Saturday, October 1
Ditch the stuffy fundraising dinners in favor of two benefits this weekend that actually sound fun. Today’s “Hugs for Ari” is a carnival-style dinner-dance at the Santa Monica Pier. Huge auction prizes like tickets to Pearl Jam in Buenos Aires, plus roaming magicians and clowns and free rides on the giant carousel make the event adult and kid-friendly, all while helping the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. (See Sunday’s listing for our other benefit “pick.”)
6:30 p.m. $125 (adults), $50 (children). Santa Monica Pier Carousel, Santa Monica. R.S.V.P., (323) 655-8525.
Sunday, October 2
The Los Angeles Conservancy makes the bold attempt of “turning Los Angeles into a living museum,” starting today with “Curating the City: Wilshire Boulevard.” The one-day, self-guided architectural tour of L.A.’s historic street includes docent-led tour sites along the route, including one at Wilshire Boulevard Temple.
$12.50-$35. (213) 623-2849. ” width=”15″ height=”1″ alt=””>
Monday, October 3
A timely CD for the High Holidays recently released by the Milken Archive of American Jewish Music is an all-Leonard Bernstein recording of “Kaddish, Symphony No. 3,” a deeply personal and reflective work that is the last version of several Bernstein rewrote over the years, and “Chichester Psalms,” a setting of Psalm texts performed by chorus, boy soloist and orchestra.
$5.99. ” width=”15″ height=”1″ alt=””>
Tuesday, October 4
Your favorite red-headed “hard-knock life” orphan returns to Los Angeles for just two weeks beginning tonight. “Annie” runs through Oct. 16 at the Pantages, starring the miraculously still ticking and working Mackenzie Phillips as Lily St. Regis. The show also features a new song by original songwriters Martin Charnin and Charles Strouse, “Why Should I Change a Thing?”
$25-$68. 6233 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles. (213) 365-3500.
Wednesday, October 5
For those who never quite got what all the fuss was about with classical music, Robert Kapilow is here to answer, “What Makes It Great?” Hallowed for his Leonard Bernstein-esque ability to make classical music accessible to the masses, Kapilow dissects Mozart this evening at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts, with the help of the New Hollywood String Quartet.
7:30 p.m. $18. 12700 Center Court Drive, Cerritos. (562) 916-8510. ” width=”15″ height=”1″ alt=””>
Thursday, October 6
Jew and Latino find a meeting place at the Casa del Mexicano, a Boyle Heights synagogue-cum-Latino community center, thanks to Collage Dance Theatre’s latest production, “The Entire World Is a Narrow Bridge.” The site-specific dance performance explores the history of the Boyle Heights neighborhood.
$40. Oct. 6-9, and 21-23. ” width=”15″ height=”1″ alt=””>
Friday, October 7
Her name is Allois+. (Yep, there’s a plus sign in there.) And as intriguing as the plus sign, for which we’ve been given no explanation, is her art, for which we have. To quote the quixotic artist on her figurative paintings, “Painting is like breathing to me, an escape from reality to my own private world. I imagine this world like a small submarine, my Nautilus, where I am captain. I stake everything on the unusual and on surpassing the real,…” “Allois, Works on Metal, Canvas and Paper” runs through Oct. 15 at Lev Moross Gallery.
962 N. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles. (323) 512-0151.
Kingsley’s ‘Twist’ on a Dickens Thief
Rabbis Against Reserves
Fifty Israeli rabbis opposed to the planned Gaza Strip pullout called on army reservists not to turn up for duty.
“The criminal expulsion mission, which the Israeli government has imposed on the army, makes any service in aid of this crime a serious sin,” the rabbis, most of whom are West Bank and Gaza Strip settlers, said in an edict published during the weekend before Shavuot. Israel plans to enlist thousands of reservists to replace conscripts to conduct the evacuation of Gaza’s 21 settlements and another four from the West Bank beginning in August. Sounding a contrary opinion, former Sephardi Chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu last week called for Israeli troops to obey the evacuation orders.
Settlers Sue Soldiers
Anti-pullout activists sued two Israeli army commanders over the evacuation of an illegal West Bank settler outpost. In an unprecedented move, the activists traveled to the homes of deputy IDF Chief of Staff Maj.-Gen. Moshe Kaplinski and Samaria’s commander, Col. Yuval Bazak, last week to serve them with a civil suit demanding $70,000 in damages. Israeli media reports on Sunday said that the suit rejected by the officers accused them of wantonly destroying the Givat Shalhevet outpost outside Nablus in January. The incident highlighted fears that opponents of the Gaza withdrawal could personally attack Israeli officials. Also, two settlers were detained after a struggle on Friday at the Tapuah checkpoint in which the pair fought with soldiers who had ordered them to stop putting up anti-pullout banners on security barriers, the Jerusalem Post reported.
Disarmament Demand Flouted
A Palestinian Authority minister said terrorists in the West Bank and Gaza will not be disarmed before Israel withdraws.
“The disarming of armed factions is not on the table because weapons are legal as long as the occupation exists,” Nasser al-Kidwa said in a Palestinian television interview, according to a transcript released Saturday. “Possession of weapons is a strategic issue as long as there is occupation.”
