South Africa’s Zulu king accepts invite to visit Israel, despite gov’t. views


South Africa’s Zulu king accepted an invitation to visit Israel despite his government discouraging such visits.

On Tuesday, King Goodwill Zwelithini of Zulu accepted the invitation from Israel’s ambassador to South Africa, Dov Segev-Steinberg, to visit Israel early next year, according to the embassy in Pretoria.

An embassy statement said the king “vowed to use his official visit to explore ways to intensify the co-operation between South Africa and Israel, and especially between the Zulu people and the Israeli people.”

The Zulu are South Africa’s largest ethnic group, with an estimated population of more than 10 million.

The announcement came a day after the South African government reiterated its policy of discouraging its citizens from visiting Israel to protest Jerusalem’s treatment of the Palestinians. The government also announced earlier this year that products originating from Jewish settlents in the West Bank would be labeled as from the occupied territories instead of Israel.

“The decision is left to the individual or the organization that is invited to visit Israel,” said South Africa’s deputy minister of international relations, Ebrahim Ebrahim, at a news conference Tuesday. “There has been a policy of discouraging because we believe Israel is an occupying power and is doing all sorts of things in the Palestine-occupied territory which has been condemned by the entire international community.”

Zwelithini, who has been to Israel before, will look into “new possibilities to cooperate with Israel in the fields of health, agriculture and education amongst other areas of interest for the benefit of the Zulu people,” the embassy statement said.

Segev-Steinberg told the South African website MyShetl that the king’s commitment to visit is “a sign that Israel still has good friends in this country, friends who are happy and willing to share experiences and ensure love and respect for Israel.”

Bahrain king meets with rabbi


The king of Bahrain met with a visiting rabbi in his palace.

Rabbi Marc Schneier, vice president of the World Jewish Congress, met in Bahrain Wednesday with King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. Schneier is also the president of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding.

Schneier said that he welcomed a suggestion by King Hamad to host a gathering of Jewish and Muslim clerics in Bahrain in 2012.

“Bahrain is a role model in the Arab world for coexistence and tolerance of different faith communities, including a small Jewish community. I am deeply honored to be the first rabbi to be hosted by the King of Bahrain at his palace, and I am excited that he and his government are fully committed to building bridges between our two communities,” Schneier said in a statement.

“I am looking forward to working with King Hamad and his government to bring our two communities closer together,” he also said.

Israeli man wants British monarchs’ names


An Israeli man has asked to officially change his name to that of several British monarchs.

The man, from a central Israeli city, asked the city’s Population and Immigration Authority to change his name to 10 British monarch that he admires: Henry, William, Phillip, Charles, Frederick, Michael, Louis, George, Edward, and Robert, Ynet reported Monday.

The authority told the man he would have to choose three of the names.

“Thousands of people change their names each year in Israel, some of them at the advice of a rabbi and others at the advice of psychics, in addition to those who want Hebrew names, but we’ve never seen such an odd request,” the Population and Immigration Authority explained in a statement given to Ynet.

NBC’s ‘Kings’ Revamps David, Goliath and Saul


Michael Green was walking down a street in Jerusalem in late 2006 when the concept of the new television series “Kings” came into focus.

“The idea had been roiling my brain for a while,” Green said, so he sat down to write the pilot for “Kings,” while working as writer and co-executive producer for “Heroes.”

NBC’s “Kings” starts its regular Sunday evening run at 8 p.m. on March 22, after a special two-hour premiere this Sunday, March 15. The show takes the biblical drama of young David, Goliath, King Saul and the prophet Samuel and transports it to a contemporary city that looks a lot like a gleaming New York after a thorough scrubbing.

Don’t look for a 21st century swords-and-sandals, however. The political intrigues and corporate power plays have a distinctly Washingtonian ring, and part of the fun is to look for parallels to the last year of President George W. Bush’s administration, the Cold War, Vietnam, Iraq, Middle East conflicts and even the kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

Green, who attended a yeshiva in New York, is a bit coy about drawing direct biblical-contemporary comparisons.

