Israel, Hezbollah signal their flare-up is over


Israel and Hezbollah signaled on Thursday their rare flare-up in fighting across the Israel-Lebanon border was over, after the Lebanese guerrillas killed two Israeli troops in retaliation for a deadly air strike in Syria last week.

Israel said it had received a message from UNIFIL, the U.N. peacekeeping force in Lebanon, that Hezbollah was not interested in further escalation.

In Beirut, a Lebanese source briefed on the situation told Reuters that Israel informed Hezbollah via UNIFIL “that it will make do with what happened yesterday and it does not want the battle to expand”.

Asked on Israel's Army Radio whether Hezbollah had sought to de-escalate, Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon said: “There are lines of coordination between us and Lebanon via UNIFIL and such a message was indeed received from Lebanon.”

A salvo of Hezbollah guided missiles killed an Israeli infantry major and a conscript soldier as they rode in unmarked civilian vehicles along the Lebanese border on Wednesday.

Israel then launched an artillery and air barrage, and a Spanish peacekeeper was killed. Spain's ambassador to the U.N. blamed the Israeli fire for his death. Israel said on Thursday that its deputy foreign minister met the ambassador to voice regret at the death and promise an inquiry.

Wednesday's clash was one of the most serious on that border since 2006, when Hezbollah and Israel fought a 34-day war. Quiet returned on Thursday, though Lebanese media reported overflights by Israeli air force drones.

Both sides appear to share an interest in avoiding further escalation.

Iranian-backed Hezbollah, which fought Israel to a standstill in 2006, is busy backing Damascus in Syria's civil war. It may also be mindful of the ruin Israel has threatened to wreak on Lebanon should they again enter a full-on conflict.

Israel is gearing up for a March 17 general election and gauging the costs of its offensive on the Gaza Strip last year against Palestinian guerrillas, whose arsenal is dwarfed by Hezbollah's powerful long-range rockets.

The Lebanese government, of which Hezbollah is a part, said in a statement it was determined to keep stability in southern Lebanon and to deny the “Israeli enemy the chance to drag Lebanon to a wide confrontation”.

REVENGE

In a separate interview, Yaalon described Israeli forces on the Lebanese border as being vigilant, but not on war footing.

“I can't say whether the events are behind us,” he told Israel Radio. “Until the area completely calms down, the Israel Defense Forces will remain prepared and ready.”

Yaalon termed Wednesday's Hezbollah attack “revenge” for the Israeli air strike on Jan. 18 in southern Syria that killed several Hezbollah members, including a senior operative, along with an Iranian general.

Israel has not formally acknowledged carrying out the air strike, but Yaalon said it had set back Hezbollah and Iranian efforts to “open a new front” against Israel from the Syrian Golan Heights.

UNIFIL officials did not confirm or deny passing messages between Israel and Hezbollah.

UNIFIL says it has no contacts with Hezbollah but its head of mission was in close contact with Israel and the Lebanese government throughout the day. The channel of communication “is still open now and it is always open in order to ask the parties to exercise maximum restraint”, spokesman Andrea Tenenti said.

During Wednesday's flare-up, Israeli troops launched a search for suspected tunnels that Hezbollah might use to send in guerrillas for a cross-border attack – a tactic employed by Palestinian Hamas fighters during the 2014 Gaza war.

“No tunnels have been found so far,” Yaalon told Army Radio.

Pentagon lifts U.S. ban on women in combat


The Pentagon lifted its ban on women in front-line combat roles on Thursday in a historic step toward gender equality in the U.S. armed forces after 11 years of nonstop war, during which the front lines were often not clearly defined.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, signed an order at a Pentagon news conference rescinding the rule that prevented women from serving in direct combat jobs.

“They serve, they're wounded, and they die right next to each other. The time has come to recognize that reality,” Panetta said, noting that 152 women in uniform had been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Over more than a decade of war, they have demonstrated courage and skill and patriotism,” he said.

The move topples another societal barrier in the U.S. armed forces, two years after the Pentagon scrapped its “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military.

President Barack Obama expressed strong support for the new policy, as did top civilian and military officials.

“Today every American can be proud that our military will grow even stronger with our mothers, wives, sisters and daughters playing a greater role in protecting this country we love,” Obama said, calling the decision a “historic step.”

The decision to lift the ban came with important caveats, and sweeping change will not happen overnight for women, nearly 300,000 of whom have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001.

The decision could open 237,000 positions to women in America's armed forces and expand opportunities for career advancement. But acceptance into the newly opened jobs will be based on gender neutral performance standards.

“Let me be clear. We are not talking about reducing the qualifications for the job,” Panetta said. “If they can meet the qualifications for the job, then they should have the right to serve regardless of creed or color or gender or sexual orientation.”

“There are no guarantees of success,” he added. “Not everyone is going to be able to be a combat soldier. But everyone is entitled to a chance.”

OPEN EVERYTHING

A senior defense official said Panetta's goal “is to open everything” to women. Service chiefs will have to ask for exceptions if they want to keep some positions closed, and any exception would have to be approved by the defense secretary.

Panetta made the decision lift the ban after the Joint Chiefs of Staff concluded it was time to integrate women “to the maximum extent possible,” according to a statement.

Gender-neutral performance standards will be developed for all the new jobs opening to women, officials said. But whether that means the physical requirements become more or less rigorous remains to be seen, they added, cautioning that they would depend on the actual demands of the position.

An example of a physically demanding job that may be out of reach of women without significant upper body strength could be in front-line tanks, where soldiers need to lift and load heavy ammunition in confined spaces using mainly their arms.

A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the changes would be gradual. The service chiefs have until May 15 to offer plans to implement the new policy by Jan. 1, 2016.

“The secretary understands with a change of this magnitude it does take some time,” the official said.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which filed a suit in November seeking to force the Pentagon to end the ban on women in combat, applauded the decision.

For many women service members, the move is belated acknowledgement of the realities of the past decade of war, in which there were often no clearly defined front lines. Of those who served in the wars, 152 have been killed, including 84 in hostile action, and nearly 1,000 have been wounded.

Women serve in combat roles for the armed forces of a few developed nations, including Canada and Israel, but officials say demand from women for such jobs in NATO nations is very low. In 2010, Britain decided after a review that it would not change rules excluding women from infantry or combat teams.

“I feel like it's beyond time,” said Staff Sergeant Tiffany Evans, a soldier stationed at Fort Hood, Texas.

The United States is drawing down its some 66,000 remaining forces from Afghanistan through the end of 2014, when only a small residual force is expected to remain. It is possible that some women may see themselves in new combat roles before that withdrawal is complete.

“I don't think we can exclude that possibility,” one senior defense official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Editing by Doina Chiacu

Israel, Gaza fighting rages on as Egypt seeks truce


Israel bombed militant targets in Gaza for a fifth straight day on Sunday, launching aerial and naval attacks as its military prepared for a possible ground invasion, though Egypt saw “some indications” of a truce ahead.

Forty-seven Palestinians, about half of them civilians, including 12 children, have been killed in Israel's raids, Palestinian officials said. More than 500 rockets fired from Gaza have hit Israel, killing three people and injuring dozens.

