David Barashi (“Dush”) and Rotem Goldenberg (“Fruma”) with 10-year-old Emi at UCLA Mattel Children’s hospital. Photo by Pedro Espinosa

The Healing Power of Laughter


Ivy, a 2-year-old boy at UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital, is dressed in hospital-issue pajamas covered with images of cute teddy bears. Wires and tubes run from underneath his pj’s to two IV poles. He’s quietly playing with his aide in a playroom when a strange man and woman wearing brightly colored outfits and red noses enter.

Ivy looks up, frowns and huddles closer to his aide. The strangers remain undaunted. They’re used to such a reaction. They are professional medical clowns on a mission to make the lives of hospital patients more bearable.

The clowns are “Dush” and “Fruma” (real names David Barashi and Rotem Goldenberg, respectively). They’re here visiting from Israel for 10 days as part of the “I Clown You” project, which centers around a documentary film being made about clowns who work in Israeli hospitals. The film depicts clowning as an art of making human connections, even amid the country’s conflicts.

To engage Ivy, Dush and Fruma launch enthusiastically into a frenzy of gibberish, picking up toys and pulling little props and tricks from their bags — including a small kazoo to make the sound of a toy helicopter “flying” straight into one of the IV poles.

The routine works. Within five minutes Ivy is laughing, smiling and sharing his toys with the duo. And by the time Dush and Fruma have to wave goodbye and step out of the room (backward and in slow motion), Ivy is waving back.

Up on the children’s ward, the clowns spend 90 minutes improvising and connecting with several patients — all of whom have chronic, medically fragile conditions that range from transplant recovery to multiple gastrointestinal problems.

They continue their extraordinary ability to engage even the most reticent patients, including 10-year-old Emi and 20-year-old Amelia, who can’t help but crack a smile when Dush and Fruma insist on calling her a “mermelaid” (mermaid). By the end of their visit, Amelia — who has been treated here for years but will be required to get care at a hospital for adults when she turns 21 — is laughing and taking selfies with the pair.

Dush and Fruma are here thanks to the efforts of Sasha Kapustina, a documentary filmmaker, originally from Moscow, who now lives in Los Angeles. She and her filmmaking partner Masha Tishkova, who is based in Israel, have spent the past five years creating the documentary.

When seeking funding to edit the project, Kapustina said, she made the rounds to potential donors around L.A. “Last year, I went knocking on doors and I got a lot of ‘Thank you but no thank yous.’ ”

Then, she contacted Rabbi David Wolpe at Sinai Temple in Westwood. Not only did Wolpe embrace Kapustina’s project, he introduced her to his congregation, which led to Sinai Temple’s Men’s Club offering to bring the clowns to Los Angeles. Further financial support for their visit was obtained from the UCLA Nazarian Center for Israel Studies, the USC School of Dramatic Arts, the USC School of Drama, Los Angeles Children’s Hospital, American Jewish University and the UCLA children’s hospital.

During their trip, Dush and Fruma attended a series of events, gave lectures, made hospital visits and led workshops and seminars on the importance of medical clowning.

“In Israel, we have 29 hospitals and 100 professional medical clowns throughout the country and we are very much part of the medical team,” said 41-year-old Barashi, who has been clowning since he was 14. He was among the first clowns to be part of the “Dream Doctor” project, founded in 2002 to make medical clowning an integral part of hospital treatment in Israel.

Goldenberg, 34, has been with the Dream Doctors for the past six years. Both she and Barashi traveled to Nepal to help in the aftermath of its 2015 earthquake. Barashi has spent over 20 years working in hospitals and disaster areas — in Israel, Nepal, Haiti and Uganda; with children and adults experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder; and with AIDS patients.
Kapustina said she was thrilled that Barashi and Goldenberg’s visit and her documentary could expose more Americans to the power of medical clowning. “In America, many people are scared of clowns,” she said. “But this isn’t about white face and being scary. They don’t do ‘shtick.’ ”

At the UCLA children’s hospital, Child Care Life Director Kelli Carroll is trying to control her giggles in the hallway outside 20-year-old Jazmin’s room as Dush and Fruma work their magic. Carroll said she has wanted to start a medical clowning project for a long time. “There are few hospitals that do it [in America] and I’d love for us to have one, but we need funding for it.”

“The clown doesn’t see the social, psychological and sometimes even physical walls. He reaches past them to the human essence.” — Sasha Kapustina

For Kapustina, creating a documentary about the medical clowns was serendipitous. After she and Tishkova made aliyah in 2010, they wanted to make a documentary about life in Israel.

“We thought a hospital would be a good place to look at,” Kapustina said. “It’s a place where people put unimportant things aside and humanity is the most important thing. Plus, there’s the life-and-death stakes. Then we realized it’s also one of the few places where Arabs and Jews work together.”

Shortly after their decision to film in hospitals, Tishkova literally ran into Barashi in a hallway of Jerusalem’s Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital, where he is the resident medical clown.

“And the rest is history,” Barashi said.

In the spirit of bringing people together, the “I Clown You” film is being produced in four languages: Hebrew, Arabic, English and, yes, … gibberish.

Kapustina and Tishkova hope to complete the documentary for release in 2018, but they are still raising funds through a Kickstarter campaign at iclownyoudoc.com.

As Kapustina states in her promotion notes for the film, “The clown doesn’t see the social, psychological and sometimes even physical walls. He reaches past them to the human essence. When medical clowns work with patients, they focus on their healthy side. They don’t ignore the sick side, but all the empowerment goes to the healthy side so that it can take over. Following their lead, we are focusing on the healthy side of the world, the humanist side.”

Just as Dush and Fruma are getting ready to leave the UCLA children’s hospital, Ivy returns to his room on the ward in a little red wagon pulled by his aide. As a nurse picks him up and plops him into bed, he sees the clowns. His eyes widen. Almost instinctively, the clowns launch back into a patter of gibberish and wave, smile and blow kisses.

Ivy grins and waves back.

From left: Lee Broda, Shani Atias, Noa Tishby, Azita Ghanizada. Photo by Gerri Miller

Israeli, Muslim Women Team to Fight for Equality in Hollywood


Stories of sexual misconduct and abuse, workplace discrimination and pay inequality have dominated the headlines recently, drawing attention to issues women face every day in Hollywood. But for women of Middle Eastern, North African and South Asian heritage, there are additional issues of stereotyping and racism that make getting ahead that much harder.

Women Creating Change hopes to counter that through networking, creative collaboration and bridging the long-standing divide between Jews and Israelis on one side and other Middle Easterners on the other.

The new organization, founded in June by Israeli actress-producer Lee Broda, held its inaugural event on Nov. 18 at Los Angeles Community College, featuring a panel discussion, workshops on writing and branding, as well as one-on-one mentoring sessions.

“It’s one thing to talk about empowering women and another to actually make it happen,” Broda told the Journal. “We’re bringing the Arab-Muslim and Israeli-Jewish worlds together to create opportunities, refer each other, hire each other. We’ve connected writers with producers. There already are results.”

Broda acknowledged that “there are issues on both sides” that may make it uncomfortable for some Israelis and non-Israelis to work together at first. “But just by understanding and talking about it, we can be a voice and show our communities that it is possible to find common ground. It’s a small shift that we’re making, but we’re hoping it will trickle down,” she said.

Israeli actress, singer and activist Noa Tishby (“The Affair,” “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past”), the daughter of a feminist mother whose father was Israel’s ambassador to South Africa, never faced discrimination as a young actress in Israel. “It never occurred to me that women can’t do the same things men can,” she said on the panel. “Then I moved to the States, and people wouldn’t even take meetings with me because I’m Israeli and a woman. It was shocking to me.”

Tishby talked about being bumped from a project she created and said she’s been “humiliated and propositioned” in the past. Nevertheless, she said, “It’s important that we acknowledge the difficulties. We will not win all the time. It’s going to continue to be hard. But we should not shy away from trying.”

“We will not win all the time. But we should not shy away from trying.” — Noa Tishby

Actress Azita Ghanizada (“Alphas,” “Complete Unknown”), who was born in Afghanistan, has often faced negative ethnic stereotyping in her acting career. But the Jewish creators of “Alphas” changed her character from Chasidic to Muslim when they cast her. And the character she plays in the forthcoming “Kilroy Was Here” originally was written as Latina but is now a Muslim. She sees both “small steps” as a victory for diversity and inclusiveness.

Ghanizada is encouraged that filmmakers like Ava DuVernay “see things through a differently colored lens” and believes Women Creating Change “is a step in the right direction. It creates an open dialogue between women from different regions of the world,” she said. “We have similar stories based on common threads of how we grew up and what we struggle against. There are way more similarities than differences created by politics and religion.”

Moroccan-Israeli actress Shani Atias, who has a recurring role on “Ten Days in the Valley” (returning to ABC on Dec. 23) will appear in the Starz series “Counterpart” in January. The younger sister of Moran Atias (“Tyrant”) will play the title role in the biblical movie “Jezebel” and star in “The Color Red,” a short film about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. She’s a founding member of Women Creating Change.

“With SAG-AFTRA, Women in Film, and other great organizations backing us up, we’re already one step ahead of the game,” she said. “The next step would be passing laws and regulations that [state] you have to hire a certain amount of women, and that women have to get paid equally. It has to start with us.”

Screenshot from Facebook.

For Graffiti Artist Solomon Souza, Israel Is a Blank Canvas


On the day I sat down to talk to graffiti artist Solomon Souza, the police took him into custody. After we wrapped up the interview at a Georgian Khachapuri joint in Jaffa, Souza headed to Tel Aviv’s beach road and sprayed up a storm — and a blue female figure — before police caught him and detained him for three hours.

The experience was par for the course for the 24-year-old who has what he calls an “interesting relationship” with Israeli law enforcement.

“I’m extremely rowdy and confident with the police. I scream and shout and dance and laugh. I basically just confuse them,” he said of previous late-night, often alcohol-infused, brushes with the law.

So what does it for him? Being an artist or racking up a police record for vandalism?

“I enjoy painting and I enjoy doing crazy s—. And sometimes the two go together,” the British-Israeli said.

Souza’s bespectacled baby face and peach fuzz belie his hardy, devil-may-care attitude.

Still, rebellion, like art, runs in the family.

His maternal grandfather is Francis Newton Souza, arguably the most recognizable Indian artist in the West, who also was known as the Indian Picasso. F.N. Souza arrived in Britain, where he met Souza’s grandmother, a Jew who had fled Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia. The elder Souza often quipped that if he ever met Hitler, he would thank him for giving him his wife.

According to his grandson, F.N. Souza’s work was that of a “rebellious child.”

“His work is a lot freer than mine — it’s not contained. But the content and the composition [show] he was tormented,” said Souza, who himself is unschooled.

Souza’s mother, Keren Souza Kohn, is also an artist living in the northern Israeli town of Safed.

Souza earned a name in his own right when — with the help of his behind-the-scenes partner, Berel Hahn — he transformed Jerusalem’s main marketplace, Mahane Yehuda, into an outdoor street art gallery by night.

It took Souza three years to complete the project, which saw him painting influential personalities on close to 200 market-stall shutters. Former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir gussies up a bric-a-brac shop while her neighbor, filmmaker Steven Spielberg, adorns a halva store.

The market’s newly minted jungle of color has attracted tourists from all over as well as its fair share of graffiti tours, a growing trend that infuriates Souza.

“Some of these people are profiting from things they have no idea about,” he said. “I overheard one say that I’m a kabbalist.”

He added: “We’re not animals in a zoo. It’s the street. It’s meant to be mysterious, you’re not meant to know every last detail behind the artist.”

He also said that such contrived tours take away from the organic nature of street art.

“It’s [supposed to be] a personal experience. You stumble across a little treasure that wasn’t there before — just like I stumbled on it and decided to paint it,” he said.

Souza has little patience for anyone who purports to know more than they do about a particular subject. One person he puts in that category is Banksy, a fellow British street artist who adopted the Palestinian cause as his “pet project.”

“He’s talented and he knows how to make beautiful art but he’s skewed,” Souza said of the artist, whose work has included painting provocative, politically charged imagery on Israel’s security fence.

While the question of how much of a role art can play in politics is one that Souza hasn’t quite worked out (“I’m very confused by politics”), the move to Israel was a no brainer.

“Israel is a blank canvas. I feel free here, like I’m able to soar. Whereas in England, I felt small in a big place, here I feel big in a small place. This is still a baby state. It’s learning how to walk but we’re going to teach it how to run,” he said.

Nowadays, Souza’s art is enough to earn him a living. He has flown all over the world to paint commissioned work, from a mural commemorating late local leader Arthur “Fishy” Kranzler at Los Angeles’ Shalhevet High School to a sprawling 400-foot depiction of the story of Genesis at Moriah College in Sydney.