“It’s not for me to say what the parallels are,” he commented. “That’s up to each viewer.”

However, any Jewish or Christian viewer who stayed awake in Sunday school should have no trouble identifying the TV protagonists with their biblical counterparts.

We meet King Silas Benjamin (King Saul of the tribe of Benjamin, first king of Israel), David Shepherd (David, the shepherd), the king’s son Jack (Jonathan), his daughter Michelle (Michal), and the Rev. Ephraim Samuels (the Prophet Samuel).

Actors in the two key roles are Ian McShane (“Heroes”) as the king and Australian actor Chris Egan as David.

In the premiere episode, we find the king, in an expensive power suit ruling over the prosperous Kingdom of Gilboa and ensconced with his queen in a mansion in the capital of Shiloh.

He is also at war with neighboring Gath, and when his son is kidnapped during a military skirmish, it is David, a fellow soldier, who frees Jack and earns the gratitude of the king.

To free the hostage, David has to do battle with Goliath, who appears in a rather unexpected form. At home, David becomes an instant media favorite.

Peace is made but soon broken, followed by new negotiations with prickly Gath officers, who look suspiciously like Russian generals, with square faces and jackets full of medals. On a softer touch, David and Michelle (the beautiful Allison Miller) begin to fall in love.

As creator and executive producer of “Kings,” Green makes it even tougher to define the precise genre of the series by introducing touches of sci-fi and fantasy. For instance, the emblem of Gilboa is the orange monarch butterfly, and when a successor to the king is anointed, a swarm of butterflies form a crown around the chosen one’s head.

By contrast, the flag of Gath sports a star, through Green denies that it is modeled on the five-pointed Soviet star.

“King’s” crew has shot 14 episodes —a season’s worth, and the premiere contains two of them—in and around New York, at studios in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint and in a Nassau County mansion.

With a large cast, opulent palace scenes and shooting in New York, this is an expensive production.

Green begged off giving an exact budget figure, but he put the cost of an average prime-time TV episode at between $2 million and $4.5 million, with “Kings” definitely on the high end.

Green, 36, is a native New Yorker, with close ties to Israel. His mother was born in Tel Aviv and came to the United States after finishing her army service, met Green’s father, and “has visited ever since,” Green said, adding, “most of my extended family lives in Israel.

He is optimistic that “Kings” will eventually be seen on Israeli and British television, which usually happens after a new series’ second or third season in the United States.

Green reinforced his boyhood yeshiva studies with a more academic perspective when he took a double major in human biology and religious studies at Stanford University.

After college, his interest turned to story writing, rather than religion or biology.

He noted, “I once created the character of a doctor in one of my shows, but never became one myself – to the disappointment of my parents.”

Before King, it was Prinz


A few months before President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, a short Jewish man stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and spoke to a large group ofAmericans:

“I speak to you as an American Jew. As Americans, we share the profound concern of millions of people about the shame and disgrace of inequality and injustice, which make a mockery of the great American idea.

“As Jews, we bring to this great demonstration, in which thousands of us proudly participate, a twofold experience — one of the spirit and one of our history.

“In the realm of the spirit, our fathers taught us thousands of years ago that when God created man, He created him as everybody’s neighbor. Neighbor is not a geographic term. It is a moral concept. It means our collective responsibility for the preservation of man’s dignity and integrity.

“From our Jewish historic experience of three and a half thousand years, we say:

“Our ancient history began with slavery and the yearning for freedom. During the Middle Ages my people lived for a thousand years in the ghettos of Europe. Our modern history begins with a proclamation of emancipation.”

Thus began the least-remembered great speech in American civil rights history, one that had the dubious fortune of being immediately followed by another speech: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, which America just celebrated on its 45th anniversary.