Israel unleashed its massive air campaign on Wednesday, killing a leading militant of the Hamas Islamist group that controls Gaza and rejects Israel's existence, with the declared goal of deterring gunmen in the coastal enclave from launching rockets that have plagued its southern communities for years.

The Jewish state has since launched more than 950 air strikes on the coastal Palestinian territory, targeting weaponry and flattening militant homes and headquarters.

The raids continued past midnight on Sunday, with warships bombarding targets from the sea. And an air raid targeted a building in Gaza City housing the offices of local Arab media, wounding three journalists from al Quds television, a station Israel sees as pro-Hamas, witnesses said.

Two other predawn attacks on houses in the Jebalya refugee camp killed one child and wounded 12 other people, medical officials said.

These attacks followed a defiant statement by Hamas military spokesman Abu Ubaida, who told a televised news conference.

“This round of confrontation will not be the last against the Zionist enemy and it is only the beginning.”

The masked gunman dressed in military fatigues insisted that despite Israel's blows Hamas “is still strong enough to destroy the enemy.”

An Israeli attack on Saturday destroyed the house of a Hamas commander near the Egyptian border.

Casualties there were averted however, because Israel had fired non-exploding missiles at the building beforehand from a drone, which the militant's family understood as a warning to flee, and thus their lives were spared, witnesses said.

Israeli aircraft also bombed Hamas government buildings in Gaza on Saturday, including the offices of Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and a police headquarters.

Among those killed in air strikes on Gaza on Saturday were at least four suspected militants riding motorcycles, and several civilians including a 30-year-old woman.

ISRAELI SCHOOLS SHUT

Israel said it would keep schools in its southern region shut on Sunday as a precaution to avoid casualties from rocket strikes reaching as far as Tel Aviv and Jerusalem in the past few days.

Israel's “Iron Dome” missile interceptor system destroyed in mid-air a rocket fired by Gaza militants at Tel Aviv on Saturday, where volleyball games on the beach front came to an abrupt halt as air-raid sirens sounded.

Hamas' armed wing claimed responsibility for the attack on Tel Aviv, the third against the city since Wednesday. It said it had fired an Iranian-designed Fajr-5 at the coastal metropolis, some 70 km (43 miles) north of Gaza.

In the Israeli Mediterranean port of Ashdod, a rocket ripped into several balconies. Police said five people were hurt.

Israel's operation has drawn Western support for what U.S. and European leaders have called Israel's right to self-defense, but there was also a growing number of calls from world leaders to seek an end to the violence.

British Prime Minister David Cameron “expressed concern over the risk of the conflict escalating further and the danger of further civilian casualties on both sides,” in a conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a spokesperson for Cameron said.

The United Kingdom was “putting pressure on both sides to de-escalate,” the spokesman said, adding that Cameron had urged Netanyahu “to do everything possible to bring the conflict to an end.”

Ben Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser to President Barack Obama, said the United States would like to see the conflict resolved through “de-escalation” and diplomacy, but also believes Israel has a right to self-defense.

Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi said in Cairo as his security deputies sought to broker a truce with Hamas leaders, that “there are some indications that there is a possibility of a ceasefire soon, but we do not yet have firm guarantees.”

Egypt has mediated previous ceasefire deals between Israel and Hamas, the latest of which unraveled with recent violence.

A Palestinian official told Reuters the truce discussions would continue in Cairo on Sunday, saying “there is hope,” but it was too early to say whether the efforts would succeed.

In Jerusalem, an Israeli official declined to comment on the negotiations. Military commanders said Israel was prepared to fight on to achieve a goal of halting rocket fire from Gaza, which has plagued Israeli towns since late 2000, when failed peace talks led to the outbreak of a Palestinian uprising.

Diplomats at the United Nations said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is expected to visit Israel and Egypt in the coming week to push for an end to the fighting.

POSSIBLE GROUND OFFENSIVE

Israel, though, with tanks and artillery positioned along the frontier, signaled it was still weighing a possible ground offensive into Gaza.

Israeli cabinet ministers decided on Friday to more than double the current reserve troop quota set for the Gaza offensive to 75,000 and around 16,000 reservists have already been called up.

Asked by reporters whether a ground operation was possible, Major-General Tal Russo, commander of the Israeli forces on the Gaza frontier, said: “Definitely.”

“We have a plan. … It will take time. We need to have patience. It won't be a day or two,” he added.

Another senior commander briefing reporters on condition of anonymity said Israel had scored “good achievements” in striking at nearly 1,000 targets, with the aim of ridding Hamas of firepower imported from Libya, Sudan and Iran.

A possible move into the densely populated Gaza Strip and the risk of major casualties it brings would be a significant gamble for Netanyahu, favorite to win a January national election.

Hamas fighters are no match for the Israeli military. The last Gaza war, involving a three-week Israeli air blitz and ground invasion over the New Year's period of 2008-09, killed over 1,400 Palestinians. Thirteen Israelis died in the conflict.

But the Gaza conflagration has stirred the pot of a Middle East already boiling from two years of Arab revolution and a civil war in Syria that threatens to spread beyond its borders.

One major change has been the election of an Islamist government in Cairo that is allied with Hamas, potentially narrowing Israel's maneuvering room in confronting the Palestinian group. Israel and Egypt made peace in 1979.

Writing by Allyn Fisher-Ilan; Editing by Todd Eastham

In Aleppo, Syrian rebels bogged down in sniper war


Plucking up his courage, a young boy ducks and darts down a bullet-scarred street in Aleppo, as a rebel with a megaphone shouts directions.

“Don't turn right! Stay left, stay left. Now go, run, run!”

A sniper shot cracks out, and the boy's dangerously bright pink shirt disappears behind a row of charred buses dragged across the road for cover. But the bullet misses, and fighters at the other end of the street burst into cheers.

In Syria's largest city, rebels fighting to topple President Bashar al-Assad have found ways to destroy government tanks and have managed to hold their positions despite attacks by jets and helicopters.

But four months into their campaign to take Aleppo – much of it a jungle of concrete tower blocks – many are pinned down by pro-Assad snipers on the rooftops of the front line and even inside rebel areas.

The local stalemates drag on and on.

“When a sniper sets up in a building, that's it, we could be stuck for weeks trying to find just one guy,” said Abu Saif, a 23-year-old rebel in jeans and a camouflage vest.

In late July, rebels armed with assault rifles and homemade rockets fought their way into Aleppo and took control of much of the east of the city in days.

Since then, their advances have been contained by government forces and they have been unable to take the city center, becoming trapped between the airport east of the city and western neighborhoods where soldiers and pro-Assad militia are camped out.

Their last offensive, billed beforehand as a “decisive battle”, only served to bring the ancient souk and the 8th-century Great Mosque into the fray, without gaining much ground for the anti-Assad fighters.

As rebels guide another civilian past the sniper, a young man watching nearby shakes his head.

“They say they liberate a street. But nowadays, I don't consider it in rebel control if there is a sniper in there,” he said, asking not to be named. “If you can't move openly in the areas that are supposed to be yours, you are not free.”

Assad's better-armed forces appear to have most of the sniper rifles being used in the war. The rebels too have a few of the high-accuracy weapons, but are mostly armed with assault rifles much less lethal at long range.

