April 18, 2002

Mixed Message to Bush

One message from this week\’s rally at the Capitol was clear — solidarity with the State of Israel and its people. Much less clear was the message to the Bush administration. Signs, speakers and more than 100,000 demonstrators touted support for the U.S. war on terrorism. But few expressed support for Secretary of State Colin Powell\’s current mission in the Middle East, his meetings with Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat and the Bush administration\’s call for Israel to end its military incursions into the West Bank. A handful of U.S. senators and non-Jewish political leaders mentioned the Powell mission. American Jewish and Israeli leaders skirted it. But while the Jewish leadership tried to stick to positive tones, a State Department official said the lasting image of the rally will be the negative response to the Bush administration\’s sole representative, who spoke from the administration\’s playbook.

Israel on Their Minds

\nFor Jews in Los Angeles, the Middle East conflict in recent weeks has reached a frightening intensity. But for local Israelis with family residing in Israel, the emotional stakes have become particularly poignant.

Israeli Folk Dancing: The Phenomenon

They are doing Rachel in Rio, Lamdi Oti in London, Dira 26 in Dimona and Biladaich in Boston. Israeli folk dancing is all the rage, and is possible almost any night of the week here in Los Angeles. And if you happen to be traveling out of town, no need to put your hobby on hold, chances are good you can dance there, too. Israeli folk dance aficionados can find a way to entertain themselves almost anywhere in the world.

A Man of Honor

To say that Shimon Erem deserves to receive the Distinguished Community Service Award from the Council of Israeli Community (CIC) for his work on behalf of Israel seems, upon meeting him, like an understatement. This man has not just worked for but literally fought for, lobbied on behalf of and financially supported Israel for more than six decades. One would be hard-pressed to find such a devoted American-born Zionist.

Some Talk, Lots of Action

The Council of Israeli Community (CIC), an organization primarily known for planning the annual Israeli Independence Day Festival in Los Angeles, is moving in new directions in the wake of the current Middle East crisis.

According to Vice President Haim Linder, the CIC (originally called the Council of Israeli Organizations) came together in 1996 as one arm of a nonprofit umbrella organization called the Promoting Israel Education and Culture Fund. The group adopted its current title and mission statement on Sept. 10, 2001.

\”We got together at Valley Beth Shalom. At noon we went home, knowing we had a new organization, and then we all know what happened the next day,\” Linder said.

Paredes Found

Without much fear of contradiction, Mark Paredes observes, \”I think I\’m the only biracial Mormon representing the state of Israel abroad.\”\n\nParedes, a personable bachelor in his early 30s, appointed earlier this year as press attaché at the Consulate General of Israel in Los Angeles, has other claims to distinction.\n\nHe speaks seven languages fluently (English, Italian, Russian, Hebrew, Spanish, French and Portuguese), served as a U.S. foreign service officer in Mexico and Tel Aviv, and studied at Brigham Young University, University of Texas and the Moscow University of Steel and Alloys.

Young Man on Campus

Last week I worried in this space that our college students were ill-equipped to defend American Jewry\’s pro-Israel position. I asked for a volunteer to explain what\’s going on. Luckily, Donald Cohen-Cutler, a UC Davis freshman and an international relations major, stepped up to the plate.

I say \”luckily\” because events on campus are even worse than I had suspected. Of course, I remember the beginnings of the Jewish-Muslim rift on campus during the first intifada. But I don\’t remember blatant insults to Jewish ritual and history. That\’s what\’s happening now (see story, page 10).

‘We Knew We Had to Come’

It was 90 minutes into the community\’s largest public mobilization in 15 years, and Jews from around the country continued to stream toward the U.S. Capitol, clamoring to get into the pro-Israel rally.

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More news and opinions than at a Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.

More news and opinions than at a Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.