Holocaust memorial to gays to be built in Tel Aviv

A monument to gays persecuted by the Nazis will be built in Tel Aviv.

The monument, the first of its kind in Israel, will be constructed in Meir Park, near the Tel Aviv Gay and Lesbian Association Center in the central part of the city, Haaretz reported.

It will include a concrete pink triangle along with a bench and a plaque providing information on the persecution of gays during the Holocaust. Gays were forced to wear an identifying pink triangle on their clothing in the same way that Jews were forced to wear a yellow star.

The inscription on the memorial will read: “To the memory of those persecuted by the Nazi regime for their sexual preference and gender identity.”

Attorney Eran Lev, a member of the municipal council from the Meretz party, came up with the idea for the memorial.

“This will be the first and only memorial site in Israel to mention the victims of the Nazis who were persecuted for anything other than being Jewish,”  Lev told Haaretz. “As a cosmopolitan city and an international gay center, Tel Aviv will offer a memorial site that is universal in its essence. As far as I’m concerned, it’s not a monument but a place  — a place of quiet that will invite visitors to sit, contemplate, reflect and be in solitude.”

Memorials to the gay victims of Nazi persecution exist in Berlin, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Sydney and San Francisco, according to Haaretz.

Hungarian police investigating desecration of Holocaust monument

A Holocaust memorial monument in the southwest of Hungary was desecrated.

The perpetrators broke off several parts of the bronze monument, which stands 3 1/2 feet high and is the shape of a large menorah. Hungarian police said they were investigating the incident.

The Federation of Jewish Communities in Hungary said the monument was desecrated sometime over last weekend. It stood in the courtyard of the buildings of the Jewish community of Nagykanizsa. The local Jewish community erected the monument, which is near the Croatia border, in 2004.

All seven menorah branches were sawed off and the main shaft was broken. Only part of the three-pronged base remains.

Some 120 Hungarians protested on June 7 in Budapest against anti-Semitism in Hungary. The demonstration was in reaction to an attack against a former chief rabbi. On June 3, a cemetery was desecrated near the capital.

In a letter to the country’s Jewish leaders, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban expressed his “indignation” at the cemetery attack and ordered the Interior Ministry to track down the perpetrators as soon as possible.

Monument to Carmel fire victims unveiled at memorial

A monument to the 44 people killed in last year’s Carmel forest fire was unveiled at a memorial ceremony.

Hundreds of family members and friends of the victims gathered in the Carmel Forest near Kibbutz Beit Oren for Monday’s ceremony. The monument is sited near the road where fire trapped and burned a bus carrying cadets from the Prison Service sent to evacuate prisoners from the path of the blaze on Dec. 2, 2010.

Thirty-six cadets, a commander and a driver died in the bus. Two firemen and a 16-year-old volunteer also died in the fire, which took nearly four days to control.

“The entire nation witnessed the giant flames, and the entire nation feels your pain, but only those who have experienced grief can comprehend the intensity of your pain,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in an address to the relatives of the victims.

“I know that you will never be fully consoled, but some comfort can be found in the legacy of heroism the victims left behind and in the spirit of volunteer work and the great dedication they displayed in the face of fire as they went out to save lives. Comfort can also be found in the fact that the entire nation of Israel recognizes this legacy,” Netanyahu said.

Some 250 homes were destroyed or severely damaged, 17,000 people were forced to evacuate, more than 12,000 acres were burned and an estimated 5 million trees were lost in the fire.

“The country was caught unprepared to deal with a natural disaster of this magnitude,” Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin said.

Some relatives of the fire’s victims refused to attend the ceremony, saying no one had claimed responsibility for the country’s inability to deal with the blaze.

Netanyahu originally had declined to participate in the ceremony, citing his workload, but reversed course a day later.

Time-lapse video showing eight years of 9/11 Memorial construction

Video courtesy of DigitalLifeMag.

Riga Holocaust monument vandalized

A monument honoring a man who saved Jews during the Holocaust was vandalized in the capital of Latvia.

The monument in Riga honoring the late Zanis Lipke and others who saved Jews from the Nazis was spattered with paint on Monday.

Latvian President Valdis Zatlers denounced the vandalism, the French news agency AFP reported.

The vandalism comes a week after large swastikas were found painted on more than 100 gravestones in a Jewish cemetery in Riga.

Kristallnacht memorial stolen

Thieves made off with a 750 kilogram Kristallnacht monument from the Jewish cemetery in Cologne.

The theft occurred Sunday night, Ha’aretz reported on Friday, and the local Jewish community is offering a 4,000 Euro reward for information leading to its retrieval.

