Record number of women elected to Knesset in race with high voter turnout


In an election with the highest voter turnout since 1999, a record 28 women were chosen for the 20th Knesset.

The percentage of eligible voters who came out Tuesday was 71.8; the turnout 14 years ago was 78.7 percent.

Ten of the parties running in the election garnered seats in the Knesset, with 15 not reaching the electoral threshold of 3.45 percent, or four seats.

The number of women elected broke the record of 27 set in the 2013 elections, according to the Israel Democracy Institute. The Zionist Union had eight women elected, followed by the Likud Party with six.

The number of Orthodox and haredi Orthodox lawmakers fell from 39 to 25, while the number of Arab-Israeli lawmakers increased from 12 to 17, including one each in the Zionist Union, Likud and Meretz parties.

The Knesset will welcome 41 new lawmakers, or slightly more than one-third of the parliament, according to the Israel Democracy Institute.

Gallup shows split in backing for Israel in Gaza war, with younger Americans unsupportive


A Gallup poll shows that support among Americans for Israel during the Gaza Strip conflict is divided, and is low among younger Americans.

The poll posted on the pollster’s website Thursday showed a statistical dead heat between those who believe Israel’s actions against Hamas are justified, 42 percent, and those who believe they are unjustified, 39 percent. The difference was within the poll’s margin of error of four percentage points.

Reactions to Hamas were lopsided, with 70 percent calling the group’s actions unjustified and just 11 percent describing them as justified.

Older Americans were much likelier to say Israel’s actions were justified: 55 percent of those over 65; 53 percent of those between 50 and 64; 36 percent of those 30-49 and just 25 percent of those 18-29.

There were other dramatic differences in how subgroups measured support for Israel, with 65 percent of Republicans calling Israel’s actions justified and just 31 percent of Democrats and 36 percent of Independents saying they were justified; 50 percent of whites said Israel was justified, while just 25 percent of non-whites agreed with that characterization; 51 percent of men agreed and 33 percent of women.

The poll was based on 1,018 phone interviews conducted from July 22-23.

Israel launched Operation Protective Edge on July 8 after an intensification of rocket fire from the Gaza Strip. More than 820 Palestinians, most of them civilians, have been killed since then, as have 36 Israelis, including 33 troops.

LimmudLA — by the numbers


Participants:* 634
Sponsors: 14
Presenters 133
Sessions: 262
Films: 21
Artists: 23
On-site volunteers: 227
Steering committee: 14
Chairs: 2
Executive director: 1
*Participants for the entire conference. An additional 16 joined for Sunday only and an additional 32 participated as vendors in the Shuk on Sunday.

Cost of LimmudLA: Still being calculated. The fee of $450 per adult covered only part of the actual cost, while Limmud subsidized the rest. Significant scholarships were awarded. The Jewish Community Foundation provided the largest grant at $250,000 (paid out over three years.)


Breakdown by denomination:
Conservadox 56
Conservative 144
Chasidic 11
Humanist 4
Just Jewish 32
Modern Orthodox 150
Orthodox 30
Post-Denominational 27
Reconstructionist 5
Reform 68
Renewal 4
Secular 9
Traditional 14
Unaffiliated 14
Prefer not to answer 21

Breakdown by age (range, 0-87):
0-2 28
3-12 68
13-17 9
18-34 163
35-50 163
51-64 135
65+ 25

Breakdown by geography:
Within CA

Conejo Valley 5
Los Angeles Area 412
San Gabriel Valley Area 14
San Fernando Valley 79
Ventura County 7
Northern California 8
Orange County 20
Long Beach 7
South Bay 6
San Diego 8
Santa Barbara 1

Other states:
Colorado 1
Florida 3
Georgia 1
Illinois 3
Massachusetts 4
North Carolina 1
New Jersey 4
New York 22
Ohio 1
Pennsylvania 4
Texas 1
Virginia 1
Washington 1

Other countries:
Canada 6
Israel 7
United Kingdom 9

Clergy sexual misconduct: What’s being done to rein in abuse?


Even as the Catholic Church has been rocked by a massive pedophilia scandal in recent years, the Jewish community also has been buffeted by high-profile cases of sexual impropriety involving rabbis and other authority figures.

How extensive is the problem of clergy sex abuse in the Jewish community? It depends on which criteria are used as a yardstick. One possible gauge is the volume of abuse complaints adjudicated by the ethics panels of the major religious denominations.
Judging by the tiny caseload, the problem appears to be negligible — unless, of course, wrongdoing by rabbis and other clergymen is underreported, as some observers maintain.

Rabbi Richard Hirsh, executive vice president of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association, counted three or four investigations into rabbinic sexual misconduct since the 300-member organization adopted a new code of ethics in 1999. Hirsh would identify neither the transgressions nor the transgressors. The code is again being revised.

“We’re not allowed to discuss any details,” he explained, although in one instance, he added, the association’s ethics committee merely admonished the accused rabbi to “be careful next time.”

Rabbi Joel Meyers, executive vice president of the Conservative movement’s 1,600-member Rabbinical Assembly (RA), said in the 17 years he has held his current post, only three rabbis have been asked to leave the RA or left on their own due to “inappropriate behavior” of a sexual nature. Last year, one rabbi was expelled. In addition, the RA insisted that “several” other rabbis found to have engaged in “seductive behavior” should undergo therapy.

Rabbi Basil Herring, executive vice president of the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA), a primarily Modern Orthodoxy organization, said the RCA has ruled on so few sexual misconduct complaints over the past 10 years that the number is not statistically significant.

The Union for Reform Judaism, which has 900 member congregations, sees no “particular need” to keep records on the numbers or dispositions of sexual misconduct cases, according to its president, Rabbi Eric Yoffie.

