Salvador Litvak: Can Talmud change your life?


Hollywood filmmaker and Accidental Talmudist Salvador Litvak recounts his journey of how one moment of learning Talmud led to a million followers on Facebook.

“What we learn from the students of Hillel is that you should be able to state the opinion of your opponent in a way your opponent will say, ‘yes, that is my opinion.’ When you do that, you are opening a door for him to say ‘I feel heard. Now I am willing to hear what you have to say.” -Salvador Litvak

Accidental Talmudist Salvador Litvak

From left: David Suissa and Salvador Litvak

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No-one’s Out of Order When the Lord is Your Lawyer – A Poem for Haftarah Behaalotecha by Rick Lupert


This is the Holy mashup between
Law and Order, and Project Runway
we’ve all been waiting for.

The Lord God, Adonai, Holiest of holies
doing time as a trial lawyer, argues
in favor of the laws that

wouldn’t exist without Her, Him, It,
They, Them, Spirit, One, Guru, Fire,
Trial Lawyer in the sky.

Joshua on trial for failing to
dress up for the occasion. Covered
in filthy garments. Accused of

breaches of decorum, visual civility,
lack of respect via no-time to do
the laundry. Might smell too.

The Solicitor on High waves a
magic finger and Joshua is like
a newborn who the nurses

have taken away and polished.
A headdress to rival a Pope’s
laid on his head. (Maybe this

is where those who dress the Popes
got the idea?) It’s divine trickery,
changing the accused’s situation

in the middle of the trial. But if
You’re the One who makes the rules
surely you can bend them too.

There are bigger fish to fry.
And by fish we mean Jerusalem and
maintaining the eternal favor.

A strange candelabra to build
with seven tubes and seven lights.
You may not know what it is

but if you ask, the angels will ask
if you are asking what you are asking.
Be humble about it.

They just want to make sure
you’ve asked the right question.
So you have the information you need.


God Wrestler: a poem for every Torah Portion by Rick LupertLos Angeles poet Rick Lupert created the Poetry Super Highway (an online publication and resource for poets), and hosted the Cobalt Cafe weekly poetry reading for almost 21 years. He’s authored 22 collections of poetry, including “God Wrestler: A Poem for Every Torah Portion“, “I’m a Jew, Are You” (Jewish themed poems) and “Feeding Holy Cats” (Poetry written while a staff member on the first Birthright Israel trip), and most recently “Beautiful Mistakes” (Rothco Press, May 2018) and edited the anthologies “A Poet’s Siddur: Shabbat Evening“,  “Ekphrastia Gone Wild”, “A Poet’s Haggadah”, and “The Night Goes on All Night.” He writes the daily web comic “Cat and Banana” with fellow Los Angeles poet Brendan Constantine. He’s widely published and reads his poetry wherever they let him.

The ‘Blame Game’ Doesn’t Alleviate Palestinian Suffering


A proposal drafted by Kuwait to deploy an international force to protect Palestinians along the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip currently is circulating among member-states of the United Nations Security Council. This, after the U.N. Human Rights Council (UNHRC) voted overwhelmingly to establish a commission of inquiry into allegations of possible war crimes committed by the Israeli military during the recent chaos along the frontier, which resulted in the deaths of at least 60 Gazans and injuries to some 2,000. Kuwait also pushed for the Security Council to adopt a statement expressing “outrage and sorrow at the killing of Palestinian civilians” and reiterating the call for an independent investigation, although the United States vetoed the move.

In response, Israel’s U.N. ambassador issued a statement decrying the “shameful … attempts to distort reality,” while declaring that Israel’s military “will continue to defend its sovereignty and the security of its citizens against the terror and murderous violence of Hamas.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the UNHRC a “biased body whose goal is to harm Israel and to back terrorism.”

Indeed, many independent observers have agreed with Israel’s supporters regarding what they see as elements of hypocrisy in the international community’s treatment of Israel when viewed against the backdrop of the carnage taking place in the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp, located south of Damascus, where Syrian regime forces have for weeks been waging a fierce campaign against the Islamic State (ISIS). The camp was once home to more than 200,000 Palestinians, yet today only a few thousand remain, many on the brink of starvation. An estimated 4,000 Palestinian civilians have been killed during the Syria civil war, more than the combined death toll in all of Israel’s conflicts with Hamas over the past decade.

Despite this seemingly abject abuse of Palestinian refugees, there are no concerted calls for any probes into the ongoing devastation in Yarmouk, nor is Syrian President Bashar Assad in the crosshairs of the International Criminal Court despite clear evidence that he has perpetrated crimes against humanity by repeatedly using chemical weapons against his own citizens.

In the same vein, ISIS, arguably one of the most insidious terrorist groups of modern times, is virtually being ignored vis-à-vis its Yarmouk travesties in stark contrast to the across-the-board condemnations of the ISIS massacre of Yazidis in Iraq, for example. This apparent “exception” blurs another peculiar reality: namely, the widely drawn distinction between ISIS and Hamas, even though both are incarnations of the same radical Sunni Islamic ideology.

That Kuwait is leading the drive to place Israel in the docket is also paradoxical given that it expelled some 400,000 Palestinians during and after the first Gulf War because of former Palestinian chief Yasser Arafat’s support at the time for Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

While it is clear to many that Israel is not without responsibility and that its policies have contributed to Palestinian suffering, many also assert that decades of attributing blame exclusively to the Jewish state for all Palestinian suffering has in no way furthered the Palestinian cause.

“The question is not whether the response from the international community is right or wrong, but if it solves the problem,” according to Maj. Gen. (Res.) Nathan Sharony, president of the Tel Aviv-based Council for Peace and Security, which promotes a sustainable political solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “And the only way to do so,” he told The Media Line, “is to elevate the standard of living in Gaza from the absolute minimum to something substantial. Once the people are relieved from the daily trouble they are experiencing they have something to lose and their motivations become different.

For Israelis, the singular focus on the Jewish state’s alleged crimes only reinforces their world-against-us mentality.

“Years have gone by, though, and there has been nothing but military collisions,” Sharony concluded, “so with no water and no electricity the situation in the Strip has become critical and needs to be solved now. This has to be an international effort, but Israel has to show that it means business.”

But a growing number of sources suggest that the UNHRC offers merely symbolic condemnations of Jerusalem, which, predictably, reacts with Pavlovian-like fury, while the U.S. is forced to go it alone and defend its ally by wielding its veto power in the Security Council. In other words, the status quo is effectively propagated, thereby ensuring that the cycle of violence repeats itself, even as other causes of Palestinian suffering are obfuscated.

This includes, for instance, the obvious deleterious impact of Hamas’ iron-fist rule, manifest in the crushing of all internal dissent and the pursuit of an external strategy of unending war, which, taken together, greatly reduces the possibility of improving the humanitarian situation in the enclave and thus the lives of Palestinians. Also overlooked are the millions of Palestinians who continue to languish in refugee camps throughout the Middle East — as opposed to being integrated into their host countries — a reality that has denied them any personal agency, thus leaving them totally vulnerable to assaults such as in Yarmouk.

For Israelis, the singular focus on the Jewish state’s alleged crimes only reinforces their world-against-us mentality, which, in turn, expresses itself through increasingly right-wing governments with more and more members that reject Palestinian statehood outright.

According to Gershon Baskin, an expert on Israeli-Palestinian affairs, “what we are seeing is a lot of the same-old, same-old because there are not many viable options. The international community is trying to figure out how to address the humanitarian situation in Gaza but, given the rivalry between Hamas and the PA [Palestinian Authority] and the fact that many countries do not deal with [the former] as it is considered a terrorist organization, there is only so much that can be done.

“I don’t see any solution coming from the U.S., Europe or, of course, Israel,” he told The Media Line. “One possible initiative could come from the Arab world, such as when countries sent a joint force to Lebanon to end the civil war there.”

Many agree that a change of approach is sorely needed. But as things stand, the headlines about Gaza will, as they have in the past, inevitably be pushed to the back pages. Given historical precedent, Israel will have weathered the storm and be left as it was, if not stronger because of its growing economic and military clout coupled with the diplomatic protection afforded by its alliance with the U.S.

The Palestinians, meanwhile, will have little to show other than additional suffering.

ARTIST OF THE WEEK: Sign of a New Embassy


Workers get Jerusalem ready for the historic opening of the new United States Embassy.

Report: Iranian Organizations Offers $100,000 for Destruction of U.S. Jerusalem Embassy


U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin unveils the seal for the new U.S. embassy, as he stands next to Senior White House Adviser Ivanka Trump during the dedication ceremony of the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, May 14, 2018. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

An Iranian organization has offered $100,000 for the new United States embassy in Jerusalem to be destroyed.

According to the Washington Free Beacon, the Iranian Justice Seeker Student Movement has been distributing posters that state in English, Farsi and Arabic, “The Student Justice Movement will support anybody who destroy the illegal American embassy in Jerusalem.” The poster also states there would be a “$100,000 prize” as an incentive for the embassy’s destruction.

The Farsi news aggregate site University Student News Network, which first reported on the poster’s existence, wrote in their report on the matter, “It is necessary to mention that the steps by [President] Trump to transfer the US Embassy to Holy Qods [Jerusalem] has led to the anger and hatred of Muslims and liberators throughout the world.”

The U.S. embassy in Jerusalem officially opened on May 14.

“President Trump, by recognizing history, you have made history,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said during a ceremony celebrating the opening of the embassy. “In Jerusalem, King David established Jerusalem as a capital 3,000 years ago. King Solomon later built the Temple, and over 2,000 years later, we got to hear the sentence ‘The Temple Mount is in our hands.’ We are here in Jerusalem, and we are here to stay.”

Tens of thousands of Palestinians rioted at the Israel-Gaza border in response on the same day, resulting in at least 58 dead. Hamas and Islamic Jihad have admitted that several of the victims were part of their respective terror organizations. Hamas also reportedly forced Gazans to riot.

Why Democrats Missed the Boat in Jerusalem


Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) speaks at the Milken Institute 21st Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California, U.S., April 30, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake

On May 14, the Donald Trump administration officially opened the United States Embassy in Jerusalem. It was a moment to cherish: an acknowledgment by the most powerful nation on the planet that Jerusalem was indeed Jewish, that it is the eternal capital of Israel, and that neither revisionist history nor sheer anti-Semitic malice can separate Jerusalem from her people.

Naturally, zero elected Democrats showed up.

