Palestinian firefighters denied entry into Israel for tribute

Three Palestinian firefighters were refused entry into Israel for a ceremony honoring Palestinian firemen who helped battle the Carmel blaze.

Only seven of the 10 firemen were to be allowed in for the ceremony that was scheduled to take place Sunday afternoon in the Druze village of Usfiya. The ceremony was canceled.

The Israel Defense Forces said the denial of entry for the three firemen was a bureaucratic error. The list of names did not include the firemen’s ID numbers, the IDF said, and that it did not receive the list in time. The army told Haaretz that it is working to get the correct permits and that the ceremony would be rescheduled, Haaretz reported.

Israeli-Arab lawmaker Ahmed Tibi called the incident “not just a march of folly or a theater of the absurd but stupidity and the normative lordly attitude of the occupation regime.”

In a statement, the Palestinian Authority said that “It’s not clear how the same firefighters who got permits to go out and help snuff the fire now are now refused permits to their honoring ceremony.”

“We did this despite the occupation because it was our humane duty,” the PA statement added. “We knew the occupation would still be here after our assistance.”

The Palestinian firefighters were honored over the weekend by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

“Our neighbors faced a tragedy and it was our duty to do our humanitarian work toward our neighbors to protect the environment and human life,” Abbas said during the ceremony in his office in Ramallah.

For Middle East Women, ‘Cavemen’ Are Not Wanted

Little noticed among the vast media coverage of the latest Middle East crisis were a couple of dispatches by journalists highlighting the actions of an admittedly few
women in Israel.

Given that it is an act of considerable bravery to protest in the streets at a time when their fellow citizens were so up in arms about the Hezbollah rocket attacks, I knew the sentiments of this handful of protesters would be shared by many more Israeli and Palestinian women who could not be there. After all, I had spoken during the past 30 years of covering the Middle East to many of these women — Israelis, Palestinians, Arabs, rich and poor alike — who have told me again and again how appalled they have been at the seemingly endless number of wars in the region.

Tamara Traubman and Ruth Sinai-Heruti, both correspondents for the leading Israeli daily, Haaretz, pointed out at the bottom of their July 17 article, “More Than 500 Protest in Tel Aviv Against Israeli Defense Force Raids in Lebanon, Gaza,” that a “woman’s protest was also held Sunday morning next to the central Haifa train depot, where a Hezbollah rocket landed early Sunday, killing eight people.” The women, they added, “said that in the coming days, they would be assembling a new group of Arab and Jewish women against the war.”

Rory McCarthy of the United Kingdom’s Guardian daily, in a dispatch the same day titled, “Israeli City Shaken by Hizbullah Rocket Attack,” noted that “as the sirens continued to sound, a small group of women stood outside the entrance to the train depot to lodge a small protest against the fighting. Yana Knoboba, 25, a psychology student from Haifa University, sat on the pavement holding a banner that read in Hebrew: ‘War will not bring peace.'”

“We don’t want a great war in the Middle East,” McCarthy quoted Knoboba as saying. “We want Israel to negotiate to bring back our soldiers and stop the re-occupation of Gaza. It isn’t about showing strength. I think strength is making peace, not war.”

Three years ago, here in London, I was a guest at the local Quaker meeting house, where a panel of eight women from Israel had been invited to speak. Having spent so much of my life covering “men’s” activities in the Middle East — investment and trade, oil and politics, as well as outright war — I thought it about time I took a look at what women were doing. The panel included four Palestinians and four Israelis, all from divergent backgrounds: a poet, sociologist, historian, social worker, Christian, Muslim and Jew.

There were some quite direct, pointed questions from the audience about where truth, justice and progress lay. Would Israelis be better off without the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza? Would Palestinians agree to end suicide bombings? The answers varied, both among the Palestinian and Jewish women and amongst themselves, whatever their nationality.

But when the moderator asked the final question, “What, in your opinion, do you think is the worst problem you face?” the answer was surprising. One would have expected the Palestinian women to say, “The occupation of the West Bank and Gaza by Israel since 1967.” For the Israeli women, one would have thought the answer would be, “Security, a right to live in peace with Israel’s neighbors and, above all, an end to suicide bombings.”

Surprise, surprise. One by one, the eight women stood up, faced the 70 or so in the audience of mostly women and declared: “The militarization of our men.”
For the Palestinians, seeing their sons subjected to the cannon-fodder rhetoric of ignorant sheikhs, the test of manhood their teen sons were exposed to when it came to throwing stones or the death and injury of their fathers, sons and brothers were the key points. For the Israeli women, the brutalization of the men they must live with, their sons, brothers and spouses in the Israel Defense Forces, was the main point.

And, unlike the Palestinians, Israelis are required to serve in the Israel Defense Forces unless they can prove they are conscientious objectors or members of certain Jewish religious denominations.

Shades of Vietnam here? Just as then, members of the peace movement in Israel have highlighted the comments of former members of the Israeli military who have spoken out against the climate of opinion in the forces, which, in their view, disregards the value of civilian life, whatever the faults on the other side may be.

But such sentiments must often be put aside by their fellow draftees, they say, resulting in a dehumanization of the attacker, as well as the attacked. The result: As in the United States in the 1960s and 1970s, there is a growing refusal by some Israelis to serve in the military, particularly when it comes to fighting in the occupied West Bank and Gaza.

What I wondered yet again the other day was what were the Jewish women in Israel doing and feeling? Were those women at the Quaker meeting house representative of their compatriots? And how had the peace movement there affected the willingness of women, as well as men, to accept conscription into the Israeli military forces?

Further south in Tel Aviv, McCarthy’s article gave me a clue and a sense of what might really be wrong. A quote he published from Abir Kobti, an activist in Israel’s Coalition of Women for Peace, who was on the front line in Israel’s capital city when Israeli police broke up their peaceful protest on July 16, said it all:

Disputed Film Draws Muted Response

For Rabbi Marvin Hier, suicide bombings are the modern-day plague. The founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center so condemns these acts of terror that he spoke to the late Pope John Paul II, Jordan’s King Abdullah II and the chancellor of Austria to enlist their support in passing a U.N. resolution condemning suicide bombings as a crime against humanity.

Given Hier’s passion, one might expect him to denounce loudly the film, “Paradise Now,” as a work of propaganda. The movie, which seeks to humanize two would-be Palestinian suicide bombers dispatched by operatives to murder innocent Israelis, recently won the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film and received an Academy Award nomination in the same category.

Despite the subject matter of “Paradise Now,” Hier, himself a member of the academy, has yet to see the film, although he said he soon planned to and “didn’t feel good” about the movie’s premise.

Like the Wiesenthal Center, the Anti-Defamation League has no plans to protest the nomination of the controversial film. In fact, no large mainstream Jewish organization has called for a boycott.

In a measure of the acclaimed movie’s respectability in some quarters of the local Jewish community, the University of Judaism recently sponsored a screening of and panel discussion on “Paradise Now” that featured the film’s director, Hany Abu-Assad. The sold-out audience of nearly 500 clapped at the movie’s conclusion, which ends with a rage-filled Palestinian bomber getting ready to blow himself up on an a bus crowded with Israeli soldiers and civilians.

Abu-Assad said at the University of Judaism event that he opposes all suicide bombing attacks, even against soldiers. However, the director added that he came to understand how bombers can commit such acts after Israeli authorities detained him, without cause, he said, for three hours in the hot sun at a checkpoint.

To be sure, some conservative Jewish organizations have condemned the movie as an attempt to sanitize and justify a hateful terrorist act. They complain that “Paradise Now” seeks to blame for the proliferation of suicide attacks solely on Israel’s occupation, ignoring the dangerous grip of Islamic fundamentalism and the steady diet of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic propaganda in Palestinian schools and media.

“I’m surprised that major Jewish organizations have not studied this film more closely, if at all, and taken it more seriously as an effort to normalize suicide bombing as an acceptable response to poverty and depression,” said Roz Rothstein, executive director of Los Angeles-based StandWithUs, an international pro-Israel educational advocacy group, who has seen the film twice.

“What’s the point of this movie?” asked Matthew Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, headquartered in Washington, D.C. “We should be shining a light on the horrors of [suicide bombing] and the victims, rather than humanizing these heinous acts.”

Brooks has not seen “Paradise Now.”

A few Jewish groups have done more than simply verbally attack the film.

The American Jewish Congress (AJC), Pacific Southwest Region, hopes to take out an ad in the Hollywood Reporter to “make Academy members think twice before voting,” said local AJC Executive Director Gary Ratner. Israel Project, an international educational advocacy group, has helped an Israeli father of a 16-year-old suicide bombing victim place an article critical of “Paradise Now” in American newspapers, including the New York Daily News. The goal: to make sure “the voice of the victim is heard,” said Calev Ben-David, director of the project’s Jerusalem office.

In the opinion piece, Yossi Zur writes: “Nominating a movie such as ‘Paradise Now’ only implicates the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in the evil chain of terror that attempts to justify these horrific acts.”

Liberal Jewish leaders, on the other hand, tend to share the critics’ consensus that the film is complex, nuanced and “an examination rather than a justification,” in the words of David Lehrer, president of Community Advocates Inc., an L.A.-based human relations organization. They argue that “Paradise Now” questions the morality and efficacy of terror attacks through a pivotal character named Suha, a female Palestinian human rights activist who condemns bombers for perpetuating the cycle of violence, behaving as immorally as the Israeli occupiers and for hardening the Jewish state’s resolve.

“I think it’s a credit to our community that institutions like the University of Judaism have held showings and that the community response has been thoughtful rather than reactionary,” said Daniel Sokatch, executive director of the Progressive Jewish Alliance, a Jewish social justice organization with offices in Los Angeles and the Bay Area. “I think most Jews who see the movie realize that it’s not about Jews in America or Israelis but an interesting insight into the bubble of Palestinian society.”

Perhaps the muted reaction from the American Jewish community stems from the fact that so few Jews have actually seen the film. Confined largely to art houses, “Paradise Now” earned a paltry $1.1 million from its late October release until its Oscar nomination.

Jewish groups might now also temper their reactions because of the lessons learned from “The Passion of the Christ.” The controversial and, some argued, anti-Semitic film about the last hours of Jesus’ life saw its box-office surge after Jewish critics began attacking it.

Boycotting “Paradise Now,” said Morton A. Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, “will only bring more publicity to this type of movie.”

Marc Ballon was moderator for the discussion following the University of Judaism’s screening of “Paradise Now.”


Nation & World Briefs

Israel Reacts After Gaza Attacks

Just weeks after Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, fighting with the Palestinians resumed with sound and fury — and, some feared, the potential to evolve into a full-blown border war. Israeli forces answered Hamas rocket salvoes from Gaza with airstrikes, arrest sweeps in the West Bank and, in an unprecedented move, by putting its artillery on standby to fire.

On Sunday, Hamas announced that it would stop its rocket salvoes against the Jewish state — but the declaration was quickly followed by more Palestinian rocket and mortar fire into Israel.

At the same time, Islamic Jihad vowed to avenge the death of Mohammed Khalil, commander of its military wing in the Gaza Strip, who was killed in an Israeli air strike Sunday night. His deputy was killed as well, and four other people were wounded.

The escalation began with a terrorism-sparked tragedy: At least 15 people were killed last Friday when a munitions truck taking part in a Hamas victory parade in Gaza exploded, apparently by accident.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, embarrassed by the chaotic display of arms banned under the U.S.-led “road map” peace plan, condemned Hamas as irresponsible.

But with its prestige on the line just months before a January election for the Palestinian Parliament, Hamas put its own interpretation on the blast, calling it an Israeli airstrike or sabotage. Vowing to “open the gates of hell” on Israel, Hamas launched at least 35 Kassam rockets across the Gaza border at the southern Israeli town of Sderot. At least five Israelis were wounded in the strikes.

Wiesenthal Buried in Israel

Dignitaries from the United States, Israel and Austria joined hundreds of mourners in laying legendary Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal to rest in Herzliya last Friday. Wiesenthal, 96, died Sept. 20 in his sleep at his home in Vienna. No Israeli Cabinet ministers attended the funeral, but Deputy Minister Michael Melchior represented the government and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon issued a statement: “The State of Israel, the Jewish people and all humanity owe a great debt to Simon Wiesenthal, who dedicated his life to ensuring that the horrors of the past do not recur and that murderers do not escape justice.”

U.S. Jew Arrested in Alleged Sharon Plot

An American Jew was arrested in Israel on suspicion that he planned to assassinate Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Police said they planned to deport Shen’or Zalman Hatzkolevitch, an ultra-Orthodox Jewish man from Brooklyn. It would mark the first time a Jew is deported from Israel for security violations.

Iran One Step Closer to Sanctions

The United Nations’ nuclear watchdog is one step closer to referring Iran to the U.N. Security Council for sanctions. A resolution passed last weekend by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) board requires Iran to suspend uranium enrichment, end construction of a heavy-water treatment plant and allow increased inspection of its nuclear facilities. Israel and the United States, believing Iran may be less than two years away from manufacturing a nuclear bomb, had been pressing the IAEA to pass such a resolution. Iran may face sanctions as early as November when the IAEA board next meets. The resolution was pushed through by European nations, which had been on the fence until this summer. It passed 22-1 with 12 abstentions; Venezuela voted against it.

Joint Peace Rallies Held

Thousands of Israelis and Palestinians held rallies calling for a return to peace talks and an end to violence. In an address first delivered Saturday in Ramallah and then broadcast in Jerusalem, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas extended greetings to the Israeli peace camp, saying that the crowds at both rallies were fighting for the same goal of peace and an end to suffering. Some 10,000 people attended the Ramallah rally and 7,000 assembled in Jerusalem. The rally in Jerusalem was characterized by the strong presence of young people and members of the Russian-speaking community.

Withdrawal Aid Off the Table

Israel’s request for additional assistance from the United States to resettle evacuees from the Gaza Strip pullout is off the table for now, a senior Israeli official said.

President Bush had expressed interest in assisting Israel following the withdrawal, but “with one disaster after another, the momentum we had before the disengagement” has been lost, Yossi Bachar, the director general of Israel’s Finance Ministry, said Sunday.

He cited the massive costs the United States faces this hurricane season. In light of the hurricanes it is appropriate for Israel not to raise the matter, Bachar said, and he could not say when it would come up again.

Israel wanted $600 million from the United States in compensation for moving its army bases out of Gaza and an undetermined amount estimated in some reports to be $1.6 billion to absorb evacuated settlers into Israel’s Galilee and Negev regions. Bachar is in Washington with the governor of the Bank of Israel, Stanley Fischer, to attend International Monetary Fund meetings. Bachar, who met with his Russian, Jordanian, Egyptian, Dutch and Chinese counterparts over the weekend, as well as with board members from major investment banks, said interest in investment in Israel was high in the wake of the withdrawal.

French Dictionary Recalled

A French dictionary was recalled after a computer virus caused the publication to revert to an edition with anti-Semitic definitions. Earlier this week, MRAP, a French anti-racism association, charged that the 2005 edition of Le Petit Littre had reverted to an 1874 edition that contained racist and anti-Semitic definitions. A computer bug caused the 19th century edition to be sent to the printer by mistake. The publisher said the 2006 edition will be published with a foreword explaining the evolution of these terms since the 19th century.

