Cartoon: ‘Vigil’ candle business booming
An 83-year-old man was thrown to the ground during a solidarity rally in Germany for three Israeli teens kidnapped in the West Bank.
The incident took place at a national “Bring Back Our Boys” rally in Hamburg on June 19 organized by the Young Forum of the German-Israel Society and the Hamburg for Israel network, the Juedische Allgemeine, Germany’s main Jewish newspaper, reported Monday.
A counter-demonstrator reportedly threw the elderly man to the ground. His daughter also was assaulted physically and verbally while trying to protect him. The man was treated in the hospital for a head wound.
A complaint was lodged with police.
The counter-demonstration reportedly was organized by the German branch of the anti-globalization ATTAC group.
Dieter Graumann, head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, told the Allgemeine that he was shocked and extremely worried that “this kind of pure hatred against Israel not only exists in Germany but is expressed in violent assaults.” He said he was counting on local authorities to “quickly apprehend the perpetrators and bring them to justice.”
Ina Dinslage, spokeswoman for the Young Forum in Hamburg, also expressed shock at the attack.
“We wanted to show our solidarity with the kidnapped teens,” she told the Allgemeine.
Graumann said he hoped for more such demonstrations for democracy and peace, “values that Israel has always stood for.”
The disappearance of three Israeli teens in the West Bank last week is being taken as a call to action uniting many disparate elements of the American Jewish community.
At synagogues across America spanning the major denominations, Jews recited psalms or offered special prayers for the safe return of the teens, echoing a prayer rally held Sunday at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. On Monday, demonstrators held a rally in New York opposite the Israeli Consulate.
“I have a 16-year-old myself,” Steven Levine of Brooklyn told JTA at the rally. “It could have been any of us. They’re my brothers, they’re my children. That’s why I’m here.”
The missing teens — Gilad Shaar and Naftali Frenkel, both 16, and Eyal Yifrach, 19 — were last seen at a hitchhiking post near Gush Etzion, a Jewish settlement bloc in the West Bank. Shaar and Frenkel were on their way home from Mekor Chaim, an in-residence yeshiva high school in Kfar Etzion run by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Yifrach, who met up with them at the hitchhiking post, was on his way home from a pre-army yeshiva program near Hebron.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has blamed Hamas for kidnapping the teens and said he was holding the Palestinian Authority responsible.
Among American Jews, the focus has been on supporting the teens’ families, largely through prayer.
On New York’s Upper West Side on Monday evening, the Manhattan Day School organized a prayer vigil that drew hundreds of people representing multiple Orthodox synagogues and organizations.
Chavie Kahn, the school parent and board member who organized the event, praised Rachel Frenkel, the mother of one of the missing teens, for the grace she has displayed under the international media spotlight as well as for her pioneering work as a “yoetzet halachah” — an Orthodox Jewish religious adviser.
Kahn said a video of the service would be shared with the teens’ families and hoped it would provide them with some measure of comfort and strength.
The Orthodox Union organized a round-the-clock “virtual vigil” for members of O.U.-affiliated programs to sign up for 30-minute slots to learn Torah, pray and perform mitzvahs to merit the safe return of the boys.
The Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly released a prayer for the welfare of the teens composed by Rabbi Tamar Elad Appelbaum of Jerusalem’s Zion congregation.
“Do all that must be done so that relief, rescue, and life may be the lot of the young men, Ya’akov Naftali ben Rahel (Frenkel), Gil-ad Micha’el ben Bat-Galim (Shaar) and Eyal ben Iris Teshura (Yifrach),” the prayer says. “Act on their behalf, Lord, take up their cause without delay, and may You grant them life and blessing forevermore.”
Meanwhile, a social media campaign with the hashtag #BringBackOurBoys has gone viral, generating voluminous tweets and shares. The effort was inspired by the #BringBackOurGirls online campaign demanding the return of the some 200 Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped in April by the Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram.
American Jews mobilized during the long captivity of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier who was held by Hamas for more than five years after a Palestinian attack on his post along the Israel-Gaza border in June 2006.
In Shalit’s case, it became clear relatively early on that he was alive, and the Israeli government became the target of a public campaign to negotiate with Hamas for his release. The government eventually cut a deal, agreeing to release more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Shalit’s freedom in October 2011.
In the case of the teens, at this point it’s not clear who kidnapped them or whether they are still alive.
Some commentators have suggested that Israeli policies are to blame for the kidnapping, noting that the teens studied at a yeshiva in a settlement. But Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of the left-wing Tikkun magazine, condemned efforts to rationalize the kidnapping.
“We reject any attempt to imply that somehow these acts are understandable given the oppressive conditions faced by the perpetrators,” he wrote.
The teens, Lerner continued, “were not the perpetrators or the creators of the Occupation. They were children doing what their parents had brought them up to do and to be.”
Immediately after Monday’s #BringBackOurBoys rally at the Israeli consulate in New York on behalf of the three kidnapped Israeli teens, several participants joined a second rally nearby focused on another kidnapping on a different continent.
The second rally was outside the Nigerian consulate. It was for the more than 200 Nigerian girls whose mass abduction by the Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram spurred the viral hashtag #BringBackOurGirls, which in turn inspired the campaign on behalf of the abducted Israelis.
At the #BringBackOurBoys rally, the organizer, Rabbi Avi Weiss of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, led the crowd in a chant of “We are with you” in a bid of solidarity with the abducted teens and sang “Am Yisrael Chai” with the crowd.
Not long afterward, Weiss was two blocks away, speaking and singing at a #BringBackOurGirls rally on behalf of the Nigerian girls.
Jordan Soffer, a student of Weiss, had happened upon the Nigerian girls’ rally as he was leaving the Israeli boys’ one. He ran back to notify Weiss, who immediately headed to the Nigeria rally and was invited to speak.
Though the slogan #BringBackOurBoys has met with some criticism, with a blogger for the Forward arguing that it was wrong to appropriate the language used by those advocating on behalf of the still-captive Nigerian girls, Weiss said that the participants at the Nigerian rally embraced him.
As Weiss sang of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach’s “Leman Achai Veraai,” members of both groups put their arms around each other and joined in, Weiss said.
Speaking before the #BringBackOurGirls group, Weiss recalled, he highlighted the commonality of the experiences and losses of the two communities, noting that both had suffered at the hands of terrorists. He urged the two communities to stand up for one another.
“It was an experience. Wearing a tallit, I spoke about the commonality of godliness in all people,” Weiss told JTA. “I remarked that just as [President Obama] said ‘These girls are my daughters,’ he should also say, ‘These boys are my sons.’”