Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Settlers retaliate after West Bank stabbing death

Several Palestinians injured in attacks; ‘situation has reached the level of craziness,’ Nablus resident says

West Bank StabbingA Palestinian Authority official has called on Palestinian civilians to be cautious while driving by Israeli settlements, after a number of Palestinian vehicles were pelted with stones immediately following the fatal stabbing of an Israeli citizen at the Tapuah junction Tuesday morning.

Ghassan Daghlas, who monitors Jewish settlement-building in the northern West Bank, told the Ma’an news agency that he expected more attacks by settlers on Palestinian cars, after the windshield of a bus carrying schoolgirls from Ramallah was shattered by stones hurled at it near the settlement of Yitzhar, south of Nablus.

Yitzhar was home to Evyatar Borowsky, a 32-year-old father of five, who was stabbed to death earlier on Tuesday by Salam As’ad Zaghal, a Palestinian from Tulkarem, at the Tapuah junction.

Retaliatory acts by settlers from Yitzhar and Tapuah followed the lethal stabbing, local media and human rights groups reported. Rabbis for Human Rights, an Israeli watchdog, reported that settlers attacked and moderately injured a Palestinian farmer near the village of Furiq and uprooted some 100 olive trees near the village of Qaryut.

Khalil Assaf, a Nablus resident who heads the Consortium of Independent Palestinians in the West Bank, a grassroots organization of businessmen and academics, warned that violence in the northern West Bank could quickly spin out of control.

“The situation is very bad, it has reached the level of craziness,” Assaf told The Times of Israel, reporting that Palestinians in the area were avoiding leaving their homes for fear of settler attacks on the roads.

“If the IDF does not control the situation, many more innocent people will be injured,” Assaf added, referring to the attack on the Palestinian school bus near Nablus.

A spokesman for the IDF confirmed that “a violent and illegal demonstration” took place at the Yitzhar junction on Tuesday, with two Israeli civilians detained by the army.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Hey Jews, Go Back to Poland!

We're used to a certain kind of Jewish nostalgia for the old country and the relative simplicity of shtetl life, but nobody's really serious about going back there.


Not exactly. Since 2007, Israeli media artist Yael Bartana has been developing the Jewish Renaissance Movement in Poland, a multifaceted project that includes films, a manifesto, and even a 2012 conference, all of which call for Jews to "stun Europe" by "returning" to Poland.

In one of the films
,  a young, left-wing Polish intellectual calls out to a stadium: "Jews! Fellow countrymen! People! You think the old woman who still sleeps under Rivke’s quilt doesn't want to see you? Has forgotten about you? You're wrong. She dreams about you every night…Return to Poland, to your country! Stand by her bed and lay your hands on that old quilt."

We may never know if we are meant to take JRMiP's call seriously, or if this is all an elaborate, ironic art project. But if it's geared toward raising questions, it's certainly succeeding. For starters, what would Poland make of a massive influx of Jews? Would Warsaw start selling better falafel?

Monday, April 22, 2013

Israeli Doctors Are Treating Boston Bombing Suspect: New Details on His Condition

Police stand guard outside Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center Friday, April 19, 2013 after an ambulance carrying Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, a19-year-old Massachusetts college student wanted in the Boston Marathon bombings, arrived (AP)
As 19-year-old Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev "clings to life," Israeli media revealed that two of the senior doctors treating Tsarnaev have abundant past experience treating victims of terror. That's because they're from Israel.

Dr. Kevin (Ilan) Tabb, president and CEO of the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston told the Israeli website Ynet that Tsarnaev is in stable condition but that because of wounds to his throat, he may never be able to speak again.

Tabb received his medical degree at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and is also a board member of Hadassah-Ein Kerem Hospital in Jerusalem. That background gave him a unique perspective in responding to Monday's terrorist attack.

"Unfortunately, I have had a lot of experience with these types of injuries after years of treating people injured in terror attacks in Israel," Tabb said.

Ynet reports:

He told Ynet that the Boston Marathon attack resulted in "numerous leg injuries from the blasts, and there were many amputations as well. In Israel we are used to this and here they are not, but the hospital was prepared. Most of those who were seriously injured in the attack were sent to the three main trauma centers in Boston, including ours.
"It was very similar to what I was used to in Israel in that we had to admit many injured people in a short period of time," Professor Tabb said. "The fact that we are treating both the victims and the suspected terrorist also reminds me of similar situations in Israel. In Israel we had an injured soldier and a terrorist lying on adjacent beds. When an injured person is admitted to the ER, the doctor or nurse treats him without asking questions."