DYING CHEAPLY

A fighter jet gracefully circles over Aleppo before swooping down to bomb a rebel district, unleashing deafening blasts.

There are still eruptions of such full-blown conflict between Assad's forces and the rebels who have been struggling to topple him for more than 19 months.

But increasingly, the war is one of slow attrition.

The Bustan al-Basha district of the city is a wasteland of collapsed apartment blocks where rebels have only advanced a few blocks in recent weeks.

When sniper shots are fired at his bombed-out shelter, fighter Najmeddine carries on puffing on a cigarette as he shoots back with his unit's one anti-aircraft gun.

The fire isn't returned, and he groans and walks away.

“Look at us! This has become a sniper war now, and it is so boring!” he shouts in frustration. His fellow fighters chuckle and stretch out on the blasted sidewalk.

“This is just a sign that this war could take years. It took us weeks to get to this corner from five blocks away,” sighs Najmeddine, wiping sweat from his graying moustache and peering around the corner. Snipers nearby have blocked his unit's advance on a security force building for days.

The material cost of rebel advances in neighborhoods like Bustan al-Basha has been high. Water from burst pipes floods streets littered with shards of concrete and tangles of wires. Entire walls dangle from high corners of shattered buildings.

The human cost has been worse. The major battles here have ended, but civilians and rebels are still gunned down daily by the snipers.

“What's hard about that is that you don't want your fighters to die cheap. We want to die in battle, not like that,” said Ammar, a 34-year-old rebel with scarred and bruised arms. His leg twitches nervously as he shouts at his comrades to stop crossing exposed areas.

Nearby, Najmeddine goes in to take another shot. He has lost two fingers in these back-and-forth gunbattles, but says it hasn't hurt his determination to fight.

“I can still shoot,” he says.

Down the road, rebels burn tires, hoping to obscure a sniper's view and warn civilians away.

But some residents have business too urgent to wait. A bullet-holed pickup truck, with a bleeding man laid in the back, veers around the burning tires, forcing two rebels to jump out of the way, and speeds across a bridge as gunfire cracks out.

Rebels said they driver might have been trying to get the bleeding man to hospital.

“Did he make it?” a passerby asks the fighters. A gunman stares down the road and shakes his head, replying: “Only God knows.”

Editing by Oliver Holmes and Andrew Roche

Fighting flares along Israel-Gaza border


Israel killed two Palestinians in air strikes and Hamas fired its first cross-border rocket barrages in more than a year as fighting along the Israel-Gaza frontier flared on Tuesday for a second day.

The confrontation initially appeared to fit a familiar pattern of Israeli strikes against small squads of Palestinian militants in Gaza and rockets launched toward sparsely populated areas in southern Israel near the border.

But the surprise decision by the Gaza Strip’s rulers, the Islamist group Hamas, to re-engage militarily with Israel after months of staying on the sidelines and discouraging smaller groups from firing rockets held the prospect of wider conflict.

Since Monday, Israeli air strikes have killed six Palestinians, including four militants. A 2-year-old Gazan girl died and her brother was wounded when militants launched a rocket close by, witnesses said. An Israeli military spokesman said there had been no air strikes in the area at the time.

A Hamas medical official said the cause of the children’s injuries was not clear.

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said Israeli attacks had prompted the group to “take a firm stance” and launch rockets.

Israeli security officials said at least 40 rockets were fired at southern Israel on Tuesday, causing no casualties.

Although other militant groups have fired rockets across the border, Hamas had held its fire under unofficial truces with Israel, a policy widely seen in Israel as effectively enabling the group to train and arm without much risk of Israeli attack.

Israel has said that Hamas, which seized the Gaza Strip from forces loyal to Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in 2007, bears overall responsibility for any attacks from the coastal enclave.

GROUND OPERATION

“The more things deteriorate, the closer we come to a decision we don’t want to make,” Israeli cabinet minister Silvan Shalom said. “The prospect of a ground operation (in the Gaza Strip) shouldn’t frighten us.”

“If this situation escalates, and I hope it won’t, then all options are open. They know it. We know it. The international community knows it,” he told Israel Radio.

On Monday, before the Gaza flare-up, militants who crossed into Israel from Egypt’s Sinai desert fired on Israelis building a barrier on that frontier, killing one worker. Soldiers shot dead two of the infiltrators.

The Sinai attack, launched soon after the Muslim Brotherhood declared victory in Egypt’s presidential election, increased Israeli concerns about lawlessness in the area since the fall of president Hosni Mubarak last year.

In a video recording obtained by Reuters in Gaza, a group of masked men claimed responsibility for the Sinai incident on behalf of what they said was a newly formed Islamic movement, the “Shura Council of Mujahideen in the Holy Land”.

The masked men used Islamic slogans, pledging to liberate the Holy Land from what they termed Jewish control.

A second video showed two men, one of whom said they were about to embark on a mission to attack “the Zionist forces on the border of Egypt and occupied Palestine”, an apparent reference to Monday’s incident on the Sinai border.

The first man said he was an Egyptian named Abu Salah al-Masri. The other said he came from Saudi Arabia and gave his name as Abu Huthiyfa al-Rathali. The videos could not immediately be verified.

Writing by Jeffrey Heller; Editing by Kevin Liffey

Jewish Baseball Star Kevin Youkilis Ejected for Fighting


From MLB.com:

A lot had gone on between the Red Sox and Tigers over the past two nights by the time Kevin Youkilis was belted in the back by an 89-mph pitch by Tigers right-hander Rick Porcello in the bottom of the second inning on Tuesday.

Perhaps spurred on by the tension of the moment, Youkilis immediately charged the mound and threw his helmet toward Porcello. Youkilis and Porcello then dragged each other to the ground. From there, both benches and bullpens emptied in a game the Red Sox went on to win, 7-5.

Read the full Kevin Youkilis Fight story at MLB.com.

 

Hamas reportedly accepts cease-fire proposal


JERUSALEM (JTA) – Hamas officials reportedly agreed to an Egyptian cease-fire proposal, though it’s not clear whether Hamas’ leadership in
Syria agrees.

Egyptian officials told Arabic-language media that a visiting Hamas delegation accepted the cease-fire proposal Wednesday after making some
amendments and was returning to Damascus to brief Hamas leaders there. During the visit, Hamas officials met in Cairo with Egyptian intelligence officials, including intelligence chief Omar Suleiman.

Osama Hamdan, Hamas’ representative in Lebanon, told Al-Jazeera TV that there are issues that still have not been resolved.

There was no immediate reaction to the news from Jerusalem, but Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign
Minister Tzipi Livni were reportedly meeting to discuss the development. A top Israeli Defense Ministry official, Amos Gilad, is scheduled to travel to Cairo on Thursday to discuss the Egyptian cease-fire proposal.
Olmert and Barak reportedly have been at odds over whether to proceed further with the Gaza operation, according to Israel’s Ha’aretz daily.
Barak favors a cease-fire, the newspaper says, while officials close to the prime minister have criticized cease-fire proposals and Barak’s
support of a weeklong humanitarian cease-fire. This week, Olmert canceled a meeting with Barak and Livni, who also reportedly supports a cease-fire.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban-ki Moon went to Cairo on Wednesday to push for a Gaza cease-fire. He is scheduled to visit Israel on Thursday.