Israel condemned the declaration as flouting a demand in the U.S.-led peace “road map” for terrorist groups to be disarmed and dismantled as a prerequisite for talks on Palestinian statehood.
“We should make clear that there will be no talks on a Palestinian state unless the terrorists are disarmed,” Deputy Defense Minister Ze’ev Boim told Israel Radio on Sunday.
Ukraine, Jews Discuss Restitution
Ukrainian President Viktor Yuschenko met with Jewish groups to explore setting up a process for the restitution of Jewish communal properties confiscated during the Soviet era. A formal process, either via a commission or law, will speed the return of properties more than case-by-case discussions, said Mark Levin, executive director of NCSJ: Advocates on Behalf of Jews in Russia, Ukraine, the Baltic States & Eurasia. During the meeting last Friday, which included the U.S. ambassador to the Ukraine and Josef Zissels, head of the Va’ad of Ukraine, an umbrella group, Yuschenko reiterated his call for support in getting the 1974 Jackson-Vanik Agreement by the U.S. Congress lifted. The Jewish groups voiced a willingness to help Ukraine “graduate” from the agreement, which links trade restrictions to Ukraine’s treatment of Jews, once progress is made on restitution.
Fridman Gets Medal Back
An Israeli Olympic champion retrieved his stolen gold medal. Gal Fridman, a windsurfer who triumphed at the 2004 Athens Games, had his medal stolen from his parents’ home last week. He was told by police Saturday that the medal had been found in a forest in central Israel. He told Israeli media that the culprit probably decided to abandon the medal after realizing they could not sell it, given the public outcry over its theft. There was no sign of the rest of the booty from the burglary, including jewelry belonging to Fridman’s mother and a handgun belonging to his father.
‘Sir Jonathan’ Leads UK Jewry
Queen Elizabeth, marking her 79th birthday, bestowed the vaunted “Sir” title on Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Britain’s chief rabbi, on Saturday in recognition of his services to the Jewish community and interfaith relations.
“This is an honor not just for me but for the Jewish community and its contributions to British life, as well as for the continuing inspiration of Jewish teachings,” Sacks, who has served as chief rabbi since 1991, said in a statement. “I hope it encourages further progress in good relations between the faiths.”
Also knighted was Iqbal Sacranie, head of the Muslim Council of Britain.
Orthodox Site Becomes Orange
A Chabad-Lubavitch news site has adopted an orange color scheme to protest the Israeli government’s Gaza withdrawal plan.
“I’m sitting here in Brooklyn, N.Y.,” Shmais.com’s CEO and founder, Levi Hodakov, told JTA, “and I’m really feeling for the Jews in Gaza here.”
Hodakov said the initiative aims to send a message to his readers to oppose the withdrawal and to inspire them to pray and learn on the Gaza Jews’ behalf.
“Every little bit counts,” he said.
Beatification of Priest Delayed
The beatification of a French priest has been postponed due to concerns over his anti-Semitic writings. The beatification of Leon Dehon was signed off on by the late Pope John Paul II, but his successor, Benedict XVI, is having Dehon’s file re-examined. Dehon, who died in 1925, was the founder of the order of priests of Sacre C’ur. Among Dehon’s anti-Semitic statements: Jews should wear a “special garment” identifying them as Jews and be “consigned to the ghettos.” According to Dehon, “anti-Semitism is a sign of hope.” French historian Jean-Dominique Durand alerted the French episcopate to the writings in February. The interruption of a beatification is extremely rare; halting the process for Dehon at this stage might be unique in Catholic history, because once a candidate’s “miracles” have been recognized, only the death of a pope can stop the process.
Tree Grows After 2,000 Years
Using a seed found in the Masada fortress, Israeli scientists have sprouted an ancient date palm tree. The date palm, which is praised in Jewish and Islamic writing, once grew throughout Israel but disappeared over the centuries. The date palms in modern Israeli agriculture are descendants of a different line of trees from other parts of the Mideast. Dr. Elaine Solowey, of the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, grew the plant, which a New York Times article says dates back approximately 1,990 years, according to DNA testing.
Sudan Support Marks Memorial Day
‘Down’ on the Valley
“I still feel uncomfortable going back to the Valley,” 43-year-old filmmaker David Jacobson said. “To this day, I associate it with my childhood sense of feeling lost and lonely in a stark landscape. When I begin going over the 405, my spirits just start to drop.”
Jacobson’s acclaimed new film, “Down in the Valley” — which opens the Los Angeles Film Festival June 16 — draws on his memories of desolation without and within. His parents divorced when he was 2; his older brother died in a car accident when he was 13; and the introverted boy suffered nightmares and fear of the dark upon moving into a Van Nuys tract home next to the 101. “The freeway, which we heard day and night, was an ominous presence, a violent place where hurtling steel rushed past you like bullets,” he said. “We played in empty, weedy lots.”
Jacobson’s isolation was exacerbated because he discerned no historical or cultural continuity with which to connect. Since his family was secular, he said, he had no Jewish education to help him feel part of a community and guide him through rites of passage. His bar mitzvah, in a sense, was moving in with his father after his brother’s death.
