Berlin government to ban Hezbollah flags from anti-Israel march


The Berlin State Senate has agreed to ban Hezbollah flags, with their image of an upraised assault weapon, from an anti-Israel Al Quds march, likening the symbol to a call for genocide.

The announcement came following a request by the American Jewish Committee in Berlin. The march is scheduled for Saturday.

Berlin state interior minister Frank Henkel, on the advice of the Berlin police, said that the flags would be added to the propaganda material that is not permitted to be displayed publicly.

 

A spokesperson for the Berlin police, Thomas Neuendorf, told JTA that not only are Hezbollah flags banned, but  Hezbollah symbols themselves may not been shown at all – whether on flags or posters or clothing or any other manner.

This is due to the fact that  “the display of these flags and symbols can be tantamount to incitement to hate, in that they prompt people to chant hate slogans against a part of the population, namely Jewish fellow citizens,” he wrote in a statement. “In addition, such actions
represent an identification with and approval of Hezbollah and their acts that, in relation to the upcoming march, without current context, are not protected free speech.”

The AJC in Berlin greeted this as a step towards Germany recognizing that Hezbollah is a terrorist organization. “We should not stop halfway,” Deidre Berger, head of the Berlin office, said in a statement. “Germany should make every effort to have Hezbollah put on the EU terror list.”

Germany joined with other European countries in 2013 in calling for the group to be put on that list. Hezbollah is also considered a terrorist group by the Arab League, Bahrain, and the Gulf Cooperation Council, among others.

In his statement, Henkel said that past experience at the annual Al-Quds event in Berlin had shown that it made sense to bar the display of the flag, along with other statements or chants that incite hate. “Anyone who calls for the destruction of an entire people and promotes war and violence is abusing the right” of free speech and assembly, Henkel wrote, in part.

Al Quds Day, a protest against Israel’s existence, was established in 1979 by Iran’s Islamic revolutionary leader Ayatollah Khomeini. Since then, his followers have marked the day in cities around the world with large Muslim populations, during or shortly after Ramadan. Since 1996, Berlin’s annual demonstration has attracted between 300 and 1,000 Islamists. Men and women march separately.

In its petition to the Berlin Senate, AJC also had asked that the march be rerouted away from one of Berlin’s major synagogues, where Sabbath services will be just concluding around the time of the event. This request was not granted.

This year’s counter demonstration is organized by several pro-civil society organizations and will take place one street away from the synagogue.

New Jersey Palestinian flag flap breezes over


The city of Paterson, N.J. — whose southern area is called “Little Ramallah” for the large number of Palestinian Arab expats – raised the Palestinian flag above city hall on Sunday May 19 as it proclaimed Palestinian-American Day.

According to the The Bergen Record, the occasion might mark first time that the Palestinian flag has flown above any American city hall.

For Israel, that moment likely came in May 1948, when Philadelphia Mayor Bernard Samuel raised the blue and white flag atop city hall.

Back to present day Paterson, as Twitter users and other online commenters caught wind of the event, officials stood by their decision.

“If they’re citizens of the city of Paterson, they have every right to raise the flag,” Paterson Mayor Jeffery Jones told The Record regarding the event, which drew about 150 people on a rainy day.

On Tuesday, local and state officials attending the event told that publication that they hadn’t received any complaints about the flag specifically.

This isn’t the first time North Jersey’s celebration of Palestinian-Americans has been noted by JTA.

In May 1980, JTA reported a scuffle that broke out at a larger celebration of Palestinian-Americans in New Jersey. As it turns out, the incident was precipitated by a fight over flags:

A scuffle between Palestinian marchers and a group of Jewish war veterans erupted Sunday when the former grabbed Israeli and American flags, overpowering the blockade set up by state police. The march, held in North Bergen because of its concentration of Palestinians, was to mark International Palestinian Day. Judge Geoffrey Gaulkin of New Jersey Superior Court ruled last Friday that North Bergen officials had unlawfully denied the Palestinians a parade permit. About 800 Palestinian participated in the parade.

Haredi Orthodox burn Israeli flag in Antwerp


Dozens of haredi Orthodox schoolchildren participated in a Lag b’Omer bonfire in Antwerp that featured the burning of an Israeli flag.

An eyewitness who photographed the event on May 10 said the boys attended a cheder of the Satmar community—an anti-Zionist Chasidic stream of approximately 150,000 adherents worldwide.