When asked if he’s achieved his dream, he cocked his head whimsically and said, “I don’t know what my dream is. I have lots of dreams. Life is a dream.”

Follow Solomon Souza on Facebook and Instagram @solomonsouza.

Danny Danon. Photo by Eitan Arom

Ambassador Danon Hopes to ‘Close the Gap’ at the United Nations


“You have a public U.N. and you have a private U.N.,” Israel’s United Nations Ambassador, Danny Danon, told a packed audience at Young Israel of North Beverly Hills on Nov 14. “My goal is to close that gap.”

Danon is all too familiar with that gap. In June 2016, he ran for office to head the U.N.’s Legal Committee, which deals with cases such as international terrorism. Election ballots usually are public, but secret ballots can be requested by U.N. members. In this case, the Palestinian representative requested a secret ballot, to avoid Israel influencing fellow ambassadors on how to vote. The tactic backfired.

“That was his mistake,” Danon told the audience. “Many countries told me, if we open [the ballot] and make it public, don’t count on us, yet. But if it’s a secret ballot, 100 percent we support you. You deserve it and it’s about time Israel will chair a committee.”

On that day, Danon became the first Israeli representative to be elected to a U.N. permanent committee, with 109 of 193 votes in his favor. “We broke the glass ceiling,” Danon told The Times of Israel after his victory.

One year and five months after that landmark ballot, Danon was recounting the little victories he and his team have worked to accomplish. Kosher food is now available in the U.N.’s New York cafeteria and, as of 2015, Yom Kippur became an officially recognized holiday. Previously, the U.N. observed 11 official holidays, including the Muslim holidays of Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha and Christian holidays such as Good Friday and Christmas. Now, Yom Kippur has been added to the list.

“We got it done,” he told the audience, which broke out in applause.

Kosher food is now available in the U.N.’s cafeteria and Yom Kippur became an officially recognized holiday.

Danon made it clear that he’s aiming a lot higher. “What happened yesterday with the vote on the human rights violations in Syria, it is a sign that we are closing that important gap,” he said, circling back to issues between public versus private U.N. selves. Notably, the vote was not a secret ballot.

In May, Danon was elected as vice president of the 72nd Session of the U.N. General Assembly. As vice president, Danon chairs meetings of the General Assembly, takes part in setting the GA’s agenda, and oversees the rules and decorum during its sessions.

Before representing Israel at the U.N., Danon, who is in Israel’s right-wing Likud Party, was serving as a member of the Knesset, holding positions such as Minister of Science, Technology and Space and Deputy Minister of Defense. In 2014, Danon was fired from his position as Minister of Defense by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after he criticized the way the government handled Operation Protective Edge — namely, how Netanyahu accepted a truce with Hamas. Danon published a public response to his firing with the statement: “The prime minister doesn’t accept that there are other views in his party.”

Soon after, Netanyahu appointed Danon as U.N. ambassador. Critics went to town on this decision, dubbing it as the prime minister’s slap at the U.N. and at Danon, an all-in-one appointment. (Netanyahu served in the U.N. from 1984 to 1988.) Haaretz wrote, “The joke goes that in one move, we see how much Netanyahu hates Danon — hence his decision to send him far away and remove him from the cabinet table — and how much he hates the U.N. — because he sent them Danon.”

Still, Danon is proving to be a force to be reckoned with. He ended his lecture at Young Israel with a promise, speaking on behalf of Israel to the international community:  “We shall prevail.”

Screenshot from Twitter.

‘P is for Palestine’ Children’s Book Under Fire


A children’s alphabet book about Palestine is under fire from several Jewish mothers for its anti-Israel slant.

The book, titled P is for Palestine, uses illustrations and each letter of the alphabet to tell the Palestinian. For example, one section of the book states, “E is for Eid, it means festival, like the Muslim Eid al-Fitir when we eat enticing eats, get excited over gifts, and enjoy seeing our extended families!” Another section promotes Gaza by stating that is has “generous casas!”

The part of the book that is the most controversial is the section states, “I is for Intifada, Arabic for rising up for what is right, if you are a kid or grownup!”

The book was subjected to severe criticism on Facebook, including one commenter named Bryce Gruber-Hermon who wrote that “my husband has 2 bullets in his back from those intifadas you’re justifying.”

“If you think these are okay or fair or reasonable or just part of politics, you’re flat out telling me my family deserves to be dead,” wrote Gruber-Hermon. “You’re not that bad of a person, are you?”

Another commenter called the book “politically insensitive.”

Critics have also noted that the author of the book, former Rutgers Iranian Studies Professor Golbarg Bashi, has denounced Israel as “a racial and religious apartheid state.”

Bashi defended her work to the New York Post.

“I love ABC books personally, and I have so many of them at home about all kinds of places — Mexico, United States, Italy, everywhere,” said Bashi, adding that she’s working on obtaining funding an alphabet book in Hebrew.

On her website, Bashi wrote that she got the idea for the book when she couldn’t seem find a book like it for her children. Her website also promotes a poster stating, “Palestinian Children Are Stronger Than The Occupation.”

Numerous Israelis were killed and injured from the intifadas waged by the Palestinians, who threw rocks, rioted, and fired weapons at Israeli civilians and soldiers.

Episode 65 – Behind the Scenes of Binary Options


Over the last decade, in Israel, Binary Options has become a term that carries with it a heavy stigma of fraud and theft and is generally associated with shady people. But it hasn’t always been like that. For a long time, for many people, it was just another sector of the financial industry which was raking in A LOT of dough. It actually provided an opportunity for many people who otherwise struggled to make a living in Israel, an opportunity to make good money, fast!

On the 23rd of March, 2016, Simona Weinglass, a reporter for the Times of Israel, wrote an expose of the Binary Options industry. In it, she described a world that thrived on deception, illegal activity, and ultimately on preying on the weak.

Since her exposé in the Times of Israel, Simona has been covering the battle against Binary Options in Israel’s Parliament. Today, the industry is well on its way to being taken down.

This episode is a rerun from a year ago (ep 14) when Simona joined us to talk about this dark industry and how she came to uncover it.

For her original exposé on the industry:
tinyurl.com/hclwtuw

And for more of Simona Weinglass:
www.facebook.com/simona.weinglass
www.timesofisrael.com/writers/ simona-weinglass/

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Direct Download

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Anti-Semitic Graffiti Discovered at University of Michigan


A piece of anti-Semitic graffiti appeared in a bathroom at the University of Michigan on Wednesday.

According to the Michigan Daily, two Jewish students discovered a swastika emblazoned on a bathroom stall in permanent black marker in the Modern Languages Building. One of the students, Sammy Lawrence, reported the incident to the campus Division of Public Safety and Security.

Lawrence told the Daily he “felt particularly targeted by this Nazi symbol.”

“Giving a platform and validating anti-Semites or individuals who support causes that embrace anti-Semitism makes hateful speech towards Jews acceptable,” said Lawrence. “I call on the entire (U)niversity to condemn this anti-Semitic incident, reach out to a Jewish peer and check in with them, and reflect on how we can prevent this moving forward.”

The other student, Ryan Schedit, told the Daily he “was fearful” that the swastika was connected to Michigan’s student government calling for the university to divest from companies that do business in Israel.

“If it was drawn this morning after the vote, I hope it has nothing to do with divestment, but it would scare me if it did,” said Schedit.

A university spokesperson told the Algemeiner that don’t know when the swastika was drawn and they don’t have any current suspects.

On Wednesday morning before the swastika was discovered, Michigan’s student government approved the divestment resolution by a margin of 23 in favor, 17 against and five abstaining. While the university seems to be unwilling to divest from any company, those in the Jewish community on campus criticized the resolution for being divisive and targeting Israel.

The tactic of divestment has been popularized by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which has been criticized by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) for its “anti-Semitic rhetoric.”

Screenshot from Twitter.

Palestinian Terrorist Injures Two Israelis in West Bank


A Palestinian terrorist injured two people in the West Bank on Friday morning through the use of a vehicle.

The terrorist, who is 17 years old and has yet to be identified publicly, rammed into two Israelis at two different West Bank locations. The terrorist struck the first victim, 70-year-old David Ramati, nearby the Efrat settlement with his car going at 60 miles per hour while having “a big smile on his face.”

The second victim, 35-year-old Even Ezer Holaring, was struck at the Gush Etzion Junction. The terrorist proceeded to exit the vehicle and attempted to stab Israeli soldiers. He was eventually shot by Israeli soldiers and is currently in critical condition.

Ramati is currently hospitalized with a head injury that is not believed to be serious. Holaring is in serious condition with an intracranial hemorrhage.

“His condition is very serious and I am asking everyone to pray for him,” said Holaring’s wife in a video to the hospital.

No Israeli soldiers were harmed in the attack.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) responded to the attacks by establishing a checkpoint at the West Bank village of Halhul.

“IDF troops are enforcing breathing closure on Halhul village, from which the terrorist came, in order to prevent additional assailants from leaving the village,” the IDF said in a statement.

The terrorist’s family is being interrogated for more information.

A man walks past a damaged building following an earthquake in Darbandikhan in Sulaimaniya Governorate, Iraq, November 13, 2017. REUTERS/Ako Rasheed TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

Israel Offers Aid to Iran-Iraq Earthquake Victims, Iran Rejects It


Israel offered to provide aid to the victims of Sunday’s earthquake at the Iran-Iraq border, but Iran rejected Israel’s offer for help.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a video on Wednesday explaining that “as a father, as an Israeli, as a Jew, I wanted to help.”

“Israel has no quarrel with the people of Iran,” said Netanyahu. “We never have. Our only quarrel is with the cruel Iranian regime, a regime that holds its people hostage, a regime that threatens our people with annihilation.”

Netanyahu added that Israel has a history of providing humanitarian aid worldwide, including “Haiti, Phillippines, Mexico” and those who have been afflicted by the Syrian civil war.

“We do all this for one reason: we do it because it’s the right thing to do,” said Netanyahu. “Too many times in my people’s history, the world failed to act when it could, the world failed to do the right thing. So we have a special sensitivity to help those in need.”

Netanyahu concluded the video by noting that Israel’s constant humanitarian aid shows the true nature of Israel.

“This is Israel,” said Netanyahu. “Compassionate. Caring. Kind.”

An anonymous official from Netanyahu’s office told the Times of Israel that Iran shot down Israel’s offer for aid.

“This shows the true face of the Iranian regime,” said the official.

Iran also rejected Israel’s offer for aid in 2003 after an earthquake killed over 26,000 people.

Sunday’s earthquake registered at a 7.3 magnitude, killing 500 people and wounding almost 8,000.

Letters to the Editor: New Journal Layout, Prayer, and Israel


New Look, New Content

I cannot adequately express how impressed I am with the new “Back and Forth” feature. Civil but serious, it sharply helps amplify and elucidate the perspectives of the quality voices that participate and teaches us stiff-necked readers things we would otherwise be unlikely listen to. A Kiddush HaShem to the fullest — what a wonderful way to model meaningful engagement between parts of our community and beyond. Thank you, thank you, thank you for embodying a core Jewish value with such deep, universal worth.

Kol hakavod!

Michael Feldman via email

Kudos on the new layout and typeface of the Journal. Big improvement. But as a boomer feminist, I found two recent columns written by women personally disturbing. The first was about flirting, which I at first dismissed simply as a “fluff” piece (“Why I Miss Flirting,” Nov. 10). In the second column, a mother proudly says she encourages her son to be “strong enough to be kind” (“My Son, the Maccabee,” Nov. 10). My alarm bells went off. I personally have seen men who were attracted to a damsel in distress become physically aggressive when that same woman becomes assertive. I also know of college football players (arguably men’s men) who have been convicted of rape.

Since these Journal columns have been published, more and more influential men have been outed for their alleged inappropriate sexual behavior with young men and women. Actor Richard Dreyfuss, when recently confronted, actually tried to excuse his alleged behavior by issuing a statement of direct relevance to both of these Journal  columns. He writes: “I value and respect women. … I became … the kind of performative masculine man my father had modeled for me to be. … I flirted with all women. … But I am not an assaulter. … I remember trying to kiss [his accuser] as part of what I thought was a consensual seduction ritual. … I am horrified and bewildered to discover that it wasn’t consensual. I didn’t get it.”

Women have worked too hard and too long in the fight to gain equality and independence. I hope we aren’t being asked to start all over again.