“I don’t happen to believe there’s any evidence of an epidemic of rabbinic sexual abuse,” Yoffie said. “If you are asking, am I aware of there being some significant numbers of people, my answer is no. We have to keep it in perspective.”

Yet the Awareness Center, a Baltimore-based Jewish clearinghouse of clergy sex abuse information, lists on its Web site scores of Jewish clergy who are alleged to be sexual predators. Some of them have been convicted of crimes, but some have not even been charged.

Although authoritative statistics quantifying the problem appear to be nonexistent, some experts estimate that “between 18 and 39 percent of Jewish clergy are involved in sexual harassment, sexual exploitation and/or sexual misconduct — the same percentage as non-Jewish clergy,” according to the 2002 book, “Sex, Lies, and Rabbis: Breaking a Sacred Trust,” written by psychotherapist Charlotte Rolnick Schwab.

“All denominations are involved,” Schwab wrote.
In her book, she said quantitative data were drawn in part from a conversation with the Rev. Marie Fortune, director of the FaithTrust Institute, a Seattle-based nonprofit organization that fights sexual and domestic violence.

Schwab in her book added: “The large number of cases alone … in my files bears out this estimate.”

Contacted later, Fortune said: “To my knowledge, there are no definitive statistics in any of our faith groups that quantify the problem, and what we have instead are anecdotes and, in some places, numbers of complaints brought in that particular jurisdiction.”

Fortune said her “best guess, based on anecdote and experience,” is that 10-15 percent of all clergy have been involved in some form of sexual impropriety.

Offenders include, for example, Orthodox youth leader Rabbi Baruch Lanner, a former regional director of the National Conference of Synagogue Youth, who is serving a seven-year prison sentence for abusing teenage girls while he was principal of a New Jersey yeshiva. That scandal set off a storm in the Orthodox world, stemming from allegations that rabbinic leaders and others had long been negligent in supervising Lanner.

More recently, David Kaye, a prominent 56-year-old Conservative rabbi from Maryland, was ensnared in a nationally televised pedophile sting operation. Kaye, the former vice president for programs of Panim: The Institute for Jewish Leadership and Values, was sentenced Dec. 1 to 6 1/2 years in prison for trying to solicit sex last year from someone posing on the Internet as a 13-year-old boy, a case that was featured on the network television show, “Dateline NBC.”

Virtually all denominations, except segments of ultra-Orthodoxy, now have formal codes on the books that outline unacceptable clergy behavior and mandate precisely how complaints of sexual impropriety are to be investigated and adjudicated by in-house ethics panels.

The system, according to critics, suffers from an institutional fear of lawsuits and excessive secrecy — both byproducts of an ethical quandary faced by decisionmakers. They must balance an individual’s right to privacy against the obligation to protect the public from a potential sexual predator.

One symbol of that ethical push-pull is the Awareness Center, a private, 5-year-old Jewish organization devoted to protecting the public from abusers. It has been both criticized and praised for its policy of identifying rabbis and other sexual predators on its Web site, even if they have not been tried in court.

Perhaps the most serious impediment to controlling clergy abuse is what Chicago psychologist and psychoanalyst Vivian Skolnick calls “the plague of silence” — the continuing reluctance of victims to report transgressions.

“People are afraid of being ostracized if they come forward,” said David Framowitz, 49, who has alleged in a recently filed federal lawsuit that he was abused decades ago by a Brooklyn rabbi.

Like most of the observers, anti-abuse activist and author Drorah Setel, a rabbi at a Reform congregation in Niagara Falls, N.Y., lauded the denominational rule makers for taking steps to undo decades of inaction and denial — but she faulted their specific policies, nonetheless.

“They are really well-intentioned, but they just don’t understand the process and the issues involved in sex abuse cases,” said Setel, who has written extensively on the topic of clergy sexual misconduct.

British theater group Stan’s Cafe uses piles of rice to bring statistics to life


It’s nearly impossible to comprehend very large numbers. Take the 6 million Jews who died in the Holocaust. How does one go about understanding the magnitude of 6 million?

One way would be to visit the Skirball Cultural Center, where the British theater company, Stan’s Cafe (pronounced “kaff”), will perform its latest piece, “Of All the People in All the World,” from Sept. 26 to Oct. 1.

Upon entering the museum, visitors will receive a grain of rice, representing themselves. Then, they will walk into a room filled with 300 million grains of rice – one for every person in the United States. The rice will be divided into piles, each one illustrating a statistic, such as the number of people who have walked on the moon or the millions of immigrants who passed through Ellis Island. One grain of rice will stand for one person.

And there it will be, among all the piles: a large mound with 6 million pieces, representing each individual Jewish life lost in the Holocaust.

The performance piece will take place during the period between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, a time of reflection known as the Days of Awe.

“We specifically chose to do it in the Days of Awe,” said Jordan Peimer, director of programs at the Skirball. “What better way to understand your place in the world, your role in life, than to begin to understand the fabric of life on earth?”

The piece will open with 150 labeled piles of rice, illustrating serious statistics, such as the millions of people with HIV in Africa, as well as pop culture trivia, such as the number of people who watched the last episode of “Cheers.”

Over the course of the show, five actors, dressed as factory workers, will manipulate the piles to illustrate various truths, including the number of passengers on the Mayflower and the number of people per police officer in Los Angeles.

Visitors will be encouraged to interact with the actors, to share their own stories and discuss the demographics to which they belong. Occasionally, the performers will measure statistics suggested by visitors on the spot.

Peimer said he had been following the innovative Stan’s Cafe troupe for a while, waiting for the right time and the perfect piece to bring to the Skirball. When he saw the rice performance at a festival in Edinburgh, Scotland, last year, he knew he had to bring the show to Los Angeles.