Rita Damages Synagogue Containing Rescued Torahs

A Louisiana synagogue that was housing Torahs recovered from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina was damaged by Hurricane Rita. The Torahs being kept at Beth Shalom Synagogue were not harmed, but water overwhelmed the synagogue’s rooftop drainage system, leaving an inch in the sanctuary, along with fallen tiles from the ceiling and hanging electrical wires, the Advocate News in Baton Rouge reported.

Jewish Woman Dies, 2nd Hurt in Hurricane Evacuation

A Houston Jewish woman died when a bus evacuating residents of an assisted-living community ahead of Hurricane Rita caught fire. Bessie Kaplan, 92, was among more than 20 people killed when a bus chartered by Brighton Gardens of Bellaire burst into flames as it was transporting them to Dallas. Another passenger, Ruby Goldberg, was treated for injuries at Dallas’ Parkland Hospital and released. Authorities believe a mechanical failure caused the fire.

Israel Aid Escapes Cut in GOP Committee Proposal

Funding for Israel would remain untouched in cuts proposed by Republicans in the wake of recent hurricanes. Funding for Egypt, Africa, the AIDS initiative and the Peace Corps would take hits under a Republican Study Committee document obtained by JTA. Israel is the single largest recipient of U.S. aid, receiving more than $2.5 billion a year, but is not on the list for cuts. The report is a proposal that House Republican leaders may bring to the floor.

Jewish Court to Rule on Ritual Circumcision Method

The city of New York agreed to allow a Jewish court to handle the case of a ritual circumcision practice that may have caused an infant’s death. Metzitzah b’peh, a circumcision method used only in some ultra-Orthodox communities, involves the mohel placing his mouth directly on the wound.

Rabbi Yitzchok Fisher’s use of metzitzah b’peh allegedly led to the death of a baby who contracted herpes. Fisher has agreed to suspend the practice while the beit din (Jewish court) studies the issue, the New York Jewish Week reported.

The city’s decision reportedly came after ultra-Orthodox rabbis persuaded Mayor Michael Bloomberg that the rabbinical court is the best place to resolve the issue.

Mourning for Gaza, New Orleans

The Orthodox Union has called on its rabbis to declare this Saturday, Oct. 1, a day of mourning for both the Gaza evacuation and the hurricanes that devastated New Orleans. It asks that each shul institute a ta’anit dibur — literally a “speech fast” or a period free of conversation, in commemoration of recent events.

“We ask all those attending shul that Shabbat morning to refrain from conversation while inside the sanctuary,” — including speeches or even conversation between pauses in the praying, according to a press release. Even traditional greetings of “Good Shabbos” or “Yasher koach” (good job), the OU says, “should be replaced with a handshake, a smile or both.”

The recent hurricane destruction in New Orleans and the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, which resulted in the razing of Israeli villages and synagogues, both transpired because of a loss of Torah and holiness in the world, and these events require a day of mourning, according to the OU, which is the main body representing Orthodox Judaism in the United States.

The OU interpretation is at odds with both the position of the Israeli government and that of many Jews and Jewish organizations in the United States. A majority in the American Jewish community supported the pullout. Other Jews and Jewish organizations combined neutrality with general support for the Israeli government.

The call for communal mourning has historical resonance. Throughout Jewish history, rabbis and leaders have called upon their communities to participate in speech fasts and food fasts in response to devastating world events or in preparation for repentance. — Amy Klein, Religion Editor

New Beer for New Year

North America’s only Jewish beer company has brewed a special beer for Rosh Hashanah. He’Brew’s Jewbelation 5766 is a nut-brown ale made from nine malts and hops to mark the company’s ninth anniversary, He’Brew owner Jeremy Cowan said.

More information is available at

Chabad to Dedicate Torah at Pentagon Chapel

The Lubavitch movement is dedicating a Torah at the Pentagon to mark the Sept. 11 terrorist attack there. The Torah will be installed Monday in a chapel built precisely where a hijacked plane hit on Sept. 11, 2001. The Aleph Institute, a Chabad affiliate that reaches out to prisoners and troops, is dedicating the Torah in coordination with the Pentagon chaplain’s office.

House Approves Funding for Faith-Based Head Start

The House of Representatives extended funding for Head Start programs to religious institutions, legislation opposed by some Jewish groups. The Reform movement strongly condemned last week’s vote, saying it would lower standards by allowing institutions to use federal funds to hire early-childhood teachers based on religion, not qualifications.

U.S. Imposed Arms Embargo, Ex-Shin Bet Chief Says

The United States imposed a limited arms embargo on Israel in the first year of the intifada, a former Israeli intelligence official said. Avi Dichter, former chief of Israel’s Shin Bet security service, said the embargo was imposed on helicopter parts, because of their use in Israel’s targeted killing of terrorist leaders, but that U.S. officials resisted calls for a wider arms embargo. The United States opposed targeted killings at the time.

Dichter was speaking at the Saban Institute in Washington, where he now is a fellow. The embargo ended after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and the United States used helicopter-launched missiles to assassinate an Al Qaeda terrorist leader in Yemen in 2002. President Bush later said he could not keep Israel from carrying out an anti-terror strategy that he himself favored.

Jewish School Chief Testifies on Hurricane Aid Assistance

The president of a Memphis Jewish school was invited to testify before a Senate committee considering compensation for schools absorbing Hurricane Katrina refugees. Michael Stein, president of Margolin Hebrew Academy, was to testify before the Senate Health and Education Committee on the needs of parochial schools that take in displaced children.

“Our school adopted a policy of ‘doing whatever it takes,’ even though there was no way of knowing the cost and where the money would come from,” Stein said in prepared remarks distributed by the Orthodox Union before his testimony last week. “During the week of Aug. 28, our school enrolled 24 students ranging in age from 3 years to 17, increasing our school’s current population by 10 percent.”

The Orthodox Union wants the government to compensate parochial schools. Some Democrats oppose such funding, saying it violates church-state separation.

Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.


Abbas Tries to Prove His Strength


Four months after he was elected president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas is fighting for his political life — and possibly for the survival of the peace process.

Last week, Abbas fought off militants’ attempts to challenge the authority of the Palestinian government and dismissed a number of senior officers who had failed to prevent the challenge.

Abbas forced the resignation of West Bank security chief Ismail Jaber after riots aimed at the P.A. president ended with shots fired at his Ramallah headquarters.

Abbas took the move primarily to prevent the possible collapse of his rule, but it also is an advance payment to President Bush, with whom he was scheduled to meet later this month. According to the U.S.-led “road map” peace plan, the many P.A. security bodies should be whittled down to three.

Jaber had been commander of the national security force, which with 15,000 police officers is the largest security body in the West Bank. Israel recently has exerted a great deal of pressure on Abbas to get rid of Jaber, considered too weak to cope with terrorists.

Avi Dichter, head of Israel’s Shin Bet security service, recently met with Abbas and expressed Israel’s concern at the P.A.’s failure to reform the security services, disarm militant groups and stop terrorist attacks against Israeli targets. Even in Jericho and Tulkarm, the two cities Israel already has handed over to P.A. control, the Palestinian Authority is refusing to implement promises to disarm specific wanted terrorists and restrict their freedom of movement.

As a result, Israel has delayed handing over additional cities to P.A. control.

Abbas issued a presidential decree over the weekend mandating the forced retirement of thousands of police officers over age 60, cutting both the size of the armed forces and his budget. Yet in a confrontation with the core of his opposition, the Al Aksa Brigades, the terrorist militia of his own ruling Fatah party, Abbas backed down.

In an apparent initial attempt to restore law and order, P.A. officials last week ordered six terrorists who had found shelter at the Mukata, Abbas’ headquarters in Ramallah, to give up their weapons, join the P.A. security forces or leave the compound.

Instead, the men instead went on a rampage. They were joined on March 30 by other brigade members, who fired shots at the Mukata and in the streets of Ramallah and damaged businesses and restaurants that senior P.A. officials frequent.

Abbas was in the Mukata during the shooting, but escaped unharmed under heavy security. Similar incidents were reported in other places in the West Bank, especially in the Bethlehem and Tulkarm regions.

Some Al Aksa terrorists threatened to violate the truce declared Feb. 8 if the Palestinian Authority continued to pressure their men.

After the March 30 riots, Abbas ordered a crackdown on the militants. He fired the Ramallah commander, Younis al-Hass, whose men did nothing to stop the gunmen.

But he did not go further, and ultimately he agreed to a deal allowing the terrorists to keep their weapons. That showed Abbas still has a long way to go on implementing Palestinian promises to take the weapons from all but authorized members of the P.A. security services.

The riots, and Abbas’ failure to cope with them, intensified the P.A.’s internal crisis. To protest Abbas’ deal with the terrorists, the commander of the general intelligence forces in the West Bank, Tawfik Tirawi, resigned March 31, charging that his fellow security commanders were not doing enough to restore law and order.

As the commanders met with Abbas, Tirawi told him, “The commanders around you are not telling you the truth. I cannot work when others do not do their job and when the Palestinian resident is deprived of the necessary feeling of security.”

Abbas turned down Tirawi’s resignation and Tirawi eventually withdrew it.

P.A. Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei condemned the March 30 riots and called on Palestinians to abide by the law.

“These acts serve the interests of those who are against our people,” he said. “We must all respect the rule of law.”

But Qurei’s own relations with Abbas have deteriorated considerably in recent months. Ehud Ya’ari, Arab affairs analyst for Israel’s Channel Two television, reported over the weekend that Qurei was keeping information from Abbas in order to weaken the president.

According to Israeli intelligence, senior figures surrounding Abbas are compartmentalizing him, reporting to him in a distorted manner or ignoring his orders altogether.

Abbas might name Jibril Rajoub, the P.A.’s national security adviser, to Jaber’s old job as head of all West Bank security services. Can Rajoub meet the complex challenges of the job?

Rajoub, 52, was Yasser Arafat’s longtime national security adviser until the two had a falling out and Arafat fired him.

He is considered a pragmatist in terms of relations with Israel and is feared on the Palestinian street. If anyone can confront the militants, it is Rajoub.

Only if Abbas and Rajoub succeed in stabilizing the situation will the Palestinians be able to demand that Bush pressure Israel to speed up the timetable for handing over additional Palestinian cities and dismantling West Bank roadblocks.

Palestinian officials have claimed time and again in recent weeks that it has been difficult to gain popular support for anti-terrorist measures because Israel is dragging its feet on relaxing security restrictions.

They also have been discouraged by Israel’s plan to expand the settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim to effectively link it to Jerusalem from the east, inconveniencing Palestinians traveling between the northern and southern parts of the West Bank.

Israel rejects Palestinian claims that P.A. security forces have been so crippled by Israel’s anti-terror operations during the intifada that they now can’t act.

However, after four years of intifada, power on the Palestinian street flows from the barrel of a gun, and for many, especially the young, weapons are a major source of respect, authority and livelihood.

The militants are feared but at the same time are still popular, considered by many Palestinians as the heroes of the intifada.

Meanwhile, the fundamentalist terror group Hamas grows stronger each day. Abbas has to take drastic measures to take the P.A.’s reins, and Israel has to prove to the Palestinians that they can gain more with Abbas at their helm than anyone else.

If there is no progress, Hamas may turn out to be a decisive political force in Palestinian parliamentary elections scheduled for this summer. Then P.A. officials may rue their failure to confront the terrorist groups during the 12 years since the Oslo peace process began.


Israel Lays Plans for Post-Arafat Era

As Israel looks ahead to the post-Arafat era, the government is considering a series of policy options: in the short term, easing conditions in the Palestinian territories to help a new leadership consolidate power and in the longer term, restarting peace talks based on the “road map” plan.

However, there also are contingency plans for a far more pessimistic scenario: The possibility that the new Palestinian leaders may fail to assert their authority, and that the situation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip could degenerate into chaos and internecine violence.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon laid down the general outlines of the new policy in a string of meetings last week with Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz; Lt. Gen. Moshe Ya’alon, Israel Defense Forces chief of staff; and other senior defense establishment officials.

Sharon made two key decisions. Israel will do whatever it can from a distance to help Mahmoud Abbas, who seems to be emerging as the dominant figure in the new Palestinian leadership, to establish his position, but at the same time it will prepare for chaos if the broad coalition Abbas is forming falls apart.

Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom highlighted the delicate nature of Israel’s position with regard to the new Palestinian leaders.

“Any name we mention,” he said, “will be stigmatized as a collaborator. But we expect whatever leadership that emerges to be more moderate and more responsible.”

For the time being, Israeli hopes rest on Abbas. He has come out strongly against Palestinian terrorism and in favor of the political, economic and security reforms the Palestinians committed to under the internationally backed road map to peace.

Position papers produced by the Foreign Ministry and Israel Defense Forces (IDF) suggest Israel made two cardinal errors the last time Abbas held a share of power, when he served as Palestinian Authority prime minister between late April and early September 2003: It embraced him too tightly while failing to make some concessions, like large-scale prisoner releases, that Palestinians expected Abbas to achieve. These are mistakes the Israeli establishment says it does not intend to repeat.

Proposed moves to help the new Palestinian leadership win popular backing can be divided into two areas — military and civilian. A Foreign Ministry paper urges the IDF to go into “defensive mode” and not launch preemptive strikes against terrorist organizations, and the defense establishment seems to be adopting the advice.

The IDF plans to cut offensive “seek-and-destroy” operations to a minimum and to focus on intercepting terrorists on their way to attacks. The hope is that if Palestinian factions also display moderation, it could reduce the level of violence in the territories, improve the quality of Palestinian life and enhance Palestinian support for the new leadership.

Other planned moves are aimed directly at improving civilian life: for example, further easing restrictions on Palestinian movement and encouraging economic activity.

Another goodwill gesture will be to allow Yasser Arafat to be buried in pomp and circumstance, with a full complement of foreign dignitaries in attendance. A special air corridor will be opened to allow Arab leaders technically at war with Israel, such as Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi, to fly directly to the funeral without passing through Israeli border controls.

However, there could be a serious confrontation over where Arafat will be buried. Sharon is adamant that the Palestinian Authority president not be interred in Jerusalem, and Palestinian officials in recent days have spoken of burying Arafat in Ramallah instead. If the Palestinians insist on Jerusalem, it could cause serious tension.

Abbas has been trying to establish a broad coalition of all Palestinian factions, including the radical fundamentalist Hamas and Islamic Jihad. The key question is whether the radicals will agree to a cease-fire with Israel, or whether the coalition will break up over this or other conciliatory moves. Israel is taking into account the possibility of open warfare between Palestinian factions and might even target the radicals if that occurs.

If, however, Abbas is able to establish his position and makes progress toward a general cease-fire and reforms, Israel will consider reciprocal steps such as releasing prisoners. There also would be an Israeli effort to coordinate the withdrawal from Gaza and part of the West Bank, as outlined in Sharon’s unilateral disengagement plan, with the new Palestinian leadership.

If all goes smoothly, the next move would be to restart political negotiations based on the road map. This would jibe with European efforts to jump-start stalled peace talks and get the new U.S. administration to join in playing a more active role.

The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, is said to be working on a “street map” that would lead the parties to the road map, and British Prime Minister Tony Blair is planning to invite all the relevant parties to an international conference in London to get a peace process restarted.

“We may be starting to get out of the nightmare,” one upbeat Foreign Ministry official, who insisted on anonymity, told JTA. “We have a historic [disengagement] plan in place, a new American administration and Arafat out of the picture. There is a huge opportunity here.”

But some Israeli analysts who know the Palestinian scene well suggest that the government is being far too optimistic, and that Abbas won’t have the clout to make the compromises necessary for peace.

Menachem Klein, a specialist in Palestinian studies at Bar Ilan University, maintains that a relatively weak Abbas leadership would prove to be only a transitional episode, and that Israel soon would have to deal with a new generation of local Palestinian leaders who have far more grass-roots support — people like Tanzim leader Marwan Barghouti, who currently is in an Israeli jail on terrorism charges.

“They are the people who led the previous intifada in the late 1980s, and they are behind the Tanzim today,” he said, referring to the mainstream Fatah movement’s terrorist militia. “They are not a bunch of collaborators.”

In Klein’s view, the young lions would make peace with Israel only on terms similar to those acceptable to Arafat. Though Arafat never spelled out his conditions for peace, they are believed to include Arab control over eastern Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, a full Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 borders and a “right of return” to Israel for millions of Palestinian refugees and their descendants, conditions no Israeli leader would accept.

“Otherwise they will say, ‘We will fight on,'” Klein warned.

Leslie Susser is the diplomatic correspondent for the Jerusalem Report.

Monk Could Be Way to Mideast Peace

Next week, I am sponsoring a group of Israelis and Palestinians to spend a few weeks in a small village in southern France with a Buddhist monk named Thich Nhat Hanh. These two disparate groups of people do not know each other, but often feel hatred toward each other. Some of them have been hurt in the war.

But by the end of the two weeks, under the guidance of the monks, the Israelis and the Palestinians will learn to listen to, understand, forgive and maybe even like each other. They will be at peace.

Could this work on a larger scale for their respective countries? I think so.

There are only two ways to ever make peace in the Middle East, and both are extreme. One is for one side to obliterate the other in a military conquest. The other, far more favorable approach, is for an unrelated third party to broker peace. For this to succeed, this person must come with absolutely no agenda — not one of country, religion, politics or money. Just peace.

That’s the one we are going for, because we have found such a person.

Nhat Hanh is a world-renowned Vietnamese Buddhist monk, scholar, poet and peace activist who lives in Plum Village, France. Martin Luther King Jr. nominated him for a Nobel Peace prize. He has written almost 100 books. All over the world, he teaches what he calls mindfulness — peaceful, joyful living.

He is in a unique position to help the world now. We are trying to help him.

I met him because I read one of his books and it really helped my life as a movie producer. I learned to listen more, scream less, appreciate everything around me and focus. I even learned to "de-multitask." And now I get more done, and am happier and calmer about it.

I figured if it worked for me, it could work for my friends in the entertainment business, who could sure use his help. So I offhandedly suggested he do a seminar in Hollywood.

Three months later, he called and said, "How’s next Tuesday?" I had Nhat Hanh and 15 monks over to my house to meet about 50 agents, producers, directors, studio executives and actors. I love these people, but they would stab themselves in the back if they could.

In one night, he changed some of their lives. Nhat Hanh does not try to convert people to Buddhism or get them to shave their heads. He teaches them how to listen to others and appreciate life more.

I thought it amazing what he did in Hollywood, but there are people with a lot more to be angry about than their TV series getting cancelled. He has done this for senators, cops, prisoners, people battling AIDS, victims of prejudice and hate crimes. And for Palestinians and Israelis.

Every summer people come from all over the world to Nhat Hanh’s retreat center in France to learn from him and his spiritual sidekick, Sister Chan Khong. A few years ago, they invited some Israelis and Palestinians — a few severely wounded in their war with each other. They forgave.

That gave me the idea to try this on a larger scale, and to tell the world about it. If everyone sees what can happen next week in Plum Village, it could then be done on a much larger scale. I wasn’t sure if it was the right thing to do, so I asked friends, advisers and mentors — some of whom run charities. What really convinced me was their answer.

They all said, "No, don’t do it."

They said don’t bother. It will never happen. They hate each other too much. It’s too late. One person even argued that if it cost a Palestinian more to fly to France than an Israeli, it wasn’t fair. Everyone was so far into their anger they didn’t even want to try.

That convinced me that we have to.

Nhat Hanh has no agenda other than peace. He has a great expression: There is no way to peace; peace is the way.

Something extreme must be done and will be. I vote we try extreme peace before the other alternative.

I hope the world watches what happens at Nhat Hanh’s village next week. Who better to do this, who could be more agenda-less than a peaceful Buddhist monk with unique gift for teaching people to listen and be mindful, who has no country, no desire for wealth, no stake in politics?

This is not about who is right or wrong or who started it or who is hurt the most. It is about peace.

It can happen.


Film producer Larry Kasanoff is chairman and CEO of Threshold Entertainment.

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."

Arafat,the Anti-Icon

Leaders of the world have called him irrelevant, and indeed he has been largely replaced in world affairs. But in an exhibit at Tel Aviv’s Dvir Gallery, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat is as relevant as ever as the foil for a young art curator’s homage to Israeli culture.

Consisting of about 20 illustrations and photographs, "Guess Who Died" aspires to be a mirror of Israeli society and its relationship with the Palestinian leader who has served as the culture’s ultimate anti-icon for the last three decades.

In a digital photo montage titled, "Death Row," Arafat’s head has been crudely pasted onto the body of late rapper Tupac Shakur as he walks alongside Marion "Suge" Knight, founder of the hip-hop record label Death Row Records, surrounded by bodyguards. It’s the Palestinian Authority à la gangsta rappers.

The curator, 24-year-old writer and art critic Ory Dessau, calls the exhibition a post-traumatic shock reaction to the Palestinian uprising. Though in grappling with Israel’s view of personification of Palestinian nationalism, "Guess Who Died" includes pieces that date from the 1970s, when Arafat first burst into the national consciousness.

"My starting point is that Arafat is an Israeli cultural construct," he said. "I want to take the entire Israeli debate about Arafat, reproduce it and take ownership."

Dessau explained that the exhibit’s title refers to a "hierarchy" of death that’s part of the conflict. In both Israeli and Palestinian societies, the significance of a killing varies depending on whether the victim is a child civilian, a soldier, a settler or a potential suicide bomber.

"We’re in a situation where there’s no distinction between civil life and military life," he said. "This is our life, there’s no difference between the front line and the homefront."

A self-described Israeli leftist, Dessau supports a two-state solution. But he says that unlike other exhibitions in Israel that have been organized to criticize Israel’s military occupation or support for coexistence, his has no agenda. Instead he calls it "an objective reflection of the state of bloodbath" that comes with a sense of humor.

Adam Rabinovich, the Israeli artist who put Arafat’s head onto the body of the rapper, said the montage is meant as a humoristic parallel between the way Israelis look at Palestinians and racial tensions in the United States.

"To be Israeli and not deal with Arafat is impossible," Rabinovich said. "It just comes out."

Mother Weathers Terror’s ‘Storm’

"Storm of Terror: A Hebron Mother’s Diary," by June Leavitt (Ivan R. Dee, $22.50).

Either excoriated as illegal conquerors or praised as pioneers, Jews living in the territories conquered by Israel in the Six-Day War are never portrayed neutrally. The very name of where they live depends on the political bent of the writer: to critics they live in "the West Bank in the Occupied Territories," and proponents historically term it "Judea and Samaria." But at the crux of the Israeli-Palestinian controversy, settlers themselves rarely tell their own stories in print. With "Storm of Terror," June Leavitt has filled that gap.

Leavitt is an American Jewish woman who grew up in secular upper-middle-class Long Island, left for the University of Wisconsin with a trunk full of new mix n’ match clothes, then found herself floundering in the drug culture. Today she is an ultra-Orthodox mother of five who lives with her husband and children in the Jewish enclave of Kiryat Arba in the Palestinian-controlled city of Hebron.

"Storm" is the intensely personal diary of her life during the first year and a half of the second intifada, which erupted on Sept. 29, 2000. Apart from emotional references to biblical patriarchs, the book is not a political polemic; Leavitt, passionately convinced of the Jews’ historic right to live in the entire biblical Israel (including Palestinian-occupied territories), feels no need to justify her a priori position.

Rather, she tells the story of how it feels to live through the trauma of violence and death that strikes her neighbors and friends daily. She relates chronologically the relentless terrorist incidents in which settlers have been attacked in fields, cars, busses and in their own beds. In each case, Leavitt writes not of some anonymous victim, but of acquaintances in her tightknit community whom she meets in the streets, in the grocery and in her children’s schools: "We are burying another of our dead…. Orphans. Orphans everywhere."

When right-wing Tourism Minister Rehavam Ze’evi was assassinated in 2001, it was not some remote politician Leavitt lost but a close family friend who years earlier had himself joined her hospital vigil after rock throwers assaulted her husband causing head injuries.

The real power of the narrative is its honesty, as when Leavitt agonizes about watching her own children on the firing line: "Miriam said that at school her friends are busy writing their own eulogies…. Whoever says they are not frightened is telling a lie."

Leavitt also struggles to juggle among her children’s differing viewpoints. Her eldest daughter Estie, a soldier, was stationed in her hometown to quell settlers advancing towards violent Arab demonstrators. One of the settlers was Estie’s younger sister, Miriam:

"Get out of here before I smash you with this!"

Estie pushed the settlers back with the butt end of her rifle.

Miriam cried, "Why are you on their side? Why are you going to let the Arabs kill us?"

"Traitor!" other settlers screamed at Estie.

A woman soldier grabbed Miriam’s arm. Miriam resisted. When the soldier raised her arm to hit Miriam, Estie screamed, "Don’t touch her! She’s my sister!"

Leavitt’s son became intensely devout as a reaction to friends’ deaths. And her 13-year-old daughter was often so terrified that Leavitt spent nights rocking her. In the new reality of the intifada, normalcy is nowhere. Even a simple mother-daughter conversation about planning the daughter’s future is not immune: "Both Estie and I are trying to ignore the screaming, the whistling of the mobs, the gunfire, the grenades, the street battles between the army and the Arabs," she writes.

Leavitt lost her mother at a young age, and her father and brother turned their backs on her when she moved her children into the dangers of "the West Bank."

Leavitt continues to search for the meaning that brought her and her husband first to become devoutly religious and then ardent Zionists. As a child of the ’60s she used yoga, bioenergy healing, meditation and even tarot cards in her quest for equanimity in the midst of horror.

Leavitt is candidly on the extreme fringe of the Israeli political spectrum. Baruch Goldstein, who murdered 29 Muslim worshippers in 1994, had been her family doctor. Her comment on the causes for the crime?

"So many friends had died in his arms. Many of us think it was that event which broke our neighbor, Dr. Goldstein."

Leavitt describes, with almost utopian nostalgia, the friendships between her children and nearby Arab families before the peace process "put up barbed wire between us and the Arabs."

"Storm" will not cause any reader to change sides. But its powerful style and even more powerful emotions will engage anyone interested in the Israeli-Palestinian tragedy to race through its pages. Leavitt reveals herself not only as a determined ideologue but as a complex, struggling human being.

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 New Middle East Battleground: College Campuses

The signs on campus read, "Zionism equals Nazism" and "Why do Israelis love to kill Palestinian children?" One simply showed an Israeli flag dripping blood.

When Sarah Tolkoff returned to UC Irvine from her Birthright Israel trip last year, she says, "I realized the anti-Israel rhetoric on campus had gotten out of control. Going to school every day, I felt like my identity was being stomped on." The founder of UCI’s Anteaters for Israel activist group says, "I wasn’t involved until I got angry."

This school year, plenty of Jews and Jewish organizations are angry enough to get involved on campus. Hasbara ("advocacy" in Hebrew) for Israel is planned for colleges nationwide, as Jewish organizations begin campaigns to reach students this school year.

On college campuses, as in the news, the Israeli-Palestinian situation dominates the political conversation. In the pitched emotional battle to shape the thinking of the nation’s future leaders, the pro-Palestinian position often wins.

Like the protest movement against the Vietnam War, the Free Speech Movement or multicultural education, support for the Palestinian cause gains legitimacy and massive press coverage when it wins the hearts and picket signs of U.S. college students. This month, as students arrive at or return to college, Jewish organizations large and small hope to change the situation by organizing educational campaigns to help pro-Israel students make their case to their peers.

"Jewish students feel outgunned. We need to work on our intellectual arsenal," says B. J. Elias of Southern California Students for Israel, a program of USC Hillel. Elias, a USC graduate student and former Israel advocacy leader at Emory University, estimates, "About 70 percent of Muslim students could give a coherent analysis of how Israel is at fault in the current situation. About 70 percent of Jewish students could not answer those charges."

Elias believes Jewish students have not felt much need for a connection to Israel until recently. "For people in their mid-20s and younger," he says, "the existence of Israel has been a given; it didn’t need defending."

That situation has changed, as demonstrated by the highly publicized rallies on the campuses of UC Berkeley in April and San Francisco State in May of this year. In Berkeley, as reported in the student newspaper, on Yom HaShoah a Jewish student stood before a chanting crowd and recited "Kaddish" in honor of Palestinians killed during the conflict.

Confronted on campus with highly organized and often emotionally appealing pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel rhetoric, many students lack the factual and rhetorical preparation to support Israel among their peers. Even before Bay Area rallies in May, national Jewish organizations were coordinating efforts and preparing Israel advocacy initiatives for college campuses across the country. Even Hollywood is getting into the pro-Israel act, with a number of key people participating.

Though a recent American Jewish Committee-funded poll of college students found that more support Israel than the Palestinian cause in the current conflict (see p. 15), recent events show that most are still unable to articulate that support in a convincing way, while Palestinian supporters argue their case more effectively. It is this rhetorical disadvantage that Jewish organizations are now beginning to address.

At the forefront of the effort is Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life. With funding and support from the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, Hillel has created the Israel on Campus Coalition (ICC), a network of 20 national Jewish organizations working to improve Israel’s image on college campuses.

"One of our biggest challenges is the majority of Jewish students who are not well informed," says Rhoda Weisman, chief creative officer for Hillel and director of its Center for Jewish Engagement. "We want to make sure, for those who are not well-connected with Israel, that we are giving them multiple points of entry."

ICC will coordinate pro-Israel events, information, marketing campaigns, speakers’ tours and programming, serving as a hasbara clearinghouse. Newly appointed ICC Director Wayne Firestone, formerly the Israel director for the Anti-Defamation League, said in a statement, "I believe I can help students penetrate beyond the headlines to better understand Israel’s position as the only democracy in the Middle East, as well as its centrality to the Jewish people."

"We are almost a year behind," says Lynn Schusterman, president of the Schusterman Family Foundation, "I heard students in April of ’01 saying they needed help at an AIPAC [American Israel Public Affairs Committee] policy conference student breakfast. They were not prepared factually to debate pro-Palestinian students. It took us until this May to get all of the organizations together."

More than 440 college activists from around the world convened this week at Hillel’s Charles Schusterman International Student Leaders Assembly for a six-day conference to learn leadership skills and pro-Israel advocacy.

Lisa Eisen, program director for the Schusterman Foundation and the ICC steering committee chair, says, "We saw diffuse efforts on campus, but given the worsening situation, we thought the problem was bigger than any one organization."

The problem is even bigger than one metaorganization, and many other groups have formed or refocused their efforts to support college students in their need for good arguments for Israel. The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles’ Jews in Crisis campaign has set a goal of $48,500 for the College Campus Initiative (CCI), a partnership of The Federation’s Jewish Community Relations Committee and the Los Angeles Hillel Council. The money will go toward a variety of projects on eight campuses in the greater Los Angeles area, according to Federation spokesperson Tzivia Schwartz Getzug.

CCI plans include a weekend-long conference called Action Israel, to train students and campus professionals in pro-Israel activism. The initiative also plans a weekly e-mail newsletter by and for Los Angeles-area students, and regular meetings of an Activist Student Leadership Network to develop leadership, organizing, and public relations tools.

Money will also be set aside to bring experts on Israel to speak on campuses, and to organize pro-Israel rallies. CCI plans to subsidize students who want to attend AIPAC’s annual policy conference in Washington, D.C., as well.

David Suissa, chairman of SuissaMiller Advertising, is a leader in the effort to formulate a pro-Israel message to which students will respond. Formal debate isn’t Suissa’s style. "The mood for us next year is to take the gloves off," he says.

The advertising guru applies his sloganeering and sound-bite expertise to Israel advocacy in the form of fliers, leaflets and pamphlets produced by organizations he supports, such as and The two groups, which share office space, produce similar eye-catching and provocative literature designed to grab and hold the attention of students.

Suissa calls it "instant activism for people with short attention spans." The message should not require too much time or effort to understand, Suissa says, because "the students didn’t sign up to join a war."

Olam4Israel plans to print 1 million pamphlets for distribution on campuses nationwide this year. Titled, "This Leaflet Is Full of Lies," the literature points out false but widely believed arguments that, unanswered and undisputed, have left pro-Israel students feeling helpless. Sister organization offers on its Web site downloadable provocative "Did You Know?" fliers, featuring information supporting Israel that students can print and post on campus.

If Israel’s problem is public opinion, then there’s no business like show business to look to for help. Project Communicate is a working group of entertainment industry professionals who support Israel and want the world to know why. Among the heavy-hitters going to bat for Israel are CAA agent Dan Adler; political consultant Donna Bojarsky; producers Sean Daniel and Zvi Howard Rosenman; attorney Lynne Wasserman; screenwriter Tom Teicholz; entertainment attorney Ken Hertz, and Art Levitt, CEO of movie ticket Web site

When Benjamin Netanyahu visited Los Angeles in May as part of The Jewish Federation’s Jews in Crisis campaign, a group of 25 entertainment industry creative people and executives from across the political spectrum held a breakfast meeting with the former prime minister. Since that time, Project Communicate has identified college students as its first priority, commissioning prominent political consultant Frank Luntz to report on the issues, arguments and ideas that can effect pro-Israel attitudes on campus.

Whoever is making the case for Israel — organization or individual, student or teacher, Jew or non-Jew — convincing Americans of any position requires the right words, the right language and the right framing. At the behest of Project Communicate, the American Jewish Committee and other organizations, Luntz went beyond college students, examining a range of U.S. attitudes toward the situation and the language that works to persuade Americans.

"From history to culture to values, the closer you define the similarities between Israel and America, the more likely you are to win the support of those who are neutral," the Luntz report says. Other general advice in the report includes, "Promote Anwar Sadat and King Hussein before you delegitimize Arafat," and, "The nation that is perceived as being most for peace will win this debate."

College students, with fast, easy access to the Internet, can find a wealth of hasbara advice with the click of a mouse (see sidebar), for example, The World Union of Jewish Students Web site has a downloadable "Hasbara Handbook."

As a student and a student leader, USC’s Elias has learned an important lesson in the hasbara battle that he likes to share with fellow pro-Israel students: take the offensive. "We need to put our position out there first," he says, "Not attacking the other side, but make them respond to our message."

For more information on Israel advocacy and the way the media portrays Israel, visit any of the sites below.

American Israel Public Affairs Committee:




Honest Reporting:

The Middle East Media Reseasch Institute:

Palestinian Media Watch:

Independant Media Review Analysis:

World Union of Jewish Students:

Betar on Campus:

Olam For Israel:

American Jewish Committee:

Jewish Internet Association:

Whispers of Dissent in the Air

With the monthlong Israeli siege over, life seems to be returning to normal in Ramallah — but beneath the surface, Palestinians are questioning their regime in unprecedented ways.

Dissent, which Palestinians usually keep to themselves because of threats to their livelihood or, indeed, their lives, is being heard after a wave of Palestinian terrorism in March brought a fierce Israeli reprisal that left Palestinian areas of the West Bank in ruins. Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat may be out of his besieged headquarters, angrier and more militant than ever, but people in the streets, trying to cope with the aftermath of the fighting, increasingly are asking, "Was all this misery really necessary?"

"People are tired," said gas station attendant Mohammad Amir. "People are not made of iron. Things have been more difficult than one could imagine."

"The suicide attacks contradict our national interest," Issam Sakker, a former laborer in Israel, said in Manara Square in downtown Ramallah. "They were counterproductive in that they intensified the pressure on Arafat."

One message that Israel’s Operation Protective Wall has conveyed to the Palestinians is that they paid dearly for the fact that their government left every Palestinian militia free to engage in terrorism against Israel. Few Palestinians say that suicide bombings are immoral, but they do talk about their "ineffectiveness."

Only a month ago, such statements were hardly heard — at least not openly on the street — and suicide bombers were considered martyrs to be envied. But the shock caused by the Israeli military operation has changed moods and opinions, not only of the man on the street, but also among Palestinian politicians, who are calling on Arafat to reform his government.

"One must begin discussing a reform in the institutions of the P.A.," said Nabil Amer, a member of the Palestine Legislative Council who resigned from Arafat’s cabinet May 4. "Everybody feels that an earthquake has taken place in Palestinian society. So the changes must be equal in size to what happened," Amer told journalists in Ramallah. "I say the change must come from within the Palestinian Authority."

According to a classified report reaching the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, Nabil Sha’ath, the P.A.’s minister of international cooperation, told Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov that the Palestinian leadership committed many mistakes, particularly in its attitude toward suicide bombers. He said the phenomenon had caused considerable damage to the credibility of the Palestinian leadership, and should be stopped at all costs.

Hussein A-Sheik, a leading official of Arafat’s Fatah faction, demanded a reform in Fatah ranks. Earlier this month, A-Sheik urged that a party conference be urgently convened for the first time in 13 years.

"One must discuss the strategy of the Fatah and elect a new leadership — except for Arafat, of course," A-Sheik said. Even Arafat’s top lieutenants say the disastrous events of the past month can not be allowed to pass without comment. "The establishment must learn the lessons of what happened," said Col. Jibril Rajoub, head of the once-powerful Preventive Security Service in the West Bank. "One must learn the lessons to bring about change, because what happened was a national disaster. One must check what happened. Who bears the responsibility"?

Once mentioned as a possible successor to Arafat, Rajoub is believed to have lost much of his power.

Rajoub was not present when his security headquarters in the Ramallah suburb of Bituniya was captured by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and surrendered with little resistance. He also was not with Arafat during the prolonged siege of his Mukata compound in central Ramallah.

Rajoub has kept the forces, the closest thing to a Palestinian army, out of regular combat with Israel throughout the intifada. Many Palestinians now see Rajoub as a collaborator with the Israelis. He sits at home, away from the decision-making process.

One of Rajoub’s greatest worries should be the growing demand for a drastic reform of the security forces to put the many official organizations under a unified command.

Judging by Rajoub’s current political weakness, such a reform may force him into early retirement — not to speak of other, less pleasant options — with his Gaza Strip counterpart, Mohammad Dahlan, becoming head of the force. That would make Dahlan the virtual defense minister of the Palestinian Authority, and a potential second-in-command to Arafat.

That scenario leaves many question marks: Is Arafat ready to accept a second-in-command? Does he really want order in the security forces, or would he prefer to keep multiple forces to maintain a veneer of deniability after terrorist attacks and to keep any single figure from becoming a potential challenger?

Even if Arafat does opt for reform, it’s not clear that he can carry it through. In addition to the multitude of official security forces, a variety of militias tied to Arafat have flourished in Palestinian areas, often taking the lead in terrorist attacks. The militias suffered major blows in the IDF operation, but they are still a presence.

The other major question mark is whether Arafat is prepared to confront the armed fundamentalist groups, such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which would have to be curbed for a unified Palestinian command to emerge.

Judging by voices heard earlier this month, the Palestinian political arena is ready for a drastic change.

During a session of the Palestinian cabinet May 3, the first held since Arafat’s release, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Amer was the spearhead of criticism. He demanded that a new cabinet be appointed made up of members of the Legislative Council and under the council’s supervision, "just like in any other democratic country."

Arafat responded by appointing a "reform committee," but Amer suspected that this was a way to avert real change, and resigned.

No Palestinian dares talk openly of the need to replace Arafat, but they do whisper.

"There are scores of Palestinians who are disgusted with the idea that Hamas and Islamic Jihad will rule them and want a proper rule, which will allow them to live side-by-side with Israel," said Reuven Merhav, former director-general of Israel’s Foreign Ministry and a former head of the Mossad secret service.

Political analysts like Ha’aretz’s Danny Rubinstein say that Arafat will focus on two major moves: the rebuilding of P.A. rule in Palestinian-run territories, which are still subject to frequent Israeli military incursions, and international involvement in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, a fundamental goal of the intifada.

Arafat wants a multinational force empowered not only to monitor a cease-fire and an Israeli withdrawal, but to guarantee trade and movement between Palestinian areas and the reconstruction of P.A. institutions destroyed by the IDF.

The key, once again, is in Arafat’s hands — and for the time being, no changes will take place without him.

Arafat Absent From Sharon’s Plan

The fallout from Operation Protective Wall, and even this week’s suicide bombing in Rishon le-Zion, may move the diplomatic aspect of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in unexpected directions.

Recent weeks had indicated that the United States and Arab world were preparing to resurrect President Clinton’s bold peace proposals from December 2000.

That plan envisaged a Palestinian state on virtually all of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, a division of Jerusalem by neighborhood and a resolution of the Palestinian refugee problem.

Many Israelis were wary of the concessions demanded of Israel — and the 19-month-long intifada the Palestinians launched, after rejecting the Clinton plan as insufficient, only deepened that skepticism.

Now, following Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s visit to Washington this week — and the deadly suicide bombing Tuesday, just as Sharon and President Bush were preparing to meet — momentum is building behind an alternate plan that would sideline Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat and implement a slower, phased approach to peacemaking.

Over the next few days, Israeli officials and intelligence analysts will be looking for evidence of two budding developments on the Palestinian side, one military and the other political. What they find could determine whether Israelis and Palestinians are in for another long round of fighting or whether, despite all the ongoing violence, a peace process is still possible.

On the military front, the question is whether the Palestinians really are ready to restructure their military forces with American help, as some of their leaders have indicated. This would entail merging the disparate security services into one armed force — and disarming all the party and political militias like Hamas and Tanzim.

On the political front, the question is whether a new, more democratic Palestinian leadership would accept the demise of Arafat. Sharon, who feels that no peace accord with Arafat is possible, reportedly discussed with Bush the idea of making Arafat a figurehead president, while a new Palestinian prime minister would wield real power.

In this context, Sharon is rumored to be contemplating allowing a Palestinian state in Gaza on a trial basis, with Preventive Security Service strongman Mohammad Dahlan as leader, and Arafat as president in name only.

Rather than a leap to an all-encompassing, final deal, therefore, Sharon is proposing a more measured approach in three phases over an indefinite period.

First, he says, there must be a process of democratization in the Palestinian Authority, with all armed forces placed under central authority and financial transparency instituted to prevent development funds donated by Europe from being used again to finance terrorist attacks against Israel.

Second, for a trial period, there would be a Palestinian state on part of the territory only, perhaps in the Gaza Strip.

Third, negotiations on final borders, Jerusalem and refugees would take place only after the trial period proves successful.

Indeed, as they survey the ruins of their cities, towns and villages, Palestinians from all walks of life are asking where suicide bombings have brought them. There is widespread talk of the need for a leadership and policy shake-up.

But the key question is whether the Palestinian drive for change will lead to accommodation with Israel on the Sharon model or something like it — or whether Sharon’s failure to put anything as bold as the Clinton parameters back on the table will end in new waves of Palestinian violence.

In addition, it’s far from clear whether Sharon would be willing to accept the Clinton parameters even if the interim stage proves successful.

Both Clinton and former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, when each left office early in 2001, announced that the offer Arafat had spurned was no longer “on the table.”

But with each cycle of Israeli-Palestinian violence more deadly than the last, relatively moderate Arab leaders from Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan have been suggesting a return to the Clinton formula, and the Americans and Europeans have been listening.

“We don’t want to have to start from square one,” Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher said, underlining the Arab demand that the peace talks resume from where they broke off at Taba, Egypt, in January 2001. At that time the Israelis and Palestinians were negotiating on the basis of the Clinton parameters and, by most accounts, making considerable headway.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell last week announced that an international conference on the Israeli Palestinian conflict will be held this summer. For it to be of any value, Arab states say, it must be convened on the basis of a new Saudi initiative — which calls for an Israeli withdrawal from all territory won in the 1967 Six-Day War in exchange for peace with the Arab world — and the Clinton parameters.

Clinton’s plan dealt with the three core issues in the Israeli-Palestinian impasse — territory, Jerusalem and refugees.

On territory, Clinton proposed a Palestinian state in Gaza and 94 percent to 96 percent of the West Bank, with compensation for the remaining land from Israel proper.

On Jerusalem, he proposed a division of sovereignty from neighborhood to neighborhood based on ethnicity, and suggested various options for shared sovereignty on the Temple Mount.

On refugees, Clinton proposed that most go to the envisioned state of Palestine, some to Israel and others to a list of countries willing to absorb a set number.

The implication was that if the sides could tie up the loose ends on these key issues, they could reach a historic peace deal formally ending the conflict between them.

But Sharon is not ready to go down that road. Nearly 20 months of violence have shown that the Palestinians cannot be trusted to keep the peace, and that Israel should not be asked to make irreversible concessions that weaken its defenses, he argues.

Sharon also is against dividing Jerusalem or allowing any Palestinian refugees back into Israel proper.

Moreover, he has a major strategic problem with the territorial provisions of the Clinton parameters: He believes Israel must retain the Jordan Valley as a buffer to prevent Iraq, Syria and even Jordan from joining forces to attack Israel from the east.

Sharon envisages Israel having two defensive columns, one for defense against the Palestinians along the pre-1967 border with the West Bank, and one in the Jordan Valley for defense from the east.

Both zones would bite into West Bank territory, leaving any future Palestinian state with 85 percent or less of the West Bank.

Tuesday’s bombing in Rishon le-Zion, which killed at least 15 Israelis, seemed likely to derail or at least defer for several weeks the nascent peace moves.

Significantly, though, the bomber was a member of the rejectionist Hamas, not Arafat’s Fatah or Tanzim. Both Arafat and the Palestinian Authority condemned the attack in unusually direct and strong language.

Arafat also pledged to take action against the perpetrators — though he also said that his security services were too weak to fight terrorism.

As far as a long-term solution, many observers believe the Clinton plan still is the only viable solution. Among them is Gilead Sher, one of the chief Israeli negotiators under Barak.

Not long after the Palestinian intifada began in September 2000, Sher predicted that, sooner or later, the parties would come back to Clinton’s outline.

“After rivers of blood, God forbid, we will come back to the same table for the same deal,” he declared. “No responsible Israeli government not even a right-wing government will be able to do anything else.”

The World Has No Memory

This is a slightly abridged version of an address delivered to a crowd of 2,000 people at a rally for Israel at the Milken Jewish Community Center, April 16, 2002

I want to talk to the children tonight, because I’m concerned for your faith.

You’ve heard that we are aggressors – savagely invading, occupying, opressing a sovereign people.

You’ve heard we have brutally destroyed their cities and towns, their homes and shops, desecrating holy places, turning once-thriving centers of life into fields of destruction and death.

You’ve heard that we have committed atrocity; that we have massacred hundreds of innocents, bulldozed living people into rubble, shot pregnant women and little children, halted ambulances from attending to the wounded. They say we’ve even prevented the burial of their dead. And when we did bury the dead, it was only to cover up the mass murder.

And it seems that everyone says it. You hear it on CNN and ABC and NPR, you read it in the LA Times, you hear it from world leaders and organizations devoted to humanitarian causes.

The Portuguese Nobel Laureate, Jose Saramago, visited the West Bank and declared that “what is happening here is a crime that may be compared to Auschwitz.”

The LA Times published front-page articles describing the wanton destruction and ruthless mass murder carried out by Israeli soldiers against Palestinian civilians in Nablus and Jenin. (You had to read to the fifth paragraph to discover that none of the reports were independently confirmed or verified.)

The annual session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, last week, condemned Israel for “mass killings” of Palestinians “gross violations” of humanitarian law” and affirmed the “legitimate right of Palestinian people to resist.”

You, our children, you hear these things, you read these things. You witness demonstrations on college campuses and in the great cities of the world. And you have to wonder: Is this the truth? What kind of people are we? What kind of society is Israel? What happened to the dream that once was Zionism?

Koffi Annan, the Secretary General of the United Nations, put it succinctly: “Is it possible,” he asked, “that Israel is right and the whole world is wrong?”

I want you to remember this night. For tonight, something extraordinary is happening. Tonight, we have come, your parents and grandparents, your rabbis and teachers, leaders from every corner of the Jewish community — Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, religious and secular, right-wing and left-wing, to say one thing to you: Is it possible that Israel is right and the whole world is wrong? You bet your life it is. It is true today and it has always been true.

Because the world has no memory.

They forget, but we remember. In 1947 the United Nations voted to partition Palestine and to create two states between the Jordan and the Mediterranean: One, the Jewish state of Israel. The other, a homeland for Palestinian Arabs. The Zionist leadership, the acting government of the Yishuv, accepted the plan. In 1947, we affirmed our desire to live in peace, side by side with a Palestinian State. But the armies of nine Arab states came pouring over the borders, to extinguish the nascent state of Israel. When a truce came, the territory for the Palestinian Arab state had been devoured by Egypt and Jordan.

They forget, but we remember that thousands of Palestinian Arabs fled in the face of that Arab invasion. But when they reached the borders of Jordan and Egypt, they were not permitted to enter. Israel, tiny beleaguered Israel, managed to absorb and settle millions of Jewish refugees from Europe and the Middle East. But the entire Arab League and all 26 Muslim nations, with all their oil wealth, couldn’t find room their poor Palestinian brothers and sisters – and left them to rot in squalid refugee camps, festering in hatred and rage.

The world forgets, but we remember when they came across our border to murder and to destroy. We remember 1948, 1967, 1973. We remember the Olympics in Munich and the school in Ma’alot.

And we remember that when Egyptian President Anwar Sadat came to Jerusalem, Israel dismantled settlements, and relocated whole cities, and gave Egypt back the entire Sinai, in return for peace.

We remember Yitzhak Rabin and his dream. And we remember that his protege, Ehud Barak went to Camp David and then to Taba, and offered, for the second time in 50 years, to create a Palestinian State, comprised of 97% of the West Bank and all of Gaza with sovereignty over half of Jerusalem including the Temple Mount, and billions in world economic aid. And we remember the answer.

They forget, but we remember, just months ago, a bomber in the Dolphinarium Disco in Tel Aviv killed 21 teens. And what did we do in retaliation, what did we hit? Nothing. We practiced restraint. And months later when another bomber destroyed Sbarro’s Pizza and dozens more were killed. What was our retaliation? Nothing. And the Bat Mitzvah in Hadera the mall in Netanya, the cafes in Jerusalem, Afula and Haifa – we retaliated by destroying buildings. Empty buildings.

Then came Pesach. This year, the Angel of Death did not pass over. Whole families were murdered at the Seder table. But even now, do we bomb from the air? Risk hitting hospitals and schools and embassies like America did in Bosnia and Afganistan? No. We send our kids through the alleyways and byways – to face booby traps and snipers and mines.

Tonight, your parents and grandparents, your rabbis and teachers have gathered to testify that the whole world is wrong and Israel is right. And we will not apologize for doing what’s right – for defending our children from murderers.

We mourn for innocents, Palestinian and Israeli, who are caught in the struggle. We take no pleasure in the suffering of any human being, but we will not apologize for taking steps to survive in a vicious corner of the world so mesmerized by murder and blood, they dance and sing when their children blow themselves up. We will not apologize for demanding our land and our freedom and our security in this world. Jews no longer apologize for surviving.

You must not be apologetic for Israel or be ashamed of Israel. You must not be embarrassed by Israel or afraid to stand up for Israel.

And you must never, ever grow bitter, cynical or dark.

When the prophet Jeremiah witnessed the destruction of the holy city he loved, through his tears he wrote, “Never again will Jerusalem hear the sounds of joy and the voices of gladness.” The Rabbis who came generations later believed the prophet got it wrong. They believe we would one day return to Jerusalem. But only if we hold fast to hope and resist despair; only if we cling tightly to our dreams and refuse to surrender to bitterness. The Rabbis knew that the death of faith is a greater tragedy than the destruction of our city and the ruin of the Temple.

So they changed one word in the prophecy and bid us to sing of a time when once again the hills of Judah and the streets of Yerushalim will ring with the sounds of joy and celebration, with the music of love and melody of hope and the song of peace. May it be in your time.

Israeli Covenant Seeks Consensus

In Israel, there is nothing like an attempt at national unity to stir up a national controversy.

The latest such controversy is a 10-article document called “The Kinneret Covenant,” designed to find common denominators among different segments in Israeli society — religious and secular Jews, Sephardic and Ashkenazic Israelis, right and left.

One element not included in the new national manifesto is the Israeli Arab community — and this is not by accident.

The covenant was created last October, but released only recently. It was the first significant product of a group of Israeli intellectuals called “The Forum for National Responsibility,” 60 individuals from all walks of life who decided that Israeli Jews should start talking with each other instead of yelling at each other.

The infant charter had hardly left the presses, however, when it faced heavy criticism from right and left, religious and secular, Jew and Arab. Only the government of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, it seemed, largely ignored the document.

The driving force behind the initiative was Yisrael Harel, a West Bank settler and former chairman of the main settlers’ body. The money came from the Yitzhak Rabin Center for Israel Studies in Tel Aviv.

The gallery of participants included former Absorption Minister Yuli Tamir, head of the Rabin Center and one of the founders of Peace Now; Reserve Gen. Ephraim Fein, who now is a hawkish National Religious Party activist; and Maj. Gen. Uzi Dayan, head of the National Security Council and a candidate for army chief of staff.

Also participating was Uzi Arad, former political adviser to former Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu; Noa Ben-Artzi, granddaughter of Yitzhak Rabin; Rabbi Yoel Bin-Nun, a leading settler rabbi; Arnon Soffer, a geographer at Haifa University; Rabbi Uri Regev of Israel’s Reform movement; Shabtai Shavit, former head of the Mossad; and Brig. Gens Gershon HaCohen and Ya’acov Amidror.

The covenant is phrased like the Declaration of Independence, the document read out by David Ben-Gurion when he declared the State of Israel’s independence on May 14, 1948. The Declaration of Independence laid out the general values of the fledgling state, and is considered the closest thing Israel has to a constitution.

The covenant is an attempt to phrase a national consensus to questions every Israeli asks himself: Who are we? What are we doing here? What are we fighting for?

Precisely because the answers to those questions are so controversial, the new document tried to leave aside most controversial issues. That meant that most of its conclusions were fairly bland.

The historic justification for the existence of the State of Israel is described as “a sublime existential need,” based “on the devotion of the People of Israel to its heritage, its Torah, its language and its country.”

There is no mention of the fact that Theodor Herzl, the founder of modern Zionism, was a secular Jew, or that secular Zionism was the driving force behind the return of the Jews to the Land of Israel.

Were it not for the impressive gallery of signers, it is doubtful that the covenant would have created the public stir it did. The charter was composed in a three-day marathon meeting in a hotel on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, and was distributed recently in the weekend editions of the three major newspapers.

The reaction was astounding — page after page of letters to the editor, supporting and opposing the very idea behind the document.

“The ‘Kinneret Covenant’ forum is pathetic and revolting,” Yosef Rosenfeld of Bnei Brak wrote in Ha’aretz. “It encourages illusions” that the Jewish people can ever be unified, he wrote.

The covenant states time and again that Israel is a Jewish and democratic country, and that the State of Israel manifests the Jews’ right to “life, sovereignty and freedom.”

“In order to continue the existence of a Jewish and democratic Israel, one should continue and maintain a significant Jewish majority,” the drafters wrote. “Such majority shall only be preserved through moral means.”

But what about the freedom of the other national group living in the Land of Israel?

“Israel will preserve the right of the Arab minority to preserve its linguistic, cultural and national identity,” the covenant declares.

The covenant states that Israel does not want to rule another people. Many of Israel’s Arab citizens — and even some of its Jewish ones — might question that statement.

It is no coincidence, therefore, that representatives of the Arab sector were not invited to take part in the meeting to draft the document.

“The meeting for an internal Jewish dialogue was the result of the systematic campaign of Israel’s Arabs, under the umbrella of the Israeli democracy, to see themselves committed first to the Arab Palestinian nation and only then to the State of Israel,” said Hava Pinhas-Cohen, one of the covenant’s signers.

Once the Jews clear the air among themselves, it will be time to incorporate Arab views into the charter, Pinhas-Cohen hinted. In other words, she seemed to be saying, the initiators of the charter believed that if the Arabs were to be included, there would be no charter.

“I signed the ‘Kinneret Covenant’ not because I accept every solution that it offers for every important issue,” said Assa Kasher, a leading philosopher. “I did so because I identify with its general gist and the main points. It is always more important to help fill the cup than to stop it, because the cup is not yet full.”

Shulamit Aloni, former education minister and Meretz Party leader, said the document only proved her argument that the Rabin Center had been captured by the right.

In criticizing the Covenant, however, the arch-secular Aloni found herself in the same camp as fervently Orthodox rabbis incensed that the mayor of Bnei Brak, Mordechai Karelitz of United Torah Judaism, played a key role in drafting a document that seemingly gives equal merit to the lifestyles and beliefs of secular, liberal and Orthodox Jews.

Seeking to strike a balance between personal freedoms and the Jewish character of the state, the drafters wrote: “We believe that Jewish tradition should have an important place” in Israeli life, but “the state should not enforce religious norms on individuals.”

Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, one of the most respected halachic scholars of the generation, was quoted as saying that the initiative would “certainly have a negative influence.”

Despite the criticisms from many sectors, members of the forum have not given up, and plan to push their idea ahead. A subcommittee headed by Reserve Gen. Herzl Bodinger, former commander of the Israeli Air Force, is putting together a document dealing with problems of education in Israel. Other papers will deal with issues such as ownership of state land and the Arab minority.

Those behind the Covenant reject criticism of the fact that current and former senior army officers helped draft a political paper.

“I am well acquainted with Uzi Dayan, Gershon HaCohen and Ya’acov Amidror,” Kasher said. “I am quite confident that if every important discussion, especially in the political world, would take place with their level of integrity, depth and sophistication, we would have lived in a state with a much better human quality and moral level.”

Time to Survive

Either the authoritarians of Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian Authority have the power to direct, control, intercept and stymie Arab terrorist attacks against Israel, or they do not. If this year’s proliferation of Arab mass murder has been within the Palestinian Authority’s power to control, then those events confirm that the Palestinian Authority has no right to exist as a polity. On the other hand, if the Palestinian Authority cannot control the anti-Israel terror emanating from within its borders, then it also has no right to exist as a polity.

And if Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon does not finally launch a full-scale defensive operation formulated to eradicate the Palestinian Authority, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Tanzim, Force 17 and the whole bunch of them — and to re-take the areas of Judea and Samaria that now are occupied by the Palestinian Authority — then Sharon’s unity government also enjoys no further right to exist.

The first — and possibly only — reason for government is to provide security and protection, internally through the police and externally through armed forces. A government that will not do everything possible to protect, because of secondary sociological considerations, has no right to exist.

The recent bombings at the Tel Aviv Dolphinarium and the Jerusalem Sbarro restaurant arise from a failure by the Israeli government to protect and secure the society that seated it.

The Sharon-Peres policy that begrudgingly accepts a daily torrent of murder in cold blood — whether at the pizza place, the Laundromat, the disco, on the roadway, at the fruit market or at nature sites — is repugnant to the essence of government. If Israel continues its restraint from utterly eradicating the Palestinian Authority — eviscerating Arafat’s entire political infrastructure, including, but not limited to, the parliament building; all television, radio and publishing sites; Palestinian Authority police stations; Arafat’s airport; and the obliteration of Orient House in East Jerusalem — the Zionist hope will have been reduced to a society of Jews living in a bulletproof bubble: riding in bulletproof buses, dwelling in bulletproof living rooms and dressing in bulletproof clothes.

Israel could not continue indefinitely enjoying the luck of bus drivers and pedestrians spotting one bomb package after another, without some Arab cutthroat getting through. Israel must oust Arafat’s entity from further occupying Judea and Samaria because, although the situation has deteriorated to nightly gunfire into suburban Gilo and mortars across borders, it will get worse.

The Ehud Barak years have taught that there can be no Israeli coexistence with those devoted to her obliteration, and Arafat made clear to Barak and President Clinton that no deal can be signed if it contemplates a Jewish State after the ink dries. From its stationery to its Web sites to its every symbol of authority, the map of Arafat’s Palestine is the same as the map of Israel.

I have had three daughters in Israel this summer on three different summer programs. On the day of the Jerusalem bombing, one of them was six blocks from the epicenter, heard the loudest explosion in her life, and felt the earth shake as it never had in two decades of California quakes.

A bomb at King George Street and Jaffa Road at noon is like a lunch explosion at 42nd Street and Broadway. Everyone is nearby. And that is a parent’s nightmare.

Sharon apparently regards the many civilian Jewish victims of the carnage as necessary casualties that a general must accept as part of a long-term battle plan.

But this general’s holding position is not working, and civilian casualties on the home front are not an acceptable sacrifice for the goodwill of Europe that will not be forthcoming anyway.

If he acts now to eradicate the Palestinian Authority, the two-month wait since the Dolphinarium bombing can have some retroactive justification, if only to have offered a nation time to accept that it is at war despite its heroic efforts to compromise everything for peace.

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.

World Briefs

Palestinians Fired at U.N. Official

Forensic evidence released this week proved that shots fired last November at a convoy carrying the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, Mary Robinson, came from a rifle used by Palestinian forces and from an area under Palestinian control. Palestinian officials claimed at the time that Israeli settlers had fired at her, and her silence in the face of the accusations generally was seen as an indication that Robinson agreed with the Palestinian view.

Bereaved Mother Gives Birth

The mother of Shalhevet Pass, the 10-month-old Israeli infant killed by Palestinian sniper fire in Hebron four months ago, has given birth to a girl.

Document Suggests Land Transfer

Israel’s Foreign Ministry leaked a document that suggests offering large amounts of land to the Palestinians as a way of inducing Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat to return to negotiations.

The document reflected what are viewed as the large differences between Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres on how to deal with 10 months of Israeli-Palestinian violence.

Judge OKs Lawsuit Against P.A.

A U.S. judge ruled that a $250 million lawsuit filed against the Palestinian Authority can proceed. The lawsuit, brought by relatives of a Jewish couple killed in a 1996 terrorist attack, could be brought under the federal Anti-Terrorism Act of 1991, the judge said.

The lawsuit claims Palestinian officials were responsible for the drive-by shooting of Yaron and Efrat Ungar because the officials allowed Hamas to operate training facilities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and encouraged terrorism in the region.

Swiss Bank Account Deadline Next Week

Holocaust survivors or their heirs who believe they have valid claims for dormant Swiss bank accounts dating back to the Holocaust era have until next week to file claims. Further information and claims forms are available at

Canadian Solidarity to Israel

Backed by a $1 million donation from a philanthropist, a group called Israel Solidarity International is offering discounted trips to Israel so that Canadian Jews can make solidarity visits. According to a report in the Canadian Jewish News, participants are being asked to pay about $600 to join the first mission, which departs for Israel on Aug. 20

Upset over U.K.’s Farrakhan decision

Lawyers for Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan have succeeded in overturning a 15-year-old ban on his visiting Britain. Jewish groups had been instrumental in getting Farrakhan barred from the United Kingdom in 1986 on the grounds that his presence could stir up racial tension. Jewish leaders reacted with dismay after the High Court in London struck down the ban Tuesday.

Austria: Payouts May Begin Soon

Austria’s chancellor said the nation’s $450-million compensation fund for Nazi-era slave laborers could begin making payments by the end of the month. The July 26 announcement came after a U.S. judge said she would dismiss claims in lawsuits against the Austrian government and Austrian companies.

Rabbis Want Energy Meditation

More than 500 rabbis have written the members of the U.S. House of Representatives to call for moral reflection on the country’s energy policy. The letter, sponsored by the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life, follows President Bush’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Kyoto Protocol, the only international framework to address climate change.

Battler for Nazi Reparations Dies

Hugo Princz, a U.S. citizen who survived the Holocaust and won reparations from Germany after a 40-year battle, died Sunday of cancer at 78.

Princz lived in Slovakia in 1942, when the Germans sent him and other Jews to concentration camps, and he spent 38 months in seven Nazi camps. The Germans denied Princz’s 1955 request for reparations because he was neither a German citizen nor a refugee. Princz was one of 11 U.S. citizens to settle with Germany for $2.1 million in 1995.

Your Letters

Yehuda Chaim

The U.S. State Department has no position on rock-throwing as violence. Tell that to Batsheva and Benny Shoham, whose infant son, Yehuda Chaim, was buried this week, after sustaining a crushing head injury by a terrorist’s rock. His tiny body was wrapped in a tallit, to Jews a garment worn in prayer, in celebration of joys that he and his family will not know.

Why? Because Yehuda Chaim (z”l) represented the Jew living in his homeland — an anathema to an enemy whose religious leaders command them to kill as many Jews as possible. One of his five surviving great-grandparents has a number burned into her flesh, a remembrance of life in another country that said that she did not belong there either. Batsheva’s twin brother is married to Leah Boim, whose 17-year-old brother, David, was killed by terror a few years ago.

Yehuda Chaim’s grieving great-grandparents, Dr. Morris and Sylvia Harow of Karnei Shomron, formerly of Beverly Hills, are also my machatonim.

Chana Givon, Los Angeles

Editor’s Note: Local family members have set up a fund to buy an ambulance for Israel in memory of Yehuda Chaim Shoham. Checks made out to Magen David Adom can be sent to: Shoham Ambulance Fund, c/o Shaarey Zedek Congregation, 12800 Chandler Blvd., Valley Village, CA 91607.

Time for Action

In the current series of provocations and retaliations, the Palestinians are still winning the propaganda battle for the sympathy and support of the world. They are aided and abetted by a more subtle enemy: the so-called even-handed news media in print and on television.

I believe time has come for us to take these dangerous, one-sided newsmakers to task in the only way we can and the only language they understand. It is time for all Jews to call the Los Angeles Times and other publications and threaten to cancel their subscriptions immediately and tell why if asked. It is time for Jews to consider boycotting their advertisers and their clients who tolerate the defamation of Israel and to stop buying products which help subsidize the lies.

It is time to picket the news studios and headquarters which churn out lopsided news, making Israel out as the villain if she simply refuses to fold her tents and silently steal away from the world scene.

Rabbi Jacob Pressman, Rabbi Emeritus, Temple Beth Am

No one can argue that Israel is in a bad state, but what are we, as Americans, doing to help out? Sure, President Bush sent CIA Director George Tenet to try to mediate between Israel and the Palestinians. But what have we done?

A little over one month ago, I got back from a two-week trip to Israel that was subsidized by Birthright Israel. While there, I traveled around with 25 chaverim (friends) that I will have for the rest of my life. What we experienced there has most definitely changed my life.

If I could, I would go back to Israel right now to help support my chaverim who are still there. I would go back to support the country and show that we’re not afraid of the Palestinians.

When my aunt asked me the other day, however, if she should allow her 15-year-old son to go to Israel with Camp Ramah for six weeks, I didn’t have an answer for her then and still don’t. As it stands today, he will be leaving in a little less than one month. I support him 100 percent for going in such trying times. I support every group who decides to still go (Ramah, USY, etc.). Do what you can while you’re there to protect yourself, your country and all of our chaverim.

Daryn Friedman, Los Angeles

Teresa Strasser

Some of your readers who lack the literary sophistication and insight may not recognize the true character of Teresa Strasser’s piece (“Dad Speaks Out,” June 8) which she fictionally attributes to her father. Obviously following the example of Jonathan Swift, author of “Gulliver’s Travels,” this piece is a brilliant allegorical satire on the current state of affairs in Israel.

Her father is, of course, the government of Israel. The possum is the Palestinian Authority (P.A.) in general and Yasser Arafat in particular. (If you ever look a possum in the face, you will notice the resemblance immediately.)

The possum (Arafat) seemed almost dead (although perhaps it was just playing possum) until Mr. Strasser (Israel) nursed it back to health with formula fed by a dropper (the Oslo accords and all the arming of the P.A. by Israel pursuant to its provisions).

One morning Mr. Strasser (Israel) wakes up and finds that the possum (Arafat and the P.A.) is chewing on his ear (the Al-Aqsa Intifada). Finally Mr. Strasser (Israel) comes to the inevitable conclusion that he must send the possum (Arafat and the P.A.) to a possum-rescue person a mile away (any Arab country we can get to take these guys back).

Ralph B. Kostant, Valley Village

Editor’s Note: Thank you, but sometimes a possum is just a possum.

Councilman Eric Garcetti

I read your post-election issue with interest. There were numerous articles covering the winners and losers and dissecting the Jewish vote.

In listing the “Jewish candidates,” you failed to mention the clear winner in the 13th City Council District, Eric Garcetti. Councilman Garcetti clearly meets the definition of a Jewish councilman. He is the son of former District Attorney Gil Garcetti and Suki Roth Garcetti. Eric Garcetti has attended my synagogue, Congregation Bais Naftoli, and celebrated some of the Jewish holidays with us. I am confident that he will be a great asset to our community.

Andrew Friedman, Los Angeles

Settlements Quandary

The Bush administration has let Ariel Sharon off the hook — for now. Israel this week welcomed the Mitchell Committee recommendations with reservations. It embraced Colin Powell’s interpretation — first a cease-fire, then let’s talk settlements — with relief.

Yet no one in Israel believes this is Washington’s last word. So far, Secretary of State Colin Powell is not making a freeze on settlement construction in the West Bank and Gaza a condition for halting the violence, as the Palestinians insist must happen. But the administration still views the settlements as an obstacle to peace. Its new trouble-shooter, William Burns, is enough of a Middle East hand not to kid himself that Yasser Arafat will rein in the gunmen and the bombers without a hefty quid pro quo.

“Colin Powell,” political analyst Hemi Shalev quipped in Ma’ariv, “makes diplomatic initiatives the way porcupines make love: very carefully.” Presumably, like the porcupine, he gets there in the end. “The question of the settlements, after the Mitchell Report, is like a horse that bolted the stable,” Shalev cautioned. “It is too late to bring it back. Sooner or later, Sharon will be asked to decide, one way or the other.”

Next to evacuating settlements, freezing settlements is the toughest decision any right-wing Israeli prime minister can face. For Sharon, it would mean changing the mind-set of a lifetime. Under Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir, Sharon was the bulldozer who cleared the ground, physical and bureaucratic, for a huge expansion of settlements in the heartland of the West Bank. The settlers are his children.

Domestically as well as diplomatically, Sharon is coming under conflicting pressures. At 73, he is eager to erase the warmonger image that has dogged him since he led reprisal raids into Arab villages nearly half a century ago. He aspires to statesmanship. He won the February election on a platform of security and peace, not sacrifice and steadfastness.

The voters still yearn, in Foreign Minister Shimon Peres’ phrase of the month, for a right-wing government with left-wing policies. A poll published in the mass-circulation Yediot Aharonot on Monday registered 61 percent in favor of freezing all settlement construction in return for a cease-fire. Only 34 percent were opposed.

Critics remind Sharon that Begin, the first Likud prime minister, set a precedent by freezing settlement construction for three months after the Camp David agreement with Egypt in 1978. They add that it can be unfrozen if it doesn’t bring the desired results.

At the same time, however, Sharon is determined to meet the challenge of Binyamin Netanyahu and fight the next election as the champion of the “national camp.” Leaders of fringe rightist parties such as Rehavam Ze’evy and Avigdor Lieberman are threatening to quit the national unity government if Sharon stops building. Hard-liners in his own Likud, with Internal Security Minister Uzi Landau and Education Minister Limor Livnat to the fore, are warning him not to yield. So is the National Religious Party, from outside the coalition.

As long as most Labor legislators back the unity coalition, the hard right cannot bring down the government. But it can isolate the prime minister and turn again to the ever-ambitious Bibi. Sharon would enter the history books as a half-term premier.

His current formula for squaring the circle is to promise that his government will establish no new settlements but will continue to build to accommodate so-called “natural growth.” He can’t, he says, stop people from having babies. And, as he told the Foreign Press Association, he can’t order them to have abortions.

Yet this is widely seen as no more than a holding operation. The Palestinians don’t buy it. They have been there before. The Netanyahu and Barak governments exploited “natural growth” to build hundreds of homes. The Americans share their skepticism. So do the Europeans.

There is no objective need for new apartments in the 145 settler communities. According to government statistics, there are 6,130 housing units currently under construction. According to Peace Now monitors, thousands of homes built over the past six years are standing empty. In the West Bank bedroom suburbs of Ma’aleh Edumim and Givat Ze’ev alone, a total of 2,400 remain unsold. There are no takers for 76 percent of the 2,200 units offered in the new south Jerusalem development of Har Homa, below Bethlehem. It’s just too dangerous.

In the 16 microsettlements of the Gaza Strip, families are even pulling out. Daniel Ben Simon, who has toured the settlements extensively since the intifada erupted eight months ago, reported in Ha’aretz on May 15, “Nearly half of the 15 houses in Dugit stand empty. A new neighborhood in Nisanit looks like a ghost town. It’s the same in Elei Sinai. The government has built more than 100 cottages in Pe’at Sadeh. Only 15 families live there, and some of them are already planning to leave. In Kfar Darom, where more than 30 families used to live, fewer than 10 remain.”

Ben Simon dubbed the natural-growth argument a fraud. In an editorial last Sunday, his paper urged Sharon to impose a freeze. “Rather than giving the impression of surrendering to external pressure,” it advised, “Israel must willingly opt for moderation.”

Yet even the most dovish peacenik cannot guarantee that Arafat would respond by ordering a cease-fire, or that he would be able to deliver. Perhaps the Palestinian acceptance of the Mitchell Report is all bluff. But they’d like to see it tested.

Peace and Processing

On a recent Tuesday even-ing, 24 hours before the arrival of Yom HaShoah, I attended a symposium in Jerusalem on a subject both intriguing and urgent: "To Acknowledge the Suffering of the ‘Other’: Religious Obligation, Psychological Challenge." The sponsor was Oz VeShalom-Netivot Shalom, a religious Zionist peace group. The moderator was a prominent religious feminist; the panelists, all male, were an eminent left-wing Orthodox rabbi and a well-known Muslim theologian-educator, both of them active in interfaith work; a "knitted-kippah" Jewish psychologist specializing in Holocaust trauma, and an Israeli Arab research psychologist who teaches at the Hebrew University. Here’s how the evening went:

The rabbi presented a wealth of rabbinic sources — enough for several seasons of uplifting sermons — extolling and mandating peace and compassion. There was a midrash on Genesis 31:8 showing that Jacob was more distressed about the prospect of taking life than afraid for his own life; a passage from Deuteronomy Rabbah forbidding the Jew to abhor the Egyptian; a Talmudic dictum (Tractate Beitzah 32b) that he who is not merciful is not a real Jew of the seed of Abraham; Maimonides’ ruling (Laws of Kings 10:12) that one must visit the sick even of idolators; and a raft of halachic opinions and responses by Palestinian (i.e. pre-State Jewish) chief rabbis prohibiting excessive military force and establishing the protected status of Christians and Muslims in the incipient Jewish polity. I found the rabbi’s words very inspiring and wrote down all the references. But, I wondered, what good are they when Arab gunmen fire at Gilo?

The Muslim educator, an Israeli citizen who holds positions at two leading Jewish institutions, began by recalling the respect in which Mohammed held those whom the prophet called "The People of the Book." He noted the widespread impression that Islam, when it comes to issues of war and peace, is mainly about jihad, holy war, conversion by the sword — but this, he said, is not so: the Koran has much to say in support of making peace, even with pagans and other nonbelievers. He pointed out, quite rightly, that the texts of all the great religious traditions can be adduced in support of war or peace, vengeance or accommodation. (Herein, I hardly need add, lies the root of so many of our troubles.)

"Both sides," the educator said in flawless Hebrew, "have suffered enough. Let’s not compete in counting the number of dead and wounded. The time has come to stop and ask, where are we galloping? I say this to the other side too. Both must hear a different music." And yet, he went on, can we speak of symmetry in our current situation? When Israel, in retaliation for Palestinian fire, destroys homes in Gaza, how many 5-year-olds will be left homeless? And where will that 5-year-old be when he is 25? This is how terrorists are born. "Can a people that presents itself as a ‘light unto the nations,’" he concluded, "close its eyes?"

The answer, of course, turns out to be yes. "I’m not so sure, said the Jewish psychologist, who was the next to speak, "that we always want to understand the suffering of the Other." He too, he conceded, sometimes feels self-protective, angry, violent. Israelis are "prisoners of unprocessed traumatic events" — the Yom Kippur War, the Gulf War — and "the black hole of trauma pulls everything into its vortex." Current events invoke past traumas, and trauma makes one narcissistic. We cannot see the suffering of others because we get caught up in our own experiences. We draw on religious metaphors — the eternal enemy Amalek, Jacob versus Esau, Isaac and Ishmael.

I sat there, trying to process this talk about processing. The Holocaust, as everyone knows, looms enormously in the Israeli consciousness. Can it ever be "processed"? Can Jewish fear ever melt away in the face of peace-mongering rabbinic prooftexts and Arab assurances?

Now came the Arab psychologist’s turn, and he told a story. Because I speak Hebrew perfectly, he said, I am often taken for a Jew. One day my car was in the shop and I took a cab from the Hebrew University to the garage. The driver said to me, there are two kinds of people I never pick up: alcoholics and Arabs. And how, I asked him, can you tell that a person is an alcoholic? I pull up a few meters ahead, said the cab driver, and I can see how he walks. Ah ha! And how can you tell if someone is an Arab? (The audience by now was on the edge of its collective chair.)

"That’s easy," the cabbie said. "By the smell."

"I’m sorry to tell you, but it would appear that your sense of smell has let you down today."

"What do you mean?" the cabbie said.

"I’m an Arab."

"No way," said the cabbie (let’s imagine him eyeing his passenger — suit, tie, no mustache, European demeanor — in the rear-view mirror, then pausing before speaking again). "Then you must be a good Arab."

You see, said the Arab psychologist, the driver could not change his mind about Arabs, so he had to make me into an exception. To ice the cake, when he got to his destination, he gave the cabbie a ten-shekel tip.

Where do we go from here? "We have no other country," said the Arab psychologist, employing a common Israeli expression. When both sides say this, they are right. We are engaged in a real dispute. Our problem is political, not emotional. Where do terrorists come from? They are the sons and grandsons of the refugees of 1948. But each side is inhibited from acknowledging the suffering of the Other for fear that such acknowledgment weakens one’s own claim on the land.

The only way out is to recognize that this isn’t so, that empathy doesn’t diminish your political rights. But to be empathetic, you have to know the Other, and Jews and Arabs — even Israeli Arabs — don’t. The Arab psychologist surveyed 300 Israeli Arab kids, ten- and eleven-year-olds, who reported their dreams. Only two or three had dreams with Jewish characters. (Palestinian kids in Gaza, on the other hand, I would guess, might have nightmares about Israeli soldiers and Jewish kids bad dreams about terrorists.)

Tolerance is OK, said the Arab psychologist, but it implies the Other is wrong. Pluralism is a step up, because it acknowledges value. Best of all is partnership, multiculturalism, "a feeling that without the Other your life would be missing something." This is a wonderful notion, and it is good — no, crucial — that people of good will can still sit together and discuss such ideas. But can Jews and Arabs ever again feel this way about each other? I would think they did in medieval Spain, and more recently in Casablanca and Alexandria — but that was then and this is now.

"Now" means the next night, Yom HaShoah, as millions of Israelis watched on TV the deeply moving ceremony held yearly at Yad Vashem. Holocaust survivors lit torches and their wrenching stories were told in video clips. And in the background, boom. Boom. BOOM. What is that? asked my kids.

A sonic boom, said my wife.

But we knew better. Yet another night of faceless violence. Israeli artillery pounding Palestinians in Bethlehem, a few kilometers down the road. Arabs shooting at Jews near Rachel’s Tomb, where the gentle matriarch weeps, as ever, for her children.

Bush Ups the Ante — Cautiously

The Bush administration, this week facing its first critical Mideast crisis, is seeking a new formulation to enable it to play a role in keeping conflict from spreading without requiring intensive direct mediation.

The strategy included a blunt assessment blaming the Palestinians for "precipitating" the round of violence that ended with the brief Israeli occupation of land in Palestinian-controlled Gaza, but also unusually harsh criticism of Israel’s response.

That language, and some quiet diplomatic arm twisting, apparently resulted in Israel’s quick withdrawal from Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza.

Israeli officials in Washington and Jerusalem insisted that the withdrawal was already in progress when Secretary of State Colin Powell launched his diplomatic blast on Tuesday, but statements by IDF officers on the ground suggested an abrupt about-face by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

The reoccupation came during a major series of attacks on Monday aimed at ending Palestinian mortar fire into Israeli towns.

On Tuesday Secretary of State Colin Powell called the Israel response "excessive and disproportionate. We call upon both sides to respect the agreements that they’ve signed."

For the Palestinians, that means "implementation of their commitment to renounce terrorism and violence, to exercise control over all elements of the PLO and the Palestinian Authority, and to discipline violators," Powell said.

But he also suggested that in entering Palestinian-controlled territory, Israel was violating earlier agreements.

"For the Israelis, this includes respecting their commitment to withdraw from Gaza according to the terms of the agreement signed by Israel and the Palestinians," he said.

Powell said that U.S. officials continue to work with both sides to resume the security talks that began two weeks ago.

The harsh response was prompted by comments by an Israeli commander in Gaza that the reoccupation could last for "days, weeks and months."

"That would have been an unfortunate escalation, and the administration reacted strongly to it," said Robert O. Freedman, a longtime Mideast analyst and peace process supporter.

But Anti-Defamation League director Abraham Foxman called Powell’s assessment an "unwarranted overreaction. Palestinian mortar attacks against an Israeli town in the Negev desert introduced a new dimension into the seven-month long period of violence. Israel, which has the responsibility to protect its citizens, had no choice but to demonstrate that the Palestinian’s escalation of hostilities into Israel proper will not be tolerated."

Powell’s strong words came a day after White House press secretary Ari Fleischer’s reaction to the Israel raid on a Syrian radar in Lebanon won praise from Jewish leaders.

"In the last several days there has been a dangerous escalation across the line of withdrawal," Fleischer said. "And the United States condemns this escalation that was initiated by Hezbollah in a clear provocation designed to escalate an already tense situation."

Jewish leaders welcomed that assessment.

"Obviously, the administration wants to see the violence end, but they have a good understanding of who initiated it," said Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice-chair of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

Analysts say it is too early to say whether the escalation of violence will force the new administration to abandon its hands-off policy when it comes to direct U.S. mediation.

"Obviously, events in the region have a way of drawing the United States in, because Washington is literally the only outside force capable of having an impact," said an analyst for a major Jewish group here. "But so far, at least, this administration is confining itself to carefully chosen words aimed at getting the parties themselves to limit their responses; there’s no indication they plan any more direct involvement at this time."

On Tuesday State Department spokesman Richard Boucher turned aside a question about whether Washington was prepared to become a more active participant, saying only that "we’re offering to facilitate, as we have in the past. We are encouraging the parties to engage each other bilaterally and offering to do whatever we can to facilitate those talks."

Washington sources say there are no plans to send any U.S. official to the region to try to mediate a reduction in the violence.

But officials here revealed that the CIA was once again involved in security talks between the two sides; early in his administration, President George W. Bush pulled the intelligence agency out of direct involvement in negotiations.

"That may indicate that under the surface, they are becoming more active," said Freedman.

David Makovsky, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said that the Bush administration understands the difficult line Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is trying to navigate.

"On one hand he is trying to signal that Israel has the stamina to withstand any war of attrition, that Israel is not an ‘MTV generation’ that does not have the will to fight," he said. "On the other hand, he wants to avoid staging massive responses that would lead to a large loss of life and create tremendous international pressures."

Despite this week’s strong statement from Foggy Bottom, Makovsky said that the administration remains supportive of Israel’s overall position.

Draining the Swamps

Passover in Jerusalem, the holiday of freedom. Wildflowers decorate the hillsides, allergic sneezers fill the sidewalk cafes, schoolchildren on vacation munch matzah at the zoo, and Israel’s month-old national unity government, top-heavy with the biggest number of ministers in our little country’s history, faces a dizzying array of Herculean challenges.

It is a truth nearly universally acknowledged in Israel and the United States that we offered the Palestinians peace, and they chose bloodshed. More Jews and Arabs are killed almost daily. Clearly this situation is untenable. How to end it?

Sharon’s position is that negotiations with the Palestinians cannot continue unless the violence is brought to an end. What makes this challenge mightier is that from the Palestinian point of view, Israel’s enforced occupation in Gaza and the West Bank is itself a manifestation of perpetual violence. Will greater Israeli force solve anything? Is ending the occupation the only way to end the violence? Which is the cart, and which the horse?

According to a recent poll in Yediot Aharonot, 70 percent of Israelis believe that the way to go at this point is "unilateral separation" from the Palestinians. In other words, simply pack up and leave the Palestinians with some variation of the deal that Barak offered Arafat at Camp David and that Arafat turned down. Interestingly but not surprisingly, only half the Israelis who supported this idea also told the pollsters that they believed it could be implemented. Indeed, only 38 percent of the public, after half a year of the renewed intifada, think that peace can be achieved with the Palestinians.

So what now? We could all sink into depression, since it would appear that the best the Sharon government can hope for on the Palestinian front is to minimize bloodshed and avert an all-out conflict. On the other hand, this new administration, which is after all a unity government including ministers from many sides of the political aisles, could make a virtue of necessity and set about the long-neglected challenge of seriously addressing the myriad social, cultural, educational, environmental and economic problems plaguing the country.

In fact, the new education minister, Limor Livnat, has announced her intention to do just that. She has declared war on the so-called phenomenon of "post-Zionism," which like its semantic cousin "postmodernism" is a concept so vague and variegated as to serve brilliantly the needs of both its proponents and its detractors. If I am reading her right, what Livnat has most in mind is the alleged assault on Zionist values by historians (and by school textbooks written under their influence) who have sought to demythologize Israeli history and draw attention to the injustices wrought upon the Palestinians in the name of Jewish nationalism. "The new Israeli schoolbooks," she opined in the Jerusalem Post, "silence the sufferings of the Jewish people and its connection to the Land of Israel." The chief bugbear of Livnat and others in her camp is a ninth-grade textbook titled "A World of Changes," which turned out to be full of sloppy errors of omission and commission, and which a professional committee has ordered back onto the drawing board.

But are textbooks really the point? The larger question is this: Is the traditional ideology without which the State of Israel could never have come into being and have drawn the support of the community of nations — that Jews are forever besieged and beleaguered, that we automatically command the moral high ground, that we are David fighting off an Arab Goliath — accurate or germane in today’s world? And if it needs updating, does that somehow invalidate or undermine the security and well-being of Israel?

I’m one of those Israelis who believes that reworking our familiar worldview doesn’t weaken the Zionist enterprise but rather invigorates it. Sure, it’s true that many young Israelis are turned off to Judaism and to traditional Zionist ideology, but the way to win them back is not through indoctrination. The original Zionist idea may have been the creation of a country in which everyone was Jewish, but it hasn’t turned out that way; nearly one-fifth of the country is Arab, and discrimination against Arab citizens of Israel — economic, educational, infrastructural — is deep-seated and legion. Some Israelis interpreted the rioting last fall of Israeli Arabs, alongside the outbreak of the intifada, as confirmation of their disloyalty to Israel. A much fairer and more productive assessment is that the riots were an expression of legitimate, long-standing grievances. Thirteen Arab demonstrators were shot dead by Israeli police; would this have occurred if these citizens were Jews? Indeed, the latest round of demonstrations by Israeli Arab citizens — on "Land Day" at the end of March, an annual protest against the confiscation of land by the Israeli government — was strikingly nonviolent, following an accord reached between police and local Arab officials.

Now listen to Ron Pundak, a respected Israeli academic instrumental in originating the Oslo peace process, who lately called in Ha’aretz for a "Zionism of renewal, a Zionism of the 21st century, a Turbo Zionism": "What we need is a state that not only serves the Zionist idea but is capable of adjusting its center of gravity; a state that can start, first and foremost, to serve its citizens and residents, while upholding … ‘the full social and political equality of all its citizens, without distinction of race, creed or sex; [and] will guarantee full freedom of conscience, worship, education and culture’ as stated in Israel’s Declaration of Independence."

Not since the early settlers drained the malarial swamps has Israel faced such a bracing challenge: to be a Jewish and democratic state at the same time, in the fullest sense. Can Israeli society, at long last, treat non-Jews as equal citizens, as its founders pledged? Can a way be found to ensure that all Israelis — religious and secular, Arab and Jew — fairly shoulder the responsibilities of citizenship? There is every reason to hope that the members of a new generation, their eyes wide open to the compromises and paradoxes of Israeli life, will prove no less ingenious and dedicated than their pioneering grandparents.

Bizarro World and ‘The Settlers’

Those of us old enough to have been seduced by the pleasures of Superman comic books probably remember Bizarro World, an alternative universe where norms and values were upended and recast: No became yes, ugly was beautiful, cruel was kind. When thrust into this psychotic realm, even the Man of Steel had trouble coping.

One wonders if Superman would find Middle East politics any easier.

Only in the Middle East could a tiny democracy be reviled by ostensibly right-thinking people as an oppressive occupier state, while its neighbors, a host of dictatorships and thugigarchies, are held up as beacons of freedom. Granted, Israel is an imperfect democracy and an often rude society, but for a 50-year-old country — in historical terms, an adolescent — it’s doing pretty well. Go back and read Alexis de Tocqueville’s description of the United States at a similar stage. Given the choice between living in Israel or its neighbors, how many of us would opt for Saudi Arabia or the Sudan, where slavery thrives, the Orwellian nightmare known as Syria, pseudo-parliamentary Egypt or "enlightened" Jordan, where young girls are murdered by their brothers if they act out sexually?

If my experiences as a college student during the late ’60s and early ’70s were any indication, the Bizarro demonization of Israel was no accident. Soon after the Six-Day War (renamed "the 1967 Middle East War" by the Los Angeles Times and other media outlets, presumably to minimize embarrassment to the losers) the Arabs set out to reverse Israel’s military gains by waging a relentless, oil-state-financed propaganda war. At UCLA, this took the form of Libyan and Algerian students who seemed to spend a good deal more time handing out literature and orating in Meyerhoff Park than they did in the classroom. The faces were interchangeable — few of these older-than-average freshmen appeared to enroll for very long — but the tactics remained the same: an onslaught of anti-Semitic buzzwords. My friends at other universities described identical goings-on.

Arab student-propagandists exploited anti-Vietnam War sentiment by affiliating with leftist organizations. What resulted was a constant barrage of anti-Semitic venom printed in the official organs of the Black Panthers, Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), and similar groups, disguised as "solidarity" with the newly minted "Palestinian people." (Prior to the early ’60s, the term "Palestinian" had referred to any resident of the region, including Jews.) Using a well-tested propagandist tactic — Bizarro Irony — hatred of Israel was justified by recasting the Jewish state as the reincarnation the Jews’ worst enemy: Palestinian Arabs became the "Jews of the Middle East," and Israel was now a "fascist, Nazi entity." One of my clearest UCLA memories is attending a speech by Golda Meir and being spat on and reviled as "a Nazi" by a covey of snarling, fair-haired, blue-eyed SDSers picketing Pauley Pavilion because I was wearing a yarmulke. Bizarro Irony continues today, on both extremes of the political spectrum, as the radical left besmirches Israel as a reactionary state and the neo-Nazi Christian Identity proclaims itself the synagogue of true Judaism and denigrates Jews as the bastard spawn of Eve and the serpent.

Bizarro Irony succeeds by raping the language. One revisionist perversity of the ’70s has endured and entered common parlance, even among Jews: the Settler.

Back in the days when Hollywood convinced us that the cowboys were the good guys and the Indians were bloodthirsty savages, "settlers" were viewed as heroic visionaries. When we finally realized that the Wild West didn’t go down quite that way, "settler" began to take on a different connotation.

Settlers were now seen as intruders, usually Caucasian, who invaded the homelands of dark-skinned indigenous people, enslaved the natives and wiped out centuries of noble civilization. Settlers were epitomized by the white, racist regimes of Rhodesia and South Africa. And Israel. For the Arab disinformation machine’s greatest success might very well be the psychosocial pairing of Israelis with the architects of apartheid. This allowed the an oft-repeated mantra to go unchallenged: "The existence of settlements in the West Bank and Gaza are an illegal provocation and an obstacle to peace."

The only problem is, it just ain’t so. The Jewish people who live in the most dangerous neighborhoods of Israel are anything but colonial raiders. They are a continuance of the Zionist dream at its best: the most courageous members of an indigenous people sacrificing personally in order to resettle its ancestral homeland. As such, they deserve to be admired, not marginalized by liberation theologists and anyone else who claims to believe in justice.

The core issue is the right of Jews to live on ancestral soil — or anywhere else, for that matter. Why should the Nazi policy of Judenrein (Jew-free areas) be implemented anywhere in the world, let alone Israel? Does a black person have a right to live in Beverly Hills? Should a Latino or an Asian — or a Jew — be permitted to build a house in San Marino? Sure, the appearance of dark or ethnically unfamiliar faces in any well-entrenched white suburb will be viewed by certain residents as a provocation as well as an obstruction to an ethnically pure way of life. And until very recently, racial segregation was mandated in virtually every region of the United States. Did that make free choice in housing and integration wrong?

Put Arab-financed connotation aside and try some word substitution: How would you feel if some stiff-lipped State Department errand boy intoned, "The presence of Jews and Jewish neighborhoods in parts of Jerusalem and the territories is a provocation and an obstacle to the peace process."

If you agree, you’re saying that a Jewish presence in Brooklyn, Brentwood and Berlin is kosher, but Jews in Bethlehem and Baka are verboten. And if that’s not Bizarro World spiced up by a touch of Joe Goebbels, I don’t know what is.

Mr. Big Lie must be laughing, from whatever dark corner of hell he currently occupies.

Fifty years of Arab propaganda to the contrary, the establishment of the State of Israel was not yet another example of Western colonialism. Israel represents the return of indigenous people to its homeland. As such, it should be admired by the most fervent supporters of liberation theology.

Jonathan Kellerman is the author of 16 novels and five nonfiction books. His latest novel is “Dr. Death” (Random House). He is clinical professor of pediatrics at USC School of Medicine and clinical professor of psychology at USC’s College of Arts and Sciences.

Your Letters

Scott Svonkin

While participating in Super Sunday, as I have most of my life, I was questioned about my comments in an article by Michael Aushenker (“Scott Svonkin: Pulling Together,” Feb. 16). I am grateful to have been included in this series on young leaders, but feel that I need to clarify a few things.

What was left out of the finished article was my discussion of what I have gained from my long and fruitful relationship with The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles.

Thanks to The Federation, I have been a participant in leadership training from the time I was in high school. I went on to join the board of The Jewish Federation/Valley Alliance, was a member of ACCESS and the Jewish Community Relations Committee’s (JCRC) steering committee, and was honored to become the youngest vice-president/chair of the JCRC. To say the least, I owe a great deal to The Federation, for it has played a central role in my decision to turn my passion for helping others into my profession.

I hope this sets the record straight, and I urge everyone to get more involved in their Jewish community. My involvement in The Federation and the Jewish community as a whole has brought me nothing but joy; the best thing I can wish on you is even a small portion of that joy and satisfaction.

Scott Svonkin. via e-mail

Strasser and Smith

It would seem prudent that the largest Jewish newspaper outside of New York should help build our community, not to glorify degenerate and spiritually destructive behavior.

I have put off reading The Journal until after Shabbos because I am constantly offended. This week you replaced the unfortunate and lost Teresa Strasser with a Hugh Hefner clone replete with a pin-up shicksa (“The Fountainhead,” March 9). Gavalt! Do I have to cancel the subscription?

Levi Garbose, Los Angeles

Regarding Sydell Sigel’s nastily worded and narrow-minded letter about Teresa Strasser’s columns (Letters, March 9), I would like to remind this reader that she has a choice: turn the page. If you don’t like these columns, skip them. But don’t deny the rest of The Jewish Journal’s readers the opportunity to read these thought-provoking columns. I don’t always like Strasser’s columns, and quite often I disagree with her premise. But she always makes me think. Thank you for publishing them, and I hope you will continue.

Susan Pasternak, North Hollywood

15th Anniversary

Congratulations on the 15th anniversary of The Jewish Journal. Bravo!

Michael Levine, Los Angeles

Venerable Delis

It must be clear that the underlying purpose of The Jewish Journal is to promote Jewish values and thus preserve the shrinking Jewish community in Los Angeles (“Deli Stories, No Schmaltz,” March 9). In the same vain, G-d set down the laws of kashrut to ensure the continuity of the Jewish nation.

G-d in his infinite wisdom knew that the power of food and drink was so strong that it was a sure way to bring down the Jews’ identity with and loyalty to G-d.

It is clearly evident that The Journal’s disguise of treif delis as being intrinsically Jewish calls into question what really is the paper’s objective. Is The Journal kosher or treif?

David Nisenbaum, Los Angeles


I found the picture of the meat sandwich on the March 9 cover terrible. And that’s being polite.

I look forward to The Jewish Journal each week. But when I saw that issue, my stomach, heart and soul became very upset.

Slabs of pink, dead, cooked flesh between two slices of bread is not my idea of the Judaism of life and beauty.

A sandwich whose contents are filled with the agony, suffering and ultimate death of a fellow breath of life is not my idea of celebrating the virtues of Judaism’s heritage and future.

Laurane Leah Ruth, via e-mail

Israel Coverage

The Jewish Journal certainly covers Israel and the so-called situation, but I expect more from our paper. I expect leadership in journalism. We’re getting the same reporting that is available throughout the media. I’m not saying that The Jewish Journal should be biased. I’m saying that our paper should call the war a war. The Palestinians started the war because they didn’t want to make peace. Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount was an excuse to start the war. If you want a name, call it the Palestinian-Israeli War. Cover the war as a day-by-day report. I know that you’re a weekly, but you can report what happened on day 90, day 91, etc. You get the idea.

Anthony Stroe, via e-mail

School Board Election

I had a negative reaction to Marlene Adler Marks’s column (“Reality-Based Schooling,” March 2). Her nonstop support of a friend who is a candidate for the 4th District LAUSD Board of Education seat was unbecoming of a Jewish Journal writer. Better would have been a paid advertisement for her “reality-based” endorsement.

Also, researching the educational philosophy and accomplishments of the incumbent Valerie Fields would reveal this former LAUSD elementary school teacher’s strong focus on “educating children and improving teacher skills.”

Marion Berkovitz, Woodland Hills

Jewish Journalism

Your historic account of the Jewish press in Southern California is long overdue (“News Machers,” Feb. 23). I thank you.

As a person who’s been involved in community and Jewish activities, an avid reader of community affairs and a writer thereof for a half-century, I have firsthand knowledge and awareness of all Jewish publications, past and present. I must express my strong support of Herb Brin, founder-publisher of the Heritage Southwest Jewish Press, and his talented son Dan Brin.

Herb made journalistic history on various levels through the years; admirably The Journal cited some. His important stories were always nothing short of amazing.

Herb deserves the respect and recognition of the Jewish community for giving so much. Through struggles and tenacity he’s still at it, at the young age of 80-plus years. G-d keep him well.

Margaret Marketa Novak, Beverly Hills


I miss Gene Lichtenstein. I loved the positions he took and his style of writing. But I must say that if he had to leave, I am more than happy with his replacement. I like Rob Eshman’s positions and his style of writing. Thank you and yeshar ko’ach.

Sid Weinstein, Lakewood

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)

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.”

Destination Israel

Tourism in Israel is being hammered. The Al-Aqsa uprising that began last fall has prompted a flood of trip postponements and cancellations, particularly by Americans who saw no need to put themselves or their children at risk when stones and bullets were flying in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

In the last three months of last year alone, tourist revenues slumped $700 million, and preliminary figures suggest the first quarter of 2001 will repeat the pattern of a 50- to 70-percent falloff. Hotel rooms, restaurants and shops all over Israel are empty, and some have been closed.

But the Israel Government Tourist Office insists the violence is limited to a handful of areas that tourists would almost never visit, that the impression of widespread turmoil was created by news reports that overplay the limited, very small-scale skirmishes that have become the pattern of Palestinian terror.

Seven other journalists and I recently toured Israel on a visit sponsored by the government in the hope we would provide a more accurate account for U.S. readers.

All of us had concluded long before we left that there is no special danger in visiting Israel, assuming normal precautions are observed regarding particular places — roads to isolated West Bank settlements, for example.

By week’s end, without pressure from Israeli government officials, we came away more convinced than ever that for anyone with a modicum of common sense and a normal curiosity about the land that is our shared history, this is a great time to go to Israel. Prices are down, accommodations are easily available, the best sites are not crowded, and night life is fun.

Just as important, the intifada is producing a tectonic shift in assumptions about the future of Israel and the Mideast generally, meaning a visitor has a chance to see history in the making.

And it’s safe.

Historical Presence

The present in Israel is always tied to the past. Nowhere is that more dramatically evident than in the newly excavated tunnel along the base of the Western Wall of the mount of the Second Temple.

To look at the massive stone blocks, some of them as much as 200 tons, that Herod’s masons carved and set more than 2,000 years ago is to understand anew the power of belief.

Our guide, Roni Milo, a former Israel Defense Forces lieutenant colonel, pointed out that the excavations are underneath the present Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City; no similar work is taking place to explore the history underlying the Arab Quarter.

Within easy walking distance of the tunnel is the ambitious Tower of David museum, where every major period of Jerusalem’s history is laid out with a clarity and simplicity that makes it an inviting doorway to more study.

The museum drew more than 350,000 visitors last year, when a monumental display of new glass artistry was mounted there. Now the show seems to get fewer than 200 daily visitors, so dawdling is easy. The museum relies on replicas rather than original artifacts, but the stories of the different periods of the city are told with a nice verve.

Farther north, Eran Goldwasser takes time from his wine-making to give a fascinating tour of Baron Edmund Rothschild’s 1880s Carmel Mizrachi winery at Zichron Ya’akov, on the road to Haifa.

A restoration of the camp for illegal immigrants on the coast below Haifa was under-produced, but it still proved an emotional and intellectually engaging experience of a dramatic moment in Palestine under the British mandate. Independence Hall in Tel Aviv similarly cries out for a first-rate multimedia introduction and a budget adequate to spruce up the display areas.

After the Western Wall, Masada, the mountain fortress where, in 73 c.e., 967 Jews committed suicide rather than become Roman slaves, remains the most powerful site in Israel for Jews. On top of the mountain, the government has completed a massive reconstruction of the buildings and exhibits and installed a cable-car ride for those who don’t want to make a 900-foot vertical ascent under their own power.

The intifada is providing a new gloss on the standard view of Masada as a lesson in Jewish courage. Now, Milo says, it stands for the proposition that Israel should never get itself into a dead-end situation, a place from which there is no way out.

Sense of Security

Visitors are reminded about the security issue in direct ways. Airline passengers get a much more thorough and time-consuming quizzing than in the United States. Even so, at every takeoff, one wonders, "Did something sneak through?"

But no foreigner has died in a terrorist attack in Israel since the 1996 bombing of a Jerusalem bus that killed American students Matthew Eisenfeld and Sara Duker, as well as 24 Israelis.

Tzion Ben-David, the head of North American operations for the tourist office, pointed out that foreigners are far less likely in Israel to suffer the sorts of lesser assaults — muggings, pickpockets, camera thefts, swindles — than they would be in Rome or Lisbon, for example. Even late at night, women can walk safely in the entertainment areas with a freedom that a New Yorker, San Franciscan or Washingtonian would envy.

Last week, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, meeting in Israel, said it will work for repeal of the State Department’s advisory warning U. S. citizens not to travel in Israel. Israeli officials say the warning, issued after the Sept. 28 uprising, does not reflect the reality of everyday life.

The greatest dangers we faced were those that confront any traveler on a fast tour at this time of year — backache in crowded planes and exposure to a cabin full of colds and flu, a bad falafel that kills a night’s rest, fatigue from late hours, good wine and little sleep.

One of our group, from Miami, said a tourist coming to his city was, by several orders of magnitude, more likely to be in physical danger than we were in Israel.

Resort Life

Most American Jews think about going to Israel out of spiritual or cultural conviction. They could go just to have fun.

From Haifa in the north to Eilat at the south, the country has developed a wide range of luxury resorts that can compete with the better-known watering holes of the Mediterranean, the South Pacific or the Caribbean.

Haifa, for example, boasts a dozen luxury hotels, some with commanding views of both the commercial harbor and the west-facing beaches. Even in last week’s relatively cool weather, large numbers of Israeli and European tourists were shelling out $300 a night for these accommodations.

Most are an easy walk to the increasingly dramatic hanging gardens of the Baha’i Shrine on Mount Carmel and the 150-year-old German colony. Short drives within the city get you to interesting stores and galleries, good restaurants and a night life that rocks.

Haifa can and does serve as a central place to leave your bags while you explore the Galilee to the east or the coast to the south, with Caesarea a particularly interesting place for a picnic in Roman ruins.

Ein Bokek — on the Dead Sea south of Qumram, where the scrolls were found, and of Masada — is something of a fantasy world for tourists. Within recent years, major hotel chains have built nearly 4,000 luxury rooms as a getaway, primarily for older couples.

The chief attraction is the sea itself, where even the worst swimmer is unsinkable, but the hotels also push special services like facials and full-body hot-mud treatments.

Eilat is the real shocker. Three decades ago, it was a minor town on the Egyptian border whose reputation was overshadowed by the "lost city" of Petra a couple of hours east in Jordan and by Aqaba, just on the other side of the Red Sea.

Now Eilat looks like Cancun between the mountains.

The hotels, like Herod’s Palace and the Queen of Sheba, are exercises in fantasy and whimsy, and the beaches and promenades hum with activity. The coral reef has become one of the hot lures for snorkelers, offering an exceptional variety of fish and floral life.

Yisrael, a goldsmith on the beachfront promenade in Eilat, says he is surprised that Americans have not discovered his city in greater numbers. Prices, he says, are about half what they would be in comparable American venues, and he speaks from 18 months of experience at a mall in Ft. Lauderdale. The handmade silver bracelets he sells would easily command twice the price in the States, he says, with the assurance of a born salesman.

The Myron Browns, who hailed from Dallas before they made aliyah more than 20 years ago, repeat that Israel in general, and Eilat in particular, are bargains. They are in Eilat for a week at the Ocean Club, a sprawling complex of one- and two-bedroom units designed to resemble the decks on a luxury liner. Their one-bedroom timeshare costs $100 a day to rent, compared to the $300 or so a night at the luxury hotels.

With Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia in gunshot range, Eilat ought to be as nervous as Jerusalem, but it clearly isn’t.

After a day of exploring the Underwater Observatory Marine Park, including a ride to 180 feet below sea level in the Yellow Submarine, a Ms. Adams from Manchester explains why she brought her son, Tommy, to Eilat for his 10th birthday.

She has traveled widely as a policewoman, she says, and this hunk of Israel seemed perfect for his wide-eyed interest.

But is it safe? She laughs, calling Eilat "the safest place in the world."

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