Sharon Alexander, Torrance


Building Bridges in a Time of Chaos

Thank you, Rabbi Shlomo Einhorn and the Jews United for Democracy and Justice, for your inspiring compilation “After Charlottesville” (advertising supplement, Oct. 20). Not only do you bring together teachings from the vast spectrum of Jewish leaders, sages and religious persuasions, but you also include teachings from non-Jewish leaders and traditions. By doing this, you are helping us to realize the relevancy and importance of striving to sing all four songs as written by Rabbi A.Y. Kook: the song of the individual, the song of the nation, the song of humanity, and the song of all existence. In this time of chaos, we must push ourselves beyond our ordinary boundaries, build bridges and learn from each other. It is only with an open, probing mind that we can elevate our community as well as our nation.

Also, thank you, David Suissa, for creating a forum where spirituality and practical matters can attain the perfect balance!

Mina Friedler via email


Prayers Alone Won’t Cure Society’s Ills

Ben Shapiro wrote a recent column about the power of prayer in the aftermath of the recent mass shooting in Texas (“Don’t Dismiss the Power of Prayer,” Nov. 10). One of the purposes of prayer in such cases is to provide comfort and consolation to the relatives of the victims because absolutely nothing can bring victims back to life. No human action can do that.

The unprecedented number of mass shootings during past several years shows there is a serious problem in society. Both sides agree on that. It’s obvious from Shapiro’s words that he doesn’t understand what is causing “a tsunami of rage,” neither has he the slightest idea where to look for the root causes of those events. Mr. Shapiro, with political power and authority comes the huge responsibility of providing peace and security to millions of people. The inability to fulfill that responsibility is what is causing the tsunami of rage. Such tragic events are not part of God’s plan. Period. They’re part of society, designed by humans. One thing I know in my profession: When there’s a problem with a building, we architects and civil engineers roll up our sleeves and begin to look for what’s causing the problem. And if we find out it is in the foundation, the last thing we would do is to offer a prayer. Even the most thoughtful prayer cannot do the job. Only hard work by experienced people can.

Svetlozar Garmidolov, Los Angeles


Inappropriate Topic in Torah Portion

Rather than commenting on the parsha, the extremist Open Orthodox rabbi unleashed a screed against the Orthodox Union (OU) for not aiding and abetting his agenda to promote practices that all halachic leadership of Modern Orthodoxy agrees is out of bounds (“Parsha: Chayei Sara,” Nov. 10). May the OU find the strength to remove these heretical congregations from their midst.

Saul Newman via email


Historic Evidence of Israel’s Roots 

Thank you for Judea Pearl’s story (“The Balfour Declaration at 100 and How It Redefined Indigenous People,” Nov. 10) lauding the declaration’s tacit recognition of the Jewish people’s status as the indigenous population of Eretz Israel.

It bears emphasis that the Jewish claim to indigenous status in Israel is not just a matter not of faith, but of historical fact confirmed by archaeology and science. The Merneptah Stele, inscribed on behalf of the eponymous Egyptian pharaoh (and son of Ramses II) around 1208 B.C.E., attests to the presence of a people called “Israel” in Canaan. The Tel Dan Stele, which celebrates an Aramean victory over Israel in the 800s B.C.E., mentions Judah’s royal “House of David.” Assyrian sculptures dating from 841 B.C. and 701 B.C.E., respectively, both on display in the British Museum in London, depict the Israelite King Jehu and the Assyrian siege of Lachish in ancient Judah. The Assyrian royal annals’ account of the siege declares Judah’s king Hezekiah trapped “like a caged bird” in Jerusalem, paralleling the biblical account. And population genetics studies confirm the connection of present-day Jews to an ancestral home in the Levant and the continuity of the Jewish people from ancient to present times.

Rome eventually destroyed the Jewish kingdom in a war from 66-73 C.E. and dispersed its people, but Jews never forfeited the right to return home or to reconstitute a Jewish state.

Stephen A. Silver, San Francisco


Israelis Trying to Do the Right Thing

I am a 15-year-old freshman at YULA Boys High School. I was thrilled to see “Teaching Math to Israel’s ‘Invisibles’ ” (Oct. 27) in the Journal because this story shows that Israel helps every race and religion — even Arabs — who constantly try to eradicate the Jewish state. This is also one of the many proofs that if any race or religion is in need of help, Israel is the first to offer its help. People who are not Jewish who read this story can see how the people of Israel care about everyone and are trying to be peaceful with everyone, even groups of people that try to terrorize the world. This story really has inspired me to be more involved in defending Israel when people accuse Israel of treating Arabs poorly. It especially bothers me when the media publish negative and untrue information about Israel. I love that this newspaper published very positive things about Israel. I hope other people get inspired like I did.

Daniel Dallal, Los Angeles

I strongly agree with what Shai Gul does and it will inspire others to reach out to people who need help. When most people run into situations like Shai Gul did, they most likely will run away from these problems. However, Shai did just the opposite, helping to educate people in that poor city. He conveyed kindness and empathy. He taught the “invisibles” to not be so invisible and to take a leap forward in life. By giving them this push, he managed to give them jobs and a basic education to build on. Shai Gul is an inspiration for people around the world. He should keep up what he does so others can be influenced and follow his tracks.

Eitan Ulitzky via email

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

University of Michigan Student Government Passes Anti-Israel Divestment Resolution


University of Michigan’s student government passed a resolution on Wednesday morning that called for the university to form a committee to look into possibly divesting from companies that operated in Israel.

The resolution passed with a vote of 23 in favor, 17 against and five others who abstained. The vote occurred under a secret ballot with the rationale that it was necessary to protect pro-Palestinian students from being blacklisted.

Those who argued in favor of the resolution claimed that it wasn’t targeting Israel, it was giving representation to the Palestinians.

“I want to emphasize over and over again that this resolution emphasizes the voices of Palestinian students … and to give this community a voice for the first time in CSG history is to not take away from any other community,” said senior Hafsa Tout, a representative from the College of Literature, Science and the Arts.

Those against it argued that the resolution was in fact targeting Israel and the Jewish people.

“It was about singling out Israel as the sole entity responsible for the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians,” Tilly Shames, the director of the university’s Hillel chapter, told Jewish students. “And that’s an oversimplification, overgeneralization of an historically complex conflict that really can’t be attributed to one side or the other.”

Despite the resolution’s passage, the university won’t be divesting from these companies that conduct business in Israel.

“The university’s longstanding policy is to shield the endowment from political pressures and to base our investment decisions solely on financial factors such as risk and return,” said Rick Fitzgerald, the university’s spokesman.

There had been 10 prior attempts to pass the resolution, they had all failed.

Leo Wolinsky, right, with his sisters Rachel, left, and Janis, pictured in Los Angeles, stand to inherit a property in Bat Yam through Hashava. Photo courtesy of Leo Wolinsky.

Israeli Organization That Connected Heirs With Assets to Be Shut Down


About three years ago, Leo Wolinsky got a call from a private investigator in Santa Monica who asked if he knew Abraham Wolinsky.

Yes, he replied, Abraham Wolinsky was his father.

“Next thing I know, I’m in touch with Hashava, which I had never heard of,” Wolisnky said in an interview.

Established in 2007 by passage of the Israeli Holocaust Victims Assets Law the previous year, Hashava’s mandate was to gather assets that belonged to European Jews who never made it to Israel’s shores — namely, their bonds, bank deposits and real estate — and distribute them to their rightful heirs. Among the 60,000 assets they collected was a piece of real estate bought by Wolinsky’s great uncle.

But Wolinsky will be among the last to receive a mysterious call from Israel about a surprise inheritance. On Dec. 31, Hashava will shut its doors.

Like many other heirs, Wolinsky was suspicious at first — as were his friends. They warned him, “Watch out, it’s a scam,” he said.

The genealogist who connected the dots to Wolinsky for Hashava, Ayana Kimron, eventually told him that his uncle, a Polish textile manufacturer who perished in the Holocaust, had purchased a property in the Israeli city of Bat Yam in the 1930s, which Wolinsky and his family members now stood to inherit.

Kimron, for her part, said she enjoyed making such calls. “Wonderful job,” she said in an interview. “I wish it continued.”

While heirs still will be able to claim assets after Hashava shuts down at the end of this year, Hashava’s team will no longer actively search them out, said Elinor Kroitoru, Hashava’s head of research. Moreover, claimants will have to produce their own documents proving their inheritance, and there is no statute of limitations, she said.

“The special thing about Hashava is that we did a lot of research for the heirs,” she said. “They didn’t have to come with any documents.”

From the time it was established, Hashava has collected about $600 million worth of assets. It has approved 2,811 applications for restitution, totaling about $205 million in disbursements. Another $285 million worth were liquidated after Hashava determined heirs could not be found, with proceeds given to needy Holocaust survivors or spent on Holocaust commemoration and education.

In September, Hashava announced it had met its targets set out by law and would shut down.

Now, Kroitoru said, “Heirs will have to do a bit more themselves,” and claims will be handled by a small staff working within the Israeli Ministry of Justice, which will hold the remaining assets. “It’s just not worth holding a whole company for the assets that are left. And so it was decided that Hashava would close.”

But for Kimron, the genealogist who was terminated in June, Hashava’s shutdown leaves a chapter of history unresolved. As long as assets remain unclaimed, she said, “for me, personally, the Second World War did not end.”

Kimron said she treasured her job tracking down the heirs of Holocaust victims, especially when she was able to inform non-Jews of their Jewish heritage, and of forging close relationships with heirs, she said.

“Sometimes, I would call a person, like Leo, and talk to them as if I was their cousin — and I knew more about their family than they did,” she said.

This summer, Kimron plans to visit Wolinsky in Los Angeles.

Often, she said, people were suspicious of her. For instance, Wolinsky’s distant cousin in Israel, with whom he and his two sisters will split their inheritance, took some time to convince.

“And not just her — there’s a woman that I chased for a whole year, to convince her to file the request,” she said.

For Wolinsky, Kimron’s call introduced him to a dark chapter in his family’s history that he had never bothered to ask his European-born parents about when he was young and the subject was still fresh in their minds.

“People are not used to having Israelis look for people to pay them.” — Elinor Kroitoru

“As a kid, I didn’t care that much, to be perfectly honest,” Wolinsky said. “Growing up in L.A. in the 1950s, it’s the last thing you care about — these men with long beards in sepia-tone photographs.”

Nonetheless, he said, he was impressed by Kimron’s skill. Through some Yiddish writing on the back of a passport-sized photo, she was able to track down his cousin in Herzliya, whom he never knew existed.

Kimron also learned that Wolinsky’s great uncle, Joseph Volisnky of Lodz, Poland, had acquired a piece of real estate in Bat Yam before perishing in Europe, most likely in Treblinka. The new information excited Wolinsky’s curiosity enough that he eventually traveled to Poland, visiting his father’s hometown of Grodek, near the Belarussian border.

The lot in Bat Yam, he learned, had remained undeveloped as sand dunes all around it were gradually replaced by high-rise buildings. Now, Wolinsky said, it is worth well over $1 million — that is, if he manages to change the title and pay 80 years’ worth of back-taxes.

“I love Israel, but what a bureaucratic country — unbelievable,” he said.

As of Jan. 1, 2018, despite Hashava’s decade-long effort to get the word out, unclaimed assets will likely be locked behind even greater bureaucratic obstacles. Moreover, calls from the forgotten past like the one Wolinsky received will cease.

“It wasn’t easy to get our message out over the years, but we did try our best,” Kroitoru said. “People are not used to having Israelis look for people to pay them. If an Israeli calls them, it’s usually for a donation, not to give money.”

Q&A with Laëtitia Eïdo: Actress Wants Her Work to Be a ‘Link Between People’


With a French father and Lebanese mother, “Fauda” star Laëtitia Eïdo attributes her versatility as an actress to her mixed ethnicity, as well as family religious ties to “the three big religions”: Islam, Christianity and Judaism.

In her breakout role on the Israeli-created Netflix hit, Eïdo plays Shirin, a Palestinian doctor who works in the West Bank and becomes romantically involved with an Israeli special forces officer working undercover as an Arab. During an interview from Paris, Eïdo talked about the ways “Fauda” — which premiered its second season opener this month at the Israel Film Festival in Los Angeles — has resonated across the globe and impacted her own attitude toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. You can also catch her in theaters on Nov. 17 as the star of the Israeli film “Holy Air.”

Jewish Journal: I read that you’re French of Lebanese descent. What is your relationship to Israel/Palestine and how did you end up on an Israeli show?

Laëtitia Eïdo: I was born and raised in the south of France in a small area called Ardèche, a very beautiful town next to Lyon. [But] my family is very mixed. Actually, [while working in Israel] I discovered that I have some Lebanese Jewish family that came to Israel in the ’70s. Before that, my relationship to the show was just the relationship of a French actress brought to Israel by her roles. It started with “Dancing Arabs” (“A Borrowed Identity” in the U.S.) by Eran Riklis, and what happened is “Fauda’s” director watched the movie and wanted to work with me. [One day] my mother told me, “By the way, do you know that we have Jewish family?” I was even more mixed than I thought!