The performance will be the second stop, after Portland, on the troupe’s first U.S. tour. Since premiering in Coventry, England, in 2003, the show has toured throughout the United Kingdom. It has also traveled to Ireland, Canada, Italy, Spain and Germany, whose daily newspaper, Süddeutsche Zeitung, praised the show, saying “The knowledge gained is astonishing.”

The actors tailor each performance to the country, city and building in which they perform. They decided the Holocaust representation would be just right for the Skirball.

“To hear the statistic of the number of people who died in the Holocaust is one thing,” Peimer said. “To see all of those people represented and to have you [represented as a single grain of rice] in relation to them is a very potent thing.”

The troupe will also lead workshops for students from Brawerman Elementary School, Robert Frost Middle School, La Ballona School and Thomas Starr King Middle School. The children will research statistics and build mounds of rice to illustrate their findings.

James Yarker, artistic director of Stan’s Cafe, who co-founded the group 15 years ago, said he came up with the idea for the piece when he was on tour with another performance in 2002.

“Each time we touched down, we found another city full of people bustling about their business, for whom it would be no appreciable loss if the U.K. and its 59 million inhabitants, including Stan’s Cafe, didn’t exist,” Yarker wrote in an essay on the group’s Web site.

“This parochial small island boy was beginning to get a sense that the world was far, far bigger than he had ever imagined it to be,” Yarker continued, speaking about himself in the third person, “and he was starting to wonder if he would ever be able to understand how many people he shared the planet with.”

After considering sand, sugar, salt, pebbles, peppercorns, spices and more as a way to represent large numbers of people, Yarker settled on rice. “We needed grains that were small, cheap, robust and which wouldn’t roll around,” he said on the Web site. Rice “also has powerful resonance, being a staple food for much of the world and looking vaguely humanoid in close up.”

For piles with fewer than 200 grains, the group typically counts each grain. For larger piles, it weighs the rice. The Skirball will provide not only the scales for weighing the five and one-half tons of rice that will be used during the performance but also the rice, which it bought for less than $2,000 from local wholesalers. The grains will be recycled for animal feed when the exhibit concludes.

“We’ve never done anything like it,” said the Skirball’s Peimer. “I hope it makes people think about their place in the world, and I hope it makes people pause to remember the grain of rice that they are.”

The exhibit will be open during regular museum hours (12 to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday; 12 to 9 p.m. Thursday; 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday). Admission will be free on Thursday and Sunday. Other days, general admission will be $8, $6 for seniors and free for members, students and children under 12. For advance tickets call (866) 468-3399.

Hate Crime Stats Not Always Precise


The Council on American-Islamic Relations’ (CAIR) new report titled, "Unpatriotic Acts," warns that acts of hate against Muslims in the United States skyrocketed in 2003. At face value, the numbers are grim: CAIR notes a 70 percent increase in "reports of harassment, violence and discriminatory treatment" against Muslims in the United States between 2002 (602 acts) and 2003 (1,019 acts). That also represents a 300 percent increase between the years 2000 and 2003.

Those numbers, however, do not entirely speak for themselves. Tracking hate is a complex process; statistics may be influenced by outside variables. That’s especially true since the CAIR report also includes noncriminal acts of discrimination, sometimes called "hate incidents." CAIR is not alone in using this methodology: Some groups tracking anti-Semitism do the exact same thing.

For example, to reach the number 1,019, CAIR lumped the 91 recorded violent or property hate crimes against Muslims in 2003 (e.g. assault, vandalism) with all other manner of reported bigotry, some more serious than others. This sort of noncriminal hate can take the form of religious profiling, discriminatory application of the law or denial of services.

CAIR, however, notes that even these nonviolent cases could conceivably be brought before a court of law.

"A lot of those incidents are actionable, although they’re not violent criminal acts," Mohammed Nimer, director of research at CAIR, told The Journal.

On the other hand, in cases that are never prosecuted by the authorities, there may be no police reports, medical records or witnesses to corroborate the claims or measure their severity.

"When I look at the cases, if the allegation has the ‘what, when, where, why and how,’ and the information is specific, I would include it," said Nimer about the report. "The rejection rate [was] between 40 percent and 60 percent."

While many of the criminal offenses in "Unpatriotic Acts" are obviously eggregious, the criteria used to measure other incidents are less clear. For example, "Unpatriotic Acts" includes this record: "On Jan. 1, an unknown man confronted a Muslim couple at [a] shopping center in … Maryland and asked them whether they were planting a bomb in the area."

"I think that once you move beyond what constitutes a hate crime according to the law, it’s a pretty vast universe that you’re trying to measure," said Marshall Wong, hate crime coordinator for the L.A. County Commission on Human Relations, which also publishes a report on hate crime statistics.

"There must be a consistent measure against which [noncriminal] complaints are set," said David Lehrer of Community Advocates, Inc., a local civil rights group. "Depending on the headlines of the day, and what the mood of the public is, you may get a whole variety of complaints, and 90 percent of them may have no merit whatsoever. There has to be some rigor [in order] to determine whether there is any veracity to the charges that have been made."

Like CAIR, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) also reports hate incidents, despite the difficulties.

"We keep track [of hate incidents] to suggest trends, but we are fully aware that the final results of such a report can be impacted by factors that are not scientific, like the reporting," said Amanda Susskind, regional director of the ADL. Susskind noted that an appalling crime or other event can shock a community into realizing the importance of reporting, and they may flood the phone lines, indicating a spike in discrimination incidents.

That same amount of bigotry, however, may have simply gone unreported in the community for years. Wong cited an example of this in the massive spike of reported hate crimes against gay men in September and October of 2002.

"It coincided [with] a very highly publicized attack on a West Hollywood resident that occurred on Sept. 1, 2002, so it’s highly likely that during that period of time, gay men who were victimized felt an obligation to report [it] in larger numbers," he said.

Nimer acknowledges those inherent variables: "That’s very hard to control. [The number of] CAIR offices have increased tremendously since Sept. 11, and may have contributed to community-wide reporting."

