March 25, 2019

Team Shalva Raises Money for Disabilities at Jerusalem Marathon

Runners from Team Shalva's group at the Jerusalem Marathon. Photo courtesy of Shalva Children's Center.

More than 1,000 marathon runners joined Team Shalva for the 2019 Jerusalem March 15.

Shalva, the Israel Association for the Care and Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities, broke a record having the largest group of runners in the 2019 “Winner” Marathon. More than 1,600 participants (of the more than 40,000 in the marathon) from Israel and abroad represented Shalva in various marathon tracks.  

Of the 1,600 participants, 650 runners came from all over the world, including the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Mexico and Australia. Members of Team Shalva ran in order to raise money to support Shalva’s programs for children with disabilities and their families and participated in the all the various tracks of the marathon, including the full marathon.

“The children feel themselves to be an inseparable part of the Jerusalem marathon, and from our point of view, it makes a significant statement for inclusion and acceptance,” Avi Samuels, chairman of Shalva, said in a statement.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of Team Shalva in the marathon and also the community run, which was initiated in the first year of the marathon by Shalva in cooperation with the Jerusalem municipality. Shalva is the largest and longest-running social organization in the marathon. More than  1,000 participants joined for the community run which is a 800 meter-track designed for families and people with disabilities.

The organization raised $1.5 million dollars from the event, which will go to finance future therapy sessions and programs.

“Participating in this marathon is a really unique, life-changing experience, and we are honored to have had so many people join us for this wonderful event and demonstrate their support for a more inclusive society,” Samuels added.

The Shalva Band, who was seen on “HaKokhav HaBa,” an Israeli interactive reality TV singing competition, led the Shalva contingency in the community run. The band is made up of eight musicians, young men and women, among them people with disabilities, who perform on stage together

Shai Ben Shushan, the creator and director of the group, was a soldier in an elite army unit, who was severely wounded in action. As a result of his own rehabilitative process, he decided to help others, using the potential of music to connect people with special needs to the population at large.

Team Shalva also had 300 runners from the Israeli Air Force, Jerusalem police and fire department and Magen David Adom marathoning with them this year as well as schoolchildren, home designer and Instablock creator Moshik Galamin and fitness coach Anat Harel.

“The marvelous energy of the community run was no doubt due to the Shalva children, which drew in the crowd with their love of life,” Samuels said. “My heartfelt thanks go out to all the people who got up early and came to hug us, among them members of the air force, police, fire department and the amazing emergency medical personnel…a special thanks to Mr. Moshe Lion, mayor of Jerusalem, who enabled us to continue this wonderful marathon tradition for its tenth year.”

The Many Faces of 21st-Century Anti-Semitism

Some of the 80 gravestones vandalized in a Jewish cemetery in the eastern French village of Quatzenheim, Feb. 19, 2019. (Frederick Florin/AFP/Getty Images)

The ancient Greeks imagined shape-shifting monsters of myriad faces. Today’s anti-Semitism is chimeric or kaleidoscopic. Choose from these up-to-date manifestations of age-old Jew hatred: 

  • Don ski masks and attack an aging rabbi in Buenos Aires in front of his terrified wife
  • Shame a French schoolgirl by ripping off jewelry identifying her as Jewish as she walks home from school
  • In the dead of night, use spray paint and black markers to deface New York public school playgrounds with anti-Semitic graffiti
  • Toss bricks through the window of a synagogue — then throw firebomb
  • Overturn tombstones in ancient Jewish cemeteries
  • As a Labour Party politician in the United Kingdom, spout conspiracy theories that the Mossad is already plotting to steal the next national election
  • Parade missiles promising “Death to Israel” through the streets of Tehran
  • Pass a fetid stream of United Nations Human Rights Council resolutions ignoring real culprits while condemning Israel for imaginary crimes against human rights
  • If you are an American Democratic congresswoman who tweeted that evil Israel is “hypnotizing the world” — wait seven years to mumble an unconvincing apology
  • As a Latino muralist in Los Angeles, which has the second-largest Jewish population in the world, proudly paint a giant mural on a high-profile commercial space depicting Israelis as the devil incarnate murdering children. Then, after the company owning the space defends you against charges of anti-Semitism, explain how you visited Israel and saw the genocidal face of Jews murdering Palestinians
  • Write an op-ed in the prestigious New York Times implying that staunchly pro-Israel Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was instead the spiritual founder of the anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions movement
  • Preach to African Americans that Jews that their traditional civil rights allies instead are members of “the Synagogue of Satan”
  • Turn Jewish summer camps into vehicles for anti-Israel indoctrination
  • As a college professor in Michigan, renege on a promise to write a letter of recommendation for a Jewish student who wants to study in Israel
  • Organize a whisper campaign to blackball students who visited Israel from running for campus office
  • Harass Jewish-American college students who voice support for Israel or wear yarmulkes on campus
  • Flood the internet with notorious anti-Semitic images dating from the Middle Ages that show hideous Jews as child murderers, shylocks and well poisoners
  • Falsify history by denying the Holocaust or the Jewish people’s 3,000-year link to Jerusalem and the Holy Land
  • Accuse Israel Defense Forces soldiers of murdering innocent Palestinians in order to sell their body parts on the international market
  • Deny Israel the rights to self-determination and self-defense while brushing off criticism with the lie that “anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism”

Welcome to the 21st-century’s horrible house of mirrors in which every reflection distorts the truth about the Jewish people and Israel. Our ultimate vindication against tormentors and traducers will be in the Lord. Until then, we will keep our powder dry.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper is the associate dean and director of Global Social Action Agenda at the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Harold Brackman is a historian and consultant to the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

Why Would Bibi Make a Deal With Kahanists?

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Photo by Ammar Awad/Reuters

“The embodiment of hillul ha-Shem [profaning God’s name] in Judaism today is the Kahane movement, whose latest political incarnation … has just been brought into the Israeli mainstream … with the active encouragement of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.”

— Yossi Klein Halevi

“We aren’t talking about an ideological partnership with the far-right but rather a legitimate ad hoc merger to establish a bloc that can prevent the left from taking power.”

— Dror Eydar

So which is it?

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to push for a political deal that could help bring representatives of the far-right Kahane movement into the Knesset has prompted widespread anger and condemnation, including a rare rebuke from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). The organization, retweeting a stronger condemnation of the American Jewish Committee (AJC), said it had “a longstanding policy not to meet with members of this racist and reprehensible party.”

AIPAC did not mention Netanyahu by name, nor the parties involved, but the message was clear: Netanyahu crossed a line.

Yair Lapid of the Kahol Lavan party called it a “shameful deal.” Well-known Israeli Rabbi Benny Lau likened it to “a destruction of the temple.” Roni Milo, a former minister of Netanyahu’s Likud party, argued that “no real student of [Zeev] Jabotinsky” — Likud’s ideological pillar — “can accept this.” 

Was this condemnation justified? That depends on whether you think it is crucial for Israel to keep Netanyahu in his job as prime minister. 

To understand this issue, one must begin with the scenario leading up to the deal — a product of Israel’s complicated electoral system. It goes like this: A coalition must have at least 62 seats in the Knesset. According to current polls, the Netanyahu coalition has a slim edge of one or two seats. Moreover, this edge is fragile because of Israel’s electoral threshold, which requires that a party must receive a minimum of 3.25 percent of the vote — about four seats — to even get into the Knesset. Two weeks ago, some of the parties that Netanyahu relies upon were dangerously close to coming up short of the threshold. In such a case, the votes they gain would be split proportionally between all parties based on a complicated formula.

So, Netanyahu faced a dilemma: If he did nothing, the right-wing parties could end up fighting and splitting apart, risking the majority that has kept him in power. But the prime minister has strong ambition and a long memory. He still remembers 1992, when the right was split and lost control of the Knesset when a few parties in its coalition failed by less than a percentage point to meet the threshold. 

The result was the Yitzhak Rabin government, which led to a sharp turnaround in Israel’s policies, in particular the Oslo Accord with the Palestinians — a turnaround Netanyahu and most Israeli voters came to regret and reject.

As one watches the recent developments in Israel’s political arena and ponders Netanyahu’s actions, one must keep 1992 in mind. Because sometimes, a few percentage points have great consequences. 

“The Arab Balad Party had representatives in the Knesset that assisted terrorists, supported Hezbollah and rooted for Syria’s Bashar Assad. Still, the Meretz party opposed the move to deny a state-funded pension from the founder of the party.”

The leaders of Otzma Yehudit, a marginal entity on the far-right outskirts of Israel’s political system, consider themselves the disciples of Rabbi Meir Kahane, a Brooklyn-born activist known for his radical views. Before he was assassinated in a Manhattan hotel in 1990, Kahane served one term in the Knesset before Israel’s courts ruled him unfit to run again and the United States government declared his Kach party a terrorist group. His successors continue to call for the annexation of greater Israel and the expulsion of people whom they consider disloyal to Israel — by which they probably mean most Palestinians.  

Kahane’s disciples have followers. Not very many, but not as few as one would hope. Their followers tend to be religious and right-wing. They are on the margins of the camp that holds Netanyahu’s coalition. To their left — yes, the term “left” is a little awkward in such context — is the right-wing religious party, Jewish Home. It is a party in crisis. Its two charismatic leaders, Ministers Naftali Bennett and Ayeled Shaked, departed to form the New Right Party, and some voters are going to leave with them. 

