Jewish history’: that is, we Jews aren’t even allowed to tell our own story any more, others are claiming to know better than us what our history is. We’ve been here before, many times, and I’ve, again many times, here and elsewhere, argued that when certain UK trade unions refused to accept an earlier version of the IHRA definition of antisemitism, they were saying that they knew better than the victims when an antisemitic “event” had taken place: something they wouldn’t dream of doing, nay, dare do, if the victim were a member of an ethnic minority or a woman. But Jews? What do they know about antisemitism?”

In The Algemeiner article, the author notes that “it is often not an intentional assault, but a byproduct of the current progressive discourse.” This bears a remarkable resemblance to many of the attitudes found on the Left of the Corbyn Labour Party, and we know how that panned out!

The matter of David Miller doesn’t stop there.  Returning to the net to check on the Wikipedia entries on Miller, I came across this article in Varsity, an independent paper for Cambridge University.

At least thirteen Cambridge academics have signed an open letter condemning Professor David Miller of the University of Bristol for “accus[ing]Jewish students of being ‘directed by the State of Israel’ to pursue a ‘campaign of censorship’ that endangers Muslim and Arab students.”

The open letter, which at the time of publication was signed by over 650 academics, describes Miller’s statement as “morally reprehensible”, risking “the personal security and wellbeing of Jewish students and, more widely, Jews in the UK.”

Others will know whether this is aimed at Faculty, students or both, but whatever the audience, this article is a well-balanced discussion of the issues in this matter, noting what is, in some people’s minds, the competition between (absolute) free speech and the role of law in creating a fair society. I attempted to illustrate this issue in the article here recently on antisemitism.

[Anne adds]: After Brian sent me his initial article, he sent me a PS which is quite mind-boggling. The item suggests that Miller is associated (at the very least) with another academic who could possibly be guilty of sedition. I insert it here below:

“When the student paper The Tab tried to contact Miller, a spokesman for the Support David Miller campaign said

“Far-right Zionists hate groups around the country are known to use spurious police complaints to intimidate pro-Palestine activists.”

The phrase that uses the words “hole” and “stop digging” comes to mind.

The second article is a whole page, including a photo of Professor Paul McKeigue of Edinburgh University, alongside one of Syrian White Helmets at the scene of an Assad regime attack. The headline states, in its entirety

“Professor gave names to fake Russia spy”. He is a member of The Working Group on Syria, Propaganda & Media “a collection of fringe intellectuals”, as The Times notes. One of the other members is, surprise, surprise, David Miller.

Knowing that this group was planning to attack it, an organisation called the Commission for International Justice and Accountability (Cija), “which collects documentary evidence from Syria so that war criminals and torturers can be held …responsible for atrocities”, set up a sting operation. Cija set up a fake email account and contacted Prof. McKeigue, pretending to be a Russian agent. Suffice it to say that McKeigue gave the fake spy a long list of names of people he believed to be working for UK and other Western intelligence agencies. At least one of those named, who is a retired army officer and is now working in the public arena, has called on the police to investigate, accusing “the academic of being willing put his life in danger”.

If McKeigue has named anybody who actually is or has worked for Western intelligence, he could be charged with treason and/or sedition. I bet you can guess who else is a member of this unlovely bunch…got it in one: Professor David Miller of Bristol University, and currently (and conveniently) on sick leave: I wonder who’s going to mark his Jewish students course work now?

When he was “[a]sked whether he had tried to get private email addresses hacked, McKeigue said any information was welcome. He said that he had embellished his claims to ‘Ivan’ [the alleged Russian spy] to keep dialogue going with a source. ’The views I expressed are not necessarily my real views. I kept an open mind about who or what I was communicating with.’” I wonder this is, in fact a criminal offence, especially if McKeigue succeeded in hacking these email accounts.

I also wonder why my eyebrows keep trying to climb to the top of my forehead?

Finally, on McKeigue, a London-based barrister specialising in international affairs, is quoted as saying that, given what McKeigue believed he was doing, “This is a matter that UK law enforcement and prosecuting authorities will now need to look at”.

There is a block on the page which identifies other members of the Group. On Miller, it notes that, before leaving the Labour Party, he “claimed that Sir Keir Starmer took ‘Zionist’ money”. The entry also confirms that many of Miller’s antisemitic remarks were “allegedly made during his lectures…”

********

Moving on, I almost missed the detail contained in the following article, also from The Algemeiner on the suspension of a Capitol Hill cop after he was spotted with a copy of the notorious forgery The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

A police officer on Capitol Hill has been suspended after he was spotted by congressional aide with a copy of ‘The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” — the notorious antisemitic fabrication alleging a Jewish conspiracy to dominate the world that was issued by the Russian Tsar’s secret police in 1903.