Hate crime numbers, compared to hate incident numbers, may be slightly less susceptible to these reporting variables since the government can prosecute and record the underlying crime before the hate-fueled motivation is alleged.

When hate crime numbers are separated from all the noncriminal reports in "Unpatriotic Acts," CAIR’s study reveals that only 49 more anti-Muslim hate crimes occurred in 2003 than 2002 in the entire United States (91 crimes, up from 42).

Nimer emphasized the solidity of that measured increase: "Even before CAIR became an organization with 25 offices, most of those [violent crimes] were very well documented, so you cannot say the CAIR report indicates more hate crime because CAIR is more capable of recording [it]."

On the other hand, California Attorney General Bill Lockyer released a report on July 8 detailing an approximately 10 percent decrease in statewide hate crimes in 2003. Though no data on crimes against Muslims in specific was noted, the category of crimes called "Anti-Other Ethnicity/National Origin," which includes crimes against Arab or Middle Eastern people, decreased by 19 percent since 2002 (199 to 161). According to that report, blacks and homosexuals are the No.1 and No. 2 targeted groups in California, respectively.

But, in one final layer of complexity, Wong also noted that even hate crime reporting has built-in flaws: "Some law enforcement agencies in entire cities are not aggressively pursuing investigations with hatred as a motivation," he said. "You may in fact see that those jurisdictions labeled as hotbeds of hate crime activity, because they report larger numbers, may simply be doing their jobs better."

"Those are all variables," he said. "That’s why we have to be very careful about what we read into the numbers."

Increasing Political Isolation for Jews


If all those statistics are true about Jews still being one of the most liberal voting blocs in the nation, why are they increasingly estranged from the American left?

Easy: The left, ranging from the anti-globalism fringes to the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) to some segments of the mainstream liberal community, has adopted policies and perspectives that even many progressive Jews regard as offensive and dangerous.

Good causes have been rendered marginal by activists looking for easy-to-grasp heroes and villains; political correctness has turned Israel from a noble experiment into the ultimate example of vicious colonialism.

And a political culture that can’t say no to extremists has turned the concept of civil rights on its head. It’s no longer unusual to see activists peddling the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" at anti-war and anti-globalism rallies — and for organizers, for all their talk of human rights, to remain silent in the face of this overt anti-Semitism.

That’s producing a kind of political disenfranchisement for Jewish voters who remain strongly liberal, but increasingly lack partners with whom to pursue those political interests.

The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) is in sync with mainstream Jewish voters on a host of important domestic issues. But there is also no other group that is as tolerant of some of the most anti-Israel and

anti-Jewish voices.

Many have been highly critical of Israel in recent years. That’s no sin, since many American Jews and Israelis openly criticize Israeli policies.

But many of these lawmakers go further by giving legitimacy to those who criticize the very idea of Israel, and whose criticism veers off into outright anti-Semitism.

When a United Nations conference

on racism was hijacked by anti-Israel forces and turned into a lynch mob of open anti-Semitism, administration officials boycotted the conference — but leading CBC members, including Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-Ga.) demanded full U.S. participation.

When McKinney and Rep. Earl Hilliard (D-Ala.) lost their reelection bids, some CBC members complained about excessive Jewish influence in American democracy. McKinney’s father, a defeated state legislator, was blunter: when asked about why she lost, he angrily spelled out the reason: "J-E-W-S."

Overt expressions of racial intolerance are no longer acceptable in American life, but if the targets are Jews or Jewish influence, many who rally under the civil rights banner are surprisingly tolerant of intolerance.

Other CBC members have provided a Capitol Hill platform for Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. When Farrakhan returned from a recent Mideast "peace mission," it was CBC founder Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) who provided him a forum, as if he was a legitimate statesman, not a garden-variety bigot.

It’s not just the CBC.

When anti-globalism, anti-International Monetary Fund forces come to Washington to demonstrate, a wide range of left-wing groups rally under a banner that also includes nutty anarchists and aggressive pro-Palestinian forces.

Collectively, they depict Israel as the last colonial power and the ultimate example of institutional human rights abuses, Yasser Arafat and Saddam Hussein as misunderstood freedom fighters, Zionism as inherently racist.

That same process is at work in the nascent anti-war movement focused on the expected U.S. strike against Iraq.

Many Jews probably share the aversion to a unilateral, preemptive U.S. strike, but don’t expect to see lots of Jews joining anti-war demonstrations; the movement is already linked to the same pro-Palestinian, anti-Israeli forces that produced so much overt anti-Semitism at the U.N. racism conference.

Even Tikkun Magazine Editor Michael Lerner, in a letter to supporters, expressed concern about "vulgarity and anti-Semitism" in the new anti-war movement. The left just can’t say no to groups, however extreme and however intolerant, as long as their intolerance is wrapped in the proper Third World, anti-colonialist argot.

Another example: the divestment campaign on American college campuses, which reached an absurdist crescendo with the recent divestment conference at the University of Michigan.

Many Israelis agree that their country has a human rights problem. But to say that Israel is in the same league as Sudan, Iraq, Iran, Syria or an endless list of others reflects a breathtaking lack of balance that looks more like political correctness run amok and a pathological hatred of Israel than compassion for victims.

Overwhelmingly, the left chooses to ignore genocide by Third World countries, while relentlessly criticizing Israel for an occupation most recent governments have tried to end.

The result: Jews who remain liberal, which means a majority are becoming politically isolated.

Their views on a host of domestic issues remain progressive and they continue to be turned off, not only by the Republican Party’s positions on those issues, but by the iron grip of the religious right on the GOP.

But increasingly, they feel uncomfortable in coalitions with groups that tolerate or even encourage the viscerally anti-Israel, Third World rhetoric and misguidedly accepts anti-Semitism in the name of human rights.