“I repeat my call for an immediate and durable cease-fire,” Ban said during a news conference following a meeting with Egyptian Foreign
Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit. “I ask that all those who have influence with any parties to this conflict, use all means to end the violence and to find a durable solution.”

Eating Ham for Uncle Sam


 

“How World War II Changed a Generation” by Deborah Dash Moore (Harvard University Press, 2004).

Walking near my parents’ home in Florida — where I’m writing this column — I noticed a hat with World War II insignias, much like the one my father sometimes wears, in the back window of a parked car. I’d just finished reading “GI JEWS: How World War II Changed a Generation” by Deborah Dash Moore, so the image of the hat really struck me, and I imagined that most men on this street must own similar versions.

My father immediately knew whose hat it was, called him and soon the three of us sat down to talk about their experiences as Jews during World War II; it was as though they had stepped out of the pages of Moore’s book. Both my father and his friend, Lewis Sugerman, are tall 83-year-olds who look like they could almost fit into their uniforms: My father grew up on the Lower East Side and served in the Navy, in the Pacific; Sugerman is from Brooklyn and served in the Infantry, stationed in Europe.

“You could never forget that you were a Jew in the service,” Sugerman said. “They would never let you.”

Both men tell of incidents they experienced of anti-Semitism, “an undercurrent,” in my father’s words, but they also speak of Jews who fought back, and others who stood up for the Jewish soldiers. They tell stories of 60 years ago with great ease, speaking with pride of serving their country, and as proud Jews.

It turns out that Sugerman never wears the hat. He leaves it in his car so that he can easily find it among many cars that look alike. When my father wears his, strangers occasionally thank him for his service. These guys are, without a doubt, members of the greatest generation.

Moore, a historian of American Jewry who teaches at Vassar, said she sometimes inscribes copies of her books to veterans who attend her talks, “Thanks for the chance to learn about the Jewish greatest generation.”

“GI Jews” is a compelling view of World War II through the perspective of Jewish servicemen, many of whom had to fight stereotypes of Jews among their comrades, along with fighting the enemy; a large number of them experienced blatant anti-Semitism. More than half a million Jews — many the sons and daughters of immigrants — served in the various branches of the armed services. The war that changed the world dramatically changed their subsequent lives at home.

Moore has written an outstanding book, a work of scholarship that reads like fine journalism. As the author explains, she has created narrative history — telling the stories of 15 American Jewish men — where the analysis is below the surface, rather than in the forefront as in most academic books. Each chapter begins with a powerful epigraph, whether some lines of poetry by Stanley Kunitz or Anthony Hecht, or a basketball cheer that ends, “So we’re eating ham for Uncle Sam.” The captioned photographs add a powerful visual element to the story.

The author of several previous books, including “At Home in America: Second Generation New York Jews” (Columbia University, 1981) and “To the Golden Cities: Pursuing the American Jewish Dream in Miami and L.A.” (Free Press, 1994), Moore was inspired to begin the project in 1995, when she noticed that there was nothing about Jews in most of the celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the end of the war.

“The only discussions,” she noted, “had to do with the Holocaust, with Jews as victims.” Having grown up as the daughter of a veteran, she knew there was much more to the story. She came up with the idea of asking her father, who was an officer in the Naval Reserves, and his childhood buddies — they had formed a club in 1930s Brooklyn known as the Dragons — if she could interview them about their wartime experiences, and all agreed. Members of the Dragons served in different branches of the service, and had varying experiences. The Dragons are now scattered through New York and Florida, and several came together recently, along with Moore’s father, to celebrate the book’s publication.

“I learned things I’d never learned before,” she said. “We had only heard short, funny, light stories from my father. It sounded like he was on a cruise ship rather than a destroyer.”

She added: “It’s as though I opened some secret door that had been locked and carefully guarded for 60 years.”

Her editor at Harvard University Press suggested that she go beyond these boys from Brooklyn and include men who came from different Jewish backgrounds. She had no trouble finding subjects, as she met “men of a certain age” everywhere she went.

“Everyone, it seemed, had been in the war and was ready to talk when they heard this was a serious book,” she said. “A lot of them hadn’t spoken before.”

She writes: “The history of World War II as experienced by American Jews in the armed forces is one of difference amid similarity, of exclusion amid integration, of transfiguration amid routine, of triumph amid catastrophe. It is also a story of courage despite fear. American Jews struggled to maintain the cohesion of their American and Jewish selves throughout their service, from the first decisions about whether to enlist or wait to be drafted, to the initial encounter with military norms at induction centers, through basic training, and on to the tour of duty.”

Some men speak of going into the service thinking of themselves as Americans, and then being reminded, repeatedly, by their fellow GIs that they were Jews.

“No etiquette book guided Jews in responding to anti-Semitism,” she writes, noting that each individual had to make quick decisions about how to react, whether it was verbal taunts, physical threat or discrimination in job assignments and promotion.

The men speak of eating nonkosher food for the first time, and several have difficulties with pork. Even an nonobservant Jew can’t get over his aversion and realizes “how firmly his Jewish identity was lodged in the mundane realm of food.” For many men, prayer became “an opportunity to express their deepest concerns,” as Moore explains, and sometimes it became a political statement, like when a German tank was used as a bimah for a makeshift Yom Kippur service. They also describe meeting other Jews, whether in small towns in the South where they were training, or in India and Germany. For those who liberated the concentration camps, the experience would endure a lifetime, “muting the joy and relief brought by victory.”

One thing that particularly surprised her about the men’s responses was the “way in which moral questions about the war remained, to a certain extent, unresolved.” She explains that they continue to reflect upon whether they did the right things, with regard to a range of issues, from the treatment of German prisoners, to their reactions to the anti-Semitism of their buddies.

Moore, 58, who has been teaching at Vassar for 28 years, lives in Washington Heights. Married and the mother of two grown sons, she is a third-generation Reconstructionist Jew, active in the West End Synagogue on the West Side of Manhattan.

The author is beginning a new book, looking at the meaning of the Rosenberg case for American Jews.

“Although there has been an enormous amount written on the case, there has been very little written about the Jewish dimensions of it,” she said.

Her hope is that “GI Jews” will “help us reimagine the Holocaust, within the context of World War II, with well over 1 million Jews fighting in the [various] armies, against Germany,” she said. “Jews weren’t just civilian victims of Hitler. But they were also in the military, fighting as best as they could. I think it’s important, at the 60th anniversary of the last months of the war.”

When asked if writing this book changed her perspective, she recalls that on Sept. 11, she was on a fellowship at Yale, working in her office, when she heard of the collapse of the Twin Towers.

“I felt like it was Pearl Harbor again,” she said. “It was so shocking, so unexpected.”

She even heard the news the way an earlier generation did — by radio. Working on the book, the historian said, “made me much more empathetic. We just don’t know that the future is.”

Sandee Brawarsky is the book critic for the Jewish Week.