JJ: How does your mixed background serve you as an actress?

LE: What I try to be in my life and bring through my work is to be a link between people. My character, Shirin, in “Fauda,” is close to this, because she has a French father and spends more time in Paris than in Palestine. And the fact that she hasn’t spent much time in Palestine or Israel makes her neither on one side or the other. It positions her in this in-between space, which allows her to feel compassion, which is important as a doctor. And it allows her to refuse to be part of the conflict. She’s able to break those imaginary borders between people. This is exactly what I have inherited, being a mix of three religions and mixed cultures.

JJ: What are the biggest misconceptions you think people have about Israel and Palestine?

LE: It’s the same misconception on both sides, because I’ve been on both sides of the border. People are told that they’re different and they should fear the other side. But when it comes to a personal level — not on a political one — families are the same on both sides. They laugh and cry for the same things. And, actually, I really can’t tell where the hummus is the best!

Photo by David Zimand

JJ: Israel is controversial subject matter in many parts of the world. Has the reception to “Fauda” been different depending on where you are in the world?

LE: The reception to the show is intense everywhere. Apparently, the show is becoming a big hit in the Middle East — in countries like Lebanon, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. In Israel and Palestine, some people love the show, and others think the show is not balanced enough. But it’s really important to remember the show is a fiction, made of stories based on a much more complex and unreachable reality. As an artist I focus on some positive things, like the fact that since the show was first aired in Israel, some teachers had to open Arabic classes for new students wanting to understand their neighbors.

JJ: On “Fauda,” your character has an affair with an Israeli who pretends to be Arab. Do you think it’s possible an Israeli/Palestinian love affair could occur under the current circumstances? 

LE: I can only tell what I see around me. It’s still too rare, but these love stories do exist. They’ve always existed in any conflict in the world, and they will [continue to] exist. More, of course, would be better, because it helps shutting down the fear, as people and families get to know and understand each other through this mixed relationship.

Sean Rad, co-founder and chairman of Tinder, participated in a morning plenary about millennials on Nov. 13. Photo courtesy of JFNA

The 2017 GA: Day Two Wrap-Up


On Day Two, Valley Beth Shalom’s Rabbi Ed Feinstein gave an impassioned speech, invoking Abraham Joshua Heschel’s plea for Jewish authenticity and encouraging Federations to make it a top priority. “You can’t build … Jewish identity with crisis and fear,” he said. “It’s the wrong language.”

In another session, Tinder founder Sean Rad, a graduate of Milken Community High School, waxed philosophical on his connection to Judaism and what millennials want. He also noted that his best Jewish education came from his family’s Shabbat dinner table.

Rad noted that the average person with an iPhone today has more access to more information than an American president would have had 10 years ago. (I wondered, if the Jewish community is fragmenting because millennials have access to too many people and too much information, doesn’t a dating app like Tinder become part of the problem?)

At a session called Millennial Roundtable, Jackie Rotman, founder of Everybody Dance Now, said that federations can be alienating for young professionals, and that the key to engagement is to earn loyalty and engage people early. She also described various types of donors, saying federations need to expand their definition of how a donor looks and acts.

Swipe Out Hunger’s Rachel Sumekh said that “If you want to engage millennials, the first step is to be curious about who we are.” Jason Leivenberg, who runs NuRoots, an L.A. Federation effort aimed at millennials, charged the attendees: “If we can’t answer ‘Why be Jewish?’ for ourselves, how can we ask others that question?”

Jodi Schwartz, JFNA’s treasurer, introduced a panel on relations between American Jews and Israel by saying, “We all love Israel but it’s sometimes hard to feel at home there.” Gidi Grinstein, founder and president of the Reut Group, said that “A vibrant Diaspora is a Zionist imperative.”

Ambassador Dani Dayan, Consul General of Israel in New York, emphasized the strength of ties between Israel and U.S. Jews. “Despite the fact that we are Jewish, our marriage is Catholic — there is no divorce in this marriage,” he said, adding that, “Our obligation is to put aside our different opinions and promise never to neglect one another.”

“I study Israel education, teaching Israel to American Jews,” said Bethamie Horowitz on that panel, noting the shift in Israel support from a “solidarity” or “blue-and-white model” to something that’s “more bruising: the black-and-blue model.” Horowitz, who is a research professor at NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development, added that there is a “great need to address the complexities that Israel now opposes. We have to teach ourselves how to decode the complexities.”

At a session examining Hollywood through a Jewish lens, television executive Nina Tassler praised “Wonder Woman” star Gal Gadot for her reported decision not to sign on for a “Wonder Woman” sequel if producer Brett Ratner — who has been accused of sexual misconduct — is involved.

“She took a stand — it was an Israeli woman who took a stand, and I think it is important,” said Tassler, former chair of CBS Entertainment. The audience responded with enthusiastic applause.

Staff Writer Ryan Torok contributed to this report.

Meir Dagan (far left) undercover in Gaza in 1971.

MONEY WARRIORS: How Israel revolutionized the war on terrorism


There are many ways to begin a story about Israel’s fight against terrorism. In this case, let’s open with a story about an armed robbery of a bank and the generous dish of eggs and cheese consumed by the robbers at the crack of dawn, hours before the bank opened.

As described in “Harpoon” — a new book by Nitsana Darshan-Leitner and Samuel M. Katz about Israel’s financial war on terror — the main target was a branch of an Arab bank in the Palestinian city of Ramallah, although there were secondary targets as well.

The year was 2004. Suicide attacks by Palestinian terrorists on Israeli civilians were still an almost daily occurrence, and Israel decided to diversify its response to the threat — including by turning to bank robbery.

So at 10 a.m. Feb. 25, during business hours, Israeli commandos “raced out of their vehicles, rushing to the main doors of the targeted banks,” the authors write. Forty million shekels were seized, boxes of documents were taken and files were downloaded directly from the bank’s computers. Some of the bank managers were held for a few hours of questioning.

The war against terrorism is an endless struggle, without clear boundaries and rules. All countries struggle with legal and moral questions as they fight against it. They strive to maintain a delicate balance between the need for security and the right to privacy. They are challenged by situations in which civilians are suddenly and inevitably hurt by their actions. They attempt — if they have any respect for morality — to win the fight without losing their soul.

And so what should be made of Israeli’s decision to follow the money? International response to the robberies perpetrated by Israel was not sympathetic and, one must say, also not surprising. In 2004, the world was not yet ready to recognize this kind of aggressive financial warfare as an acceptable tool in the war against terrorism.

Maybe that’s why the planners of the operation, led by Meir Dagan — the head of Mossad at the time who formed Harpoon, a task force and secret unit that “redefined the way that Israel — and the United States — waged war on terror” — decided not to consult with Israel’s allies in Washington, D.C., ahead of time.

This book is Start Up Nation all over again, only this time the ingenuity, innovation and flexibility of mind is not about technology but about fighting terror.

“Dagan could have sent Uri to Washington, D.C., to plead Israel’s case and measure the American administration’s feelings about an operation against the Arab Bank,” write the authors, referring to a man whose full name they cannot reveal. “But Dagan decided against it. There wasn’t time to shake hands and beg for permission.”

In the absence of permission there was condemnation. “We prefer that Israel work with the legal Palestinian authorities to stop the flow of money to terror groups,” the State Department said.

To the Israelis, this suggestion was no more than a joke, because the “authorities” referred to by the Americans often were the problem, not a possible solution. The Americans didn’t see things that way, though, and when the Israeli team that led the operation met with the U.S. ambassador at the time, Daniel Kurtzer, “the ambassador’s mood was dour and he reiterated President [George W.] Bush’s anger,” the authors write.

Still, Israel was pleased with the outcome of this operation. From its leaders’ perspective, it was worth the risk to show that the Arab Bank was a legitimate and valuable target, along with many other banks. Indeed, this is the central premise — and lesson — of “Harpoon: Inside the Covert War Against Terrorism’s Money Masters.”

Consider the example of the bank in Ramallah: It was “the bank of choice for many who were fighting Israel — especially for governments eager to finance the intifada,” the authors write. Terrorist groups such as Hamas and the Islamic jihad relied on funds that were transferred through this supposedly safe channel. And much like the Americans at the time, these enablers of terrorism also assumed that no one would be bold enough to rattle the banking system in such a brazen manner as to acquire information kept by the banks, in order to go after the people and institutions that transfer it to terrorists.

Much like the Americans at the time, these enablers of terrorism also assumed that no one would be bold enough to rattle the banking system.

But that is exactly what Israel decided to do, adding an important tool to the toolbox of anti-terrorism action. It looked at the ways money was moving around, at the institutions enabling terrorist activities, at the people controlling the accounts, at the launderers cleaning the blood money, at the criminals cooperating with terrorism for financial gain, at the countries transferring funds for buying weapons or for compensating the families of suicide bombers. All these became legitimate targets for action. Moreover, they became a priority.

Following a money trail can lead to many attractive outcomes. Consider another story, like that of Salah Ezzedine, a man in his 40s with ties to Hezbollah, who made a fortune and invested for others. In 2007, Ezzedine was in Dubai, and was persuaded by some men, whose identities were never revealed, to invest with them. They were persuasive to begin with, and became even more persuasive when Ezzedine saw the hefty return on his investments with them. So he handed them even more money, and persuaded some of his friends to invest with these unknown figures. Many of these friends were Hezbollah officers, who never asked where all this profit was coming from.

Then, one day, the money was gone. Hundreds of millions of dollars “simply disappeared into thin air.”

Ezzedine “was devastated by the discovery. Devastation soon turned to panic,” according to the authors. The strangers he met in Dubai, with whom he did business and of whom he knew very little “were nowhere to be found; their mobile phones, the BlackBerries, iPhones, and Nokias they displayed so proudly, no longer accepted calls. Panic soon turned to horror. … Ezzedine soon realized that he had been the victim of a diabolical scam perpetrated by highly sophisticated players who had had millions of dollars at their disposal.”

It took more time for Hezbollah to realize that it just had lost a lot of money, and then even more time to decide that it would be better for the organization not to be publicly associated with this incident. Ezzedine was charged by the Lebanese authorities in a relatively minor manner.

Have no pity for him. As this book argues, Israel was not just bold in going after the money; its actions also were creative, entrepreneurial and essential. It was a strategy based on the sober realization that fighting terrorism must not be confined to the violent routines of police and military action.

So, yes, an occasional bank robbery is somewhat violent. And the occasional manhunt whose target is a man dealing with transfers of monies rather than direct transfers of ammunition can also become violent — as the book chronicles. But the purpose of financial targeting is the opposite of violence: to stop the flow of funds that enables violence. It is to drain the swamp rather than having to kill every mosquito.

Co-author Darshan-Leitner, also a character in the story, is a scarred warrior in the financial battle against terrorism. As director of Shurat HaDin, a nongovernmental organization dedicated to lawfare against Israel’s enemies, she has her own good stories to share. She has filed lawsuits in the United States against institutions supportive of terrorism, battling them in court, harassing them, disrupting their tranquil operations. (Her co-author, Katz, is the author of many books on security and military affairs.)

Authors Samuel M. Katz (left) and Nitsana Darshan-Leitner with Dagan after
his retirement.

The American role in the book is thus the role of an initially reluctant and eventually enthusiastic partner in the financial war against terror networks and the countries supporting them. Israel cannot take all the credit for altering U.S. policies in this field, but the book argues that its influence was significant enough to make a convincing case for intensifying these efforts.

The larger story of this book is how Israel transformed the war against terrorism, and its main character is a man well-known to Israelis: the late Maj. Gen. Meir Dagan.

Dagan, while head of Mossad, with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

No book can be boring with a leading character such as Dagan. He was the son of Holocaust survivors, whose grandfather, Dov Ehrlich, was photographed in 1944, just moments before Nazi soldiers shot him dead. As most Israelis know, this chilling, heartbreaking photo hung in Dagan’s office. His grandfather was on his knees, wearing a tallit, his hands were above his head. It was photographed in the fall of 1944, less than three years before his grandson was born. This was Dagan’s daily “never again” reminder.

He was a heroic and at times controversial warrior. He specialized in missions tougher than usual, often operating in gray areas, where the laws weren’t clear, and the rules of the game were written and rewritten by him.