His memories led him to create “Down in the Valley,” starring Edward Norton as a delusional man who claims to be a cowboy with a mysterious past. Harlan Fairfax Carruthers (Norton) drifts from the Tujunga Wash to a Chasidic neighborhood as he pursues a dangerous friendship with two latchkey kids who regard him as a hero. Tobe (Evan Rachel Wood), a rebellious teenager, and 11-year-old Lonnie (Rory Culkin), who suffers a crippling fear of the dark, also wander aimlessly through vacant lots, strip malls, freeway overpasses and fast-food joints.
Like the director’s previous films, “Criminal” (1994) and “Dahmer” (2002), “Valley,” in part, is a disquieting portrait of a man unable to function within normal society. So it’s jarring to meet the bespectacled director, who seems more like a nice Jewish boy than the creator of distressing, if lauded dramas. He is mild-mannered and friendly, despite spending 16-hour days trimming “Valley” after Cannes reviewers called it “breathtaking” but overlong. (Variety called him a “prodigiously talented” filmmaker.) Without a trace of bitterness, he said his work places him on the margins of American independent cinema, which veers more toward the quirky than the profoundly disturbing.
It was while braving multiple rejections for his understated serial killer film, “Dahmer,” around 1999 that he started writing his latest film in France — one of the many places he has lived to escape the Valley. He currently lives in Hollywood.
Since he had identified with the isolation of Dahmer’s youth (but not with his perversities), he decided to “return to the personal in an even more direct way, by exploring my childhood,” he said.
Jacobson wrote much of “Valley’s” first draft in an 18th century rococo library in Paris: “Had I been in Los Angeles, I probably wouldn’t have wanted to deal with it, so having all that physical and emotional distance helped,” he said.
While writing, Jacobson attended a series of classic Western films, and the myths and images flowed into his story. “I wanted to depict the parallels between the bleak vistas and lifestyles portrayed in the Westerns and the modest West where I lived,” he said. “Growing up in the Valley, there was this sense of solitude, the constant fear of attack and the need of a hero to save me.”
To capture flat Valley spaces that retain old West emptiness, Jacobson decided to shoot the movie in anamorphic widescreen. But while scouting locations, he discovered the kind of childhood scenarios he remembered had moved to the North Valley. In Arleta, he found the tract home with cinderblock and overgrown palm trees that served as the children’s house. Harlan, for a time, inhabits rural Sunland, where bucolic ranches also harbor “abandoned junky cars, power lines and trailers — a weird netherland that’s both urban and rural,” he said.
While scrolling through the images in a dim Los Angeles editing room, Jacobson said the story eventually became less about the Valley than children left alone to complete rites of passage. “When they are left to their own devices, it doesn’t usually have the best ending,” he said.
The 263 movies in the Los Angeles Film Festival, June 16-26, of which The Jewish Journal is a promotional affiliate, include three Israeli films focusing on women’s issues: Raphael Nadjari’s “Avanim” depicts a young wife’s resistance to a claustrophobic, male-dominated culture; Eran Riklis’ “The Syrian Bride” tells of an Israeli Druze who cannot return to her village once she crosses the border to marry her Syrian fiance; and Anat Zuria’s documentary, “Sentenced to Marriage,” traces three Orthodox wives’ battles to divorce abusive husbands. For tickets and information, call (866) 345-6337 or visit www.lafilmfest.com.
When Sad Things Happen to Good Kids
As Shavuot approaches, I can’t help but remember the afternoon of the first day of Shavuot two years ago when my neighborsand I stood outside our homes and wondered whether terrorists had struck again, as the sound of sirens permeated the air and an army of helicopters circled the smoke-filled sky above the Fairfax area. We soon learned that a small airplane had crashed into an apartment building, killing the four people on board, as well as one apartment resident, 78-year-old Holocaust survivor, Tibor Reis.
Since that day, I have thought a lot about Tibor and learned much about this kind and humble man. Tibor had been studying at his beloved shul, Young Israel of Los Angeles, until 2 a.m. on the first night of Shavuot. Before attending services early the next morning, he changed his regular routine and went to the mikvah, the ritual bath. (This act would take on a much greater significance after his death because his body was too charred to perform taharah — the ritual pre-burial washing.)
Tibor had been a member of Young Israel for more than 30 years. During that time, he had never recited the haftorah. He always deferred, saying they should give the honor to someone more worthy. At the synagogue that morning, the gabbai told him that no one was more deserving and so, on the last day of his life, Tibor had the last aliyah and chanted the haftorah for the first time. The haftorah described an esoteric view of Heaven with such verses as: “The heavens were opened and I saw visions of God.”
After shul, he had planned to go to a friend’s house for lunch, however he made the fateful decision to go home and get some much-needed rest. At 4 p.m., as he slept, the plane plummeted into the building. Everything in his apartment was destroyed by the fire — with the exception of his tallit and his kittel. He was buried in Israel, wearing those garments.