The picture, taken in an interior courtyard, shows a middle-aged man burning a handmade Israeli flag as some 30 boys watch.

“This is one of the first times we have seen this sort of thing in recent years,” Michael Freilich, editor in chief of Belgium’s leading Jewish publication, Joods Actueel, told JTA.

According to Freilich, the flag-burning ceremony provoked “a lot of anger” within Antwerp’s haredi Orthodox community. Followers of the Chasidic schools of Lubavitch and Belz spoke out against the burning, Freilich said, but the Satmar leadership in Antwerp remains unrepentant.

The last organized instance of flag burning by Belgian Jews was in the 1980s during a few demonstrations outside the Israeli Embassy.

The Satmar movement opposes Zionism because it believes the establishment of a Jewish state should only come after the arrival of the Jewish Messiah.

“Regardless of the complexities of attitudes to Israel in the ultra-Orthodox world,” Freilich said, “many feel that the political act of burning a flag is wholly inappropriate during a Jewish holiday like Lag b’Omer, which is meant to unite, not divide.”

Anti-Semitic flags found near Milken Campus


A Milken Community High School official reported the discovery of anti-Semitic renderings of the Israel flag in front of and near its middle school campus on March 1.

The two small flags featured a painted swastika in place of the Star of David. One flag was found in front of David and Hillevi Saperstein Middle School of Milken Community High School, while the other was discovered 1 mile west of the campus, at the intersection of Calneva Drive and Mulholland Boulevard.

Milken Head of School Jason Ablin said that a Milken parent found one of the flags — approximately 4 by 6 inches in size — stapled onto an L.A. Department of Water and Power sign next to the middle school’s exit gate early Thursday morning.

The LAPD and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) were notified about the incident.

Milken’s security service reported that the alleged perpetrator drove a “dark-gray SUV” and is a “young-looking male, light-skinned, dark hair, about 5 feet, 4 inches,” Ablin said.

ADL Associate Director Matt Friedman, who saw photographs of the flags, said they looked like “stickers or a notecard.”

Friedman noted the connection between the signs and this week’s Israel Apartheid Week, a series of events in cities and college campuses across the United States that portray Israel as unjust occupiers of the Palestinian people.
“I don’t know if there’s any linkage there, but I was thinking that,” Friedman said.
Ablin assured parents that Milken considers students’ well being to be of utmost importance. “The first thing I did was inform the parents. I sent an announcement to parents this morning because obviously the first thing on everyone’s mind is safety and I wanted to make everyone aware of what happened, so rumors weren’t spreading around and so parents knew we were taking security very seriously,” Ablin said.

Palestinian flag raised at UNESCO


Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas raised the Palestinian flag at a ceremony marking its entrance into the United Nations cultural agency.

Abbas raised the flag Tuesday at UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, in Paris. He was scheduled to meet with French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

“This is truly a historic moment,” Abbas said during the ceremony attended by about 50 guests. “This admission is a first recognition of Palestine.

“I hope that this will be a good omen for Palestine’s admission to other international organizations,” he added.

The United States halted its dues payments to UNESCO following the late October vote to grant full membership to the Palestinians under legislation that prohibits U.S. funding to U.N. agencies that accord the Palestine Liberation Organization statehood status. The annual dues from the U.S. comprise more than 20 percent of UNESCO’s budget.

UNESCO approved the Palestinians’ bid during its general assembly in Paris by a vote of 107 to 14, with the United States, Canada and Germany among those voting against the motion.

It was the first U.N. agency that the Palestinians attempted to join since seeking full membership in the United Nations in September. The Palestinians previously had observer status in UNESCO. The Security Council is still considering the Palestinians’ statehood bid.

In November 2010, UNESCO adopted several proposals by Arab states classifying Jewish and Muslim holy sites. It referred to Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem as a mosque, in addition to using its Jewish designation of Rachel’s Tomb, and said the tomb as well as the Cave of the Patriarchs was “an integral part of the occupied Palestinian Territories.” It called both landmarks “Palestinian sites.”

Cairo embassy rioters given suspended sentences


Dozens of people involved in rioting at the Israeli Embassy in Cairo were given suspended jail sentences.

An Egyptian military court on Monday handed down the six-month suspended sentences to 73 of the protesters for using violence against military officers, according to reports.

More than 1,000 Egyptians demonstrated at the embassy Sept. 9, many after an Egyptian Facebook group called on protesters to gather at the embassy and “urinate on the wall.” During the demonstration, protesters tore down the Israeli flag from the high-rise building’s roof for the second time in a month.