He was called to fight in Gaza in 1971, when the situation seemed dire, and was called to fight in Lebanon in 1982. Ariel Sharon — a general in 1971 and defense minister in 1982 — trusted him with the most sensitive missions; clearly, he loved Dagan. He loved his “wild imagination and courage — and his capacity to turn outside-the-box thinking into success on the battlefield. It was said that the two men were cut from the same cloth; some said that the two could communicate telepathically, carrying out entire conversations without ever uttering a word. It is clear that Sharon viewed Dagan as his prodigal son, and their great admiration and friendship lasted a lifetime.”

In an era when the term “outside the box” is a cliche, Dagan was the real deal. He was the one who realized that the new face of terrorism must be met with new ways of warfare. He was the one who understood that waiting for others to ponder the possibilities, and waiting for others to wonder about the repercussions, and waiting for others to debate the boundaries — are all too often luxuries that a country under attack cannot afford.

As a result, this book about Dagan and his plan is “Startup Nation” all over again, only this time the ingenuity, innovation and flexibility of mind is not about technology but about fighting terror. It chronicles how Israel was hit by terrorists and was forced to come up with solutions earlier and quicker than most other nations. It also divulges fascinating details about covert operations, and more than a handful of frustrating stories — the stories of bureaucrats, politicians and governments that fail to understand the need for changing the rules of the game.


Shmuel Rosner is senior political editor. For more analysis of Israeli and international politics, visit Rosner’s Domain at jewishjournal.com/rosnersdomain.

The War We Rarely Hear About


It seems like so long ago. Do you remember the years 2000 to 2004, when pizza parlors and cafes and discotheques were being blown up by Palestinian terrorists on the streets of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv?

Over those four years of the Second Intifada, according to the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs website, more than 130 Palestinian terror attacks killed over 1,000 Israelis and wounded thousands more.

I remember how we would brace ourselves for ongoing news of these attacks—which seemed to come weekly. There was almost a sense of despair: How does a free and open society stop suicide bombers who are determined to blow themselves up in the midst of civilians?

By some kind of military miracle, Israel found a way to fight back and prevail. After a particularly horrifying attack on a group of Jews enjoying a Passover seder, Israel launched a massive military campaign to root out terror cells and weapon factories throughout the West Bank. It was called Operation Defensive Shield. This was the loud war that received endless coverage in the media.

Journalism thrives on these kind of wars, when reporters and photojournalists can embed themselves with troops and report from the ground. News consumers are riveted by the dramatic war footage and the human stories that come out of this reporting. Operation Defensive Shield was no exception.

But while the military operation was getting most of the attention, another war was going on, one without reporters and cameras.

This was the quiet war against terror financing, the war we rarely hear about, the war that follows the money and is indispensable.

While one war was rooting out the terrorists, this other war was rooting out the money that funded those terrorists.

The inside story of this financial war on terror is the subject of our cover story this week, as our political editor, Shmuel Rosner, reviews “Harpoon: Inside the Covert War Against Terrorism’s Money Masters.”

I remember meeting the co-author of the book, attorney activist Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, in her Tel Aviv office during the Second Intifada. She had this soft spoken demeanor.

While pro-Israel activists work on “education,” she works on seizing terrorist assets.

I’m sure there’s plenty of top secret information she couldn’t share with me. But what she did share was interesting enough. Darshan-Leitner was fighting her own war against terror, using international courts. She was moved by a visit in the early 1990s to the Southern Poverty Law Center in Atlanta, the civil rights group that used lawsuits to take on neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan. This inspired her to eventually start Shurat HaDin (“Letter of the Law”), an Israel-based nonprofit legal center that has been at the forefront of the legal fight on terrorism.

We often talk about the importance of the “PR War”— about how public opinion is so important in the new media age. Darshan-Leitner has gone in another direction. The tools of her trade are depositions, lawsuits, testimonies under oaths and other legal weapons. While pro-Israel activists work on “education,” she works on seizing terrorist assets. She battles not in the court of public opinion but the court of legal opinion.

Over the past 15 years, according to the Shurat HaDin website, her team has represented terror victims everywhere from Israel and the United States to Canada and Iran. Her group “files motions, seizes assets, and sends warnings to state-sponsors of terror letting them know the consequences of supporting known terror groups. Shurat HaDin has put terrorists and terror-sponsoring organizations on their heels, forcing them to spend vast sums on legal fees and preventing them from using the Western banking industry to fund terrorism.”

Since its inception, Shurat HaDin has won over $1 billion in judgments, which has led to the freezing of more than $600 million in assets around the world, with more than $120 million in actual awards. Talk about metrics.

So, when she emailed me a few weeks ago to tell me about her new book, it was a no-brainer. This is an important and fascinating story. It reminds us that the war against terror can’t be won by tanks and troops alone. The quiet warriors who combat terror in courts and global banks are just as critical. While Operation Defensive Shield was playing on television, the special unit Harpoon was operating. in clandestine places that starved the terrorists of funds and resources.

One of the roles of journalism is to dig behind the headlines and show you what doesn’t always appear in the mainstream press. Darshan-Leitner’s new book does just that, and it elevates the unsung heroes in the war on terror.

Photo from Facebook.

The Taylor Force Act Advances the Path to Peace


Today, a Palestinian kindergartener living in Ramallah is surrounded by messages that demonize and dehumanize Israelis, while glorifying violence against them. Leaving their house in the morning, this child sees billboards that pay tribute to suicide bombers. Arriving at school he or she will read textbooks that encourage the murder of Jews. In media and mosques, Palestinian leaders spew invective, describing Jews as “satans” and calling Israel a “cancerous tumor that needs to be eliminated.”

This is not a fertile environment from which the conditions for peace emerge. Seeds of peace are watered by tolerance and mutual understanding, when leaders communicate to their people the need to give up old hatreds and accept paths of compromise. Yet, instead of raising the next generation of Palestinian children to embrace peace, the official institutions of the Palestinian Authority (PA) continue to lay the ground for further conflict and hatred.

The PA will devote some $344 million of its 2017 budget—which amounts to half of its foreign development assistance—to financially reward terrorists and their families. The budget allotment for rewarding violent acts is more than $100 million greater than the amount that the PA spends on welfare for Palestinians living under the poverty line. The welfare package for families of terrorists, incidentally, is higher than the welfare paid to impoverished Palestinian households, while the stipend for Palestinians held in Israel for violent acts is over four times the average salary in the West Bank. The priorities of the PA are laid bare by these discrepancies, and these priorities are clearly not peace.

The United States has a number of levers at its disposal to put an end to these practices. American taxpayers provide funding that is designed to support the development of Palestinian institutions—around $300-$500 million each year. Since its establishment in 1994, the Palestinian Authority has received more than $5 billion in bilateral economic and non-lethal security assistance from the United States, including assistance for the PA’s security forces and criminal justice system.

In order to make sure these funds are used for their intended purpose, the U.S. Congress is now considering the Taylor Force Act, which is named after an American citizen and Army veteran murdered by a terrorist while on vacation in Israel. This necessary piece of legislation advances the prospects for peace by conditioning continued U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority on the PA ending its policy of financially rewarding terrorists and their families. This would prevent hundreds of millions of dollars from incentivizing terror, so that these funds can be used towards the necessities of institutional development.

This summer, the Israeli-American Coalition for Action, where I serve as Chairman, initiated a wide-ranging advocacy campaign to bring together a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers in support of this legislation. Israeli-Americans know firsthand—from our personal experience, through our friends and families who live in Israel, and through our consumption of Hebrew-language news—why ending this practice is so important for peace. Yet, as taxpayers in the United States, we continue to fund it.

In unprecedented ways, the IAC for Action’s nationwide networks of grassroots activists and some of the most prominent and influential Israeli-Americans and Jewish-Americans in our community have been engaged with their elected officials in support of the legislation.

As a result of our work, the bipartisan group of lawmakers publicly supporting the Taylor Force Act—originally introduced by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)—has grown significantly. House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) and Ranking Member Eliot Engel (D-NY) have introduced their own version of the bill, which will be marked up in the Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday and is expected to pass with overwhelming bipartisan support.

Like the Israeli-American community, Congress understands that opposition to a rewards scheme for acts of terror by the PA is not a question of right or left, or Democrat or Republican. It is a question of right and wrong, of peace and terror. America can help move Israelis and Palestinians forward on the difficult path to peace by ending this subsidy for terror.

Screenshot from Twitter

This Rutgers Professor Is Under Fire For Being An Ex-Syrian Diplomat Who Accused Israel of Child Organ Trafficking


A Rutgers professor is being criticized for his role as a Syrian diplomat who once accused Israel of trafficking child organs.

Mazen Adi, who has taught international criminal law and political science at Rutgers since 2015, served as Syria’s foreign ministry from August 1998 to July 2014 and as the country’s diplomat in the last seven years of that tenure. Adi frequently defended Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the United Nations while criticizing Israel in the United Nations.

One of accusations Adi leveled at Israel was that “international gangs led by some Israeli officials are now trafficking children’s organs,” an accusation that Israel has denounced as “blood libel.” Adi also alleged “that Israel systematically targeted civilians, destroyed the environment and buried alive enemy soldiers,” according to the Algemeiner.

UN Watch has issued a petition calling for Adi to be fired.

“UN Watch calls on Rutgers University to fire Mazen Adi, a professor on war crimes law, on grounds that as a Syrian diplomat and legal advisor he justified the war crimes of the genocidal Assad regime,” the petition stated. “While serving as a Syrian delegate and legal advisor at the UN, Mr. Adi systematically acted as an apologist for the mass murder committed by the Assad regime against his own people, helping Syria win impunity at the UN to conduct continued war crimes.”

As of this writing, the petition has received over 4,000 signatures.

Rutgers defended their employment of Adi on the grounds of academic freedom.

“Faculty members enjoy the same freedoms of speech and expression as any other individual in this country,” the university said in a statement to Algemeiner. “Rutgers will not defend the content of every opinion expressed by every member of our academic community, but the University will defend their rights to academic freedom and to speak freely.”

Algemeiner asked Rutgers if the fact that they received donations from an Iranian-linked charity played any role in their decision, which Rutgers denied.

A general view shows a Palestinian flag and tents in Susiya village, south of the West Bank city of Hebron July 20, 2015. Sitting under a fig tree to escape the searing sun, Jihad Nuwaja looks out on the only land he knows - the dry expanse of the Hebron hills in the southern West Bank. Within days, his home is set to be demolished and he, his wife and 10 children expelled. Nuwaja's family is one of handful living in tents and prefabricated structures at Susiya, a Palestinian village spread across several rocky hillsides between a Jewish settlement to the south and a Jewish archaeological site to the north - land Israel has occupied since the 1967 Middle East war. REUTERS/Mussa Qawasma

11 lawmakers warn against demolition of Palestinian villages


WASHINGTON – Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (D-CA) authored a letter signed by 11 House Democrats urging Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to pressure the Israeli government and prevent the demolition of Palestinian villages Susiya and Khan al-Ahmar. “We ask you that you work with your counterparts in the Israeli government to prevent the demolition of these villages, the expulsion of Palestinian families from their homes, and the expropriation of their lands,” the lawmakers said.

Located in the West Bank, the village of Susiya has attracted significant international attention. The Israeli government says that the homes in Susiya were built illegally, and the Israeli Supreme Court ruled in 2015 that the Defense Ministry has the right to demolish the structures.

Last week when asked the State Department’s view on the demolition orders for Susiya, a State Department official explained, “We are not going to comment on an Israeli Supreme Court decision.”

In a letter obtained by Jewish Insider, Charles Faulkner of the State Department’s Bureau of Legislative Affairs explained, “We are closely following developments in Susiya and Khan al-Ahmar… Consulate General officials continue to visit Susiya and Khan al-Ahmar to monitor the situation.” Faulkner added President Donald Trump is committed to achieving peace and “urged both sides to refrain from taking action which could undermine that goal.”

The Trump administration’s more muted response stands in contrast to the Obama administration. Past State Department spokesman John Kirby publicly called on Israel to “refrain” from carrying out the demolitions in 2015, which the Obama administration official labeled as “harmful and provocative.”

“It is yet another example of the double standard that anti-Israel politicians apply to the nation state of the Jewish people,” asserted Alan Dershowitz, former law professor at Harvard University. “When is the last time these members of Congress complained about a domestic issue involving another foreign ally? How would Congressmen feel if Israeli members of Knesset started writing letters complaining about how America is dealing with some of its issues?”

The letter was also signed by Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), Deputy Director of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), Mark Pocan (D-WI), James McGovern (D-MA), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Jackie Speier (D-CA), Betty Mccollum (D-MN), Chellie Pingree (D-ME), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH) and Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX).

In September, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) sponsored an event on Capitol Hill to highlight the condition of Susiya.

This article originally appeared on jewishinsider.com.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

President Rivlin found a Fifth Tribe: Diaspora Jews


1.

