Rocket from Gaza injures Israeli girl

An Israel teenager was injured when a Kassam rocket fired from the Gaza Strip exploded near a kindergarten in a western Negev kibbutz.

In addition to the 14-year-old girl, who was on her way to school, an adult living on Kibbutz Zikim near Ashkelon also was hurt by shrapnel from the blast. Four others were treated for shock, according to a statement from the Israeli military.

Ten children were in the kindergarten when the rocket struck about 20 feet away.

The Army of Islam organization in Gaza claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was in response to the deaths of three members of the organization during an Israeli attack last month.

Since the beginning of the week, at least 13 rockets fired from the Gaza Strip have landed in southern Israel, with 10 striking Israel on Monday alone.

On Monday night, the Israel Air Force and the Israel Security Agency in a joint operation attacked seven terror-related sites in Gaza, including four Hamas-operated tunnels, a smuggling tunnel, a weapons manufacturing facility and a terror activity center in southern Gaza, according to the Israel Defense Forces. Two Palestinian terrorists reportedly were injured in the attacks.

Meanwhile, IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi told the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Tuesday that while Hamas is not interested in the border violence escalating to a full-blown conflict, due to internal pressure from militant groups it has allowed them to step up rocket attacks on Israel.

The IDF Southern Command believes the organizations will continue to increase mortar attacks against Israeli soldiers patrolling along the Gaza border, he said.

Since the beginning of 2010, over 200 Grad missiles, Kassam rockets and mortar shells have been fired from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory, according to the IDF.

Letters to the Editor


Alterman Hurt

It is quite painful for a proud, practicing pro-Zionist Jew, who was bar mitzvahed, educated in Israel, lights candles on Shabbat, attends shul regularly, contributes to The Forward and educates his own child into the religious tradition, to be accused publicly of anti-Semitism (“When Jews Wax Anti-Semitic,” Feb. 18).

It has happened to me on occasion in extremely obscure, right-wing Web sites but only twice in the mainstream media. Both times it has been done by Cathy Young on the editorial page of The Boston Globe. The last time, I was denied the courtesy of a response. I hope that will not be the case today.

As most people are aware, the accusation of anti-Semitism, like that of anti-Americanism, can be employed by people to stifle debate and stigmatize points of view with which they disagree. In this case, Cathy Young seeks to silence anyone who recognizes the reality of Jewish responsibility for Palestinian suffering.

This is unfortunate, for many reasons – one cannot hope for peace in the Middle East without a mutual recognition of the pain the conflict has caused – but more to the point, phony accusations of anti-Semitism have the effect of weakening societal strictures against the real thing. By employing this slander against me now twice, Cathy Young is actually aiding and abetting the anti-Semites by robbing the term of any coherent meaning.

Here, for the record, is the entire text of the blog text that has led Young to call me these horrid names:

“I’m a Jew, but I don’t expect Arabs to pay tribute to my people’s suffering, while Jews, in the form of Israel an its supporters – and in this I include myself – are causing much of theirs.

Would Andrew [Sullivan] want to go to a service in honor of the suffering of gay-bashing bigots? (Wait, don’t answer that. Would a gay person who didn’t regularly offer his political support to gay-bashing bigots want to go?)

Anyway, I’m sure what I’m saying will be twisted beyond recognition, and so I suppose that makes it stupid to do, but I’m sorry. The Palestinians have also suffered because of the Holocaust.

They lost their homeland as the world – in the form of the United Nations – reacted to European crimes by awarding half of Palestine to the Zionists. They call this the “Nakba” or the “Catastrophe.”

To ask Arabs to participate in a ceremony that does not recognize their own suffering but implicitly endorses the view that caused their catastrophe is morally idiotic – which is why, I guess, I’m not surprised Andrew’s doing it.

Also via Little Roy, here’s another conservative Jew joining David Horowitz in endorsing Mel Gibson’s anti-Semitism,, and even William Donohue’s disgusting anal-sex-obsessed anti-Jewish attack, which was broadcast on MSNBC and implicitly endorsed by Pat Buchanan.”

You can see from the above, while the item does recognize the political folly of demanding that Arabs, who have suffered their own catastrophe at the hands of Jews, be demanded to pay fealty to Jews without any recognition of their own suffering, the item also contains an attack on the genuine anti-Semitism of both “The Passion of the Christ” and the Catholic League’s Donahue blaming America’s moral ills on “Hollywood’s secular Jews,” whom he informed MSNBC’s Buchanan “like anal sex.”

Nowhere do I, as Young accuses, hold “Jews responsible for ‘much’ of the suffering of Muslims everywhere,” as I was clearly talking about Palestine, and nor, for the same reasons, can I be accused of arguing that “every Muslim is justified in viewing every Jew as the enemy.”

As for her accusation that I actually blame “long-dead Holocaust victims,” well, it boggles the mind that your editors would allow this hateful poison into your newspaper, whatever Young’s motives may be for spreading it.

That a newspaper with the reputation of The Boston Globe would allow itself to be used for Young’s vicious vendetta against me – now twice – is both shameful and shocking. I would appreciate a retraction and apology.

Eric Alterman
New York, N.Y.

Not Joining GOP

I’m not quite ready to join any political organization that so desperately needs new members. By attacking the DNC in the mean, misleading manner (“Join the RJC” ad, Feb. 18), they expose the cheap-shot propaganda methods of their leaders.

The horrible photo of suicide bombers with a small child was not what Howard Dean was responding to in September of 2003. Not taking sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, at the time, was diplomatic commentary.

Prior to the Bush election of 2000, we might recall his statements regarding that conflict: “no nation building.” During Bush’s first four years, he gave warnings to both sides.

And, oh yes, ask John McCain about Republican rhetoric in the South coming out of Bush’s primary campaign during debates within the party.

No, I’m not ready to become a bedfellow to the likes of Jerry Fallwell (“There is an anti-Christ among us, and he is probably a Jew”) and quite a few evangelicals who believe that if I don’t believe as they, I’m going to hell.

Jack Abrams
Valley Village

Bus No. 19

Louis Lainer objected to our partnering with the Christian group that owns Jerusalem Bus 19, because he disagrees with some of their views (“Bus No. 19 Making Controversial Stop,” Jan. 21).

As a peace activist, Lainer, of all people, should understand that when groups have important common ground, they come together to produce results and try to overlook their differences. This does not mean that their political views have suddenly merged.

We were pure of heart when we brought the bus to various cities. We wanted people to feel closer to the pain and suffering caused by suicide bombing all over the world.

We wanted to spark commitment, so people would join together to pressure world leaders to declare suicide bombing a crime against humanity. This is not a political position. All people should stand shoulder to shoulder to express abhorrence of this crime and disgust with countries that fund and incite terrorist training and operations.

Suicide bombing cannot possibly be a legitimate form of negotiation. That is what we all hoped to emphasize.

It is disheartening that a peace activist would worry more about the Christian sponsor’s position on disengagement than about the deeper and more crucial issue of why international organizations like the U.N. are taking so long to define terrorism and to condemn it.

Roz Rothstein,
Executive Director

ADHD Disorder

I am writing to raise your consciousness about how offensive it is that Mark Miller chooses to make jokes at the expense of people with attention deficit disorder (ADHD).

ADHD is a recognized medical condition that, untreated, can lead to serious difficulties and much suffering (“Why the Web Wins,” Feb. 18). I assume that Miller would not make fun of people with diabetes or cancer – this is no different. Moreover, Miller’s implication that people with ADHD are automatically not desirable social companions is both insulting and incorrect.

I would ask that Miller make an apology in his next column to the numerous people among your newspaper’s readers who are affected by ADHD (estimated to be somewhere between 2 percent and 4 percent of the adult population in the United States).

For more information, please review the fact sheet found at the following link:

Name withheld by request

Ban Practice

The archaic practice of metzizah b’peh should be banned universally by the highest rabbinic authorities (“Death Spotlights Old Circumcision Rite,” Feb. 18).

When the custom of metzizah was established, it was thought that drawing blood in this manner would protect against infection. It is now known that the opposite is true. The human oral cavity has more virulent bacteria than that of a dog.

Aside from the possibility of the mohel passing infection to the infant, this could also occur in reverse. It is beyond comprehension that anyone could condone such a practice or even debate the mystical benefits of this practice.

Dr. Steven Shoham


As a former and potential future Shalhevet parent, I thought Julie Gruenbaum Fax’s article (“What’s Next for Shalhevet?” Feb. 4) was fair and accurate. Shalhevet has consistently turned out amazing graduates, but it also has great problems that have turned off many families of alumni.

Shalhevet’s problems are not those that its opponents in the right-wing Orthodox community, most of whom have never set foot on its campus, wrongly and loudly accuse it of.

Those baseless accusations are not why Shalhevet’s attendance and quality has declined the past two years. Those slanders have been around for a decade, yet until two years ago, most entering classes had some 60 of the best kids around.

Why have the last two years seen perhaps two dozen families of Shalhevet alumni sending their next child somewhere else? Simple. They felt Shalhevet’s leadership had become inept, disorganized, out of touch and often mean-spirited.

Indeed, the worst impact of the lies told about the school was that the administration circled its wagons in response, and mislabeled as opponents those who loved the school but were nonetheless critical of it and demanded change.

Los Angeles desperately needs Shalhevet. But Shalhevet must reorganize.

Jerry Friedman had the vision to start the school, but, like a child, when an institution matures, it needs to spread its wings and strike out on its own. Shalhevet can no longer function as a one-man show. It needs an independent board and administration.

Fortunately, it seems to be taking some steps in the right direction. I hope so. There are many of us who would love to again be Shalhevet families.

Name Withheld by Request
Los Angeles

I was horribly offended by the direction of the “What’s Next for Shalhevet?” article authored by Julie Gruenbaum Fax.

Since when do we Jews repay so much dedication and determination by an acknowledged community leader and visionary like Shalhevet’s founder, Jerry Friedman, to be so disrespected and undermined.

To be sure, Shalhevet and YULA are competing schools, and we have profound philosophical differences. But menschlechkeit is menschlechkeit!

His herculean effort to inspire a generation of young people, much at the expense of his personal time and treasure, can only be recognized as a monumental achievement by a man with incredible devotion to young people and Jewish education.

How dare he be rewarded with disdain by others who have never begun to sacrifice quality years as he has!

Rabbi Meyer H. May
Executive Director
Yeshiva University High Schools of Los Angeles

I am an involved member of the Temple Beth Am Library Minyan, graduate of Pressman Academy, senior at Shalhevet High and chair of the Israel Action Committee at my school.

The article that Julie Gruenbaum Fax wrote and published about Shalhevet personally offended me. Shalhevet is a wonderful institution that teaches Jewish youth religiosity, Zionism, morality and good citizenship.

Our close-knit community allows for bonding and growth. Our strong academics yield bright students with outstanding college acceptance records. Most importantly, our devotion to the small Jewish community we see at Shalhevet on a daily basis and the larger Jewish community we feel worldwide inspire us to do great things.

One of those great things currently being taken upon by students is the organization and execution of a communitywide Israeli street fair aimed to raise money for Israeli terror victims and soldiers.

Our 3-year-old Israel Action Committee, which is led by myself and senior Eliya Shachar, has had success in the past with a large community fair and hopes to be just as successful this year. We are securing vendors (such as Muzikal store and Brenco Judaica), restaurants (such as Nathan’s and Jeffs Gourmet), musicians and organizations (such as StandWithUs) to be a part in our event.

The idea is to create an Israeli-like atmosphere in which Jews from all over the community can come to eat, listen to live Israeli music and buy products. All of our proceeds will then go to Israeli charities (i.e. OneFamily Foundation, A Package From Home and the North American Conference of Ethiopian Jewry).

This is the beauty of Shalhevet that the article failed to portray.

As a concerned Israel Action Committee chair, Shalhevet student and ultimately community member, I would like to ask you to please cover this event in The Jewish Journal so that people can understand what the amazing Jewish institution called Shalhevet is really about, and so that as many people as possible can come to and support this enormous, unprecedented teenage effort to raise both funds and awareness for Israel.

Whether this letter itself is published, an interview with me is conducted and then printed or simply a small story explaining this “fair-y” tale event appears in an issue, please help us help Israel and heal the wounds that were created with the printing of Mrs. Gruenbaum Fax’s article.

Zach Cutler
Via E-Mail

Refreshing View

I have been reading The Journal for a very long time and enjoy it very much. However, I have never taken the time to write to you and thank you for the great service you contribute to the Jewish community.

I am a senior citizen, and I enjoy reading articles about seniors. I was pleased to read the article written by Ed Shevick in the Feb. 4 issue titled, “The Good, the Bad and the Confusing.”

Most articles written about seniors are written by younger people and reflect their views on what they think are older people’s outlook on life. It was refreshing to get the view from one of our own (I am 84).

Please let us have more articles by Shevick and his views on life as a senior citizen.

Philip Shubb

Power of Blessing

I write this e-mail with gratitude to Naomi Levy for her beautiful blessings that she willingly shared. (“Power of Blessing,” Dec. 24, 2004). We plan to use her loving words, which articulate our feelings so well.

Naomi, thank you for opening a door to Jewish spirituality that we have never walked through before.

Elizabeth Sax
via E-Mail


How could so many things be wrong when everything is so right?

As Orthodox Jews, we naturally sent our son to a Jewish day school. Considering our way of life and the fact that my son has always attended a Chabad school, you would think that, given a choice between YULA and Shalhevet, we would obviously pick YULA.

As fate would have it, I filled out the application for Shalhevet and hand-delivered it. As I walked into the building, I was immediately taken in by the atmosphere. The kids seemed happy and very comfortable with their environment.

I certainly did not concern myself with the “disorganization and flakiness.” We never even applied to YULA or anywhere else.

My son is now a sophomore at Shalhevet, and I have the same view of the school as I did the first time I walked into the building.

This is a school where teachers, for the most part, are devoted to their students and try to help them work to their potential. This is where students develop a strong Judaic and secular background.

This is where teachers are willing to meet with parents at 7 a.m., 7 p.m. or any other time that is convenient to the parents. This is where my son had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go to Israel for the first time and have an incredible experience.

These are the things that as a parent and an educator are important to me. If this is the school that Dr. Jerry Friedman created, my hat goes off to him.

This is not to say that I have never experienced a lack of organization or “flakiness.” Nevertheless, without attempting to rationalize, those things are present in any school.

I also would tend to agree that sometimes change is necessary. However, I am somewhat concerned that empowering 22 people (with 40 opinions) to run the school could easily produce a result that is not nearly as good as we have right now.

To sum up, I strongly disagree with the parent’s opinion that “the problems overwhelm the mission.” Quite the contrary. It is our responsibility as parents to look beyond the internal housekeeping problems and appreciate all of the positive things that Shalhevet has to offer our children.

Marilyn Kalson
Los Angeles

Every now and again, I read something in The Journal that jolts me – an article, an editorial or sometimes a reader’s letter. In the Feb. 18 Journal, a letter by “Name Withheld” about Shalhevet School contained the following statement. “Had there been such schools in Europe 80 years ago, there may have been many more survivors.”

Are there really Jews, readers of The Journal, who believe that?

It’s what we read and hear from anti-Semitic hate groups. It’s Nazi propaganda that the millions of men, women and children Hitler tortured and murdered in a planned, methodical, barbaric and premeditated manner were somehow an inferior race of uneducated humans.

Obviously, your readership includes many stupid or ignorant readers, but how could you print such a comment? What an insult to the memory of all the doctors, professors, musicians, artists and millions of others just like “Name Withheld” who were exterminated just because they were Jewish.

Mendel Levin
Los Angeles

AIPAC Not ‘Silent’

Ron Kampeas and Matthew Berger of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency got it wrong in their characterization of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) role in the Senate and House resolutions congratulating the Palestinian people on their recent elections (“Bush Mideast Plan Gets Tepid Response,” Feb. 11).

These resolutions, which called upon the Palestinians to live up to their obligations to fight terror, were passed overwhelmingly with bipartisan support in both Houses. AIPAC was instrumental in the passage of these resolutions and was consulted in the early stages of the drafting of these resolutions.

For the authors of this article to imply that AIPAC was “silent” is preposterous. I would expect that the JTA would correct this mischaracterization.

This type of broad support does not happen by itself. Because AIPAC reflects the broad mainstream of the Jewish community, it is trusted by both Democrats and Republicans.

In the meantime, AIPAC looks forward to working with Congress on new legislation that will help the Palestinians take steps to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure and provide Israel with a sincere and credible partner capable of making progress toward peace.

Howard Welnsky
Toluca Lake

CAIR Reality Check

Whoa! Time for a reality check. The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) is not sweet and cuddly as presented by Stephen Krashen (“Letters,” Feb. 18).

CAIR is an outgrowth of the Hamas group, the Islamic Association of Palestine, and is described by the FBI as engaging in propaganda for militants. Steve Pomerantz, former FBI chief of counterterrorism, concludes: “CAIR, its leaders and its activities give aid to international terrorist groups.”

Sen. Charles Schumer [D-N.Y.] of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Terrorism stated in 2003, “We know CAIR has ties to terrorism.”

CAIR has recently (Dec. 30) been named in a trillion dollar suit filed in New York by the family of John P. O’Neill, former head of the counterterrorism division of the FBI and the world’s foremost expert on Islamic terrorism.

It is encumbent upon the community to get informed and to do due diligence before unwarranted praise is attributed to such an organization. See and

Ophira Levant
Los Angeles

Super Sunday

I read the Los Angeles [Times] Feb. 14 news item regarding The Federation “estimate of $4.6 million raised” with special interest, as I have served as a Federation staff and board member for many years.

Now retired and housed in a care facility because of health reasons and age (89), I do, however, retain a deep interest in both the Jewish and general community.

Believing in response to The Times story is an internal matter, this letter is to The Jewish Journal.

Back in the 1947-1948 spring campaigns under Leo Gallen, one of best fundraisers I’ve known, $10 million were raised from 50,000 givers under the Jewish Community Council in the name of the Jewish Community Council, United Jewish Appeal.

The subsequent merger with The Federation led to the present structure (The Jewish [Community] Centers were an important part of life at that time).

Super Sunday in those days would have been for clean-up.

I believe in a change to yesterday could prove to be what we need today and tomorrow.

Hyman Haves
Pacific Palisades

I read with interest The Journal’s Feb. 11 issue regarding the fundraising goal of The Jewish Federation Council of Greater Los Angeles (“Super Sunday Seeks to Top $4.5 Million”).

It is tragic that needy services will be cut back or eliminated due to loss of government funds. Perhaps the JFC should look in house for solutions.

As a charity organization supported by donations and government funds, perhaps its directors could lower their salaries to make up the shortfalls? According to their latest tax information (available on line at for 2002) JFC’s president earns $350,000 annually, and at least five directors earn from $137,000 to $183,000.

If they were to be magnanimous and take a 10 percent reduction in pay, that would more or less make up the $125,000 shortfall for the homeless shelter that houses 57 people.

What is the priority here – the homeless shelter or inflated salaries?

David Amitai
Los Angeles

Eric Alterman

I have been involved with pro-Israel activism since 1967, so I think I know what anti-Semitism is and isn’t. Cathy Young does not (“When Jews Wax Anti-Semitic,” Feb. 18).

She calls author and professor Eric Alterman an anti-Semitic Jew, essentially because he has repeatedly expressed sympathy for the Palestinian people and has supported President Bush’s formulation for Middle East peace, “two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side.”

Young has it precisely backward. I read Alterman regularly, and it is obvious that his support for a Palestinian state derives from his strong Jewish identity. He simply understands that for Israel to survive, it must have peace – and that means peace with the Palestinians.

For Alterman, Israel’s survival as a Jewish state is a moral imperative, one that drives his Mideast views. It is not Alterman who should have to defend himself against the charge of indifference to Jewish suffering. It is people like Young who have repeatedly supported perpetuation of the deadly status quo over peace through territorial compromise.

