Israel to withdraw from Lebanese town

Israel will unilaterally withdraw from Ghajar, a town on its border with Lebanon, Israel’s Security Cabinet decided.

The withdrawal from Ghajar, which is situated half in Lebanon and half in Israel’s Golan Heights, will take place in coordination with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon within the next 30 days following the Security Cabinet’s vote on Wednesday. The final agreement, including the date of the withdrawal, will be brought to the Israeli Cabinet for a vote to redeploy Israeli troops.

The withdrawal satisfies the terms of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701 passed after the second Lebanon war in 2006. The resolution also calls for the disarming of Hezbollah.

Israel took over Ghajar, which had been a Syrian village, in 1967 when Israel captured the Golan Heights. The residents voted to take on dual Syrian-Israeli citizenship.

Following Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000, Ghajar remained in the northern part of the village, which extended into Lebanon. Part of Resolution 1701 required Israel to withdraw from all of Lebanon, including the northern half of Ghajar.

Ghajar residents oppose the withdrawal, saying it will split the village. They say, according to reports, that they prefer the status quo, ultimately returning to Syria.

To let go and to pray

Lech Lecha begins with God telling Abraham, “Go forth from your land, from your birthplace, from the house of your father to the land that I will show you.”

But why does God say it in this particular order?

If you’ve left your country of origin, haven’t you already left your hometown, let alone your father’s house? You leave your house first, and then arrive at the edge of town and finally the country’s border.

So why is the order reversed?

Nachmanides believes that it is in ascending order of difficulty. It is hard to leave your country — the language, the culture, the currency. Harder still the place you were born — your friends and familiar places. Hardest of all is to leave one’s parents. Why? Nachmanides does not say. Might it be because parents won’t let go?

My eldest son flew by himself for the first time this summer. He dreamed for weeks about his trip from Los Angeles to Florida to spend a month visiting his grandparents.

Still 8 years old, he was proud of this approaching independence. He filled his MP3 player with music, and he uploaded pictures of his ema and abba and brothers to look at when he missed us. When the day arrived, he packed his carry-on bag with his favorite book, “The Dangerous Book for Boys,” and looked forward to being able to order Sprite after Sprite, for free.

He left while I was at work. I called to wish him a good trip as he sat at the departure gate with my wife, Jen. Over the noise of the airport terminal and the commotion of camp, I asked him to listen to me read tefillat haderech, the traveler’s prayer, over the phone.

“May it be Your will Adonai our God and God of our ancestors that You lead us in peace, guide our steps to peace, and guide us in peace….”

And as I read, “May You rescue us from adversaries and ambush and robbers and animals along the way,” I thought to myself, “Am I crazy?” I finished the prayer but my mind wandered to thoughts of abusers lurking on planes and robbers who would steal from a defenseless child. I prayed God would shine His sheltering presence upon him, would appoint the flight attendants as His angels to watch over him.

“Give him all the Sprites he wants!” I pleaded. “See in him the image of God that I see in him. See the precious, holy, special, beloved child who I love so much it aches to think of him alone out there in the world, without me.”

I do not know if he heard my voice crack or if he could tell that tears were streaming down my face. I felt him slipping through my grasp as he proudly set forth into the world without me for the first time.

Why must parents let go?

Nachmanides explains, “It is difficult for a person to leave the country where he has friends and companions. This is true all the more so of his native land, and all the more so if his whole family is there. Hence it became necessary to say to Abraham that he leave all for the sake of his love of the Holy Blessing One.”

Family is important, but God tells Abraham to leave his parents’ home because he needed to become himself, not only his parents’ child. Abraham needed to leave his idolatrous father to become the “father of many peoples” (Genesis 17:5), the father of monotheism and the Jewish people. The legacy of the Righteous Gentiles teaches that a good person must be willing to reject the world around him or her. But one need not always reject the teachings of one’s country or community or family, just take responsibility for them.

For our children to find God, they must take responsibility for themselves, their own beliefs and, ultimately, their own relationship with God. We love our children so much it hurts, but we risk making of ourselves an idol if we fail to teach them to love God and encourage them to find their own path to the Holy One.

The modern Greek philosopher Nikos Kazantzakis said, “True teachers use themselves as bridges over which they invite their students to cross, then, having facilitated their crossing, joyfully collapse, encouraging them to create bridges of their own.” I did not collapse joyfully when I hung up the phone and thought of my son as he boarded the plane. But I am grateful for the glimpse I was given of the task that awaits me: not to make of myself an idol. To point him along the way, to let go and let him grow, and let him find God for himself. And to pray God will protect him along the way.

Rabbi Daniel Greyber is executive director of Camp Ramah in California, the Jewish summer camp for the Conservative movement serving the Western United States, and the Max and Pauline Zimmer Conference Center of American Jewish University.

More Jewish teens attacked in Paris, Adelson gives $30 million to Birthright

Jewish Teens Beaten in Paris Attack

Three Jewish teenagers were attacked in the same Paris district where another Jewish teen was beaten severely in June.

The victims, who were wearing kippot, were temporarily hospitalized for minor injuries on Saturday in what some officials are describing as another anti-Semitic attack in the 19th District.

Badly bruised and with some fractures, the three were shocked and worried about their safety, said Raphael Haddad, president of the French Jewish Student Union, who spoke to the victims on Sunday.

“Their attackers were also from the neighborhood,” said Haddad in a telephone interview, “so they are worried about what will happen if they see them again.”

The three reported the incident to Paris police on Saturday after going to the hospital. The attack took place at about 6:30 p.m. in the low-income, heavily Jewish and Muslim northeastern Paris neighborhood, where 17-year-old Rudy Haddad was beaten on June 21 by a group of young people.

Two of Haddad’s assailants were charged with “attempted murder and group violence aggravated by their anti-Semitic character.”

Richard Prasquier, president of the Jewish umbrella organization, CRIF, told Jewish Radio RCJ on Sunday that he was “certain” the three were targeted because they were identified as Jews.

“There isn’t a shadow of a doubt” concerning the “anti-Semitic character” of the crime, said Prasquier. “Let it be made clear — the boys who were walking by had a kippah.”

A Paris police spokeswoman said an investigation was launched to determine whether the incident was anti-Semitic, adding that the attackers reportedly did not speak to their victims.

The victims’ names were not made public by the French press, but the Jerusalem Post identified them as Bnei Akiva youth group counselors Kevin Bitan and David Buaziz, both 18, and Dan Nebet, 17.

Foundation to Give Birthright $30 Million

The Adelson Family Foundation has pledged another $30 million to the Birthright Israel Foundation.

Sheldon Adelson, the casino mogul who is chairman of the Las Vegas Sands Corp., and his wife, Dr. Miriam Adelson, have now contributed nearly $100 million in gifts over the past two years to the foundation that supplies private funds to Birthright.

The latest pledge consists of a $20 million contribution for 2009 and $10 million for 2010, said Michael Bohnen, president of the Adelson Foundation, in a news release Tuesday announcing the gift.

Adelson said in the release that Birthright Israel “has proven to be the best vehicle we have to strengthen the Jewish community and our people’s connection with the State of Israel. We are honored to have helped Birthright Israel establish a track record of effectiveness on an unprecedented scale, and we look forward to its continued success.”

He called the gift a challenge to other philanthropists to step up during difficult financial times.

Adelson in September 2007 was ranked third on the Forbes magazine list of wealthiest Americans, with a net worth estimated at $28 billion.

Bronfman Prize Seeks Nominations

The Charles Bronfman Prize is seeking nominees for 2009. The prize, which includes a $100,000 award, celebrates the accomplishments of individuals, 50 years old or younger, whose Jewish values have infused their efforts to better the world.

The prize, named for the Birthright Israel co-founder, was launched in 2002 by his children, Stephen Bronfman and Ellen Bronfman Hauptman. Past Bronfman Prize winners include Jay Feinberg, founder of the Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation, and Israeli environmentalist Dr. Alon Tal.

Deadline for nominations is Nov. 30.

For nomination forms or more information, visit

— Staff Report

Entire Quebec Town Invited to Wedding

Jewish couple Hana Sellem and Moshe Barouk, invited hundreds of residents of Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts to their wedding Tuesday as a gesture of good will after a series of anti-Semitic attacks in the town this summer.

Sellem, 26, an immigrant from France who follows Lubavitch-Chabad teachings, is vice principal of a Jewish teacher’s college in the town.

The couple printed wedding guides in French and English explaining the ceremony. About 300 residents attended.

Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.