Israel Maintains Hope Through Despair


As we enter the year 5763, the mood of the Jewish people is justifiably dark indeed.

It has been a year of increasing violence in the Middle East, growing anti-Semitism in Europe, hostility toward Israel, and a general air of crisis and ominous headlines — a shared misery of collective despair.

The statistics speak for themselves. So far, 611 Israelis have been killed since the intifada began, with over 3,700 wounded. Contrast this to the days just prior to the collapse of the Oslo accords. In 1999, there were no bombings (including suicide, car, etc.), only one in 1998 and four in the first nine months of 2000. In addition, there have been more than 1,400 Palestinian deaths since the intifada began.

The Israeli economy, booming just a few years ago, is on the ropes. Gross domestic product (GDP) growth in Israel had been 2.2 percent in 1999 and 7.4 percent in 2000, but the economy declined by nearly 1 percent in 2001 and by nearly 3 percent in the first half of 2002. Some estimates suggest that these figures are deceptively optimistic and that the Israeli GDP has actually dropped by 10 percent since the start of the intifada. Unemployment is now over 10 percent. Tourist arrivals were up 3.6 percent in 2000, then fell 50 percent in 2001, and were down approximately another 30 percent in the first half of this year. Immigration to Israel dropped almost 28 percent in 2001, and so far in 2002 it is down over 30 percent.

But not all the news is bad. First, Israel is not collapsing. Despite all the pressure of ongoing terrorism and the failing economy, Israelis are holding together. And American Jews are standing firm in Israel’s support. Moreover, the political situation is not without a few significant glimmers of hope.

The past year saw the critically significant, albeit inadequate, Saudi peace initiative adopted by the Arab League. This was a breakthrough, one that must not be permitted to fade into obscurity. It represented the first time that virtually the entire Arab world agreed to accept Israel’s right to exist in security and to normalize relations in exchange for the 1967 lands. The Saudi initiative stands as a possible beginning for a new regional Arab-Israeli relationship, should events and American leadership permit a return to regional diplomacy.

There is also a glimmer of hope on the Israeli-Palestinian front. With all the profound difficulties that remain, serious negotiations have now begun concerning gradual Israeli withdrawals in return for Palestinian performance in controlling terrorism. The Palestinians have clearly made a serious attempt to cooperate with Israeli security in order to gain Israeli withdrawals, despite continuing sporadic violence. Many Israeli officials recognize that some of the new members of the Palestinian Cabinet are indeed more professional, serious and competent than their predecessors. This progress may have disappeared by the time these words are published, but the fact is, there has been a steady, if largely unnoticed, glacial progress throughout the summer.

As Jews enter the New Year, there are small but important openings on which to find some optimism that the coming year will be a happier time. Despite the serious disillusionment, polls on both sides hint at some small light at the end of the tunnel. In one, 73 percent of Palestinians say that they favor reconciliation with Israelis when a final status agreement has been reached. Over 60 percent of Israelis, with all of their frustrations and intense focus on the end of violence, support the negotiated establishment of a Palestinian state.

In another poll, 80 percent of Palestinians support a large-scale, nonviolent protest movement, and 56 percent would participate in this activity. Similarly, an overwhelming 78 percent of Israeli Jews believe that the Palestinians have a legitimate right to seek a Palestinian state, provided they use nonviolent means. Also, 56 percent feel this way about the Palestinians’ right to oppose the expansion of settlements. If the Palestinians were to move from violent to nonviolent protest, a majority of Israeli Jews would favor making concessions to the Palestinians, including phasing out the checkpoints between Palestinian towns (61 percent) and being more flexible in negotiating the borders of a future Palestinian state (as high as 60 percent). About two-thirds say that the Israeli government should not try to stop Palestinians from organizing large nonviolent demonstrations.

The violence has consistently proved to be the stumbling block, and no viable prospects will emerge as long as it continues. But despite the many assaults upon it, the Jewish world would benefit by beginning to think in terms of hope instead of despair and disillusionment. The American Jewish community could make a major contribution in this regard by making it clear to all who seek its advice, especially in the American government, that only through more direct U.S. involvement can these hints of progress be transformed into real achievement.

On June 24, President Bush laid out a vision of an accord that he hoped could be reached in three years, a vision in which Jewish Israel would live in peace, side by side, with Arab Palestine. The United States can contribute to implementing this vision by actively seeking measures to not only control the violence, but which will lead to a serious diplomatic process.

With the New Year, American Jews would do well to recommit themselves to supporting Israel more strongly than ever. But support for Israel in 5763 must mean more than supporting policies that only temporarily stop the violence. Israel needs policies that will lead towards a permanent reconciliation. One means of doing so is to recognize the notions shared by a large proportion of Israeli Jews: that there can be no resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict by military means alone, and that the United States must be closely involved in that resolution. By reaffirming their dedication to backing Israeli efforts to pursue a diplomatic solution, American Jews will demonstrate their faith and confidence that Israel — and, by extension, all Jews — can still achieve a better day.

On Statistics and Heroes


The current conflagration in Israel and the territories is now two years old. News of each explosion in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv alarms me and fills me with a dread that does not retreat until I hear on the phone the voices of my friends in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv. Countless times now I have woken my friends in the middle of the Israeli night. I confirm their voices, and then my dread recedes into statistics.

We’ve been inundated by the numbers of dead and wounded in the second Palestinian uprising. Charts show us dips and rises in casualties on a weekly and monthly basis. Media reports follow a strange and similar pattern: the incident itself, followed by eyewitness accounts, followed by politicians commenting on either the tragedy or inevitability of such a thing. And weaving them together is an ongoing debate over whether this particular incident was based on retaliation or revenge, whether it was preemptive or responsive.

Innately I know that each statistic reflects a human life and grieving families and friends on both sides of the conflict; without my knowing the deceased and their families, the statistics let me quantify loss.