On the surface, this decision makes little sense. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) signaled his excitement over the Trump administration’s decision: “In a long overdue move, we have moved our embassy to Jerusalem. Every nation should have the right to choose its capital. I sponsored legislation to do this two decades ago, and I applaud President Trump for doing it.” Back in 1995, Congress passed a law mandating the embassy move with bipartisan support; in the Senate, the bill passed 93-5. In June 2017, a bill reaffirming the principles of the 1995 vote passed 90-0 in the Senate.

Yet no Congressional Democrats showed up to the Jerusalem event. By contrast, a bevy of elected Republicans, showed up in Jerusalem to celebrate.

According to Israeli reporter Ariel Kahana, every member of Congress was invited to attend, but “people involved in the process blame the Democratic leadership of Congress.”

So, why didn’t the Democrats show up?

Antipathy for Trump is no answer — this was a foreign policy ceremony intended to cement relations with America’s key ally in the region. Trump’s warm welcome in Israel should not have put off Democrats from doing honor to a nation that a Democratic president, Harry Truman, had a strong hand in founding.

Democrats didn’t want to attend the opening of the embassy because they were afraid of their own base.

No, more likely, Democrats didn’t want to attend because they were afraid of their own base. Unfortunately, the Democratic base has moved in a significantly anti-Israel direction over the past two decades — as of January 2018, while 79 percent of Republicans sympathized with Israel, just 27 percent of Democrats did. Again, this makes little sense considering that Israel is the only democracy in the region, the only LGBT-friendly country in the region, and the only country in the region that allows serious religious diversity. But for Democrats, considerations of governmental liberalism take a back seat to intersectionality.

Intersectionality posits that Western civilization has victimized particular groups, and that those groups therefore must have the leading role in discussing politics. Thus, Israel’s success has actually cut against Democratic support: By becoming more prosperous and powerful, Israel now becomes a perpetuator of the “system” intersectionality wishes to attack. Thus, gay Jews waving rainbow flags with stars of David have been barred from Dyke Marches in Chicago on behalf of Palestinian sympathizers, even though rainbow flags likely end with beatings under Palestinian rule. Thus, Linda Sarsour, an openly anti-Semitic fellow traveler of Louis Farrakhan, continues to maintain her popularity with the Women’s March, even as she tweets hatred about Israel.

Israel has become too successful to maintain its appeal to the coalition of victimhood promulgated and celebrated by the intersectional left. And so Israel must be denied legitimacy.

The problem for Democrats is that in order to deny Israel legitimacy — especially at a time when Palestinians are ruled by terrorist groups Hamas, the Palestinian Authority and Islamic jihad — Israel’s historical ties to the land of Israel must be soft-pedaled. These terrorist governments have no moral claims to the land, not when they are busily pursuing murder and repression and impoverishment of their own people. So they must make historical claims that deny the Jewish connection with Israel. This they do with alacrity.

Never has there been less of a case for Democrats to split with Republicans on Israel — not in the face of Iran’s genocidal aspirations, Syria’s horrors and the rise of terrorist groups on all of Israel’s borders. Yet the split grows wider, not narrower. Until Democrats throw aside victimhood ideology in favor of the morality that used to govern their party, it will continue to widen.


Ben Shapiro is a best-selling author.

White House Defends Israel’s Handling of Gaza Violence


Palestinian demonstrators run for cover from Israeli fire and tear gas during a protest against U.S. embassy move to Jerusalem and ahead of the 70th anniversary of Nakba, at the Israel-Gaza border in the southern Gaza Strip, May 14, 2018. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/File photo

The White House is standing by Israel as the Jewish state defends its border from the Hamas-led violent riots at the Israel-Gaza border.

White House Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah told reporters on May 14, “We believe that Hamas as an organization is engaged in cynical action that is leading to these deaths. The responsibility for these tragic deaths rests squarely with Hamas.”

Shah also stated that Israel should be able to defend itself, just like any other country.

The Hamas-led riots, which have occurred every Friday for the past six weeks, are reaching their apex on May 14 and 15 as the United States opens its new embassy in Jerusalem, the capital of Israel.

The May 14 riots have resulted in 55 Palestinians dead – at least 10 of whom have been identified as Hamas terrorists – and over 2,000 Palestinians injured.

Israel dropped leaflets warning Palestinians that they would be shot if they came within 300 feet of the fence and were armed. And yet, tens of thousands of Palestinians tossed rocks, burning tires and explosives at Israeli soldiers as well as flew fiery kites toward the Israeli border. The Israeli military even had to launch airstrikes against Hamas outposts in Gaza where terrorists were firing at Israel Defense Force (IDF) soldiers.

Here are some scenes from the riots:

It’s also worth noting that Hamas is providing $100 to each family that engages in the border riots and is threatening any families that don’t engage in the riots to be smeared as “collaborators” with Israel. The riots are also being funded by Iran, an ally of Hamas, and being encouraged by the Palestinian Authority. The IDF is concerned that the border riots are part of a Hamas plot to breach the border fence and launch terror attacks against Israel.

“Every country has the obligation to protect its borders,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. “The Hamas terrorist organization declares its intentions to destroy Israel and sends thousands to break through the border fence for that purpose.”

Hot Take: Shmuel Rosner on the volatile situation in the Middle East


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Trump Lawyer on New Book: ‘The People Will Be Able to Defend Jerusalem As Their Capital’


Screenshot from Facebook.

Jay Sekulow, who is a part of President Trump’s legal team, discussed his new book “Jerusalem: A Biblical and Historical Case for the Jewish Capital” on Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) on May 3, explaining how it proves beyond a reasonable doubt that Jerusalem is the capital of the Jewish people.

Sekulow told TBN that he approached the book as if he was arguing before the Supreme Court, which he has done 20 times.

“I wrote the book anticipating every question we could think of that would be the other side of the issue,” Sekulow said.

In doing so, he made the legal, historical and Biblical case for Jerusalem to be the capital of the Jewish people.

“The Jewish people have resided in [and] maintained a residency in Jerusalem even in times of immense persecution and dispersion,” Sekulow said, pointing out throughout the interview that there has always been a “remnant” of the Jewish population in Jerusalem.

Additionally, there is new archaeological evidence everyday tying the history of the Jewish people to Jerusalem.

From a legal standpoint, Israel has a right to Jerusalem under international law since they took it back from Jordan during the Six-Day War.

“The precedent is set… that there is no way that the Jewish people and the state of Israel does not have the right to take that territory,” Sekulow said.

Sekulow expressed his amazement to TBN about Trump’s Jerusalem move, saying that it was something that most people thought wouldn’t happen in their lifetimes and that the move itself didn’t result in World War III that critics warned about. Sekulow believes that is thanks to a higher power that now was the moment to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel when the Arab world’s highest priority is the threat of Iran.

“Human beings cannot orchestrate these moments. The word of God is very clear on this,” Sekulow said, adding that “the prophetic nature of Jerusalem is clear from the very beginning of scripture.”

The reason why Sekulow thinks it’s so important to educate the populace about Jerusalem is because the security of Israel is important to the interests of the United States and “Jerusalem has been the flashpoint in world history.”

“You have to understand the significance of Jerusalem,” Sekulow said. “Why has one city in one place drawn so much world attention?”

By understanding history, people can know how to learn from it, especially as the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement seeks to delegitimize Israel and Jerusalem.

The full interview can be seen below:

https://www.facebook.com/TBN/videos/1692441737459015/

This Sacred Beauty


It is written in the Talmud, “Ten measures of beauty descended upon the world, nine were taken by Jerusalem.”

It is no surprise that many feel a visceral love for Jerusalem. The city, which has been destroyed twice and attacked 52 times, still emits a sacred beauty, a beauty that transcends religion and politics.

Most Jews feel this visceral connection before we have ever visited Israel, before we even understand our historical, cultural and religious connection to the land. The love we feel for Israel is not complicated or questioning. Rather, it is like the love we feel for our children, our soulmates — unconditional and eternal: “I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine.”

In the fall of 2013, I reluctantly joined Facebook to promote a book on “deep beauty,” beauty so profound that it touches you not just emotionally but spiritually. Each day I posted art and design that moved me, hoping to nudge the art world back to a deeper appreciation of beauty. I never posted about politics, although many of my art friends did.

When the Hamas war broke out in the summer of 2014, I (naively) expected these left-leaning justice-warrior friends to see which side justice was on. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

No matter what Hamas did, they blamed Israel — precisely what is happening today.

I started to defend Israel, but I also decided that maybe what was needed was for the world to again be touched by its sacred beauty. For more than a decade, the art world had only “allowed” sad, dreary, conflict scenes to be shown.

As the photo-book world follows the art world, there were many rejections before Skyhorse, a small publishing house, agreed to publish “Passage to Israel.” I chose 200 images to represent Israel, images from a wide variety of photographers. My primary requirement: The images were of deep beauty — images that would touch the soul.

Somewhat miraculously, I was introduced to Anderson Contemporary Gallery in New York City. Ronnie Anderson fell in love with the images; she didn’t care that she wasn’t supposed to love them.

And so the exhibition “Passage to Israel” opened in New York in the fall of 2016, with Matisyahu headlining. After its NYC stop, it traveled around the New York area before opening in Ariel, Samaria. It then went on to the Jerusalem Theater, Jaffa and Haifa.

The reaction has been extraordinary: The Israeli friend living in the U.S. who sat down and cried when she went through the book. The innumerable notes saying, “Thank you for reconnecting me to my love for Israel.” The many people who simply said, “I forgot that Israel is far more than just the conflict.”

Most shocking to me has been the reaction of the Arab world. When I created a Facebook page for “Passage,” I braced myself for daily hate and ugliness. Instead, more than a third of the likes are from Arabic names, many of whom heart and share the photos.

Most shocking to me has been the reaction of the Arab world.

Can deep beauty be the sacred bond?

The ultimate test was back where I started, with the art world. The Sagamore Hotel in the South Beach area of Miami Beach — the center of the U.S. art world — chose “Passage” as the centerpiece of a three-month #Peace70 exhibition. The Sagamore is now owned by Israeli Ronit Neuman, but the idea was the brainchild of curator Sebastien Laboureau, who branded it “art as the crosswalk for peace.”

A snowstorm prevented me from making it to the opening in the beginning of March, but from all accounts it was quite epic. Two Florida mayors spoke; major collectors and “tastemakers” roamed the stunning Sagamore, entranced by images of Israel. As one art patron put it, “I haven’t seen the Sagamore this packed since Art Basel 2012.”

