I must apologize for having been offline for most of this week, due to a combination of new grandchild exhaustion (there’s a reason why parents are young and grandparents aren’t!) and a touch of flu.
Nevertheless I don’t want to go without some good news for Shabbat, so here is this week’s Good News Friday post.
Starting on the diplomatic front for a change, Binyamin Netanyahu’s visit to Australia dominated the news this week. He was very warmly welcomed in Australia by the government as well as the local Jewish community, and Netanyahu returned the compliment, as the ABC reports:
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has praised his Australian counterpart Malcolm Turnbull for calling out the “hypocrisy” of the United Nations.
Mr Turnbull rebuked the UN for adopting what he labelled “one-sided” resolutions that are critical of Israel’s settlements in Palestinian territories.
Those comments, outlined in an opinion piece in The Australian newspaper, were welcomed by Mr Netanyahu on the first day of his Australian visit.
“I wasn’t surprised by the friendship expressed in the article but I had no advance warning so when I landed I was given the paper, I was delighted to read it,” Mr Netanyahu said.
Mr Netanyahu is the first sitting Israeli leader to visit Australia and discussed security, science and technology issues with Prime Minister Turnbull.
Mr Netanyahu said Australia was a “very good” friend to Israeli and the trip was “a long time coming”.
Mr Turnbull reaffirmed Australia’s commitment to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on Wednesday, but said the Government would not join those seeking to chastise Israel alone for the failure of that peace process.
It is very encouraging that, despite some negative tones voiced by the opposition, the atmosphere between the two leaders was very warm.
Shirlee Finn of Jews Down Under blogged extensively about Netanyahu’s visit, particularly about his visits with the Jewish community, including some great pictures and videos.
Here is Netanyahu addressing the Jewish community at the synagogue, which as Shirlee writes:
Central Synagogue was overflowing to capacity some 2,000 people. What an air of excitement it was amazing. …
There was a long standing ovation for retired Prime Minister John Howard, who was our second longest serving one.
Also in attendance were Ambassador to Australia Shmuel Ben-Shmuel. The Hon. Michael Danby MP. The Hon. Josh Frydenberg MP. The Hon. Gabrielle Upton MP. The Hon. Tony Abbott MP. The Hon. Mark Dreyfus MP. The Hon. The Hon. James Paterson MP. The Hon. Julian Lesser MP. The Hon. Rev. Fred Nile and not forgetting our State Premier The Hon.Gladys Berijiklian MP. Apologies to those I may have missed.
Watch the video:
And here is a beautiful video of Netanyahu’s visit to the Moriah College Jewish school:
If only all our allies were as friendly and warm-heated as the Australians!
With the tailwind of supportive countries like the US under the Trump administration, Australia, Britain and others, it seems Israel has finally gotten brave enough to stand up for its own rights. I was very happy to learn that Israel has denied Human Rights Watch personnel work visas because of their bias (which I would rather term “hatred”):
JERUSALEM (AFP) — Israel will stop issuing work visas to Human Rights Watch staff, the NGO said Friday, with the Jewish state accusing the group of being “fundamentally biased” against it.
The New York-based watchdog, which has written critical reports about the Israeli control of Palestinian territories, applied months ago for a visa for its Israel and Palestine director, American citizen Omar Shakir.
On February 20, Israeli authorities informed it the request had been rejected because HRW is “not a real human rights group,” the group said in a statement.
Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon confirmed the decision to AFP.
HRW, he said, had “demonstrated time and again it is a fundamentally biased and anti-Israeli organization with a clear hostile agenda.”
But Nahshon added that the group was not banned and its Israeli and Palestinian employees would still be permitted to work in Israel and issue reports.
“But why should we give working visas to people whose only purpose is to besmirch us and to attack us?” he asked.
Shakir himself has campaigned against Israel and is a supporter of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. He has accused Israel of apartheid and has called for the elimination of Israel as a Jewish state.
What a chutzpah Shakir has in declaring himself “shocked” at Israel’s decision.
“We were shocked they (Israeli authorities) were not able to distinguish between genuine criticism and propaganda,” Shakir said.
He admitted to having taken part in pro-Palestinian campaigns before joining HRW.
Kol hakavod to the Israeli government for having the intestinal fortitude to finally stand up for Israel’s rights – which according to HRW, could hardly be considered human.