President of Israel Reuven Rivlin is this year’s senior Israeli speaker at the GA, the annual gathering of the North American Jewish federations. And this is not an easy job: Los Angeles is sunny, and visiting the city is surely enjoyable, but Rivlin came here as the representative of an establishment that is not highly popular with the leadership of US Jewry. Some call it a “crisis” in Israel-Diaspora relations, some deliberately want to avoid the C word. Terminology aside, the Jews of America – well, many of them – are angry with Israel’s government, and feel betrayed, neglected, disrespected. They want to see change.

President Rivlin cannot give them what they want. Moreover, his speech in Los Angeles today reminded North America Jews that “we must all respect Israel’s democratic process. The decision-making process”. American Jews must respect it, and hence accept that their ability to pressure Israel into doing something that its leadership is reluctant to do it limited. President Rivlin himself respect it, and hence is reluctant to express his support for a specific position in the great debate about – well, what is it about?

2.

In a nutshell, Rivlin’s speech included 5 main messages:

  1. Israel is wonderful, and don’t you forget that.
  2. We Jews are partners in good times and bad times.
  3. Religion and State issues are highly politicized in Israel – and this ought to be taken into account.
  4. The Jewish world and Israel are changing, and we must understand and adapt to change.
  5. While we deal with secondary issues, let us not forget the important ones: Iran, anti-Semitism and other serious threats to Jewish existence.

3.

Refereeing to the “crisis” Rivlin used his vast experience as an Israeli politician – one of the most experienced and most successful politicians we have. He used it to remind his North American listeners that “Whether we like it or not, in the only Jewish-democratic state, Religion and State is a political issue”. Obviously, most Jews in the hall do not like it, but Rivlin insisted on reminding them what this reality means: “Around five Israeli governments have fallen on questions like: ‘Can combat aircraft (not on mission) land in Israel on Shabbat?’ Or on the question of ‘Who is a Jew?’ that is Democracy”.

Was he defending the decision by Prime Minister Netanyahu to renegade on the Kotel compromise? I would not go that far. Still, he was clearly at least somewhat sympathetic to Netanyahu’s political calculations. This isn’t some joke, he reminded the room, this is serious business of having to run a complicated coalition by delicately balancing conflicting outlooks and interests.

And as for the Kotel: “I hope that in the future we can return to the table together, and reach an understanding on this important issue”. Note what Rivlin did not say: he did not say that there is need to go back to the deal that the government decided to scrap.

4.

The most interesting part of Rivlin’s speech was dedicated to his theme of “tribes” – a theme that Israelis are already familiar with. Israel is no longer a coherent society. It evolved and now has four main tribes battling for space, influence, resources, ideas – while also having to maintain a certain sense of partnership, because they are all partners who have a stake in the success of Israel. “from a society made up of a clear Zionist majority, to a society made up of four clear sectors or ‘tribes’, which are getting closer in size: The secular Jews, the National Religious Jews, the Haredim and the Arabs”.

Not everybody is happy with Rivlin’s formulation, and with the action he advocates based on it. But that’s not the issue for today. What was noteworthy about his speech today was Rivlin’s attempt at counting non-Israeli Jews as a fifth tribe. “we need the partnership with you, the fifth tribe, (and very important one), the Jews of the Diaspora”.

5.

To be a fifth tribe is an honor – you are one of us – and a burden – you are one of us. It means that Rivlin just complicated the choreography of the already complicated dance of having to make four tribes get along with one another. In his speech, he did not much elaborate on this idea, but make no mistake, he probably thought about it, and already has some ideas as to how such formulation can serve us in the field of Israel-Diaspora action.

Is the Jewish Diaspora a fifth tribe? Does it want to be a fifth tribe? This can be an interesting discussion – but a fifth tribe is surely better than a second people.

Still, there are complications. World Jews are no more a coherent group that Israeli Jews are – so maybe they should not be counted as a fifth tribe but rather be added to the four other tribes (three really: secular, Zionist religious and Haredi). Or maybe to include world Jews in this formulation of tribes there is a need to add more than a fifth tribe – maybe a fifth and a sixth and a seventh.

Also: to have world Jews counted as a tribe we must assume a partnership in something. This might be easier for the Jews, but can we add them to a partnership that includes Israeli Arabs? (it is of course possible: because world Jews and Arab Israelis share an interest in the success of Israel).

And there is the numerical issue to consider. There are eight million Israelis and about the same number of Jews in the rest of the world. Is it fair to count Israelis as four tribes – about two million strong each – and then count all other Jews as just one tribe – eight million strong?

One way or the other, a fifth tribe concept is something fresh to ponder, maybe as a little respite from endlessly talking about the unresolved issue of the Kotel.

6.

As for Iran, note that Rivlin agrees with Netanyahu – and he agrees with President Trump.

Screenshot from YouTube

Excerpts from the President’s Speech at the GA


Dear friends, I remember the first and only time that my father slapped me.

It was just after my Bar-Mitzvah. Some relatives from the United States came to visit us.

I asked them: “Why don’t you make Aliyah?”

I told them: “Israel is the only place for Jews!”

And then my father slapped me.

He said: “Jews need  to take care of each other, not threaten each other.”

That slap made me realize that the relationship between us, the Jewish People, must be based on one simple demand: mutual responsibility.

A commitment to the security and the wellbeing of all our People.

This commitment, must be stronger than any disagreements. We have the challenge of establishing our relationship as a value. a value that is above any argument.

As for the Kotel agreement. The development of the agreement was a sensitive process, led by our government, in order to try and bridge the gap. I hope that in the future we can return to the table together, and reach an understanding on this important issue. It is our mutual responsibility, and a common interest. At the same time,we must all respect Israel’s democratic process. The decision-making process. Whether we like it or not, in the only Jewish-democratic state, Religion and State is a political issue. Maybe the most explosive one.

Around five Israeli governments have fallen on questions like: “Can combat aircraft (not on mission) land in Israel on Shabbat?” Or on the question of “Who is a Jew?” That is Democracy.

My friends, You have real, positive and effective impact on the Israeli system and society. We have built strong channels of cooperation on strategic issues. You have great impact on the Israeli agenda. I ask you, don’t stop.

As part of the challenge of building the relationship between us, We need to create an honest and open dialogue between the sides, this is our only way to move forward.

Today, Iran is establishing its control through Iraq, Syria and Lebanon and up to the Mediterranean. This is not just a threat to Israel – It is a threat to the entire world. Iran is the number one exporter of international terrorism. It is a country whose leaders call openly for the destruction of the state of Israel.

We cannot allow Iran to have a nuclear capability. That is madness.

We must work together to prevent that.

The current agreement puts both Israel and the united states in danger, and shakes the stability of the entire region.

It is not enough to enforce all parts of this agreement. It has to be improved, so that we will be prepared for the day after it expires.

This is the Jewish and democratic state that we all dreamed of for two thousand years.

A state based on the vision of the prophets of Israel. A state that respects the unique identity of each sector in Israeli society, and in the Jewish people. A state that regards equality and fairness as its guiding light. A state that demands shared responsibility from all. A state that does not compromise on it’s Jewish identity or it’s vision of Jewish people-hood, while also having a vision of a shared Israeli-identity, for all its citizens. Jews and non-Jews alike.

Photo from Flickr.

Early Intervention for Charedi Kindergartens


Rabbi Tzvi Weiss, who teaches preschool-aged boys in the Chasidic Karlin school system, has a degree in special education, but he still felt unequipped for the range of challenges facing preschoolers whose language and social skills were significantly delayed.

“I didn’t know how to teach language or to identify certain problems,” said Weiss, who teaches in one of the most Charedi neighborhoods of Jerusalem, where the entrance of every apartment building is filled with baby strollers, and men in black coats and hats hurry down the narrow streets.

Weiss jumped at the opportunity to participate in a three-year pilot program in seven Charedi neighborhoods throughout Israel that focuses on developing children’s social skills, emotional intelligence, language skills, understanding of facial expressions and interpersonal communication. He and his students are now in the final year of the first-of-its-kind early intervention program that the program’s creators hope will soon be expanded to all Charedi schools in Israel.

Called A Taste of Honey, the program is implemented by the nonprofit organization Achiya, under the auspices of JDC-Ashalim and the Ministry of Education. Achiya was created by leaders in Bnei Brak, a largely Charedi city, to help mainstream Charedi schools deal more effectively with childhood learning differences and developmental delays. Early intervention, educators believe, is the best way to do that.

Achiya’s programs have greatly expanded since its launch in 1993. Its facility in Bnei Brak offers paramedical facilities for boys and girls and soon will offer a children’s library. The organization operated a three-year Language Skills Program for preschoolers and runs a teacher training program with 19 branches that produces “fully certified” male teachers who go on to teach in the insular Charedi community.

Most Charedi boys schools do not employ female teachers due to norms regarding separation of the sexes, so the training of male teachers addresses a communitywide void, said Yitzhak Levin, Achiya’s co-founder and director.

“Twenty years ago, the majority of the Charedi population believed that formal teachers’ training was superfluous,” Achiya’s website notes. Levin added, “Ninety percent of the educators in the Talmud Torah system were Torah scholars who had spent years studying in a post-graduate yeshiva, without having received professional training in educational techniques and methodology.”

A Taste of Honey aims to give teachers more than just the skills necessary to identify and address children’s language issues. Eight pedagogical counselors have been working with 84 preschool teachers to help them address social awkwardness, emotional problems and/or developmental/language delays in 2,600 boys.

Following the core training, the counselors have continued to coach the teachers as they navigate their way in the classroom. They help the teachers design and equip the classroom area in a way that encourages verbal interaction, both among the children and between the children and their teacher. At the conclusion of the three-year pilot, the counselors will continue working within the Ministry of Education’s early childhood education department to continue the program’s goals.

“The goal is for the program to become part of the curriculum — by the Ministry of Education with government funding — for all Charedi kindergartens,” said Tzivia Greenberg, Achiya’s director of resource development.

“Twenty years ago, the majority of the Charedi population believed that formal teachers’ training was superfluous.” – Achivya’s website

During a visit to the Karlin school, Tzaly Perlstein, who coordinates A Taste of Honey, said language skills were especially important for Charedi boys because they needed to read Hebrew, Aramaic and often Yiddish by the middle of elementary school.

Levin said he is proud that the program is creating change within the Charedi community.

“Now we have many Charedi professionals who can identify and address what is lacking in the Charedi educational system and find the appropriate solutions. And, most importantly, with the hechsher [kosher approval] of the biggest rabbis.”

Weiss, the Karlin teacher, said he asked his students to color in a picture of an old man crying during a Purim megillah reading, and asked them why the man might be crying.

Then he asked his students, “What is prayer?” “How do you feel when you pray?”

The boys then offered answers like “happy” and “grown up, like my Abba.”

Weiss said it was “very satisfying” to see the children able to verbalize their emotions. They expressed empathy for others. It left him with a warm feeling — “leibidik.”


This article was originally published in The New York Jewish Week.

Photo from Facebook.

How the GA Can Fix the Jewish World


Jewish professionals and volunteers will gather next week in Los Angeles for the GA, The Jewish Federations of North America’s General Assembly. They will convene under the somewhat vague headline “Venture Further.”

Further to where? This is probably a matter for debate, but the slogan conveys a clear sentiment: What we have now is a transitional phase. Our job is to carve a course that will move us forward “into the future of Jewish education, philanthropy and our community.”

The future of “our community.” Here is something to think about: Is “our community” the North American Jewish community or the whole of the Jewish world? Clearly, in talking about a specific community, as large as it might be, there is also a need to keep an eye on other communities, as no Jewish community is an island. The future of “our community” must consider the future of the community that it not “our community,” but someone else’s.

In this spirit, and before this special annual occasion of discussion — where I will be a speaker this year — I would like to briefly suggest a simple framework for understanding the state of the Jewish world, and, hence, the test we must pass as we attempt to venture further. I know, many of the things I am about to write are obvious. But sometimes we need to remind ourselves of the obvious, as not to drown in a conversation about marginal or irrelevant matters.

So, here it is:

The Jewish world rests mainly on two pillars: North America and Israel. These two pillars have different characteristics that occasionally put them at odds, and this has been especially true over the past couple of months. Their main challenges are quite simple: For Israel, it is physical survival; for North America, it is cultural survival.

Israel is located in a problematic and dangerous area, it is small, it is surrounded by people who want to see it gone. All other problems — and of course it has other problems — pale in comparison. Keeping Jews alive, in a Jewish state, is the main concern of Israel. As for culture, most worries are exaggerated: A long process of communal design eventually will produce an Israeli-Jewishness.