 

Yeladim


Let’s Work

In this week’s portion, Lech Lecha, we learn about a fight between the shepherds of Abraham and his nephew, Lot. There was plenty of space for everyone, but they weren’t getting along so it seemed too crowded. Our rabbis teach us that when two people get along, they can be happy together sharing even the smallest of spaces, but when they don’t, the whole world can seem too small.

By working at getting along with the people around us, we can make our whole world seem bigger and brighter.

Don’t forget to send in your essay of where you would go in time and space if you could climb into a time machine? Write an essay, story or poem telling us about your adventure. Send entries by Nov. 4. to abbygilad@yahoo.com. Remember to include your full name, age, address, school and grade.

Writer Confronts Intifada Lethargy


“I’m just so tired,” Israeli author Orly Castel-Bloom says. She’s not speaking about the effects of her recent flight into Paris, where she has come to deliver some lectures. Nor is it the interviews she has given since landing earlier in the day, although that has zapped her, too. It’s an existential exhaustion that keeps her thinking about sleep all the time these days.

Castel-Bloom, author of 10 books — the most recent of which, “Human Parts” (David R. Godine) has been translated into English — can’t get the state of affairs in her home country off her mind.

“Human Parts” chronicles the intersecting lives of ordinary, flawed Israelis trying to survive a bitterly cold winter that coincides with an increase in suicide bombings. The characters range from a Kurdish refugee washerwoman to the spoiled scion of a real estate family, but all live lives against the backdrop of terror that seems to incapacitate their ability to function fully.

The novel uses satire and absurdism to look squarely at contemporary Israeli life and society. For years, Castel-Bloom has thought about the social conditions of lower and middle-class Israelis: the prevalence of poverty, the constant need to pursue money just to scrape by. But she and her contemporaries refused to write about the political situation — the conflict with the Palestinians, the vicious fighting among Israelis about how best to deal with the situation. Now, however, it’s all she can think about.

And it’s tiring her out.

When asked how she copes, she responds quickly, “I sleep.”

Coming to Paris is a chance to close the drapes and shut out the world, even if only momentarily, although she knows that post-Sept. 11 realities will catch up with her; even here in France, where they fool themselves into thinking that they live in a dream of fraternite, protected against what has spread beyond Israel into the world.

“Israel is a laboratory. It’s a very radical situation. Look, my daughter is going to the army; she has to take two buses to get there, but she’s a new driver. So should I let her take the two buses or give her my car. She doesn’t use the side mirrors, I just found out last week, which is very dangerous…. These are the kinds of existential questions we have to ask.”

Motherhood itself, says Castel-Bloom is cruel in Israel, where children grow up with a casual knowledge of death from the first. She recently took her 12-year-old son and his friends to a disco so they could dance to the music of Fifty-Cent and Nelly. There, she overheard them debating the relative chances of getting killed in a discotheque versus a restaurant.

She can only hope that when his turn for army service comes around, he won’t end up in some of the more dangerous platoons. That, and that Israel will become a better place for her children in the future. What else is a mother to do?

Asked if there is anything that gives her joy or solace these days, Castel-Bloom cites “Seinfeld,” gardening and her work.

“It’s hard to write these days,” she says. “I try to write objectively, especially after ‘Human Parts.’ I’ve been trying to retreat from myself, but my situation is so s—-y that I retreat from writing. Still, I write, even though I write about reality. It’s the monster I can’t get rid of, but it’s still a way out of the despair.”

For all the uncertainty that has infected Israeli life, Castel-Bloom believes in the necessity of the Israeli state, not just for herself — although as a writer she requires immersion in the language and life of the country. She would understand if her children wanted to move away, to go somewhere where they wouldn’t have to worry about the relative lack of safety of riding a bus or driving a car. But she has to stay. Besides, she couldn’t leave the climate: Tel Aviv; the beach. One day, she says, she will swim in the ocean every morning with the other grandmothers.

As a second-generation Israeli, one who did not help build the country but inherited it, she never thought that she would end up having to fight for her own existence, for her country’s existence, and that the struggle would leave her, her neighbors and friends, so worn out. In the end, she thinks, exhaustion on both sides, Israeli and Palestinian, may be the only way out of the current state of affairs.

“The intifada must stop immediately and peace should be achieved immediately or else I will go to sleep all day,” she says. “I can’t bear it.”


Orly Castel-Bloom will speak Thursday, Oct. 21 at 7 p.m. about “A Fragile Life: Terror and Satire in Contemporary Israel” at Wilshire Boulevard Temple, 3663 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. To R.S.V.P., visit www.zocalola.org. She will also speak about “Living and Writing in Uncertain Times” Sunday, Oct. 24, at 7:30 p.m at the UCLA Faculty Center. For more information, call (310) 825-5387.

After 1,000 Days


“We will not allow anyone to drag us into a civil war,” declared Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas on June 8.

His disloyal opposition — Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Yasser Arafat’s Al Aqsa suicide brigades — sent a different message to Abbas and other Arab leaders who had just met with President Bush in Aqaba.

The three terrorist groups, acting jointly, sent a trio of suicides dressed in Israeli uniforms into an Israeli army post near Gaza. They killed four soldiers before being shot dead themselves. The terrorist front then released a video showing the killers posing with assault rifles and a Quran, and informed the world that “the blood of Palestinians says that we are unified in the trench of resistance.”

Could there be any more dramatic declaration of Palestinian civil war?

On one side is Abbas, duly elected by the Palestinian Authority’s Legislative Council, reviled by the terrorist front because he believes more war on Israel will bring only further misery to Palestinians.

On the other side is the fundamentalist Hamas-Jihad-Aqsa front, whose sworn mission is to drive the hated Jews out of the Middle East. United as never before, these fundamentalists are determined to overthrow Abbas and any “moderates” able to negotiate a peace.

Playing both sides as usual is Arafat, helping the front undermine Abbas before that veteran negotiator builds a local following that would end the war. Arafat tried to make Abbas seem like an Israeli-American stooge at the recent summit by having an aide hint that American pressure edited a deal-breaking “right of return” out of the Palestinian’s remarks.

Thus we have one side, the terror front, abetted by Arafat, openly waging civil war to take over the Palestinian cause, while the other side — the Palestinian Authority, newly headed by Abbas — protests that it won’t let anyone “drag us into a civil war.” The side that is fighting is winning.

But how can there be a civil war if Palestinians are not killing Palestinians? Simple: the rebel front kills Israelis, forcing Ariel Sharon to order retaliation against terrorists, and Palestinians, both terrorists and bystanders, are casualties — by rebel Palestinian design.

The rebels know that no government under sustained terrorist attack can afford to remain supine. Israel must continue to strike back until the new leadership of the Palestinian Authority takes control of the killers within its own population.

The main excuse for inaction in the past has been that the Palestinian police force — a sizable, well-equipped army, aware of the hideouts and logistics of the rebels — is supposedly demoralized, beaten down by Israeli counterattacks, helpless against the fanatic rebels of the front.

Maybe, maybe not. Giving Abbas the benefit of the doubt, Sharon directed his defense minister, Shaul Mofaz, to work out a step-by-step arrangement with Muhammad Dahlan, Abbas’ new security chief.