Tibor was born in Czechoslovakia and grew up in the city of Komoren, on the Hungarian-Czechoslovakian border. He was liberated from Mauthausen concentration camp, where he helped his father survive. His mother and two brothers perished, while two other brothers, one now living in New York, the other in Israel, survived.
After the war, while living in Komoren under a very oppressive regime, Tibor was caught helping Jews escape to Austria, and was put into a Russian prison for three years. Although he was tortured, he never revealed the names of those working with him.
He was finally freed after brilliantly pleading his case before a judge. After his acquittal, a kind non-Jewish stranger helped him escape to West Berlin. He eventually made his way to America, and lived in Los Angeles for more than 30 years. He lived alone and had never married; his shul was the center of his life.
Young Israel’s Rabbi Shalom Rubanowitz found special significance in Tibor’s Hebrew name, Moshe Yehuda. He said King David, who was a member of the Yehuda Tribe, also died on Shavuot; and that Moshe, who gave us the Torah on Shavuot, was considered our most humble Jew. Tibor was a serious scholar who studied every day; he spoke six languages. Young Israel is in the process of creating a library in Tibor’s memory.
Tibor took the bus downtown every day, where he repaired watches in the jewelry district. He had modest means but always gave tzedakah and tried to help others. He visited homebound people in the neighborhood on a regular basis and often sent money to his brothers and their families.
Tibor enjoyed cooking for himself and told everyone at the shul what he prepared for Shabbat, or about a great soup he made. He frequently shopped on Fairfax Avenue, and was somewhat of an institution to everyone. He walked all over and loved to schmooze along the way. People often helped carry his packages or gave him a ride home.
Those familiar with Tibor’s death ask the same question: Why did this good and decent man, who survived concentration camps and a Russian prison, die in such a horrible, violent manner? Unfortunately, we will never know the answer to this cruelest of ironies.
However, we can honor Tibor’s memory by making a special effort to reach out to those who are alone; and during Yizkor this Shavuot, we can take an extra moment to think of Tibor, as well as those who died who have no one to remember them.
Despite innumerable hardships, Tibor maintained a positive outlook and accomplished many things during his lifetime. Nothing exemplifies this more profoundly than the touching scene that took place after his memorial service at Young Israel before his body was sent to Israel for burial.
As the casket was carried down the street to his apartment building and the awaiting hearse, the sidewalks on both sides of the street were lined with an eclectic mix of Fairfax area residents. Many people cried as they stood quietly and respectfully, honoring Tibor one last time.
Rest in peace Tibor.
To contribute to the library, make checks payable to: Young Israel of L.A.-Tibor Reis Library Fund, 660 N. Spaulding Ave., L.A., CA 90036.
Gloria Baran develops social action and community service programs for children, including a variety of tzedakah projects for Camp Ramah.
Get ‘Wicked’ in the Windy City
If you’re not willing to wait to see the Wicked Witch of the West melt at the Pantages, you can always skip down the Yellow Brick Road, click your heels three times and say: “There’s no place like Chicago.”
“Wicked,” the Tony-award winning Oz-based musical is currently playing at the Oriental Theatre in downtown Chicago’s opulent Ford Center for the Performing Arts. The company featuring Carol Kane will leave Chicago for Los Angeles on June 12. But immediately after the touring cast leaves, a permanent cast will take over with “Saturday Night Live” alum Ana Gasteyer headlining in the role of Elphaba, the green-skinned wicked witch. The permanent troupe is expected to play through until the end of September, possibly longer. So if you are unable to secure tickets for the Los Angeles production, which ends its run on July 31, consider a trip to Chi-town.
Thanks to more than 200 theatres, the City of Big Shoulders, as Carl Sandburg called it in his 1916 poem “Chicago,” is fast becoming the City of Big Ticket Sales. Chicago features big-budget musicals like “The Lion King,” “Cats” and “Little Shop of Horrors”; notable playhouses such as The Steppenwolf Theatre (created by John Malkovich and Gary Sinese); and long-running faves, like Second City, Blue Man Group, “Menopause: the Musical” and “Late Nite Catechism.”
A song in “Wicked” describes an incredible day in the fictional Emerald City, but the same could be said of the Windy City: “One short day full of so much to do. Ev’ry way that you look in the city, there’s something exquisite you’ll want to visit before the day’s through.”
More than 2.77 million Chicagoans work, live and play in nearly 100 distinctive neighborhoods, divided by ethnicity, class and geography. Navigating the city can be a daunting, perplexing task. Luckily, Chicago Greeters (” target=”_blank”>www.chgocitytours.com) offer two-dozen excursions throughout the year that allow visitors to explore these “cities within the city.”
The heart of Jewish Chicago can be found in the neighborhood of West Rogers Park, and Devon Avenue is its main artery. Over the years the area has become ethnically and religiously diverse, featuring a plethora of Asian, Indian and Middle Eastern restaurants and shops. A large Orthodox community inhabits the area, which frequents the cleverly named kosher Chinese restaurant Mi Tsu Yun and more than 20 synagogues, most of which are Orthodox or Traditional.
The Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies on Michigan Avenue features something for children with the traveling exhibit, “Every Picture Tells a Story: Teaching Tolerance through Children’s Picture Books” (” target=”_blank”>www.millenniumpark.org), where outdoor concerts, gardens and an ice skating rink bring a sense of tranquility to the urban jungle.
While the views of the lakefront from the ground are incredible, nothing beats the view from the top. Visit the 150-foot Ferris Wheel overlooking Lake Michigan on Navy Pier (” target=”_blank”>www.hancock-observatory.com). Of course, there’s always the tallest building in North America (second-tallest in the world), the 110-story Sears Tower and its 103rd-floor skydeck (” target=”_blank”>www.artic.edu/aic), which houses more than 300,000 works, including Grant Wood’s “American Gothic.” For interactive Americana, the Museum of Science and Industry (” target=”_blank”>www.architecture.org), which spotlights more than 50 of Chicago’s most spectacular waterfront sites. Grab a snack on board the ship, or get something really unique to the city once you disembark.
The first rule of thumb when eating in Chi-town: If it ain’t a Chicago dog, it ain’t a dog. The steam-cooked all-beef dogs, which come in a kosher variety, are only authentic when eaten with yellow mustard, pickle relish, onions, tomatoes and celery salt on a poppy-seed bun — never order ketchup.
The second rule of thumb when eating in Chi-town: Pizza isn’t pizza if it can’t be eaten with a knife and fork. For Chicago deep-dish, there’s really no wrong way to go: Pizzeria Uno and its sister restaurant Pizzeria Due’s (” target=”_blank”>www.loumalnatis.com, which will ship anywhere in the country); and, if your lucky, you’ll stumble into a little-known treasure like Joey Buona’s (” target=”_blank”>www.thedrakehotel.com), across from Oak Street Beach.
Turn the corner from the Drake and it’s shopping heaven up and down the Mag Mile with stores like Neiman-Marcus, Niketown and the American Girl Place. Your nose will beckon you to make a stop at Garrett’s Popcorn Shop at 670 N. Michigan (it’s worth the occasional 45 minute wait).
Down the street is a piece of Chicago history — the stone-built Old Chicago Water Tower, the only structure in the city to survive the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. For another landmark, head over to State Street (“that great street”) and spend some time (and money) at the flagship Marshall Field’s department store, a city treasure for 150 years that spans an entire block and comes with its own audio tour.
At night, the city comes alive with its own vibe. Chicago is famous for its own style of the blues and some of the city’s best can be heard at B.L.U.E.S. (” target=”_blank”>www.bluechicago.com). Then toast your vacation with a breathtaking backdrop at the Hyatt Regency’s BIG Bar (chicagoregency.hyatt.com), where patrons can indulge in an 48-ounce Cosmopolitan or a “Big” “Bigger” or “Biggest” beer on tap at the longest free-standing bar in North America.
With so much to do, don’t expect a relaxing vacation in Chicago. But with its culture, cuisine and construction marvels, Chi-town just might make you feel like you’re ended up somewhere over the rainbow.
For tickets to “Wicked,” visit ” target=”_blank”>www.choosechicago.com. For more information on Chicago’s kosher options, visit
First Lady Jostled in Jerusalem
East of Western — a Kosher Cornucopia
President Bush is declaring his hope for a Palestinian state loud and clear, and no wonder — it’s almost the price of entry to the alliance with Europe that he urgently wants to revive.
Some in the American Jewish community at first were uneasy about Bush’s push for the Palestinians, but Bush’s actions show that his commitment to Israel remains as solid as ever.
Just as Bush repeatedly has touted the benefits of a future Palestinian state at each stop along this week’s European tour, his secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, is determined to keep the discussion limited to the here and now when an international conference on the Palestinians convenes March 1 in London.
Rice will not allow the conference to consider the geographic contours of a Palestinian state, and instead will focus on how the United States and Europe can help the Palestinians reform a society corrupted by years of venal terrorist rule under the late Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat.
“This will definitely have a more practical and pragmatic orientation,” an administration official said.
That’s fine with the Europeans, who are happy to see progress on a topic they once felt Bush neglected — even if, for now, the progress is rhetorical.
“This is probably good music to introduce the London conference,” a European diplomat said of Bush’s repeated reference to his hope that he will see a democratic Palestine.
Bush’s push for Palestinian empowerment at first alarmed some Jewish organizational leaders, who wanted to see if newly elected P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas would carry out Palestinian promises to quash terrorism.
Now that Abbas apparently is beginning to make good on his pledge — deploying troops throughout the Gaza Strip to stop attacks, and sacking those responsible for breaches — Jewish communal leaders are more on board.
The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations this week formally welcomed Israel’s plan to withdraw from the Gaza Strip and part of the West Bank, and congressional insiders say the American Israel Public Affairs Committee had a role in making a U.S. House of Representatives resolution praising Abbas even more pro-Palestinian then the original draft.
One factor that temporarily tempered Jewish enthusiasm was Bush’s determination to rebuild a transatlantic alliance frayed by the Iraq war.
