Good News Friday

Friday is here once again thank goodness, and it’s time for another Good News Friday edition.

Let’s start with a great morale boost from none other than the British Defence Secretary (!) who hailed the UK’s amazing relationship with Israel:

Britain’s Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson has hailed the UK’s “amazing relationship” with Israel, calling the Jewish state a “beacon of light” in the Middle East and condemning the “unreasonable hatred” directed toward it.

UK Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson speaking during a Conservative Friends of Israel event on January 30, 2018. (Courtesy CFI)

Addressing an audience of over 250 CFI supporters, including 50 parliamentarians and Israel’s ambassador to the UK, Mark Regev, Williamson praised Israel as a “beacon of light and hope, in a region where there is so much hatred and hurt. We shouldn’t underestimate how difficult it is to keep that light bright and burning.”

Speaking of his visit to the country as a teenager, Williamson said: “I didn’t quite know what to expect of Israel. What I found was a liberal, free, exciting country that was so at ease with itself, a country that absorbed and welcomed so many people. That made an enormous impression upon me.”

Williamson condemned the often “completely unreasonable … sheer simple hatred” channeled toward Israel. He asked: “If we are not there to stand up for a country whose views and ideals are so close, or are simply our own, what are we as a nation? What are we in politics, if we cannot accept and celebrate the wonderful blooming of democracy that is Israel, but instead always turn to a narrative of spite, envy?”

What a lovely paean of praise from unexpected quarters, even if he was addressing a friendly audience. Let us hope these warm words are translated into action.

Another British official, but from a past era, was finally honoured  by those who employed him. Frank Foley, a 1930s British intelligence officer in Germany, saved literally thousands of German Jews by issuing visas so that they could escape:

The chief of Britain’s spy agency made a rare public tribute to a spy who, during the years leading up to World War II, saved an estimated 10,000 German Jews by issuing them visas while posing as a bureaucrat at the British embassy in Berlin, even risking his safety to hide some Jews in his own residence.

Frank Foley who saved an estimated 10,000 German Jews from the Holocaust

Frank Foley, who died 60 years ago, has received little official public recognition in Britain for his actions, due to the secrecy of his undercover position as the most senior British intelligence in the Germany capital.

Alex Younger, the chief of MI6, told the Holocaust Education Trust and members of Foley’s family that the spy had witnessed the rise of the Nazi regime and took action against the horrors it represented, the UK Daily Mail newspaper reported.

“With little regard for his personal safety he took a stance against evil,” Younger said at the spy agency’s headquarters in London on Monday. “Despite exposing himself to significant personal risk, Frank made a decision to help.”

Middle-aged, with round, owlish glasses framing a face topped by a balding head, Foley did not cut a particularly heroic figure in 1930s Berlin.

But he was more than he appeared to be: Far from his public role as a gray paper-pusher, Foley fulfilled his true mission as the Berlin station chief for British intelligence until the outbreak of World War II.

Foley used his power and influence as British passport control officer in Berlin — a cover for his intelligence work — to help German Jews immigrate to Britain and its colonies, including Palestine. He did not have diplomatic immunity and could have been arrested at any time for his activity — including producing forged passports and documents — much of which was conducted without authorization from his superiors back home.

“Frank’s dignity, compassion and bravery are in no doubt,” Younger said. “As a consummately effective intelligence officer he witnessed at first hand the Nazi seizure of power, and the horrors and depravity of the regime. While many condemned and criticized the Nazis’ discriminative laws, Frank took action.

“He knew the dire consequences were he to get caught,” the intelligence chief continued. “Frank’s tenacity and passion saved the lives of many thousands of European Jews. Using his position as a passport control officer, he ensured that they could travel safely out of the clutches of Hitler’s killers.”

Younger explained why Foley’s actions had not been publicly lauded by MI6 in the past.

“There is a mantra that surrounds MI6’s history that reads, ‘Our successes are private, our failures are public,’” he said. “It is a wonderful thing for MI6 that one of its most distinguished member’s successes are no longer private.”

Foley was also a principal interrogator of Rudolf Hess, Hitler’s deputy, who flew to Britain in a bizarre attempt to strike a peace deal when the war was already lost. Foley also recruited a high-level Soviet spy who, for years after the war, continued to feed Britain information on Soviet espionage.

But it was the rescue — at great personal risk — of German Jews that will be Foley’s legacy.

The remarkable story is told in “Foley: The Spy Who Saved 10,000 Jews,” by British journalist Michael Smith.

According to Smith, Foley “ignored all the rules to help Jews to leave the country, sometimes demanding to be let into concentration camps, to get them out, occasionally hiding them in his own home, and using his Secret Service skills to provide them with false papers and passports.”

British ambassador to Germany, Sir Peter Torry, unveils a memorial stone in memory to Frank Foley at the British Embassy in Berlin, November 24, 2004. (AP/Roberto Pfeil)

Among those who sought shelter in Foley’s apartment was Rabbi Leo Baeck, the charismatic head of the Association of German Rabbis, who used the venue to brief foreign journalists on the increasing persecution of the Jews in the Third Reich.

The question that baffled Benno Cohn, then chairman of the German Zionist Organization, and his colleagues in the Zionist movement was why Foley should demonstrate such commitment at such high personal risk to save Jews.

“He told us he was acting as a Christian and that he wanted to show us how little the ‘Christians’ who were then in power in Germany had to do with Christianity. He detested the Nazis and looked on their political system — as he once told me — as the rule of Satan on earth,” Cohn said in the book.

Foley’s work in Berlin, said Smith, was “a stupendous act of humanity, borne not out of political necessity but out of a moral imperative: Thousands of Jews came to the little office on Tiergartenstrasse, frightened, panicky and desperate for help.