Young may consider herself pro-Israel and Eric Alterman hostile. For me the difference is this: Young is always ready to fight to the last Israeli. Alterman is not.

The [Boston] Globe should be ashamed of itself for allowing her baseless name-calling to appear on its editorial page.

M.J. Rosenberg
Washington, D.C.

With friends like Cathy Young, the Jews don’t need enemies. It is truly unnecessary for her to resort to name-calling and her own version of political correctness in monitoring how progressive Jews respond to the reality of the current situation between Israelis and Palestinians. Yet, in her gratuitous attack on Eric Alterman, she does just that.

What Alterman states – and what is stated by centrists in Israel today – is that there is a different reality for Israelis and Palestinians. Israel, created out of necessity from the ashes of the Holocaust – did create a situation of displacement for Palestinians. That is a historic fact.

Israelis, who today seem closer to peace than in the last several years, are not asking of the Palestinian leadership that they become Zionists, simply that they become partners in peace to build a constructive future for all the peoples of the region. That is the point that Alterman was making in his recent MSNBC blog, after which Young chose to attack him.

There is no question that until the Israeli-Palestinian conflict reaches a just resolution for both peoples, relations between Jews and Muslims will suffer, another point of Alterman’s. Whether these relations will improve after there are two states – Israel and Palestine side by side – only time will tell.

Hopefully, with the Sharm el-Sheik summit – and pragmatists on both sides in the ascendancy – that time may now be forthcoming.

Jo-Ann Mort
via E-Mail

Having known Eric Alterman for more than 25 years, I was distressed to read Cathy Young’s piece.

I have been involved in the organized Jewish community for decades and have always appreciated the desire and willingness of many to engage in free, open and honest debate on issues of concern to our community and beyond. For me, a pro-Israel activist, that debate is essential.

Indeed, having just returned from yet another visit to Israel, I can assure you that the debate about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict continues unabated there. It is unfortunate that some would attempt to stifle that debate here.

To suggest that Alterman is anti-Semitic is preposterous. Rather, what Young appears to be doing (in addition to misrepresenting his views) is equating recognition of support for a Palestinian state and some understanding for the Palestinian point of view with anti-Semitism. This is a disservice to all.

I can assure you that Alterman is neither anti-Semitic nor anti-Israel. Indeed, he, like many others, believes in and advocates for a two-state solution and for peace and reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians.

The fact that he does so in a way that recognizes the views of both sides does not make him anti-Semitic. It simply represents a point of view of how to resolve the conflict, a point of view which is shared by many here in the United States and in Israel itself.

Anyone who knows Alterman knows that he has been supportive of a Jewish democratic state living within secure borders and at peace with a neighboring Palestinian state. That, to me, is the essence of being pro-Israel. It is unfortunate that Young does not have room for a diversity of views on the subject.

I am truly sorry that The Boston Globe saw fit to print Young’s unfortunate article. I hope that an appropriate apology to Alterman will be forthcoming.

Geoffrey H. Lewis

As a long-standing supporter of Israel, let me congratulate you on publishing Cathy Young’s column taking Alterman so rightly to task for the kind of tripe he’s made a living out of spouting for so long. It’s time someone stood up to these phonies and recognized that a strong Israel is in the interests of both the United States and the world.

The hue and cry he has raised in response only underscores the degree of distance that currently exists between those who recognize the need to stand up and be counted during Israel’s toughest struggle (the intifada) and those who would rather coddle the left-wing intelligentsia they depend on for validation.

Alterman has had this coming for a long time. That he squeals like a stuck pig and tries to rally everyone he can think of to his cause, only serves to underscore what a fraud he is as both a professor of journalism and friend of Israel.

Coming as it does at a time when brave journalism students at Columbia are standing up to real anti-Semitic intimidation, is it any wonder that so few in the mainstream Jewish community have had anything to say on Alterman’s behalf.

Anyone who wants to understand more, need only read his columns over the past few years, or better yet, sit down in a comfortable chair and re-read Philip Roth’s classic short story, “Defender of the Faith.”

Ted Goode
via E-Mail

Cathy Young was too easy on Eric Alterman. She could have pointed out that no Arabs lost their homeland – that is Arabia, which no one ever invaded.

All their states outside of Arabia are occupied territory of other nations, particularly the country which they themselves called “the land of the Jews” when they first invaded it.

Another Alterman reversal of truth: It was not half of Palestine that was awarded to the Zionists, but half of Israel that was awarded to the Hashemites by the British, and half the remainder that was awarded to the Arab settlers in Judea, Samaria, Gaza and the Galilee by the U.N., leaving us one-eighth of our own land.

When one uncritically repeats the enemy’s propaganda, taking the stand that they can do no wrong; one’s own people can do no right. The label “self-hating” is patently justified.

Louis Richter
via E-Mail

“Tolerant Generation”

As a teenage journalist, for the third consecutive year I was afforded the opportunity to interview Holocaust survivors at the Shoah Foundation’s annual event Each year, the number of Holocaust survivors dwindles, so it is fortunate that the Shoah Foundation has preserved the testimony of over 50,000 survivors.

In light of the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz (“Auschwitz Memorial Marks ’45 Liberation,” Feb. 4) and the 10th anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda, I believe I have a duty and obligation to do what I can to educate my generation and others as to the need for greater tolerance in the world.

This year, the Shoah Foundation honored former President Bill Clinton with the Ambassadors for Humanity award. When I interviewed the former president in the past, I asked him if he thought my generation was more apathetic to the political fervor that existed when he was growing up.

His response was, “Definitely not.” I would like my generation to be known as the “tolerant generation” – the generation that put an end to genocide and war.

Fred Medill
Beverly Hills

Unilateral Withdrawal

The Feb 18 issue of The Jewish Journal carried a most remarkable analysis of Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Palestinian Land (“Unilateral Withdrawal”). As quoted on the front page of the issue: “Disengagement is the real peace process … and what makes it a masterstroke is … it doesn’t depend on the Palestinian body politic, only on Israel’s.”

The logical next step would be to apply “withdrawal” to any area of conflict. Thus, if hoodlums and mass murderers were to move into your neighborhood, it follows that resolution of the social problem, the locals might feel, would simply require that they run away and move out of the area.

Of course, that is exactly the goal of the Palestinian Authority). The P.A. teaches all its citizens that all of Israel is occupied Arab land. P.A. spokeswoman Hanan Ashrawi has openly stated: Israelis, go back to Moscow and Brooklyn, where you came from.

Thus, unilateral withdrawal is a position the P.A. does indeed endorse, except that Larry Derfner forgot to say: unilateral withdrawal from all of Israel.

Truly, we can be our own worst enemy!

Fred Korr
Los Angeles

One can only wonder how The Journal can headline “disengagement is the real peace process” and consistently refuse to expose readers to essential news sources like Arutz Sheva (, the Israel National News network that the leftist government outlawed. Arutz Sheva provides daily news, commentary, Torah and insight from a, dare I say it, religious Zionist perspective.

So I ask The Journal, which perspective has kept the Jewish people alive and filled with vision for the past 4,000 years? The perspective of disengagement or the perspective of Torah and ahavat Yisrael (love of Israel, the Jewish people)?

Joshua Spiegelman

Ad a Sham

The Republican Party ad in The Journal Feb. 18 is a sham. President Bush has done the same re: “taking sides,” as diplomatically, we have an interest in retaining Arab relationships, oil and finding peace.

Hyman Haves
Pacific Palisades

Inappropriate Behavior

I attended the UJ lecture series featuring Alan Dershowitz and Bill O’Reilly and was horrified and embarrassed by the reactions of some members of the audience.

Whether or not one agrees or disagrees with anything said by either speaker, the boos, hisses and other outbursts were embarrassing. Jews, of all people, should not react in such an inappropriate manner.

If one cannot act appropriately, then one should not attend this type of debate. Those who acted in this manner brought shame to our community.

Paul Jeser
Via E-Mail

Conservative Bandwagon

The articles in the Opinion Section of the Feb. 18-24 issue by Cathy Young (“When Jews Wax Anti-Semitic”) and David Klinghoffer (“It’s Time to Return to Our Mission”), plus the full page ad by the Republican Jewish Coalition, seem to indicate that a minority of American Jews have chosen to hop on the Christian conservative bandwagon for the wrong reasons.

Most financially comfortable Jews always tended to vote Republican, but to believe that conservative Christians are in love with Jews, is naive. Ecumenical Christians and moderate Jews are equally upset with the Bush evangelicals’ attempt to make this nation a Christian theocracy.

Klinghoffer must know that the evangelical belief in the Second Coming will mean the end of Judaism. Also, Mel Gibson chose to film a Passion play that defied the Vatican criteria, which absolves the Jews from responsibility for Jesus’ death, by choosing the version of a 19th-century anti-Semitic nun.

Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League hoped that changes would be made, but he misjudged the intensity of the anti-Semitic feelings of Mel and papa Gibson.

Martin J. Weisman
Westlake Village


An Examined Life During the Intifada

For the epigraph of his new book, Israeli journalist David Horovitz chooses two quotes. One is: "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem; those who love you shall prosper. Peace be within your walls" (Psalm 122). It is followed by the words on a refrigerator magnet sold in Orlando, Fla. — also a prayer these days: "1. Get up. 2. Survive. 3. Go to bed."

"Still Life With Bombers: Israel in the Age of Terrorism" (Knopf) is a portrait of the "grisly lottery" of life in Israel. Amid shootings, exploding buses and bombings of public places, many are killed and no one is untouched.

This wasn’t exactly the book Horovitz, editor of The Jerusalem Report and a frequent commentator for the BBC, CNN and NPR, set out to write. He was preparing some revisions for his 2000 book, "A Little Too Close to God: The Thrills and Panic of Life in Israel," when he realized that minor revisions wouldn’t work — that the world had changed.

The earlier book was published at a time of optimism in Israel, now superseded by the conflict. So instead of updating, he found himself writing an entirely new book focusing on the second intifada, covering the period from the Camp David Summit in the summer of 2000 to the re-election of Ariel Sharon in January 2003.

"I wanted to describe what life has become, to correct what have been wide misconceptions about the conflict held by some reasonable-minded people," Horovitz said.

The book is powerful because of the author’s vantage point. Horovitz, 41, is a journalist committed to living in Israel, not a foreign correspondent passing through en route to another assignment. He writes as a husband and father of three young children, concerned for their daily safety and for the world they’ll inherit.

While he doesn’t veil his own opinions, he also tries to see things as the other side might. He admitted, "The more you live in this reality, the more you understand the various voices, the more you realize how little you know for sure."

He said that the book offers a bleak view. It’s a book that will make readers cry. But even bleak or grim or sad isn’t without hope, and Horovitz still expressed his longings for peace encased in a veneer, even if thin, of optimism.

He remains a believer in the decency and humanity of ordinary people, although the last few years have made him immediately conscious of the "evil that men are prepared to do, and especially the threat posed by the death cult that is extremist Islam."

In his previous book, Horovitz struggled with the decision of whether to stay in Israel or, with his American-born wife and children, move elsewhere, where daily life wouldn’t be full of possible deathtraps at every turn. But they’re still in Jerusalem.

He writes of the "incomparable pleasure of living in one’s homeland, the invigoration of a common purpose among similarly energized people."

A fine writer, Horovitz has an eye for the telling anecdote and perfect metaphor, as he teases out the truths of a still-unfolding situation. The book is a mix of personal stories about his friends and family — the reader sees his wife shielding the eyes of their children as they drive past the site of a recent bombing on the way to school — and historical and political analysis.

In a particularly poignant chapter, he tells the story of Yussuf, a 36-year-old Palestinian "bookkeeper by training and plumber by default" who has spent much of his life in the El-Arub refugee camp near Hebron. The two sit for hours in a cafe in the "no-man’s land" between Israel and the West Bank talking passionately.

Horovitz describes Yussuf as "strikingly self-aware and unmistakably smart," and they trade competing narratives. The mutual friend who introduces them says that under other circumstances, Yussuf might have been an academic, but as Horovitz writes, "His real life got in the way."

Yussuf was arrested during the first intifada, (he says he was "in the wrong place at the wrong time") and has since found work whenever he could — working one month out of the 13 prior to their meeting — and trying to support his wife and four children, parents and a brother and his family.

Horovitz writes that their conversation goes in circles. "The Israeli and the Arab, the Jew and the Muslim, two protagonists professing moderation and desire for reconciliation, each convinced that his own leadership was trying to achieve it, and that it was the other side that failed. It is a dialogue of the mutually disillusioned."

He said, "I think he’s completely wrong, but boy, did he have a good argument."

The story of Yoni Jesner, a 19-year-old from Scotland studying at an Israeli yeshiva before beginning medical school in London and who was killed in a 2002 suicide bombing, brackets the book. Jesner’s dream had been to move to Israel to work as a doctor and save lives. Instead, he is buried in Jerusalem, and one of his kidneys was transplanted into the body of a 7-year-old Arab girl.

Jesner’s story resonates for Horovitz, who had moved to Israel from England 20 years ago, at about the same age and with similar energy and idealism. Horovitz interviews Jesner’s brother, Ari, and he also seeks out the family of Yasmin Abu Ramila, the kidney recipient, to complete a kind of circle.

Ari Jesner, a lawyer in London, explains that his family, although they live abroad, considers Israel their home, and that donating his brother’s organs was "the most fitting tribute to him to help someone." He blames neither God nor fate nor Islam, but the murderous human beings who assembled the device and dispatched an emissary to blow himself up.

Horovitz also visits with Yasmin’s grandfather, who lives in Kafr Akab, beyond the Kalandiya roadblock, at once close and far to Horovitz’s home in Jerusalem. In response to the journalist’s questions, the grandfather, whose own grandfather was born in Hebron, expresses huge gratitude and speaks of the possibility of peace.

When Horovitz meets Yasmin, who is doing well, he tries to press her mother, Dina — who, as the grandfather cautions Horovitz, has had a fourth-grade education and a very hard life — to answer his wide-ranging questions about violence and peace and her dreams for her children. He elicits only shrugs and the briefest of answers, and a gentle chide from the grandfather for asking such questions.

The scene isn’t the kind of closed circle that Horovitz had in mind, but he succeeds in presenting real people with empathy in this case of death and life at the heart of the conflict.

Horovitz is critical of the international media for misrepresenting Israelis, and he also thinks the Israeli government should be doing a much better job in dealing with the press and international public opinion. While he points out that Israel has made many mistakes, he levels most criticism at Yasser Arafat for the failure of the peace talks, for promoting violence and misleading his people.

He muses about how things might have been different were Israelis and Palestinians blessed with a Nelson Mandela, rather than Arafat. "I refuse to believe that Palestinian mothers are essentially different from Jewish and Christian mothers. I refuse to believe that their faith obliges them to regard murder and bloody, premature death as the finest ambition for their child," he writes.

"After 9/11 and month and month of bomber after bomber, I didn’t know that to be as true as surely as I once did. Yet I have to believe that it is true, because otherwise we Jews have no future in this bitter, vicious Middle East without killing and being killed, forever through the ages. And few good people elsewhere have much to look forward to, either."

There’s No Alternative to Pursuing Peace

The bus bombing in Jerusalem demonstrates, as nothing else could, that there is no alternative to implementing President Bush’s “road map” in all its parts. That means that the Palestinian Authority has to live up to its commitment to shut down the terror groups once and for all, while the Israeli government has to implement a full and complete settlements freeze and allow Palestinians freedom of movement within their own areas.

Of course, following the act of mass murder on Aug. 20, it is hard to imagine that we can just go back to where we were a short time ago. And, in a critical sense, we shouldn’t.

The process that began at the Aqaba summit has simply not worked. Yes, there was relative calm in Israel. For the first time in almost three years, Israelis felt secure enough to dine in sidewalk cafes, enjoy vacations throughout the country and watch the shekel and commodities traded on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange soar in value.

Palestinians saw some of the hated checkpoints dismantled, which meant somewhat increased ability to move freely in Gaza and Bethlehem. They also welcomed home some of the prisoners released by Israel.

But something fundamental was lacking: goodwill. As has often been said, peace is not merely the absence of war (although the absence of war is a good start). Peace entails the determination to break with the past and begin the process of reconciliation.

The Aqaba peace process was sorely lacking in that determination. Start with the United States, which remains essential in bringing Israelis and Palestinians together. Without Bush, there would have been no Aqaba process at all. The road map is his road map. It is, in fact, nothing more or less than a codified version of his June 24, 2002, speech.

Without Bush’s efforts, there is virtually no chance that Mahmoud Abbas would have become the Palestinian prime minister or that significant steps would have been taken to push Yasser Arafat aside and begin creating a semblance of Palestinian democracy.

But the United States has not done nearly enough to ensure that Israelis or Palestinians live up to the commitments they made at Aqaba. On one day it appeared that the United States would accept nothing less than Abbas’ dismantling of the terror groups; the next, signals were sent that perhaps dismantling was an unrealistic goal and that it was OK if Abbas simply used the powers of persuasion to make the killers stop.

The same on-and-off approach was applied to the Israelis. One day, the United States was insisting that Israel dismantle the hilltop outposts; the next day, we were closing our eyes as new outposts were put up and settlements were expanded.

The same applied to the security wall. First, the United States made clear that we would not permit the wall to heavily encroach on Palestinian areas well beyond the green line; then we just looked away.

Not surprisingly, Israelis and Palestinians took advantage of the United States’ vacillation to drag their feet about living up to their respective commitments. If the Palestinians did little or nothing — as the Israelis claim — to confront the terror groups, Israel did little or nothing — as the Palestinians claim — to take down the outposts, stop settlement expansion and eliminate the checkpoints that separate one Palestinian village or town from another.

Neither side demonstrated enough interest in satisfying the other’s basic needs: Israel’s need for security from terror and the Palestinian need to achieve freedom of movement. No, each side was playing solely to the U.S. audience. So long as Washington was appeased, Israelis and Palestinians kept doing what they were doing. Feeling little if any pressure, they simply bought time.

And time is what ran out Aug. 20.

Some people are already saying that the road map is dead and that it’s time to understand that peace is unattainable. They are wrong.

They are wrong, because the alternative to peace is an Israel that comes to accept living in constant fear, with a no-growth, no-tourist economy and a no-hope future. They are wrong, because for Palestinians the alternative to peace requires acceptance of a situation in which a 30-minute trip to the doctor’s office takes four hours, because of Israeli checkpoints, and where living conditions are as dire as in sub-Saharan Africa. Neither side will accept that.

But each side must understand that that is their fate if they allow a return to the status quo of 33 months ago.

The process must continue, but it is unrealistic to expect the Bush administration to do it alone, even if it had the inclination to do so. The two peoples have to decide that they want to achieve some form of reconciliation.

Maybe the word peace is too grand. And, after all, it wasn’t peace that was achieved during the past month — before Aug. 19 — but it was a start. It was a start that saved lives and created hope. It was something — just not enough.

Achieving more will require the Bush administration to continue doing what it started to do at Aqaba but to do it with considerably more vigor and consistency. But, even more, it requires the two sides to look into the abyss and understand that the name of the game is not pleasing the United States — it is rescuing their own futures.

Don’t do it for Bush. Do it so that your own kids — like those innocent children who died on that bus — can be free of those terrible nightmares that, all too often, do not disappear in the morning light.

M. J. Rosenberg, policy analysis director for the Israel Policy Forum, is a longtime congressional staffer and former editor of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s Near East Report.

How Oslo Harmed Israel

Nine years have passed since the signing of the Oslo accords on the White House lawn. Is Israel better off or worse off as a result of Oslo?

During the first seven years following the accords, more than 300 Israelis were murdered by Palestinian Arab terrorists — far more than the number killed during the seven years before Oslo. Since October 2000, when the Palestinian Authority launched its all-out war against Israel, another 600 Israelis have been murdered — a total of nearly 1,000 fatalities since the Oslo agreement. From the standpoint of personal security, Israelis are far worse off today than before Oslo.