As happy as I am about “Passage’s” ability to touch souls, it saddens me to see that, four years later, we’re still dealing with the same desire to believe Hamas’ lies, no matter how far-fetched. A week into the Gaza turmoil, Hamas flew a swastika between two Palestinians flags. As of yet, no mainstream Western journalist has reported it.

Ultimately, the last two sentences of the “Passage” book still stand: “Israel is indeed a mirror to one’s soul. Those who see the beauty, who stand up for the truth, who understand the meaning, will never regret where they stood in this moment in history, when silence is not an option.”

Am Yisra’el Chai.


Karen Lehrman Bloch is an author and cultural critic.

Rabbi Joseph Telushkin: curiosity and other values


Prolific author Joseph Telushkin discusses some of the most pressing issues in the Jewish world, including a need for more curiosity.

“If people are only going to read things that reinforce what they believe… they’re going to end up demonizing the people that disagree with them.” -Joseph Telushkin

Rabbi Joseph Telushkin

From left: David Suissa and Rabbi Joseph Telushkin

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Dr. Micah Goodman: Is there a light at the end of the tunnel?


Israeli scholar Micah Goodman weighs in on the world’s most intractable conflict — and his ideas for a solution. He explains it all in his bestselling new book, Catch 67, which uses philosophical insights to tackle the Israel–Palestinian conflict.

“Everyone always talks about solving or not solving the conflict. What about shrinking the conflict?” -Dr. Micah Goodman

 

David Suissa and Dr. Micah Goodman in the studios

From left: David Suissa and Dr. Micah Goodman

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ARTIST OF THE WEEK: Luis Curiel


Luis Curiel
“FORGIVENESS DAY,” 2016

Forgiveness Sunday is celebrated in Jerusalem. “Forgiveness Day” is part of the international exhibition “Passage to Israel” through May 30 at the Sagamore Hotel in the South Beach area of Miami Beach, as part of a three-month “Peace 70” initiative (passagetoisrael.org).

At AIPAC, Vice President Mike Pence Affirms U.S.-Israel Bond


Vice President Mike Pence addresses the 2018 AIPAC Policy Conference

At the 2018 AIPAC Policy Conference, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence opened his speech on Monday night by calling Trump the “most pro-Israel president in American history.” He began the statement, however, by calling Trump the “most pro-life president” but then corrected himself to say pro-Israel.

It was the one gaffe in an otherwise well received speech in Washington D.C., on the second night of the three-day AIPAC conference. Multiple times during his remarks Pence reiterated the U.S. commitment to supporting the State of Israel.

“American stands with Israel, today, tomorrow and always,” he said.

Frequently garnering applause during his approximately 20-minute remarks, Pence denounced the Iranian regime’s nuclear ambitions, saying the U.S. “would no longer certify the disastrous nuclear deal,” which was ratified under former U.S. President Barack Obama.

He indicated the possibility the U.S. would withdraw from the Iranian nuclear agreement.

He said the recent decision of U.S. President Donald Trump to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel set him apart from his predecessors.

“While every president for the past two decades promised to recognize the capital of Israel, President Trump did more than promise—he delivered,” Pence said.

“By finally recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the United States has chosen fact over fiction and fact is the only true foundation for a just and lasting peace,” he added.

The U.S. plans to open its embassy in Jerusalem this May, he said, which would move the American embassy in Israel from its current location in Tel Aviv.

While the Arab world denounced the president’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Pence spoke of the changing political landscape in the Middle East, saying that Israel is finding unlikely allies in the Muslim world.

“The winds of change are blowing across the Middle East. Longstanding enemies are becoming partners; old foes are finding new ground for cooperation and the descendants of Isaac and Ishmael are coming together in common cause to meet, as the president’s said, history’s great test, and conquer extremism and vanquish forces of terrorism, and we will meet that test together,” Pence said.

Looking for Hamantashen of His Youth in Jerusalem


I’m in Machane Yehuda Market — the big shuk — in Jerusalem — just as I am every week. The “oznei Haman” have arrived. In Israel, hamantashen are called “Haman’s ears” and with a bit of imagination, I can almost make sense of that. Every year, I wander from bakery to bakery during the weeks preceding Purim, and I end up carbohydratedly disappointed. The hamantashen of my youth are nowhere to be found.

The bakeries in Jerusalem, and especially in the shuk, make amazing hamantashen. You want hamantashen filled with halvah? We have that. Chocolate dough hamantashen filled with chocolate? Yeah, we have that, too. How about date filling? Poppy seed? Yup, they’re all here. But like Proust taking a bite of a madeleine, I want that hamantashen that takes me back. Way back. I want to travel back about 50 years.

When I was a child growing up on the South Shore of Long Island, all the way out in Suffolk County (yenevelt — a faraway place, as my grandfather called it) our community was a tightknit enclave of Jewish immigrants from Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx, all seeking a suburban life far from the city.

My parents were deeply involved in the synagogue. My mother was Sisterhood president. My dad taught the confirmation class and was the youth group director of Temple Sinai of Bay Shore.

As youth group director, organizing the annual Purim carnival was his and the teenagers’ responsibility. Games were devised, booths were constructed, prizes were purchased, food was ordered.

To play games or obtain food, guests had to purchase tickets. “Five dollars’ worth is all you get,” my mother would tell us. But I was not going to waste my precious tickets on mundane activities like “Shave the Balloon” or a terrifying Senior Youth Group “Fun House” that would culminate in me putting my hand in a bucket of pitted olives and being told they were eyeballs. I spent my money on the hamantashen.

Without warning or advance notice, the yeast-dough hamantashen fell out of fashion.

Fresh from Stanley’s Bakery (which is still on Main Street) were platters of hamantashen that were the real deal. No halvah. No chocolate. And they were huge. The filling — cherry, prune or apricot —  oozed from the seams. And the dough? The dough was a golden yeast dough and not this crumbly cookie stuff that tries to pass for hamantashen. Like the Danish my father always brought home on Sunday morning —  only better.

Without warning or advance notice, the yeast-dough hamantashen fell out of fashion. They disappeared, never to be found again. Like those Long Island Purim carnivals, they became a distant memory.

Nonetheless, I persevere in my search. Like a relentless explorer, I wander through Jerusalem’s alleys and byways in search of a cherry-filled, yeast-dough hamantashen.

Recently, at one of my favorite bakeries in the shuk, I asked the owner (in Hebrew): “You ever make hamantashen with a yeast dough?”

With a wave of his hand, he responded, “You want a yeast dough? Buy a challah.”

This year, the search is over. I’m making them at home.

Happy Purim!


Before making aliyah, Cantor Evan Kent served Temple Isaiah in Los Angeles for 25 years. In Jerusalem, he is on the faculty of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.

Jerusalem Filtered Through a German Museum


A German and an American watched the same clip shown toward the end of the “Welcome to Jerusalem” exhibition that opened at the Jewish Museum Berlin in December, coincidentally the same week U.S. President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

At the museum, videos screening on monitors mounted back-to-back told stories of Jerusalem residents via footage from a German documentary titled “24h Jerusalem.” One pair told the story of Zeruya Shalev and her survival of the Jerusalem No. 19 bus suicide bombing, and of Mahmoud from Shuafat, who hasn’t gone to school for several years.

In the video, Mahmoud complains about the “wall” that cuts into the land where he used to fly kites. He and a friend taunt the Israeli guard by flying a kite across the security barrier.

“The pigs and dogs would chase us,” he says in the film, referring to Israelis and suggesting they should throw rocks.

He slammed the museum for alleged anti-Israel bias as reflected in city ads featuring the Islamic crescent as the only religious ornament.

After watching it, the German woman, in her 70s, shook her head in dismay.

When asked why she disapproved, she said, “I don’t like what Israel is doing to the Palestinians,” and pointed to another vignette in which an elderly Arab longs for the home he lost in 1948, still holding the house key.

It didn’t bother her that Mahmoud referred to Israeli soldiers as “pigs and dogs” or that he threatened to throw rocks.

“They’re frustrated and have no weapons.” Like the German government, she’s displeased with Trump’s Jerusalem decision.

Then came Jake from Montana, a 20-something on a vacation break in Berlin.

“I’m not sure what to think,” he said, asking for more context. Was Mahmoud a high school dropout? Was he cut off from his school or home?

“What about his threat to throw rocks?” this reporter asked.

“I didn’t like it,” he replied. “That only brings more violence.”

Jake preferred not to comment on Trump, who was the subject of ridicule during his European travels. But he said he loves America.

Although the exhibition portrays itself as examining Jerusalem from the perspective of three monotheistic religions, the story it tells is really one of two sides: a showdown between Judaism and Islam, Israelis and Palestinians, Jews and Arabs, and these days, inadvertently, Trump and Germany.

In an interview with the Journal before my visit, museum director Peter Schäfer said the exhibition seeks to impose no political position and instead hopes to offer visitors enough information to reach their own conclusions.

“Having said that, of course, we have our opinions about this, and I have my own opinions about this, and my personal decision is that it’s not a wise decision by Mr. Trump, and that the status of Jerusalem can only be decided at the end of the negotiations in which all parties involved take part and come to discussion and compromise,” he said.

The Jewish Museum Berlin is a public museum with a largely non-Jewish staff. Schäfer is Catholic, having studied at Hebrew University in the 1960s. The exhibition was curated by Margret Kampmeyer, a German of Christian faith and an art historian, and Cilly Kugelmann, a German-born Jew and former museum executive who served in an advisory role. Kampmeyer first visited Jerusalem two years ago for research.

“Welcome to Jerusalem” serves as the main attraction while the museum remodels its permanent exhibition on German-Jewish history, and it features replicas, maps, photographs and artwork of prominent Jerusalem iconography. The topic was chosen because the museum often seeks to address themes of interfaith importance.

“One of our goals with the exhibition, if at all possible, is to address not just Judaism but also, if possible, Islam and Christianity,” Schäfer said, citing recent exhibitions on religious head coverings and on the binding of Isaac as examples.

Jerusalem fits this goal perfectly, but Eldad Beck, the Berlin correspondent for the Israel daily newspaper Israel Hayom, has publicly taken the museum to task for its extensive focus on interreligious themes at the expense of Jewish narratives. He slammed the museum for alleged anti-Israel bias as reflected in city ads featuring the Islamic crescent as the only religious ornament. Schäfer, in defense, told the Journal that the ad was the first of a series.