The protesters broke down the 8-foot-high security wall surrounding the embassy compound and entered the building, requiring the evacuation of Israel’s ambassador to Egypt, embassy personnel, their families and Israelis staying at the embassy.

Six security employees stranded in the building were later removed by an Egyptian commando unit during a rescue operation.

Three people were killed and more than 1,000 injured in the riots.

The riots came after six Egyptian security personnel were killed in August as Israel pursued the bombers of a civilian bus near Eilat.

Iowa Jewish Federation pulls out of 9/11 event over flag


A Jewish organization in Iowa pulled out of a multifaith prayer service commemorating the 9/11 attacks because the event did not display an American flag.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Des Moines withdrew from the Sept. 11 event sponsored by the Interfaith Alliance of Iowa when representatives arrived at the program at Drake University and discovered that there was no Stars and Stripes on the stage, the Des Moines Register reported.

Federation spokesman Mark Finkelstein told the newspaper that he offered a small flag to the Alliance’s executive director, who declined to display it.

Connie Ryan Terrell told the newspaper that she did not accept the offer because the service was a worship service and not a memorial service, and because she was not willing to make last-minute changes to an event that had been in the planning for three months.

Other Jewish leaders participated in the event.

Egyptian man rewarded for ripping down Israeli flag


The Egyptian man who ripped down the Israeli flag from the embassy in Cairo has been rewarded for his act.

Ahmad al-Shahat climbed up the side of the 22-story building last weekend to the cheers of anti-Israel demonstrators and ripped down the flag, two days after several Egyptian border guards were killed in fighting between Israeli troops and terrorists following a coordinated attack on civilian vehicles near Eilat.

He is reported to have been given a new home and a new job by an Egyptian provincial governor, Reuters reported Thursday, citing reports in the Egyptian media.

Protests continue in front of the Israeli embassy and the home of the Israeli ambassador, where an Israeli flag was also ripped down. The protesters are calling for a million-man protest on Friday to demand the expulsion of Israel’s ambassador to Egypt.

The road leading to the ambassador’s residence was closed by the Egyptian military in order to protect the ambassador, according to the newspaper Israel Hayom.

Israeli officials have apologized for the accidental killing of the Egyptian troops, which Egypt has said is not enough.

PLO mission raises flag in D.C.


The PLO office in Washington raised a flag for the first time.

“It’s about time that this flag that symbolizes the struggle of the Palestinian people for self-determination and statehood is raised in the United States,” said Palestine Liberation Organization envoy Maen Areikat in a brief ceremony Tuesday outside its Dupont Circle offices. “We hope that this will help in the international efforts to provide recognition for the Palestinian state.”

The Obama administration granted the delegation, which does not have embassy status, permission to raise the flag last July.

Palestinian Authority officials last year launched an effort to broaden international recognition of a state of Palestine within the 1967 borders of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The officials targeted Europe and Latin America, the two areas of the world where nations resisted the last such push, in the late 1980s.

Seven South American nations have signed on to the effort, and senior Israeli officials have said they fear European governments may join them.

On Tuesday, Russia’s government reaffirmed the 1988 recognition accorded Palestine by its Soviet predecessor.

Areikat has said that such recognition is not tantamount to statehood, but ratchets up pressure on Israel to freeze settlement building.

The Palestinian Authority abandoned direct talks in September because Israel’s government refused to extend a partial building freeze.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), the chairwoman of the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, condemned the flag raising.

“Raising this flag in D.C. is part of the Palestinian leadership’s scheme to manipulate international acceptance and diplomatic recognition of a yet-to-be-created Palestinian state while refusing to directly negotiate with Israel or accept the existence of Israel as a democratic, Jewish state,” she said.

Ros-Lehtinen reiterated a call on the Obama administration to shut down the office as long as the Palestinians refuse to return to direct talks.

Meanwhile, a bipartisan slate of U.S. senators wrote to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton urging her to quash a resolution circulating at the U.N. Security Council which it suggests dictates terms for a settlement.

“A resolution of this nature would work against our country’s consistent position, which has been that this and other issues linked to the Middle East peace process can only be resolved by the two parties negotiating directly with each other,” says the letter, signed by 17 senators and initiated by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.).

JTA has obtained a draft of the resolution, reportedly initiated by the Palestinian delegation to the United Nations; it does not urge the imposition of terms, and instead calls for a freeze in settlement building and a return to direct talks.