Moving now to another massive #BDSFail, the University of Central Lancashire has cancelled “Israel Apartheid Week”:
The University of Central Lancashire has cancelled an event which was due to take place as part of “Israel Apartheid Week” activity on its campus.
The session was organised by the university’s Friends of Palestine group and was billed as a panel discussion looking at the boycott of Israel.
It was due to feature speakers including anti-Israel activist Ben White and pro-Palestinian academics.
But a spokesperson for the university said “Debunking Misconceptions on Palestine” contravened the definition of antisemitism adopted by the government and was “unlawful”.
In a statement on behalf of the university in Preston, Lancashire, the spokesperson said: “The UK government has formally adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s new definition of what constitutes antisemitism.
“We believe the proposed talk contravenes the new definition and furthermore breaches university protocols for such events, where we require assurances of a balanced view or a panel of speakers representing all interests.”
He added: “In this instance our procedures determined that the proposed event would not be lawful and therefore it will not proceed as planned.”
The talk was scheduled to take place as part of a week of anti-Israel events expected to be held at universities nationwide.
This cancellation was due in part to the new British government, under Theresa May, adopting stricter definitions of antisemitism, and partly due to the tireless work enforcing these definitions by organizations such as Sussex Friends of Israel the UK Lawyers for Israel (UKLFI) and the Israel-British Alliance, as the Jewish News reports:
UKLFI said that any university hosting Israel Apartheid Week activities could also mean they were in breach of the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED) in Section 149 of the Equality Act.
Under this, universities “must have due regard to the need to eliminate harassment and victimisation, and to foster good relations between persons of different nationality,
ethnicity or religion”.
In a letter sent to several universities, Baroness Ruth Deech said: “Although student societies may not intend to be anti-Semitic, the effect of their anti-Israel rhetoric may be to harass those students who support Israel, most of whom happen to be Jewish.”
Earlier this week, Israel-Britain Alliance director Michael McCann, whose organisation launched the campaign against Israel Apartheid Week earlier this month, urged universities not to use campus facilities to host “false propaganda” and that students supporting IAW were now anti-Semites according to the new definition.
As MP Michael Gove said:
This is all in stark contrast to the events at Dublin University, where a talk by the Israeli Ambassador to Ireland was cancelled due to protests by “pro-Palestinian” (i.e. anti-Israel) protestors. Shame on the university for caving in to mob rule. It’s their loss.
But let us finish on a really happy note. Israel has once again come to the rescue of an Afghan baby, in a similar way to the rescue of baby Yehia last summer. This time too the Israeli organization Save a Child’s Heart played a key role in getting baby Yacub life-saving treatment:
From the moment Yacub was born, he lived at death’s door. His father, a wheat and rice farmer from Baghlan Province in northern Afghanistan, who was unable to afford the surgery he needed, left his son’s fate in God’s hands. He never imagined that, through a near miraculous path paved by a few Facebook friends, his child’s life would ultimately be saved by the hand of an Israeli surgeon.
For the first three months, no doctor could diagnose the problem. Yacub hardly ate, he didn’t grow, and he cried constantly. His father eventually found a German clinic in Kabul where doctors said the baby would need heart surgery in India: Yacub was suffering from Tetralogy of Fallot (TOF), a congenital heart disease that prevents blood from getting to the lungs and oxidizing.
But the father didn’t have the money for the journey to India or for the surgery.
When the Afghan baby, now two years old, arrived at Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport on February 14, his skin was a pale blue. He was “half-dead,” according to Dr. Hagi Dekel, the Israeli cardiac surgeon who operated on him hours later at the Wolfson Medical Center in Holon.
Social media played a key role in putting all the players in contact with each other, including Israeli Urdu speakers to help the parents in the hospital.
acub’s surgery, and the flight tickets for him and his father, were funded by the Israeli charity Save a Child’s Heart, which provides free surgeries for children from developing countries. SACH also did the ground work to get Yacub and his father visas to visit Israel, overcoming the fact that Israel and Afghanistan don’t have diplomatic relations.
It wasn’t the first time over the past year that SACH’s executive director, Simon Fisher, acquired Israeli visas for an Afghani family.
To get to Israel, Yacub followed a path traveled last July by Yehia, an Afghan baby whose parents live in Peshawar, Pakistan. Yehia was the first Afghan to be treated by SACH, joining children from over 50 other countries whose lives have been saved by the organization.