Jews in North America are physically secure. Their country is the most powerful on earth (I know, North America also includes Canada, Mexico and other countries). The challenge they face is cultural. They need a Jewish culture that can be preserved in a modern world, and an open society, where they are a small minority. They need it to be intense and meaningful enough to survive the expected erosion of a minority culture in a majority society.

That’s it. That’s the challenge for “our community.”

Can Israel overcome the challenge? I hope it can. To succeed, it must be strong, realistic, sober, battle ready, tough. And since this is Israel’s main challenge, it would be nice if the Jews of North America would attempt to assist Israel in this arena — even as they attempt to advance the other causes they have in mind for Israel.

Can North American Jews overcome the challenge? I hope they can. To succeed, they must strengthen their communal institutions, invest in education and find a way to have a “community” that means more than a group of people who have Jewish ancestry. And because this is their main challenge, it would be nice if Israel would assist them — even it is not always convenient, politically or otherwise.

The first step in using this formula to venture further is not to deny its validity: There are many who argue that Israel has issues larger than security, that it is about to lose its Jewish soul. These people, although right to identify some problems in need of addressing, are diverting us from prioritizing our policies in the right order. There are also many who argue that the Jews of North America have issues more important than reinvigorating their Jewish culture — fighting the alt-right, or correcting Israel’s course, or whatever. These people, while right to identify some problems in need of addressing, are diverting us from prioritizing our policies in the proper order.

Simplicity is key: Israel needs to bolster its security — the rest will take care of itself. North American Jews need to bolster their culture — the rest will take care of itself.

As to how to achieve these two goals? That is what the GA is for.


Shmuel Rosner is senior political editor. For more analysis of Israeli and international politics, visit Rosner’s Domain at jewishjournal.com/rosnersdomain.

Letters to the Editor: Harvey Weinstein, IDF Destroys Hamas Tunnel, Pickles


Harvey Weinstein: Disgrace to Judaism

I picked up a recent copy of the Journal, which I always look forward to reading. However, when I saw the photo of Harvey Weinstein on the cover, I was stunned. His picture, if in the Journal at all, should be small and on the last page of the paper, declaring that he shamed himself, his family, and that he is a disgrace to everything Jewish. The cover of the Journal should have someone we respect and emulate, who lives an exemplary life and makes this world a better place. I am sure you can choose more wisely the next time you prepare the paper.

Marion Lienhard, Thousand Oaks


A New Look, New Direction for the Journal

Congratulations on the new format, type, layout and the change in focus.

The new parsha commentaries show the variety of possibilities in interpretation.

The political differences are best shown when focused side by side on a single topic. The expansion of writers gives voice to many other topics of interest.

Mazel tov!

Enriqué Gascon, Los Angeles

When I lived in Baltimore I told people I read their Jewish News and they responded by saying, “Honey, no one reads it, we just look through it.”

One cannot say that about our Jewish Journal.  Its content is rich, diverse, readable and good enough to be savored.  All of that in addition to learning new things, human interest stories, and opinions that do not require you to want to tear your hair out.  OK maybe a little hair-tearing.

Don’t you just love change?

Sherri W. Morr via email

The Journal’s profound new tone and writers continue to amaze. In “A Deeper Feminism (Oct. 27),” Karen Lehrman Bloch’s assertion that freedom requires “thoughtfulness, a need to recognize reality and human nature” is a breath of fresh air. Although Bloch considers herself politically neutral, the media are so predominantly leftist that she seems to speak for the right. Her observation that “Women are equal to men but … different,” and “We should take pleasure in the differences,” is a mature, common-sense response to the growing, misguided progressive dogma that there’s no difference between the sexes or that it’s all cultural indoctrination. She’s a real delight!

I’ve even started reading Marty Kaplan’s column again. For a while, he was just trashing President Donald Trump every week, but his fascinating Oct. 27 rumination, “When Bad People Happen to Good Art,” explores the age-old enigma of profound art created by immoral, self-indulgent people. I wonder if it struck Kaplan that all the abusive artists he cited are likely Trump-haters, and that every Weinstein associate and political crony is a Democrat. Is the contempt some leftists have for Christianity and traditional Judaism eroding their consciences? I’m not suggesting Republicans aren’t sinners, but unlike secularists they don’t just rationalize bad behavior away. I’d love to hear Kaplan’s thoughts on this.

Rueben Gordon via email

What a great editor’s note: “Can Jewish Journalism Aim to Please?” (Oct. 27)! Note, that reveals a great journalist’s mind! Mr. Suissa, you have found that “sweet spot” already. By asking questions, you provoke thought, and by remaining true to yourself, you avoid triggering anger. The three insights you write about are excellent ways to reach out to as many readers as possible.

I am not a Jew, but I really enjoy the Journal, now more than before, finding those insights applied on all the pages. In my opinion, it is impossible to please each and every reader, but it is fully possible and necessary for journalists to be true to themselves when reporting the facts. Then let the readers be the judge! That’s how we, the readers, will be challenged to open our minds to new ideas and to “look beyond our own customs and traditions.”

Svetlozar Garmidolov, Los Angeles


Put the Brakes on Those GPS Satellites

Your interview with Barry Barish (“Barry Barish on His Nobel Prize — and Why He Never Wrote That Novel,” Oct. 27) contains an egregious error. He is quoted as saying that the GPS satellites travel at 1/4th of the speed of light. They actually travel at 14,000 kilometers per hour (kph) relative to Earth, which is 0.001 percent of the speed of light. The relativistic offset of the space-borne clocks is 38 microseconds/day relative to a stationary clock on Earth, which would cause an Earth-bound user to make a 14-centimeter position error.

As a mere PhD in engineering I hesitate to correct a Nobel Prize winner. I suspect the interviewer misunderstood him.

Myron Kayton via email


Israel’s Destruction of Hamas Tunnel

I would like to thank Aaron Bandler for the story he wrote on the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) destroying a tunnel built by Hamas (“IDF Destroys Hamas Tunnel,” Oct. 30). I 100 percent agree with what Bandler wrote about what the IDF did. Not only did I agree with it but I also completely [endorse what] the IDF is doing. In this story, I discovered that the IDF destroyed a tunnel made by Hamas. The tunnel spanned from Khan Younis in Gaza toward Kibbutz Kissufim in Israel. The reason I agree with this is because Israel warned that Hamas digs over six miles of tunnel a month toward Israel and that members of Hamas can travel through the entirety of the Gaza Strip underground through their network of tunnels. So if Israel lets this continue to happen, then many will probably die.

Nathan Tabibi via email


Israel and the Politics of Pickles

In the column “We, the Pickles,” Shmuel Rosner discusses many things. For the most part, I agree with his statements, although he wrote that Israeli President Reuven Rivlin meant that we all no longer care about the country or the people, but rather maintaining the government. But isn’t that what Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is doing? No matter what Netanyahu does, the critics grumble. He does well and he gets no credit, but as soon as something bad happens, he is to blame. As I see it, if Netanyahu is just thinking about the government, he is doing the right thing to please the critics and the country.

Avner Shamtoub via email


The Cause and Cure for Terrorism

When terrorists attack, they tell us very clearly why they are killing (“8 Dead, 12 Injured in Manhattan Attack,” Nov. 3). They yell, “Allahu Akbar” (Allah is the greatest) — a jihadi battle cry. Yet we ignore it. We wring our hands and lament. We send teddy bears to the victims. That will not stop the next attack.

What will stop Islamic terror is simple but not easy. Imams, Muslims — all who practice Islam — must begin citing the many specific passages of the Quran, the Hadiths of Muhammad and sharia law that tell their flock that jihad, killing infidels and Jews are holy acts, and then denounce these passages as wrong, despite their appearance in holy texts. Unless and until this happens, we will continue to have more deaths. This is not bias. This is common sense.

Not all who practice Islam will commit jihad but some are doing so. We see their bloody work on an almost weekly basis.

Islamic and all religious leaders should stand together and denounce these passages.

Some examples: A command in the Quran: “Fight against those to whom the Scriptures were given [i.e. Jews and Christians] … until they pay tribute out of hand and are utterly subdued.”

Ginette Weiner, Scottsdale, Ariz.

Organi Daycare. Photo courtesy of Organi Daycare.

Searching for Hebrew in America


Organi Daycare in Reseda has all the trappings of a typical preschool — and then some. Tricycles are stationed out front, and the rest of its half-acre property features a tree house, a vegetable garden and even a bonfire area.

But what really sets the facility apart is a certain vibe that makes it particularly attractive to Israelis. Not only is everything done in Hebrew, parents say it feels like a kibbutz.

“Once you get there, you feel like you are in Israel,” said Sherri Elizam, who sent her daughters Ella and Shaya there before they turned 5. “The Hebrew part was important for me, but we speak only Hebrew at home, so I knew they are going to know Hebrew regardless. What I was looking for was the Israeli culture and the freedom to run around and express yourself.”

Many Israeli parents living in Los Angeles don’t think twice about which day care center they should send their kids to — as long as it’s an Israeli-owned center where the children speak in Hebrew and celebrate the Jewish holidays Israeli-style. Such facilities are common around the city and the San Fernando Valley, mostly in private homes.

Organi allows the 14 children in its care — all of whom are ages 2 to 5 and come from homes with at least one Israeli parent — to roam about the place to pet and feed the animals, collect chicken eggs, play with bunnies and a guinea pig, or care for the garden.

Ori Nottea bought the place two years ago to house the day care center she ran previously in Tarzana.

Born in Israel, Nottea arrived in Los Angeles in 1999 and studied child development and yoga for children at Santa Monica College and Pierce College. She taught yoga and was a teacher at Stephen Wise Temple and the Jewish Community Center at Milken before opening her own day care center, with 11 children enrolled, nine years ago.

As a mother of two boys, 11 and 9, she knew exactly how she wanted her day care facility to look — with an emphasis on its “Israeliness.”

“Once you get there, you feel like you are in Israel.” — Sherri Elizam

“I speak to the kids only in Hebrew and all of our activities are in Hebrew,” she said. “But we also expose them to some English during the day because, after all, they are going to continue from here to a school where they will need to speak English, and we want them to be ready.”

Parents at Organi say they want their children to have the same childhood experience they had while growing up in Israel, including the country’s unique Hebrew songs and holiday activities.

“On Israel’s Independence Day, the kids simulate a flight to Israel and dress up like soldiers,” Nottea said. “We eat and prepare Israeli dishes such as falafel, tahini and Israeli salad. The kids cut the salad themselves and participate in all the preparation of the food. I have a tabun oven in the yard where we prepare pita bread. On Tu b’Shevat, I invite the parents to plant trees. On my first year here, the parents and the children planted together all the fruit trees you see here.”

It’s hard to distinguish between Nottea’s home and the day care center. Her house looks like an extension of the center at the rear, with playful murals on the walls.

Not far from Organi, in Winnetka, Hadas Kamry operates another Israeli-style day care center in her home, called Hadas Day Care. Israeli-born, she has lived in the United States for 25 years, first in New York, where she also ran a day care center, and the past 13 years in Los Angeles.

Like at Organi, all of the children at Hadas Day Care speak Hebrew and come from Israeli homes.

“It’s important for the parents that their kids will speak Hebrew, in part in order to maintain their connection to Israel and their roots, and in part so they will be able to talk to their grandparents and family in Israel,” Kamry said. “I make sure to talk to them only in Hebrew. All of the songs we learn are in Hebrew. We will never sing, for example, “Oh, Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel,” during Chanukah, but instead, “Sevivon, Sov Sov Sov.”

While other day care children learn their ABCs, children at Hadas learn their Aleph Bet and the names of colors and seasons in Hebrew. Kamry said she hopes that once the children graduate and move on to elementary school, they will still remember their Hebrew.

Eyal Shemesh from Tarzana sent his two sons, Oz and Lior, to Hadas.

“I wanted that my children’s first language would be Hebrew and that they would be able to communicate with our family in Israel,” he said. “Once they have graduated and moved to kindergarten … in order to maintain their Hebrew language and connection to Israel, I enrolled them in the Israeli scouts and to AMI School, an afterschool program, where they learn Hebrew once a week.”

Throughout the years, Kamry said, she has found that many of the parents have developed close friendships that started with play dates between their kids and continued with getting together during weekends and holidays.

“Many of the parents don’t have their extended families here, so they are looking for connections with other Israeli parents, and they find them here,” she said. “I arrange for gatherings with the parents, like Shabbat dinners, activities in the park during Passover, Purim parties.”

‘Tackling Hard Issues’: the GA Makes a Return to L.A.


Every November, the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) convenes thousands of Jewish lay and professional leaders to discuss pressing issues, share knowledge and network in hotel conference rooms and hallways at its General Assembly. The GA, as it is known, returns to Los Angeles for the first time since 2006, running from Nov. 12-14.