Continue reading.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Carmen Weinstein, Who Led the Jews of Cairo, Dies at 82

CAIRO — Carmen Weinstein, the leader of Cairo’s small Jewish community and the driving force behind the restoration of Maimonides’s yeshiva and other monuments of Egyptian Jewish history, died on Saturday at her home here on the island of Zamalek. She was 82.

Her death was announced by the Jewish Community Council of Cairo, of which she was president.
Ms. Weinstein refused to accept that Egypt’s once-vibrant Jewish community was dying out, even if its ranks had dwindled to just a few dozen elderly people from more than 80,000 six decades ago. “We are still in Cairo despite what everybody says,” she told a Los Angeles Times reporter 11 years ago.
When the Historical Society of Jews From Egypt, an American group based in Brooklyn, sought help from Congress to remove historical artifacts and prayer books, known as seforim, to the United States for safekeeping, Ms. Weinstein resisted, saying she would ignore the society’s “insensitive letters referring to our inevitable extinction.”
Instead, in 1997, she persuaded the government to classify the Jewish artifacts as Egyptian antiquities, preventing their sale or export. “Taking the Jewish seforim, books and records out of Egypt is tantamount to saying that Egypt should demolish the pyramids and the Temple of Luxor because there are no pharaohs left,” Ms. Weinstein said.
She pronounced herself unflustered by any hostility from her Muslim neighbors over tensions between Israel and the Arab world. “We have no troubles and we don’t talk politics,” she curtly told The Associated Press during Israel’s 2009 war against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
President Mohamed Morsi, of the Muslim Brotherhood, issued a statement mourning the loss of Ms. Weinstein. “She was a dedicated Egyptian who worked tirelessly to preserve Egyptian Jewish heritage and valued, above all else, living and dying in her country, Egypt,” he said.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Heart of Stone: Liberating the Wall for Women Too

Most Israelis and probably the vast majority of haredi women do not know that halacha, Jewish law, permits women to wear talit and tefillin, and read Torah from a Torah scroll. Secular Israelis do not know this, for obvious reasons. The religion they do not practice is Orthodox – ultra-Orthodox. In an unwritten, unholy alliance of Israeli secularism and ultra-Orthodoxy, Judaism stays so archaic, alien and repulsive that secular Israelis need never encounter it seriously – which, conveniently, leaves the ultra-Orthodox variants in unchallenged control of a culture that is the national heritage – and the national responsibility – of all Jews.

But anyone with a modicum of learning in Jewish texts knows that halacha does not prohibit women doing these things, as some modern Orthodox rabbis have recently begun pointing out to their congregations. That haredi women – the ones shrieking at the Women of the Wall about sacrilege, cancer, Divine condemnation, and the rest – do not know this, speaks volumes about the subjugated place of women in that society; and about the male structures that construct and control that society with an iron hand and what they succeed in imposing on the rest of us.

The Women of the Wall go straight to the heart of the matter. We are Jews. Not just daughters of Jews, wives of Jews, sisters of Jews, mothers of Jews. Jews. Adult, responsible Jews, praying, celebrating, living as such in our own right. What we seek to do at the Wall is done there every day of the week by men; these are no heterodox acts. When men do them they are mitzvot – commandments – but under the current regime there, when women do them, they are sacrilege, “blasphemy,” “disturbing the public order,” offensive to “the worshipers” (meaning, haredi men and women), denying that the Women of the Wall are worshipers.

If the sancta of Judaism are blasphemy and criminal acts when women undertake them in public, at Judaism’s holiest site and the site of highest national memory, there is something wrong not with the women, and not with Judaism, but with a society that allows utter misogyny hegemony there.

Continue reading.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

How to Paint Your Nails for Israel Independence Day

Today is Yom Ha’atzmaut, aka Israel Independence Day. It celebrates the anniversary of the creation of Israel on May 14, 1948 (or, according to the Jewish calendar, the 5th of Iyyar in 5708).
In Israel, it’s celebrated with fireworks, barbecues, and public concerts. In America, it’s celebrated with a manicure (or at least it can be…)
Yael Buechler, the fabulous rabbi behind Midrash Manicures, in which she creates nail art for each weekly Torah portion and holidays, has offered up this great tutorial for how to do your own Israeli flag nail art in celebration of Yom Ha’atzmaut. It’s pretty simple and will look super cute on adult and kiddie nails alike. Here’s how it’s done. You can use a toothpick to do the finer details.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Compromise Is Proposed on Western Wall Praying

JERUSALEM — Natan Sharansky, the chairman of the Jewish Agency, outlined new ideas on Tuesday for making the Western Wall a place where all Jews could pray comfortably, after tensions over rituals there peaked in recent months and caused discord between the Israeli authorities and Jewish leaders abroad.