And then suddenly, on July 31 everything changed. Janis Coulter was one of nine killed at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. The two-year loss of life for me is now qualified.

Because Janis was my friend and my colleague. Because Janis took my position when I left the Hebrew University. Because Janis and I had an e-mail correspondence and saw each other at meetings and conventions. Because Janis was a convert to Judaism and I was born a Jew, and in many ways, I think, she was more passionate about her Judaism than I am. Because if you play the what-if game, if I had kept my job with the Hebrew University, that could very well have been me on the campus on July 31.

Janis and I shared a particular realm that connects so many of us: alumni of the Hebrew University’s program for international students. A passion for Israel. A love of Jerusalem. A desire that goes well beyond the definition of work, encouraging students to breathe in an experience something similar to what we have known.

Jerusalem: It’s an ungraspable city. The beauty, pain, joy and melancholy in Jerusalem defy description or containment or words. Yet, we know the feeling when we are there. It’s not a secret, it’s there for all who breathe it in, but that feeling simply does not leave Jerusalem.

In some ways, both horrific and comforting, Janis has not left Jerusalem. Her spirit is now part of the life of an indefinable Jerusalem.

In other ways, Janis is very much part of my life here. Over the course of the weekend preceding her memorial service in Boston, Janis’ boss and I spent time with the Coulter family. In the two years prior to losing her own life, Janis lost her uncle, her brother-in-law and her mother. Despite this — or maybe because of this — the Coulters have an extraordinary, humane resilience. The Coulters have taught me how to breathe with, and through, the loss of Janis. The Coulters have become my local Jerusalem — I know the feeling I have when with them, but I can’t readily describe it to you.

In his novel “Continental Drift,” Russell Banks writes, “We must cross deserts alone and often perish along the way, we must move to where we can start our lives over, and when we get there, we must keep knocking at the gate, shouting and pounding with our fists, until those who happen to be keepers of the gate are also moved to admire and open the gate. We are the planet, fully as much as water, earth, fire and air are the planet, and if the planet survives, it will only be through heroism. Not occasional heroism, a remarkable instance of it here and there, but constant heroism, systematic heroism, heroism as governing principle.”

I embrace the memory of Janis Coulter. Now, especially now, I think of her not as a martyr, not as a sacrifice, but as a hero — a woman whose passion, smile, work and life so unpretentiously embodied heroism as governing principle.


Hal Klopper is director of Tel Aviv University’s office of academic affairs in New
York.

Negev: Full of Adventures


Amid the gloomy statistics of declining tourism to Israel, there are a couple bright spots for the foreign visitor willing to explore beyond the beaten track and eager to save some serious money.

For one, there are few places in the world where the ancient and the modern meet and meld as spectacularly as in the northern Negev.

Throughout Israel, but especially in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, hotel prices have been slashed 50 to 70 percent. For anyone with a modest bank account who has hankered to see the sun rise over the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City from a luxury suite in the storied King David Hotel, or to view the sweep of Tel Aviv’s coastline on top of the David Intercontinental Hotel — now is the time to go.

Even for the veteran visitor to Israel, the recent trip laid on by the country’s Ministry of Tourism was an eye-opener.

The starting point for any exploration of the northern Negev is Beersheba, a site where the Abraham settled more than 4,000 years ago, and which the Bible mentions even before Jerusalem.

Over the last 53 years, the "Capital of the South" has transformed itself from a sleepy Bedouin oasis into a city of 200,000, whose residents hail from 63 countries.

The most recent wave of immigrants over the past four months have come from Argentina, who were preceded by the Russians, who make up most of the city’s symphony orchestra.

The present economic situation in Beersheba is difficult, outweighing security concerns. But as Mayor Yaakov Terner, a veteran fighter pilot, police commissioner and a reassuringly tough, no-nonsense Israeli of the old school, put it, "We continue to live. No one can make us be afraid."

A symbol of Beersheba’s future is the handsome 16,000-student campus of Ben-Gurion University, whose president, Avishay Braverman, tells all comers that the future of Israel’s expanding population lies in the Negev.

Beersheba is the base and jumping-off point for explorations of other parts of the northern Negev, by jeep, camel, or, for the more intrepid, by foot.

Some 53 miles south of Beersheba lies Mitzpeh Ramon, about 3,000 feet above sea level. Until recently, the town’s main claim to fame was the 25-mile-long Ramon Crater, a stunning feat of nature, formed over hundreds of millions of years.

Sometimes dubbed "Israel’s Grand Canyon," the Ramon Crater is still a magnet for geology buffs, hunters of marine and dinosaur fossils, hardy hikers and seekers of spiritual repose, but now the town itself is attracting its share of tourists.

With an energetic push from a group of young activists, Mitzpeh Ramon is transforming from a failed industrial development town into an artistic center, with a distinct touch of 1960s Haight-Ashbury. A hangar has been taken over by a "healing dance" company, a former ceramics factory houses a gallery and teepee-like sleeping accommodations, and mini-entrepreneurs produce soaps, oils and sandals.

Just outside Mitzpeh Ramon, in another unexpected Negev encounter, is a ranch where llamas and alpacas, far from their native Andes Mountains of South America, are successfully bred for their high-quality wool.

Leading north from the Ramon Crater, one can follow part of the ancient Nabatean spice route to Avdat, along which the incense, perfume and spices from India and the Arabian Peninsula were transported by camel to Gaza and the Mediterranean coast.

Later incorporated into the Roman empire, the Avdat area is the site of a reconstructed Byzantine fortress of the fourth century CE, and includes remnants of Nabatean agriculture, utensils and pottery workshops.

Heading north, back toward Beersheba, lies Kibbutz Sde Boker, where David Ben-Gurion, the Negev’s most famous resident (well, next to Abraham) spent most of the last 20 years of his life, and where he shares a simple gravesite with his wife, Paula.