“If you ask me why did we start with the Islamic crescent, I cannot tell, but of course, the idea you could see easily,” he said. “The idea, of course, is to allude to the Dome of the Rock.” As the religious symbol topping this contentious landmark, he believes it is among the more recognizable Jerusalem icons.

But the same image also appears as the brochure cover, and Beck’s criticism goes further. In his book “Germany at Odds,” Beck dedicates a chapter to the museum, outlining Kugelmann’s affiliation with the “Israelkritik” movement in Germany, which largely blames Israel for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

“It’s very typical of the German position, and they’re just using this museum to promote their distorted view of Judaism,” Beck said. “A country with such a history of the Jews should not be allowed to do it.”

He was particularly incensed by the exhibition climax: a short film titled “Conflict.”

“This is amazing because they took out almost everything that has to do with Arab-Muslim violence and put only the Jewish and Zionist violence,” Beck said. “Later on, during the Second Intifada, you have some mentioning of the bombings, but it’s so minor that the overall impression that you get from this film is that the Jews came, took the land, took the city, and the poor Arabs are there to suffer.”

Sympathizers with Israel’s claim to Jerusalem may be bothered by more than just the exhibition’s apparent bias. The portrayal of the Holy City lacks soul, coming across as a chore, a lecture, a collection of clichés — or worse, propaganda.

In my opinion, rather than exacerbate tensions by focusing on conflict, why not dramatize the beauty, depth and liveliness of a modern city that people of all faiths call home? Let’s see Jews and Arabs peacefully coexist. Let us enter the colorful Arab shuk or the happening Machane Yehuda Market. Let us sit at the cafes, bars or walk the rose-lined golden streets. And most of all, let us pray, hope and dream. Because what’s worse than leaving with the impression that Israel is the aggressor is leaving with: “What are they even fighting for?”


Orit Arfa is an author and journalist based in Berlin. For more on the exhibition, go to her blog on jewishjournal.com.

U.S. Jerusalem Embassy to Open in May


Photo from Twitter.

The new United States embassy in Jerusalem will open its doors in May, when Israel celebrates its 70th year of independence.

The State Department announced the timing of the move to Congress on Feb. 23, and told the Times of Israel, “The Embassy will initially be located in Arnona [in south Jerusalem], on a compound that currently houses the consular operations of Consulate General Jerusalem. At least initially, it will consist of the ambassador and a small team.”

The new embassy is scheduled to open on May 14, the 70th anniversary of Israel’s independence. The timing is not coincidental.

“This decision will turn Israel’s 70th Independence Day into an even bigger celebration,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement. “Thank you President Trump for your leadership and friendship.”

In response to the announcement, Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Secretary-General Saeb Ekrat called it a “flagrant violation of international law and agreements” and “provocative to the feelings of all Arabs and Muslims.” Hamas spokesman Abd al-Latif al-Kanou claimed that the move will be “a trigger for an explosion of the entire region in the face of Israel.”

President Trump first announced the move in December, when he declared that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. The move has been met condemnation worldwide and “days of rage” protests, but the Trump administration has held firm on the move.

“The United States knows the Palestinian leadership was very unhappy with the decision to move our embassy to Jerusalem,” U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley told the U.N. on Feb. 20. “You don’t have to like that decision. You don’t have to praise it. You don’t even have to accept it. But know this: that decision will not change.”

Abbas Criticizes US and Israel in UN speech; Haley Fires Back


Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a meeting of the UN Security Council at UN headquarters in New York, U.S., February 20, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas gave a speech at the United Nations on Feb. 20 criticizing the United States and Israel on hampering peace negotiations.

Abbas railed against the Trump administration’s actions on recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and cutting funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA).

“In a dangerous, unprecedented manner, this administration undertook an unlawful decision which was rejected by the international community to remove the issue of Jerusalem off the table without any reason,” Abbas said.

The PA president added, “This administration has not clarified its position. Is it a two-state solution, or the one-state solution?”

Abbas then claimed that the Palestinians have a historical connection to Israeli land.

“We are descendants of the Canaanites that lived in Palestine 5,000 years ago, and have continuously remained there to this day,” Abbas said.

Abbas also went after Israel for being a “permanent settlement colonization.”

“We are working for the occupation, we are employees for the occupation, and we say that Israel must be held to its obligations as an occupying power,” Abbas said.

Abbas advocated for Palestine to have full member status at the U.N. and for a two-state solution mediated by a “multilateral international mechanism.”

Abbas walked out of the room when he was finished speaking, prompting Haley to remark to the PA president, “Our negotiators are sitting right behind me, ready to talk. But we will not chase after you. The choice, Mr. President, is yours.”

“The United States knows the Palestinian leadership was very unhappy with the decision to move our embassy to Jerusalem,” Haley added. “You don’t have to like that decision. You don’t have to praise it. You don’t even have to accept it. But know this: that decision will not change.”

Israeli Ambassador to the U.N. Danny Danon criticized Abbas for inspiring “a culture of hate in Palestinian society.”

“When we extend a hand, Abbas extends a fist,” Danon said.

The First Construction Project – A Poem for Haftarah Terumah by Rick Lupert


It took four hundred and eighty years
after leaving Egypt until God gave us
the measurements we needed to
build the Holy Temple.

King Solomon got the Job.
He was only the third Jewish King.
We followed the charismatic until
the situation on the ground caused us

to formalize the situation with his
grandfather, Saul. Jerusalem was
barely the capital, and we’re still
having trouble setting that in stone.

His dad, David, was too busy
writing poetry under waterfalls near
the Dead Sea to take on a major
construction project and, I guess

the previous few hundred years
we were still glancing nervously
back across the Jordan River for
signs of chariots.

I wonder what happened with
the desert’s Tabernacle before
Solomon’s stones and planks
took to the mountain?

I wonder if they imagined that
thousands of years later, this
holiest of structures, and its sequel
number two, would only be

remembered by the words we
read on Saturday mornings?
Occasionally a shovel reveals
a clue. I walked up a staircase

made of stone once. I sang a song
of ascent
. I crawled through tunnels
and looked in every dark crevice.
One cedar plank was all I needed.

Even just a splinter.


God Wrestler: a poem for every Torah Portion by Rick LupertLos Angeles poet Rick Lupert created the Poetry Super Highway (an online publication and resource for poets), and hosted the Cobalt Cafe weekly poetry reading for almost 21 years. He’s authored 21 collections of poetry, including “God Wrestler: A Poem for Every Torah Portion“, “I’m a Jew, Are You” (Jewish themed poems) and “Feeding Holy Cats” (Poetry written while a staff member on the first Birthright Israel trip), and most recently “Donut Famine” (Rothco Press, December 2016) and edited the anthologies “A Poet’s Siddur: Shabbat Evening“,  “Ekphrastia Gone Wild”, “A Poet’s Haggadah”, and “The Night Goes on All Night.” He writes the daily web comic “Cat and Banana” with fellow Los Angeles poet Brendan Constantine. He’s widely published and reads his poetry wherever they let him.

Letters to the Editor: Racism, Trump, Jerusalem and Suissa


Label a Person Racist When It’s Deserved

We must agree to disagree about the premise of Shmuel Rosner’s questions (“The Rush to Racism,” Jan. 19). There are more than two criteria to label someone a racist.

President Donald Trump has a history of denying leases to African-Americans 40-plus years ago. He accepted, after denying he knew former KKK member David Duke, Duke’s endorsement during the campaign. His words have emboldened haters like no president before. His policy to deny people who are not white entry to United States and most recently his “shithole” comment all point to the same conclusion.

If you act/feel like a racist, you quack like a hater/racist and you call neo-Nazis “good people,” you are a racist.

Warren J. Potash, Moorpark


Trump’s Comment About ‘Developing’ Countries

I (and I suspect many other Journal readers) take umbrage at Karen Lehrman Bloch’s assertion that we are all shitholers (“We are All Shitholers,” Jan. 19).

That and similar terms aren’t ones I use. I was born in the United States. Yes, my grandparents came from Russia and Poland, as did the ancestors of many people.

And I disagree strongly with her assertion that the leftist media get hysterical over everything President Donald Trump says and does.

I’m not sure which media outlets she is referring to as leftist — does she mean legitimate news outfits like The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, CNN and MSNBC? Reporting on presidential outrages in word or deed is not hysterical, it’s legitimate reporting.

At least Bloch appears to understand that Trump’s bigotry is un-American. She should also point out that it violates biblical injunctions, too.

Daniel Fink, Beverly Hills

In the past few decades, I have traveled to nearly 50 countries, mostly as a negotiator on deals to sell American products in places such as China, South America and Europe but also (more recently) as a tourist.

Most of these trips were to “developing” countries that President Trump called “shitholes.”

Yes, I have been to some rough places in the world: I went to Syria to help a Texas mom whose 12-year-old daughter was kidnapped by an ex-husband and was being held near Damascus. I discovered an international criminal group in Europe on a case I was working on (that had bilked U.S. investors out of $1.5 million) and had to go “undercover” for a while.

But the only place out of 50 countries I have been to, where my life was really in jeopardy, was in the United States — in East Texas — when I was kidnapped by a white guy. Not Nigeria. Not South Africa. Not Asia. True story. All of these events are documented in my book “Better Times Ahead April Fool.”

So don’t call nations “shitholes,” Mr. Trump, because I found great people in the worst of places, and some terrible people in the “best” of places.

Michael Fjetland, via email


Zioness Organization’s Time Is Now

Thank you for your wonderful story about the Zioness organization (“Zioness Movement Joins Women’s March,” Jan. 19). This is an organization whose time is long overdue. There is a strong need on the left for this type of organization. We Jews on the left have been slammed with anti-Semitic and anti-Israel hate speech and actions. Occasionally, it comes from other Jews and Jewish organizations.

I’m writing because of an Israel-bashing Muslim woman who spoke at the Women’s March. This marred an otherwise inspirational event, and was so unnecessary. I would say that almost all people at the march had multi-ethnic and multiracial sentiments.

This Israel bashing is nothing new. It seems always to be lurking in the mass movements on the left. My first exposure to it was in the women’s movement in the 1970s. Then it was in the LGBT movement. Then it was in the anti-Iraq War movement. Now, here it is at the Women’s March. I will always be a progressive because I put people’s lives first. There’s nowhere else for me to go.