U.S. officials have said they do not want the settlements issue brought before the Security Council but have stopped short of saying they would veto such a resolution.

Parashat Bamidbar (Numbers 1:1-4:20)


Anyone who has chaperoned high school students knows it can add a few gray hairs. I experienced this very phenomenon a number of years ago while serving as the
rabbinic leader on March of the Living, the annual gathering that takes youth to Poland to commemorate Holocaust Memorial week.

It was Shabbat morning in Warsaw, and I was assigned to lead 40 students on a half-hour walk to the only functioning synagogue in the city, the Nozyk Shul.

When we arrived, there were more than 1,000 kids, all dressed alike, inside and outside of the shul. I needed to choose a well-defined spot where all the kids would meet once services ended. I scouted out the area and noticed a large sign in English and Polish on the building next to the shul that read: The Ronald S. Lauder Foundation Kindergarten. Everyone in my group saw the sign, and it was an easy place to remember.

I took my time exiting the shul after the service, certain that it would be simple to find the kids. When I finally came out, I couldn’t believe my eyes: All the other group leaders used the same spot, and more than 1,000 kids stood underneath that sign.

It took a number of searches, counts and recounts until I found all 40 students. Had we brought along our own banner to gather around, it would have made the process easier on the students and myself.

I wasn’t the first person in history to encounter this problem. In our Torah reading, Moses tackles this very issue when he conducts the second census of the Jewish people. The late 20th century Torah sage, Rabbi Yaakov Kaminetzky, wonders why there was a need for this second census when the first was taken only a few months before, as recounted in Parashat Ki Tisa.

Rabbi Kaminetzky suggests that the second census established a new way of viewing the Jewish people. For the first time, each tribe had its own flag: “Each man shall encamp by his banner according to the insignias of their father’s household” (Leviticus 2:2). Up until this moment the tribes did not have separate standards or emblems. The people were one unit.

What purpose, Rabbi Kaminetzky wonders, was served by separating the Jewish people into different groups with distinct emblems, colors and standards? Isn’t the goal of the Jewish people to be “One People”?

Weren’t the flags counter-productive, emphasizing diversity rather than unity? Furthermore, if they were so important, why didn’t we have flags immediately following the Exodus from Egypt?

In a brilliant analysis, Rabbi Kaminetzky says that Judaism promotes unity, but unity should never eliminate creative individuality. The only time unity and individuality can co-exist, however, is when they share the same focus. At this moment in our history the focus was the mishkan, the tabernacle, the first synagogue of our people. Everyone shared that goal and worked to see it thrive with every Jew offering his or her individual talents.

We can now appreciate why, up until now, tribal flags weren’t instituted. Until we had a mishkan identifying our faith and common destiny, the individualism of each tribe was unacceptable. Now, with the mishkan, the shared goal became clear so that individuality could be encouraged.

Rabbi Kaminetzky’s insight is more than simple exegesis; rather, he is offering us a view rarely heard. Unity of the Jewish people can occur only if we share a common destiny and mission. When we can apply varied and different talents to one common goal we, in turn, can enhance that goal.

Elazar Muskin is senior rabbi of Young Israel of Century City (yicc.org), an Orthodox congregation in the Pico-Robertson area.

School vandalism, flag burnings strike Kiev


A Jewish school in Kiev was vandalized, apparently by members of a local neo-Nazi group.

Vandals broke into the school building Tuesday night, spray-painting swastikas and slogans such as “Death to Jews” and “Death to Israel” on the walls, Chabad.info reported Wednesday. The name of a known neo-Nazi group also was painted on the wall, according to the report.

The school is run by the local Chabad organization.

Meanwhile, during an April 15 rally in Kiev, members of a far-right group burned Israeli, Russian and Polish flags.

The flag burning took place during a gathering of the Patriots of Ukraine, which regularly holds racist and anti-Semitic demonstrations, according to the Union of Councils for Jews in the former Soviet Union, citing a Ukrainian Jewish news Web site.

The gathering was held to mark the 242nd anniversary of an uprising by Ukrainian Cossacks against Polish landowners.

Police reportedly detained two of the demonstrators, who were charged with disobeying police. The demonstrators were not charged with a hate crime for the flag burning, according to UCSJ.

Looking upon the flag


Sammy Schatz delivered this speech Sept. 28, when the Israeli flag was raised for the first time in front of the Israeli Consulate on Wilshire Boulevard.