“The GA has changed a great degree over the past 10 years,” said Rebecca Dinar, JFNA’s associate vice president of Strategic Marketing and Communications. Instead of opening with a large plenary session, this year’s event will kick off with “four powerful sessions that touch on some of the biggest looming questions that the Jewish communal world is thinking about.” Participants can opt to participate in one of the two-part sessions, which carry titles such as “Distressed Donors & Discourse: Maintaining Mission Amid Conflict,” “Imagining and Re-Imagining, Engaging and Re-Engaging: The Present and Future of Jewish Life” and “Israel and Us: A Changing Relationship.”

The conference’s theme, “Venture Further,” is about “going really deep into conversations that some might say are hard conversations to jump-start,” said Dinar, who added that organizers have made efforts to understand what draws GA participants and provide pertinent programming. “It’s all done in a way that is relevant to the people who power Jewish Federations.”

One of those is Julie Platt, chair of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, who is co-chairing the GA with her husband, Hollywood producer Marc Platt. Julie Platt said she has attended “more than many” GAs, with highlights such as engaging with Supreme Court judges and touring the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.,  with Susannah Heschel and John Lewis.

“But more than all of those things, I am always rejuvenated and re-energized being with people for whom this is the way they want to spend three days,” she said. “The kind of person whose priority it is to take time out of your life to be inspired and enriched — you’re my kind of person. I love that people care in the same way that I do.”

Jay Sanderson, the L.A. Federation’s President and CEO and a veteran of about 15 GAs, said that compared to previous GAs, the this year’s will be “much more current and about today, tackling hard issues in the system and in the community.”

Platt noted that, in Los Angeles, Federation’s conversations “are truthful, dynamic and bold, and the Federation is on the cutting edge of open discussion, and innovation. We are not afraid to try things, to be nimble, innovative and dynamic.”

“I love that people care in the same way that I do.” – Julie Platt

Platt and Sanderson hope to show off the L.A. Federation’s “leading-edge” programs. Platt pointed to NuRoots, a project to build and curate unique Jewish experiences for Jews in their 20s and 30s. She also mentioned JQ International, a Jewish LGBTQ-support organization, saying she was “so proud” that it “formed before anyone else was thinking about it, so people don’t have to choose between doing LGBTQ and being Jewish.”

Sanderson highlighted the First 36 Project, an initiative that uses neuroscience and psychology to help early childhood educators in contributing to the growth of Jewish children.

In a typical year, the GA draws 30 to 40 people from Los Angeles; this year, 250 people from the greater L.A. area are registered, and many will bring specific agendas.

Michelle K. Wolf, a disability activist and executive director of JLA Special Needs Trust, who is also a Journal contributor, said she plans to advocate for disability inclusion, “encouraging JFNA to take a very strong and public stand to stop the proposed Medicaid cuts in the Trump budget.”

Rachel Sumekh, founder and CEO of Swipe Out Hunger — which helps college students direct dining credits toward fighting hunger — will participate in a GA mainstage panel about Jewish millennial engagement. But she said she feels Federation doesn’t represent her as much as organizations such as American Jewish World Service, IKAR and Bend the Arc.

While her organization is secular, Sumekh said she feels more connected to Judaism than do many of her colleagues at Jewish nonprofits, because she has paved her own Jewish path. “That old model of simply inherited Judaism no longer sticks,” she said. “My Judaism shows up in every right (and left) swipe on JSwipe and every page of Abraham Joshua Heschel I read, every meal I serve.”

Sumekh said her goal in attending the GA is “to make the Federation more representative of me and my values.”

Susan Freudenheim, executive director of Jewish World Watch (and former Journal managing editor), said she is attending “to learn more about the philanthropic climate we are working in today, about networking with the next generation and other creative ideas.” She also looks forward to promoting her organization and “the opportunity to be with so many engaged Jews.”

Janelle Eagle-Robles, a first- time attendee, and her wife Jenna Eagle-Robles, will be introducing a Honeymoon Israel video, and, she said, “representing both the LGBTQ and interfaith communities of Los Angeles” in what she called “a big and valuable visibility moment.”

David Katz, executive director of Hillel 818, in Northridge, attended three previous GAs, but owes a particular debt to the 2014 gathering, in Washington, D.C., which he attended “with the specific goal of finding my next professional opportunity,” he said. His conversations and networking there influenced his decision to accept the Hillel 818 job.

Besides highlighting the Los Angeles Jewish programs, this year’s GA will also reflect its location and connections to Hollywood. One session, featuring Marc Platt, will focus on social consciousness in filmmaking. Another features Nina Tassler, past chair of CBS Entertainment, and Marta Kauffman, creator of “Friends” and “Grace & Frankie.”

“What we want to do this year is to create conversations in the room that stimulate conversation outside the room and for days, weeks, and months ahead,” L.A. Federation’s Sanderson said. “I’m hoping this GA is taking the GA, and the system, in a proactive, relevant direction, dealing with the great challenges we are facing.” n

For more information, visit http://generalassembly.org/.

Q&A with Charles Bronfman on Birthright and the Best Prize of All


In the summer of 1998, Charles Bronfman was sitting outside the Israel Museum in Jerusalem with fellow philanthropist Michael Steinhardt, discussing an idea: What if every young Jewish person in the world had a voucher for a free trip to Israel?

The idea struck Bronfman as implausible, but he was willing to give it a try. Two decades later, Steinhardt and Bronfman are best known in the Jewish community as the names behind Birthright.

Since 2001 — the year he parted with Seagram’s, the liquor company that made his fortune — Bronfman, 86, has been more concerned with giving away money than making it. He spoke with the Journal from his New York City office, where he was spending a few days before returning to his winter home in Palm Beach, Fla.

Jewish Journal: From your perspective, what is the greatest challenge to the Jewish people in North America?

Charles Bronfman: Keeping our relationship with Israel on a sound basis. The Israeli government reneged on its commitment regarding the Western Wall and reneged on the conversion deal. That’s the kind of thing that’s going to do onerous things to our relationship over time. What’ll happen will be that youngsters on both sides will say, “Well, they don’t give a damn about us.”

JJ: Nominations recently opened for the 2018 Charles Bronfman Prize, a $100,000 award in your name for humanitarians inspired by Jewish values. Can you tell me about past prize winners?

CB: The amazing thing to me about the prize winners is although they all have to be under 50, they have gone on to achieve greater results than they had before. They’re amazing people. I love them all. When my children gave me that prize, 15 years ago, it was one of the greatest days of my life. I cannot imagine a more loving present and more impactful present that any child could give a father. And I’m tearing up as I say this to you.

JJ: They gave you the prize as a present?

CB: They’re funding it, and it’s in my name. They set it up on my 70th birthday.

JJ: Not a lot of children have the means and connections to give that sort of birthday gift.

CB: It doesn’t have to millions of dollars. They can promise to keep the lawns on the street nice. It just has to be something that the children know that the parent or parents really appreciate, and because of my life and my philanthropic bent, nothing could have pleased me more that I could ever imagine.

JJ: I would be remiss if I didn’t ask about Birthright. Did you think it would become as big as it has?

CB: Never in a million years. This was something that Michael Steinhardt and I decided to give a shot. We didn’t know if it was going to work. We had no idea. I call it the quintessential venture philanthropy. It’s the same idea as venture capital: You’re really placing a bet, saying, “Can this thing work?” We’re thrilled, of course, thrilled right through to our bones.

JJ: How did the idea come about in the first place?

CB: It came up when both Michael and I were in Israel in the summer of ’98 and both of us had met Yossi Beilin. He was one of Shimon Peres’ boys. And Yossi had this idea that all 17-year-olds should have a voucher from anywhere in the world for a trip to Israel. Michael was sort of taken with this idea. So later, I was at a party with Michael. We were at the Jewish Museum overlooking the — pardon the expression — the Valley of the Cross, sitting on a wall, because he’d asked to speak with me. And he said, “What do you think of this idea of Yossi’s?” And I said, “That’s a scheme to bankrupt the Jewish world.” I said, “Well, this is an audacious scheme.” And he said, “Well, if it’s audacious, why don’t we try to figure it out?”

JJ: What’s next for Charles Bronfman? You don’t seem to show signs of slowing down.

CB: I am slowing down, thank you very much. I have decided that at my tender age, it’s about time to smell the flowers, son, to play some more golf and read.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Palestinian Terror Group: Israel Will Face War Soon


A Palestinian terror group issued a video on Tuesday that essentially threatens Israel and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) with war.

The video, issued by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), shows terrorists adorned in black masks and uniforms running through a tunnel and then positioning themselves behind some bushes close to the border separating Israel and the Gaza Strip. The terrorists proceed to aim their weapons at a myriad of IDF vehicles and combat engineering units, each marked with crosshairs.

The video ominously warns that these targets are “in the line of fire.”

“We can reach the crimes and the aggression of Israel against the Palestinian people,” the video states. “The way of resistance is armed resistance, as long as occupation sits on the land of Palestine.”

The video also refers to “the weapon of resistance” as “a holy one.”

The full video can be seen below:

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem November 7, 2017. REUTERS/Ariel Schalit/Pool

Netanyahu Delivers Speech On 100th Anniversary of Balfour Declaration


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered a speech before the Knesset on Tuesday commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration.

Netanyahu hailed the document for laying “the international foundation and the support for Zionism and Europe and America and in other parts of the world,” which “contributed greatly to the resurrection enterprise of our People.”

The problem that Netanyahu sees with the Balfour Declaration was “that it took 30 years to implement” due to Britain backing away from it, preventing a place of refuge from being established for the Jews who died during the Holocaust.

Netanyahu pointed out that many in the Arab world were actually initially warm toward the Balfour Declaration, but it was the Arab nationalist spearheaded by Hajj Amin al-Husseini, the Mufti of Jerusalem, who provided “grounds for incitement and violence” and was allied with Nazi Commander Heinrich Himmler.

“Himmler is now gone, the Mufti is now gone, and Zionism has triumphed,” declared Netanyahu. “Those who seek the roots of the intra-Islamic struggle that we have been witnessing in recent years will find them there.”

Netanyahu added that Israel has been establishing alliances with moderate Arabs in the region in order to eradicate radical Islam.

“We are acting to achieve peace with other Arab countries who stand with us in the face of radical Islam,” said Netanyahu. “I can only hope that the Palestinians finally adopt this approach and turn to peace.”

Netanyahu proceeded to denounce officials in the Palestinian Authority for their recent criticism of the Balfour Declaration, which included them calling for the British government to apologize for it.

“They are not moving forward, they are going 100 years backwards,” said Netanyahu. “This is the root of the conflict, the 100-year-old refusal to recognize Zionism and the State of Israel within any borders.”

Netanyahu traveled to Britain last week to honor the declaration, where British Prime Minister Theresa May and other British officials defended their country for establishing the document.

For more on the Balfour Declaration, read Judea Pearl’s column here.

Photo from Facebook

Israel Deputy Foreign Minister Speaks At Princeton Despite Hillel Cancellation


Israel Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely was able to speak at Princeton University on Monday even though the campus Hillel canceled the speech in face of pressure.

Hotovely was initially scheduled to speak at Princeton Hillel’s Center for Jewish Life (CJL), but Hillel canceled the event after the Alliance of Jewish Progressives (AJP) lobbied for the cancellation.

“Hotovely’s work causes irreparable damage to the prospects of a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” AJP wrote in a letter published in The Daily Princetonian. “She has stated her opposition to a Palestinian state and has made it her mission to expand settlement construction in the West Bank.”

The letter added that the CJL was hosting “a racist speaker” and silencing “progressive voices” in doing so.

Rabbi Julie Roth, executive director of the CJL, explained in a letter to the Israeli consulate in New York their decision to cancel Hotovely.

“This program will be reviewed by our Israel Advisory Committee and we will refine our procedures to learn from this experience,” wrote Roth. “We look forward to continued robust and healthy debate around Israel in our community.”

Hotovely criticized the CJL’s decision in a letter to Roth.

“By canceling this lecture, you are infringing on the fundamental academic freedom of the students,” wrote Hotovely. “You are denying the basic freedom of students to hear different points of views, to question, challenge and think for themselves.”

Hotovely added later on in the letter that Roth was “silencing the voice of Israeli democracy” and stated that “a liberal dictatorship is ruling here.”

Fortunately for Hotovely, Princeton Chabad’s agreed to host her instead and she ended up speaking after all.

The head of Princeton’s Chabad, Rabbi Eitan Webb, introduced Hotovely and said, “We bend over backwards to give free speech to all.”

“Asking difficult questions is a part of listening,” said Webb.

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