Photographs provided to The Washington Post on Monday showed a printed copy of the “Protocols” on a table inside an entrance to the Longworth House Office Building. On Monday evening, acting Capitol Hill police chief Yogananda Pittman confirmed that an officer had been suspended  pending an investigation “after antisemitic reading material was discovered near his work area on Sunday.”

I had already noticed, in passing, when watching a download from CNN  that an annotated copy of “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” had been spotted in a police security booth in the US Capitol Building. If you are unaware of the background to this fabrication , then please start with the last two major paragraphs of my report on Jewish Book Week of 2012  with its report on Umberto Eco’s book “The Prague Cemetery”.

By the way, if you care to click on to this article again in The Campaign against Antisemitism, you will see behind Miller one of those crazy diagrams that links everyone David Miller thinks is linked to each other in this sneaky Zionist plot which seeks to entrap and destroy him.

Antisemitic conspiracy theory

You know the sort of thing: X once read about Y in a newspaper article written by Z, who once spoke to A, who went to Primary School with B, who is now the Chief Exec of Corporation W, which is out to get people like David Miller, despite the fact that none of these people have spoken, let alone written, to each other in any way for the last 30 years. Further, in the way of these things, many of these links make no sense, other, of course, than to a devotee of conspiracy theories – which have the advantage of cutting out the need to think and find real, hard, evidence to bolster one’s views.

Even more interestingly, if one looks more closely, we find that of the 12 people Miller is convinced are out to get him and his ilk (and not even bothering with the numerous organisations linked to), at least 4 of the people named (Greville Janner, Eric Moonman [a former Lib.Dem. MP], Brian Kerner and Jo Wagerman) are deceased. Two of them 5 and 6 years ago respectively. Difficult to see how they can still be influencing policy in the UK and against Brian Miller and his fellow conspiracy theorists. You would think that he would at least try to keep his conspiracy up-to-date.

But when have the facts or reality ever got in the way of a good conspiracy theory?


Anne adds:

Brian, thank you very much for this rather depressing and even alarming update on the state of antisemitism in British academia, or at least in one particular university. Also as you have noted is the apparent immortality of the vicious antisemitic propaganda publication the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Despite its having been thoroughly debunked for decades already, it still finds a steady stream of believers.

Even though we can find encouragement from the number of academic and other public institutions who have adopted the IHRA definitions of antisemitism, there is still a long way to go if we are defeat the monster of conspiracy theories and simple old fashioned Jew-hatred.

Posted in Academia, Antisemitism | Tagged , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Chag Kasher Ve’sameach – Happy Pesach!

Chag Same’ach! The Seder plate, Matza, wine and the Hagaddah

Before starting this post I looked back, as I always do, to what I wrote last year. And I was shocked at how quickly I’ve forgotten Pesach in the shadow of corona. What a difference a year makes – in both directions. Last year we were mourning the loss of our family celebrations and Seder nights, huddled together in very small groups or in isolation. This year, certainly in Israel, we have almost forgotten what it was like as our hugely successful vaccination program has brought the numbers of corona cases right down.

This year, while we are still officially limited to “only” 20 people at a Seder, and shuls can only be filled up to 50% capacity, thank G-d we are not under curfew, and no one needs to hold a Seder on their own, we can host or be hosted by our parents and grandparents. I give daily thanks to Hashem that I live in this wonderful country, and that our Prime Minister (election results notwithstanding) succeeded in bringing us to this point through his vaccination program. I pray that all of our Jewish brethren across the globe will similarly be able to hold a family Seder and celebrate with at least some of their community.

Unlike previous years, this year we will be staying at home for the first 2 days, with our younger daughter and children in tow. It will be noisy and messy and fun and I am so looking forward!

Unusually, this year Pesach will start on Motzei Shabbat, Saturday night. This means that tomorrow, Shabbat, is erev Pesach so some of the rules and traditions have to be fulfilled ahead of time, and some tomorrow. Yes, it gets complicated but no one ever said it’s easy to be Jewish!  And Seder night will begin on Saturday night. To understand more, have a look at the OU website which explains it all clearly.

For a good backgrounder on what is Pesach see the Chabad website.