Mr. Sharansky’s proposal involves expanding and improving the areas accessible for prayer at the wall to include the southern section known as Robinson’s Arch which, under his plan, would be open for Jews wishing to pray in a less Orthodox, more egalitarian style 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The main prayer section, which is now divided into men’s and women’s sections, would remain the domain of more traditional worshippers.
“The question is not how to force everybody to pray together,” Mr. Sharansky said in a telephone interview from New York, “but how to let everybody be able to pray as they wish without interfering with the other.”
His proposals, which are subject to approval by the Israeli government, met with enthusiasm from the chairwoman of Women of the Wall, a feminist and pluralistic religious group that has championed the current struggle over the site. The group has been meeting for prayers at the Western Wall, or Kotel, at the start of every Hebrew month since the late 1980s.
Rabbi Steven Wernick, chief executive of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, an advocate for more religious pluralism in Israel, said that the proposed concept was “significant” but needed refining.
Mr. Sharansky said he was also expecting the Orthodox-dominated authority that currently administers the Western Wall plaza to have reservations.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Intermarried rabbis? Please!

Quite the tempest in the teapot has been brewing as of late at The Times of Israel. It all began with Rabbi Mark Miller’s quite sensible criticism of Daniel Kirzane’s demand that Reform rabbinical students be empowered to intermarry. Kirzane, a student at Hebrew Union College, seized the moment to reiterate his demand, advancing the notion that allowing for intermarried rabbis will actually “advance the mission of the people of Israel” and citing no less than the prophet Isaiah for backup.

Meanwhile, “the Jew in the street” chimed in, with Aliza Worthington describing her own marriage to a Catholic and citing Jewish inflexibility, not Jewish intermarriage, as the real threat to Jewish continuity – echoed by high school student Adin Feder citing his own pro-intermarriage survey results at his school as proof that the Jewish “peanut gallery” is causing grave insult when it presumes to oppose intermarriage (and in his case, citing the prophet Ezekiel for backup).

For all of the heat in these exchanges, as is so often the case when the emotionally charged subject of intermarriage comes up, there is precious little light. And in the end, all the flying sparks are still a tempest in a teapot – it’s fair to say that, even if Kirzane’s proposal were adopted, intermarried rabbis would be no more than a statistical blip on the screen.

So why bother adding my voice to this already crowded, noisy and strident field? Because when Jews make the choice to become Jewish leaders, their actions leave the realm of private decisions rendered for their personal benefit and become public decisions that carry deep symbolic and practical significance for us all. When Kirzane demands “marriage freedom” for Reform rabbis, he is saying that, as an aspiring public Jewish leader and role model, his private actions don’t really matter. Above all, he should be able to do whatever he pleases. If the future Rabbi Kirzane were to marry a fundamentalist Muslim calling for Israel’s destruction, or an evangelical Christian seeking to convert Jewish souls, or just an everyday person who follows a faith that is not Judaism, he’s saying that it should not matter and it’s nobody business.

Continue reading. 

Monday, April 8, 2013

Former British PM Margaret Thatcher, ‘staunch friend of Israel,’ dies

(JTA) -- Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who was considered a good friend of Israel despite a rocky relationship with Prime Minister Menachem Begin, has died.
Thatcher died Monday after suffering a stroke. She was 87. Thatcher suffered from dementia at the end of her life, which was dramatized in the 2011 movie "The Iron Lady." 
The only female to serve as prime minister of Britain, she also was the longest continuously serving prime minister in the 20th century,  leading the country and her Conservative Party from 1979 to 1990. 
Thatcher was supportive of Israel but had a troubled relationship with Begin, who served two terms in the 1980s. She called Begin the "most difficult" man she had to deal with, according to the Chronicle. She also strongly opposed Israel's bombing of Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu mourned her passing in a statement.
"She was truly a great leader, a woman of principle, of determination, of conviction, of strength; a woman of greatness," Netanyahu said. "She was a staunch friend of Israel and the Jewish people. She inspired a generation of political leaders. I send my most sincere condolences to her family and to the government and people of Great Britain."
Thatcher had a strong relationship with U.S. President Ronald Reagan and together they fought communism, leading to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.
Her Cabinets included several Jewish members, including Nigel Lawson, Malcolm Rifkind, Keith Joseph and Leon Brittan, according to the Jewish Chronicle.