Enter Netanyahu and his long memory of political disasters. If the Jewish Home party doesn’t cross the threshold, the right could lose close to four seats. Netanyau’s coalition currently does not have two — let alone four — seats to spare. So, he took action: He leaned hard on Jewish Home’s leaders to include two Kahanists on their list. If all right-wing religious parties join forces, their list will surely cross the threshold. No votes will be lost. And Netanyahu will get his coalition. 

What is the meaning of all this?

When Kahane was elected, many members of parliament made sure to excuse themselves from the main hall when he was making speeches. Then they changed the law, forbidding parties that reject democracy or support racist ideas from running for the Knesset. In 1988, Kahane could no longer run. The Supreme Court sealed his party’s fate by declaring that its purposes and actions were “clearly racist.”  

Kahane did not have much impact when he was a Knesset member, nor did any of his disciples. They formed new groups and parties and are allowed to run, unless or until the courts say otherwise. Michael Ben-Ari, one of two Kahanist activists who could become Knesset members thanks to the deal, was a member from 2009 to 2013 and no one seemed to notice. From time to time he would make a controversial comment or stage a provocative protest, but his impact on Israel’s policies was marginal and his presence was contained. Netanyahu probably believes that if Ben-Ari were to become a Knesset member again, the same scenario would likely be repeated. 

Rabbi Meir Kahane in 1984

No serious observer suspects that Netanyahu is a supporter of the Kahane ideology. He is not. For him, the question is one of balance: Which would be worse — one Kahanist in the Knesset or a government headed by someone other than Netanyahu?

Let me suggest an answer: Neither will be the end of the world.

This is not the first time a Kahanist will be in the Knesset. Israel survived Kahanists before, including the original. Similarly, Israel existed before Netanyahu and, hopefully, it is going to survive his departure from office. 

Obviously, not all people agree with this assessment — namely, the prime minister. 

Netanyahu believes that keeping him as the leader of the government is essential for Israel’s future — so essential that he is justified in forging a dirty deal with the Kahanists. If one agrees that the country will be in grave danger without him, an ugly deal with a marginal faction of extremists would seem a small price to pay.

Does anyone believe such foolishness? Does anyone really think that Netanyahu is so essential to Israel?

You might be surprised to learn that the answer is yes. About half of Israel’s population is going to vote for a Netanyahu coalition, despite the Kahane deal. These Israelis are not happy about having a reprehensible Kahane ideology in the Knesset, but they accept it as an ugly political reality preferable to the alternative.

They accept it because they remember Oslo and understand that political purism can be dangerous to the practitioner. They also accept it because they believe the attack on Netanyahu is hypocritical. Parties that are denouncing the prime minister for letting in Kahanists were not so keen to censor problematic political elements on the left when such opportunities presented themselves. The Arab Balad Party had representatives in the Knesset that assisted terrorists, supported Hezbollah and rooted for Syria’s Bashar Assad. Still, the Meretz party opposed the move to deny a state-funded pension from the founder of the party, who escaped Israel when the authorities realized he was a Hezbollah spy. 

But even without going so far as blaming the left for relying on supporters of terrorism, Israeli right-wingers have reasons to giggle when the left accuses them of cutting dirty deals. Was not Oslo a result of a dirty deal?

Netanyahu can still recount in detail how the Rabin government, struggling to form a slim majority to pass what is known as Oslo B — an agreement that gave the Palestinians self-rule in some areas — essentially bought the votes of two Knesset members (they got positions and benefits in exchange for their votes).

Gonen Segev, one of the two politicians who gave Rabin his 61-59 majority, was just sentenced to 11 years in prison, having been convicted for spying for Iran. That’s right, the man without whom there would be no Oslo Accord is now a convicted spy.

Of course, a large group of people see the Kahane deal as a red line that should not be crossed, no matter the circumstances or consequences. 

“There’s a difference between a racist party entering the Knesset — the fringes of Israeli democracy can unfortunately contain such elements — and their being encouraged by the prime minister,” said Yohanan Plesner of Israel’s Democracy Institute.

Rabbi Lau made a similar point: “In the name of love for the land of Israel and maintaining sovereignty over it, the prime minister enticed the followers of Rabbi Kook [from the Jewish Home party] to make the abomination of racism kosher and enable it to enter the gates of the Knesset.”

Both are right. The involvement of Netanyahu in cutting such a deal potentially could confer a grain of legitimacy on an abhorrent ideology.

So what would opponents of the deal expect?

Apparently, they expect Netanyahu and his supporters to tolerate the prospect of a loss in the next election — and much more. “Jewish safety and sovereignty cannot come at the expense of Palestinian rights, freedoms and dignity,” wrote Batya Ungar-Sargon, the opinion editor at The Forward. She is extremely angry at Israel and at the deal. She also has her priorities set: Palestinian rights first, safety second. That is, the safety of me and my children. Naturally, with such priorities, condemning the Kahane deal is quite easy, as it allows for no argument in favor of the deal. 

“No serious observer suspects that Netanyahu is a supporter of the Kahane ideology. He is not. For him, the question is one of balance: Which would be worse — one Kahanist in the Knesset or a government headed by someone other than Netanyahu?”

Right-wing Israelis are not receptive to complaints about dirty political deals, even less so when those arguments come from people in the United States — people who won’t suffer the consequences if Israel’s election produces a bad outcome.

Israel Hayom, Israel’s most popular newspaper, which is highly supportive of Netanyahu, was critical of AIPAC’s tweet: “For years, the left has counted in every coalition calculation the pro-Palestinian radical left along with it. This included Arab parties working to destroy Israel’s Jewishness by claiming that it was ‘racism.’ … Where was AIPAC so far, why did we not hear this moral preaching to the Israeli left about this alliance?”

On social media, as usual, the response was sometimes more brutal.

Irit Linur, a very well-known, controversial and popular Israeli novelist, radio personality and commentator, posted: “If the righteous Jews of the United States have the will and the energy to fight abhorrent racism that operates under the auspices of parliamentary legitimacy, let them refer to Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, two anti-Semitic congresswomen, both of whom doubt Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, and recently accused AIPAC of bribing American politicians to support Israel. In my opinion, it is a scandal that a legitimate party accepts two anti-Semitic racists such as Omar and Tlaib. … So if AIPAC is already at the preaching mode, take care of your party first, in the country where you are a citizen, and mess with our parties when you become citizens of the State of Israel.”

Many Israelis liked the post, giving it 2,100 likes, 268 comments and 323 shares.

For most Israelis, politics is not always easy. Had they been told in advance that the only way to ensure their safety was to have two Kahane representatives in the Knesset, I assume most of them would have grudgingly accepted the deal. And in fact, that is exactly the message conveyed by the prime minister’s actions: “It’s either the deal or your safety — because a coalition other than mine is not going to keep you safe.”

Do I buy this argument? No. I abhor the Kahane deal. 

But for the reasons I’ve attempted to explain, I understand why other Israelis do.  

Shmuel Rosner is senior political editor. For more analysis of Israeli and international politics, visit Rosner’s Domain at

Meet Avia Joel Pinkovitch: The Teenage Peacemaker

At 17, Israeli-born Avia Joel Pinkovitch may be a little young to take part in negotiations for a final status solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but in her mind, she and her fellow 11th-graders have more chance of achieving peace than the generations that came before them. 

“To us, this conflict seems very primitive,” Joel Pinkovitch said. “Now that I live here, I see just how alike both sides are.”

“Here” is the Eastern Mediterranean International Boarding School (EMIS) in Kfar Hayarok, just north of Tel Aviv. Twenty percent of Joel Pinkovitch’s grade is comprised of Israelis, 20 percent are Palestinians and 60 percent are international students from 21 countries including Rwanda, Indonesia, the United States, Guatemala, Vietnam, Afghanistan and several European nations. 

Joel Pinkovitch started studying at EMIS this year, after spending the rest of her high school career in a more mainstream school, which she said she loathed. The only focus in her previous school, she said was on passing exams. 

“I felt like I didn’t have anyone to talk to,” she said. EMIS, she explained, focuses on teaching students the tools to solve problems by themselves. In addition, she said, the subjects are taught by experts in the field who love what they teach.     

“I want to be doing good in the place with the most bad.”

“I feel like I’m looked at as an adult, as a smart person with the potential to go far,” she said. Her dream is to serve as a combat medic in the military. “I want to be doing good in the place with the most bad,” she said. She then plans to become a surgeon who also practices alternative medicine. 

EMIS recently hosted marathon “peace talks” on behalf of the school’s Leon Charney Resolution Center. Ninety students participated in negotiations facilitated by conflict resolution experts Sapir Handelman and Professor Peter Jones, and moderated by retired Brig. Gen. Israela Oron, former commander of the Israel Defense Forces Women’s Corps. At the end of the talks, the 11th-graders signed a “peace agreement.”

The students were allowed to choose which side they wanted to represent. Joel Pinkovitch was the only Israeli who chose to represent the Palestinians. “I wanted another perspective and I thought it would also be interesting for [the Palestinians] to see an Israeli represent them,” she said, adding that a Palestinian friend of hers was deeply touched by the gesture.