The monument, representing religious objects rescued during the night of Nazi-spurred violence and looting in 1938, stood about nine feet high.

The theft took place days after commemorations of Kristallnacht, or the night of broken glass—named for the Jewish shops that were destroyed during the attacks.

Facing Terrorism Head On

A mangled monument to the dangerous times in which we live can be found in a gritty industrial neighborhood in the outer reaches of the San Fernando Valley.

Hidden behind stacks of crates and a tarp sits the twisted carcass of Bus No. 37, which a Palestinian suicide bomber destroyed in a March attack in Haifa that killed 17 and injured 53, mostly children. Victims included Jews, Muslims and Christians.

The red-and-white Mercedes bus no longer has windows and is missing two-thirds of its roof. A tangle of torn and frayed seats litter the vehicle’s floor, which is pockmarked with large holes. A children’s notebook is strewn among the wreckage, along with a pen, blue denim shirt, purse and two tiny baby socks decorated with cats.

Death feels palpable. After a few moments, an onlooker must avert his gaze.

That’s why Bernie Massey hopes to have the remains of Bus No. 37 placed atop a flatbed truck. He envisions having the mangled vehicle carted around Los Angeles on the first stop of a planned North American and European tour called Project Human Rights.

To highlight the scourge of international terror, the ruined bus would travel alongside a truck outfitted with two large movie screens. On them, bloody scenes of recent carnage in Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and other countries would play continuously.

“We want people to bombard politicians, international organizations and world bodies to vigorously repudiate terrorism and delegitimize any group employing terror as a tactic,” said Massey, 44, the producer who has worked on the project for over a year with his artist brother, Ed Massey. “That page has to be ripped right out of the playbook.”

The Massey brothers’ message is clear: A premeditated attack on civilians for political, religious or nationalist reasons is always wrong — no matter the group, no matter the cause — period.

For more than a decade, Bernie Massey and his sibling have unveiled several public art projects that have ruffled feathers. One campaign against sexual assault featured a sculpture of a crumpled-up rape victim writhing on the floor in pain.

Less controversial, the Massey brothers brought together thousands of schoolchildren and pediatric patients to paint colorful flowers on vinyl fabric panels. The artwork was wrapped around the petroleum tower at Beverly Hills High School.

Standing in his studio amid colorful sculptures and paintings, Bernie Massey said he expects some people to discredit or politicize his project.

Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Southern California chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said his organization condemns all attacks on civilians.

That said, blanket condemnations of terror are simplistic because context counts. He said many Palestinians think Israelis over 16 are legitimate targets because they are trained to be part of the national reserves, which “participate in the occupation, humiliation and killing of Palestinians.”

Ayloush also said the anti-terror project fails to condemn state-sponsored terrorism and could be seen as propaganda.

“If you bring a bus from Israel, the implication is that Israel is the victim and Palestinians are the aggressor,” he said. “This certainly [is] not true. Both sides have done things that are not acceptable.”

On the other hand, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) hopes the traveling exhibit will raise awareness about terror attacks in Israel. “Any effort to raise the world’s consciousness to that fact is an effort we can applaud,” said Amanda Susskind, ADL Southwest regional director, adding that her group opposes terror everywhere.

Project Human Rights comes at a time of mounting global violence. In recent weeks, Al Qaeda and its sympathizers have launched a spate of suicide bombings from Saudi Arabia to Iraq. Turkey has been hit particularly hard, with twin synagogue bombings in Istanbul, followed five days later with same-day attacks against the British consulate and the headquarters of a British bank.

To be sure, terror has existed for decades. However, it has become far more lethal with the ascendancy of militant Islamic groups, said James Phillips, research fellow for Middle Eastern Affairs at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C.

“The threat is very nihilistic,” he said. “They hope to inflict as many casualties as possible to recruit new foot soldiers. They see our values as a contaminant to their radical vision of Islam.”

In the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, the United States has undertaken an array of actions to protect the nation. In March, President Bush created the Department of Homeland Security, the most significant transformation of the U.S. government in over a half-century, bringing together 22 agencies under its umbrella. Federal funding to combat terrorism has dramatically increased.

That heightened vigilance notwithstanding, “the threat is still there,” said Homeland Security spokeswoman Rachael Sunbarger.

A single blown up Israeli bus touring the country will not put an end to terror, but it could make a positive contribution, said Daniel Byman, an assistant professor at the Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University.

“For many people, terror, like other forms of suffering, is abstract,” he said. “It’s hard for them to grasp the horror. Something more visceral like this does have an impact by making it more real.”