Let’s hope the Zionesses become powerful and strong!

Sue Roth via email


Jerusalem as Capital of Israel

Last month, President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem the capital of Israel, yet I did not see any positive comment that I know of from rabbis with the exception of Rabbi Kalman Topp of Beth Jacob, who asked the members to send letters or email to thank Trump. Even though Jerusalem belonged to Israel for 2,000 years, Trump was the first president who promised and delivered. Thank you, Mr. Trump.

Benny Halfon via email


Suissa’s Hits and Misses

Thank you, David Suissa, for an outstanding column (“Abbas Fails His People —  Again,” Jan. 19)!

Mahmoud Abbas and his friends appear to be the “fundamental obstacle” to peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. He retains power by focusing on the presumed “victimhood” and the misery under which his people live, claiming Israel is the oppressor. Abbas’ argument: Israel is to blame for all the hardships Palestinians are suffering.

Prediction: Just as is happening in Iran, one day the Palestinian people will wake up and realize the truth, and get leaders who truly want to help their people to enjoy a better life. Then they will welcome Israel as a partner rather than the enemy.

Meanwhile, Abbas enjoys his share of the billions of dollars donated from around the world — just as Yasser Arafat did before him. Furthermore, he uses much of those funds to reward and encourage terrorism. And the U.N. condones it all, blaming Israel for the plight of the Palestinians. In this regard, let’s wish for lots of luck for U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and President Donald Trump.

George Epstein via email

The publisher and editor-in-chief of the Jewish Journal is on a trip to the land of Oz! Suissa is dreamy and nostalgic for the smells of the land that decreed Jews’ station in this land to be dhimmi: to face humiliation from birth to death (“A Hunger for Memory,” Jan. 12).

Perhaps if Suissa wasn’t daydreaming about the good old days in a country that held its Jews in humiliation and bondage, he might have remembered to speak up for the Jew Robert Levinson, who is believed to be rotting in the mullahs’ gulag. But then, how could Suissa be expected to remember Levinson when he’s dreaming about the good old days living the dhimmi. All the space in this not-for-profit Jewish weekly showing concern for the protesters in Iran and not a bloody word for the Levinson. Perhaps Levinson is in a cozy gulag in his Muslim cell.

Jerry Daniels, Marina del Rey


Why Israelis Like Trump More Than Americans Do

Shmuel Rosner clearly explained why Israeli Jews like President Donald Trump more than American Jews do (“The Trump Gap,” Jan. 19). I would like to add one more element to his explanation: What is good for America is good for Israel. The Israeli euphoria should be dampened by the fact that his erratic attempts of diplomacy have alienated him from our (and Israel’s) natural allies and greatly diminished American leadership in the Middle East. Thus, despite his rhetoric, he has lost America’s ability to act as an honest broker in future peace negotiations and give political cover in international relations.

At home, his attack on American institutions already is causing greater division and rivalry among our population. If not reversed, this can cause a weakening that will reflect in our ability to influence world affairs, and particularly support for Israel.

Michael Telerant, Los Angeles

13 Arab-Israeli Lawmakers Thrown Out of Knesset for Protesting Pence Speech


Members of the Joint Arab List hold signs in protest ahead of U.S. Vice President Mike Pence’s address to the Knesset, Israeli Parliament, in Jerusalem January 22, 2018. REUTERS/Ariel Schalit/Pool

Thirteen Arab-Israeli Knesset Members were tossed from the Knesset on Monday for protesting Vice President Mike Pence’s speech.

The lawmakers were a part of the Arab Joint List faction; they stood up holding signs that stated, “Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine” to protest President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and heckled the vice president. The 13 MKs were then removed from the Knesset to applause.

Joint List chairman Ayman Ordeh, who lead the protest, tweeted:

NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell seemed to sympathize with the thrown out lawmakers when she tweeted, “Can you imagine Capitol Police dragging members of the congressional black caucus off the House floor?”

However, Jerusalem Post reporter Lahav Harkov pointed out that Mitchell had numerous factual errors in her tweet, most notably that it’s against Knesset rules to hold signs during a speech:

Harkov also noted that there have been plenty of other instances in which lawmakers have been thrown out of the Knesset for holding up signs:

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman lambasted the thrown out lawmakers on Twitter as being “representatives of terrorist organizations in the Knesset.”

“Their shameful behavior exposed to everyone their disloyalty to the state and its symbols,” Lieberman tweeted. “Only when Israeli Arabs allow other voices to represent them will be a chance for true peace.”

During his speech, Pence reaffirmed America’s commitment as a staunch ally to Israel and praised the Jewish people.

The importance of Pence’s Visit, and other comments


U.S. Vice President Mike Pence shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ahead of his address to the Knesset, Israeli Parliament, in Jerusalem January 22, 2018. REUTERS/Ariel Schalit/Pool

Pence is Sending an Important Message

In the news: Shortly after arriving in Israel, Vice President Mike Pence announced that the U.S. Embassy would open in Jerusalem before the close of 2019, adding to the general fanfare of his visit.

A comment: Is this an important visit? Many Israelis say no – because they do not expect any diplomatic breakthrough to follow it, and because Pence is in Israel without even having the benefit of meeting with the leaders of the Palestinians.

An opposite view can be proposed: the importance of Pence’s visit stems from the fact that he does not meet with Palestinians. Pence is sending an important message by having this visit: US-Israel relations will no longer be held hostage to a peace process or lack thereof.

Eliminate Slowly, Eliminate with Care

In the news: President Trump followed through with plans to cut funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA). The decision has enraged Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who denounced Israel and the United States in a speech to the PLO Central Council, and some analysts fear that cutting aid to UNRWA will destabilize the region.

A comment: The choice with UNRWA, as with many Middle East problems, is not one between ideal (elimination) and terrible (keeping the status quo). It is between a known bad situation and the fear of what might happen in case we attempt to change it. UNRWA should be eliminated, but the process must be well managed, to avoid humanitarian crisis, or radicalization of the population.

Thus, Trump is doing the right thing by cutting half the budget. On the one hand, this means that he is serious about the need for radical reform of the current situation. On the other hand, it gives UNRWA and all those concerned with the fate of Palestinian refugees a time to prepare for the ultimate elimination of the unnecessary, harmful, organization.

A Mutually Beneficial Shabbat Fight

In the news: Knesset infighting has reached a boiling point in the wake of Avigdor Lieberman’s show of support for protests in Ashdod against the Shabbat Bill.  Leaders of Ultra-Orthodox Knesset parties, Shas and UTJ, are fed up with Lieberman, and Lieberman is equally fed up with Shas and UTJ in return.

A comment: Who needs another Shabbat war? That’s easy: count the politicians who wage the fight. These are the people who need it. Especially so the two new rivals in chief, formerly best buddies, Shas leader Aryeh Deri and Israel Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman.

Both look at the polls and worry about their futures. Both need to convince a dwindling constituency that they still have something to offer. Of course, one has to be a cynic to suspect that the newly found rivalry was prearranged for mutual benefit. Then again, these are two of the most cynical politicians we have.

Jerusalem: What Comes Next?


There were many things that President Donald Trump’s declaration on Jerusalem was not. It was not the start of the apocalypse. It was not the start of a successful political peace strategy. Nor was it earth-shattering in terms of its actual practical effects.

So, what was it? It was an international humiliation for a Palestinian community that believed in negotiations. It was an abdication of the role of sole arbitration by the United States. And it was a reality check for everyone concerned.

The United States, at least for the next three years, will not be able to singlehandedly bring the parties back to the table. Of course, even before this, the reality was that even if negotiations had — by some miracle — restarted, few were confident that the societies or their respective leaders were ready for a credible process.

If the Jerusalem announcement has stopped the fake horizon of talks, what replaces it? What credibly fills the vacuum?

There are many who would like to use this moment to push a pressured or coercive approach — the idea that with more force the decision-making calculation will change and a different outcome will result. Given the extreme violence of the Second Intifada and the structural violence that the occupation brings daily, the evidence does not indicate that what we need is more force. If there were a coercive solution to this problem, it would have happened already.

Coercion is seductive, as it puts all the pressure on the party on the other side of the equation. Supporters of both Israel and Palestine can point to the pressure points they feel are most effective and motivate others to apply pressure there while ignoring the significant challenges within their own communities.

Ignoring the power of coercion within decision-making is a mistake, but so is fetishizing it. If this isn’t the moment for pressure, what is it the time for?

To confront the generational challenge, we need a long-term strategy.

Israeli and Palestinian young people truly mistrust one another. With limited or no interaction with one another, they rely on their media and leadership to inform them about their counterparts. The result has been anything but positive. Annual polls of Israelis and Palestinians show that large majorities believe that the opposing community harbors extreme exclusionist or genocidal views.

To confront the generational challenge that the conflict presents, we need a generational long-term strategy to re-engage the communities — something broader than traditional people-to-people programs. We need an agenda that considers how to create community resilience against violence and develop leaders to create constituencies for peace when a credible political process eventually occurs.

As the executive director of the Alliance for Middle East Peace, I have been pushing for the creation of a multilateral international fund for Israeli-Palestinian peace that can help answer the question, “What are we doing to make sure that the next generation does not hate one another?” The need has never been higher.

Beyond the fund, however, we need to move beyond the politics of demographics. For the past few years, more and more voices in the center and left of both Israel and the Jewish Diaspora have been pushing the politics of separation to make their case for peace now. The American-Jewish community funds shared-society programing in Israel while also paying for billboards that bemoan the demographic threat posed by the Arab community. That needs to stop.

This is not a moment for coercion but for laying a solid foundation.

One could make the spurious argument that you can use racism to motivate voters if you believe that peace is just a vote away. It is not. If we are in a generational struggle, then we need to tackle the educational challenges created through ethnic conflict, not exacerbate the worst fears of the populations.

The uncertainty of the moment should lead all of us to return to the basic values and principles that motivate and guide us. There are hundreds of opportunities to invest in values we can all stand behind, whether by investing in the bilingual communities of the Hand in Hand school network, working with youth across Jerusalem’s faith communities with Kids4Peace or supporting agricultural cooperatives with the Near East Foundation.

This is not a moment for coercion but for laying a solid foundation. We should support young people as they build communities that demonstrate that a different future is possible, one of collective humanity and mutual dependence. This is a generational struggle, but one that depends on people themselves rather than the geopolitical currents that are buffeting our global society.