The negotiations didn’t begin well. Her Israeli counterparts were offended that she would choose to represent the other side. But later, she said, they understood that it worked to their benefit that she was Israeli. “I could understand both sides,” she said. 

The negotiations dealt with all the conflict’s sticking points, from security concerns to the “right of return” for Palestinian refugees, to Jerusalem. “There was a lot of arguing,” Joel Pinkovitch admitted. “It wasn’t violent, but it was vociferous.” 

Still, the teens managed to make compromises. Among them, was deciding that the West Bank security barrier would be handed over to an international peacekeeping force and that passage between checkpoints for Palestinians would be eased. “The end goal would be to get rid of [the barrier] altogether,” she said. 

Joel Pinkovitch waxes hopeful about the future. “It seems absurd that this conflict still exists,” she said. Whereas previous decades were fraught by wars and a lack of knowledge about the “other,” the digital era has eradicated the distance between people and enables people to get know one another better, she said. 

“Before I came [to EMIS], I didn’t know what a Palestinian was,” she said. “And suddenly now, he’s in my room. He’s my friend. He is no longer ‘over there.’ In my opinion, that’s the way to begin finding a solution.”

The Man Behind United Hatzalah, Saving Lives With Rapid Response Times

Eli Beer

Eli Beer was just 7 years old when a bus exploded in front of him as he was walking home from school in Jerusalem. A wounded man pleaded with Beer to help him. Frightened and unable to help, Beer ran off. He tried to forget what he had seen but couldn’t. 

The incident motivated Beer, now 45, to dedicate his life to saving others. When he turned 15, he became a licensed emergency medical technician (EMT) and volunteered with an ambulance crew. But when it took him 21 minutes to cross Jerusalem in heavy traffic to reach a choking 7-year-old, a delay that resulted in the boy’s death, Beer decided to take matters into his own hands. 

Founded by Beer in 1992, United Hatzalah (the Hebrew word for “rescue”) is a nonprofit organization that runs solely on donations and is committed to saving lives in Israel and around the world with lightning response times. Hatzalah-trained volunteer EMTs use “ambucycles” — ambulances on motorcycles — to dodge traffic and provide lifesaving services free of charge. 

Today, the organization has grown to more than 5,000 volunteer medical responders treating over 300,000 people per year. It operates in 21 countries across Europe, Australia, South America and North America, and it’s coming to Africa soon. 

Ahead of United Hatzalah’s inaugural Los Angeles gala on Feb. 28, Beer spoke with the Journal about the organization and his plans to eventually bring operations to L.A. 

Jewish Journal: Why were you so confident this idea would work? 

Eli Beer: You could be the greatest ambulance and EMT crew in the world, but if you don’t get there in time, none of it matters. I never thought about a 90-second response time to everywhere in Israel as my goal. Initially, I thought about my neighborhood. About 4,000 live there, so I thought if I have 15 people responding to emergencies, that would be enough. Eventually, I thought we’d have to expand and form a network of volunteers that would be dispersed everywhere in Israel. 

JJ: Hatzalah is known for pioneering location-based GPS technology. How did that start? 

EB: The first time I saved someone’s life, when Hatzalah was just getting started, I got there in 30 seconds. I heard the emergency call from police scanners. I ran because it was a block away. We had to break into this field using chutzpah. Organizations like Magen David Adom (the Israeli version of the Red Cross) wouldn’t dispatch calls to us, even in my neighborhood, even though we were closer. But with police scanners, we could get there with no problem. 

“Whether or not you’re a Zionist, which side of the conflict you’re on, that isn’t a part of [United Hatzalah]. Anyone who wants to be part of this system that puts life before anything else can join.”

JJ: And you obviously upgraded from police scanners. 

EB: Uber, basically, unintentionally copied our model. The whole intention is not giving rides for free, but saving lives for free. Our app, which was developed before Uber and Lyft, notifies the closest 10 volunteers using 250 algorithms. 

JJ: I’d be remiss if I didn’t bring up the motorcycles. 

EB: That’s right. We’re the ones who invented the two-wheel “ambucycles.” It has everything an ambulance has, apart from the bed, except it’s on two wheels and can skip all the traffic, increasing response time. Technically, I’m the first one in the world who drove one. 

JJ: Who are your volunteers? 

EB: They are incredible people. Most of them come from low-income jobs or communities and they just want to make a big difference. They come from religious backgrounds, ultra-religious backgrounds and secular backgrounds. They’re Arabs, Muslims, Christians, Druze and Jews. 

JJ: You’ve established Hatzalah outposts all over the world. What goes into starting Hatzalah in a new territory? 

EB: The one who wants to start it has to be totally meshugge. It needs to be someone who’s willing to put a regular life aside for this mission. Once they have the right leadership in place, we work with the group. We bring them to Israel and get them set up with everything they need. Then they can go back to their country and start recruiting people, getting the right equipment, working with 9-1-1 dispatchers.

JJ: Will Hatzalah be coming to Los Angeles? 

EB: We’re slowly starting to come to the United States. Right now, we’re in Jersey City. We originally started there four years ago, mainly serving the Jewish community. There’s a Hatzalah crew in Los Angeles but they’re technically not affiliated with us. They’re mainly serving the Pico-Robertson and La Brea-area Jewish communities. We’re friends with them, though. They visit us in Israel and we visit them. Soon, though, our plan is to expand to New York, Los Angeles and other places in the States. 

JJ: Why is Hatzalah holding a gala in Los Angeles at the end of this month? 

EB: We want more support and more awareness for the mission. Jay Leno is one of our biggest supporters. He loves our mission and backs us big-time, so we decided to do a gala there and honor him. We’re just hoping to get a lot of people, especially young people, involved in our organization, and we’re going to make the gala a lot of fun. 

JJ: What are you hoping to highlight to the Los Angeles Jewish community? 

EB: Saving lives. We’ve treated 3.5 million people. They all got amazing help and no one had to pay for it. But what’s right up there is the diversity. Once we opened up to let just anyone in with a good heart, not just Jews, that’s when we changed the name to United Hatzalah. Not only do we save lives, but we’re able to bring all different types of people in Israel together. It’s an unbelievable display of tikkun olam. Many people only see Israel’s bad sides. It also has a lot of beautiful sides. We’re bringing a volunteer to the gala. She’s a Muslim woman with five children who has never been outside of Israel. We’re also bringing an ultra-religious Jewish woman. Whether or not you’re a Zionist, which side of the conflict you’re on, that isn’t a part of this. Anyone who wants to be part of this system that puts life before anything else can join. It’s a beautiful thing. n

Woman Stabbed to Death In Jerusalem

Screenshot from Twitter.

A 19-year-old woman was found dead in Jerusalem on Feb. 7, with multiple stab wounds and stripped of all her clothing.

The woman, identified as national service volunteer Ori Ansbacher, was found in Ein Yael, which is in between Jerusalem and the al-Walaja village in Judea and Samaria, after being reported missing earlier in the day.

“When we reached the scene, we were taken to an open area,” Magen David Adom medic Seffi Mizrahi told reporters. “There we saw the 19-year-old woman who was unconscious, without a pulse and not breathing. Unfortunately, all we could do was pronounce her dead.”

Four Palestinians were arrested in connection with her death, but they were eventually released due to a lack of evidence tying them to the crime scene. Ansbacher’s death is being treated as a possible murder.

“Ori Ansbacher was murdered last night in Jerusalem with shocking brutality,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement. “We all embrace the Ansbacher family and the Tekoa community. The security forces are investigating the murder. We will find those responsible and deal with them to the fullest extent of the law.”

Ansbacher’s funeral was held on Feb. 8.

“Thank you, my Ori, that you chose to come into this world through me,” Ansbacher’s mother said. “Thank you for 19 and a half years of light and joy. I ask now, as you rise up to a world where there is only good, that you give us the strength from above to continue to believe in the good in this world. Send us your light from above so we can continue to put on a good face.”

Florida: Jerusalem Is the ‘Undivided’ Capital of Israel

The Florida cabinet issued a January 29 proclamation recognizing a united Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

The proclamation called Jerusalem Israel’s “eternal and undivided” capital; the Jerusalem Post notes that while the Trump administration has recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, they have not commented on if it should be divided or not.

“As a state we must continue to demonstrate our broad and deep support of our ally and economic partner by implementing pro-Israel policies,” Florida chief financial officer Jimmy Patornis said. “Today we declare to the world that Florida stands united with Israel.”

Deputy Consul General of Israel to Florida Guy Gilady said that Israel was “deeply humbled” by the proclamation.

“The state of Florida has long been a stalwart supporter of the Jewish nation,” Gilady said. “We see a much deeper sense of true friendship that defines the current Florida-Israel relationship. Under your leadership, we see a deep understanding regarding the values that our nations share, the values of hope democracy and freedom and free enterprise.”

The proclamation happened on the same day that Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) announced that Airbnb was going to be put on the state’s Scrutinized Companies List for de-listing from Israeli homes in Judea and Samaria, meaning that Airbnb will ineligible for state funding when it goes public unless it abandons its Judea and Samaria policy.

Website Hosting’s Female Orthodox Face

Miriam Schwab

When an ultra-Orthodox magazine approached Miriam Schwab for an interview about her fledgling startup, the first question she asked was whether her picture would be included. Regretfully, the reporter told her, the magazine’s policy was not to publish any photos of women, ostensibly on modesty grounds.

“I can’t and I won’t be in a publication that has a discriminatory policy against women,” Schwab said, even though she covers her hair and is the granddaughter of the rabbi who founded Toronto’s chapter of Agudath Israel, the group that advocates on behalf of Orthodox Jewry. 

While Schwab acknowledged the importance of the piece, she couldn’t in good conscience accept the offer.

“In Judaism there has never been a concept of a woman covering her face,” she said. “That’s not Judaism; that’s a perversion of Judaism. It’s extremism.” She added that the Torah wouldn’t mention the matriarchs’ beauty if it was immodest. 

“Women always had a voice in Judaism, and they should continue to have that,” she said. “In terms of humanity, our faces are our identity, it’s how we recognize people. And when you take that away, you take away our identity.”

“Women always had a voice in Judaism, and they should continue to have that.” — Miriam Schwab

Schwab’s company — which the magazine missed the chance to profile — is Strattic, a web hosting platform. In the mid-2000s, Schwab was one of the first people in Israel to become an expert in WordPress, a content management system used to publish online content. Schwab ran a company called Illuminea, which used WordPress to build websites. But she was all too aware of WordPress’s shortcomings, including its architecture, which left openings for hackers and slowed down websites considerably. After 12 years, Schwab took the plunge and decided to create something better.

Strattic turns WordPress into a static host generator. “We’re the next step in hosting,” Schwab said. “You can have the worst-coded, most-hackable website and be completely irresponsible about maintaining it and it doesn’t matter.”

She said the static website, essentially a mirror site — or what Schwab calls a “snapshot” —  is exponentially faster and has almost no way to hack into it because there’s no entry site. 

Two years ago, thanks to her revolutionary idea, Schwab was accepted into two accelerators in Jerusalem. Today, a team of seven manages the company, which took on its first client almost a year ago. It has a long list of people waiting to become users of its product. “We have 600 companies that have signed up without doing any marketing,” Schwab said. 

Two aspects of founding a startup that are often cited as the most challenging — raising the seed funding and working long hours — weren’t that challenging for Schwab. As a mother of seven, she said, she doesn’t believe in working 24 hours a day. 

“People talk about the importance of avoiding burnout after they burnout,” she said. And regarding capital? “I was always confident we’d raise the money.”

For Schwab, the most painful aspect of founding the company was hiring the right people. “A product lives or dies by the people on the team, in my opinion,” she said. “But we’re at a place where our team is amazing and works so well together.”

Torah Scrolls Vandalized at Jerusalem Synagogue

Torah scrolls vandalized in Jerusalem synagogue Jan. 29. Photo from Facebook

Vandals broke into the Siah Yisrael synagogue in Jerusalem Jan. 28, damaging Torah scrolls, walls and other Jewish ritual objects. Members of the synagogue found the items early Jan. 29 scattered across the floor.

“This morning we were shown a shocking case of the desecration of a synagogue and destruction of Torah Scrolls in Kiryat Yovel,” Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion said in a statement. “This was a serious incident that is reminiscent of  dark times of the Jewish people; we will not allow crimes like this to occur in our time.”

Photos obtained from the Jerusalem Post show the Torah scrolls dirty and dusty and a hole cut into the side of the art.

According to the JTA, the synagogue does not have any security cameras.

“I am shocked at the desecration of a synagogue in Jerusalem,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement. “The police must immediately find those responsible in order to bring them to justice.”

Israeli politician and former Speaker of the Knesset Reuven Rivlin, wrote on Twitter, hoping that the Israeli police find the people responsible and “bring them to justice.”

The Jerusalem Post also reported that this attack comes after attacks on two synagogues in the central coastal city of Netanya. The Netan Ya Reform congregation was flooded on the night of Jan. 26 when unknown vandals broke in and placed a hose through it with the water running. Prayer books, furniture and building infrastructure was ruined by the water, which was knee-deep as of Jan 27.

The same weekend, prayer books were burned at the Orthodox synagogue McDonald International Shul (or New Synagogue) in Netanya, where the words “Hail Satan” were found graffitied on the wall.

“Two synagogues were vandalized in one week, the first in Netanya, and the second one – this morning in Jerusalem, our capital” Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein told The Jerusalem Post. “It happened here, in the Jewish state.”

An Ancient Moon and a Modern Fascination

Painted by Lisa Goldberg

On a bitterly cold January night (or early morning, to be exact), I stood out on my front porch and there it was. A blood moon. It was my third trip outside, as I had gone out every few hours—first to see the full moon, then to see the eclipse beginning, and now this. My entire family was asleep, but I “shared” the experience with millions of others around the world. I had purposefully stayed awake for this and it did not disappoint.

The next morning, Tu B’Shevat (which always happens on a full moon), my social media feed exploded with pictures of that beautiful and awesome site. Once upon a time, people would see such a thing and think the world was ending. Now, we plan for days in advance to marvel at nature’s beauty. With our modern telescopes and internet stream. Remember the Great American Eclipse of 2017?

It truly is amazing to think about. In the age of the endless news cycle, streaming, and text messaging, why are we still as fascinated by the moon as we were fifty years ago when Neil Armstrong first set foot? But, then again, that is our entire lives as Jews—balancing the old with the new. The ancient with the modern. Indeed, we can have both. They are not mutually exclusive.

Tonight, Jews around the world will light Shabbat candles, fulfilling an ancient commandment at the end of a busy week. Depending upon their level of observance, they will engage in various recreational activities. Some as old as a game of chess, others as modern as a Netflix video. Different Jews with different traditions. On Saturday morning, out comes an ancient scroll read aloud in a most likely modern building. Old and new. Ancient and modern. It is everywhere.

In his weekly column in the Detroit Free Press, Mitch Albom unapologetically writes about his continued ownership of a flip phone. “I don’t care about phones. To me, they are there for talking and for hanging up. I don’t need to carry the world in my pocket. I don’t need to post my life.” A modern writer who still uses “old” technology.

Anyone who has been to Israel has experienced this dichotomy. One day, you are walking through the streets of the Old City of Jerusalem and the next day, you find yourself amidst the bustling nightlife of Tel Aviv. However, one need not go to Israel to have this. It is the entire history of the Jewish experience. Each Jewish holiday (appropriately placed against the ancient cycle of the moon) has a mix of old and new. Hanukkah candles substituted for oil. The Passover seder plate now includes an orange. The list goes on and will continue to be updated for eternity.

L’dor V’dor. From each generation, we create our own traditions, combining the old with new. And it is as beautiful as a blood moon at midnight.

Disclosures: the author’s husband is Mitch Albom’s cousin. The painting included with this story is an original created by the author.

Lisa Rothstein Goldberg is a social worker and Jewish educator. She currently lives in Louisville, Ky., with her husband and two young daughters.

Noam Gershony: From IDF Pilot to Gold Medal Paralympian

Noam Gershony. Photo courtesy of LOTEM

At the outbreak of the Second Lebanon War in 2006, Noam Gershony was serving in the Israel Defense Forces as an Apache helicopter pilot when his aircraft crashed, killing his co-pilot and leaving him severely injured. 

“I stopped having big plans because I had a pretty good idea of what my life was going to look like when I was serving,” Gershony, 35, told the Journal in a phone interview during a recent visit to Los Angeles. “I was supposed to serve five or 10 more years, and all of a sudden, things changed.“

During his rehabilitation, Gershony started playing wheelchair tennis. He also tried wheelchair basketball, swimming and the shooting range before settling on tennis. Six years later, he went on to win the gold medal in tennis at the 2012 London Paralympics. 

Although he retired from wheelchair tennis after the Paralympics, Gershony continues to work out regularly. “Walking is still a challenge,” he said, “so it’s important to keep in good shape.” 

He also continues the work he started during his rehab, which includes volunteering for organizations that help individuals with special needs, children with disabilities and at-risk youth. “I like it better than tennis, actually,” he said. 

Gershony, who regularly travels the world to share his inspiring story, was in Beverly Hills last month to speak with Jewish National Fund (JNF) donors. JNF has partnered with the Israeli organization LOTEM, which provides 30,000 children and adults with special needs access to outdoor educational activities. 

LOTEM operates two centers, an ecological farm in Emek HaShalom Nature Park near Yokneam and a space in Jerusalem. Its programs help a variety of people, including individuals with visual and hearing impairments, physical, intellectual and emotional challenges, and children on the autism spectrum, as well as at-risk youth and mothers and children residing in shelters for victims of domestic violence.

Gershony began volunteering two years after his accident because he wanted to do something with more meaning, rather than just concentrating on himself and his condition. He began teaching mathematics to at-risk youth.

 “[Volunteering] gives you something that no other thing in life can give you,” he said. “Giving something without asking for something in return puts [things] in perspective.”

“People approach me after hearing my story and they say big words like ‘inspiration’ and ‘hope.’ I try to remind people of how good their life is and put things in perspective.” — Noam Gershony

Born and raised in Kfar Saba, Gershony said he was “born into your average Israeli family” and had the “perfect” childhood and a supportive family, both growing up and after his injury. 

“When you are young, you don’t really know how to appreciate it because you are surrounded by kids who basically come from the same background,”“ he said. “I had everything. I served in the military. I was accepted to flight school and graduated as a pilot. Then I became a guy with a disability. Then, a few years later, I became an athlete and won a medal in the [Paralympics], and a few years after that I became a speaker.”

Gershony speaks about being able to appreciate what you have and focusing on the positive.

“People approach me after hearing my story and they say big words like ‘inspiration’ and ‘hope.’ I try to remind people of how good their life is and put things in perspective,” he said. “Other people are struggling with crises, so maybe my story and my decisions [can] enlighten the path they need to [take].” 

Plucky Young Woman’s Road to Recovery

Adina Elbaz sits behind her ride partner, Rocky Brody.
Photo courtesy of Wheels of Love, ALYN Hospital

Adina Elbaz had just celebrated her 16th birthday when she was hit by a minibus on her way to school. Sustaining major head trauma, Elbaz lost the ability to walk, talk and breathe unassisted. Doctors weren’t sure she would survive. 

Elbaz, now 22, said she is grateful she has no recollection of the accident. “Thank God I have no [psychological] trauma,” she said, “so I have no problem going [back] to the place [where] I was hit.”

She is also grateful for the friends and family who sat vigil by her bedside for several months on end, and the people who took care of her five siblings while her parents took care of her.

Elbaz is especially grateful to ALYN, a pediatric rehabilitation hospital in Jerusalem. She spent a month in the intensive care unit at Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem before being transferred to the neurosurgery department where most of the patients were octogenarians. 

Moving to ALYN was a great blessing, Elbaz said, and leaving it many months later was a bittersweet experience. “I had a hard time accepting that I had to leave my home, to go into the real world,” she said.

“I feel like this must have been God’s plan for me.”

The nurses at ALYN were “cute and warm and fun” and did not wear uniforms, she said. They would gently reprimand visitors who said anything mildly negative while in the room with Elbaz, even when she was still in a coma. She had been at ALYN several months when, no longer requiring a feeding tube, she could eat the dinner cooked by the wife of her father’s study partner while he and her father learned Torah at her bedside.

She recalled one occasion when she rolled the meal’s tinfoil wrapping into a ball and played catch with her father and his study partner. A doctor spotted them and retrieved a tennis ball from her office. Before long, nurses, doctor, patient and visitors were playing catch. “At some point, the ball got stuck in the ceiling. It might still be there,” Elbaz said, laughing.

Perhaps most startling of all is Elbaz’s attitude toward the man who was driving the car that struck her. She has not met him but wants to. “I feel really bad for him,” she said, noting that he is an older man who lost his 16-year-old son in a car accident.

“Maybe he feels guilty,” she said. “I want to show him that, yes, I do have my issues today but I’m doing well. I want to calm his conscience. I don’t feel it was his fault in any way. I know it was meant to happen. I don’t know why, but if it wouldn’t have been him it would have been someone else.”

The experience has prompted Elbaz to pursue neuroscience. In November, she will begin undergraduate studies in biotechnology. But before starting classes, she’ll take part with her tandem bicycling buddy Rocky in ALYN’s “Wheels of Love” fundraising drive — an annual 5-day cycling tour that draws some 600 cyclists from all over the world. 

The first year of the tour she rode a tricycle for a few minutes at the finishing line. She recalled her physical therapist telling her that one day she would be riding a bicycle, to which Elbaz responded, “Yeah, right.” 

Now, six years later, Elbaz can ride a bicycle.

In the year and a half she spent at ALYN relearning how to talk and walk and eventually how to ride a bike, Elbaz never once asked the universe, “Why me?”

“I feel like this must have been God’s plan for me,” she said. “For what I need to achieve in this world and to be a better person.”

Shalhevet Students Meet With Koolulam Founder

Photo by Ricky Rachman

Every morning, Or Taicher, one of the founders of Israel’s social flash mob-style sing-along craze Koolulam, opens his email in search of inspiration to start his day. A few months ago, a message sent by Shalhevet High School administrators did the trick. 

“That’s the reason I’m here today,” Taicher told more than 200 Shalhevet students gathered in the school’s gymnasium the day before erev Yom Kippur. An online link led Taicher to a Koolulam-inspired video of Shalhevet’s student body, aided by live instrumentation, singing Matisyahu’s “One Day” in honor of Yom HaAtzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day. 

“I was truly moved by what I saw,” he said. And that’s saying something. 

Since kicking off in Tel Aviv last year, Koolulam — a play on the English word “cool,” the Hebrew words “kulam” (everyone) and “kol” (voice), and “kululu,” a festive ululation of Sephardic Jews — has soared in popularity throughout Israel. Thousands of tickets to take part in arena-filling Koolulam events are sold in minutes. Swaths of strangers come together … to sing. 

Koolulam partners with nongovernmental organizations and local municipalities to reach every sect of Israeli society. To date, more than 100,000 people from diverse backgrounds have attended to learn musical arrangements (which take about an hour) and sing well-known songs in English, Hebrew and Arabic. The videos garner millions of online views, making Koolulam an international phenomenon. 

During Taicher’s recent visit to Shalhevet, proceedings kicked off with 30 seconds of silence in honor of Ari Fuld, the American-Israeli terrorism victim who was stabbed in Gush Etzion on Sept. 16. The Shalhevet choir then sang “One Day” for Taicher before 17-year-old Lucy Fried interviewed him.

“It all started with curiosity,” Taicher said. “Two years ago, I saw a video of thousands of people praying at the Wailing Wall. I was so moved, so inspired. I asked myself, ‘How can I pass that along? How can I inspire others?’”

Taicher, a filmmaker, recalled brainstorming ways to help unify a fractured Israeli society marred by a lack of constructive political dialogue. He immediately considered the international language of music. 

“I wanted to do something that could make connections instead of separating people,” he said. “This is how it began. I feel that music has a lot of power. It can open hearts and build bridges.”

Beyond bridging ethnic and religious divides in Israel, the mass singing sensation has proven to be a diplomatic tool. Earlier this summer, Kyai Haji Yahya Cholil Staquf, the secretary general of the world’s largest Muslim organization, Nahdlatul Ulama, which is based in Indonesia and has more than 60 million members, called Taicher on his cellphone and confessed to being a Koolulam fan. 

“I wanted to do something that could make connections instead of separating people. This is how it began. I feel that music has a lot of power. It can open hearts and build bridges.” — Or Taicher

“I hung up. I thought it was a joke,” Taicher said. But it wasn’t. Taicher and his two co-founders, Ben Yefet and Michal Shahaf Shneiderman, set off to plan a truly majestic event for Staquf’s Jerusalem visit slated for mid-June. The 800 available tickets sold out in six minutes. The attendees included Muslim, Jewish and Christian leaders. The crowd convened at midnight in the courtyards of the Tower of David in the Old City of Jerusalem to sing Bob Marley’s “One Love” in English, Hebrew and Arabic (the Journal reported on this story in its June 29 edition).

Shortly after the Koolulam event, Indonesia, a country with no previous diplomatic ties to Israel, opened its borders to Israeli passport-holding tourists. “This showed me that what we’re doing, our movement, it’s working,” Taicher said. 

He also noted that Koolulam receives Facebook messages from Arab fans around the world. Some even contain apologies for harboring unfounded hate of Israel. 

Koolulam’s founders will receive the 2018 Asia Game Changer Award in New York next month, which Taicher called “an unbelievable honor.” Fellow honorees include the founder of the Syrian White Helmets and the Thai rescuers who saved a dozen teenage soccer players in a flooded cave earlier this year.   

Ari Schwarzberg, Shalhevet’s dean of students, told the Journal that initiatives like Koolulam help frame conversations on Zionism divorced from politics. 

“I think that the way our school views the value of Zionism, one of the ways we deeply feel it, is demonstrating that Israel has the great potential to be a place that models the best version of the Jewish people,” he said. “It gets complicated with politics. But this seemed to be one of those initiatives that represents the best of the Jewish people and a way to show our students and our community a way of deepening the understanding of what Zionism is.” 

Taicher told the Shalhevet students it was an uphill battle to get Koolulam off the ground, saying he heard the word “no” a lot. “You can’t let it stop you,” he said. “Now we have over 100 people working for us and we’re making a change.”

He also spoke about Koolulam’s expansion plans, which he said may involve opening branches in Los Angeles, New York, South Africa and Abu Dhabi. A South African event is scheduled for November. 

“It was really cool to get a chance to talk with [Taicher],” Fried said following the discussion. “It’s really inspiring that he created something so powerful despite all the rejection he faced.” 

Many Shalhevet students expressed interest in attending a potential future Koolulam event in Los Angeles. Tobey Lee, 16, told the Journal the idea sounded fun, but it’s not the singing he’s drawn to.

“Koolulam is something bigger than just singing a song,” he said. “It’s creating something bigger than music. It’s really cool that it’s creating peace.”

Howard Rosenman: Award-Winning Producer Opens Up

What’s it like to be a gay Israel lover in Hollywood? To act with Sean Penn? To be on top of your game at 74? Hollywood wunderkind Howard Rosenman shares his life’s scoops.

Follow David Suissa on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Check out this episode!

Rob Long: Hollywood Writer Talks Trump

Award-winning Hollywood showrunner Rob Long talks about happiness, craziness and, of course, Donald Trump.

Follow Rob and Ricochet on Twitter 

Check out this episode!

Salvador Litvak: Can Talmud change your life?

Hollywood filmmaker and Accidental Talmudist Salvador Litvak recounts his journey of how one moment of learning Talmud led to a million followers on Facebook.

“What we learn from the students of Hillel is that you should be able to state the opinion of your opponent in a way your opponent will say, ‘yes, that is my opinion.’ When you do that, you are opening a door for him to say ‘I feel heard. Now I am willing to hear what you have to say.” -Salvador Litvak

Accidental Talmudist Salvador Litvak

From left: David Suissa and Salvador Litvak

Check out this episode!

No-one’s Out of Order When the Lord is Your Lawyer – A Poem for Haftarah Behaalotecha by Rick Lupert

This is the Holy mashup between
Law and Order, and Project Runway
we’ve all been waiting for.

The Lord God, Adonai, Holiest of holies
doing time as a trial lawyer, argues
in favor of the laws that

wouldn’t exist without Her, Him, It,
They, Them, Spirit, One, Guru, Fire,
Trial Lawyer in the sky.

Joshua on trial for failing to
dress up for the occasion. Covered
in filthy garments. Accused of

breaches of decorum, visual civility,
lack of respect via no-time to do
the laundry. Might smell too.

The Solicitor on High waves a
magic finger and Joshua is like
a newborn who the nurses

have taken away and polished.
A headdress to rival a Pope’s
laid on his head. (Maybe this

is where those who dress the Popes
got the idea?) It’s divine trickery,
changing the accused’s situation

in the middle of the trial. But if
You’re the One who makes the rules
surely you can bend them too.

There are bigger fish to fry.
And by fish we mean Jerusalem and
maintaining the eternal favor.

A strange candelabra to build
with seven tubes and seven lights.
You may not know what it is

but if you ask, the angels will ask
if you are asking what you are asking.
Be humble about it.

They just want to make sure
you’ve asked the right question.
So you have the information you need.

God Wrestler: a poem for every Torah Portion by Rick LupertLos Angeles poet Rick Lupert created the Poetry Super Highway (an online publication and resource for poets), and hosted the Cobalt Cafe weekly poetry reading for almost 21 years. He’s authored 22 collections of poetry, including “God Wrestler: A Poem for Every Torah Portion“, “I’m a Jew, Are You” (Jewish themed poems) and “Feeding Holy Cats” (Poetry written while a staff member on the first Birthright Israel trip), and most recently “Beautiful Mistakes” (Rothco Press, May 2018) and edited the anthologies “A Poet’s Siddur: Shabbat Evening“,  “Ekphrastia Gone Wild”, “A Poet’s Haggadah”, and “The Night Goes on All Night.” He writes the daily web comic “Cat and Banana” with fellow Los Angeles poet Brendan Constantine. He’s widely published and reads his poetry wherever they let him.

The ‘Blame Game’ Doesn’t Alleviate Palestinian Suffering

A proposal drafted by Kuwait to deploy an international force to protect Palestinians along the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip currently is circulating among member-states of the United Nations Security Council. This, after the U.N. Human Rights Council (UNHRC) voted overwhelmingly to establish a commission of inquiry into allegations of possible war crimes committed by the Israeli military during the recent chaos along the frontier, which resulted in the deaths of at least 60 Gazans and injuries to some 2,000. Kuwait also pushed for the Security Council to adopt a statement expressing “outrage and sorrow at the killing of Palestinian civilians” and reiterating the call for an independent investigation, although the United States vetoed the move.

In response, Israel’s U.N. ambassador issued a statement decrying the “shameful … attempts to distort reality,” while declaring that Israel’s military “will continue to defend its sovereignty and the security of its citizens against the terror and murderous violence of Hamas.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the UNHRC a “biased body whose goal is to harm Israel and to back terrorism.”

Indeed, many independent observers have agreed with Israel’s supporters regarding what they see as elements of hypocrisy in the international community’s treatment of Israel when viewed against the backdrop of the carnage taking place in the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp, located south of Damascus, where Syrian regime forces have for weeks been waging a fierce campaign against the Islamic State (ISIS). The camp was once home to more than 200,000 Palestinians, yet today only a few thousand remain, many on the brink of starvation. An estimated 4,000 Palestinian civilians have been killed during the Syria civil war, more than the combined death toll in all of Israel’s conflicts with Hamas over the past decade.

Despite this seemingly abject abuse of Palestinian refugees, there are no concerted calls for any probes into the ongoing devastation in Yarmouk, nor is Syrian President Bashar Assad in the crosshairs of the International Criminal Court despite clear evidence that he has perpetrated crimes against humanity by repeatedly using chemical weapons against his own citizens.

In the same vein, ISIS, arguably one of the most insidious terrorist groups of modern times, is virtually being ignored vis-à-vis its Yarmouk travesties in stark contrast to the across-the-board condemnations of the ISIS massacre of Yazidis in Iraq, for example. This apparent “exception” blurs another peculiar reality: namely, the widely drawn distinction between ISIS and Hamas, even though both are incarnations of the same radical Sunni Islamic ideology.

That Kuwait is leading the drive to place Israel in the docket is also paradoxical given that it expelled some 400,000 Palestinians during and after the first Gulf War because of former Palestinian chief Yasser Arafat’s support at the time for Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

While it is clear to many that Israel is not without responsibility and that its policies have contributed to Palestinian suffering, many also assert that decades of attributing blame exclusively to the Jewish state for all Palestinian suffering has in no way furthered the Palestinian cause.

“The question is not whether the response from the international community is right or wrong, but if it solves the problem,” according to Maj. Gen. (Res.) Nathan Sharony, president of the Tel Aviv-based Council for Peace and Security, which promotes a sustainable political solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “And the only way to do so,” he told The Media Line, “is to elevate the standard of living in Gaza from the absolute minimum to something substantial. Once the people are relieved from the daily trouble they are experiencing they have something to lose and their motivations become different.

For Israelis, the singular focus on the Jewish state’s alleged crimes only reinforces their world-against-us mentality.

“Years have gone by, though, and there has been nothing but military collisions,” Sharony concluded, “so with no water and no electricity the situation in the Strip has become critical and needs to be solved now. This has to be an international effort, but Israel has to show that it means business.”

But a growing number of sources suggest that the UNHRC offers merely symbolic condemnations of Jerusalem, which, predictably, reacts with Pavlovian-like fury, while the U.S. is forced to go it alone and defend its ally by wielding its veto power in the Security Council. In other words, the status quo is effectively propagated, thereby ensuring that the cycle of violence repeats itself, even as other causes of Palestinian suffering are obfuscated.

This includes, for instance, the obvious deleterious impact of Hamas’ iron-fist rule, manifest in the crushing of all internal dissent and the pursuit of an external strategy of unending war, which, taken together, greatly reduces the possibility of improving the humanitarian situation in the enclave and thus the lives of Palestinians. Also overlooked are the millions of Palestinians who continue to languish in refugee camps throughout the Middle East — as opposed to being integrated into their host countries — a reality that has denied them any personal agency, thus leaving them totally vulnerable to assaults such as in Yarmouk.

For Israelis, the singular focus on the Jewish state’s alleged crimes only reinforces their world-against-us mentality, which, in turn, expresses itself through increasingly right-wing governments with more and more members that reject Palestinian statehood outright.

According to Gershon Baskin, an expert on Israeli-Palestinian affairs, “what we are seeing is a lot of the same-old, same-old because there are not many viable options. The international community is trying to figure out how to address the humanitarian situation in Gaza but, given the rivalry between Hamas and the PA [Palestinian Authority] and the fact that many countries do not deal with [the former] as it is considered a terrorist organization, there is only so much that can be done.

“I don’t see any solution coming from the U.S., Europe or, of course, Israel,” he told The Media Line. “One possible initiative could come from the Arab world, such as when countries sent a joint force to Lebanon to end the civil war there.”

Many agree that a change of approach is sorely needed. But as things stand, the headlines about Gaza will, as they have in the past, inevitably be pushed to the back pages. Given historical precedent, Israel will have weathered the storm and be left as it was, if not stronger because of its growing economic and military clout coupled with the diplomatic protection afforded by its alliance with the U.S.

The Palestinians, meanwhile, will have little to show other than additional suffering.

ARTIST OF THE WEEK: Sign of a New Embassy

Workers get Jerusalem ready for the historic opening of the new United States Embassy.

Report: Iranian Organizations Offers $100,000 for Destruction of U.S. Jerusalem Embassy

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin unveils the seal for the new U.S. embassy, as he stands next to Senior White House Adviser Ivanka Trump during the dedication ceremony of the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, May 14, 2018. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

An Iranian organization has offered $100,000 for the new United States embassy in Jerusalem to be destroyed.

According to the Washington Free Beacon, the Iranian Justice Seeker Student Movement has been distributing posters that state in English, Farsi and Arabic, “The Student Justice Movement will support anybody who destroy the illegal American embassy in Jerusalem.” The poster also states there would be a “$100,000 prize” as an incentive for the embassy’s destruction.

The Farsi news aggregate site University Student News Network, which first reported on the poster’s existence, wrote in their report on the matter, “It is necessary to mention that the steps by [President] Trump to transfer the US Embassy to Holy Qods [Jerusalem] has led to the anger and hatred of Muslims and liberators throughout the world.”

The U.S. embassy in Jerusalem officially opened on May 14.

“President Trump, by recognizing history, you have made history,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said during a ceremony celebrating the opening of the embassy. “In Jerusalem, King David established Jerusalem as a capital 3,000 years ago. King Solomon later built the Temple, and over 2,000 years later, we got to hear the sentence ‘The Temple Mount is in our hands.’ We are here in Jerusalem, and we are here to stay.”

Tens of thousands of Palestinians rioted at the Israel-Gaza border in response on the same day, resulting in at least 58 dead. Hamas and Islamic Jihad have admitted that several of the victims were part of their respective terror organizations. Hamas also reportedly forced Gazans to riot.

Why Democrats Missed the Boat in Jerusalem

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) speaks at the Milken Institute 21st Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California, U.S., April 30, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake

On May 14, the Donald Trump administration officially opened the United States Embassy in Jerusalem. It was a moment to cherish: an acknowledgment by the most powerful nation on the planet that Jerusalem was indeed Jewish, that it is the eternal capital of Israel, and that neither revisionist history nor sheer anti-Semitic malice can separate Jerusalem from her people.

Naturally, zero elected Democrats showed up.

On the surface, this decision makes little sense. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) signaled his excitement over the Trump administration’s decision: “In a long overdue move, we have moved our embassy to Jerusalem. Every nation should have the right to choose its capital. I sponsored legislation to do this two decades ago, and I applaud President Trump for doing it.” Back in 1995, Congress passed a law mandating the embassy move with bipartisan support; in the Senate, the bill passed 93-5. In June 2017, a bill reaffirming the principles of the 1995 vote passed 90-0 in the Senate.

Yet no Congressional Democrats showed up to the Jerusalem event. By contrast, a bevy of elected Republicans, showed up in Jerusalem to celebrate.

According to Israeli reporter Ariel Kahana, every member of Congress was invited to attend, but “people involved in the process blame the Democratic leadership of Congress.”

So, why didn’t the Democrats show up?

Antipathy for Trump is no answer — this was a foreign policy ceremony intended to cement relations with America’s key ally in the region. Trump’s warm welcome in Israel should not have put off Democrats from doing honor to a nation that a Democratic president, Harry Truman, had a strong hand in founding.

Democrats didn’t want to attend the opening of the embassy because they were afraid of their own base.

No, more likely, Democrats didn’t want to attend because they were afraid of their own base. Unfortunately, the Democratic base has moved in a significantly anti-Israel direction over the past two decades — as of January 2018, while 79 percent of Republicans sympathized with Israel, just 27 percent of Democrats did. Again, this makes little sense considering that Israel is the only democracy in the region, the only LGBT-friendly country in the region, and the only country in the region that allows serious religious diversity. But for Democrats, considerations of governmental liberalism take a back seat to intersectionality.

Intersectionality posits that Western civilization has victimized particular groups, and that those groups therefore must have the leading role in discussing politics. Thus, Israel’s success has actually cut against Democratic support: By becoming more prosperous and powerful, Israel now becomes a perpetuator of the “system” intersectionality wishes to attack. Thus, gay Jews waving rainbow flags with stars of David have been barred from Dyke Marches in Chicago on behalf of Palestinian sympathizers, even though rainbow flags likely end with beatings under Palestinian rule. Thus, Linda Sarsour, an openly anti-Semitic fellow traveler of Louis Farrakhan, continues to maintain her popularity with the Women’s March, even as she tweets hatred about Israel.

Israel has become too successful to maintain its appeal to the coalition of victimhood promulgated and celebrated by the intersectional left. And so Israel must be denied legitimacy.

The problem for Democrats is that in order to deny Israel legitimacy — especially at a time when Palestinians are ruled by terrorist groups Hamas, the Palestinian Authority and Islamic jihad — Israel’s historical ties to the land of Israel must be soft-pedaled. These terrorist governments have no moral claims to the land, not when they are busily pursuing murder and repression and impoverishment of their own people. So they must make historical claims that deny the Jewish connection with Israel. This they do with alacrity.

Never has there been less of a case for Democrats to split with Republicans on Israel — not in the face of Iran’s genocidal aspirations, Syria’s horrors and the rise of terrorist groups on all of Israel’s borders. Yet the split grows wider, not narrower. Until Democrats throw aside victimhood ideology in favor of the morality that used to govern their party, it will continue to widen.

Ben Shapiro is a best-selling author.

White House Defends Israel’s Handling of Gaza Violence

Palestinian demonstrators run for cover from Israeli fire and tear gas during a protest against U.S. embassy move to Jerusalem and ahead of the 70th anniversary of Nakba, at the Israel-Gaza border in the southern Gaza Strip, May 14, 2018. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/File photo

The White House is standing by Israel as the Jewish state defends its border from the Hamas-led violent riots at the Israel-Gaza border.

White House Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah told reporters on May 14, “We believe that Hamas as an organization is engaged in cynical action that is leading to these deaths. The responsibility for these tragic deaths rests squarely with Hamas.”

Shah also stated that Israel should be able to defend itself, just like any other country.

The Hamas-led riots, which have occurred every Friday for the past six weeks, are reaching their apex on May 14 and 15 as the United States opens its new embassy in Jerusalem, the capital of Israel.

The May 14 riots have resulted in 55 Palestinians dead – at least 10 of whom have been identified as Hamas terrorists – and over 2,000 Palestinians injured.

Israel dropped leaflets warning Palestinians that they would be shot if they came within 300 feet of the fence and were armed. And yet, tens of thousands of Palestinians tossed rocks, burning tires and explosives at Israeli soldiers as well as flew fiery kites toward the Israeli border. The Israeli military even had to launch airstrikes against Hamas outposts in Gaza where terrorists were firing at Israel Defense Force (IDF) soldiers.

Here are some scenes from the riots:

It’s also worth noting that Hamas is providing $100 to each family that engages in the border riots and is threatening any families that don’t engage in the riots to be smeared as “collaborators” with Israel. The riots are also being funded by Iran, an ally of Hamas, and being encouraged by the Palestinian Authority. The IDF is concerned that the border riots are part of a Hamas plot to breach the border fence and launch terror attacks against Israel.

“Every country has the obligation to protect its borders,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. “The Hamas terrorist organization declares its intentions to destroy Israel and sends thousands to break through the border fence for that purpose.”

Hot Take: Shmuel Rosner on the volatile situation in the Middle East

Check out this episode!

Trump Lawyer on New Book: ‘The People Will Be Able to Defend Jerusalem As Their Capital’

Screenshot from Facebook.

Jay Sekulow, who is a part of President Trump’s legal team, discussed his new book “Jerusalem: A Biblical and Historical Case for the Jewish Capital” on Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) on May 3, explaining how it proves beyond a reasonable doubt that Jerusalem is the capital of the Jewish people.

Sekulow told TBN that he approached the book as if he was arguing before the Supreme Court, which he has done 20 times.

“I wrote the book anticipating every question we could think of that would be the other side of the issue,” Sekulow said.

In doing so, he made the legal, historical and Biblical case for Jerusalem to be the capital of the Jewish people.

“The Jewish people have resided in [and] maintained a residency in Jerusalem even in times of immense persecution and dispersion,” Sekulow said, pointing out throughout the interview that there has always been a “remnant” of the Jewish population in Jerusalem.

Additionally, there is new archaeological evidence everyday tying the history of the Jewish people to Jerusalem.

From a legal standpoint, Israel has a right to Jerusalem under international law since they took it back from Jordan during the Six-Day War.

“The precedent is set… that there is no way that the Jewish people and the state of Israel does not have the right to take that territory,” Sekulow said.

Sekulow expressed his amazement to TBN about Trump’s Jerusalem move, saying that it was something that most people thought wouldn’t happen in their lifetimes and that the move itself didn’t result in World War III that critics warned about. Sekulow believes that is thanks to a higher power that now was the moment to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel when the Arab world’s highest priority is the threat of Iran.

“Human beings cannot orchestrate these moments. The word of God is very clear on this,” Sekulow said, adding that “the prophetic nature of Jerusalem is clear from the very beginning of scripture.”

The reason why Sekulow thinks it’s so important to educate the populace about Jerusalem is because the security of Israel is important to the interests of the United States and “Jerusalem has been the flashpoint in world history.”

“You have to understand the significance of Jerusalem,” Sekulow said. “Why has one city in one place drawn so much world attention?”

By understanding history, people can know how to learn from it, especially as the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement seeks to delegitimize Israel and Jerusalem.

The full interview can be seen below:

This Sacred Beauty

It is written in the Talmud, “Ten measures of beauty descended upon the world, nine were taken by Jerusalem.”

It is no surprise that many feel a visceral love for Jerusalem. The city, which has been destroyed twice and attacked 52 times, still emits a sacred beauty, a beauty that transcends religion and politics.

Most Jews feel this visceral connection before we have ever visited Israel, before we even understand our historical, cultural and religious connection to the land. The love we feel for Israel is not complicated or questioning. Rather, it is like the love we feel for our children, our soulmates — unconditional and eternal: “I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine.”