But before King’s speech electrified the world and became an anthem for a generation, a German-born rabbi by the name of Joachim Prinz spoke on those famous steps. In front of 300,000 people at the Aug. 28, 1963, March on Washington, Prinz, the rabbi of a New Jersey synagogue and a community leader, offered a taste of tikkun olam to a human sea of freedom marchers.

“When I was the rabbi of the Jewish community in Berlin under the Hitler regime,” Prinz continued, “I learned many things. The most important thing that I learned under those tragic circumstances was that bigotry and hatred are not the most urgent problem. The most urgent, the most disgraceful, the most shameful and the most tragic problem is silence.

“America must not become a nation of onlookers. America must not remain silent. Not merely black America, but all of America. It must speak up and act, from the president down to the humblest of us, and not for the sake of the Negro, not for the sake of the black community, but for the sake of the image, the idea and the aspiration of America itself….”

To be honest, my first reaction when I discovered Prinz’s speech was embarrassment. How could I have not known about such a seminal moment in Jewish American history — at an event that King himself called “the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation”?

How did this little gem slip under the mainstream Jewish radar?

Of course, that can hardly be said for King and his speech. Go on jewishjournal.com, for example, and you’ll see a nostalgic love letter to “I Have a Dream” from someone who saw it live, and in the Forward newspaper, a fawning essay on the moral and spiritual influence of King’s speech on the Jewish community.

But search in the major Jewish papers for Rabbi Prinz’s speech — the one that march organizer, Bayard Rustin, actually called the event’s “greatest speech” — and what do you find?

Zilch.

For a noisy community like ours, that’s puzzling. And a shame, too. Especially at a time when the already complicated relationship between Jews and blacks is being frayed by a virulent and viral anti-Obama campaign, it’d be nice to recall a time when the two groups fought so closely on the same side of history.

And there were few times when they were closer than on that hot August day of 1963, when King and Prinz, who were personal friends, made quite a one-two punch.

Prinz’s speech complemented King’s. Whereas King railed against the lingering effects of modern-day slavery, Prinz spoke as a descendant of biblical slaves who represented man’s first struggle for freedom. While King brought the clear perspective of the victim, Prinz offered the more complex dual perspective of victim and observer.

It was as if Prinz, who died in 1988 at the age of 86, was saying to the black community: “Because we are white, we don’t suffer from the same racism that you do. But as Jews, our experience as victims of prejudice goes back to our earliest days. That experience has helped us feel the pain of others. So we feel your pain, and you can be sure that we will not remain silent. Our tradition teaches us to fight not just for ourselves, but for all of our neighbors.”

As things would have it, it was one of my neighbors here in Pico-Robertson, Daniel Fink, who awakened me to Prinz’s speech. Fink, a longtime community activist and member of the local neighborhood council, came by recently for a late night tea. Our conversation meandered: two Jews talking. After a while, he began recalling his childhood on the East Coast. Fink got all misty-eyed when he recalled a man he had met almost 50 years ago whose influence he still feels.

The man was a local rabbi who would teach Fink and his teenage buddies Pirkei Avot (The Ethics of our Fathers) every Sunday morning. The rabbi’s wish, Fink said, was that one day they would use these life lessons to help enrich their lives and the lives of others.

The name of the rabbi, it turns out, was Joachim Prinz.

And while a great many Jews may not presently know him, sometimes all it takes to change that is one neighbor.

David Suissa, an advertising executive, is founder of OLAM magazine and Ads4Israel.com. He can be reached at dsuissa@olam.org.

Yeladim


 

We read the story of Queen Esther, Megillat Esther, twice – on Thursday evening and Friday morning. Let’s see if you know the story.

Put the parts in the right order.