Yom HaShoah - Holocaust Remembrance Day

We will never forget you

Friday, April 5, 2013

The Harrowing Story of Hitler’s Food Taster

Margot Wölk shares her life as a safeguard for the Eagle’s Nest

Yom HaShoah begins this Sunday evening.  Those who can give first-hand testimony are dying out.  Let's listen to their stories.

Margot Wolk

As we approach the season’s World War II anniversaries and remembrances, we’re still learning more from the strange marginalia of that era’s historical pages. One example is the story of Margot Wölk, one of Adolf Hitler’s last surviving food tasters, who recently spoke about her experiences.
Wölk may have eaten well during the war, but only because she was being fed food meant for Hitler that many thought could be poisoned.
Hitler’s thugs brought her and the other young women to barracks in nearby Krausendorf, where cooks prepared the food for the Wolf’s Lair in a two-story building. The service personnel filled platters with vegetables, sauces, noodle dishes and exotic fruits, placing them in a room with a large wooden table, where the food had to be tasted. “There was never meat because Hitler was a vegetarian,” Wölk recalls. “The food was good — very good. But we couldn't enjoy it.”
This may be the least harrowing part of a story that also included her narrow escape as the Soviet Army invaded the Wolf’s Lair, her violation by both Nazi and Soviet soldiers, and her presumed dead husband, who eventually came back.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Why are Israelis so damn happy?

It's thanks to both the wars and the weather, and those Friday night dinners that keep us from feeling lonely.

It’s happened again. An international survey has been published showing that Israelis are, compared to their counterparts in other Western countries, very happy and content people. That information confounds everyone, not least Israelis themselves.
How in the world can it be, we ask ourselves, that citizens of a tiny embattled nation, surrounded by enemies, targeted by boycotts, officially and unofficially loathed by a major portion of the world, with compulsory army service, where regularly scheduled wars and “operations” take place at least once every few years, where complaining about the "situation" is a national pastime, can feel so fine and dandy? It makes no sense.
It’s reached the point where even the stories reporting the news of these polls suggest that the Israelis taking the survey must be lying. The latest survey, as relayed in Tuesday's report, Haaretz suggested as much, and the journalists writing the piece sounded utterly confounded:
“Israelis are among the most content people in the Western world, even though the country doesn’t measure up by many of the criteria in a study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. ... It’s not clear why Israelis are so happy, despite a relatively poor showing on measures such as housing, income, job security, community support and education. It could be that what makes the average Norwegian happy doesn’t do the trick in Israel. Or maybe Israelis try to appear happy even when they’re not and respond to pollsters accordingly.”

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

New Details About the Capture of Gilad Shalit

By Adam Chandler

Following Gilad Shalit’s meeting with military investigators, a much clearer picture of the events that led to his capture emerged along with information about his years under Hamas captivity and death of two other soldiers in the initial attack.
In short, the narrative paints Shalit–by his own admission–as a timid, shell-shocked soldier, who found himself unable to fight back at the most dire moment. As the Jerusalem Post reported (with some cushioning):
Even Schalit, alone as he was, should have been able to manage it [to fend off his captors]. At this point Schalit was sitting in the gunner’s seat, praying for it to just be over. Then one of militants approached and threw two or three grenades into the turret. Schalit doesn’t recall the explosion of the grenades, but he does remember the smoke very well.
His bullet-proof vest and his flak jacket, hanging on the back of the chair, absorbed most of the impact. The chair was completely shredded.
Schalit, miraculously, was lightly wounded with shrapnel in his elbow and rear. He was scared, shocked. He stayed in the tank for a minute or two until the smoke spread throughout the turret and he found it hard to breathe. Then he decided, finally, to leave. He left unarmed. His gun, a deadly M-16, he left on the floor of the turret. In military terms, this is called abandoning your weapon.
The picture of Shalit as a rosh katan, “a small head,” what you’d call a soldier who is completely reliant on his commanders in Israel or a “sad sack” in American army is a tough indictment to read after Shalit’s years spent in Hamas basements. But what this reveals about Israel, which embraced him for his endurance throughout his horrible captivity, is important.
It comes as no big surprise that Shalit hadn’t fought to escape. The limited images of Shalit, with which the world became quite familiar over the years, showed him as he was: a thin, nervous-looking kid, likely someone’s diminutive little brother, doing his compulsory army service. And despite the (often vicious) stereotype of the Israeli soldier as modern Spartan–wild, mechanical, inhuman–Shalit was elevated to a hero status by his countrymen.
While his release was opposed by many on strategic grounds, he was never shamed or labeled a coward for being unable to resist capture. If this were Sparta, you would see no value in bargaining over a 1,000 prisoners–many of whom did kill–for a boy who was unable to fight at all.