Dahlan is to choose a given area to assert loyalist Palestinian Authority control. The Israeli Defense Forces will pull out. As 100 percent effort to stop terror in that area is demonstrated, on to the turnover of the next village or city, until rebel-held neighborhoods are shrunk and the Palestinian Authority gains internal control — the necessary prerequisite to statehood.

Will Sharon respond to the diminution of terror by dismantling unauthorized hilltop outposts, removing travel restrictions and otherwise making life easier? Of course; despite what he calls “1,000 days” of the intifada, Sharon has the national backing to make concessions that do not undercut security despite anguished outcries from longtime supporters.

Can Abbas build similar backing to confront and defeat the terrorist front — or will he settle for a meaningless “cease-fire,” allowing terror to rearm and prolong his people’s agony?

He will get no help from Europe, Russia or the United Nations, which will berate Israel and treat with Arafat. He may get grudging financial aid from the Saudis and security help from Egyptians, only because President Bush, after liberating Iraq, has timed his intervention so he can be the credible “steward of accountability.”

But no comprehensive outside imposition will bring durable peace to the Middle East. It will follow the Palestinians’ victory over a terrorist minority that dragged them into civil war.


William Safire is a columnist with The New York Times.

Marlene Marks’ Spirit on the Web


Being treated for cancer is no one’s idea of fun. But a new Web site, www.chemochicks.com, is bringing moral support and an irreverent sense of humor to women undergoing chemotherapy. The colorful, breezy site gives female cancer patients a place to gripe, share inspiring stories and purchase products that will make life easier when their hair falls out and their self-esteem is nil.

Chemochicks.com is the brainchild of Jana Rosenblatt, a theatrical costumer and interior designer who has spent the past year fighting ovarian cancer. Much of the Chemo Chick product line comes from her own search for stylish headwraps and for eye makeup that will stay put on a hairless face.

“It’s amazing,” Rosenblatt said, “how expressionless you are without your eyebrows.”

The site also reflects Rosenblatt’s feisty spirit. When first facing chemotherapy, she dreamed up a fearless alter ego, Super Chemo Chick, who was tough enough to handle whatever might come. Now this personal coping mechanism helps empower others.

Rosenblatt’s founding partners in Five Chicks Unlimited are four local businesswomen who have been touched by cancer. They bring expertise in finance, product research, Web design and customer service to the site. But its guiding spirit is someone who did not live to see its launch: Marlene Adler Marks.

Rosenblatt had redecorated Marks’ Malibu home in 2000, shortly before The Jewish Journal’s longtime columnist and former managing editor was stricken with lung cancer. When Rosenblatt herself fell ill in June 2002, a visibly ailing Marks came to call. Marks’ courage in the face of her own mortality inspired Rosenblatt to battle back with similar grit. Two months after Marks’ death last September, the idea for chemochicks.com was hatched.

Another major morale boost came from Rosenblatt’s synagogue, Or Ami of Calabasas. Though she was relatively new to Southern California, members showered her with food baskets and friendly visits. Several, in fact, have joined the Chemo Chick team.

“I didn’t realize I was so much a part of any community, let alone a Jewish community,” Rosenblatt marveled.

Which shows that even a cancer diagnosis can lead to good things. “I like the person I am now better than the person I was before I got sick,” Rosenblatt said.

Eight Crazy Delights


1. No Nostalgia for Waxing

This Chanukah, there is no more scraping, boiling water, melting with a hair dryer or freezing to remove wax drippings from your menorah because Wax-Off prevents wax from sticking to any candle-holder surface. Visit www.wax-off.net or call (800) 334-9964 for more information.

2. Fiddler-mania!

Question: What would your Chanukah be without your hand-painted “Fiddler on the Roof” Figurine Music Box ($45), “Fiddler” Chess Set ($300), “Fiddler” Chip n’ Dip Set ($50), “Fiddler” Teapot ($36) and set of “Fiddler” Shmear Spreaders ($45)? And the answer: Much less expensive. (www.jewishsource.com ).

3. A Big Blow to the Jewish People

Hebrew Bazooka Joe Bubble Gum Box of 100 ($10.95). If you can’t read Hebrew, don’t sweat it — the comic strips are probably funnier when you don’t understand the gags (www.jewishsource.com).

4. Rabbi Said Knock You Out!

Boxing Rabbi Puppet ($9.50). Finally, a way to one-up your neighbor’s Fighting Nun Puppet (www.mcphee.com ).

5. Ark for Ark’s Sake

The Ark of the Covenant ($11.95). Indiana Jones nearly lost his life searching for his. So why not pick one up for yourself and see what all the hubbub is about? (www.mcphee.com ).

6. Giving You Plaque

Gefilte Fish Plaque ($5.95). A Jesus plate parody for your car. In all honesty, this plaque probably tastes better than the fish that inspired it. Unclear whether it comes packed in jelly. (www.mcphee.com ).

7. When the Golem

Gets Tough…

Share with your children the legend of the Prague protector with a copy of “Golem,” an award-winning children’s book by David Wisniewski. (Clarion Books, $17) (www.amazon.com ).

9. Winnie the Jew

Winnie the Pooh in a yarmulke with dreidel in hand. Nobody saw this one coming, but then again, the lovable bear perhaps makes a more convincing Jew than a boy named Christopher Robin. ($8.50). (The Disney Store. For locations visit disney.store.go.com ).



Bonus Shamash Gift: The Jewish Version of The Spinners?

The Draydelettes, a chorus line of Chanukah tops created by designer Susan Fischer Weis, grace a light set ($19.95) and mug ($7.95) (www.jewishsource.com ).

If You Had Her Moves


Gouging out eyeballs and hitting people with chairs are just some of the actions taught by Wade Allen. For Allen, the director of Krav Maga Worldwide’s Hollywood division, it’s all in the name of self-defense.

Krav Maga, (pronounced krahv muh-GAH), was originally developed for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), but this martial art looks nothing like the moves you saw in "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon." In typical Israeli fashion, Krav Maga is all about efficiency, which means down-and-dirty, kick-’em-in-the-groin fighting — whatever it takes to win.

This combat style also claims to put women on an equal footing with their male counterparts, an essential consideration for the IDF, in which both men and women serve. This factor made Krav Maga ideal for Jennifer Lopez’s latest film, "Enough," in which she plays a battered wife who fights back against her bigger, stronger husband.

To look believable in her big showdown at the film’s climax, Lopez trained with Allen for two months, taking the abuse Allen dished out — and then some.

"She got bruised and battered around a little bit," Allen says, "but she’s a tough lady. There’s a swagger in her walk that isn’t something that you’re taught. She definitely has that in her."

And it seems that others are following Lopez’s example. "There’s definitely been an upward swing in our student attendance," says Allen, "Sept. 11 and Jennifer’s movie did a lot to get women in."

Sir, It’s the Wrong War!


After the invasion of the Balata refugee camp by a regular brigade of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), the brigade commander appeared on television and said that he had expected the Palestinians to fight like tigers, but that they behaved like pussycats.

This is a frightening sentence, because it discloses a startling fact: The brigade commander does not understand in what kind of campaign he is engaged. He has to be told, with all due respect: "Sir, you are fighting the wrong war!"