The terrorism has caused a drastic deterioration in the quality of life. People are afraid to go into shopping centers, nightclubs, movie theaters and restaurants. They are afraid to ride buses. If they attend a wedding, a bar mitzvah, even a Passover seder, they know they could be risking their lives. Israelis are frightened and demoralized.

And who can imagine what life is like for the wounded — the thousands of Israelis who have been left permanently maimed as a result of terrorist attacks. After a bombing, the media report on the fatalities, but little is heard about the many more people who suffer injuries that literally shatter their lives. They are truly the forgotten victims of Oslo — the ordinary Israelis who now must struggle through life without a limb or without sight or hearing, with faces and bodies burned or deeply scarred.

The Oslo accords created the conditions that led to this increased terrorism. As part of the agreement, Israel set free thousands of imprisoned terrorists; many of them quickly returned to their terrorist ways.

Oslo gave Yasser Arafat his own territory and his own autonomous governing agency, the Palestinian Authority (PA). That made it possible for him to shelter groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad, to shield them from Israeli capture. In the PA territories, these groups have been able to set up training camps and bomb factories and improve their techniques. They never would have been able to become as lethal and effective if Israeli forces had remained in control of Judea, Samaria and Gaza.

Oslo even put guns in the terrorists’ hands. As part of the agreement, Israel supplied the PA security forces with thousands of rifles that were supposed to be used to fight against terrorists. Instead, they have been used to murder Israelis.

The Oslo accords also facilitated the creation of the Palestinian Arabs’ culture of hatred and violence. Before Oslo, when Israel controlled the territories, it could control the curriculum in Palestinian Arab schools, and it could prevent hate-mongering clergymen from preaching in the mosques. But with Arafat and the PA in charge, anti-Jewish hatred and violence were actively promulgated in the official PA schools, media, mosques and summer camps.

Today, every child in the PA’s schools reads the textbook, "Our Country Palestine," with a banner headline on its title page that says: "There is no alternative to destroying Israel." Similar hatred is featured prominently in speeches by PA officials and sermons by PA-appointed religious preachers, such as the sermon given by Dr. Ahmad Abu Halabiya in a mosque in Gaza (and broadcast repeatedly on PA television) in which he declared: "Have no mercy on the Jews, no matter where they are, in any country. Fight them, wherever you are. Wherever you meet them, kill them."

Thanks to Oslo, an entire generation of young Palestinian Arabs is being raised to hate and murder Jews. Reform Judaism’s leader, Rabbi Eric Yoffee, was right on the mark when he called the PA "murderous" and "bloodthirsty," and said its media use "neo-Nazi language" to foster "a culture of hatred" against Jews and Israel.

A recent Israeli government report noted that "slitting the throats of Israelis is a rehearsed drill taught to Palestinian children at summer camps organized by Arafat’s Palestinian Authority." Would such a thing have been possible if Israel still controlled the territories?

Jewish religious sites have also been victimized as a result of the Oslo process. The PA was given control of the Tomb of Joseph in Shechem (Nablus) and the ancient Shalom al-Yisrael synagogue in Jericho. It burned down both of them.

The Tomb of Joseph is now a mosque. The Tomb of Rachel is now within easy shooting range of PA-controlled Bethlehem, and the result is that Jewish worshippers are constantly the targets of shooting attacks. The Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron — burial site of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob — is now situated in a city that is almost entirely under PA control, meaning that Jews now literally risk their lives if they want to pray in the cave, which is one of Judaism’s holiest sites.

The Oslo agreements also made possible the emergence of what the Forward once called "the world’s smallest police state." With Arafat in charge and the West turning a blind eye, the PA routinely shuts down dissident newspapers, arrests and tortures Arafat’s critics and abuses women and Christians.

The Oslo process has also promoted the appeasement of terrorists. Soon after the Oslo accords were signed, it became clear that the PA was aiding and abetting Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Yet the U.S. State Department pressured Israel to make more concessions to appease the terrorists and their helpers.

Even after the PA launched its terrorist war against Israel in October 2000, the State Department continued pressing Israel to give up land, to ease up its counterterror actions, and more. Then last autumn, at the very height of PA terrorism, the U.S. rewarded and appeased the terrorists by offering them a sovereign state that would leave Israel behind borders just nine miles wide.

Elsewhere, America fights terrorists; in the Mideast, it appeases them. This, too, is the result of the Oslo process, and it seriously undermines America’s war against terrorism. Terrorists everywhere see the change in U.S. policy in favor of Palestinian Arab statehood, and inevitably conclude that terrorism pays.

The new chief of staff of the Israeli army, Moshe Ya’alon, said recently that the Oslo process has brought Israel to the point that the Palestinian Arabs now "constitute an existential threat to Israel," and are "mobilizing the Palestinian people for war with the goal of bringing about Israel’s collapse. What they are after is not to arrive at the end of the conflict, but to turn Israel into a Palestinian state."

The Oslo accords have left Israel with a graveyard full of fatalities; thousands of orphans and widows; a demoralized populace; a strong, heavily armed dictatorship in its backyard, and an alarming U.S. tilt in favor of Palestinian Arab statehood. The pre-Oslo years were far from idyllic, but they were much better than this.

The Hunger Question

"We will never go hungry," Ahmad Zughayer boasted as a truck from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) unloaded sacks of flour, sugar, oil, rice and milk powder in the Balata refugee camp near Nablus.

"We will never go hungry, but not for the reason you think," he added. "We simply stick together. Whenever anyone misses anything, someone will help out, be it family or neighbors."

As a U.S.-funded survey reports growing levels of malnutrition among the Palestinian population, Israelis and Palestinians, have differed over just how severe the socioeconomic crisis is in the Palestinian areas, and who bears the blame.

Palestinians say Israeli security closures are intended to strangle the Palestinian economy and impose collective punishment. Israel says many innocent Palestinians are paying the price for their compatriots’ belligerence and the Palestinian Authority’s ineptitude and corruption.

Before the intifada, tens of thousands of Palestinians worked in Israel and maintained a decent standard of living.

For 20 years, Iyyad Maher, 45, also from the Balata camp, worked as a truck driver distributing dairy products in Israel. Since the intifada began in September 2000, he has been sitting at home, unemployed.

According to the World Bank, 35 percent of the Palestinian labor force is unemployed, but the situation in the refugee camps is worse, with unemployment figures at 50 percent or higher.

The obvious result is that family income has fallen sharply, and there is less money to buy basic commodities. In the past month, Israel has imposed a curfew in the West Bank and a closure that prohibits movement between Palestinian cities and towns.

Israel says it would like to ease the predicament of the general Palestinian population, while trying to maintain its own security. When Israel does relax its closures, Palestinian groups often exploit the freedom to send terrorists to attack Israel.

Israel and the Palestinians held high-level talks last week to discuss security cooperation and ways to ease Palestinian hardships. So far, no dramatic improvement has been felt. Zughayer, however, sounded confident.

"Don’t worry about us," he said. "We can always settle for bread and olive oil."

His comments conflicted with a recent survey conducted by Care International, which was designed by Johns Hopkins University’s School of Public Health and funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

The preliminary results of the study, carried out among 1,000 Palestinian households, showed that 9.3 percent of Palestinian children up to 5 years of age suffer from acute malnutrition, meaning they weigh less than they should for their age or height. The study surveyed nutrition levels, availability of food and household consumption. The result was an accusing finger pointed at Israel, as the study’s authors sought to tie the rise in malnutrition to Israeli-imposed restrictions on movement and the dismal economic situation in Palestinian areas, rather than to Palestinian violence or Palestinian Authority mismanagement.

Maj. Gen. Amos Gilad, Israel’s coordinator of government affairs in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, rejected the accusations. He admitted that the standard of living in the territories has dropped considerably, but denied categorically that the population was suffering from hunger.

The truth may be somewhere in the middle. There is no hunger because of a high level of mutual aid among the Palestinian population and the continued supply of food rations by UNRWA, and also because the Israeli army — despite closures and curfews — allows for the regular supply of food to the Palestinian territories.

On the main street of the Balata camp, in fact, fresh fruit and vegetables were piling up on the produce stands. Lumps of meat were hanging in the butcher shop, and the falafel stands were as busy as ever. To all appearances, the population here is not suffering from hunger.

Still, they could be suffering from malnutrition. With unemployment in the territories at an all-time high, few families can afford to buy a pound of grapes for 35 cents, not to mention meat and dairy products.

Indeed, the USAID study found that 36 percent of Palestinian families in the West Bank and Gaza Strip do not have enough money to consistently feed their families.

The figures put the Gaza Strip on par with the poverty-stricken African countries of Nigeria and Chad for acute malnutrition. But Gilad told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee last week that the issue of hunger is partly a matter of definitions.

"Hunger is when there is a lack of basic commodities. Hunger is when people have swollen bellies and fall over dead," Gilad said. "There is no hunger now."

If foreign humanitarian aid to the Palestinians declines, the Israeli army is preparing for the contingency that it will have to establish a military government and resurrect the civil administration that governed Palestinians from the 1967 Six-Day War until the formation of the Palestinian Authority under the Oslo accords, Gilad told the committee.

Jacob Adler, a medical adviser to the Israeli military authorities in the West Bank and Gaza, admitted that "there is a certain problem of availability of food," but argued that malnutrition already had increased in the mid-1990s under Palestinian Authority management.

Not all Palestinians blame only Israel for the crisis. A few weeks ago, thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in Gaza demanding that the Palestinian Authority supply "bread and work."

Even inside the Balata camp, residents openly blame the Palestinian Authority.

"Don’t tell me that the Palestinian Authority has no money," said Maher, who used to earn more than $1,000 a month from his dairy delivery job in Israel. "I remember the days when the Israeli military governor came to his office with a beat-up Sussita [a type of Israeli car produced in the 1960s]. Our leaders all drive Mercedes."

Gilad, too, told the Knesset committee that the Palestinian Authority under President Yasser Arafat is "extremely corrupt," with its leadership "driving fancy cars, hiring maids from Sri Lanka and not bringing up its children to become suicide bombers."

"Sometimes," he added, "I think we care about the Palestinians more than Yasser Arafat and his gang."

Maher would not elaborate how, after two years unemployed, he still managed to make ends meet.

"I have burned out all our savings," he said. "Now I’m considering selling the refrigerator."

A Real ‘Baby Boomer’

Israelis are outraged by a picture of a Palestinian baby dressed as a suicide bomber. The baby was photographed wearing a mock suicide bomber’s uniform, complete with sticks of fake explosives and a red headband that read Hamas. Israeli newspapers published the photograph, seized in a raid on a suspected terrorist’s home in Hebron, on June 27. The baby’s family described the costume as a "joke," but a Palestinian journalist said such costumes were common among Palestinians. A Palestinian Authority official said Israel distributed the picture to "tell the world that the Palestinians are teaching their children how to hate Israel and how to act against Israel — and I just want to say this is correct," Ha’aretz reported. — Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Bush Ex Machina

The low point of my week is reading the copy for our pages devoted to victims of Palestinian terror and

violence. We sponsor some of these pages, produced by Kol HaNeshama, a project of the students at Yeshiva University. The others, sponsored by Janine and Peter Lowy, Vivian and Ron Alberts and The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, are titled, "The Human Toll of Terror."

It is ineffably sad to read the brief stories that accompany the photos. A 14-year-old boy, going home on his last day of school, murdered at a Jerusalem bus stop. A renowned hematologist gunned down on his way to work.

Five-year-olds shot dead; 59-year-old grandmothers blown up. There is a part of me — a part of all of us, I suppose — that sees the crisis in Israel as a problem to be solved, a set of problems in search of solutions. The eyes I look into each week are a gut-check against glibness, shibboleths and the status quo.

I can’t imagine the pain and suffering that each week’s sheet of faces represent. It is fathomless. And when it comes down to it, there is not much we can do to ease the suffering of the people in the midst of that war. The least we can do is read these stories.

Most of the children listed in those pages are the victims of suicide bombers. Sending people to blow themselves up to kill other people has been a very successful strategy for the Palestinians. A recent poll showed that 65 percent of Palestinians support it, and the practice has spread among Palestinian youths with a fad-like intensity. "The bottleneck on the Palestinian side is not the suicide attacker," a senior Israeli security official told The New York Times. "It’s the bomb." In other words, there are more men, boys, women and girls willing to kill themselves and innocent Israelis than there are bombs to outfit them.

One reason there aren’t enough bombs, is that Operation Defensive Shield disrupted the terrorist cells that manufacture them. But that is hardly getting at anything like the root of the problem. Writing in this month’s Foreign Affairs magazine, Gal Luft, a former lieutenant colonel in the Israel Defense Forces, assessed the success of fighting fire with fire. "If history is any guide," he wrote, "Israel’s military campaign to eradicate the phenomenon of suicide bombing is unlikely to succeed. Other nations that have faced opponents willing to die have learned the hard way that, short of complete annihilation of the enemy, no military solution will solve the problem."

Palestinians and Israelis have this in common: they seem to intuitively agree with Luft. The poll that showed 65 percent of Palestinians supporting suicide bombers also showed that 70 percent support the peace process.

A Ma’ariv poll counted a majority of Israelis who support a peace process, and 60-65 percent who support Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s military operations against Palestinians. What this means is that both sides are suffering, and neither side wants to suffer in vain. It is a killing algebra: If A equals violence and C equals peace, how do you get to C. What is B?

President George W. Bush, maybe? Bush’s initiative may offer enough carrots to both sides to complete the equation. The strength of the plan, which our correspondents discuss at length within (see page 22), is that it aims to appeal to the middle ground residing in the hearts of most Israelis and Palestinians.

It assumes that, despite what they tell pollsters (or because of what they tell pollsters) most inhabitants of that sliver of land want their children to grow up in a peaceful, secure and free society. They don’t want to capitulate to the other side, but they don’t want unending violence either. The Bush plan, if it were to succeed, offers a way out.

The weakness of the Bush plan, of course, is that it makes no guarantees. Its wording is full of contingency and passivity; i.e., "As violence subsides, freedom of movement should be restored." Palestinians and Israelis who were expecting a stronger American hand, a Bush ex machina, have a right to wonder if the president hasn’t missed an opportunity for more intervention, more direct involvement. Oslo died at the hands of extremists. What in the Bush plan prevents a similar fate?

At the very least, the Bush plan is a fork in the road. Both sides, by taking it in and mulling it over, have a chance to stop and think. The Palestinians have to reflect on how their lives would have been different had their leaders tried to conclude negotiations with former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak. And the Israelis have to look back just a couple of years, to a time when no one could have conceived of waves of suicide bombers wreaking havoc on their country.

And everyone, us included, must try to imagine, absent bold strokes toward peace, what unforeseen hell awaits.

Community Briefs

Angeleno Killed in Terrorist Attack

Dr. Moshe Gottlieb, a chiropractor who moved to Israel from Los Angeles in 1978, was among the 19 people killed in the June 18 bus bombing in the neighborhood of Beit Safafa, near Gottlieb’s home in Gilo.

Gottlieb, 70, was on his way to Bnei Brak, where he volunteered every Tuesday at a clinic treating children with Downs Syndrome, hyperactivity and chronic pain.

He built a successful chiropractic practice in Hancock Park before moving to Israel, and was an active member of Congregation Shaarei Tefila. Gottlieb, who was buried in Jerusalem, is survived by his wife, Sheila; one son; one daughter; 12 grandchildren; and brother, Judah Gottlieb of Hancock Park. Contributions may be sent to Jewish Children’s Museum, 332 Kingston Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11213. — Mike Levy, Staff Writer

SFSU Cuts Off Funds for Palestinian Group

San Francisco State University (SFSU) has cut off funding for one year to a Palestinian student organization for its confrontational actions during a pro-Israel peace rally on campus. In addition, the university administration put the General Union of Palestine Students (GUPS) on probation, while also issuing a warning letter to the campus Hillel chapter.

The actions, announced by the university’s news bureau on Friday, June 21, followed an investigation of the May 7 confrontation between pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian students, during which police had to escort some Jewish participants to safety. No injuries were reported, but the San Francisco district attorney’s office is reviewing the events. After viewing videotapes and questioning witnesses, university investigators found that anti-Israel demonstrators had violated campus rules by yelling racial and ethnic epithets, using bullhorns and drums and failing to remain in their designated area.

Earlier in the week, university spokeswoman Ligeia Polidaro told the Los Angeles Times that SFSU authorities closed down the GUPS Web site because it displayed an animated image throwing a rock against a Star of David and carried a link of another Web site that accused Jews of ritual murder. Polidaro said the warning letter was sent to Hillel because some of its members also hurled racial and ethnic slurs and hung flags in the Student Center without permission, while one member used a bullhorn.

Disciplinary proceeding are pending against three students, whose affiliation was withheld by the university.

The disciplinary actions already in effect were spelled out in a university news release, in which SFSU President Robert A. Corrigan emphasized a number of constructive steps toward a "a fall semester devoted to civil discourse" on the 27,000-student campus.

Planned initiatives include creation of the president’s Task Force on Intergroup Relations: Focus on the Jewish and Palestinian Communities, and a retreat for student leaders, including representatives of both groups. — Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor

Teacher Inspects School Programs in Asia

Marla Osband, director of early childhood education at B’nai Tikvah Congregation in Westchester, just returned from Korea and Okinawa, representing the National Association for Education of Young Children (NAECY). Osband helped the organization in deciding whether five SureStart nursery school programs for at-risk children should become accredited. As a NAECY commissioner, this is the third time the educator, who has taught at B’nai Tikvah for 25 years, was selected for an overseas validation visit.

The process involved observing the schools’ curriculum, staff/child interaction, health and safety and other factors. "When a school makes a commitment to get accreditation,"Osband said, "they are making a commitment to saying that they’re going to give the highest quality of education to their children. What I’m trying to do is verify that what they’re saying is happening in their schools."

Osband was named Nursery School Teacher of the Year in 1997 by Childcare Information Exchange Magazine. — Sharon Schatz Rosenthal, Education Writer

Richman Announces Valley Mayoral Run

Ending months of speculation, Assemblyman Keith Richman (R-Northridge) announced Wednesday that he would run for mayor of the proposed Valley city, should secession pass.

Richman said he made the decision to run based on what he believes are years of neglect of the Valley by the city of Los Angeles.

"I am very concerned about issues of public safety, the economic environment in the San Fernando Valley and education," Richman said.

Richman, 48, a physician, has been in Legislature’s Budget, Health and Insurance committees, as well as the special session of the Energy Cost and Availability Committee, which met last year to work toward resolving the state’s energy crises. His district covers the North Valley, West Hills and portions of Thousand Oaks. The assemblyman is up for reelection in his district but said if he wins both offices and the Valley secedes, he will resign from the Assembly.

Richman’s most likely opponent for the position of mayor is State Sen. Richard Alarcon, 48, a Democrat serving the 20th District. Although he had not as of press time made a formal announcement, Alarcon told The Journal that he has been weighing heavily the possibility of such a run. — Wendy J. Madnick, Contributing Writer

U.N., Refugee Camps and Our Money

Why is the United Nations running refugee camps like Jenin, for people who claim to be living in their own land? How could a refugee camp under U.N. auspices become a world center for recruiting and training suicide bombers? And why is the United States essentially bankrolling these camps when wealthy Arab oil sheikdoms barely contribute?

According to U.N. records, the United States finances more than one-quarter of the cost of operating the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). In 2000, for example, the United States pledged more than $89.5 million toward the more than $337 million total that UNRWA raised from all nations and sources in the world. By comparison, Saudi Arabia pledged $2.5 million — less than 1 percent of the UNRWA total and a minuscule fraction of the American contribution. Oil-rich Kuwait pledged $2 million. Syria pledged $37,209. Egypt pledged $10,000. Iraq and Libya apparently had difficult years; they pledged nothing, although Iraq sends bounties of $25,000 each to the families of suicide bombers.