__Mordechai tells Esther Haman’s plan.

__Mordechai will not bow to Haman. Haman decides to kill all the Jews on Adar.

__4. Mordechai saves the kings life by overhearing and exposing a plot to kill him.

__Haman is hanged along with his 10 sons.

__Vashti is canned. Esther becomes the new queen.

__Queen Vashti refuses to show up at the party.

__On the 13th day of Adar, the Jews outside the city of Shushan defend themselves. They win! They celebrate their victory on the 14th of Adar. That day becomes the holiday of Purim.

__The king can’t sleep. He reads his diary and remembers that Mordechai saved his life.

__Esther risks her life by going to Ahasuerus uninvited. She invites him and Haman to a banquet.

__At the banquet, Esther reveals that she is a Jew and that Haman wants to kill her people.

__King Ahasuerus throws a party.

__9. Haman visits the king. Ahasuerus calls Haman to take Mordechai around town in royal robes, riding a white horse.)

Now that you have put the story in order, find the hidden word by locating the letter in each sentence that matches the number below. (Hint: In the fourth sentence, the 11th letter is A.)

–  –  –  – –  –  –  – –  –  – –

6 7 2 1 1 1 2 1 2 4 1 2

 

The King of Israeli Hip-Hop


With angry lyrics that court controversy, two multiplatinum albums and a third on the way, his own clothing line, record label, legions of fans and glittering religious jewelry, Subliminal could easily be mistaken for a Jewish P.Diddy.

The lyrics are mostly in Hebrew (although he’s now branched into English, French and Arabic), the record label has spawned a plethora of new artists, the clothing line has a Star of David on every item and his fame (or notoriety) is bringing him to U.S. shores next week.

At 25, Subliminal (né Kobi Shimoni) is the king of Israeli hip-hop. And right now, it appears he can do no wrong. On March 2, Subliminal, along with his sidekick The Shadow (Yoav Eliasi), and 12 members off his record label TACT (Tel Aviv CityTeam) under the banner of Architects of Israeli Hip Hop, will kick off their seven-state American and Canadian tour at The Canyon Club in Agoura Hills.

And with the recent launch of his third album — TACT All-Stars — Subliminal is recording with the industry’s cream of the crop, including Killah Priest and Remedy of Wu-Tang Clan, Ashanti, Wyclef Jean and Israel’s own hip-hop violinist Miri Ben Ari, who just won a Grammy for her work with Kanye West.

So it’s hard to believe that less than eight months ago Subliminal was officially uninvited to the Prospect Park bash in Brooklyn, N.Y., by JDub Records, a nonprofit Jewish record label. Deemed too right-wing for the event, Subliminal apparently didn’t fall under the concert’s banner of “openness and peace.”

Certainly, Subliminal’s lyrics did much to raise eyebrows even within Israel, where there has always been room for political dissension. He managed to capture the frustrations and fears of Israeli youth at the height of the Intifada. His lyrics included such gems as:

To think that an olive branch symbolizes peace, sorry it doesn’t live here anymore; it’s been kidnapped or murdered….”

And perhaps his most controversial lyric is the one that states, “The country’s still dangling like a cigarette in Arafat’s mouth.”

It’s this kind of in-your-face, pull-no-punches attitude that sets Subliminal apart from other emerging hip-hop artists, including Mookee and Hadag Nachash, all of whom are enjoying success in the field. But neither has aroused the controversy that Subliminal has.

Now he’s mulling over the strange twists and turns that have come with his fame and, yes, fortune. On the brink of his U.S. tour, he cannot help but reflect on the fact that it’s due to the backing provided by Israel’s Foreign Ministry, and the prime minister himself.

“It’s great,” he said. “For the first time, the Israeli government is pushing us and supporting us. We’re being sent as ambassadors for Israel. And even though that’s what we’re trying to be on a daily basis, to get official support from the government, that’s a huge recognition and we’re really grateful for that.”

In the wake of Arafat’s death (no more dangling cigarettes), the upcoming Gaza pullout and the steps Mahmoud Abbas is making, Subliminal said, “I’m very, very happy that there’s this first chance finally for peace, for the Palestinians, they’re making a real effort and they have a chance to become a democracy.”