The hut where the Ben-Gurions lived has been turned into a museum, with a 5,000-book library. His vision of the Negev as the thriving home for millions of Jews has yet to be fulfilled.

In the meanwhile, the area’s often harsh and rugged beauty, still largely unspoiled, beckons the more adventurous tourist.

Advice From the Trenches


The statistics haven’t changed much in the close to 30 years I’ve been in practice. About 50 percent of all American marriages end in divorce. As a family law attorney, I work with people every day who are giving up on their dreams of marital bliss. And in many cases — for my client and for the well-being of children involved — ending the marriage is a good idea. Marriages that break up because of untreated physical abuse, gambling, drug and alcohol problems, and infidelity are often damaged beyond repair. In those cases it’s usually best for everyone concerned if the marriage is dissolved, allowing the innocent spouse to move on with his or her life.

But then there are the other cases, the marriages where the differences are not truly irreconcilable, where love still remains, although buried under misunderstandings, neglect or just the stress of daily living. In these cases, the problems may not be insurmountable. In the past four years, I have sent more than 100 couples to communication skills counseling instead of the courtroom. Of those couples, 60 percent have reconciled, many having fallen back in love (yes, it’s possible), deciding together to give their marriage another chance.

I’m not worried about putting myself out of business. Unfortunately, divorce will always be with us. And although I may be a divorce attorney, I am also a wife, mother and grandmother. Preserving intimate relationships is fundamental to our happiness as individuals and as a society in general. Since I see relationships being destroyed every day, I think I have more insight than the average person about why relationships break up. Based on my experience, I’ve developed what I call the “10 Commandments for a Healthy Marriage or Relationship”:

1. Prioritize Your Partner Above Career, Friends and Housework.

Remember the third entity in this relationship: the marriage itself. I see so many cases where people are so busy with work or the children that they simply do not pay attention to their partners. In our busy lives, something has to give. It may be the dirt on top of the refrigerator or the overtime at work, but it should never be your partner. If one person consistently takes a back seat to the kids, a career, housework, whatever, he or she will start to think “What am I doing here?” and be tempted to move on.

2. Share Responsibilities.

Busy people can do anything, but not everything. If one spouse takes on all the responsibilities with the household, the kids, the social obligations, and so forth, ultimately that will backfire. Hostility and resentment are two big factors that lead to divorce court.

3. Make Dates With Your Spouse and Keep Them.

Your time and energy are finite. If you extend yourself in a million directions, you won’t have much left to give. Remember the feeling of being special to each other. Always keep in mind that there are three aspects of your relationship: you, your partner and the marriage. The marriage must be a priority, or you and your partner will suffer.

4. Let Go.

If you’re the type of person who has to do everything yourself “or else it won’t be done right,” you’re doing your spouse a disservice. By not allowing partners to contribute, to handle things their way, spouses are telling them, in effect, that they do not matter, that they are incompetent and can’t be depended upon. Those are dangerous messages to send to someone you’re supposed to love.

5. Create Space for Yourself.

Everyone needs privacy. The fact that you are married shouldn’t preclude the need for your own space. Take some quiet time alone during the day; even a few minutes makes a difference. Encourage your spouse to do the same. If you are so dependent on the other person that he or she starts to feel smothered, you’re asking for trouble.

6. Communicate.

A partnership is based on knowledge, on sharing, on knowing the little things. This doesn’t mean dumping the trash of the day, but it does mean communicating what has occurred that is important, frightening or cheerful. Understand that this sharing does not necessarily invite suggestions on how the problems could have been better handled; instead, it offers another shoulder to help bear the burdens of the day. And don’t forget to compliment each other. Something as simple as “You cooked a great meal,” really means a lot. We compliment other people, so why not each other?

7. Create a Mutual Interest.

Partners can grow apart as they build separate careers and cultivate separate hobbies. Find something that interests you both, such as skiing, antiquing, religion, concerts, politics or even watching sports together. In many long-term marriages, where there are no common interests or goals, the parties grow apart and become like two strangers on a bus. This does not mean that you each can’t have diverse interests that you do not share; it just reiterates the importance of that third entity, the marriage.

8. Take Care of Yourself Every Day.

No one is as important as you are. If you are not healthy or happy, nothing else works. Recreation really means re-creation, and everyone needs it. An unhealthy life style creates stress and anger. Little things like exercise, a relaxing bath, or even lunch with a friend can make the time with your partner more worthwhile. If you want your partner to respect you, you have to show respect for yourself.

9. Direct Your Anger Appropriately.

If you are angry with your boss or your business partner, don’t take it out on your spouse. It is okay to share the anger with your loved one, but don’t lose sight of the source of that anger. If your spouse is angry with someone other than you, give him or her an opportunity to express that anger without becoming defensive. Anger, at times, is appropriate, but its expression should be limited in time and always be directed at the appropriate person or incident.

10. Plan Escape Time Together.

Everyone needs to get away. Plan an escape — a few days, overnight, even just an evening out — so the two of you can remember why you got married in the first place. Without this time to gain perspective and refresh the marriage, it is easy to get bogged down in the everyday details of life.

I may be a divorce attorney, but I’m a romantic at heart. If more people followed my “10 Commandments,” I’d have a few less clients in my office. And that would be just fine with me.

Lynne Z. Gold-Bikin is a partner with Wolf, Block, Schorr & Solis-Cohen and a past chair of the American Bar Association’s Family Law Section.

Spin Cycle


By J.J. Goldberg

Spin Cycle

A spate of new polls shows Jewsdivided, Arafat unpopular and pollsters getting rich

Some startling revelations have emerged aboutAmerican Jews and the way they view the Middle East, following lastweek’s publication of parts of a new American Jewish Committeesurvey.