The UNRWA is a subsidiary of the United Nations. Its commissioner-general, appointed by the U.N. secretary general, is the only head of a United Nations body authorized to report directly to the General Assembly. The UNRWA was founded by Resolution 302(IV) of Dec. 8, 1949, and to this day remains unique within the world body as a relief agency assigned to serve only one class of people.

All the world’s other refugees are served by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). UNHCR serves the needs of more than 21.8 million refugees in 120 countries ranging from the Balkans, Colombia, West Africa and Chechnya to Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Timor and the Horn of Africa. Palestinian Arabs alone are under the aegis of the UNRWA.

Locally recruited "Palestinian refugees" make up 99 percent of UNRWA’s staff in the 59 refugee camps that UNRWA operates in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Gaza and the disputed territories that Israelis call "Judea and Samaria" and that the Arab world calls "the West Bank." The majority of UNRWA camps and nearly 60 percent of their residents are in the three Arab countries, the remainder are in the areas administered by Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian Authority. According to the UNRWA, it is the main provider of basic social services in all those camps.

The UNRWA’s largest budget item is its school system, which comprises half its budget and two-thirds of its staff. In all, the UNRWA operates 266 schools with 242,000 students in the area administered by the Palestinian Authority. In the aftermath of Israel’s military incursion into the UNRWA refugee camp in Jenin, that agency has been under a microscope, partly because it has schooled four generations of Jenin children. According to the UNRWA, its schools use the same curricula and textbooks as do the host government schools. Palestinian Authority textbooks incorporate maps of the Middle East that omit Israel, and their texts delegitimize Israel, Judaism and Jews.

Under the UNRWA’s auspices, the number of refugees it serves has grown from 914,000 in 1950 to more than 3.8 million today. Thus, the overwhelming majority of its population are the children, grandchildren or great-grandchildren of those who first were placed in UNRWA camps in 1950. Between 1947 and 1950, approximately 750,000 Jewish refugees were driven from Arab countries in the Middle East. There was no United Nations agency to serve their health, educational and social needs, so they were absorbed directly into the Israeli polity, and their offspring bear no indicia of refugee status.

Israel reports that approximately half the suicide bombers who have struck over the past 19 months were residents of the Jenin UNRWA camp or terrorists who were trained there. It also is odd that a "refugee camp" under United Nations auspices has emerged as a terror center where Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Tanzim and Al Aksa Martyrs Brigade terrorists run wild, stocking arms, building bomb-making factories and recruiting and training children educated at UNRWA schools to detonate themselves. Perhaps oddest of all is the American role as chief bankroller.

With Washington now scouring its outlays in the face of projected budget deficits, it is remarkable that America continues to pump scores of millions into a U.N. program that has institutionalized dependency among four generations of Arabs — while the oil princes barely contribute. It is remarkable, too, that the refugees and their descendants are still living in squalor a half-century after the helping hand first was extended.

This makes no sense. In a time when U.N. fact-finding commissions are all the rage, here is a subject for congressional fact-finders to investigate: Why are we throwing away all those tax dollars?

Give Peas a Chance

World leaders can’t seem to arrive at a solution to violence in the Middle East, but just maybe because they didn’t use a larger-than-life-sized corn on the cob. Kernel Corn, mascot for the vegetarian organization, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), has set off on his Middle East tour, marking the launch of PETA’s campaign, "Give Peas a Chance."

PETA believes that there is a connection between peace and vegetarianism. "If you’re sitting down to dinner and contributing to the violence against animals, you’re contributing to violence in the world," said Dan Shannon, PETA’s Vegan Campaign coordinator. "Many social movements in the world have recognized the link between the violence toward animals and people," Shannon said

This is not the first of Kernel Corn’s journeys, but it is his first international tour. To date in the Middle East, Kernel Corn has visited Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Cairo, and plans to stop next in Haifa. The program is aimed at both Israeli and Palestinian children. "It’s a very serious time … [Kernel Corn] will be handing out vegetarian food and talking to children to try to liven things up a bit," Shannon said.

PETA hopes the campaign will show children that there are small steps that they can take toward peace. For example, they can control what they put into their mouths. In addition, Kernel Corn hopes to comfort children who feel alone, showing them that there are others around the world who care about them. "It’s one step that everyone can take toward a nonviolent world," Shannon said.

Bogeymen Unmasked

"Promises" is a beautiful documentary and, in light of the daily body count of Israeli and Palestinian victims, a heartbreaking film.

Considered a favorite for best documentary at this year’s Academy Awards, "Promises" was filmed in and around Jerusalem between 1997 and 2000, while the Oslo treaty hopes for peace were still flickering.

Its "stars" are seven children, four Israelis and three Palestinians, between the ages of 9 and 13, whose normal childhood pursuits and problems are overlaid by the suspicions and hatred of the "other," transmitted by parents, teachers and religious guides. The children live in West and East Jerusalem, in a religious Jewish settlement and in a Palestinian refugee camp. And although their homes are within a few miles of each other, none has ever met a youngster from the other side.

As the 106-minute film introduces us to the homes, schools and playgrounds of each of the children, it dawns on the American Jewish viewer how little is known, not only of the lifestyle of an Arab family but even of the daily ritual in a strictly Orthodox home.

Co-director B.Z. Goldberg (with Justine Shapiro), a young American raised in Jerusalem, who also narrates the film, has a rare knack of bonding with the youngsters, and they reciprocate by unaffectedly telling their stories, often with brutal honesty. We meet Sanabel, a lovely Arab girl, whose journalist father has been held for two years in an Israeli prison as a security risk; Mahmoud, a blond, blue-eyed Hamas supporter, and Faraj, who lives in the Daheishe refugee camp.

Their Israeli counterparts are Yarko and Daniel, bright and handsome twins living in a secular home; Shlomo, a fervently Orthodox yeshiva student, and Moishe, who grows up in a Jewish settlement surrounded by Arabs.

Though separated by generations of hostility, some of the kids express a natural curiosity to meet the fabled bogeymen on the other side. With Goldberg as the intermediary, Yarko and Daniel visit Faraj, and, speaking in halting English, the boys soon find a more common language in their shared enthusiasm for soccer and volleyball. This scene was shot in 1997, and during a revisit two years later, the small spark of tentative friendship had all but atrophied, more by neglect than animosity.

Looking at the situation in Israel today, the precarious moment when the children saw each other as human beings, rather than enemies, has passed again.

It may well take another generation to rekindle the spark, but "Promises" is a needed reminder that there can be an alternative in the Middle East to hatred and bloodshed.

"Promises" opens March 22 at Laemmle’s Music Hall Theater, 9036 Wilshire Blvd. Beverly Hills. Call (310) 274-6869 for times.

World Briefs

Syria OKs Saudi Proposal

Syria’s president backed a Saudi plan for an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord. After making negative comments about the plan earlier in the week, Bashar Assad gave his approval during a visit to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, when he was given assurances by Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah that Syrian and Palestinian interests that a complete withdrawal from the Golan Heights and the “right of return” for Palestinian refugees would be included in the plan. The initiative, floated by Abdullah last month, offers Israel ties with the Arab World if the Jewish state withdraws to the boundaries that existed before the 1967 Six-Day War.

Death Toll Rising

Two Israeli soldiers and seven Palestinians were killed Wednesday as the army retaliated for a Hamas rocket attack a day earlier on a Negev city. Three other soldiers were wounded. At least seven Palestinians were reported killed in a series of Israeli air, sea and ground offensives in Gaza that came in retaliation for the missile attack on Sderot in which three Israeli children were wounded. Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat’s home in Gaza City and a U.N.-run school for the blind were damaged in the air strikes. Israel also launched attacks at Palestinian security targets in the West Bank. In a West Bank village, three Palestinian students were wounded when Israeli soldiers fired toward villagers. The army said the convoy had come under fire.

Pearl Memorial Held at Wall

A memorial service was held on Tuesday at the Western Wall for Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. Among those attending Tuesday’s service were members of Pearl’s family, Religious Affairs Minister Asher Ohana and Deputy Foreign Minister Michael Melchior. Pearl’s grandmother said during the ceremony that Pearl had a warm Jewish heart. “All he really wanted to do is mend the world,” she said.

Holocaust Conference Planned

The Third International Conference on “The Legacy of Holocaust Survivors” is planned for April 8-11 at Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial, organized jointly by Yad Vashem and the Center of Organizations of Holocaust Survivors in Israel, and with the support of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany. Over 600 dignitaries, scholars, survivors and educators from around the world are scheduled to attend. The conference will focus on the moral and universal messages of the Holocaust, the legacy of the survivors and their contribution to society, with 120 educational workshops planned.

Nixon, Graham Knock Jews

Former President Richard Nixon believed that Jews had too much influence in government. Nixon called Jews “untrustworthy” and decided to reduce the number of Jewish political appointees in his second term, according to excerpts from hundreds of hours of tapes recorded in 1972 and recently released by the U.S. National Archives.

The president complained of a “terrible liberal Jewish clique” and said, “Look at the Justice Department, it’s full of Jews.” Nixon also was convinced Jews had control of the media, claiming that 95 percent of reporters were Jewish. The Rev. Billy Graham apologized last Friday for a 1972 conversation with Nixon in which he said the Jewish “stranglehold” of the media was ruining the country and must be broken. “Although I have no memory of the occasion, I deeply regret comments I apparently made in an Oval Office conversation with President Nixon,” Graham said in a statement released by his Texas public relations firm. “They do not reflect my views and I sincerely apologize for any offense caused by the remarks.”

Rabbi Pleads to Porn Charges

Atlanta-area Rabbi Juda Mintz pleaded guilty to having child pornography on his temple computer, according to The Associated Press. Mintz, 59, faces more than two years in prison for possessing at least 10 computer files containing photographs of minors engaging in sexual acts. Mintz allegedly had the files while serving as spiritual leader of Mount Freedom Jewish Center in Randolph, N.J. Mintz’s lawyer told the AP that Mintz will never serve as a rabbi again and is now working as a clerk in a convenience store.

Briefs courtesy of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

The Wiles of Wilentz

Just when you thought things in Israel couldn’t possibly get worse, a new novel comes along to prove that you don’t know the half of it.

"Martyrs’ Crossing" (Simon & Schuster, $24), by The New Yorker’s former Jerusalem correspondent Amy Wilentz, tells the story of a Palestinian child needing medical attention who dies because Israeli officials refuse to let him and his mother through a West Bank checkpoint.

Though the book might appear even-handed and nonjudgmental in its depiction of the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Wilentz ultimately betrays her sympathies by the degree to which she infuses the Palestinians with more dimensionality.

Wilentz warns against reading "Crossing" as a political tract. "It’s inconceivable to me that anyone could feel that it is," she told The Journal from her home in New York.

Wilentz, who lived in Israel with her husband and children from 1995 to 1999, says she is familiar with this response. "Those of my critics who would argue that I favored one side or the other are usually Israelis, who think that anyone who can show sympathy for the Palestinians must be a Palestinian sympathizer," Wilentz says.

Wilentz came out of a secular Jewish background (her father was New Jersey Chief Justice Robert N. Wilentz). She chose to write the story as fiction because journalistically, she says, it has been done to death by people "with greater depth of knowledge and credentials" than her own. By taking the fictional route, she felt she could bring the story down to size, forcing herself, and her readers, to deal with the conflict at the level of individual human beings.

Having done so, however, she is no more hopeful of the outcome. "The situation is not a reasonable situation for these two entities to be in. I don’t know how they will get out of it."

Sbarro’s Aftermath

Erev Shabbat.

Her eyes, I think, will stay with me forever. Imploring, beseeching, full of so much sadness. I think the shock of where and how she was, was sinking in. I can’t begin to describe all that was in those eyes.

Thursday, Aug. 9, the 20th of Av. On my way to work, I found myself walking down Jaffa street. Hungry, I decided to stop and grab a quick bite — at Sbarro’s Pizza.

In the past five years, I have frequented this establishment exactly twice.

Walking into Sbarro’s there is a larger area for sitting in the front, but the back looked a bit cooler and quieter, so I decided to grab a seat in the back. That decision saved my life.

Waiting on line, when they brought me the baked ziti I asked for, it was cold. So I asked the woman behind the counter if she’d mind warming it up. “Ein ba’ayah,” no problem, she said with a smile. I will always wonder if that was her last smile on earth.

A couple of moments later, a fellow from behind the counter came to the back with my baked ziti. Then he started to speak to someone at one of the tables. That baked ziti saved his life.

At about 2 p.m., I both felt and heard a tremendous explosion, and day turned into night.

And then the screaming began. An awful, heartrending sound; the sound of people coming to terms with a whole new reality, of people not wanting to comprehend that life has changed forever.

Those of us sitting in the back were spared, but I was afraid of panic, so I started yelling at everyone to quiet down; not to panic. The ceiling looked like it might cave in, but there is always the danger of a second explosion, detonated on purpose shortly after the first.

But then I smelled smoke, and was suddenly afraid the restaurant might be on fire. So, we started climbing our way through the wreckage to the front.

Would there be another explosion? Would the roof collapse? Were we making the wrong decision by climbing through? These are moments that last a lifetime.

There are no words to describe what the front of Sbarro’s Pizza looked like in the immediate aftermath of that explosion.

A woman was lying near the steps to the back. Her eyes were staring straight at me, following me. So full of pain and longing, sadness and despair. I dropped down beside her trying to see if she could speak. And then I watched the life just drain out of her. I tried to get a pulse, to no avail. She died there, on the steps in front of me. She was lying by the table I had decided not to sit at.

There were bodies everywhere, and those images are in my mind, they won’t let go. A child’s body under the wreckage; a baby-carriage; limbs and a torso; A woman holding a motorcycle helmet and screaming next to a person on the floor who had obviously been someone she was with.

And then the mad rush to help the ambulance and emergency crews get the wounded out. They were obviously afraid of a second bomb, so there was no medical effort inside beyond getting the wounded onto stretchers and out: a religious Jew was in tears and shock missing at least two limbs. What do you say? “Yehiyeh beseder,” it’ll be all right? Will it?

I happened to sit a bit to the left as you walk towards the back, and so the wall behind me shielded me from the blast. Another fellow whom we went back in to get wasn’t so lucky. Sitting only five or six feet to my left, he caught the full force of the blast and was thrown in the air. When we got him on the stretcher he was bleeding profusely and was missing a leg.

There are no words to describe what that man’s hand, clenched around my arm, felt like. He just kept looking from me to his leg and back again. I started saying tehillim.

So many mixed emotions fill my head today. I came home last night and gave each of my children a very long hug. But, there are so many families today who are waking up to the reality that life will never be the same. Seventeen funerals with friends and families saying goodbye to those they loved so, whose only crime was a desire for a slice of pizza on a beautiful Jerusalem afternoon.

I recall once reading a story of a boy who was saved from a near-drowning by a stranger. As the fellow carried him ashore, the boy looked up and said, “thanks for saving my life, mister.” To which the man responded: “Just make sure it was worth saving.”

Tonight we celebrate Shabbat. All over Israel, in eight hours, parents will bless their children at the Shabbat table. I imagine we will all hug them a little tighter this week.

Wherever you are, and whomever you are, be with us here, in Yerushalyim, and offer up a prayer for all those who lost loved ones in that terrible tragedy.

Rabbi Binny Friedman works for the Isralight Institute in Jerusalem and lives in Efrat.

Requiem for a Dream?

Deanna Armbruster doesn’t pull any punches.

The Los Angeles-based executive director of a Jewish-arab cooperative village in Israel is used to promoting an often-controversial cause, but these days her job has become even tougher. “We have been greatly impacted, obviously,” she said the Los Angeles-based executive director of American Friends of Neve Shalom Wahat al-Salam. Neve Shalom, midway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, has served as an ethnic-relations experiment for nearly two decades.

About 300 Jewish and Palestinian children attend the village’s School of Peace each year. The intent, of course, is part of a long-term investment to improve frayed cultural ties between both communities.

So it was dismaying for Armbruster last fall when, during a visit with the residents of Neve Shalom, she learned that violence had broken out between Jews and Palestinians just beyond what in English translates as “oasis of peace.”

“It was extremely stressful,” she recalled. “People were up all night watching their television sets. The mood was somber.”

The idealistic promise symbolized by this model village seemed to be collapsing all around them, reverting to bloody conflict.

What Armbruster wouldn’t realize until her return to Los Angeles was how uphill the effort to keep American Jews committed to her cause would become. As her organization and other nonprofit enterprises devoted to Israeli-Palestinian coexistence have discovered, the latest intifada in Israel has had a ripple effect on the morale and fundraising efforts of American organizations that support lofty mission statements of unity and peace. Neve Shalom’s L.A. headquarters, for example, was forced to drop plans for both its biannual fundraising events.

“In the past, we have had events bringing two sides together,” said Myer Sankary, director of Neve Shalom’s national board and chairman of the L.A. chapter. “We’re not doing any public events; the emotions are too raw. We’re going to foundations and individuals, but right now it’s getting hard to get individuals to get up and take the heat.”

“There’s been concern over the village and the school” among L.A. benefactors, Armbruster added. “Either friends have stood by and continued to support us more avidly than before, or they have stepped back and said that they need more time to understand the situation.”

American Friends of Neve Shalom is not the only group reeling from the situation in Israel. Others have also been feeling the pinch of skittish donors or have had to redirect their efforts as they adjust to the deteriorating situation overseas.

Melisse Lewine-Boskovich, who with her Palestinian counterpart, Rula Hamdan, directs Peace Child Israel in Tel Aviv, recently made a stop at Santa Monica’s 18th Street Arts Complex to talk about her program. While the work that Peace Child does — uniting Israeli and Palestinian 10th-graders in a yearlong, performing-arts-based cultural exchange — was inspiring, attendance at Boskovich’s West Coast appearance was underwhelming, drawing fewer than 10 people, including restless kids and a few adults who nodded off during the presentation.

“People are incredibly depressed,” said Boskovich, speaking of the mood back in Israel. “I don’t call it a setback. It’s an awakening.”

Evidently, that mood has dampened the fundraising spirit. Boskovich commented that four of Peace Child Israel’s 10 workshops closed this year, due to a lack of funding.

L.A. resident Judith Jenya founded and runs the Global Children’s Organization (GLO), which provides cross-community summer programs for children from conflict-torn environments. Since 1992, nearly 2,000 children have taken part in her camps, which include Protestant/Catholic programs throughout Ireland and a camp at a Bosnian/Croatian site. A day before she was due to fly to Bosnia to oversee the latter project (now in its ninth year), Jenya discussed with the Journal her organization’s one aborted mission. Originally slated for last November, “Children of the Red Sea” was supposed to have brought Israeli and Palestinian youth together. Unfortunately, parents from both communities made creation of the camp a logistical nightmare.

“It became very, very hard to get people to cooperate, from all sides. People were incredibly frightened about crossing a border,” said Jenya, 60. As a Jew and a Holocaust survivor’s daughter, she felt this disappointment very deeply.

“There’s definitely been a breakdown of communication” between Arabs and Jews, reported Jordan Elgrably, who, with Munir Shaikh, co-directs Open Tent, a local Arab-Jewish cultural coalition. For a decade now, the part-Moroccan, part-Jewish Elgrably has been on the forefront of working to remedy stilted relations between members of what he has tagged as “a dysfunctional family.” In fact, Open Tent will hold its latest forum at UCLA this weekend (see information on page 46), when progressive Jewish and Palestinian speakers will engage on panels discussing issues affecting both communities.

Elgrably believes that the need for forums such as Open Tent and the recent JUNITY conference in Chicago is more crucial than ever. As he sees it, the deterioration of ties between Arabs and Jews will continue as long as both sides avoid doing the real social interaction required — especially mainstream American Jews, who, he said, continue to view Israel as an underdog rather than an oppressor. From his experience, most Palestinians have made peace with the idea of a Jewish state.