Clearly, he believes that he is engaged in a conventional war between armies. The enemy is supposed to stand up and fight like men, assault rifles against tanks and fighter planes.

The commander and all his colleagues, including Chief of Staff Shaul Mofaz and his deputy, would be well-advised to read a good book about guerrilla warfare, such as Mao Tse-Tung’s treatise, which tells the guerrilla fighter: Never confront the regular army. When the army attacks, you disappear. When the army is not ready, you attack.

For example: The army surrounds Arafat in Ramallah; destroy a Merkava tank in Gush Katif. A whole brigade invades Balata; get out and send a single fighter to kill the team at a checkpoint near Ofrah. A brigade attacks Jenin; get out of their sight and infiltrate Atzmona settlement.

The statement by the brigade commander indicates that the IDF is fighting on a front that does not exist and is not prepared for fighting on the front that is there. It’s like a general setting out to conquer Syria and holding a map of the Sudan in his hands.

Since Mofaz and his senior officers don’t even understand the nature of this struggle, they are failing. Out of frustration and anger, they shoot in all directions and commit a small massacre every day, without any purpose or chance of success. Since they were not trained for this kind of struggle and do not understand it, they are condemned to commit every possible mistake. One after another, they use all the methods that have already failed in Algeria, Kenya, South Africa, Vietnam and a dozen other countries.

They try to starve the inhabitants into submission ("closure") and inadvertently turn them into potential suicide bombers with nothing to lose. They assassinate the chiefs of the fighting groups ("targeted prevention") and clear the way for younger, more efficient and more energetic commanders. The kill massively ("you have to strike them") and turn the relatives of the victims into avengers.

If this is the way of the generals, the "political echelon," composed of pensioned generals, is worse. They imprison Arafat in Ramallah in order to prove that he is "irrelevant" and turn him into the most relevant person in the entire Middle East. As a result, all internal criticism of Arafat has ceased. Practically all Palestinians admire their president, who is taking part in their lot, suffers like them and is risking his life like them.

And beyond that, tens of millions of Arabs, who see rousing reports from beleaguered Palestine every hour on Al-Jazeera television, compare the courageous Palestinian leader to their own rulers, who are now very worried indeed. In response, they sounded the alarm in Washington and have compelled President Bush to do something.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Defense Minister Ben-Eliezer declare that if the Palestinians are made to suffer more and more, they will eventually surrender and agree to live in several ghettos, as proposed by Sharon. In practice, the opposite is happening. The more the pressure on them mounts, the more their unity grows, their methods of resistance improve and their readiness to suffer and not to surrender increases.

Thousands of Palestinians are ready to undertake actions leading to certain death, and their number is growing. How many Israelis are ready to go into action if there is no chance at all of coming out alive? Palestinians know full well that they are fighting for their very existence; Israelis know that they are fighting for the settlements and bankrupt politicians.

The Israeli government cannot win this struggle. After paying a terrible price — slaughter and destruction — this will become clear to the public, the government will fall and we shall make peace according to the Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah’s excellent proposal.

Serious Play


We call it the Festival of Lights, but Chanukah starts in a very dark place.

It begins with two stories, each very serious. One tells of a severely outnumbered band of Jews who fought a powerful enemy for religious freedom. And there’s the other, even more painful tale of Jew vs. Jew, of the Macabees struggling with widespread Jewish assimilation into the culture and religion of that enemy. In many ways, Chanukah represents the most painful aspects of Jewish history, in one full account: the Jewish community facing threats both from outside and within.

The tales are so painful, in fact, that thinking about them can be depressing. And what’s worse, many aspects of Chanukah — bloody battles, inner fighting, treacherous choices between life and death — have been reenacted over and over again, throughout the centuries.

But despite the seriousness, despite the painful, dark history of Chanukkah, we spend eight days in lightness. We play, we sing, we eat — we remember the tales of the Macabees with latkes, gelt, songs and games. For us, Chanukah is a party — bright, sweet, joyous.

It’s serious, but we’re playful. The stories — dark and sobering — are recalled with light and celebration. How do the bloody battles of Chanukah translate into a ritual of fun?

The answer can found in the dreidel.

The Hebrew letters on each side of the toy — nun, gimmel, heh, and shin — famously serve as an acronym for neis gadol haya sham — “a great miracle happened there” — a reference to the miraculous eight-day staying power of the little bit of oil lighting the menorah in the Holy Temple when it was re-taken by the Macabees.

Like Chanukah itself, the dreidel is a combination of intensity and lightheartedness. Historically, it was initially adopted by Jews not as a game or toy, but as a front, a ruse used by persecuted Torah scholars who were forbidden by non-Jewish authorities from study. Pretending to play a game, rabbis would actually teach their students Torah, enabling the traditions to be passed to each new generation. How fitting then, to have those same toys in the hands of happy, free Jewish children today, spinning the dreidel as a simple game after learning Torah in security. The dreidel represents that same relationship between terror and confidence, between threats and joy, darkness and light.

The spinning top is actually even more than just a reminder of persecutions past, and more than a simple game for happy children. The Jewish mystical tradition teaches that the four letters on the sides of the dreidel have a wholly different significance. The nun is for neshama (soul); the gimmel is for guf (body); the shin is actually a sin, for sechel (mind); and the heh is for ha-kol (everything).

The playful little toy is a miniature, but complete person: body, mind, and soul — everything wrapped up together. And like the dreidel, we are also a combination of the playful and the serious. On one hand, we are light and fun and lively. But on the other hand, we spin out of control. We live in chaos. A human being is a dreidel: busy, moving. We reach near-vertigo, tilting and spinning until at last we finally drop. Like the Chanukah tales, our personal narratives are marked by difficult choices and numerous battles, both external and internal. A human being is a dreidel: spinning and falling, spinning and falling.

Yet we come up, again and again. How can that be?

Because, as the dreidel tells us: neis gadol haya sham. Great miracles happen, not just in ancient times, but now, constantly, for us, every single day. We spin and fall, but thanks to God’s miracles, we stand up to try again — as a nation and as individuals. That’s serious stuff. But it’s also worth celebrating.

Protest for Labor Rights


For the past four years, the predominantly Latino hospitality and housing employees at the University of Southern California have been fighting for a written guarantee of job security. Now, union leaders representing the workers have turned to Jewish leaders to support what they consider a call for justice.

The labor dispute began in June 1995, when the contract between USC and Local 11 of the Hotel Employees & Restaurant Employees Union expired. Since then, USC has refused to renew a contract under terms that would preclude the possibility of hiring subcontractors, which union leaders see as a threat to the 360 workers’ job security. A rolling hunger strike on behalf of the workers, now termed “The Fast for Justice” began in May when Local 11 President Maria Elena Durazo fasted for 11 days. The fast has since been picked up by Los Angeles religious and political leaders.

In response to the protests, Phil Chiaramonte, Associate Vice President of Auxiliary Services, said that USC has no intention of replacing union workers with subcontractors, but would like to reserve the right to hire subcontractors should the university need to meet unexpected economic and market changes.

“We have indicated more than once that we have no current plans to subcontract those positions,” he said.