Although not directly related to Pesach, an incredible new archeological find seems timed to fit the oncoming festival, as the Israel 21C reports: Bible scroll fragments among dazzling artifacts found in Dead Sea Cave of Horror:

In an operation that would put Indiana Jones to shame, a huge anti-looting dig carried out in the Judean Desert has unearthed historical finds of great significance, including fragments of ancient biblical scrolls, a 6,000-year-old skeleton of a young child, coins used by Jewish rebels and the oldest woven basket known to mankind.

The operation began in 2017, when the Israel Antiquities Authority, government agencies and volunteers set to survey 50 miles of caves in the Dead Sea area using drones, rappelling and mountain climbing techniques to access the almost unreachable caves.

Watch this video describing the dramatic archeological rescue:

The climatic conditions in these caves enabled the preservation of ancient documents like the Dead Sea Scrolls that include the earliest known copies of the Biblical Books and as such have drawn the attention of looters out to make a fortune. The dig’s participants wanted to reach these sites before the looters did and were rewarded with a plethora of important finds from various periods.

Fragments of a Greek scroll of the Book of the Twelve Minor Prophets, for example, were discovered in a cave where Jewish rebels hid almost 1,900 years ago. They are the first biblical scrolls to be discovered in the area in the past 60 years and were located in the Cave of Horror – a 260-foot drop from the cliff’s top – and reached only by rope.

Sections of the Book of the Twelve Minor Prophets scroll prior to their conservation. (Shai Halevi/Israel Antiquities Authority)

Also dating back to the times of the Bar Kochba Revolt, archaeologists found in the digs a cache of rare coins bearing Jewish symbols such as a harp and a date palm, as well as arrowheads, woven fabric, sandals and even lice combs.

A rare cache of coins from the Bar Kokhba period. (Dafna Gazit/Israel Antiquities Authority)

The Cave of Horror was also found to contain a partially mummified skeleton of a child wrapped in cloth that dates back some 6,000 years. Researchers believe that the child was probably a girl and was six to 12 years old at the time of her death.

Another find, this time revealed by volunteering youth, was a huge, intact woven basket with a lid that dates back some 10,500 years ago, providing information on storage in the times before the invention of pottery. The researchers believe it to be the oldest such basket to be found in the world and note that it was preserved so well due to arid conditions.

What an incredible operation! Kol hakavod to the Israel Antiquities Authority and their dedicated volunteers for pursuing the grave robbers and for their determination to reach the caves and rescue the findings in order to preserve our national and historical heritage.

And now for something completely different, to end this post on a lighter note, here is a great, clever and very funny Pesach video by the band Six13 – The Red Sea Shanty 🙂  (via Shelley):

 

And if you want something slightly more traditional, here are the Maccabeats with the wonderful Seder songs, rearranged

I would like to wish all my readers, along with all of Klal Yisrael, a chag kasher vesame’ach – a happy and Kosher Passover. May we all merit to celebrate in rebuilt Jerusalem “speedily in our days” as we say in the Seder.

Wishing you all Shabbat Shalom and Chag Kasher Ve’Samea’ach!

!שבת שלום וחג כשר ושמח

 

Posted in Israel news, Judaism, Slice of Israeli life | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Israeli Elections – round 4

https://static.timesofisrael.com/www/uploads/2020/12/elections-2021-4-1024x640.jpg

The candidates in Israel’s 4th round of elections: Left to right: Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid); Naftali Bennett (Yamina); Binyamin Netanyahu, (Likud); Gidon Saar (New Hope); Benny Gantz (Blue and White)

Here we go again – the fourth round of elections in two years. I feel a bit despairing and bit apathetic, and not particularly full of hope that anything major is going to change. But I shall not cede my right to vote and try to influence the leadership of this crazy country.

Like the last round of elections, last March, this year’s election is being held as a “socially distanced democracy“, however surreal that may sound:

Preparing for a national election in a pandemic, Israel is making unusual changes to its normal routine for Tuesday’s vote, including placing ballot boxes in virus wards.

“It’s the first time we have needed to make arrangements for voting in quarantined wards and for an election in a pandemic, but we are meeting the challenge,” David Ratner, spokesman at Rambam Medical Center in Haifa, told The Times of Israel.

There are 38 polling stations in COVID-19 wards. In some institutions, the station will circulate among virus wards. Hadar Elboim of Jerusalem’s Hadassah Medical Center said, “We have three coronavirus wards at the moment, and a mobile polling station will move between them, to give all patients a chance to vote.”