He also spoke about his first two albums “The Light From Zion” and “Light and Shadow” — released at the height of the Intifada — which include songs that state, “United we stand, divided we fall.”

“It’s militant,” he conceded. “We’re saying we have to have peace but first we have to live, we have to survive, to remain in one piece.”

Now, he said, his third album is much more hopeful, with softer lyrics and a stronger message of hope with one of the songs titled “Peace in the Middle East,” which is sung in both Hebrew and English.

“It’s more of a prayer,” he said. “We want people all over the world to understand that even the strongest soldiers have peace as the prayer in their heart all the time.”

Yet while Subliminal has raised both eyebrows and consciences, it has much to do with the fact that he’s coming from a deeply personal place.

“My father is from Tunisia, my mother from Iran. They both escaped persecution,” he said. “I was brought up in a world where I have my own country. But I understand Arabic, my parents speak fluent Arabic; we would hear Arafat’s speeches about driving the Jews into the sea.”

And it’s this that makes Subliminal’s messages so strident. A recent trip to France opened his eyes to the amount of hate outsiders have toward Israel.

“The strongest hip-hop artists in France are immigrants from Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria, and most of them preach hate toward the Jewish people and Israel,” he said.

In his own controversial style, Subliminal actually challenged Sniper, the biggest French anti-Semitic and anti-Israel rapper, to an onstage “battle” where the artists respond to each other’s raps.

“He chickened out,” Subliminal said, “and we even invited him to Tel Aviv just so that he could see what it is he hates so much about Israel.”And that, he said, is the biggest challenge of this tour: “To deliver the important message to those who are radical and fanatic and extreme. To open their eyes and let them know that there is still hope for peace, that there can be no better solution than peace and that we’re willing to open up a debate. Through hip hop we can do that.”

Subliminal performs March 2, 8 p.m., at The Canyon Club, 28912 Roadside Drive, Agoura Hills. For more info, call (310) 273-2824 or visit

Parshat Balak


Yes, I know that this week is Pinchas, but I must return to the second of last week’s two portions, Balak, for what happens there is too relevant to pass by unmentioned. In this famous portion, King

Balak sends the prophet-magician Balaam to curse Israel, because

he is scared of the people. But, in the end, Balaam ends up blessing

the Israelites as he stands on a cliff overlooking their encampment.

This is what I ask all of you to pray for: that the Palestinians see our tents and realize it is easier to bless than to curse; that the Israelis see the Palestinian dwellings and decide it is easier to include than to exclude. This prayer can only be answered if Palestinians and Israelis can come to

know each other as human beings: mother, father, child — and are no longer scared of each other.

We are all children of the same God. And we are all blessed to be living on this earth.

Finding Our Place


My daughter and I were driving through Koreatown again. Five years had passed since the first Rodney King verdict, since the riots, since the day we’d first driven these same streets, with their smoldering buildings and the militia standing guard. She noted every new building and every lot that remained vacant.

“It couldn’t all have been about Rodney King,” she said, noticing that the street signs change from Korean to Spanish.

Of course not. At 15, she’s better able to understand the concept of precipitating causes. But if I can explain the lack of justice, jobs and hope that led to the worst rioting in Los Angeles history, I have a harder time clarifying what has happened since. Anger, bitterness and ethnic separation have only increased.

What part has the Jewish community played in all this? For most of us, the riots have become part of the background, soon to be joined by fires, earthquakes and even O.J. We have moved on. Like the jacaranda tree, blooming again this spring, our sense of civic life has returned. A few weeks ago, I joined a crowd at the downtown library to hear a theatrical reading. New members are flooding to Wilshire Boulevard Temple in Koreatown, even before the new religious school opens on the Westside in the fall. The beauty of Southern California once again seems overpowering, and we are glad to be here.