Yehia’s younger sister was meant to be the second Afghan brought by SACH to Israel, but she died before the bureaucratic red tape could be surmounted.
Both Yacub and Yehia’s parents were connected with SACH by Farhad Zaheer, an English-speaking teacher who lives in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad.
“He is the rainmaker in this context. The Afghan with no fear who believes in doing the right thing to save a child’s life,” Fisher said of Zaheer.
According to Fisher, Zaheer — a well-known children’s activist in his native city and president of its Rotary Club — worked directly with the Afghan authorities to help secure travel visas for Yacub and Yehia. The Pashtun Times, earlier this month, published a glowing review of Zaheer, calling him a “heroic Afghan” for his role in bringing Yacub and Yehia to Israel.
Zaheer was not only instrumental in securing the journey to Israel for Yacub. He also used his Facebook connections to a find a native Urdu speaker in Israel to help overcome the language barrier. Well before Zaheer had ever heard of SACH, he had been in correspondence over Facebook with Michael Davidson, a 70-year-old Urdu-speaking Israeli who immigrated from India in 1978. He asked Davidson to help out.
See Michael Davidson’s very moving Facebook post about his friendship with Zaheer:
YES ….I CAN DEFINITELY SAY THAT FRIENDSHIP IN ITS TRUE SENSE IS
SACRED AND WE CAN NEVER KNOW
WHAT FATE IS PLANNING FOR THE
TW PEOPLE …..ME BEING JEWISH
AND BORN AND EDUCATED IN INDIA
(HINDUSTAN) ANR NOW LIVE IN ISRAEL
AND FARHAD A MUSLIM LIVING IN FAR
AWAY AFGHANISTAN…..WE STARTED
OUT AS FACEBOOK FRIENDS AND AS TIME
WENT BY STRENGTHENING ALONGSIDE
OUR FRIENDSHIP LITTLE DID WE KNOW
THAT WE TOGETHER DESTINED TO HAVE
THE HONOUR AND PLEASURE OF BEING
AN UNDIVIDED PAIR OF THE ISRAELI
FOUND ENDEAVOUR UNDER THE NAME
#SACH#…..SAVE A CHILD’S HEART ….BY
WHICH LITTLE CHILDREN FROM ALL OVER
THE WORLD WHO SUFFER WITH A HEART
ILLNESS ARE BROUGHT TO ISRAEL FOR
SURGERY TO SAVE THE LIFE OF ALL THESE
LITTLE CHILDREN AT THE WOLFSON HOSPITAL…IN HOLON ISRAEL TOTALLY AS
A HUMANTARIAN ENDEAVOUR*FARHAD HAS BEEN INVOLVEDIN HELPING TO SEND
CHILDREN FROM AFGHANISTAN AND THE
PARENTS WHO KNOW NOT EITHER ENGLISH
OR HEBREW BUT HAPPEN TO SPEAK THE
#URDU# LANGUAGE WHICH BRINGS ME
INTO THE PICTURE BY SPENDING DAYS
WITH THE PARENT TO TRANSLATE FOR
5HEM ANDBTO HELP BOOST UP THEIR
COURAGE AND FAITH IN GOD WHO IS THE
ONE WHO HAS BROUGHT THEIR FHILDREN
TO ISRAEL THAT THEIR CHILDREN’S LIVES
WILL BE SAVED*…..WELL…….SO MUCH IS
THE VALUE OF FRIENDSHIP……AND I DO
KNOW THAT FARHAD ZAHEER AND I HAVE
YET A LONGAND IMPORTANT MISSION OF
EVER SO GRADUALY BRINGING TOGETHER
OUR TWO PEOPLES …….AND ALL THROUGH
FACEBOOK THAT HAS MADE THIS STRONG
The story is so moving it brings tears to the eyes. Kol hakavod to all the people involved in saving this tiny child: the Save a Child’s Heart foundation who do such invaluable work; Farhad Zaheer who is courageous enough to use his connections with Jews and Israelis despite the dangers for an Afghani; and the Israeli doctors and nurses and volunteers who give of their precious time to help these sick children.
We can be so proud of our crazy little country.:-)
And with these inspiring thoughts I wish you all Shabbat Shalom and Chodesh Tov!