Yariv Ovadia, spokesman for the Israeli consulate in Los Angeles, agreed. “The project will expose the ugly face of global terror,” he said. “Terrorists and bombers don’t distinguish whether you’re Jewish, Muslim or Christian. There is no justification for killing innocent people.”

The idea of using a bombed-out bus to galvanize the masses appealed to Bernie Massey on several levels. As a symbol of international transportation, a bus would resonate with all who saw it. The vehicle’s charred and twisted remains might prompt governments internationally to sign a treaty repudiating terror, much as world leaders agreed 75 years ago to outlaw chemical weapons, he said.

And while it would be impossible to move a destroyed marketplace or government building around the country, he continued, a badly damaged bus could be shuttled between cities.

A year and a half ago, Ed Massey built a small-scale model of a damaged bus atop a miniature flatbed. Satisfied that such an exhibit could be mounted, his brother began searching for a blown-up vehicle — a daunting task because most governments quickly dispose of them after attacks.

Bernie Massey considered an Egyptian tour bus but concluded its height would make it difficult to transport. Through an acquaintance, he hooked up with an Israeli bus company with three destroyed vehicles in its possession.

Flying to Israel in late May, Massey found one that met his specifications: under 13 1¼2 feet high and narrower than 102 inches, it could fit on a flatbed truck and occupy only a single lane.

Massey paid about $1,500 for the Israeli bus, the price of scrap. Between delays on the Israeli side because of a nationwide strike and a long layover in U.S. Customs, the bus didn’t make it to Southern California until August. “We didn’t know what we were getting, whether this thing had fallen apart in transit,” Massey said.

It hadn’t. So he and his brother moved quickly to raise money to brace, bracket and fortify the damaged bus. The Masseys tapped their many contacts and generated $200,000, enough to hire structural engineers, technicians and a team of journalists, including a former Boston Globe reporter and CNN producer, to develop content for the exhibit. The Masseys must quickly raise $1.3 million from businesses, foundations and individual donors to launch the project by spring.

Bernie Massey said he thought history was on his side.

“We want to help change the world’s culture of acceptance about terror. It’s a pretty ambitious goal, but I do believe change is possible,” he said.

“If you look back to the 1950s and 1960s, we had terror in the United States done by the Ku Klux Klan and white supremacists. There was significant cultural acceptance at that time. Boom, 40 years later, look how far we’ve come as a country.”

For more information about Project Human Rights, visit
www.endworldterror.com .

Waking Jesse Jackson

Our knee-jerk reaction every time the Rev. Jesse Jackson opens his mouth is, “Oh no, not again.” We know it’s unfair, we know it’s jaded, but we have the same reaction when our friend’s child practices his trombone scales in the living room the umpteenth time. Sure we like him, but….

This time, Jackson was talking about his “Save the Dream” march through the South, which takes place this week. He wanted to make sure the word got out to the Jewish press, so we called him at his hotel room in Chicago. At first, he sounded very, very tired. “We’re determined to keep the dream alive, to heal the breach, to leave no American behind,” he said.

The march will touch down at the monuments of the Civil Rights movement: the Rainbow Motel, where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was shot; Jackson, Miss., down whose streets King led civil rights marchers; and Philadelphia, Miss., where James Chaney and Jewish civil rights activists Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman were murdered. Members of Schwerner’s and Goodman’s families will speak alongside Jackson, as will Rabbi Steven Jacobs of Congregation Kol Tikvah in Woodland Hills. “This is a great monument to the soul of our civil rights struggle, when we spilled common blood and shared common graves,” said Jackson. “These are irrevocable bonds, and we must build on them.”

The 2000 elections are approaching, and Jackson hopes to register thousands of black voters as the march progresses through the heart of Sen. Trent Lott’s home state. “Race is a diversion from the real gap,” in America today, Jackson said. That gap is between the rich, who seem to be making unlimited income in today’s economy, and the poor, most of whom are white, who face poverty without the certainty of welfare, social security and health care. Or, as Jackson put it: “The wealthy have no roof above them, and the poor have no floor beneath them.” In such dire economic times, said Jackson, Jews, blacks and gays become scapegoats.

By this time in the conversation, he was revved up and wide awake…and we were right there with him. Never mind that many economists — and Jackson’s friend, the president — give a much more positive spin on the income gap. We were about ready to cash in our frequent-flier miles for a trip to the Rainbow Motel. Say what you will, but that man can talk. If you’re interested in knowing more about the march, call (202) 333-5270. — Rob Eshman, Managing Editor