“Ure’item oto uzechartem.”

“Looking upon it, you will be reminded.”

When I traveled to Poland last year with the Poland-Israel Seminar of Camp Ramah, I saw more Israeli flags than Polish flags. The blue-and-white fabric seemed to blossom freely out of ashes. The symbol of Israel’s independence, struggle and survival now whips in the winds that blow through the crematoria of Auschwitz; the Shield of David now confronts the grown-over death pits of Tykocin. The flag stands as sentry, guarding our memories in order to protect our future. And in a very different place and time, in a separate universe of freedom, security, comfort and happiness, we raise the flag of Israel over the Israeli Consulate. Our city and community, our region and all its peoples are protected by this declaration of Israeli presence and conscience.

“Ure’item oto.” Looking upon it, you will be reminded of connection. Deep within the blue intertwined triangles that form the Magen David is the symbol of connection. The flag is like a tallit. The tallit envelops us in a physical connection to God and to the Jewish people. So too is the Israeli Flag a constant reminder of our connection with the land of Israel. In fact, David Wolfsohn, the friend and successor to Theodore Herzl, said at the birth of the Zionist flag, “We have a flag — and it is blue and white. The tallit that we wrap ourselves in when we pray: that is our symbol. Let us take this tallit from its bag and unroll it before the eyes of Israel and the eyes of all nations.” Every time a Jew sees this flag flying here, high over Wilshire Boulevard, he/she will be reminded of that connection. And the place in which we raise this flag symbolizes the steadfast and magnificent connection between Israel and this great nation, the United States of America. As we raise this flag, let us celebrate this bond of brothers and work to support and strengthen it.

“Ure’item oto.” Looking upon it, you will be reminded of responsibility. Deep within the blue, rigidly spaced stripes are symbols of responsibility. We as Americans and as Israelis in America have a responsibility, a duty that this flag represents and reminds us of. We must support Israel in every way. We do not always need to agree with its actions, but we must at least recognize the significance of its existence. It is because of Israel that this flag can wave freely at Auschwitz.

“Ure’item oto.” Looking upon it, you will be reminded of hope. The background, the canvas on which our star and stripes are set, is plain and white, a symbol of hope. Though darkness fills our world with the constant threat of utter annihilation, the pureness of the flag’s white emboldens us to hope. This too is a responsibility of sorts. We must carry on our ancestors’ tradition of hope. Hope is in our blood, in our song and in our flag. Remember “Hatikvah,” the hope, for survival, peace and happiness. We will continue to survive with the hope that is embodied in the flag of Israel.

Just as the tallit comforts us in its protection, the flag represents the protection that Israel provides for the Jewish people against the harm of hatred, persecution, lawlessness and homelessness. Just as we wrap the four corners of our tallit together on our finger in preparation for the Shema, our rallying declaration of faith, so too does the flag gather Jews around the world to a singular place and a unique promise. The flag is not holy. But the meanings of it are holy.

“Ure’item oto uzechartem.” Look upon it and be reminded. Blue and White. Kachol v’Lavan. Star and Stripes. Connection. Responsibility. The hope of a nation for the welfare of its people and the world. Herzl said, “With a flag to help, you lead people wherever you want, even to the Promised Land. For the sake of a flag, the people live, and for it they die.” Am Yisrael chai! The State of Israel lives!

Sammy Schatz is a senior at Milken Community High School.

Speak Up!

Tribe, a page by and for teens, appears the first issue of every month in The Jewish Journal. Ninth- to 12th-graders are invited to submit first-person columns, feature articles or news stories of up to 800 words. Deadline for the December issue is Nov. 15; deadline for the January issue is Dec. 15. Send submissions to julief@jewishjournal.com.

Israeli flag flies at consulate for first time


Maria del Jesus had been waiting under the warm sun for three hours.

She pressed up against a police barricade for a good look Sunday as the Israeli flag was hoisted ceremoniously on Wilshire Boulevard in front of the Israeli consulate.

It was the first time the blue-and-white flag has flown there since the consulate’s establishment in 1948.

A devout Christian evangelical, del Jesus wouldn’t have missed the occasion for anything. “This is for the Holy Land,” she said emotionally.

Next to her stood 79-year old Miriam Blick, who wanted a close-up of her grandson singing with his Stephen S. Wise school classmates.

The two women joined upwards of 3000 Southern Californians, from San Diego to Santa Barbara, for what was billed as an hour-long “Blue and White on Wilshire” gala.