Bush wants the Europeans on board in his plans for democratizing Iraq, corralling Iran’s nuclear ambitions and expanding global trade. But Jewish officials have felt burned in recent years by the Europeans’ perceived pro-Palestinian tilt and their failure to contain resurgent anti-Semitism.
Don’t get too exercised, cautioned David Makovsky, a senior analyst with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
“We should be careful every time we hear the word ‘Europe’ not to get allergic,” he said. “Bush is trying to channel the Europeans to focus more on consensus issues.”
That may be so, but the consensus appears to be shifting. Bush’s calls for Palestinian statehood have never been so frequent or emphatic.
“I’m also looking forward to working with our European partners on the Middle Eastern peace process,” Bush said Tuesday after meeting with top European Commission officials.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair “is hosting a very important meeting in London, and that is a meeting at which President Abbas will hear that the United States and the E.U. is desirous of helping this good man set up a democracy in the Palestinian territories, so that Israel will have a democratic partner in peace,” Bush continued. “I laid out a vision, the first U.S. president to do so, which said that our vision is two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace. That is the goal. And I look forward to working concretely with our European friends and allies to achieve that goal.”
The day before, at another Brussels speech, Bush was applauded when he called for a contiguous Palestinian state in the West Bank and a freeze on Israeli settlement building.
More substantively, Rice last week broke with years of U.S. policy and told Congress that $350 million in aid Bush has requested for the Palestinians — including $200 million to be delivered as soon as possible — will go directly to 34 P.A.-run projects, and not through nongovernmental organizations, a practice that had helped to lessen corruption.
The administration believes “that’s the quickest way to do it,” Rice said. “This is not the Palestinian Finance Ministry of four or five years ago, where I think we would not have wanted to see a dime go in.”
That stunned members of the House Appropriations Committee, where Rice was testifying. Rep. Joseph Knollenberg (R-Mich.) asked Rice to repeat her reply because he couldn’t believe it.
“You can understand why we’re a little tense about that,” he told Rice.
One reassurance for anyone skeptical of the administration’s plans: The Israeli government is at ease with the aid plans and is happy to sit out the London conference.
But while Israel welcomes European assistance with economic and political reforms in Palestinian areas, it looks askance at any European attempt to help with security. Israeli officials prefer to channel all security measures through the Americans, fearing that multiple security initiatives run by different partners will create chaos.
The Europeans have not entirely abandoned the idea, however. Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, secretary-general of NATO, said sending troops to keep the peace might yet be considered.
“If there would be a peace agreement, if there would be a need for parties to see a NATO role, I think we would have a discussion around the NATO table,” he said Tuesday on CNN.
While the Europeans are happy to limit discussions for now to such issues as infrastructure and democratic institutions, that won’t always be the case.
The London conference “will show the Palestinians that the world is getting things done, and now it’s their turn [to implement reforms],” the European diplomat said. “But you can’t pretend that what is achieved in London will last 25 years. We need to go on from there.”
Ner Tamid Opens Link to Jewish Past
Rocket Threat Casts Shadow on Kibbutz
Kibbutz Nir’am, which is slightly closer to the Gaza Strip than Sderot, seemed dead that morning. The air was hot, harsh and still. Hardly anybody was outdoors.
Ofer Lieberman, whose office and van are plastered with stickers for Guinness, the beer he soaks up at the kibbutz’s Green Pub, had shown us the yard-wide, four-inch-deep crater in a road near the fields where the Kassam rocket landed the previous morning.
Sitting in his cramped office upstairs in the kibbutz garage, the laconic, goateed Lieberman, who runs Nir’am’s farm and handles the kibbutz’s media relations, was complaining about how Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz had visited Sderot the previous day but, typical for an Israeli politician, had canceled his scheduled stop at the kibbutz.
It was the day before Sukkot, two days before Dorit Aniso, 2, and her cousin, Yuval Abebeh, 4, were killed by a Kassam in Sderot. At 10:55 a.m., a muffled boom sounded in the near distance and rattled the windows.
“That,” said Lieberman, perking up and pointing in the air, “was a Kassam.”
As we hustled down to his van, he got a call on his cellphone from the contractor building his new house. The contractor said that the Kassam had fallen nearby. But when Lieberman pulled up to the construction site, he found no sign of a rocket, so he called the contractor.
“I don’t see anything,” he told the contractor.
But there had been a misunderstanding.
“It fell near the house I live in?” Lieberman asked.
Cursing, he floored the van’s gas pedal. Nobody was at home, but three of his four daughters were in the school right near their house.
A crowd had already gathered, staring at the scorched, broken-off wings and engine of the Kassam sticking out of the dirt about 25 yards from Alon Elementary School. The school had already started the holiday, but about 30 children were there for activities. Another dozen preschoolers were in kindergarten nearby.
Shrapnel from the Kassam had flown through the windows of a cottage used as a sewing room and over the head of a seamstress sitting inside, leaving her unharmed. Many children in the school and kindergarten had screamed, cried and run out the door, but physically they were untouched.
Lieberman stood with his daughters and watched as soldiers trotted past, police cordoned off the missile site, parents hugged their children and everyone was buzzing about where they’d been and what they’d been doing when that ugly metal thing crashed on the ground.