Joel Braunold is executive director of the Alliance for Middle East Peace.

Letters to the Editor: Mensch List, Jerusalem, Settler for Peace, Nonviolent Protests, and Lorde


Author Was Indeed a Mensch

While your annual “Mensch List” issue (cover story, Jan. 5) highlighted people who embody the Jewish community’s future, we would like to honor someone who touched a future she knew she wouldn’t live to see.

Last year, author Amy Krouse Rosenthal died. Days before succumbing to ovarian cancer at age 51, she received acclaim for her New York Times essay “You May Want to Marry My Husband.” It was a beautiful and touching love letter to her about-to-be-widowed husband, Jason, creatively penned as a dating profile for him so that “another love story begins.”

She touched many more lives as a children’s book author — an underappreciated art for which she had a special talent. Her book “Uni the Unicorn,” an imaginative story about a unicorn who believes that little girls are real, is one of our 5-year-old daughter’s favorite bedtime books, alongside “Goodnight Moon,” “Chicken Soup With Rice,” “Sylvie,” “If Kisses Were Colors” and “A Giraffe and a Half.” Rosenthal’s books “Spoon” and “Little Pea” are adorable, too. She was an exceptionally gifted writer and storyteller, and through her books, she will continue to touch the future.

Shoshana and Stephen A. Silver, San Francisco


Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel

Here is a proposal I’ve not yet seen. I’m sure someone will tell me why.

Israel swaps the West Bank for the Gaza Strip, minus a narrow passage to the sea. Each state shares Jerusalem as its capital. What becomes of the settlements and the property of Gaza is a problem with many solutions, none beyond the capacity of negotiation. Each party will object, no doubt, but the status quo benefits neither. The proposal gives the Palestinians more territory than they are likely to obtain any other way and freedom at last. Israel expands its territory, less in quantity than by annexing the West Bank, but more in quality. Currently Israel has one friend. With its occupation over, it can devote its energies to being a good neighbor and a positive participant in the United Nations.

Start talking. There is nothing to lose.

Robert Ragaini, Santa Monica and New York


Moses and Nonviolent Protest

While enjoying all of the discussions of this weekly parsha, Rabbi Denise L. Eger’s comments resonated with my own longstanding understanding of the developmental story of the life of Moses and especially of his significant emotional conflict: his unbridled rage! (“Table for Five,” Jan. 5). It ultimately kept him out of the Promised Land. Lost was the first opportunity for the exposition of the power of a nonviolent protest.

True leadership calls for thoughtful reflection and not impulsive, incendiary behaviors. We are living in a time when national leadership demonstrates provocative words and threatens dangerous actions. These, too, are demonstrations not of strength but of disqualifying Mosaic immaturity. The Talmud offers a guide to keep in mind when selecting leaders: “Who is mighty? One who conquers one’s passions, as it is said: One who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and one who rules over one’s spirit is better than one who conquers a city.” (Pirkei Avot 4:1)

Sheldon H. Kardener via email


A Settler for Peace

Caroline Schuhl Schattner’s efforts to bring Palestinians and Israelis together are indeed courageous and inspiring (“Settler Opens Her Home to Peace,” Jan. 5) but the Journal’s story portrayed her as a lone actor while, in fact, she represents Roots-Shorashim-Judur — the joint Israeli-Palestinian grass-roots initiative for peaceful coexistence and transformation based in Gush Etzion.

Readers who are inspired by Schattner’s work should visit friendsofroots.net to see how the work of this small, dedicated group, mostly volunteers, is slowly changing life on the ground in the West Bank.

Dave Paller via email


FROM FACEBOOK:

‘Settler Opens Her Home to Peace,’ Jan. 5:

Does (Caroline Schuhl Schattner) know she is living in a land that a Palestinian family was kicked out of, their home demolished and a new home built for people like her? In other words, she is living in a stolen land. It will be much appreciated if she gives her home back to a Palestinian family and does this from France.

Hassan Basma

The problem is that so many (especially Jews) still believe that this attitude is uncommon among Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria. It isn’t. The vast majority live, work, play, desire peace from and coexist with their Arab neighbors every day.

Yad Yamin

The real peace is possible only when Palestinians really want it. If they deny terrorism, stop hatred, put down their arms, Israel will be the first to stretch her hand to them. Palestinians will have everything: education, prosperity, economy, jobs, you name it. But the problem is they don’t want peace.

Alex Lapidus

This is a wonderful article and I hope she will be truly blessed in her quest. It’s just so disheartening that this well-intended article has to be met with so many negative comments. It surely is the root of the problem. God bless her.

Nechama Shana Kulszan

‘Pixar and the Zohar,’ Jan. 5:

Loved this movie (“Coco”) and so did my husband and 7-year-old (boy/girl) twins.My granddaughter totally got it. She said, “This is a movie of family love.”

Grace Borenstein

“Coco” is a beautiful movie. Día de los Muertos is a beautiful tradition. Mexican, Mexican indigenous, Spanish and Jewish teachings (part of the Talmud and part of the Zohar) speak about communicating with the departed and their continued presence or visits among us (especially on ritual occasions at certain ceremonies). People who look at the world through only one cultural lens tend to view everything that way, even though it may be in fact about another people. Since at an energy/spirit level, all dynamics/laws are basically the same, this is not wrong, only confusing for those who see only a switching or scrambling of categories.

Yma Marton

‘Meet the Fosters,’ Jan. 5:

This reminded me of our foster parenting days — filled with joy and sadness, love and pain. So often when asked how we could return them to their parents, our response was that they are like library books; love them, treat them as if they are your own, but always remember they really do belong to someone else.

Judith Apfelbaum

‘“For We Are Glorious,” ’ Jan. 5:

Karen Lehrman Bloch is an emerging and important voice in expounding on the values of classic liberalism while exposing conflicted progressive ideologies and faux liberals.

Sasha Juno

‘Where’s #MeToo for Persian Victims,’ Jan. 5:

You’d think Western feminist groups would be standing up and speaking out for the brave Iranian women who are rejecting masculine imposed limitations, but for some reason, they are not. I can’t imagine why.

Alex Bensky

‘Oh, Lorde,’ Jan. 5:

There are three possible responses to the weak-minded people who succumb to BDS pressure: denial, derision or engagement.
Denial is obviously the wrong choice.

Engaging these artists on its face appears the most responsible and high-minded. However, when the Israeli ambassador to New Zealand tried to do that by inviting Lorde to meet and discuss, he was roundly condemned for pressuring and bullying the poor girl.

So, in this anti-intellectual age of tweets and sloganeering, derision turns out to be the better response. Disgusting but true.

Yoni Shiran 

Israel doesn’t need Lorde and would do well to withdraw any future invitations to perform there.

Gary Coren

No, her young fans are not socially conscious because they did not ask her to boycott Russia. It’s time for Jews to stop being polite and nice when people call you baby killers.

George Naftali Muenz


CORRECTIONS

In the Jan. 5 edition of Movers and Shakers, the Shalom Institute in Malibu was mistakenly referred to as the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles’ Shalom Institute in Malibu. The programs are unaffiliated.

Alana Yakovlev’s name was misspelled in an article about her pro bono work (“Law Isn’t Just a Profession — It’s a Calling,” Jan. 5).

Letters to the Editor: Survivor Story, Taxes, Jerusalem and Linda Sarsour


Inspired to Share Her Own Survivor Story

I was quite moved by Jane Ulman’s story on Mina Wilner (“Mina Wilner: Saved by a ‘Remarkable Woman,’ ” Nov. 3).  I was first attracted to the photo — it looked vaguely familiar, a bit of my own face. I was born in Warsaw and lived in Poland for 18 years. I am a bit younger. I was actually born in the Warsaw ghetto.

After my mother perished there, my father was trying to think how to save me. At about 15 months old, I was tiny, severely undernourished. He wrapped me in an old blanket and packing paper and threw me over the ghetto wall.  Yes, he did have some contacts on the outside and there were a number of people who promised to deliver me to Brwinow, not too far from Warsaw, where the Ursuline nuns were running an orphanage — but not for Jewish children, as far as I know. For a very long time, my father didn’t know if people did come to pick me up, get me on several trains, though the distance was small. My guardian angel must have been close on that night. I did survive (and my father took part in the Warsaw Insurrection with other surviving Ghetto Fighters.) The Ursuline nuns have a tree in Vad Yashem now.

Anne P. Warman via email


Don’t Forget What Paying Taxes Gets You

Even assuming that everyone receives some temporary benefit from the GOP tax bill, we see little attention given to the reason we pay taxes in the first place. The pursuit of happiness our Founding Fathers promised us means that we have access to health care, education, public safety and the myriad benefits of living in a democracy. Despite President Donald Trump’s claim that we are the most highly taxed nation, in fact we rank 33rd out of 35 developed nations in the percentage of taxes we pay.

Americans need to connect the amount of taxes we pay to the public services we have learned to expect.

Oliver Wendell Holmes famously said, “Taxes are the price of civilization.” The Republican bill will further eliminate funding for the institutions and programs that provide what Americans most treasure. I’ll continue to hate paying my taxes but I want to continue to enjoy what they support.

Barbara H. Bergen, Los Angeles


‘Judaism and Jedi-ism’

In his column (“Judaism and Jedi-ism,” Dec. 22), Eli Fink equates the burning of the Jedi temple with the burning of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. However, Yoda, in saying the books [of Jedi wisdom] were unimportant, was more like the Christians who eliminated the need to follow all the Jewish laws. Rey is more like Yohanan ben Zakkai, who started a school in Yavneh. He saved the books.

After all, we are the people of the book.

Carol Levine via email

FROM FACEBOOK …

I absolutely agree with your take. Judaism is moving to a decentralized model. What that will look like, who knows? But I suspect Mussar and personal ethics may be part of the answer. Thanks for writing.

Greg Marcus

I loved this! I’ve seen the movie [“Star Wars: The Last Jedi”] five times and found so many incredible themes.

Christy Marshall


‘A Diaspora Is Born in Nebraska,’ Dec. 22:

I am happy that [the Yazidis] are safe and sound, and sad that in order to achieve this, they had to leave the land of their birth. Welcome!

Rosalie Paul


‘Why a Jewish Hospital Has a Christmas Concert,’ Dec. 22:

“I have a little problem with a Jewish hospital, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, serving its patients and employees with a Christmas concert, but this story’s writer, Rabbi Jason Weiner, speaking as a rabbi, is just wrong about what Judaism asks of us.