The outdoor event, under extensive security, was an old-fashioned lift-your-voices, wave-the-flag celebration, with a little bit of everything. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa rang the rafters, pledging his city’s unbreakable bond with Israel and ending with a rousing “Am Yisrael Chai.”

Choirs from the Faithful Central Bible Church and three Jewish day schools sang, along with performances by the Jewish Symphony Orchestra and Latino bands.

Sixty rabbis and lay people blew shofars, American vocalist Macy Gray sang the “Star Spangled Banner,” Israeli pop-singer/actress Noa Tishby sang “Hatikvah” and the legendary Hedva Amrani, once known as the Voice of Israel, belted out “Adon Olam” and “Hava Nagila” with Cantor Nathan Lam of Stephen S. Wise Temple.

The good cheer marked a new public face for the Consulate, where the Israeli flag now flies alongside the Stars and Stripes and the California Bear flags, a vision brought about by Israeli Consul General Yaakov Dayan, who, on assuming his post in Los Angeles a year ago, wondered why his country’s emblem did not adorn Israel’s consulate offices here and in five other American cities.

It took about 12 months to push the project through, but on Sunday the three flags were ceremoniously hoisted on brand new flagpoles. Comedian Elon Gold served as master of ceremonies, and Sammy Schatz, a senior at Milken Community High School, spoke emotionally on “What the Israel Flag Means to Me.”

Dayan, whose staff had worked around the clock to organize the event, looked at the crowd, many of them waiving their own small and large Israeli flags, and murmured in amazement, “What a sight, what a sight.”

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Left to right: Villaraigosa, flag bearers from the IDF, Dayan

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Upwards of 3000 people crowded Wilshire

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Oh course, some folks were not happy

Celebration to mark raising of Israeli flag at consulate


The blue and white flag with the Star of David will be raised for the first time in front of the Israeli Consulate on Sunday, Sept. 28, in a community-wide celebration of the Jewish state, its 60th anniversary and the beginning of Rosh Hashanah.

The flag-raising ceremony and celebration has been almost one year in the making, starting with the arrival in Los Angeles of the new Israeli consul general, Yaakov Dayan.

He was puzzled why there was no flag flying in front of the consulate, nor, as he has learned, at any other Israeli diplomatic mission in the United States. The most common reason given for the low profile was security, but Dayan didn’t buy it.

“There are Israeli flags flying in front of our missions in much more dangerous places throughout the world, including our embassy in Cairo,” he told The Journal.

“I remember walking with my father when I was a child in Tel Aviv, and when we saw foreign flags, he would tell me about each of the countries they represented,” Dayan recalled.

“When I came to Los Angeles, I thought of how many kids pass along Wilshire each day and might ask what the blue and white flag with the six-pointed star meant,” he added.

Dayan quickly learned that putting up three flagpoles on Wilshire Boulevard for the Israeli, U.S. and California flags required numerous permits and some political help from City Councilman Jack Weiss and Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky.

The Israeli flag to be hoisted on Sept. 28 has a history of its own, having flown originally over the embattled town of Sderot, regularly exposed to hostile fire from the Gaza Strip.

When Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Dayan visited Israel last June, the flag was formally presented to the mayor by Shimon Peres, president of Israel.

At the same time that two Israeli soldiers raise their country’s colors, the Stars and Stripes will be hoisted by U.S. Marines and the California Bear flag by the National Guard in festivities starting at 1 p.m. in front of the consulate building at 6380 Wilshire Blvd.

Dayan and his staff are going all-out to make the one-hour event a joyous and memorable occasion for the Jewish and general communities of Los Angeles.

Among the highlights planned are:

Music by the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony, which will play the Israeli and U.S. national anthems.

Performances by various school choirs.

Short speeches by Villaraigosa and Dayan.

Some 60 rabbis will join in blowing shofars to welcome the Jewish New Year.

Schoolchildren will prepare and send New Year cards to Israeli kids in development towns and communities exposed to rocket fire. Students from the Milken Community High School will wear special T-shirts for the occasion.

Vera Cruz and other Latino bands will entertain after the ceremony.

Israeli and American pop stars, among them Macy Gray, Noa Tishby and Hedva Amrani, will sing.

In addition, two youngsters will win free flights to Israel, courtesy of El Al, where they will visit schools in various parts of the country.

Diplomats from Mexico and other countries, political leaders and representatives from Mormon and Christian evangelist churches will join the festivities.