“We were playing right over there,” said Aviv Revivo, 12, standing with two friends and pointing to a spot on the nearby lawn. “The Kassam from yesterday I saw in the air before it landed. I heard the whistle, and I looked up and I saw it flying over my house.”
Since the Kassams started shooting out of Gaza nearly two years ago, more than 100 have landed on Kibbutz Nir’am — almost as many as have fallen on Sderot. Nobody has been physically injured at the kibbutz, although one Kassam destroyed a trailer that, luckily, was unoccupied at the time, and another landed near a preschool. Now there was this latest close call.
The psychological toll has been heavy on both parents and children, who number about 300. Kassams land in their midst and Israeli army helicopters blast away at Gaza from over their heads.
“Nobody knows what’s going on here,” Lieberman said. “The press and the politicians are only interested if there’s blood. They all go running to Sderot, and not one single Cabinet minister has visited Nir’am since the Kassams started,” (On the following Sunday, Deputy Defense Minister Ze’ev Boim made up for Mofaz’s cancellation.)
“If that Kassam had fallen 30 yards away, and we’d had three dead children and 30 injured at the school,” Lieberman added, “the whole government would have shown up by now.”
Inside the school, the children were seated in a circle around Tali Simchi, who had come to the class that day, planning to lead a drama lesson, at the insistence of her daughter, Michal, 9, who was still scared from the Kassam the previous morning.
“We’re trying to make peace with the Palestinians,” Simchi told the children, “but everywhere there are extremists, and now we’re facing Hamas, who think God gave them the right to all of the land, and that’s their goal, to take it all, and that’s why they fire those missiles at Nir’am.”
“And our job, as people who live on the border,” she continued, “is — that’s right — to live with it, to live with the fear, which is natural, and to talk about how we’re afraid and to keep believing that all this will pass.”
A middle-age soldier in red paratrooper’s boots came in the door.
“Look who’s here,” Simchi told the children, grinning extra widely for effect.
It was Col. Itzik [commander of the 101 Paratrooper Battalion].
“What heroes you are,” he told the children with a similar large grin. “Everybody OK? I’m going to bring all my soldiers here to learn from you how to be heroes. Keep on protecting us, and we’ll keep on protecting you.”
“Well, I came here to give encouragement, and I leave here encouraged,” the colonel said and strode out the door.
I asked Michal how she slept at night.
“Not so well,” she said. “I’m afraid the Kassams will fall on me all the time.”
When this latest Kassam fell, she said, “All I saw was like gray in front of my eyes.”
Completely unashamed, Tom Ben Odiz said, “I cried. I’m 13, but I cried.”
When the Kassam fell, a birthday party had been in progress. Or Rabin, 9, had her arms around the birthday girl, Neta Amar, who was turning 7.
Like the other children, Neta had spoken with her parents. She didn’t seem to want to talk.
“She was in shock at first,” Or said, “but now she’s started to cry.”
Other kibbutzim near Gaza have been hit by Kassams, but none so badly as Nir’am. The kibbutz is broke; it hasn’t paid its bank debts for two years, and the water utility has threatened to cut off its water.
Like most kibbutzim, it has been struggling financially for many years, and now the Kassams have driven away its weekend bed-and-breakfast trade and summer campers, as well as many of its outside pupils and cutlery works customers.
Yet Nir’am has not been granted “confrontation-line” status such as Sderot was in July, which means it gets none of the financial breaks, like a 13 percent income tax reduction, that go to residents in that town a few hundred meters away.
Following the Kassam deaths of the young cousins, the prime minister’s office announced an aid package for Sderot neighborhoods, schools and businesses. Nir’am wasn’t mentioned.
“Everybody talks about Sderot, Sderot,” said Arianna Amar, an assistant teacher at Nir’am’s kindergarten. “I live in the Mem 3 neighborhood, the [most badly hit neighborhood] of Sderot, but the Kassams haven’t fallen here any less.”
When this last one fell so close by and the children started screaming and crying, Amar put on a brave face, hugged them and said that even though the floor had shook, the missile had actually landed far away in the fields. But she was shaking herself and tears were falling.
“I wanted to go home, but it’s no better there,” she said, adding that if there was anyway of selling their apartment, she and her family would already have moved far away from the Gaza border.
This has also been on the mind of Emma Segev. Now 31, she came to Nir’am as an 18-year-old volunteer from Brighton, England, met a young kibbutznik named Gil and married him. Now he’s an agronomist on the farm; she’s head of purchasing at the cutlery factory. They have two sons — Yuval, 5, and Ben, 2 — and today, Segev said, was “too much already.”
Standing outside the cow shed near the factory, her arms folded as if for protection, comfort or both, Segev reflected on the day and the days before.
She said, “I saw the [factory] manager go white while he was on the phone. ‘Where? It was next to the kindergarten.’ My knees buckled, I welled up. I phoned the kindergarten teacher, whose voice was shaking with fear. I heard the kids’ voices. Yuval said it had made him jump.