In the early post-riot days, people spoke casually about two revolutionary ideas: purchasing guns and moving out of town. A kind of wild-west ecstasy overtook us, in which the future was perceived as either siege or isolation. We hatched dark plots for our own salvation. The new movie “Volcano” strikes me as arriving a bit too late to completely capture this barricaded anti-Los Angeles mentality. By now, one natural disaster can’t shake us.

Instead, I am struck these days by how people are settling in. Book clubs and gardening are the big business now. At Passover this year, friends brought over their home-grown irises and roses and debated over which was the more beautiful. Dueling pistils at dawn.

When I consider what has happened to the Jewish community since Los Angeles erupted five years ago, it is the sense of retrenchment, joined by detachment, that I see. We are here to stay, but not many of us are sure what, in the matter of civic activism, our role should be.

Jewish activists took a beating in the post-riot analysis. Though we were not to blame for the riots, and (unlike the Watts fires 27 years before) were not a target of the civic rage, a verbal berating nevertheless came our way. We were criticized for our isolation, arrogance and self-absorption. And, in those first months after April 1992, we redoubled our efforts, joining task forces, building bridges, joining an endless number of coalitions. Still, we were accused of turning inward, and took the blame for the breakdown in the black-Jewish dialogue, as well as for the stillborn connections with Latinos or Asians.

But looking back now, I wonder if we Jews haven’t made ourselves too liable. We cannot create dialogue on our own. We cannot sit alone at a table and concoct jobs or a political agenda where there are no coalitions. So, while certainly we cannot be satisfied with the moribund status of politics, education and civic leadership in this city, it’s time to acknowledge that at least we stayed the course. In times of upheaval, there is value in merely staying put.

I realize that this is not the common interpretation of what’s occurred. Most commentators look at the Jewish demographic shift from the city to Ventura as an escape from Los Angeles. They accuse us of fleeing the riots, racial chaos and municipal disintegration. Wilshire Boulevard Temple, in particular, is even now accused of leaving town, although its membership had left Koreatown a decade before it broke ground on its Westside campus at Olympic and Barrington.

But if the riots were the final straw, we have to see that this westward and northern shift is a statement not of despair but of hope.

I know something about fleeing. When I graduated college, I joined half my class in a move across the country, from the East Coast to the West. Part rebellion, part pioneering effort, that 1970s shift instinctively recognized that New York was finished and that Los Angeles was the true land of opportunity. We left behind our families and history and made haste for something new.

The same motivations do not apply to today’s young families. For one thing, they’re moving only 40 miles away. And if they’re moving out for cheaper housing and better schools, they’re still staying as close to home as they can get.

A young lawyer recently told me that his dream, once he got married, was to buy his grandmother’s home. If he couldn’t afford that, he’d probably do the next best thing and move to Agoura.

Agoura and its booming neighbors, Westlake and Thousand Oaks, are attractive to Jewish couples who want what Los Angeles has to offer — a strong cultural base and a lot of open space. Rather than rejecting their families and their personal histories, they are voting to extend it, putting down roots and staying involved. And they’re bringing Jewish life with them. Heschel West Jewish day school has expanded so fast that it will soon be seeking permanent quarters and plans to build a high school as well.

This move west reminds me of New York after World War II, when the grandparents stayed in the city while young families moved to Long Island and Westchester. It was arguably the healthiest period of Jewish-community development in the 20th century.

Have these Jews opted out of civic life? There is no evidence for it. Jews still dominate the political, cultural and even the economic scene wherever they move. Where there is a board, we are on it. Where there is no leader…as the Talmud said, we are the leaders. Every ethnic group capable of leaving the inner city has done so. Only the Jewish community sees mobility as having a dark side. I am not sure we deserve the rap — not yet.

Los Angeles deserves better than what the past five years have given us. But there is a future here, and we are part of it.


Marlene Adler Marks is editor-at-large of The Jewish Journal. Her e-mail address us wvoice@aol.com.