“They’re not thinking we’re going to destroy Israel one day,” Elgrably said. “They just want to have their homeland and move on.”

Sankary echoed Elgrably’s sentiments regarding what he calls a ham-fisted Sharon administration and post-Oslo failures. But politics, he observed, are almost irrelevant.

“What about the people who have to live there?” he asked. “How would you feel living there? Have we done everything possible? Are we going to blame the Arabs for this situation, or are we going to do something about it?”

Some organizations supporting coexistence programs nevertheless maintain that recent violence has not dampened fundraising efforts.

The Shefa Fund, a national Jewish progressive grant-allocating foundation that invests in institutions such as the Center for Jewish-Arab Economic Development in Israel, will embark on creating a local presence beginning June 1. Rabbi Mordechai Liebling, who directs the Shefa Fund out of its Philadelphia national offices, told the Journal, “We really haven’t had much of an impact. They were contributing before, and they’re giving now. Our particular experience is that there continues to be a solid commitment toward efforts for peace and building bridges between Palestinians and Israel.”

Liebling noted that his nonprofit group raised $80,000 to publicize its Olive Trees for Peace campaign and recently ran a full-page advertisement in The New York Times calling for Israel to end its West Bank occupation and for Palestinians to stop the violence. Liebling emphasized the importance of continuing to reach out to Palestinians and said he hopes to see Shefa’s effort to replant trees destroyed in Palestinian villages by Israeli tanks culminate next Tu B’Shevat with a formal West Bank ceremony.

Regional Director David Moses of Los Angeles’ New Israel Fund (NIF) chapter confirmed that, regarding funds at his organization, “some were reallocated internally, some externally, but we’ve had no decrease in contributions.” The mission of the group, a grant-making entity, is to promote pluralism and equal rights in Israel.

Then there was last month’s successful gathering at Stanley Sheinbaum’s Brentwood home, which attracted a nexus of high-profile people, including American Jewish Committee National President Bruce Ramer and OLAM’s David Suissa. Ostensibly, the draw at this private reception was Oslo accords negotiator Dennis Ross. Yet it was the pair of Israeli teenagers who followed, speaking in broken English, who made the biggest impact. Aviv Liron and Adham Rishmawi, both 18 and citizens of Israel, were on hand as ambassadors of Seeds of Peace, a neutral, apolitical program that each year brings 400 Israeli and Palestinian teenagers to an Otisfield, Maine, summer camp in an effort to put historical baggage aside and encourage social bonding.

Both Rishmawi, an Arab, and Liron, a Jew, held their audience spellbound with personal accounts of discrimination and suffering in Israel and testimony of the constructive work being done at Seeds. The teenagers’ impassioned endorsement apparently resonated with listeners. According to project coordinator Michael Wallach, Seeds of Peace has been able to sustain its annual $2 million budget, despite the events of the past few months, thanks to continued enthusiastic support from individual donors and small foundations. (Next week’s Circuit column will have more details on this event.)

If anything, say organizers, the events that have unfolded in the Middle East since Sept. 29 have added a deeper layer of meaning to causes bent on Jewish-Arab unity.

“We believe that coexistence is inevitable, and the sooner these issues are dealt with, the sooner these conditions will dissipate,” Moses said.

And key to bringing about the dissipation will be education and awareness.

“The attitude, from our perspective, [is that] there is more demand than ever before for coexistence programs,” Sankary said. “The hostilities and violence are the result of the failure to do what we’ve been saying — that is, to educate both sides.”

Locally, nonprofit arms of NIF, Neve Shalom, and other organizations have been countering their PR problems through a more vigorous dissemination of information and updates to prospective benefactors.

“On the one hand, we can look where we have to go. On the other hand, where we’ve come,” said Moses of NIF, which supports such enterprises as the Association of Civil Rights in Israel (Israel’s ACLU), Arab Women Leadership Training, and Lel-Khwarezmi, which assists college-bound Bedouins. “We need to continue to address these issues, to empower these people and advocate on their behalf, so they can be more productive members of Israeli society. If Arab kids have a stronger education, they are more likely to have higher education.”

Those involved in promoting coexistence ventures are understandably defensive about being portrayed as naive or idealistic.

“What we do is not naive,” said Wallach, the son of Seeds of Peace founder John Wallach. “My father was a reporter for 30 years. He wrote books on the Middle East. Not all of the kids that come through our program become best friends, but a good amount become very good friends. That’s real. That’s not fake, that’s not phony.”

Americans for Peace Now (APN) founder and policy director Mark Rosenblum insisted that, judging from past APN conferences between Jews and Arabs, “many relationships were forged from these dialogues. They put brakes on violence and incitement and stereotyping.”

“The sad fact is that peace advocates are lumped together as post-Zionists,” said Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller, director of UCLA Hillel and no stranger to Los Angeles’ progressive Jewish circles. “Coexistence is not a foreign term that comes out of the left as a critique or as a contrary force. It’s the very essence of Zion and of establishing and sustaining the State of Israel.”

Ultimately, those in the grass-roots trenches admit that they don’t have all the answers. Yet they are confident that they are raising the right questions and promoting the right actions.

To accusations of being Pollyannaish, Sankary responds that the 20,000 kids who have passed through Neve Shalom’s School for Peace over the years represent a good start in replacing the cycle of hate with a cycle of peace.

In fact, Neve Shalom supporters see plenty of reason to keep hope alive. In October, at the Neve Shalom village, something positive emerged during all of the tumult. For the first time, the community’s Arab and Jewish members took a proactive stand, organizing more than 200 people to demonstrate in Tel Aviv in the name of peace. And, as if by a miracle, the village of Neve Shalom Wahat al-Salam thus far has weathered the turmoil unscathed.

“Being there, it renewed my faith in the whole project,” Armbruster said. “People were coming together and dialoguing. I’m not trying to present the village as some sort of utopian vision — there was real pain and emotional conflict. But they were coming together and sharing their experiences, their fears, their worries.”

“It’s not easy to change people’s attitudes that they’ve harbored for a long time,” Sankary said. “It’s going to take a lot of commitment from people considered idealistic.”

Open Tent Middle East Coalition will host “The Israeli/Palestinian Crisis: New Conversations for a Pluralist Future” at UCLA on Sunday, May 20. The event will feature roundtables, entertainers, and, among other speakers, Rashid Khalidi, Palestinian historian and director of the University of Chicago’s Center for International Studies, and former Knesset member Marcia Freedman. Americans for Peace Now, New Israel Fund, Workmen’s Circle, Muslim Public Affairs Council, and UC Irvine Center for Global Conflict are among the co-sponsors. For more information, call (323) 650-3157 or visit

The Los Angeles Chapter of New Israel Fund’s New Generations Young Adult Group will be hosting “Empowerment From Within: Building the Bedouin Community,” featuring personal reflections of young Bedouin activist Amal al Sana-Alhajuj, on May 22, 7 — 9 p.m., at the Ruth Bachofner Gallery in Bergamot Station, Santa Monica. For more information, contact Andrea Nussbaum at (310) 282-0300 or via or visit

For more information on Americans for Peace Now, contact David Pine at (310) 858-3002 or visit

For more information on American Friends of Neve Shalom Wahat al-Salam, call (818) 325-8884 or go to

For more information on Peace Child Israel, write to Peace Child Israel, P.O. Box 3669, Tel Aviv, 61036; or contact New Israel Fund at (310) 282-0300.

For more information on Seeds of Peace, call (212) 573-8040 or visit

Idylls and Ideals

Raphaella Segal acts like an enthusiastic booster from any small town eager to lure new residents.

She carries a briefcase full of multicolored brochures boasting of her community’s comfortable climate, panoramic views, affordable housing, fine schools, good public transportation and congenial atmosphere.

But then there’s the page listing some of the community’s current needs: 40 bulletproof vests at $1,200 each, an armored ambulance at $150,000, two armored jeeps and emergency generators.

Segal is a representative of Kedumim, billed as “The First Jewish Settlement in Samaria.” She has come to the United States to enlist the ideological and financial support of Jews and Christians for her municipality, and, in a larger sense, for the Jewish settlement enterprise in the West Bank.

Many people, in Israel and abroad, see the 200,000-plus Jewish settlers as provocateurs whose presence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip — land that may one day become a Palestinian state — is an obstacle to peace.

For settlers and their supporters, however, the presence of Jews in areas that were the cradle of biblical Jewish civilization is perfectly natural, even divinely sanctioned.

Despite nearly half a year of violence in the West Bank and Gaza — including daily attacks on Jewish settlements and Israeli vehicles — Segal sought to assure listeners on her fundraising tour that life in Kedumim continues as usual.

Segal is a lively Orthodox woman who at 47 has nine children and five grandchildren. When not on two-week tours of the United States, which she makes about five times a year, she works as an optometrist at a hospital in Petach Tikvah and runs a private eye clinic in Tel Aviv.

Kedumim — literally, “ancient times” — was established during Chanukah 1975 by nationalist religious Israelis. Many were alumni of B’nai Akivah youth groups and identified with the Gush Emunim, or “Bloc of the Faithful,” settlement movement.

Located about 25 miles east of Tel Aviv and three miles west of Nablus, Kedumim is built on several hills, and on a clear day one can see the Mediterranean coastal plain. The settlement’s population of 3,500 lives in 10 linked neighborhoods.

Most residents are Orthodox. The community has separate elementary and high schools for boys and girls — and no mixed swimming in its pool — but, Segal insists, “we are not intolerant.”

Kedumim has absorbed 60 non-Orthodox Russian families and 10 Ethiopian families. An additional 100 Ethiopian girls study in the high school “without government support,” Segal points out. There also are 50 French and five American families.

Segal ticks off other features of Kedumim: a special school for children with attention deficit disorders, a music school, senior citizens club, Holocaust research center, archaeological museum, industrial park, agricultural area, greenhouses, orchards and guest houses for tourists.

Many Israelis believe that most Jewish settlements will have to be abandoned in any final peace deal with the Palestinians — or even without one, according to the “unilateral separation” plan advanced by former Prime Minister Ehud Barak and his supporters on the left.

Yet Kedumim residents maintain a cheery optimism. Some 200 new homes are being built, and Segal says the community hopes to grow to 10,000 residents within five years.

So pleasant a place is Kedumim, Segal says, that in contrast to many kibbutzim, most of the founders’ children and grandchildren stay put, building their own homes in new neighborhoods.

For all its idyllic-sounding features, however, Kedumim today is an embattled town that sees itself as the guardian of the Land of Israel against Palestinian terror and Israeli “appeasers.”

“Kedumim protects western Samaria” — the northern part of the West Bank — “from further Palestinian encroachment from the east,” one brochure notes. “To the south and east lie the small isolated settlements near Shechem,” the Hebrew name for Nablus.

“A strong Kedumim is their best chance for survival, as Palestinian territory and terrorism creep toward them,” the brochure states.

Segal conveys a pervasive sense that her town is the defender of true Zionism. Her sentences are studded with such phrases as, “We are doing the work of the Jewish people,” or “We feel the burden of history to stay here.”

Since the outbreak of Palestinian violence last fall, Kedumim’s siege mentality has intensified. One resident, Rabbi Benjamin Herling, was killed in October when a group of settlers who had gone hiking near Nablus came under Palestinian gunfire.

“We constantly listen to the radio for news of new terrorist attacks,” Segal says. “Some people won’t travel at night. We are always on guard. Some kids are showing psychological problems.”

Kedumim is flanked on two sides by Arab villages, whose residents still work in the settlement’s olive groves despite the violence, Segal says.

“We have no trouble with the local Arabs, though they no longer buy at our supermarket,” she continues.

Kedumim voters enthusiastically welcomed the election of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who has visited the town on a number of occasions.

As for the future, she predicts: “It will get worse in the short term, but better in the long run.”

The Toll of Violence

Friday night, the kids had gone to bed, and we found ourselves in the living room with some long-overdue quiet time. I was reading Tom Segev’s book, “One Palestine, Complete,” a revisionist account of the British Mandate, at a point in the book in which he spells out the seemingly unending cycle of violence between Jews and Arabs in the 1920s and 1930s. I happened to glance up for a moment and saw my wife, Elisheva, reading that morning’s paper. The front page was capped by a large headline, “One Killed in Taxi Bombing.” Two days later, the paper led off with “Three Killed by Suicide Bomber in Netanya.” Bottom line: It’s been about 85 years or so since the British took this place over from the Turks, and nothing much seems to have changed.

The sense that there’s no way out of this has gripped the country and, in a way that is hard to describe, has made it a radically different place than it was even two months ago. Life now feels surreal. The tension is virtually indescribable, the sense of imminent explosion palpable. And no one — at least no one sane — has any idea what to do about it.

We were at a bat mitzvah party about two weeks ago. Early in the evening, a few people organized a minyan for a quick ma’ariv on the side of the hotel lobby. I joined them. No one had siddurim, but most of us knew it by heart, so it didn’t really matter. Halfway through, though, I noticed that a good number of the men were davening off of their PalmPilots, on which they’d saved the texts of ma’ariv. It seemed that I was one of the few without my PalmPilot out, and, I noticed, I was one of the very few without a pistol stuck into the back of his belt. New dress code for Israeli bat mitzvah parties, it seems: dark pants, white shirt, Palm V and a pistol in the back. Thank God it’s still no ties.

That’s Israeli life today: part Europe, with academic, cultural and technological sophistication, part Middle East and Africa, with everyone armed and either willing or eager to fight. Not the place to which we thought we were coming when we made aliyah a few years ago. Last week, late one evening, the house was very quiet, and we were both just about asleep, when the quiet was shattered by a relatively brief burst of gunfire from Beit Jala. Suddenly completely awake, Elisheva said to me, “You know, don’t you, that if this was our sabbatical year, there’s no way we would have stayed.” It was obviously true, but the implications were so far-reaching that I really didn’t know what to say.

Not, by the way, that either of us has regrets. We don’t have a country of our own because people chose not to be here when the going got a bit unpleasant. The place is ours because people stuck it out, and for me, the times that were always hardest to be in the States where when things like this happened. It was at moments like that that I really felt most guilty, and ironically, I think we both feel more committed to staying than we ever have before. But to say that we’re having a grand old time would be a bit too much.

As I look back on the last few weeks, trying to figure out when things changed, I think that the real turning point was the bus murder at the soldiers’ bus stop (the one that Arafat, our “peace partner,” called a “traffic accident”). It was a turning point, not only because more people died in that incident than in any other of recent memory, but because it destroyed many of the assumptions people here had taken for granted.

Assumption: The security guys know what they’re doing, and if they let a Palestinian in to work, they have good reason. Reality: the driver had had his security clearance renewed two weeks earlier, and no one suspected anything. Bottom line: anyone is now a potential terrorist, and we’ve got no way to weed them out.

Assumption: Having your kid in the army these days is no fun, but if your kid is serving inside the Green Line, he or she will be OK. Even the terrorists know the unwritten rule that you don’t “do stuff” inside the green line. Reality: forget the Green Line. Jerusalem, Netanya, the Tel Aviv road are all game. The old rules are no longer.

Assumption: Some girls don’t like being in the army, but at least they know they’re safe. The work may be boring or tedious, and the army may be (i.e., is) sexist, but you can’t get killed if you’re a girl. Reality: six of the eight people killed were young women in uniform, all where they were because they were going back to their bases.

We’d thought — all of us — that we were beyond this. Camp David didn’t work, OK, but how far apart could they really be? Very, it now seems. These days, all bets are off, all the rules are changing. And the most powerful armed force in the Middle East has absolutely no idea what to do. The frustration, even rage, is becoming palpable.

In the midst of all this, we try to remind ourselves that not everything is as it was during the Mandate. History does move forward, even if at a snail’s pace, and this time around, much is different. We’re a sovereign state, Hebrew has been reborn, virtually half the world’s Jews and the majority of Jewish children now live here. Sure, life here is a bit unpleasant and the future uncertain. But as our kids go to bed to the sound of gunfire at night and I wonder how we could have brought them to this, I remember books like Segev’s and realize how far we’ve come. We’ve gotten here because Jews from across the globe chose not to watch history but to make it. Perhaps, I hope, when my kids tuck their own kids into bed under the Jerusalem sky, the history they’ve made will have wrought something very different.

Dr. Daniel Gordis and his family made aliyah from Los Angeles in 1999. He is director of the Jerusalem Fellows program at the Mandel School in Jerusalem, and the author, most recently, of “Becoming a Jewish Parent” (Crown)

Your Letters


As introduction to Judaism course director and director of Reform Jewish Outreach for the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC), Pacific Southwest Council, our observations do not square with the views expressed in a recent Jewish Journal article (“Opposing Intermarriage,” March 9). From our experience with hundreds of mixed-married couples, we have found the following to be true:

1) In introduction to Judaism classes and UAHC congregations, it is very frequently the partner who was not born Jewish who insists on a Jewish education for themselves and their children.

2) By making strong statements against intermarriage, the phenomenon will not go away. That was tried for the last hundred years without any success. Contemporary Reform Jewish outreach seeks “to take intermarriage out of the house of mourning and place it in the house of study,” as we were taught by Rabbi Alexander Schindler, z”l.

People who chose Judaism as adults now fill temple leadership positions all over the country. Many of these people were introduced to Judaism by marrying a Jewish person.

We think that it is far more productive to welcome couples who wish to explore Judaism than to shut the door before they have had an opportunity to learn. We do not want the Jewish community to be lulled into a false sense of security by assuming that Jews marrying Jews will in itself guarantee a strong sense of Jewish identity.

Rabbi Jerrold Goldstein, Associate DirectorUAHC Pacific Southwest Council

Arlene Sarah Chernow, Regional Outreach DirectorUAHC Pacific Southwest Council

Teresa Strasser

I just want to write in support of Teresa Strasser’s column. I couldn’t disagree more with Sydell Sigel’s letter (Letters, March 9). I am a 51-year-old teacher, and her column is the one that I never miss. She is witty and amusing, and I often cut out articles for my 24-year-old daughter.

Karen Berrenson, via e-mail

Very rarely are we allowed into people’s private thoughts and feelings. It is a privilege and a rare occurrence.

We should not squash or obliterate such insight. Let’s be open and allow ourselves to contemplate feelings that are somewhat universal.

I am, of course, referring to Teresa Strasser.

Pauline Bennett, Los Angeles

Presidential Pardon

Clinton did exactly what the constitutional framers mandated when they vested the pardoning power exclusively in the president (not the Justice Department, prosecutors, judges, Congress or even the public). Clinton determined that Rich and Green were discriminatorily overprosecuted. Clinton also determined that Vignali’s 15-year sentence for his first drug conviction was another example of excessive federal punishment. It was also completely proper for Clinton to factor in the good works and influential references that were submitted to him on behalf of Rich, Green and Vignali.However unpopular Clinton’s pardons may have been, they were honorable and even courageous presidential actions.

Ben Kagan, Hollywood

Special Needs

Many thanks for Michelle Wolf’s article (“What Do You Say to a Parent of a Disabled Child?,” Feb. 23) Parenting a child with special needs can be a lonely, isolating experience. While the law favors inclusion, the realities of our social and religious lives often promote exclusion. As the parent of a child with autism, I read the ads for Jewish camps and day schools in The Jewish Journal and I weep, knowing that my son may never be able to participate. Most of these programs are not equipped to provide for children with developmental delays. There is a large, ever-growing population of children with special needs in the Jewish community of greater Los Angeles. I sincerely hope that The Jewish Journal will run more articles that will promote understanding and acceptance of this unique part of our community.

Yudi Bennett, Glendale

Palestinian Unrest

I found the letter by Luis Lainer, co-chair of the Southern California Region of Americans for Peace Now, extremely dangerous and objectionable (Letters, Feb. 16).