“Today,” Segev continued, “it went way beyond saying everything’s OK now, and going back to normal. It became so clear to me that I really feel quite irresponsible for being here with my kids. I couldn’t concentrate any more; I couldn’t get any work done. I was thinking about what we’re going to do, because I don’t think we can go on like this.
“And it absolutely breaks my heart when we hear the helicopters firing into Gaza,” she said. “I can’t imagine what a mother there is going through. I’d go back to England tomorrow, but my husband’s an Israeli — he’d agree to live in England if it wasn’t for the weather. So I think the thing to do is find a quieter, more peaceful place somewhere in Israel. Tonight we’re going to stay with Gil’s brother in Ashkelon.
“Enough,” she said, “enough for one day.”
During the nearly two-year onslaught of Kassams, none of Kibbutz Nir’am’s families had moved out. But on the Friday after the Kassam landed by the school and after another Kassam killed the two cousins in Sderot, the Segevs informed the kibbutz that they had leased a house in a desert moshav and would be moving in a week
They were taking a year’s leave of absence; after a year, they’d see if it was safe to go home.
Gaza Raid Ignites Debate on Impact
Jewish Arsonist Worked for Paris Center
French Jewish leaders fear they may have cried wolf once too often after a Jew was arrested in connection with the well-publicized arson of a Jewish community center in central Paris.
Paris police say a 52-year-old Jewish man arrested Monday morning in connection with the Aug. 22 torching of the Judaeo-Spanish social center in the capital’s 11th district is the principal suspect in the arson.
Police said the man, identified only as "Raphael B." and described as unstable, is a former caretaker at the institution who had received free meals in return for his volunteer activities.
It is believed that the center wanted to part company with the man, provoking what police think was an act of vengeance.
Investigators found keys to the center at the man’s former rented apartment. This discovery tied in with earlier evidence, including the fact that the burned building’s front door was damaged from the inside during the arson, rather than being forced from the exterior.
The arrest shocked community leaders who had successfully mobilized the French political establishment to condemn what appeared to be an anti-Semitic attack.
Moise Cohen, president of the Paris Consistoire — the country’s principal Jewish religious group and the organization that owns the burned building — was sharply critical of community leaders he said had reacted "without taking the necessary precautions."
"From the beginning we thought this wasn’t normal," Cohen said. "The building is in a very quiet neighborhood and there was no indication on the outside that it was a former synagogue. From the start of the investigation, the police thought it was someone connected to the institution."
Cohen was equally scathing about politicians "who fear they’re going to be accused of not doing enough" to tackle anti-Semitism — though in part they have become zealous in their condemnations following stinging criticism that they weren’t taking anti-Semitism seriously enough.
In the aftermath of the attack, Jewish leaders sought to link the incident to recent cases in which judges had been lenient with anti-Semitic offenders.
The Jewish community could have been excused had its cries of anti-Semitism been isolated to one attack that turned out to have different motives. But the recent arson is only the latest example of politicians and community leaders reacting to an event with horror, only to have to ask questions later.
In July, an incident in which a young woman claimed she and her baby were attacked on a suburban train drew fierce condemnations from politicians and religious leaders — until it was discovered that the woman had made up the story.
Similarly, the recent knifing of a yeshiva student in the Paris suburbs also apparently was not motivated by anti-Semitism. And police still are investigating claims by a rabbi that he was stabbed outside his synagogue in January 2003, as reports allege that the rabbi may have stabbed himself.
Less in the media spotlight is the burning last November of an unoccupied annex of a Jewish school in the Parisian suburb of Gagny. It looks less and less likely that the incident was motivated by anti-Semitism.
Nevertheless, for Jewish organizations and for the government, these cases are merely isolated incidents in a tide of nearly 300 reported acts of anti-Semitism in France since the beginning of 2004.
Roger Benarroch, vice president of the CRIF umbrella organization of French Jewry, said that last week’s arson and the reaction to it should "not cause us to lose sight of the essential, that the climate of anti-Semitism makes these things credible."
But he admitted that such events "give our detractors, and the anti-Semites, an excuse to doubt us."
Similar comments came from France’s Union of Jewish Students, a group in the vanguard of the fight against anti-Semitism.
However, certain groups were critical of what they regard as Israel’s exploitation of the arson incident, which came just weeks after Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon called on French Jews to leave the country "immediately" because of rising anti-Semitism.
Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom flew hastily to Paris to hold talks with government officials and Jewish leaders following the arson, and to visit the destroyed center.
Benarroch sharply criticized the visit, saying that "the Israelis should be more careful" and "shouldn’t meddle in the internal affairs of the community."
However, Shalom last week was considerably more nuanced about the arson attack than many community leaders.
Visiting the burned-out building, Shalom told reporters "we should leave the French authorities to conduct their investigation." He added that it was "of little importance what happened here when we know that during the last six months there have been more than 170 anti-Semitic incidents [in France].
The Consistoire’s Cohen, though, issued a warning to the Jewish community.
"Sixty years after the Shoah, every anti-Semitic incident rightly goes to the community’s head," he said. "When you cry wolf, you need to be very careful and ever vigilant. We are becoming less and less credible."
Sharon Weighs His Options: All Tough