Saying, “Honoring other faith traditions is an integral part of what it means to be a Jewish hospital” is ridiculous. Allowing them the right to worship as they please is one thing, but “honoring”? His statement is a brilliant political move, but that is what it is: politics. Celebrating (or should I say, “honoring”) others’ religions is specifically forbidden repeatedly by the Torah.

Gideon Jones

Music brings joy to one’s heart and I see nothing wrong with that. Perhaps if we shared more music with our fellow man, it would be a better world.

Joan Feldmann

Great story! Rabbi Weiner, whom I have had the pleasure to meet, has both warmth and an unassuming manner (humility), which comes across when you speak with him. Both the hospital and the community are lucky to have him. This article reflects that.

Tzvi Binn


‘My Reform Colleagues Were Wrong on Jerusalem,’ Dec. 22:

I can’t help but wonder what the response would have been if former President Barack Obama had declared the embassy will be moved to Jerusalem.

Dotty Weisberg

Actually, and with all due respect, I believe the original response of the North American Reform organizations to President Donald Trump’s declaration on Jerusalem was the correct response to make. In the absence of any final status peace agreement between Israel and Palestine, openly supporting Trump’s politically and manipulatively motivated statement (which he made primarily to appease and shore up his support among many right-wing, Christian evangelical supporters) would have been the wrong approach for these Reform organizations to take.

Craig Mankin


‘Jerusalem Move Blows Up Mideast Myths,’ Dec. 22:

Why do we always seem to forget the 1956 Suez campaign? Is it because part of the reason was that the British and French were trying to restore colonial control of the Suez Canal? Israel, on the other hand, was threatened and attacked by the same kind of fedayeen raids that were part of the cause for the 1967 war as well as conventional Egyptian forces on her borders.

John Fishel

This mantra is useless. Rational people don’t buy this nonsense. For a peaceful future, there is one solution: a shared capital, east for Palestine, west for Israel.

Wahid Awad


‘On Goddesses, Doormats and Linda Sarsour,’ Dec. 22:

It’s kind of amazing how ideologically polarized we’ve become. When people are questioning an incident that calls out some of the horrible management practices — covering up sexual assault in the workplace — of one of the most vocal anti-Semites in America today, in a Jewish magazine nonetheless, and people don’t believe it because it was first reported by a conservative news site, we really have lost our common consensus on the basis of reality and politics has trumped Judaism.

Pamela Fleischmann

CNN Anchor Hammers U.N. for Anti-Israel Bias


Photo from Flickr/nrkbeta.

CNN anchor Jake Tapper criticized the United Nations for being biased against Israel in a segment on Thursday, as he blasted various countries for criticizing Israel despite having “questionable records.”

Tapper began his segment by summarizing the U.N.’s vote to condemn the Trump administration’s Jerusalem move by a margin of 128 votes in favor of the condemnation, nine against and 35 abstentions. The anchor proceeded to review the records of some of the countries who voted to condemn the move, starting with Venezuela.

“The U.S. imperils global peace, says the representative of Venezuela, a country in a humanitarian disaster,” said Tapper, “with violence in the streets, an economy in complete collapse, citizens malnourished, dying children being turned away from hospitals, starving families joining street gangs to scrounge for food.”

“On what moral platform does the government of Venezuela stand today?” asked Tapper.

Tapper also noted the irony of Syria and Yemen condemning the U.S. despite the fact that their citizens have been ravished by the civil wars plaguing each country, as well as other countries like Myanmar, North Korea and China condemning the move despite their heinous human rights abuses.

The anchor proceeded to highlight some statistics from U.N. Watch reflecting the U.N.’s bias against Israel.

“The United Nations General Assembly from 2012-2015 has adopted 97 resolutions specifically criticizing an individual country, and of those 97, 83 of them have focused on Israel,” said Tapper. “That is 86%.”

Tapper added, “Certainly Israel is not above criticism, but considering the genocide of the Rohingya people in Myanmar, the lack of basic human rights in North Korea, the children starving in the streets of Venezuela, the citizens of Syria targeted for murder by their own leader using the most grotesque and painful weapons, you have to ask, is Israel is deserving of 86% of the world’s condemnation?”

“Or possibly is something else afoot at the United Nations? Something that allows the representative of the Assad government lecture the United States for moving its embassy.”

The full segment can be seen below:

U.N. Denounces Trump’s Jerusalem Move in Vote


U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley speaks during the United Nations Security Council meeting on the situation in the Middle East, including Palestine, at U.N. Headquarters in New York City, New York, U.S., December 18, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

The United Nations voted on a resolution to condemn President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move the United States embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

The resolution passed by a margin of 128 in favor and 9 against, with 35 abstentions and 21 countries that didn’t vote at all. The nine countries who voted against the resolution were the United States, Israel, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Tongo, Honduras, Guatemala ans Palau. Among those voted in favor of the resolution included Britain, France, Germany and Turkey, and Canada and Mexico were among those that abstained.

Here is the full record of how each country voted:

Nikki Haley, the United States ambassador to the U.N., had some sharp words for the U.N.

“The United States will remember this day, in which it was singled out for attack in the General Assembly for the very act of exercising our right as a sovereign nation,” said Haley. “We will remember it when we are called upon to once again make the world’s largest contribution to the United Nations. And we will remember it when so many countries come calling on us, as they so often do, to pay even more and to use our influence for their benefit.”

Haley also pointed out that the U.S. “is by far the single largest contributor to the U.N.” and suggested that their funding to the U.N. could be reduced or withdrawn altogether in light of the vote.

“When we make generous contributions to the UN, we also have a legitimate expectation that our goodwill is recognize and respected,” said Haley. “When a nation is singled out for attack in this organization, that nation is disrespected. What’s more, that nation is asked to pay for the privilege of being disrespected. In the case of the US, we are asked to pay more than anyone else for that dubious privilege.”

Haley also criticized the U.N. as being “a hostile place for the state of Israel.”

“It’s a wrong that undermines the credibility of this institution and that, in turn, is harmful for the entire world,” said Haley.

Haley made it clear in her speech that the vote will not deter the U.S. from moving its embassy to Jerusalem.

On Wednesday, Trump suggested that the U.S. could reduce funding to countries that voted in favor of the resolution.

“They take hundreds of millions of dollars and even billions of dollars and then they vote against us,” said Trump. “Well, we’re watching those votes. Let them vote against us. We’ll save a lot. We don’t care.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also criticized the vote, blasting the U.N. as “the house of lies.” Netanyahu also thanked Trump, Haley and the countries that voted with Israel.

Journal columnist Ben Shapiro pointed out on Twitter that Thursday’s vote is in line with the U.N.’s record of anti-Israel bias:

 

Letters to the Editor: Jerusalem, Hanukkah, Gun Control and ‘Wonder’


FROM FACEBOOK:

Recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital

This article attributes wisdom to a president who does not deserve it. Donald Trump’s statements are not about what is good for Israel, or what is good for the peace process, or even what is good for the U.S. In some way, these statements serve only one purpose — Trump. It’s a shame so many Jews miss this critical point. And while we may clamor for the recognition of an empire, in the end, it doesn’t really matter.

Brian Lichtman

Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. We Israelis never doubted it. Even if someone argues that it was meant to be an international city, we know that Israel is the only country in the Middle East that can keep it as free and international while it’s also its capital.

Ora Cooper

The truth needs to be repeated that President Donald Trump’s speech contained much wisdom. He acknowledged the reality of Israel’s capital city being Jerusalem while stating that the final borders would be left up to negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians. That the Palestinians’ response was to declare multiple “days of rage” and their refusal of further meetings with U.S. representatives speaks volumes about their true desire for peace.

Bill Bender


How Jerusalem Decision May Impact Jews

David Suissa’s column “Can Jerusalem Be Good for All Religions?” (Dec. 15) was great! However, I believe this event creates an urgent need to ask a second (and more important) question: Can Judaism be good for most Jews? Obviously, to answer this question we must first define “Judaism” — so that most Jews (and especially, most young Jews and old rabbis) actually can agree about Judaism in 2018.

Aaron H. Shovers, Long Beach 

David Suissa’s Editor’s Note about Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel is outstanding. I was so impressed that I took it with me today to read to my daughter while she drove me to the Veterans Affairs/West Los Angeles Medical Center. He is an excellent writer and a brilliant man. And I have noticed a distinct improvement in the type and quality of the articles now being published for our community.

Keep up the good work.

George Epstein via email


Fond Memories of Hanukkah on the Go

The Hanukkah story by Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky, “Stronger Together” (Dec. 8), is a heartwarming reminder that Jewish life and many of our holiday customs are both joyful and portable.

And they’re even better when we manage to share them with others, wherever and whenever possible.

I’ll add three of our Hanukkah travel tales: First, at California’s Yosemite National Park lodge when my children were young, the desk clerk allowed me to post my hand-drawn sign with an eight-branched menorah plus candles along with an open invitation for hotel guests to join us in our room to light and sing Hanukkah brachot/prayers together.

Among several couples and families who arrived, one couple turned out to be formerly unknown distant family relatives with roots in Western Europe, visiting from the American Midwest.

On another occasion, we managed to light Hanukkah candles at Los Angeles International Airport (not likely permitted today) while en route to Argentina to visit my wife’s family.

Another memorable time I lit a hanukkiah while traveling was while en route to Israel on a stopover at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport on an American Professors for Peace in the Middle East faculty group study mission (an important U.S. and Canada faculty Israel support group founded in 1967). The two-hour layover before boarding our El Al flight was enough to allow the minimum half-hour needed for the candles to burn, per Jewish custom and law.

With permission from nearby boarding gate staff, I set up a menorah and three candles on the counter to light them, readily visible in the area. Others approached and while singing the prayers, together we recalled the living yet ancient “ages-old victory and miracle” (nes gadol hayah sham) while awaiting our flight to depart.

Again, as airport travelers en route to Israel, we joined in prayerful melodies and lights in a public reminder and joyful Hanukkah celebration of the Maccabees’ victory and our enemies’ defeat with God’s help — to restore the Temple in Jerusalem and enabling us to honor Jewish values and practices, thanks to this wonderful and supportive country, the United States, in which we have the privilege to live!

Allan Levine via email 


Gun Laws and Gun Violence in the U.S.