The Arabs who fled the country of Palestine in 1948, when war broke out because the surrounding Arab countries attacked the Jews without provocation, amounted to the same number of Jews who were forced to flee Arab countries. The Arabs who fled could have taken the place of those Jews and the problem could have been solved. However, Arabs, via the Arab League, announced that they wanted the situation to be an open sore and wanted to use the Arabs who fled as a pawn against Israel.

I would also like to call attention to the fact that King Hussein of Jordan murdered 20,000 Arafat trouble-makers on Black September. Arafat and his hordes then moved to Lebanon where he made a bloody mess that resulted in Syria’s move into the country. After the Gulf War, Kuwait hurriedly expelled 300,000 Palestinians after some had acted as a fifth column for Iraq. Each time we heard no protests from the world.Can you imagine what would happen if Israel took such steps to rid themselves of Arafat and his mobs who have made everyday travel on Israeli roads a hazard?

Open your eyes and ears, Mr. Lainer. Don’t just repeat the false drivel we read in our one-sided newspaper accounts and see on CNN. Our people deserve better than that.

Sylvia Kellerman,Los Angeles

The Messenger

I was overcome with waves of nostalgia while reading Michael Aushenker’s story on the history of Jewish journalism in Los Angeles (“News Machers,” March 2). Kudos to The Journal under new editor Rob Eshman and Aushenker for being “large” enough to view themselves with perspective and in historical context.

I was hired by Joseph Jonah Cummins in 1977, one year out of journalism school. By then the volatile publisher of The Messenger was a sad parody of himself. The feisty nature that most likely served him well as a Hollywood attorney had turned to a bitter vindictiveness toward a Jewish community that he felt never fully appreciated him.

In 1981, I introduced Cummins’ widow, Laurel Cummins, who inherited the paper after Joseph died, to Rabbi Yale Butler, son of a Pittsburgh magazine publisher, who subsequently purchased the paper. In retrospect, this was the beginning of the end of The Messenger. In the 1990s, the paper, which once engendered remarkable reader loyalty, was sold again. It suffered a series of ill-conceived name changes, ownership disputes, periods of nonpublication and general lack of respect for its proud history.

The end of The Messenger is a story that should someday be told. How can a paper which came into thousands of Jewish homes every Friday for over 100 years simply disappear without a word, even in its own pages?

Ron Solomon, Executive DirectorWest Coast Friends of Bar-Ilan University

Fish Is Fish

I am in the eighth grade and attend L.A. Hebrew High School. I am writing to express my opinion in response to Jane Ulman’s article (“Piscatorial Compassion,” Feb. 23).The article struck me because I keep kosher and like fishing. My opinion is that fish is fish and should not be considered meat.

Even if fish is parve and different from meat, I agree with the author that we still have to think about whether we should go fishing. According to the Torah, G-d says we may kill an animal for food, so it would be okay to fish for food. I think catching and releasing fish is fine because your intention is not to kill the fish. I don’t think it is good to catch a fish and mount it on the wall because G-d says you may only kill an animal for food.

Jared Nager, Calabasas

Cover Complaint

I appreciate The Journal’s eagerness to deliver complimentary copies of the newspaper to my congregation on a weekly basis. However, a front-page photo of an immodestly portrayed Queen Esther had no yiddishe ta’am (March 2). At a time when we endeavor to shield our children from inappropriate billboard graphics, The Journal’s decision to send this shmutz into our sanctuary was extremely ill-suited.

Rabbi Yitzchak Sapochkinsky, Chabad of Westlake Village

Letters 02/16 – 02/22 2001

For Zachary

It was wonderful to see an article written about my son, but I was pained when it failed to mention he had a father (“Zachary’s Legacy,” Feb. 9). Zachary was not raised by his mother alone. I was in the delivery room when he was born and was there every day afterward during the good and bad times.

Lily and I separated in January 1999, and I moved out of the house. However, I was there every night and weekend taking care of my son with Lily. While sitting shiva, Rabbi Mentz spoke to us about the book of Judaica, and Lily and I discussed honoring our son’s memory with this book.

We are going through a divorce now, but I think it is important and only fair to Zachary’s memory to remember his father, too. There is not a day that goes by that I do not think about Zachary and how much I miss him. Lily and I went through an ordeal that no two people should have to go through with a child.

Zachary was truly a blessing in my life. I learned so much from him, even though he couldn’t speak, walk or play. I’m such a better person because of him, and he touched so many lives. He was put on this earth for a reason — to change people for the better. He fulfilled his duty a hundred times over.

Mark L. Kaufman, Sherman Oaks

Sharing Blame

There is more than a bit of irony in Jonathan Kellerman’s recent opinion piece (“Grand Denial,” Jan. 26). While painting a picture wherein “ideologues” on the Israeli left have simply ignored the abuses of the Palestinians in the false belief that peace was coming, Kellerman denies a significant part of the reality by not mentioning it.

Yes, the Palestinians have committed serious violations and have tragically damaged the cause of peace. But what about the reality of the expansion of Jewish settlements over the past seven years, as well as the network of “Jewish-only” roads and tunnels that dissect the territories? If there is to be a “demonstration of good will on both sides and predicated upon strict adherence to clearly enunciated criteria” — as the writer suggested — none of us should be in denial about Israel’s contributions to the current situation.

Luis Lainer, Co-Chair, Southern California Region Americans for Peace Now

Kosher Dodger Dogs

There’s about as much a chance of getting kosher hot dogs into Dodger Stadium as there is Ariel Sharon winning the Nobel Peace Prize (“Hot Dog Blues,” Feb. 9). The folks at Farmer John have a virtual lock on the concession which, despite the fact they do not offer a comparable product, the Dodger front office is unwilling to challenge. It’s a shame that Hebrew National won’t be joining the ranks of King Taco, Yoshinoya and Pizza Hut anytime soon, but hats off to those who are leading the effort for culinary inclusion. In the meantime, I, too, can only dream about the day when I can share the hot-dog-at-the-ballgame experience with my kids.

Paul L. Abrams, Encino

L’Chayim Radio’

How disappointing that KCSN doesn’t feel able to continue its Jewish program (“‘L’Chayim Radio’ Silenced,” Feb. 9), just when KGIL pushed its commercial Jewish program, “Israel Today,” back to 8 a.m. Sundays so as not to compete with it.

What a betrayal of the legacy of Frieda B. Hennock, the first female FCC commissioner, whose advocacy led to the setting aside of 20 percent of the FM band for educational use and the reservation of an educational television channel in each major city. Her whole idea was to create places for such “narrowly focused” programming.

Ironically, a later commission rejected an application by the University of Judaism (UJ) for 90.7 FM, the frequency it chose to award to the Pacifica Foundation of Berkeley. Maybe they thought the UJ’s programming might be too “narrowly focused.”

Thomas D. Bratter, Los Angeles

Tay-Sachs Testing

I was pleased to see your Tay-Sachs article (“A Decrease in Vigilance,” Jan. 26). It is imperative that the Jewish community be made strongly aware of the need for genetic testing.

Our first child was born in May 1947, and he had developmental problems within 6 months of birth. We were told that our son was the first Tay-Sachs child diagnosed in Los Angeles. He survived for 2 1/2 years, almost totally helpless and blind.

In the 1960s, we became acquainted with other Tay-Sachs parents and organized the Tay-Sachs Research Associates of the City of Hope. We met regularly for several years and had fundraising events. But these meetings brought back all the trauma, making it even harder to deal with emotionally.

During the early phases of developing the Tay-Sachs testing at UCLA, my wife, a known carrier, was used as a control. Many of our nieces and nephews volunteered to be tested.

Please continue with this work. The possibility of preventing even one more couple from suffering the trauma and anguish of having a Tay-Sachs child will be well worth the effort.

Max Lipshultz, Encino

Jewish-Arab Conflict

I think that Leonard Fein’s article reveals such woeful ignorance of the history of the Jewish-Arab conflict that it misrepresents both “our narrative” and theirs (“Listening,” Dec. 1).

Jews have lived in Hebron with only sporadic interruptions for thousands of years, drawn because it is one of the four holy cities of Judaism. The modern Jewish settlement of Hebron dates back to 1540, when exiles from Spain came to live near the Cave of the Patriarchs, the second holiest site for Jews. On the eve of World War I, 2,000 Jews lived in Hebron beside 5,000 Arabs.

The Jews lived on good terms with their Arab neighbors. So high was the Jewish level of trust in the local Arabs, with whom they had lived side by side for generations, that when the Arab riots of 1929 broke out all over Palestine and the Haganah appeared in Hebron to defend the Jewish population, the Jewish leaders sent them away.

The very next day, the Arabs rose up against their Jewish neighbors and killed 67 of them. And the only difference between the barbarity of the Hebron pogrom of 1929 and the Ramallah lynching of 2000 was that the latter was recorded on video.

Since Fein blames the Arab violence and barbarism on our humiliating them, how does he explain the Hebron riots, which repeated themselves all over Palestine from 1920 until the founding of the State of Israel in 1948, a period when the British ruled and the Jews had no power whatsoever to humiliate anyone?

Before Fein and those who hold similar beliefs again put Jewish lives at the mercy of our Arab neighbors by endorsing an armed Palestinian state within range of every Jewish town, you would do well to study recent history.

Sara Rigler, Jerusalem

I have a dream that Israeli children and adults can and will be able to walk and be passengers in autos and buses in perfect safety from Arab violence all over Israel, which includes the various settlements. After returning from an intensive six-week visit to the Holy Land, I have come to some conclusions based on firsthand experiences.

The Oslo Accords are a dismal failure. I found that the only real peace solution between Arabs and Jews is the permanent separation of the two honorable peoples. For the 22 Arab nations, it would not be a great task to take in their Arab brothers and sisters now living in Israel.

Real borders can then be established and peace between the nations can be based on peace for peace. The United States and the rest of the world must come to realize that this is the only permanent solution possible under the circumstances.

The best way to support Israel is to come to visit as much as possible, and by our show of strength we encourage our brethren in Israel. I was privileged to be everywhere by foot and public transportation without any fear of any danger.

Bernard Nichols, Los Angeles

The Mobs Rule

One of the things that continues to astound me is the attention the world media pay to the intifada. Let a few Palestinian teenagers start hurling stones, and you can count on CNN to record the event as if it were history in the making, instead of what it really is: a prepackaged segment of the evening news, the proof of which is that the stonings cease the second the cameras stop rolling. For me, the real story has never been told: namely, where do all those stones come from? Is there a Libyan arms factory devoted to turning out rubble?

For the life of me, I can not fathom how the Arabs manage to get propaganda mileage out of sticking youngsters in harm’s way. It’s no secret, after all, that the Palestinians thrive on martyrs, and the younger the better. One minute, a kid is throwing rocks and the next moment he’s died in the crossfire, and instead of taking the Arabs to task for placing children, Hitler-fashion, in the front lines, the civilized world is encouraged once again to condemn Israel.

This whole notion, though, that world opinion should be determined by testosterone-driven displays of adolescent bravado is a disturbing trend. It was brought home for me when, in the wake of the first Rodney King verdict, thousands of young hooligans ran amuck, looting and burning. That sorry episode was declared a political rebellion by lots of people who should have known better; it was, in fact, nothing more than an excuse to misbehave on a grand scale, with virtually no fear of being held accountable. As I said at the time, it’s a rebellion when you toss the tea overboard; it’s plain old fashioned rioting when you take the tea, or, rather, the TV, home with you.

I always wondered if those people who attempted to elevate the pillaging to something it clearly wasn’t also believe the miniriots that greet sports championships in our major cities are political in nature. I suppose if a dozen vehicles get overturned and set ablaze, and one of them happens to be a patrol car, some folks will invariably drag in "oppressed people" and "civil disobedience." As a rule, they are the same bunch of knotheads who defend graffiti (so long as it’s not sprayed on their walls) as folk art.

When you have generations of kids being indoctrinated with the nobility of dying for a cause, you will never lack for suicidal volunteers. It is, after all, from the ranks of the young and highly impressionable males that those who aspire to running with the bulls in Pamplona, joining kamikaze squads and spilling their blood for Yasser Arafat are inevitably drawn. But when you get past all the ballyhoo and baloney, it all comes down to boys showing off for girls.

The instinct itself isn’t either good or bad. It’s just what it is. What is important is that the rest of the world should not be blinded to the truth and shouldn’t be sucked in by the basest form of propaganda.

In short, tossing stones should not be confused with a holy mission when, in fact, it is nothing more or less than the way young Palestinians get their rocks off.

Your Letters 01/19/00 – 01-26/00

Ehud Barak

After seven years of Israel making heroic concessions in return for terrorism, genocidal hatred and official calls for Israel’s destruction, Rob Eshman still supports Barak’s efforts at the negotiating table (“Men and Martyrs,” Jan. 12). In my view, that’s dignified and I respect his right to express it. Yet, he could not tolerate Rabbi Marvin Hier’s opposing view, going so far as to lecture him for “not lauding” Prime Minister Barak.

Once again, we see that fanaticism and intolerance thrive on both the left and the right. Indeed, when it comes to smugness, we truly are one people.

David Suissa, Founder and Editor OLAM Magazine

Hard-hitting editorial; not enough of those. The Jew who rides in a bus that is blown up, who gets shot at, stoned, goes to funerals of loved ones cut down in their prime, that Jew will determine the future of Israel, not Ronald Lauder, Marvin Hier or any of the high-profile Diaspora Jews. I, for one, feel somewhat inert when the subject of Israel’s survival comes up; ashamed at times of hiding behind my Diaspora status and therefore giving up the right to criticize Israeli policies. When Israel is concerned, I trust and hope I know my place and limitations. I wish more of our Jewish leaders would feel the same way.

Maurice Kornberg, Los Angeles

Rob Eshman is way off the mark. Ehud Barak will, in all likelihood, be remembered as the worst prime minister Israel has ever had. Barak, along with many on the left, manipulates democracy to further his own aims. The majority of Israelis want to send him home since he has brought war to our doorstep by an abysmal lack of understanding of the current appeasement process. He has also zigged and zagged on virtually every issue he’s had to deal with in the last year and a half.

Israelis are desperate for quality leadership. After Barak, just about anyone would be an improvement. We certainly deserve better and, as those who care about Israel, so do you.

Eve Harow, Efrat, Israel

Ehud Barak has not been abandoned because he sought to make peace with the Arabs, it’s because he refuses to deal with the reality that is now facing the Israeli people. That reality is a “peace partner” who doesn’t want peace, an Arab population that prefers to continue its current intifada instead of negotiate, and whose only future negotiation goals are total annexation of Jerusalem and an intent to flood Israel with millions of so-called Palestinian refugees who will destroy the country from within.

In addition, knowing that he doesn’t have the support of the Israeli people, having resigned from the position of prime minister for personal political gain, Barak then sought to write in granite concessions that will jeopardize Israel’s physical existence, as well as give up the symbols of its 3,000-year history. He did all of this in a desperate bid to hold onto his political power.

American Jews have not only the right but the obligation to stand up and support the Jewish people in its effort to hold on to Jerusalem and its very right to exist as a nation. Ron Lauder is a genuine hero — being one of the few American Jews willing to take a stand for Jerusalem. Instead of vilifying him, you should give him a hero’s welcome.

Batya Ben Ze’ev, Efrat, Israel


Rob Eshman states that “the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) — hardly the vanguard of left-wing activism — has come out against Ashcroft’s nomination” (“Ashcroft or Not,” Jan. 5). While NCJW does indeed oppose the Ashcroft nomination, we disagree with Eshman’s characterization of our organization as one that is “hardly the vanguard of left-wing activism.”

NCJW has long been a socially progressive organization. Our national resolutions state that we will work to advocate the well- being and status of women, children and families, as well as ensuring individual and civil rights, particularly “the protection of every female’s right to reproductive choice, including safe and legal abortion, and the elimination of obstacles that limit reproductive freedom.” We have worked tirelessly in support of a wide range of progressive issues, including the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, FDA approval of RU-486 and the Million Mom March.

NCJW/LA has worked for over 90 years in Los Angeles, advocating on issues that are of concern to the progressive community. We look forward to continuing to vigorously pursue an agenda that, in the words of our mission statement, “ensures individual rights and freedoms for all.”

Debra Gendel, Co-President, NCJW/LA

Jill Levin, Co-President, NCJW/LA

Arab Americans

Your article on Arab Americans was one of the most interesting pieces to appear in The Jewish Journal in recent years (“Stepping Out,” Jan. 12).

Other than the vague remark “We criticize Saddam Hussein,” the article does not identify any Arab American groups that publicly challenge Arab governments on issues such as free and democratic elections, human rights abuses and financial transactions transparency. For example, is there an Arab American group monitoring Palestinian compliance with the Oslo agreement?

This sort of internal but public dissent has long existed within the Jewish community; your same issue started off with letters about the murder of Binyamin Kahane and ended with an article by Amos Oz. Perhaps the absence of this dissent contributes to negative perceptions of Arab Americans. It may also make expectations of coalition building unrealistic.

David Weissman,Marina del Rey

Palestinian Unrest

Fredelle Speigel’s hypothesis that Palestinian acts of violence and terror are only in response to their fear of cultural destruction is both absurd and unfounded (“Emotional Barriers,” Jan. 5). Speigel fails to provide evidence of any threat to Palestinian culture that has occurred thus far that might somehow warrant the violence the world has witnessed in recent months.

Speigel’s true position is made clear when she downplays the role of Israel to Judaism while making it absolutely essential to the Palestinians.

I sincerely doubt that Palestinian/Arab publications are concerned with justifying Israeli actions.

Alain M. R’bibo, Sherman Oaks


I want to commend you on the refreshing experience you provided me through the new Jewish Journal. Some time ago, I stopped reading it regularly. But now that you brought it both a new look and a new approach, I feel differently about the paper.

The Journal now appears to be directed to the community, rather than at the community. Keep up the good work.

Rabbi Baruch Cohon, Los Angeles

Teresa Strasser

I travel out of town every few months and return to piles of mail, including each week’s Jewish Journal. The first articles I look for in each of the back issues are Teresa Strasser’s.

I appreciate Strasser’s column and eagerly look forward to coming home and catching up with someone who writes to me as a friend.

Linda Shure, via e-mail


The figure of “1,756 Israeli soldiers who died to capture the Old City” was taken from Howard Sachar’s “A History of Israel: From the Rise of Zionism to Our Time” and represents the total casualties, dead and wounded (“Men and Martyrs,” Jan. 12).

Loren Basch was the director of The Jewish Federation’s United Jewish Fund, not its president. Also, Carol Stulberg’s name was misspelled (“Linking to the Past,” Jan. 12).

Kat Cressida is the voice of Dee Dee, not Dexter (“Following Her ‘Dreams,'” Jan. 12).

Human Sacrifice

The government of Israel has wisely chosen to cooperate with a U.S.-led international commission that began investigating Israeli-Palestinian violence this week. Led by former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell, the commission hopes its work will reduce the violence in the region and lead the parties back to the negotiating table.

By cooperating, Israel can have greater input into the commission’s agenda. Here, for example, is one area for the investigators to consider: whether Palestinian parents are recklessly endangering the lives of their children by allowing them on the front lines of the conflict.

The images of Palestinian children confronting Israeli soldiers have by now become symbolic of Intifada II. They are standard fare on nightly news programs and have turned up in full-page ads taken out by the Arab-American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee as evidence of Israel’s excessive use of force.But though the ADC ad and the news broadcasts evoke the lone Chinese protester facing a tank in Tienenman Square in 1989, there is one big difference: the Chinese protester was an adult. In the ADC ad, the protester is Fares al-Uda, age 14.

The Israeli human rights group B’tselem, which has monitored human rights violations by all sides in the conflict, criticized the Palestinian Authority last month for urging Palestinian youths to confront Israeli troops. According to the ADC, since the beginning of Intifada II, 258 Palestinians have been killed, 68 of them under the age of 18. Among the dead is Fares al-Uda, killed days after his photo was taken.