In fact, the university, the largest private employer in Los Angeles, has implemented programs to ensure job comfort and stability. Computer, math and ESL courses have been created for the staff. USC arranges for summer job placement for its employees at Universal Studios during the park’s peak season, as work diminishes at USC during the summer. Longtime employees have sent their children to USC on remitted tuition, a benefit the workers cherish for the opportunity it gives their family for higher education.

Many USC hospitality and housing workers agree that they have been treated well. That is why Alex Rivera, one of the more vocal union members, is all the more concerned that he and his fellow workers may lose their jobs.

Rivera, head waiter to USC President Steven Sample and waiter supervisor, has worked at USC for 32 years. He distrusts university officials when they say they will honor their jobs in the event that they hire subcontractors. He cites an episode two years ago when janitorial workers lost their jobs to subcontractors even after university officials claimed that would not occur.

At one of the university restaurants, employees on the job were quick to echo Rivera’s concerns. It was a slow day, but Miriam Siegler was reluctant to speak when managers were around. She says many workers are too intimidated to protest. Some who demonstrated at last year’s commencement were temporarily suspended which, according to officials, was justified since they did not report their absence from work.

“It’s hard when you’re poor and you have to fight with people who are really powerful,” Siegler said.

Jewish leaders who have been known to support labor causes in the past have joined with the union to bring more power to the side of the workers. Jewish support peaked last week on July 22, Tisha B’av afternoon, when about 150 Jewish leaders and Latinos united in front of the historic Breed Street Shul located in the heart of Boyle Heights to support the USC workers in their struggle for job security.

The gathering coincided with Tisha B’Av, to mark the continuation of the Fast for Justice and to commemorate the similar struggles of Jews and Latinos.

At the event, Rabbi Steven Carr Reuben of Kehillat Israel, Rabbi Aaron Kriegel of Temple Ner Maraav, Rabbi Marvin Gross of the Jewish Labor Committee and West Hollywood Councilman Paul Koretz pledged their commitment to the workers’ cause. Many of these same leaders were active in pressuring the management of the Summit Hotel Rodeo Drive to settle a labor dispute with employees last year.

Irv Hershenbaum of United Farm Workers, Los Angeles Councilwoman Jackie Goldberg, Eric Gordon of the Workman’s Circle and Rabbi Denise Eger of Congregation Kol Ami, spoke of their natural sympathy with members of the Latino community. Their parents and grandparents were also hard-working immigrants, many of whom settled in East Los Angeles, in search of a better life for themselves and their families, they said.

“The Jewish community has a long and proud history of being active in the labor movement and having an investment in Boyle Heights where many of the lowest-paid, least secure workers at USC live and raise families today,” said Scott Svonkin, a Koretz aide and Jewish activist who helped coordinate the event.

Jewish outcry comes at a time when USC enjoys improved Jewish relations. In the past decade, USC has reached out to Jewish alumni and increased it’s number of Jewish faculty to approximately one third.

In a statement forwarded to the Journal, USC trustee Kenneth Leventhal accused union leaders of manipulating public opinion to gain strength at the bargaining table. “As a Jew and as a USC trustee, it saddens me and sickens me to see the union attempt to link a sacred Jewish fast day with this dispute,” Leventhal said.

“We, the members of the Jewish community, give notice to President Sample that we have waited long enough,” said Kriegel, who is participating in a boycott call to Jewish donors to halt donations to USC until an agreement is reached.

Meanwhile, negotiators are working to resolve the issue. Possible solutions include consulting with the union before the university subcontracts or ensuring the right of the university to subcontract on condition that current workers are given first preference.

What To Do About Lebanon?


A new coded message has entered the chilly lexicon of Israeli anxiety. “Heavy fighting is taking place in Lebanon,” intones the news reader. Hundreds of mothers and fathers with soldier sons serving across the northern border know immediately what that means. There are casualties, but the families have not yet been notified.

All the parents can do is sit, wait and pray that no grim-faced officer comes ringing at their door.

At 3 a.m. last Friday, the call came to the Beersheba home of Moshe and Naomi Cohen. Their son, Eyal, a 20-year-old staff ser-geant, had been killed by Hezbollah, the Shi’a Moslem militia waging an escalating war of attrition in the “security zone,” a narrow band, up to 10 miles deep, stretching from the Mediterranean to the Hermon foothills.

Eyal, a tank commander who died while trying to rescue wounded comrades, was one of seven Israeli soldiers killed there in 11 days of hit-and-run combat. That compared with 16 over the previous 11 months.

Binyamin Netanyahu, whose antennae are finely tuned to the national mood, cut short a European tour and flew home for urgent consultations. The prime minister “did not rule out” a unilateral withdrawal, though he quickly amended it to exclude an “unconditional” pullout. The defense establishment brought forward an annual review of its Lebanese strategy.

Moshe Cohen, the bereaved father, was bursting with anger as well as grief when local reporters visited him later in the day. “I want to scream on behalf of the silent majority,” he told them, “the parents of all the soldiers who are in Lebanon, those who were there and those who will be there. We don’t have any business to do in Lebanon. Our sons there are sitting ducks.

“We have been in Lebanon for 16 years, and nothing good has come of it. What’s our goal? Why are we there? To defend our own bases there? For what has my son been killed? There’s no disgrace folding up. In any case, that would be preferable to the constant obituaries.”

More and more Israelis, including those such as Moshe Cohen, who have served long years in uniform, are asking the same questions. Military funerals, leading the prime-time television news bulletins with teen-age soldiers openly weeping for their fallen comrades, keep the issue at the top of everyone’s agenda.

Dozens of mothers demonstrated last Sunday outside the Prime Minister’s Office, where the Cabinet was debating what to do. “The government is silent, the soldiers are dying,” read a placard held high by Manuela Dviri, a bereaved mother. Among politicians who came to show solidarity was Jerusalem City Councilwoman Ofra Meirson, the leftist wife of rightist Agriculture Minister Rafael Eitan, who, as chief of staff in 1982, sent the army into Lebanon to start with.

As the debate continued, however, the prospect of unilateral withdrawal receded. The military came out vigorously against it, warning that it would look like a surrender to Hezbollah’s campaign of roadside bombs — and give Israel’s other enemies bad ideas.

Israeli analysts, in the army and the media, were almost unanimous that Syria held the key. Intelligence officers were convinced that Damascus, Hezbollah’s patron along with Iran, was calling the shots. President Hafez al-Assad signaled that he was ready to rein in the bombers, but only if Israel resumed negotiations aimed at returning the Golan Heights, held since the 1967 Six-Day War, to Syria.

Eitan Haber, a veteran military correspondent who served as Yitzhak Rabin’s spokesman in the Defense Ministry and his last premiership, spelled out the bleak choice in a Yediot Aharonot column: “There will be no solution in Lebanon without the Syrians. The Syrians want some sort of peace with Israel. The price of peace with Syria is withdrawal from the Golan Heights. There is no other option, and, right now, there is no leader who dares to propose that solution.”

One leader urging unilateral withdrawal was Foreign Minister Ariel Sharon, who, as defense minister, masterminded the 1982 invasion. His plan combines a phased evacuation with warnings to Lebanon and Syria that Israel will retaliate in force if ever it is attacked.