In the fall of 2013, I reluctantly joined Facebook to promote a book on “deep beauty,” beauty so profound that it touches you not just emotionally but spiritually. Each day I posted art and design that moved me, hoping to nudge the art world back to a deeper appreciation of beauty. I never posted about politics, although many of my art friends did.

When the Hamas war broke out in the summer of 2014, I (naively) expected these left-leaning justice-warrior friends to see which side justice was on. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

No matter what Hamas did, they blamed Israel — precisely what is happening today.

I started to defend Israel, but I also decided that maybe what was needed was for the world to again be touched by its sacred beauty. For more than a decade, the art world had only “allowed” sad, dreary, conflict scenes to be shown.

As the photo-book world follows the art world, there were many rejections before Skyhorse, a small publishing house, agreed to publish “Passage to Israel.” I chose 200 images to represent Israel, images from a wide variety of photographers. My primary requirement: The images were of deep beauty — images that would touch the soul.

Somewhat miraculously, I was introduced to Anderson Contemporary Gallery in New York City. Ronnie Anderson fell in love with the images; she didn’t care that she wasn’t supposed to love them.

And so the exhibition “Passage to Israel” opened in New York in the fall of 2016, with Matisyahu headlining. After its NYC stop, it traveled around the New York area before opening in Ariel, Samaria. It then went on to the Jerusalem Theater, Jaffa and Haifa.

The reaction has been extraordinary: The Israeli friend living in the U.S. who sat down and cried when she went through the book. The innumerable notes saying, “Thank you for reconnecting me to my love for Israel.” The many people who simply said, “I forgot that Israel is far more than just the conflict.”

Most shocking to me has been the reaction of the Arab world. When I created a Facebook page for “Passage,” I braced myself for daily hate and ugliness. Instead, more than a third of the likes are from Arabic names, many of whom heart and share the photos.

Most shocking to me has been the reaction of the Arab world.

Can deep beauty be the sacred bond?

The ultimate test was back where I started, with the art world. The Sagamore Hotel in the South Beach area of Miami Beach — the center of the U.S. art world — chose “Passage” as the centerpiece of a three-month #Peace70 exhibition. The Sagamore is now owned by Israeli Ronit Neuman, but the idea was the brainchild of curator Sebastien Laboureau, who branded it “art as the crosswalk for peace.”

A snowstorm prevented me from making it to the opening in the beginning of March, but from all accounts it was quite epic. Two Florida mayors spoke; major collectors and “tastemakers” roamed the stunning Sagamore, entranced by images of Israel. As one art patron put it, “I haven’t seen the Sagamore this packed since Art Basel 2012.”

As happy as I am about “Passage’s” ability to touch souls, it saddens me to see that, four years later, we’re still dealing with the same desire to believe Hamas’ lies, no matter how far-fetched. A week into the Gaza turmoil, Hamas flew a swastika between two Palestinians flags. As of yet, no mainstream Western journalist has reported it.

Ultimately, the last two sentences of the “Passage” book still stand: “Israel is indeed a mirror to one’s soul. Those who see the beauty, who stand up for the truth, who understand the meaning, will never regret where they stood in this moment in history, when silence is not an option.”

Am Yisra’el Chai.

Karen Lehrman Bloch is an author and cultural critic.

Rabbi Joseph Telushkin: curiosity and other values

Prolific author Joseph Telushkin discusses some of the most pressing issues in the Jewish world, including a need for more curiosity.

“If people are only going to read things that reinforce what they believe… they’re going to end up demonizing the people that disagree with them.” -Joseph Telushkin

Rabbi Joseph Telushkin

From left: David Suissa and Rabbi Joseph Telushkin

Check out this episode!

Dr. Micah Goodman: Is there a light at the end of the tunnel?

Israeli scholar Micah Goodman weighs in on the world’s most intractable conflict — and his ideas for a solution. He explains it all in his bestselling new book, Catch 67, which uses philosophical insights to tackle the Israel–Palestinian conflict.

“Everyone always talks about solving or not solving the conflict. What about shrinking the conflict?” -Dr. Micah Goodman


David Suissa and Dr. Micah Goodman in the studios

From left: David Suissa and Dr. Micah Goodman

Check out this episode!


Luis Curiel

Forgiveness Sunday is celebrated in Jerusalem. “Forgiveness Day” is part of the international exhibition “Passage to Israel” through May 30 at the Sagamore Hotel in the South Beach area of Miami Beach, as part of a three-month “Peace 70” initiative (

At AIPAC, Vice President Mike Pence Affirms U.S.-Israel Bond

Vice President Mike Pence addresses the 2018 AIPAC Policy Conference

At the 2018 AIPAC Policy Conference, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence opened his speech on Monday night by calling Trump the “most pro-Israel president in American history.” He began the statement, however, by calling Trump the “most pro-life president” but then corrected himself to say pro-Israel.

It was the one gaffe in an otherwise well received speech in Washington D.C., on the second night of the three-day AIPAC conference. Multiple times during his remarks Pence reiterated the U.S. commitment to supporting the State of Israel.

“American stands with Israel, today, tomorrow and always,” he said.

Frequently garnering applause during his approximately 20-minute remarks, Pence denounced the Iranian regime’s nuclear ambitions, saying the U.S. “would no longer certify the disastrous nuclear deal,” which was ratified under former U.S. President Barack Obama.

He indicated the possibility the U.S. would withdraw from the Iranian nuclear agreement.

He said the recent decision of U.S. President Donald Trump to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel set him apart from his predecessors.

“While every president for the past two decades promised to recognize the capital of Israel, President Trump did more than promise—he delivered,” Pence said.

“By finally recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the United States has chosen fact over fiction and fact is the only true foundation for a just and lasting peace,” he added.

The U.S. plans to open its embassy in Jerusalem this May, he said, which would move the American embassy in Israel from its current location in Tel Aviv.

While the Arab world denounced the president’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Pence spoke of the changing political landscape in the Middle East, saying that Israel is finding unlikely allies in the Muslim world.

“The winds of change are blowing across the Middle East. Longstanding enemies are becoming partners; old foes are finding new ground for cooperation and the descendants of Isaac and Ishmael are coming together in common cause to meet, as the president’s said, history’s great test, and conquer extremism and vanquish forces of terrorism, and we will meet that test together,” Pence said.

Looking for Hamantashen of His Youth in Jerusalem

I’m in Machane Yehuda Market — the big shuk — in Jerusalem — just as I am every week. The “oznei Haman” have arrived. In Israel, hamantashen are called “Haman’s ears” and with a bit of imagination, I can almost make sense of that. Every year, I wander from bakery to bakery during the weeks preceding Purim, and I end up carbohydratedly disappointed. The hamantashen of my youth are nowhere to be found.

The bakeries in Jerusalem, and especially in the shuk, make amazing hamantashen. You want hamantashen filled with halvah? We have that. Chocolate dough hamantashen filled with chocolate? Yeah, we have that, too. How about date filling? Poppy seed? Yup, they’re all here. But like Proust taking a bite of a madeleine, I want that hamantashen that takes me back. Way back. I want to travel back about 50 years.

When I was a child growing up on the South Shore of Long Island, all the way out in Suffolk County (yenevelt — a faraway place, as my grandfather called it) our community was a tightknit enclave of Jewish immigrants from Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx, all seeking a suburban life far from the city.

My parents were deeply involved in the synagogue. My mother was Sisterhood president. My dad taught the confirmation class and was the youth group director of Temple Sinai of Bay Shore.

As youth group director, organizing the annual Purim carnival was his and the teenagers’ responsibility. Games were devised, booths were constructed, prizes were purchased, food was ordered.

To play games or obtain food, guests had to purchase tickets. “Five dollars’ worth is all you get,” my mother would tell us. But I was not going to waste my precious tickets on mundane activities like “Shave the Balloon” or a terrifying Senior Youth Group “Fun House” that would culminate in me putting my hand in a bucket of pitted olives and being told they were eyeballs. I spent my money on the hamantashen.

Without warning or advance notice, the yeast-dough hamantashen fell out of fashion.

Fresh from Stanley’s Bakery (which is still on Main Street) were platters of hamantashen that were the real deal. No halvah. No chocolate. And they were huge. The filling — cherry, prune or apricot —  oozed from the seams. And the dough? The dough was a golden yeast dough and not this crumbly cookie stuff that tries to pass for hamantashen. Like the Danish my father always brought home on Sunday morning —  only better.

Without warning or advance notice, the yeast-dough hamantashen fell out of fashion. They disappeared, never to be found again. Like those Long Island Purim carnivals, they became a distant memory.

Nonetheless, I persevere in my search. Like a relentless explorer, I wander through Jerusalem’s alleys and byways in search of a cherry-filled, yeast-dough hamantashen.

Recently, at one of my favorite bakeries in the shuk, I asked the owner (in Hebrew): “You ever make hamantashen with a yeast dough?”

With a wave of his hand, he responded, “You want a yeast dough? Buy a challah.”

This year, the search is over. I’m making them at home.

Happy Purim!

Before making aliyah, Cantor Evan Kent served Temple Isaiah in Los Angeles for 25 years. In Jerusalem, he is on the faculty of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.