Children under 18 years of age are not old enough to know what’s worth dying for. Are they aware, as Palestinian and Israeli leaders are, that the war they are fighting on the streets can only lead back to the negotiating table?

Do Palestinian children racing out of the house to join in protests know their deaths are merely chits to be cashed in when Yasser Arafat and the Israelis once again sit down? Do they know their young lives may feed a propaganda machine but will hardly change Israel’s negotiating position? After all, Israeli children have also been victims of Palestinian terror.

Around the world and throughout history, children have been used to fight adult wars, and the Middle East is no different. These Palestinian children are taught to hate the Zionists, and they are egged on by adults who should know better. Caught up in the violence, they become victims.

There is something cruel and cynical about allowing children to place themselves in harm’s way, but that seems to be part and parcel of the Palestinian strategy. To people who accept the inevitability of a negotiated settlement with the Palestinians — and this includes a majority of Israeli and American Jews — the martyrdom of Palestinian children is mystifying. Why are these children anywhere near Israeli guns?In Los Angeles, concerned pediatricians have spoken out against such child sacrifice (see page 11), but Palestinian spokesmen say it is Israeli military policy that accounts for the exhorbitant child death toll. In a recent report, Amnesty International took Israel to task for using “excessive force” against demonstrators, but it also criticized Palestinian leadership for not doing enough to keep children away from the violence.Perhaps Mitchell’s commission could help distribute the blame more evenly, and maybe even save young lives in the process.

Children’s Crusade

More than 200 pediatricians across the United States have condemned a particularly virulent form of child abuse by parents, clergy and governments who place children in the front lines of pitched battles in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

The pediatricians have formed Doctors Opposed to Child Sacrifice (DOCS), and the impetus for their protest has come from observing constant confrontations in the West Bank and Gaza.

“Day in and day out, Palestinian families feed their children healthy breakfasts and see them off into battles on the streets of the Palestinian-controlled areas to clash with Israeli soldiers at the edges of their communities,” said Dr. Pejman Salimpour, clinical chief of pediatrics at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

“These children are being used as forced foot soldiers in a war directed by their elders,” he added. “They are often placed as human shields for gunmen, who shoot over their heads at Israeli positions. Dozens and dozens of young children have been killed, their innocence and souls snuffed out, all as a result of parents and community members who abuse them by encouraging and allowing their involvement in the violence.”A second co-founder, Dr. Neal Kaufman of Cedars-Sinai, said, “We’re talking mainly about children 8-11 years old. As pediatricians who are devoting their lives to the health and well-being of children, we are morally bound to raise our voices against this vicious form of child abuse. To remain silent would be worse than standing aside while parents sold their children into slavery or prostitution.”

Dr. Ofelia Marin, a pediatric gastroenterologist in private practice, said that her concern “cuts across religious and national lines. As a Catholic, a physician and a human being, I feel strongly that children should be protected, not used. Sending children into battle is the worst form of child abuse.”

While DOCS is now focusing on the proliferation of child “martyrs” by Palestinians, such countries as Sierra Leone, Angola, Uganda, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Cambodia and Afghanistan are guilty of similar practices, said Salimpour.

At the same time, DOCS founding statement urges all governments “to exercise maximum restraint when confronting non-peaceful demonstrations that include children.”

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, defines a “child” as under 15 years, and Amnesty International estimates that currently more than 300,000 child soldiers under 16 years are fighting in conflicts in more than 30 countries.

Pediatricians interested in the goals of DOCS are asked to contact the organization by e-mail

A Lesson Plan From Israel

In our hardwired global village, the old curse “May you live in interesting times,” has particular resonance. For local educators, the recent clashes between Israelis and Palestinians have made these past few weeks interesting times indeed. As events continue to unfold thousands of miles away, the conflict has been an ongoing topic in Southern California’s Jewish day schools.

Many day school families have strong familial ties in Israel. Yet even for the majority that don’t, there is anxiety and concern about the violence. Most schools have addressed the conflict within their regular programs. After all, among day schools, Jewish history and modern Israel are part of the standard curriculum. The headlines have now made that curriculum come alive in an urgent and disturbing way, sparking discussion and impromptu “teaching moments” in a variety of settings.

“We’ve brought the discussion to the students,” said Joseph Hakimi, Judaic studies and middle school director at the Westside’s Sinai Akiba Academy. “Our focus was twofold: Understanding the conflict is the first goal. That includes understanding the Palestinians’ position, which really involves putting themselves in the shoes of the other side. I told the eighth-grade students, ‘Think as a Palestinian and then express and defend your position in this conflict.’ Then I told them to do the same, taking a position as a Jew and Israeli. The reason we do that is that we believe that in order to ever achieve any sort of peace, we need to understand the position of the other side. If this model was taught in Palestinian schools, we believe there would be less hate and more progress,” Hakimi said.

At Adat Ari El, a kindergarten-sixth grade day school in North Hollywood, students and teachers are also discussing the moral and political dimensions behind the headlines.

The conflict is treated as both a topical event and as a religious and historical challenge for the Jewish people. “In class,” said principal Lana Marcus, “our staff is discussing the events with the kids in an age-appropriate manner. And at our regular Thursday minyan, we set aside a special time to pray for peace in the Middle East. At our Friday assembly, we lowered the flags in the yard.”

“In other words,” Marcus continued, “we’re really incorporating it into what we regularly do at this point.” In the aftermath of reports that two Israeli reserve soldiers were murdered in Ramallah, Adat Ari El’s fifth-grade students began writing letters of condolence and support to the victims’ families.

In a less formal context, Haim Linder, Adat Ari El’s Israeli-born head of physical education, has been bombarded with questions from the kids since they returned to school after Yom Kippur.

During gym class, Linder said, “the kids would ask me, ‘Did you see what’s going on?’ They really wanted my take on it. I thought it would be an appropriate time to clarify some of the issues in an age-appropriate way. I asked them what they knew and what they would do themselves to resolve the conflict, and we discussed it a little bit. One second grader said he was concerned because ‘all the Arabs are killing the Jews.’ I tried to correct that misconception. When the older grades would come to class and want to talk about it, our conversation was a little more complex, and we talked briefly about the different factions within the PLO and in Israel itself.”

Like other Jewish day schools, Adat Ari El has extensive security measures in place that didn’t need to exist 10 or 15 years ago. Since the violence broke out in Israel, several parents have called the school expressing anxiety, Marcus said, adding that in this instance, it seems to be Israeli-born parents who are doing most of the calling.

At Heschel West, the Agoura satellite campus of Heschel-Northridge where students range from preschool age to eighth grade, informal discussion time has been dominated lately by news from the Middle East. According to the school’s Judaic studies coordinator, Rivka Ben Daniel, “We make recordings of the news broadcasts or bring in articles and discuss what is going on. The students are very, very curious. They ask a lot of questions. They are really disturbed by the news and want to know that Israel will be okay. The upper grades,” Ben Daniel said, “really want to initiate discussion, and they are all very supportive of Israel.” She also said that Heschel students have begun writing to the families of Israelis wounded or killed in the conflict.

Farther south, in the newer suburbs surrounding Mission Viejo in Orange County, Jewish day school students and teachers are also exploring the implications of the conflict. Eve Fein, the principal at Morasha Jewish Day School, said, “Our fifth- and sixth-grade students are now in a current events national competition, which we took first place in last year. So in their current events studies, they are learning about the situation, but it’s really part of the program. It also has been mentioned during our prayers.”

The students “are learning about the situation as a topical issue and also from a Jewish perspective,” Fein said, “and I do think there’s a distinction. One is the purely political approach of what is going on in the world of current events. The other is the Jewish view, which is a little more complicated. We always told the kids that Israel is holy to us. Once you explore that subject, you get into how there is a competing connection to the land. We teach them that it is also sacred to the Muslim world, and that leads us to a discussion of competing rights and values. We end up exploring the very complex idea that this is a place that is sacred to both sides.”

At Milken Community High School, the clash between Israelis and Palestinians has been received as anything but a remote news story. Partly, it’s due to Milken’s unique exchange program. At present, 22 Israeli exchange students are spending three months in L.A., each assigned to a Milken family. When the three months come to a close, the program does a flip: the Israelis go back home and the Milken students who hosted them go to Israel to stay for three months with the families of their new Israeli friends. Among families on both sides, the end result is a tight web of interrelationships that span generations and cultures.

Milken teacher Yoav Ben Horin heads up the exchange program. “There is very intense bonding from all perspectives,” he said, “Not just the kids, but the parents as well. The Israeli kids, by and large, and particularly the ones we select, are very alert and aware. They’re well-informed about what is going on in the world. But as things escalated, and they were in touch with their families, understandably, some became more anxious, and all of them very concerned. There were some tears and some huddling together, and a need for more reassurance, but there was also a sense that they were not entirely out of touch. They were in touch with their parents, and in this school and community setting they were not out of touch, either. There is a yearning for home at a time like this, but not a desire to get on a plane and go home. They have succeeded in staying on an even keel.”

Despite their concern about the ongoing conflict, none of the American students scheduled to go to Israel next expressed any ambivalence about the trip, Ben Horin said. “The only concern I’ve heard among them is a worry that this would affect their program – modify it or postpone or cancel it. I have not heard any second thoughts. I think what is really remarkable in all this is how reasonable everyone has been so far – the parents, the kids and the exchange students.”

Our Jamal

I stared with the rest of the horrified world at the photo of the anonymous Palestinian father holding his anonymous Palestinian son – father wounded, son dead. Only after reading the description in the newspaper did I realize he was not anonymous to me. The boy’s father was Jamal. Our Jamal who had helped build my Israeli house at the height of the Intifada and worked in my home; afterwards, he helped maintain it. I knew Jamal by his first name. Last week, reading his story, I learned his whole identity: Jamal al-Durrah.

I had just had my baby when I met Jamal; his wife was pregnant with their first child. I tried to give him my old maternity clothes, but Jamal turned his back, too proud to accept them. The terrified boy the whole world saw last week, screaming in the crook of his father’s arm and dead a moment later, was the child Jamal’s wife had been carrying.

In 1988, Jamal was an angry young man. Tall, thin and glowering, he spoke in monosyllables and refused the coffee I took out to the workers. He would go silently to the periphery of the unfinished patio and brew his own over a tiny portable gas heater.

One day, Jamal carved his name in English into the wet cement of the wall he was building in my garden: “Jamal ’88,” in a loping schoolboy’s hand. I complained to the contractor, his Israeli boss. If anyone had a right to graffiti, I said, it was me. The next morning there were fresh swirls in the cement. Jamal’s signature was gone.

Ten years later, I hired the same contractor to repaint my house. The Jamal who walked up the garden stairs was a changed man. He was 35 but looked 50. He limped, and his hair was flecked with gray. For a decade, Jamal had been rising from his bed at 3:30 a.m. to take the 4 a.m. bus to the border crossing, then board a second bus an hour later out of Gaza to begin work at 6 a.m. This back-breaking cycle of physical labor was a journey he prayed to make; without it there would be no work at all.

Jamal smiled, and I did too. There was something of friends in our greeting, but even as I say that word, I know it is not true. Beyond the economic inequality, we could never look at each other without nationalities in mind. His Arabness hung in the air, as did my Jewishness. I wondered what could I, transplanted to this soil from another place, represent for Jamal.

Now Jamal drank my coffee, and he laughed, “I hope this is real coffee – not Jewish Nescafé.”
After the paint job was finished, Jamal had time before the bus took him to occupied Gaza. He helped rehang my diplomas on the fresh white wall. With difficulty, Jamal made out the Gothic letters and read out loud, “New York University.” With a hundred tiny nails he repaired the old wood frame of the reproduction of Renoir’s “A Girl With a Watering Can” hanging in my daughter’s room.

Jamal told me he now had six children. This time he accepted the bags of used clothing and discarded toys I left for him to take.

Jamal’s children wore my children’s sweaters and played with their Legos.

My daughter is 12, like Jamal’s boy was. Jamal’s boy loved to swim in the sea; my daughter is on a swim team. My daughter walks to school beside cypress trees, amidst bougainvillea. Her pet dog waits impatiently for her to come home. Jamal’s son had pet birds. But had his son lived to be a grandfather, they would have never met.

Jamal lies with multiple gunshot wounds in a Jordanian hospital, his son killed by an errant Israeli bullet. Yet everybody in Israel heard him live on Israeli radio: “I am a man of peace. We two peoples must live together. There is no other possibility, no other possibility…” Jamal spoke to me by telephone from his hospital bed. I asked him what he wishes for his remaining children. “My children? To grow as all the children in the world.” His voice broke. “That they will be surrounded by all good things and nothing bad.”
The Renoir he fixed is still hanging in the next room. I sit in my garden looking at Jamal’s wall, recalling the defiant young man’s graffiti. It is an old wall now. We are all caught in the crossfire. Jamal’s life has become a tragedy. And I try to understand: What is the meaning of his tragedy to my life?

Helen Schary Motro is a freelance writer living in Jerusalem.

Your Friends and Neighbors

There are two ways of looking at the violence that wracks Israel and the Palestinian autonomous zones. One is that it proves the peace process must stop. The other is that it proves the process must continue.Which conclusion people reach no doubt depends on conclusions they reached long before the rioting that has claimed 53 lives as of Tuesday and left scores wounded. To polemicists and true believers on either side, the street battles are simply more evidence of the justness of their cause.

For these people, everything is fodder. The widely broadcast image of 12-year-old Muhammed al-Durah, crouched in terror behind his father just before he was shot dead by Israelis in the crossfire between Israeli and Palestinian troops, would seem to stand apart as a symbol of any conflict’s cruel human price. Al-Durah was a fifth grader; a good student; a boy who, according to The New York Times, raised pet birds; and, along with the rest of his friends, threw rocks at Israeli troops. To many Palestinians, he’s a martyr whose death cries out for yet more blood. To some Jews, he’s a victim of a madness Yasser Arafat chose to unleash.

But to more dispassionate observers, the peace process has always been about demographics, not blame. What matters, in the end, is not who got there first, who hates whom more, or even into whose ear God whispered and when. What matters, as Prof. Steven Spiegel points out (p. 6), is the fact that millions of Arabs and millions of Jews have to find a way to share a very small piece of earth. They do not have to be friends, but they have to be neighbors. Riots, rhetoric, even – God forbid – war will never change that fact, only return the antagonists, time and again, to face it anew.

Does Israel want to be a smaller democratic state with a largely Jewish population? Or does it want to become an apartheid regime controlling a rebellious population of Arabs in the territories who want no part of it? Do the Palestinians want to lose more generations to fighting and occupation, or do they want independence and a shot at normalcy? The smoke and headlines will go away, those questions won’t.What is telling about the reaction of Jews in Los Angeles to the violence in Israel is how little of the discussion in synagogues, by e-mail and on the street focuses on assigning blame. Leaders and pundits point fingers, while we, from a safe distance, have long ago decided to concentrate less on, “Who started it?” and more on, “When will it end?” We are sad, we are anxious, we wish this New Year could be the time to celebrate a peace deal that seemed possible at the start of the Camp David talks last August. Instead, we go into shul on Yom Kippur and pray, Maybe next year.

Feed a Child, Starve a Seagull

Last week, at least 100 people converged at Venice Beach on the second day of Rosh Hashanah for Mishkon Tephilo’s tashlich service. According to the ritual, they tossed scraps of bread into the ocean, symbolizing a fresh year of transgressions for which they seek forgiveness. As soon as Rabbi Dan Shevitz began intoning the liturgy, seagulls filled the sky above the breakers. “Like swallows returning to Capistrano,” a congregant said. “The birds probably have tashlich on their biological clock,” another laughed.This year, as in the past, there were plenty of scraps of bread to feed on. We resolve to do better, but every year we find ourselves with plenty of reasons to cast our bread upon the waters. Even the birds know that by now.And come next year, we will be back, have no doubt about it, with a fresh list. In 5761, the November election, the fight over vouchers, the mayor’s race, not to mention the normal tensions of Jewish communal life and the strains of family and work, will provide ample opportunity for new transgressions. The cycle suggests that the struggle to be stainless and sin-free is a losing battle. But the holiday’s liturgy gives us an out: Acts of kindness, it says, help balance the scales. It’s no accident that ancient synagogue mosaics represent this month with the astrological symbol of Libra.Some of us manage, through acts of transcendent humanity, to tip the scales in our balance. For one striking example, read the story of Christina Wright on p. 14. For the rest of us, there are smaller ways to make a difference.You might think of that when attending services Sunday and Monday. More than 700 synagogues around the country have teamed with L.A.-based MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, which since 1985 has distributed $23 million to nonprofit hunger relief agencies around the world, feeding people of all backgrounds. At your Yom Kippur services, you should be able to fill out a pledge card to MAZON (or try, donating to the organization what you would ordinarily spend on food that day. In this town, where a slab of ahi can set you back $30, that number could add up. A MAZON donation is a good way to wipe the slate clean for the New Year, before it starts filling up again.

The Greatest Gift

During the Passover holiday I went on a picnic with family and friends. My brother and his boy were visiting from Los Angeles, and five carloads of parents and children made for Park Britannia, a scenic spot 40 minutes southwest of Jerusalem, via a sliver of Palestinian territory and then a lovely road through Emek Ha’elah, the verdant valley where David, we are told, slew Goliath. I told my nephew to look real hard and maybe he could spot the rock that felled the giant Philistine. He’s only 7, but he wasn’t buying.

We feasted on tuna salad and matzah, debated whether it was okay for Ashkenazim to eat kitniyot (legumes) on Passover — my view being, if Rabbi Ovadia Yosef can do it, who am I to do otherwise? — and then took a walk through the remarkable olive grove of Ajur, home to some of the oldest and gnarliest olive trees you’ll ever see. Wildflowers decorated the hillside, storks glided overhead. Several of the trees, hollowed over the centuries by the elements, were filled with rocks to keep them from collapsing. My brother, an artist, recorded the timeless landscape with a sepia crayon.

Who planted the olive trees? A sign at the trail head, courtesy of the Jewish National Fund (JNF), told us in Hebrew and English that “farmers” cultivated these trees, which are now tended by an Israeli youth group. And who were these “farmers” — Crusaders, Turks, Zionist pioneers? For all the sign says, they might be olive-growers from Mars. The fact that they were Palestinian Arabs, who fled the now nonexistent village of Ajur in 1948, never to return, is not part of the JNF’s narrative of reclaiming the barren Jewish homeland and making the desert bloom.

To learn what happened to Ajur and hundreds of other vanished Arab villages, you might turn to a masterful book just published by the University of California Press called “Sacred Landscape.” The author, Meron Benvenisti, is a former deputy mayor of Jerusalem and a well-known Israeli gadfly who airs his iconoclastic views in a regular column in Ha’Aretz. Benvenisti doesn’t reject the Jewish claim to Palestine — far from it. He also assigns the Palestinians an ample share of blame for the national disaster they suffered in 1948. But he also insists that attention be paid to the Palestinian story and to the historical landscape of the Land of Israel before it was reinvented by Zionism.

Voices like Benvenisti’s are controversial in Israel, to say the least (not to mention among American Jews). In 1998, the 22-part documentary series “Tekumah” (“Rebirth”) aired by Israeli Television to mark Israel’s 50th birthday, provoked a storm of local criticism for its warts-and-all account of Israel’s founding. Similarly, when it became known last summer that the Education Ministry had approved junior high school texts that include a “revisionist” view of the 1948 War, the airwaves and op-ed pages were filled with dire warnings that instilling guilt feelings in Israeli youth would undermine the morale essential to defending the country against its enemies. It’s a reasonable worry, to be sure, but along with many other Israelis, I believe that we are mature enough as a nation to cultivate a sense of empathy with the Palestinians and to resist demonizing them. Whether the Palestinians are equally ready in return is, of course, another question, which lies at the heart of the problem.