A worker of the Central Election Committee wearing protective gear during a demonstration of special polling station ahead of the upcoming elections, at the central elections committee warehouse in Modi’in, on February 23, 2021. (Flash90)

She said that today the logistics are manageable, but earlier in the pandemic, when there was less experience with PPE, it would have been challenging. “At the start of the pandemic, working with this protective equipment was very hard and time-consuming, and running polling in virus wards would have been hard,” she said. “But today, dealing with protective gear is quick and easy.”

As well as catering to hospitalized patients, election authorities needed to make provision for citizens who are sick with COVID-19 at home or quarantined because of contact with a carrier.

They have thus set up 409 polling stations for sick people and 342 for the quarantined. They stipulated that people should vote at stations for the quarantined if they are feeling unwell — even if they aren’t officially in isolation.

Some of the special stations are drive-through venues, where people won’t need to leave their cars. The special stations are expected to operate smoothly, as there are only about 40,000 people in quarantine; when election planning was taking place, the number was expected to be around double.

As for the elections and politics themselves, many Israelis are fed up with the endless rounds of voting over the past couple of years:

Facing an electorate worn down by a series of campaigns and the coronavirus pandemic, candidates made their final push in recent days with a series of TV interviews and public appearances at shopping malls and outdoor marketplaces. The campaigns increasingly reached into people’s personal space with a constant barrage of get-out-and-vote texts that made cell phones ding and buzz at all hours.

https://static.timesofisrael.com/www/uploads/2021/03/F200304OF27.jpg

Voting slips and envelopes for the Israeli elections

Netanyahu has portrayed himself as a global statesman uniquely qualified to lead the country through its many security and diplomatic challenges. He has made Israel’s successful coronavirus-vaccination campaign the centerpiece of his reelection bid, and pointed to last year’s diplomatic agreements with four Arab states.

Opponents accuse Netanyahu of bungling the management of the coronavirus pandemic for most of the past year. They say he failed to enforce lockdown restrictions on his ultra-Orthodox political allies, allowing the virus to spread, and point to the still-dire state of the economy and its double-digit unemployment rate. They also say Netanyahu is unfit to rule at a time when he is on trial for multiple corruption charges, a case he dismisses as a witch hunt.

Israelis vote for parties, not individual candidates. No single party list of candidates has been able to form a governing majority in Israel’s 72-year history.

Netanyahu’s Likud party and those led by his rivals will be looking to smaller, allied parties as potential coalition partners. The party that can cobble together a majority coalition gets to form the next government — a process that is expected to take weeks.

Here is a good summary of the personalities and parties involved:

Tuesday’s election was triggered by the disintegration of an emergency government formed last May between Netanyahu and his chief rival to manage the coronavirus pandemic. The alliance was plagued by infighting, and elections were triggered by the government’s failure in December to agree on a budget.

Netanyahu is hoping to form a government with his traditional religious and hard-line nationalist allies. These include a pair of ultra-Orthodox parties and a small religious party that includes openly racist and homophobic candidates.

Netanyahu’s rivals have accused him of causing the past two years of paralysis in hopes of forming a more favorable government that would grant him immunity or protect him from prosecution.

His challengers include Yair Lapid, Israel’s opposition leader whose Yesh Atid party has emerged as the main centrist alternative to Netanyahu.

Netanyahu also faces challenges from a number of onetime allies who have formed their own parties after bitter break-ups with the prime minister.

They include former protege Gideon Saar, who broke away from Likud to form “New Hope.” He says the party is a nationalist alternative unburdened by corruption charges and what he says is a cult of personality that keeps Likud in power.

Yamina party leader Naftali Bennett, another former Netanyahu aide, could emerge as the kingmaker. A hard-line nationalist politician who was formerly Netanyahu’s education and defense minister, Bennett has not ruled out joining a coalition with the embattled prime minister, allowing him to court both sides in future coalition talks.

The personality politics have so overtaken the race that there’s been almost no mention of the Palestinians, after years of frozen peace talks.

If you want to understand how Israel’s convoluted electoral system works, read this article from the Times of Israel: The painfully complicated act of voting in an Israeli election.

For an overview of the candidates, watch this video

A shorter version of the issues at the center of the elections, via the Times of Israel, can be listened at this link.

May the best man or woman win! And may Hashem guide the hand of all the voters and our leaders. Maybe it is symbolic that today is 10th Nissan, the day that the Children of Israel crossed the Jordan into Israel. Maybe today’s vote will represent a modern day version of “crossing the Jordan”, and bring us to stability and peace for at least 4 years if not 40 years!

Posted in Israel news, Slice of Israeli life | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment