Hebrew Word of the Week: shalom


hww-shalom

Lady Gaga pre-Tel Aviv concert ‘Shalom’ video irks some Arab fans


Lady Gaga apparently riled some Arab fans with a short video in advance of her Tel Aviv performance featuring a “Shalom” greeting.

“Shalom, Israel,” the American pop star says in the 10-second video. “I’m so excited to perform my new tour in Tel Aviv.”

The performer’s manager announced Sunday that the Sept. 13 concert in Yarkon Park – part of her “artRave: The ARTPOP Ball” international tour — would go on as planned, despite cancellations by other high-profile performers due to the Gaza conflict and its aftermath.

Responding on social media platforms to the video, which reportedly has gone viral, some Arab fans called Lada Gaga “disgusting,” “devilish” and insensitive, Al Arabiya News reported.

Tens of thousands of Israeli fans are expected to attend the concert, which is listed on the performer’s official website. Tickets remain on sale.

Neil Young, The Backstreet Boys, America and Lana Del Rey are among the stars who canceled performances this summer due to Israel’s conflict with Gaza.

Lady Gaga performed in Tel Aviv in August 2009, despite of attempts by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement to have her cancel.

Painting love over hate on vandalized Workmen’s Circle mural


An organization that fosters Jewish identity has attempted to turn a recent act of vandalism into an opportunity for bridge-building between Jews and Muslims. 

Last weekend, the SoCal Arbeter Ring/Workmen’s Circle added the Arabic word “Salaam” — and its Hebrew and English equivalents, “Shalom” and “Peace,” to a vandalized mural that covers its home in the Pico-Robertson neighborhood. 

The organization’s addition to its 1998 mural is a response to incidents that took place on Feb. 6. That’s when vandals spray-painted the words “Free Palestine!!!!” onto the mural. Hours later, another set of vandals responded, in turn, by turning the word “Free” into an expletive

The graffiti remained until its recent removal by the City of Los Angeles Board of Public Works Office. An ongoing investigation by police has not identified any suspects. 

[Related: Graffiti at Workmen’s Circle]

In the wake of the incidents, Workmen’s Circle denounced the vandals in a public statement. Its district committee voted to make the addition to the mural out of the belief that the best way to respond to acts of hate is with compassion.

Eric Gordon, a district committee member, said, “It often does take an extreme act, a catastrophe, an accident, to awaken you to needs you didn’t think you had before. … What are we going to do? Respond to an act of hate by saying “F— Palestine” on the mural? So, we’re trying to be responsive.

“We agree with ‘Free Palestine.’ It’s not the best way to express it. We are sorry and angry that they chose that way to express it, but they do have a point,” he said.

The wall-sized mural itself — titled “A shenere un besere velt” (a Yiddish phrase meaning “A more beautiful and better world”) — depicts cultural, biblical and historical imagery. The imagery includes a menorah, Israelites wandering in the desert, a young girl waving Israeli and American flags, and more.


SoCal Arbeter Ring/Workmen's Circle summoned muralist Eliseo Silva (below) to make an addition to its mural. Photo by Ryan Torok.

For the addition, the group summoned the mural’s original artist, Eliseo Silva. A non-Jewish, Filipino muralist and Los Angeles resident, Silva worked all weekend long on the mural, painting the new words onto three leaves. He also painted an olive tree.

It’s a minor addition to a mural extending the length of a 60-foot wall, but Gordon said the images send a message to the community that the only sensible way to respond to incitement is by being open to dialogue. 

It also represents a reunion between Silva and Gordon, who conceived of the mural when he took over the organization in 1995. 

“It doesn’t seem like a long time ago,” Silva said of when Gordon first commissioned him to work on the mural 16 years ago.

On March 15, wearing an apron and gesturing with fingertips covered in paint, Silva said he’s changed more than the mural. 

“I think I’ve probably gained 70 pounds,” he said. “Eric looks the same. He hasn’t changed.”

Report: Mandela received Mossad training


Nelson Mandela received training from Israel’s Mossad in the 1960s, an Israeli government document has revealed.

Mandela, the former South African president and anti-apartheid leader who died earlier this month, was trained by Mossad agents in weaponry and sabotage in 1962, according to a report Thursday in Haaretz that was based on a document in the Israel State Archives labeled “Top Secret.”

The document, a letter sent from the Mossad to the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, said Mossad operatives also attempted to encourage Zionist sympathies in Mandela, Haaretz reported.

Mandela led the struggle against apartheid in his country from the 1950s. He was arrested, tried and released a number of times before going underground in the early 1960s. In January 1962, he left South Africa and visited various African countries, including Ethiopia, Algeria, Egypt and Ghana.

Mandela met with the Israelis in Ethiopia, where he arrived under the alias David Mobsari.

The letter noted that Mandela “showed an interest in the methods of the Haganah and other Israeli underground movements “ and that “he greeted our men with ‘Shalom,’ was familiar with the problems of Jewry and of Israel, and gave the impression of being an intellectual. The staff tried to make him into a Zionist,” the Mossad operative wrote.

“In conversations with him, he expressed socialist worldviews and at times created the impression that he leaned toward communism,” the letter continued, noting that the man who called himself David Mobsari was indeed Mandela.

This letter was discovered several years ago by David Fachler, 43, a resident of Alon Shvut, who was researching documents about South Africa for a master’s thesis.

Jewish Democrats low key, grateful at second inauguration


The inaugural poem included a “shalom,” and three rabbis and a cantor attended the traditional next-day inaugural blessing. But the message that Jewish Democrats were most eager to convey during President Obama’s second inauguration on Jan. 21 was that the long romance between the community and the party was nowhere near over.

There was no big Jewish Obama inaugural ball this year — overall, celebrations were fewer and less ambitious than in 2009 — but in small discreet parties across Washington this week, Jewish Democrats breathed with relief that their candidate was re-elected and had a substantial majority among Jewish voters.

“It’s easy to forget, as it already seems a long time ago, but despite a profoundly negative campaign aimed at the president in our community, he overwhelmingly won the Jewish vote,” David Harris, president of the National Jewish Democratic Council, said in an interview.

Obama scored 68 percent to 70 percent of the Jewish vote in November’s presidential contest, according to exit polls, a slight decline from the 74 to 78 percent he won in 2008.

Republicans throughout the Obama presidency have made claims of a drift between the Democrats and what for decades has been a core and generous constituency. They have cited in particular Obama’s tense relations with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu; according to a recent report, Obama has said repeatedly that “Israel doesn’t know what its own best interests are.”

Yet Obama’s Jewish ties seem as deep as ever.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), the third-ranking Democrat in the Senate, emceed the inauguration ceremonies at the Capitol. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), who has made a mantra of saying that the Democratic Party is the “natural political home for the Jews,” reassumed her position as Democratic National Committee chair on Jan. 22 at the committee’s winter meeting in Washington, D.C. Rabbi Amy Schwartzman of Temple Rodef Shalom in Falls Church, Va., delivered an invocation at the event.

A few blocks away at the National Cathedral, four Jewish clergy participated in the presidential inaugural prayer service: Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the president of the Union for Reform Judaism; Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, the executive vice president of the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly; Rabbi Sharon Brous, the founder of the IKAR Jewish community in Los Angeles (related story on p. 22); and Cantor Mikhail Manevich of the Washington Hebrew Congregation, a Reform synagogue just blocks from the cathedral.

There were some hiccups: Muslim and Jewish clerics joined their Christian colleagues in a procession headed by ministers bearing aloft a crucifix. Brous substantially changed her prayer reading, which had been drafted by the cathedral, to make it more forthright. A genteel rebuffing of “favoritism” in her prepared text became a rebuke against “biases” in her delivered remarks.

The day before, when Obama fulfilled another time-honored inaugural tradition with a visit to historic St. John’s Church across the street from the White House, Rabbi David Saperstein, who directs the Reform movement’s Religious Action Center, and Rabbi Jack Moline, who helms the Conservative Agudas Achim synagogue in Alexandria, Va., delivered readings.

Sixth and I, the historic synagogue in the city’s downtown, drew several hundred to a Shabbat service for government and campaign workers. Wasserman Schultz delivered a sermon, and although she avoided blatant partisanship, she described Democratic policy objectives — among them, access to health care and a reinforced safety net for the poor — as Jewish values.

Otherwise, the Jewish profile was low-key. NJDC, along with J Street, the liberal Jewish group that had made its hallmark the backing of Obama’s Middle East policies, hosted private parties, reflecting the overall subdued festivities. There were only two “official” balls this year, instead of 10, and 800,000 people poured into the capital, a million fewer than four years ago.

A Jewish official said that, similarly, there were fewer Jewish visitors to Washington this year, which likely drove the decision by the major Jewish groups not to repeat the ball at the Capital Hilton. In 2009, hundreds of Jewish Chicagoans were in Washington; this year there was not as much interest.

Instead, many celebrators dedicated themselves to service, in line with a call from the White House for such projects to be timed with Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The District of Columbia Jewish Community Center drew 25 volunteers to help refurbish two apartments for people transitioning from homelessness.

“Volunteering today was meaningful because service is very important to the president, and Martin Luther King is important to him,” said Erica Steen, the director of community engagement for the DCJCC.

J Street brought in 75 activists from across the country to distribute leaflets to passers-by asking them to urge Obama to make Middle East peacemaking a priority.

“Without strong U.S. leadership it won’t be resolved,” said Talia Ben Amy, a 26-year-old assistant editor from New York who was handing out literature near the National Mall.

Eran Sharon, a law graduate from the University of Texas at Austin who is on a fellowship with Jews United for Justice, was helping out at a homeless kitchen after the Sixth and I service. The second inauguration, he said, had brought on more of a sense of relief than exultation.

“It’s a new opportunity to finish the policies Obama has started,” said Sharon, 29. “Hopefully with less bickering with Congress.”

JCA Shalom Color Wars for adults who are kids at heart


Each summer, thousands of gleeful children at Jewish summer camps everywhere split into color-coded teams and compete against their peers in water balloon tosses, three-legged races, baton runs and the inevitable sing-off.

But why should they have all the fun?

Grown children who still pine for those days of spirited one-upmanship can relive their summer memories Oct. 23 at the first Adult Color Wars, taking place at Camp JCA Shalom in Malibu. Locals in their 20s and 30s are invited to sign up for what organizers hope will be one totally rad day at camp.

“It’s a chance to come and meet like-minded people who want to get together and remember how to play,” said Jennifer Rheuban, sales manager for a California winery, who came up with the idea based on her own nostalgia for her time at summer camp. “To do this, you can’t be afraid to get dirty, and you have to want to be a kid.”

Participation in the event is a double bonus, Rheuban said, because in addition to reconnecting with the joy of Jewish camp, a portion of the proceeds from each ticket will go toward the Camp JCA Shalom scholarship fund for 2012, ensuring that more children next year will have the same formative experiences to look back upon as adults.

For Rheuban, the memory of those experiences is still fresh. The Los Angeles native attended Camp JCA Shalom for 12 summers, ascending the ranks from camper to CIT — counselor-in-training — to counselor. “By my third summer, I was begging my parents to [let me] go all summer long,” she said. “I became completely involved and made some incredible friends. Camp has probably been one of the things that has been the closest to my heart.”

Last year, newly single at age 33, Rheuban considered the usual modes of socialization among young professionals and found them wanting. Neither the bar scene nor online dating sounded appealing. She wanted to meet other people in a Jewish setting that wasn’t a synagogue, and in a way that could benefit the community as a whole.

“I wanted to meet people, and I wanted to get back to my Jewish roots,” Rheuban recalled. “I thought, ‘What can I do to give my life more meaning and feed my soul and get back that warm feeling inside?’ ”

Naturally, her thoughts drifted to camp. The memories came rushing back: Shabbat-o-grams on Fridays, best friends, tie-dyed shirts, swimming relays, Color Wars. She always loved Color Wars, also known at some camps as Maccabiah Games — dividing into teams, getting to know and compete alongside peers with whom campers might not normally interact, joining together in the name of fun and making new friends.

“I thought it would be a great idea to do this for adults,” Rheuban said. “A lot of what we learn to do as we get older is about leaving ‘playing’ behind. We spend so much time proving to people that we’re not children anymore. Maybe it would be nice to stop for a day and get back to that.”

Set to take place from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., the unique event will feature a standard Color Wars itinerary of group activities and contests among the rival red, blue, yellow and green teams. Participants will be assigned to teams in advance of the big day and are expected to come dressed in their team’s colors and ready to cheer their compatriots on. A barbecue lunch will be included in the $25 ticket price.

At the end of the day, when everyone is tuckered out from relay races and singing, they will gather around a campfire to bask in the spirit of newfound camaraderie.

“It’s amazing that Jenny put this together — it’s such an organic way for young adults to give back to camp,” said Bill Kaplan, executive director of the Shalom Institute and a former director of Camp JCA Shalom.

Somewhere between 30 and 50 percent of proceeds from the event will go toward the campership fund for next summer. “If they raise $1,000, a child will be able to afford camp,” Kaplan said, adding that 40 percent of camp families — around 300 children — typically receive some level of financial assistance.

Plus, he said, “it’ll be hilarious” to watch activities like potato sack races performed by grown doctors and lawyers.

Rheuban, a self-professed “camp dork,” said she usually asks her parents to make a donation in her name to the camp scholarship fund for Chanukah. “I see how much it defined my life and my core values,” she said. “It’s important to carry on that tradition.”

She still gets a “warm, fuzzy feeling” when she thinks about her camp memories, she admitted. “Camp does that to you.”

To learn more, “like” the “1st annual adult color wars” page on Facebook, e-mail jennyban1@gmail.com,  follow “Adultcolorwars” on Twitter or register at 1stannual

Bloomberg to Muslim leaders: ‘Shalom alaikum’


New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg accidentally addressed Muslim leaders at a Ramadan gathering with a “Shalom.”

Bloomberg apparently had intended to say “Salaam aleikum,” a traditional Arabic greeting, to those gathered at the Wednesday event at New York’s police headquarters. But instead the mayor said, “Shalom alaikum.”

“Well, it’s common to both religions,” Imam Omar Abunamous of the Islamic Cultural Center of New York told the New York Daily News. “They are the same thing. The same idea.”

Like its Arabic counterpart, the Hebrew phrase “Shalom aleichem” is a greeting that means “peace be upon you.”

18 essential Hebrew words and phrases


In honor of Israel's 60th Birthday, we thought you should learn a few key words and phrases in Hebrew that will bring you closer to Israel's people and culture. This vocabulary will be useful on your next trip to Israel– or on your next trip to Ventura Boulevard. Delight your Israeli friends, teach your kids or impress a date. What better way to mark this milestone in Jewish history than to do a very Jewish thing: learn!

1. Shalom — [shuh-lohm] hello; goodbye; peace. Shalom Yossi, how are you? Probably the most uttered Hebrew word in the dictionary, its three meanings make it an indispensable tool for everyday conversation, as well as international peace summits.

2. Slicha — [slee-chah] sorry; excuse me. Slicha, I was here first. A polite word that'll come in handy when trying to get an Israeli's attention — or when trying to avoid a brawl.

3. Todah — [toe-DAH] thank you. Todah for the directions, bus driver. You should know how to thank people in every language; showing gratitude is a universally appreciated gesture — even with manner-deficient Israelis.

4. Naim me'od — [ny-EEM meh-ohd] very pleasant. Naim me'od to finally meet you. You can use this phrase to describe something, such as when the weather is very pleasant, but it is mostly used when meeting someone for the first time.

5. Lama? — [lah-mah] why? Lama don't you come visit more often? Israelis love to ask questions and challenge things and people. You may want to know how to do the same in order to fit in.

6. Yalla — [yah-lah] let's go; come on. Yalla, where is my food? You'll hear this word — which is actually an Arabic word adopted into Hebrew — said frequently, with impatience, with enthusiasm, with anger, in a song, in conversation. It typifies the impatient nature of Israelis — and Arabs for that matter.

7. Ma koreh? — [mah kor-EH] what's happening? Hi Tali, ma koreh with you lately? Young Israelis often substitute the more formal “how are you” with “ma koreh,” perhaps reflecting their interest in the recent events of a person's life as opposed to the person's feelings.

8. Chaval al ha zman — [cha-vahl ahl ha-Z-mahn] (slang) amazing; great. Thailand was chaval al ha zman. This phrase translated literally means “shame on the time” which makes no sense, but everyone — and we mean everyone — uses it to describe a wonderful experience. The next time someone asks you how your trip to Israel was, be sure to answer: chaval al ha zman!

9. Neshika — [neh-SHI-kah] kiss. Give me a big neshika. An extremely affectionate and warm people, Israelis tend to give each other abundant hugs and kisses, even if they have just met.

10. Ani ohev otach/Ani ohevet otchah — [AH-nee oh-hev oh-tach/AH-nee oh-hevett oht-cha] I love you (male to a female)/(female to a male). Dad, ani ohevet otchah. Saying I love you in a different language adds some spice to those three little words.

11. Neshama — [neh-sha-mah] soul; (slang) darling. Neshama, could you make me some coffee? A beautiful and spiritual word, you'll often hear both men and women using it as a term of endearment with each other, with children and with friends. It's just one example of how spirituality is a part of everyday life and speech in Israel.

12. Mishpacha — [Mish-PA-cha] family. I have a lot of mishpacha in Ashdod. Israelis are fiercely loyal to their families, which tend to be large in number. The country's tiny size means distant family members see each other much more frequently than American families, so you may find yourself being introduced to people way out there on the family tree.

13. Frier — [fry-ehr] (slang) sucker. Do I look like a frier to you? Being duped is one of the worst things that could happen to an Israeli. They don't like being taken advantage of or fooled, and they don't like being accused of doing it to someone else, so keep this word handy when haggling for prices at the shuk (bazaar).

14. Ezeh bassa — [eh-zah BAHS-ah] (slang) what a disappointment. Ezeh bassa, there's no cute girls at this party. Speak this phrase — another loaner from Arabic– within earshot of an Israeli, and you'll receive warm acknowledgement for being “in the know.” This is by far the coolest — though definitely not the only — way to express displeasure in Hebrew.

15. At chamuda/ata chamud — [aht chah-moo-dah/aht-ah chah-mood] you're cute (to a female)/(to a male). Hey you, at chamuda. If you want to hit on a gorgeous Israeli girl, you better know how to do it in her language. Israeli women are notoriously difficult to crack, but a compliment is a good start.

16. Chagiga — [cha-gi-ga] party; celebration. There will be an enormous chagiga in Tel Aviv on Independence Day. There is always a reason to celebrate in Israel — holidays, weddings, birthdays — and they sure know how to throw a party in the Holy Land!

17. Meshugah — [meh-shoo-gah] crazy person. Slow down, you're driving like a meshugah! You should have at least one insult in your arsenal in order to get through a trip to Israel, and this is a good one: not too offensive and applicable in many situations and to many people.

18. Tikvah — [teek-vah] hope. We still have tikvah that there will be peace. The Israeli national anthem is called “Hatikvah” — The Hope — and this word is so fundamental to the Jewish homeland's existence that every Jew in the world should know it.
 


WEB EXTRA AUDIO: Dikla Kadosh runs down the 18 words and phrases, with special assistance from AudioJew Jay Firestone.

Pakistanis Thinking the Unthinkable


After more than half a century of viewing Jews as avowed enemies and negating their right to a Jewish state, Pakistanis are now learning to say “shalom” and debating recognition of Israel. Last weekend, Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf became the country’s first head of state to speak to an official gathering of Jews, when he addressed the American Jewish Congress in New York on the sidelines of the start of the United Nations session.

Musharraf’s message was straightforward: Pakistan would take steps toward normalization of ties with Israel, if the Middle East peace process moves forward.

“What better signal for peace could there be than the opening of embassies in Israel by Islamic countries like Pakistan,” he said, adding that a just resolution of the Palestinian problem would lead to Israel’s recognition by Muslim states and “will extinguish the anger and frustration that motivates resort to violence and extremism.”

Musharraf’s address came in the wake of a “historic” meeting in Istanbul on Sept. 1 between Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Khurshid Mehmud Kasuri and his Israeli counterpart, Silvan Shalom, in what is being called the first-ever diplomatic contact between Pakistan and Israel. The historic handshake was featured on the front pages of all the Pakistani national dailies the next day.

Recent moves by the Pakistani government toward recognition of Israel, with which it has no diplomatic relations, may be surprising for their rapidity, but they were the next moves in a continuum. Following Musharraf’s earliest comments on the subject in July 2003, the nation has been witnessing an on-again, off-again debate on the pros and cons of if and when to establish ties with the Jewish state.

The debate has only intensified since the Kasuri-Shalom meeting in Istanbul. What was once unthinkable about is now openly talked of from every perceivable angle on all the national networks and in newspapers.

The vigor of this national debate is understandable in the context of Pakistan’s longstanding support for the Palestinian cause, and its virtually automatic and reflexive denunciation of Israel and its policies at all international levels. On the domestic front, ordinary Pakistanis have been fed by politicians and the clergy a picture of Jews as the most evil of all of Islam’s enemies, while Israel is characterized as a pariah state that tramples on Palestinian rights.

For all the hype, however, the issues of contention between Israel and Pakistan are curiously few. Putting aside Pakistan’s genuine identification with Palestinians, experts in this Islamic nation can tally advantages of good relations with Jews and Israel.

Most analysts take the view that establishing diplomatic ties with Israel would create diplomatic space for Pakistan on two of its most important foreign-policy fronts: 1 — countering the growing India-Israel nexus in the domains of military and economic co-operation; 2 — gaining favor with Jewish lobbies considered influential in U.S. politics, economics, society and the media.

“There is no doubt that the dominant view [in Pakistan] is that it’s better late than never,” said B. Muralidhar Reddy, special correspondent from Pakistan for the Indian daily, The Hindu. The Indian government is watching closely the developing ties between Israel and Pakistan, he said.

For its part, the Pakistani government has to square its current actions with its past rhetoric. The official line speaks of Pakistan’s willingness as a major Muslim country to play an important role in the Middle East conflict by engaging Israel and encouraging both sides to make peace. Beginning with Musharraf, officials are taking pains to say that the ongoing parleys have specifically come about as a result of Israel’s pullout from Gaza, and in no way do they foreshadow any imminent recognition of Israel.

“This is not a question of Pakistan’s national interests,” Foreign Office spokesman Naeem Khan told The Journal. “Pakistan wants to play a helpful role in the establishment of a Palestinian state by sending an encouraging signal to Israel to take more steps like the Gaza pullout.”

Such extreme caution, however, may be unnecessary, at least for domestic Pakistani consumption. With the exception of the hard-line Islamists, other mainstream political parties are reacting to the issue more provincially than ideologically. Their chief objection was that Musharraf had failed to take Parliament’s leaders into his confidence on the issue.

The familiar angry masses protesting on the streets, a top government concern, have failed to materialize. The country’s top Islamist leader, Qazi Hussain Ahmed, a member of the opposition, does not offer too many words on the subject, other than the traditional party line that calls Israel an “illegal state.” He told The Journal that his party would launch a “struggle” in tune with the party line. “We will also bring people on the streets.”

For now, however, many Pakistanis are content watching the lively TV debates, reading expert analyses and wondering what it means for their country.

“They [Israelis] have not done any harm to us, so why should we not have relations with them,” said 26-year-old Madiha Ali, who just completed a science degree and aspires to be a civil servant. Ali said that in the era of globalization, Pakistan cannot afford to stand alone.

“Common people do have reservations [about Israel], but it can be solved through proper propaganda,” she said.

In other words, the diatribes about the evils of Jews can be replaced with a more constructive message.

Ali slipped into another stereotype, even as she tried to speak positively about better relations with Jews. Jews, she said, “are the decision makers of the U.S., and they are eventually the policymakers of Pakistan. We need to engage them.”