While the focus of the celebration will be on Israel, Los Angeles will also benefit. A blood donation center will be on site to benefit the bone marrow transplant unit at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles. Villaraigosa and Dayan will be the first donors to the blood drive initiated by Rabbi Hershy Ten, president of the Bikur Cholim Jewish Healthcare Foundation.

“This celebration will be an apt and enjoyable way for the community to show its solidarity with the people of Israel,” Dayan said.

Shahar Azani, Israeli consul for public affairs, added, “Too many times must we come together to protest attacks on Israel or mourn victims, so it’s time for a happy get-together.”

Wilshire Boulevard between San Vicente Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue will be closed during the celebration. Free or reduced-fee parking will be available within walking distance of the consulate. For more information, visit www.israeliconsulatela.org.

Flag Day


What a weird week.

The presidential race, instead of focusing on the best energy policy, the best Mideast policy, the best health care policy, wasall about moose and pigs and pitbulls. The financial companies that once defined stability have teetered or collapsed. The stock market is on the verge of a nervous breakdown, a hurricane ate our Gulf Coast refineries and, by the way, is anybody noticing that Pakistan is imploding?

Meanwhile, over at the Israeli Consulate, they’re planning a massive, pull-out-the-stops effort to … raise the Israeli flag?

That’s right. On Sunday, Sept. 28, thousands of people are expected to rally outside the Israeli Consulate on Wilshire Boulevard to watch as the blue and white national flag is raised permanently in front of the building.

You would think there are more important things to focus on right now. To be honest, when Consul General Jacob Dayan first told me his idea, that was my gut reaction — which I kept to myself. The world is going nuts, and that’s what you want us to do — raise a flag?

But I’ve let the idea percolate; I’ve turned it over in my head, and sure enough, I’ve changed my mind. It’s the perfect thing to do. It’s brilliant.

Neither Dayan nor the building’s owner, Jamison Services, will discuss why until now no Israeli flag has been allowed to stand in front of the otherwise nondescript office tower at 6380 Wilshire Blvd.

But let’s hazard a wild guess: security.

Building owners and Israeli ambassadors themselves regularly cite concerns over protests and terrorism as the primary reasons so few Israeli diplomatic stations display their country’s flag.

It’s not an unreasonable concern. From 1969 to the present there have been at least 30 attacks on Israeli embassies, according to Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. (The ministry actually lists and details the attacks on its Web sites, which could not have made Dayan’s job convincing his landlord any easier). The most recent one occurred this past February, when a group calling itself “al Qaeda in the Magreb” fired shots at the Israeli Embassy in Mauritania, wounding three local residents.

It’s a fact of life: Israel’s blue and white is a red flag for the fanatics. Wave it, and they are likely to charge.

Sometimes, the reaction is horrific, as at the El Al ticket counter several years ago, when a man opened fire by the flag. Sometimes, it is boringly predictable, as at those Hezbollah rallies in Lebanon, where they actually have to make their own Israeli flag just to destroy it. Sometimes, it is pathetic: In the Mea Shearim neighborhood of Jerusalem last spring, a 50-year-old Orthodox Israeli man waving his flag on Israel’s Independence Day was set upon and beaten by members of the anti-Zionist Naturei Karta Jewish sect.

Given these reactions, it’s only wise and natural to be cautious, to fear the fanatics and abide by their rule: Don’t you dare display your flag.

And now, Dayan is offering his response: tough.

In his book, “A Case for Democracy,” Natan Sharansky offers up a test to determine whether a society is truly free and democratic. He calls it his Town Square test:

“If a person cannot walk into the middle of the town square and express his or her views without fear of arrest, imprisonment, or physical harm, then that person is living in a fear society, not a free society. We cannot rest until every person living in a ‘fear society’ has finally won their freedom.”

I suspect the default reflex of Jews is to rest inside a fear society. Centuries of persecution have conditioned us to cut our losses and accept a base level of fear and intimidation, so long as our families and livelihoods are not immediately threatened. Our mental public square has always been inhabited by thugs: We have grown comfortable with them.

The establishment of the State of Israel was supposed to have freed us from the physical ghettos in which Jews found themselves and from these psychic ones, as well. A free people in a free land could not be bullied, need not live in fear.

The physical and psychic shackles cracked in 1948, when the Israeli flag was first raised over the independent, sovereign Jewish state, and they broke in 1967, when the country swept to victory in the Six-Day War and the flag flew over a united Jerusalem.