First, the statistics prove that fascination withJewish opinion has reached an all-time high, at least amongpoll-takers. No fewer than four major surveys of American Jews havenow been released since the Hebrew year 5758 began last September.This breaks the previous record of three polls in a six-month period,set in 5752. And we’re not even halfway to Yom Kippur. Don’t cancelthose vows yet.

Second, opinions on the Middle East are evenlydivided. Of the four latest polls, two support aggressive U.S.intervention, while two warn against it.

Of course, this is a silly way to interpretsurveys. It doesn’t tell what American Jews actually think. Butnobody cares about that. The point of all this expensive pollingisn’t to explore Jews’ beliefs. The point is to influence policymakers by scaring them with imaginary Jewish bogeymen.

Why now? Because Washington and Jerusalem are on acollision course over how to break the yearlong deadlock inIsraeli-Palestinian peace talks. Having tried quiet diplomacy, theClinton administration now plans to announce its own peace plan.Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu hates that idea. He saysthat it amounts to America pressuring Israel into concessions. Toblock it, he is playing every card he has, from toasting theChristian right to threatening angry Jewish politicalretaliation.

Unfortunately, it’s unclear how angry Jews mightget. Netanyahu wants President Clinton to believe that they’d behopping mad. Clinton wants Netanyahu to believe they wouldn’t.Everyone has polls to prove it. If nothing else, it’s a great time tobe a pollster.

The polling frenzy began last September, when thedovish Israel Policy Forum released results that showed strong Jewishbacking for U.S. pressure. Its most publicized figure was 84 percent,the number supporting pressure if applied equally on Israel and thePalestinians (a detail lost in most reporting). The findings werereleased days before a crucial White House meeting, where a forumleader presented them directly to Clinton as Israeli officialswatched helplessly.

In reply, the hawkish Middle East Forum conductedits own survey in January. It found Jews opposing American pressure,65 percent to 24 percent. “President Clinton is on a collision coursewith a majority of American Jews,” Middle East Forum director DanielPipes said, savaging the Israel Policy Forum survey as “garbage in,garbage out.”

In February, yet another poll was released, thisone by the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA), whichcoordinates the policies of the main Jewish organizations. The JCPApoll was a two-tiered affair, questioning community leaders and therank and file to test whether the mostly liberal leaders are in stepwith their constituents (they are, except on welfare reform andaffirmative action). JCPA found that 70 percent favored equalpressure on Israel and the Palestinians.

Now comes the American Jewish Committee’s annualsurvey, widely considered a reliable, objective resource on Jewishopinion. The AJC, like the Middle East Forum, found Jews against U.S.pressure. The margin was 52 percent to 45 percent.

The score, if you’re following: two favoring U.S.pressure, two against, all claiming to be the latest news on Jews’views. Is there anything believable in this morass of statisticalblather?

Actually, yes. The original surveys, devoid ofspin, are more alike than their sponsors let on. Studied carefully,allowing for differences in method, all four paint a similar pictureof American Jewry: devoted to Israel; suspicious of Arab intentionsbut none too fond of Netanyahu; hopeful that the peace process can besalvaged; and willing to see the Clinton administration do somethingabout it so long as Israel isn’t the fall guy.

Differences in method are important, though. TheAJC and Israel Policy Forum surveys worked with reliable nationalsamples of more than 1,000 interviews each. The other two were morelimited. The JCPA simply mailed a questionnaire to federationactivists, a narrow spectrum. Results reflect the views of those whobothered mailing it back.

Most limited was the Middle East Forum survey,which interviewed only 600 “likely voters” (“unsure” voters weredropped) in just nine states. How representative is its sample? Well,15 percent were Orthodox and 28 percent Reform; every other surveyshows about 7 percent Orthodox and 35 percent to 40 percent Reform.Researchers have long known that Jews’ political conservatism riseswith traditional observance. It seems the forum found the results itwanted to find.

Still, the four polls’ results are strikinglysimilar. Dislike of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat runs from 81percent in the Israel Policy Forum’s survey to 84 percent in theMiddle East Forum’s. Asked if Arafat really wants peace, answersranged from AJC’s 55 percent “no” (up from 31 percent “no” a yearago), to the Middle East Forum’s 60 percent “no,” to 70 percent “no”in the JCPA survey (which asked about the PLO, not Arafat).

But Netanyahu doesn’t do too well either. Hescores high on basic questions such as “what are your feelings towardhim,” a cue to praise Israel’s leader. But with probing, his numbersdrop. His Likud Party is viewed far less favorably than the Laboropposition, 39 percent to 59 percent in the AJC poll. When the MiddleEast Forum asked respondents to choose between Arafat and Netanyahuas “someone I admire,” Netanyahu got 43 percent. “Neither” got 44percent.

The one question where comparison is hardest isthe big one: U.S. pressure. Different polls phrased this differently,seeking different responses. The Israel Policy Forum and JCPA askedif Washington should pressure both Netanyahu and Arafat, and foundstrong support; support for pressuring only Netanyahu was much lower.The Middle East Forum and AJC polls didn’t ask about pressuring bothsides, because they didn’t want to know. Naturally, they found theJews against pressure.

But how strongly against? The AJC found that 52percent opposed the United States pressuring Netanyahu, and 45percent supported it. With the survey’s 3-percent margin of error,that could also be 49 percent to 48 percent. It’s a virtualtie.

The truth, if anyone cares, is that American Jewsare a complicated lot. They are deeply devoted to Israel — 74percent told the AJC that “caring about Israel” was a “very importantpart of my being a Jew,” and nearly 40 percent have visited — butare troubled about its future and divided over what to do. They trustClinton more than Netanyahu, but they’re wary of blaming Israel. It’san amber light for Clinton, and a “hazard” sign for Bibi.

It’s not clear who should be happy with thesepolls. Besides the pollsters, that is.