I read Danielle Berrin’s column about the need for gun control in this country (“The Great Gun Debate,” Dec. 15). First of all, homicides have gone way down from a high of nearly 20,000 over 10 years ago to around 12,000 to 14,000 thousand now. Of course, mass murders have increased, though.

The city of Chicago had very weak gun control laws years ago and had about 250 homicides a year. Now, with among with the strictest gun control laws in this country, the city has recorded more than 600 homicides this  year.

Gun control has never been effective in reducing homicides in this country and never will. Homicides may go up or down regardless of stricter gun control laws.

Lynda Wadkins, North Hollywood


Did Columnist See the Same Movie as Letter Writer?

How in the world could one possibly see the movie “Wonder” as “one big smack in the face at President Donald Trump and his politics of hate”? (“ ‘Wonder’: A Call to Our Better Angels,” Dec. 1.)

You not only printed a piece contending that protecting America is hatred personified, you made sure the whole point of Karen Lehrman Bloch’s column was mainly about that.

You’ve bought (and are now selling) the craziness of MSNBC journalist Rachel Maddow, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, comedian Kathy Griffin and the rest of the people who claim that all of the Trump supporters are a “basket of deplorables.”

Hasn’t that gotten a little old by now?

Steve Klein, Encino


Letter About Rohingya Was Misinterpreted

I am saddened by Usman Madha’s letter (“Muslim Wants to Dispel Distortions About Rohingya,” Dec. 15) misinterpreting the facts contained in my original letter regarding the Buddhist-Muslim strife in Myannmar (“Plight of the Rohingya Has Many Facets,” Dec. 8). I was clear in expressing sympathy for the innocent Rohingya at the outset of my letter, which focused primarily on the years of jihadist wars that have left indelible scars on the people of the Indian subcontinent.

This reality sheds light on the reactive behavior of Myanmar’s Buddhists to the Muslim Rohingya today. Madha admits he is well aware of the Jihadist problem in Islam when he proclaims he is a “practicing pluralist, non-jihadist Muslim.” Moreover, my letter did not focus on Jewish-Muslim relations but rather on Islamic-Buddhist relations, which lie at the heart of the Myanmar dispute.

I am a fan of moderate Muslim thinkers such as Zuhdi Jasser, who has called for a reform of Islam’s jihadist roots in a post-9/11 world. The recent rapprochement of Saudi Arabia and the moderate Arab countries with Israel, as well as the tone of Madha’s welcoming letter, give me hope for a better future.

Richard Friedman, Culver City

My Reform Colleagues Were Wrong on Jerusalem


A general view of Jerusalem's Old City shows the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest prayer site, in the foreground as the Dome of the Rock, located on the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount, is seen in the background December 10, 2017. Picture taken December 10, 2017. REUTERS/Ammar Awad

We were wrong.

As Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky pointed out, “The Reform response to the recognition of Jerusalem was terrible. When … a superpower recognizes Jerusalem, first you … welcome it, then offer disagreement. Here it was the opposite.”

Sharansky was referring to the Dec. 5 statement issued by all 16 North American Reform organizations and affiliates in response to President Donald Trump’s declaration recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The operative clause reads: “While we share the President’s belief that the U.S. Embassy should, at the right time, be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, we cannot support his decision to begin preparing that move now, absent a comprehensive plan for a peace process.”

There have been several attempts to clarify this position, but not by all of the original signatories. It is still the official position of the entire North American apparatus of the Reform movement. If our movement’s affiliates have had a change of heart, all of them should say it through another statement: “We made a mistake.”

If not, and if we still stand by our original statement, I want the Jewish world to know that this position is not my position, nor does it reflect the views of multitudes of, perhaps most, Reform Jews.

We were wrong on the politics. With the exception of one small hard-left party, there is wall-to-wall agreement among the Zionist parties in the Knesset supporting the embassy move. We have alienated the very people who support and defend us in our campaign for religious pluralism and equitable funding. Sharansky himself is the most dogged and prominent supporter of the Western Wall compromise.

More important, we were wrong on the merits. We have yearned for Jerusalem for two millennia. It is the source of our strength, the place where our people were formed, where the Bible was written. Jews lived free and made pilgrimage to Jerusalem for a thousand years. Our national existence changed the world and led to the creation of two other great faiths.

The world’s superpower finally did the right thing, and we opposed it — not on the principle, but on the “timing.” The timing? Now is not the right time? Two thousand years later and it is still not the right time? As if there is a peace process that the Palestinians are committed to and pursuing with conviction.

There were critics who accused the civil rights movement of moving too quickly. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s response: “The time is always ripe to do what is right.”

In his Letter from Birmingham Jail, King wrote: “For years now I have
heard the word ‘wait’ … that [our] action … is untimely. This ‘wait’ has almost always meant ‘Never.’ We must come to see that justice too long delayed is justice denied.”

King often reminded us that time is neutral, that it can be used constructively or destructively. Israel’s opponents have used time more effectively than we have. They have so distorted history that so many around the world question the
very legitimacy of Jewish ties to Zion and Jerusalem. We have neglected teaching and conveying, even to our own children, our millennia-old love affair with the Land of Israel and Jerusalem as its beating heart.

Judaism without Eretz Yisrael is not Judaism. Judaism without Jerusalem is not Judaism.

This is not to deny that others consider Jerusalem holy. It is not to deny that the Palestinians seek Jerusalem as their capital. I am in favor of two states for two peoples. For that to happen, some kind of accommodation on Jerusalem will be necessary. If and when it occurs, I will support it.

But let no one be fooled. Peace will never rise on foundations of sand. Any agreement will collapse under the weight of its own inconsistencies if constructed on a scaffolding of lies.

President Trump simply acknowledged reality. It is about time. It should have been done decades ago, in 1949, when Israel declared Jerusalem its capital. Many presidents — Democrats and Republicans — promised to move the U.S. Embassy.

The embassy will be in West Jerusalem. Who contests West Jerusalem? President Trump did not pre-empt the eventual borders of Jerusalem. He did not preclude a permanent status agreement. He simply acknowledged a fact. Where do people meet Israeli prime ministers, presidents, parliamentarians and Supreme Court
justices — in Tel Aviv? Where did Anwar Sadat speak when he wanted to
convey on behalf of the Egyptian people a message of peace to Israelis: Tel Aviv?

The embassy will be in West Jerusalem. Who contests West Jerusalem? President Trump did not pre-empt the eventual borders of Jerusalem. He did not preclude a permanent status agreement. He simply acknowledged a fact.

It is for each country to declare its own capital. What other nation declares a capital unrecognized by the nations of the world? What kind of special abuse is reserved for the Jewish nation?

At the same time, it is proper and necessary for us to remind ourselves and others that we are committed to a two-state solution that will require territorial compromises from both sides, including in Jerusalem. We should continue to urge the American government to help bring about a negotiated peace.

We also should urge the international community to disabuse the Palestinian national movement of its exaggerated expectations and its insidious efforts to undermine and erase our connection to Zion. Until that happens, peace is an illusion.


Ammiel Hirsch is senior rabbi of Stephen Wise Free Synagogue in New York. 

Jerusalem Move Blows Up Mideast Myths


Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Two weeks ago, President Donald Trump made what was, according to the media, a cataclysmic decision: He declared that Jerusalem was the capital of Israel, and that the United States would move its embassy there.

This move, we heard, was unprecedented and dangerous. It was supposed to launch a massive terror campaign against Israel and the Jews worldwide. It was supposed to sink the so-called “peace process.” It was slated to blow up the Middle East.

None of these things have happened.

They haven’t happened because Trump merely recognized reality. The reality is that Jerusalem is the Jewish dream, the heart of the case of Israel as Jewish territory. If we forget Jerusalem, we forget our right hand. If Jerusalem is not linked to Israel, Israel might as well be in Montana. Jerusalem has far more to do with Israel than Tel Aviv.

Furthermore, there is no moral case for Jerusalem to be placed in non-Jewish hands. Under Jewish rule, holy sites have been preserved and access to those sites granted; while under Muslim rule, holy sites have been destroyed and defaced, and access to those sites denied. Jerusalem is mentioned hundreds of times in the Old Testament; it isn’t mentioned once in the Quran. Jerusalem is only important to anyone because it was first important to the Jews.

This means that Israel was never going to give away Jerusalem in any negotiation with the terrorist Palestinian government. Here is Yitzhak Rabin, the father of Oslo, in 1995: “Jerusalem is the heart of the Jewish people and a deep source of our pride. We differ in our opinions, left and right. We disagree on the means and the objective. In Israel, we all agree on one issue: the wholeness of Jerusalem, the continuation of its existence as capital of the State of Israel.”

Nor should Israel give away Jerusalem — particularly not to the Palestinian Authority, whose charter still denies the legitimacy of the state of Israel. And Israel should never be discussing handing over any territory to Hamas, an actual terrorist group that has stated its dedication to Israel’s destruction.

“We all agree on one issue: the wholeness of Jerusalem … its existence as capital of the State of Israel.” — Yitzhak Rabin

Recognizing this truth means setting a serious groundwork for peace. No divorce can be negotiated without a common frame of negotiable items. Jerusalem is not negotiable. End of story. Trump recognized that, and in doing so, he undermined the chief rationale driving Palestinian terrorism: the delusional hope that spilling enough blood would cause the West to push Israel into surrendering its spiritual and physical capital.

Trump’s move also fostered peace by formally recognizing that Israel’s new alliances with Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia against Iran are more important than any religious dispute over Jerusalem. There have been no serious protests from any of those governments — each of which attacked Israel in 1948, 1967 and 1973. Those governments now recognize that Israel is an important strategic ally in the region.

The lack of blowback from Trump’s decision has left only two groups angry: Democrats and the media. Democrats are angry because they have been publicly humiliated: The Senate voted 90-0 to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital not six months ago, and yet Democrats were now forced to denounce Trump for taking their words seriously. The media are angry because they have spent years building the myth that conflict in the Middle East centers on Israeli intransigence. Now it’s clear that it was Muslim intransigence all along that caused conflict, and that Muslim willingness to side with Israel against Iran supersedes religious conflict.

So, well done, President Trump. And thank you for speaking plain truth and acting bravely when most were willing to offer empty only verbiage backed by inaction and fear.


Ben Shapiro is a best-selling author, editor-in-chief at The Daily Wire and host of the conservative podcast “The Ben Shapiro Show.”

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