But that was then. Now, with terror at our doorsteps and Israel still in peril, most of us are content to lay low. It turns out we are less butterfly than hermit crab. Survival teaches us that rather than float free, better to run from shell to shell.

But if we let our city fail the Town Square test, we delude ourselves in thinking we can forever be safe off the square, in our synagogues, at our schools. Whether we fly the flag or not, those who would do us harm will find us anyway.

In the Age of Google, there is no way to hide. We can be better or worse targets, but we are still targets.

The vast majority of us want to live in a world where disagreements don’t demand violence. We don’t want the crazy few determining how we live our lives, demonstrate our loyalties, express our identity. We want a thousand flags to fly (including, yes, the Palestinian one). We want to be free.

That’s why I love Dayan’s vision. He saw reality and raised it — hell, he went all in. Once he received approval to fly the flag, he could have just quietly run it up one morning and left it at that. But no: He has arranged to close off Wilshire Boulevard between San Vicente Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue. He has invited schools, synagogues and churches to come out and show their support. There will be a stage, speeches (short, he promises), dignitaries and performance by a recording artist Macy Gray.

The Israeli flag is going up on Wilshire Boulevard; attention will be paid, and I, for one, will be there.

Finding Father in ‘Souvenir’


After her father died in 1990, Louise Steinman found stacks of yellowing airmail envelopes inside a rusty ammunition box in his Fox Hills home. The letters, dated 1941-1945, were in Norman Steinman’s handwriting and addressed to his wife, Anne. In a sealed Manila envelope was a threadbare white silk flag, covered in Japanese characters, speckled with bloodlike drops. A translator explained this was a good-luck banner that had belonged to a soldier, Yoshio Shimizu, who would have worn it until he died.

On Father’s Day at the Skirball, Steinman, 52, will discuss how the unusual memento spurred her to write a gritty but lyrical memoir, "The Souvenir: A Daughter Discovers Her Father’s War." The process "was like getting to know a father I hadn’t met before," she said.

While Steinman was growing up Reform in Culver City, her father seemed unknowable. A taciturn, workaholic pharmacist, he never spoke of his combat experiences in the Pacific. But Asian food was banned from the house and his four children weren’t allowed to cry in front of him. "Reminds him of the war," his wife said.

While reading his wartime correspondence, Steinman encountered a romantic youth who was very different from that stern patriarch. She embarked on a 10-year journey to learn more about him, interviewing veterans, traveling to Manila to say "Kaddish" over his friends’ graves and to Japan to investigate the mysterious flag. While his letters do not reveal how he came to possess the souvenir, they express his bitter remorse at having taken it, Steinman said.

To help him posthumously make amends, she returned the banner to Shimizu’s family in 1995 — appropriately, on the first day of Passover.

"Like the Jewish holiday, it was all about welcoming the stranger," she said.

Writing "The Souvenir" helped make her father less of a stranger. "The war stole him away from me before I was born, but the book enabled me to spend quality time with him after he was gone," she said.

Steinman will be at the Skirball on Sunday, June 15 at 2:30 p.m. $5 (general) free (members and students). For tickets, call (323) 655-8587.

A-door-able Art


In these patriotic times, everyone — from the fashion industry to the jewelry industry — is capitalizing on the American flag motif.

So it should come as no surprise that someone believes that Jews will want to display the flag too, in the most unlikely of places: religious articles.

Judaism.com is offering the USA Mezuzah case, a pewter- or gold-finish scroll-holder, featuring the Stars and Stripes of the American flag. “For those who love America as much as they love Jewish tradition,” the Web site advertises.

“The USA Mezuzah expresses our sentiments as American Jews,” writes Shlomo Perelman, president of Judaism.com “The American flag symbolizes the freedom to live without fear — One nation under God. By attaching a mezuzah to the doorposts of our homes, a Jew protects the lives and property of those who dwell within. The USA Mezuzah demonstrates our commitment to Jewish tradition while affirming our allegiance to this country that we love,” he adds.

Designed by American artist Robin Kimball as a response to the events of Sept. 11, the 4-inch by 1.5-inch-wide mezuzah is made from a cast of polymer clay, will hold a 2.75 inch scroll and sells for $49.95. (10 percent of all sales will be donated to the United Jewish Communities Relief Fund for relief of Sept. 11 victims.)

Perelman says he expects that other products that blend American patriotism and Judaism will soon hit the market.

Up next: Flag phylacteries?