Frank Foley died in 1958. According to author Smith, Foley’s association with British intelligence inhibited him from discussing the activities he performed while in the service.

“He was not allowed to talk to people when he came back to Britain,” said Smith. “His life in Berlin had to remain secret.”

Yad Vashem’s Avenue of the Righteous Gentiles

In 1999 the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem gave Foley the title of “Righteous Among Nations.” Five years later the British Embassy in Berlin unveiled a plaque in honor of Foley at a ceremony attended by Holocaust survivors and their descendants. In 2010 he was recognized by the British Government as a British Hero of the Holocaust.

Read the whole article to learn about this remarkable and extremely courageous man who risked his life to save others when he didn’t have to. What an inspiration he is to all of us today.

Moving even further back in history, a possible former royal estate was unearthed in the Judean Hills recently:

Israeli authorities inaugurated a nature park on Wednesday near Jerusalem after five years of archaeological excavations at Ein Hanya, the second-largest spring in the Judean Hills and a key site in the history of Christianity. Along with an announcement that the park will open to the public free of charge within months, the Israel Antiquities Authority revealed some major findings at the site, including a column capital typical of royal structures from the First Temple era and one of the oldest coins ever discovered in the Jerusalem area.

Byzantine-era pools discovered at the site of Ein Hanya, near Jerusalem, and revealed to the public on Wednesday, January 31, 2018. (Assaf Peretz/Israel Antiquities Authority)

“The result is an extraordinarily beautiful site incorporating archaeology, an ancient landscape and a unique visitor experience,” the IAA said in a statement.

The new findings were publicized for the first time as senior officials participated in a tree-planting ceremony for the Jewish festival of Tu Bishvat and revealed the new nature park.

Among those in attendance were Ze’ev Elkin, the minister of environmental protection and of Jerusalem affairs; Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat; and Sevan Gharibian, the grand sacristan of the Armenian Apostolic Patriarchate of Jerusalem, which owns the area.

The said the most significant finding was a large Byzantine-era system of pools found at the site.

What a beautiful site in an even more beautiful park! This is our country – history within nature wrapped in a beautiful setting.

And to close this week’s installment, here is a really sweet Only in Israel story from Facebook:

My friend Freyda Minna Abrams alerted me to this remarkable story. Please share widely.

This happened a few weeks ago on a Friday, shortly before Shabbat, in a large supermarket in Ramat Hasharon called Yohananof Supermarket.

It was a stormy day and, an hour before closing, there was a power failure. The supermarket was crowded with customers with their wagons filled to the brim with erev Shabbat necessities.

The payment machines could not work, and it was impossible for customers to pay for their purchases. The manager of the supermarket had to make a quick decision.

Seeing people with their Shabbat shopping, the manager, Tzvi Abraham, announced to customers: “Take your shopping and come pay next week.”

About a hundred customers went out with their purchases without paying.

On Sunday, the day after Shabbat, 70% of the customers came to pay for their purchases made on the eve of Shabbat.

Virtually all the others came to settle their accounts during the following days. The store manager, interviewed on TV, could not believe it. Customers returned with lists they had prepared and smartphone photos of their purchases, with the barcodes prominently displayed.

Nobody dare say that the Israelis are not honest…

We returned to live in Israel, not only to find our land of holiness, but also our people who are a beautiful people of holiness.

Author: Meïr Ben-Hayoun, Directeur et journaliste at Jerusalem 24

This kind of story just brings a soppy silly smile to my face. What better way to enter Shabbat than this heart-warming generosity from both buyer and seller.

Wishing you all Shabbat Shalom!

This entry was posted in History, International relations, Israel news, Slice of Israeli life and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Good News Friday

  1. Pingback: Good News Friday – 24/6 Magazine

  2. leonkushner says:

    Hi Anne,

    I urge your readers to write to any one of the various Polish consulates or embassies about her insane proposals for 2 laws that attempt to distance Poland from the Holocaust.

    This is my letter to the Polish embassy in Israel:

    Poland is considering 2 new laws that I consider problematic to say the least.

    The first is to make naming the Nazi death camps in Poland as Polish death camps illegal. Of course they were Nazi death camps. But to propose a law making it illegal to call them Polish death camps is reminiscent of Soviet era paranoia.

    Much more problematic is the second law making it illegal to call out Poland as being complicit in the Holocaust. Poland’s treatment of their Jews before, during and after the Holocaust is well documented and is sadly horrific. Besides my own parents disturbing stories of their treatment by Poles during the war there exists a glaring fact: Prior to the war there were over 3.5 million Jews. After the war there were close to none. It would be impossible for the Nazis to eliminate that many Jews on their own without help from many Poles. There were a few countries who tried to protect their Jews like Denmark and Bulgaria. Poland was not one of them. Poland has benefited mightily from millions of dollars of stolen Jewish property during the war and continues to earn millions from the brisk tourist business that brings many people from all over the world to visit the Nazi death camps in your country. Germany has apologized numerous times about its treatment of Jews and has paid millions of dollars as reparations. Poland has done little. In Germany it is illegal to deny the Holocaust while now in Poland it may become illegal to acknowledge it.

    I urge your government to strike down these proposals and instead provide Holocaust education to your population, especially students, which is urgently needed. Perhaps a viewing of the documentary ’Two Barns’ is in order.

    The sooner Poland can come to terms with what it (not the Nazis) had done to their Jews, the sooner Poland will heal and the sooner we can become better and true friends.

    Best regards, Leon

    PS: I really blasted Poland on my blog at the Jerusalem Post here: http://www.jpost.com/Blogger/Leon-Kushner

    >

  3. leonkushner says:

    It’s nice to read about real heroes, past and present! Thanks Anne!

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