Still, we push on with the Oslo peace process — we have no reasonable alternative. And one day soon the Palestinians will proclaim their independence. When Israel took that step in 1948, the Palestinians took notes; now they’re doing it. It’s inevitable, and by now most Israelis realize that. The world will recognize their new state, whose borders and relationship with Israel remain to be negotiated. Like all countries, it will have a capital, possibly in Abu Dis, an Arab village just east of Jerusalem that Prime Minister Barak, as I write these lines, is planning to hand over to the Palestinians along with two others, Azzariye and Suwahara. Barak’s political opponents say the handover will have a domino effect leading to the division of Jerusalem and God knows what other dire consequences. I’m willing to wager that not one outraged Israeli in a hundred could find Abu Dis without a map, but as it goes around here, so it will continue to go.

As Benvenisti points out, the Six-Day War conveniently shifted the moral battleground from the country as a whole to the West Bank, enabling Israeli peaceniks to shed any responsibility for ruined villages like Ajur — of whose 600 houses only three survive, one of which is home to chamber-music concerts at Moshav Agur — and instead righteously demand that Israel return the West Bank to the Palestinians.

Balancing the ideal of a Jewish polity with the canons of justice and democracy is a tricky affair, to be sure. In America, democracy is an axiom. Immigrants unschooled in democratic values imbibe the common creed in the process of their naturalization. Citizenship is granted only after completing a course of study. People who don’t get with the program don’t become Americans. In Israel, however, no Jewish immigrant has ever had to pass a citizenship test. You qualify as Jewish under the Law of Return and zap, you’re an Israeli. Most Israelis derive from countries with no tradition of democracy (or religious pluralism). No surprise, then, that many Israelis have a fuzzy concept of democracy.

A significant number, for example, believe that the full benefits of democracy in Israel should apply only to Jews — not to the descendants of those people who planted the olive trees in Ajur. And for many Israelis, democracy means the license to wield decisive parliamentary power while at the same time reserving the right to flout the rule of law or shirk civic responsibility. A government commission charged with finding a creative compromise on the thorny issue of drafting ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students has just come up with a pareve proposal that will only marginally increase the number of ultra-Orthodox in the military. The perceived power of the charedim may be the single biggest reason that so many Israelis are, ironically — indeed tragically — turned off to Judaism in the very country that was invented in order to preserve and protect it. Of the many fascinating paradoxes of Zionism, this is also the saddest.

This, and not denominational issues, is what world Jewry ought to be most concerned about, if you ask me. The religious pluralism question is slowly working itself out. The Reform and Conservative movements are pressing on with their court cases, seeking to compel the state to accept as Jews non-Orthodox converts who were trained in Israel. (Such converts from abroad are, thanks to a court victory in the late 1980s, recognized under the Law of Return.) The Reform movement has just inaugurated a program to certify physicians — male and female — as mohalim (ritual circumcisers), provoking a predictable denunciation from the Orthodox. But the deeper problem goes far beyond the recognition of non-Orthodox institutions. As Israel settles squarely into middle age, it may fairly be asked: How Jewish are Israeli Jews?

In the case of a couple of hundred thousand of our Russian immigrants, the answer is, not at all. Under Jewish law, you’re Jewish if your mother is Jewish. Under Israel’s Law of Return, one Jewish grandparent — Hitler’s definition of a Jew, and do we dare, goes the reasoning, be less inclusive? — entitles you and your immediate family to become Israelis, overnight.

In a single decade, the Russian immigrants have created a thriving subculture — there are some 50 Russian-language newspapers in Israel — and have leapfrogged economically and professionally over longstanding immigrant groups, notably Jews from Morocco and other Arab lands. This has provoked no small degree of resentment, which is only exacerbated by the Russians’ widespread indifference to Jewish tradition, exemplified most gratingly by the proliferation of pork emporia in Israel since their arrival. And with the conversion apparatu
s still under the control of the right-wing Orthodox, non-Jewish Russians are in no hurry to become Jews.

But the biggest Jewish problem involves the veteran secular community. Shas leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, by scurrilously comparing the left-wing Education Minister Yossi Sarid to Haman and Pharoah, has only reinforced the alienation of secular Israelis from Judaism. But when the rabbi wondered why Sarid, instead of assigning secular students the poetry of Palestinian nationalist Mahmoud Darwish, did not agonize over the fact that these same students were ignorant of the prayer “Shema Yisrael,” he had a point. I suspect that the garden-variety Israeli youngster does, in fact, know the difference between “Shema Yisrael” and “Beam Me Up, Scotty,” but it may well be that his or her Jewish literacy — by which I mean a comfortable familiarity with Jewish tradition — doesn’t go much beyond that. Secular Jewish leaders of earlier generations — Ben-Gurion and Begin, for example — were steeped in the religious heritage they chose to transmute into something new. That legacy has been all but lost by later generations. At the same time, the insidious, widespread consensus in Israeli society as a whole that right-wing Orthodoxy does, in fact, represent Jewish authenticity minimizes the likelihood that many secular, liberal Israelis will be inclined to reembrace their roots.

It is true that a growing number of secular Israelis are taking up classical Jewish texts in various study groups. But many of these same people retain a strong suspicion of traditional Judaism and of rabbis in particular, and as a result are reluctant to go the next step and become religiously affiliated, even with the non-Orthodox streams.

The word charedi means fearful, and the ultra-Orthodox are first of all God-fearing, and also afraid that the secular authorities — mainly the Supreme Court — will erode the Jewishness of Israel by awarding further victories to the Reform and Conservative movements. The staunch secularists, for their part, are no less doctrinaire, fearful that the charedim, given their druthers, would turn Israel into a Jewish version of Iran.

But liberal Jews in Israel and elsewhere ought not be put off automatically by the “otherness” of the black-hatted charedim. There’s a world of wisdom to be gleaned from the ultra-Orthodox, the chassidim not least. As the great Galician Rebbe Elimelech of Lizhensk (1717-1787) taught us in his “Prayer before Praying”: “May it be given to me to see my neighbor’s virtues, not his faults.” Such a capability is a gift indeed, one that all Jews are empowered to give themselves, and, God willing, each other.

Yet for many Israelis, finding common ground with their Arab neighbors is easier than bridging the gulf between secular and ultra-Orthodox Jews. Indeed the Jewish state is slowly acknowledging its overdue obligations to its Palestinian citizens, a trend which is likely to continue alongside the evolution of Palestinian autonomy next door. Interior Minister Natan Sharansky, for example, recently ordered that 150 acres of land that had been confiscated by the government from the Israeli Arab village of Kafr Kassem in the aftermath of the 1948 war should, at last, be returned to the village.

In another case, the Jewish village of Katzir, near Hadera, had refused to allow Adel Ka’adan, an Arab citizen of Israel (and a registered nurse working in a Jewish hospital), to buy a lot and build a home, on the grounds that the town was on Jewish Agency land and thus for Jews only. The Israeli Supreme Court ruled a few months ago that the government could not allocate public land for such a purpose, because ethnic discrimination against Israeli citizens is against the law — a landmark decision. Ruby Rivlin, a leader of the Likud party, declared that the ruling would lead to “the end of Zionism and the end of the Jewish state.” But can it really be acceptable, after suffering so much discrimination themselves — including restrictive covenants in gentile-only American suburbs — that Jews should continue to inflict such unfairness on fellow Israeli citizens who happen to be Arab?

Of course not. Yet the larger picture is all so terribly confus-ing and anxiety-provoking. Can Jews really afford to let down their guard, take risks for peace? Hasn’t our history proven that there’s nothing so awful it can’t happen? Does not the Passover Haggadah teach us that “in every generation they rise up against us to destroy us?” What about Syria? Lebanon? Iraq? Iran, for pete’s sake? So King Abdallah of Jordan wears a baseball cap, so what? And can you trust those Egyptians? And just imagine those rogue Russian scientists in Khazakhstan, selling plutonium to terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden.

You ask me how I cope, in Israel at 52? I read, I write, I dream, I take my kids on picnics. Wearily, joyfully, hopefully, I seek wisdom from the sages. Listen to the liberating, visionary words of Martin Buber, from his 1942 essay entitled “Hebrew Humanism”:

“He who has been reared in our Hebrew biblical humanism … is not taken in by the hoax of modern national egoism, according to which everything which can be of benefit to one’s people must be true and right. … [T]he Zionist movement must decide either for national egoism or national humanism. If it decides in favor of national egoism, it too will suffer the fate which will soon befall all shallow nationalism, that is, nationalism which does not set the nation a true supernational task. If it decides in favor of Hebrew humanism, it will be strong and effective long after shallow nationalism has lost all meaning and justification, for it will have something to say and to bring to mankind.” Amen.

Stuart Schoffman is an associate editor of the Jerusalem Report. His e-mail address is

Celebrating Israel

As long as you’re out celebrating Mother’s Day on May 14, take her to celebrate the Motherland as well at the 52nd Israel Independence Day Festival.

Expected to attract 50,000 people, the day-long celebration at Pan Pacific Park in Los Angeles will feature musical entertainment (including Yehoram Gaon, the Pini Cohen Band and the Keshet Chaim Dance Ensemble), a Heritage Pavilion; kiosks offering food, arts and crafts, and Judaica; representatives from dozens of Jewish organizations; and amusement park rides and animals for the younguns. Once again, The Jewish Journal will have a booth at the festival — feel free to stop by, pick up a paper, and say “hi” to members of our editorial and advertising staff.

In short, 4.8-acres o’ fun for the whole family. See you there!

For more information, go to Michael Aushenker, Staff Writer

History’s Children

A rush of stories in the press this week about the past.

First, innocuously enough, music. Zubin Mehta, I read, brings the Israeli Philharmonic to Weimar, Germany to join forces with the Bavarian State Orchestra in a concert that clearly is about something more than music. Just before the concert, the musicians — Germans and Israelis, with their respective links to a past that is everpresent and unforgiving — pay a visit to Buchenwald.

Then they perform Mahler’s soaring 2nd Symphony, “Resurrection,” with a first movement that could pass for a death march and a finale that is ascendant, the triumph of the human spirit. Is this a transitory moment that will soon fade? Or a transitional moment, ushering in a new way for us to connect with Germans and our shared past today?

Then onto Albert Einstein. Growing up in my family, there were two Jewish heroes: Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Albert Einstein. If I succeeded in school, ate the proper food and behaved according to the rules my parents and grandparents prescribed for me, I might — just might — follow in one or the other’s footsteps. It came as a shock to discover that FDR was not Jewish. Oh well, that left Einstein. I excelled at math; went to the Bronx High School of Science. You never know.

Now with the publication of Volume Eight by the Princeton University Press (1,143 pages in two parts) detailing Einstein’s life from 1914 to 1918, I learn more about my childhood hero than perhaps is good for me to know. He was 34 in 1914; and of course during this four-year period Einstein completed work on his theory of relativity, a brilliant leap of mind and imagination (and at least seven years of hard work), that many believe to be his greatest accomplishment.

But the Volume also provides insight into behavior toward his first and second wife that can best be described as self-absorbed and callous. According to the letters and the papers, Einstein began an affair with his cousin, Elsa, while still married to his first wife, Mileva. His letters to wife number one come across as unfeeling and somewhat imperious.

Then, shortly before he is to marry Elsa, he proposes marriage, almost as an afterthought, to her 20-year-old daughter who works for him at Berlin’s newly created Kaiser Wilhelm Institute of Physics. In a letter to a close friend seeking advice, the 20-year-old young woman indicates her mother has offered to bow out if that’s what the daughter wants. She writes: “Albert himself is refusing to take any decision; he is prepared to marry either mama or me. I know that A. loves me very much, perhaps more than any other man ever will, he also told me so himself yesterday.”

In the end, instinct and her sense that she loved Einstein more like a father or uncle than a lover/husband prevailed. “It will seem peculiar to you that I, a silly little thing of a 20-year-old, should have to decide on such a serious matter,” she wrote. “I can hardly believe it myself and feel very unhappy doing so as well.”

Einstein married Elsa and lived with her until her death in 1936. Do these cast new light on Einstein’s role as the great (probably the greatest) physicist of the century? And as Jews, do we think any the less of him; have second thoughts about Einstein the cultural hero?

Finally (just for this week anyway), we have Edward W. Said, probably the most eminent Arab-American in the U.S. Until the Oslo negotiations, Said, an author and respected professor of literature at Columbia University as well as a musicologist, had been a member of Arafat’s Palestinian National Council. But he split with Arafat over Oslo, which he felt was a sellout to the Israelis. It is fair to say that Said’s views on the Mideast have carried considerable weight with academics, journalists and intellectuals in America and Europe (among both Jews and non-Jews) and have earned him great admiration from Palestinians.

Now it turns out that Said has lied, has invented a past as a Palestinian whose family was ejected from Jerusalem by the Israelis when he was 12-years-old. An article in the current (September) issue of Commentary magazine by Justus Reid Weiner, a scholar at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, spells out just how much of Said’s story is fiction — a dramatic, emotional (and false) story that has been used effectively to buttress his intellectual and political charges against Israel.

Apparently Said was born in Jerusalem in 1935, but came from a wealthy family in Cairo. He did not grow up in his famously remembered house in Jerusalem, nor attend a school there that he nostalgically has recollected in print and on TV. Rather he enjoyed a life of wealth in Cairo until Egyptian head Gamal Abdel Nasser nationalized much of Egypt’s industry. Said’s family lost their place in the sun because of Nasser, not David Ben Gurion. Fortunately, his father held an American passport.

All of this and more is described in Weiner’s Commentary article, “My Beautiful Old House and Other Fabrications by Edward Said.” Embarrassing, to say the least. We can recognize his desire to personalize; to identify with the dispossessed among his people; to convince his peers that his passion is a product of life experience as much as it is a reflection of political philosophy. Still, he lied. How do we (and his Palestinian admirers) deal with this? Do we reject every political statement he has uttered, every political argument he has made? Do we write him off as a fraud who duped us for a while, until history caught up with him? And now do we let him fade, ignominiously, from view? Or do we sift through his politics and his scholarship for what has merit and value, separating ego and folly from the contributions he has to offer?

I must confess to a fondness for history. Science notwithstanding, history was my favorite subject at school. When I read memoirs and letters and stories about people and the past, and see them change before my eyes, I always feel that time has somehow turned a corner. When I wasn’t even looking.

A few years ago, I met for a series of “get acquainted” lunches with one of our community leaders, a man I came to respect. He was concerned that we published too many stories in The Jewish Journal that raised questions about the beliefs and “conventional wisdom” shared by many in our community. You and I understand the dynamics of politics and history, he explained, but your readers don’t have the background to absorb this new information. The stories can only lead to conflict, when the Jewish community needs to be united, he said. That’s why we needed to emphasize some stories and avoid others.

I did not agree. Not just because I am a journalist and, so, professionally committed to publishing news that is accurate and true, even if the stories lead to different views within our community. I also have a personal predilection. When I encounter history’s new take on a familiar story or person, it’s as though the world around me, and the people within it, have suddenly altered. My life ever so subtly has begun (once again) to change. And — German musicians, Albert Einstein and Edward Said notwithstanding — I am always grateful for the knowledge, pleased by the new discoveries, even as (or maybe because) it forces me to rethink my convictions and my life anew. — Gene Lichtenstein

The Truth About the ZOA

Gene Lichtenstein’s July 2 editorial misrepresented the positions and activities of the Zionist Organization of America. The ZOA always has been, and remains, a centrist organization, and our efforts on behalf of Israel have broad support among American Jews.

We are not associated with any particular Israeli political faction. We work with both Democrats and Republicans in the U.S. Congress. Indeed, the more than 50 members of Congress who belong to the ZOA-initiated Peace Accord Monitoring groups are divided almost evenly between Democrats and Republicans.

The ZOA’s monitoring and exposing of Palestinian Arab violations of the Oslo accords, in conjunction with the congressional PAM groups, has very broad support in the American Jewish community and beyond.

In order to help members of Congress better understand the risks that Israel faces, we provide them with regular reports about the Palestinian Authority’s constant incitement to hatred and violence, especially the problem of official PA school books glorifying anti-Israel terrorism and teaching Arab children that Israel and Jews are “racist” and “evil.”

The ZOA has also taken the lead on the issue of bringing Palestinian Arab killers of Americans to the United States for prosecution. Following the ZOA’s public campaign on this issue — including newspaper advertisements, press conferences and lobbying in Congress — the House of Representatives passed, by 406 to 0, a resolution urging President Clinton to demand that Arafat hand over Arab killers of Americans for trial — including two suspects involved in the September 1997 bombing in which 14-year-old Yael Botwin, of Los Angeles, was killed. Just last month, the Senate unanimously passed legislation on this issue. Stephen Flatow, whose daughter Alisa was killed by Palestinian Arab terrorists in 1995, has publicly said that “only one American Jewish organization, the Zionist Organization of America, has seen fit” to take the lead on this important issue.

The ZOA has also played a crucial leadership role in the efforts to secure U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

The ZOA has served as a watchdog to monitor government appointments that affect Israel. In 1998, we publicized the fact that John Roth, the nominee for research director at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, had compared Israel to the Nazis; as a result, Roth declined the nomination. Earlier this year, we exposed the anti-Israel statements and activities of Joseph Zogby, who had been hired as special assistant to Martin Indyk, the assistant secretary of state for Near East affairs; after our protests, Zogby left his post.

More recently, we led the opposition to the nomination of Salam Al-Marayati of Los Angeles to the U.S. government’s National Commission on Terrorism, because of his long record of statements in which he justified Arab terrorism against Israel; justified future terrorism against America; compared America’s behavior to Saddam Hussein’s behavior; compared American supporters of Israel to Hitler; and compared Islamic terrorists to the heroes of the American Revolution. (For a complete list, please call the ZOA at (212) 481-1500.) Our opposition had nothing to do with the fact the Al-Marayati is a Muslim or an Arab-American; we would have just as vigorously opposed the nomination of a Jew or Christian who held such disturbing views.

Our opposition to Al-Marayati was widely echoed in the Jewish community. The Conference of Presidents of Mayor American Jewish Organizations, the American Jewish Congress, the American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League all came out against the Al-Marayati nomination.

Exposing, challenging and combating those who are hostile to Israel is our responsibility. As Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., recently put it: “What the ZOA has done is to speak the truth, even when the truth is inconvenient to various powers that be.”

Morton Klein is national president of the Zionist Organization of America.

What’s Fact about the ZOA

Correction: I owe Morton Klein an apology for my July 2 editorial, “My Problem with the ZOA.” I misstated two facts. First, the 1996 ADL dinner, at which journalist Thomas Friedman was the guest speaker and to which the ZOA objected, occurred in Los Angeles, not in New York, as I stated. I relied on memory, a great error — particularly when I had Klein’s press release, which urged readers to protest and make their opinions known, directly in front of me.

The second point is more complicated. I said the ZOA seemed to function often as a lobby group for Likud in Israel and militant Jewish Republicans here. That was just sloppy. The ZOA is not aligned with any political party. Rather, it uses the political party system here to further an agenda that seems, to me, to be aimed at cutting off criticism of Israel and taking a very strong line against Yasser Arafat and the Palestinians. The end result of this is that ZOA is often joined by congressional members who are at odds with the White House. That includes right-wing and moderate Republicans and Jewish Democrats, some of whose constituents believe that the Clinton administration has been pressing Israel (and Binyamin Netanyahu) too hard in order to achieve a peace. Klein asserts that he is for peace; but his tactics suggest that he wants to hold Arafat’s feet to the fire until he either is destroyed by local extremists or must himself abandon negotiations. It is a position that links up readily with the political battles between the Congress and the President and in which Israel serves as one more pawn in an ongoing conflict. —Gene Lichtenstein