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.”

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.

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.

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

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.