Archive for the ‘Ethiopian Jews’ Category

keeping the faith…. | Editorials | thesuburban.com – The Suburban Newspaper

This week we commemorate the centenary of the birth of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy. The man who challenged the world to, Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country. We owe a duty of action, but not just that. We owe a duty of memory and witness to that universal message.

Over the past week, the legacy of JFKs words was put into robust reality by so many of you. We would like to pay tribute to your endeavours that are testament to his clarion call of just over a century and a half ago. A call to be involved in the passions and tempers of our times.

Human rights activists joined members of the Jewish community in remembering the 26th anniversary of Operation Solomon. It was the largest rescue operation in history. On May 24,1991, 35 Israeli planes transported tens of thousands of Ethiopian Jews to Israel. Without that miraculous effort, these Jews would have faced certain destruction.One of the military commanders reported that one grim reality made the numbers possible. These survivors had suffered such hardships, including starvation, that their bodies had deteriorated to an unbearable thinness. The commemoration took place at Congregation Shomrim Laboker which is the synagogue that welcomed the first Ethiopian Jews to arrive in Montreal and who still form a vital part of its community. The late Ethiopian rights activist Baruch Tegegne was instrumental in getting this operation the highest priority of the Israeli government. Much of his family lives in Montreal. The hundreds in attendance listened to former Justice Minister Irwin Cotler who was the keynote speaker at this years event. Cotler is entering his 40th year of advocacy on behalf of Ethiopian Jews. Also addressing the gathering were Deputy Israeli Consul-General Rotem Segev, Mount Royal MP Anthony Housefather and our own editor Beryl Wajsman.

Last Saturday afternoon thousands of marchers representing some two dozen cultural communities took part in the annual March for Humanity and Genocide Prevention through the streets of downtown Montreal. This March was originally started by the Armenian National Committee in its drive to educate the public about the genocide of 1.5 million Armenians at the hands of the Ottoman Turks between 1915-1917. Their original efforts resulted in Prime Minister Harper giving official recognition to the Genocide. Over the years the Armenian community has attracted others to march with them . It was quite a sight to see Armenian, Greek, Israeli, Italian, Lebanese and so many other flags fluttering in the wind alongside the Maple Leaf and the Fleur-de-Lis. The Greek community in particular is now publicizing the history of the Pontic Genocide of 1913. Leading the march were the heads of the communities but it was all the more striking that they were joined by Mayor Denis Coderre, Deputy Mayor Mary Deros, federal Minister Mlanie Joly and Prof. Cotler. Never Again is a message that must be made real by action not just words and this past weekend it was.

This past Sunday over a thousand members of the Irish community were joined by representatives of many other communities and organizations, including from this newspaper, in its annual March to The Stone. People came from as far away as Toronto, Ottawa and Quebec City to participate.We do not have to tell you that the Irish are a foundational people of this great city. Though this March takes place every year, it had a special importance this year. The Stone is the memorial to 6,000 Irish immigrants who succumbed to typhus in the great immigration of 1848-1850. Those dead represented some 10% of the population of Montreal at the time. The Stone sits in front of their graves. Sadly, the graveyard was covered over for a parking lot years ago. That was enough of a desecration.But now Hydro-Quebec wants to build a substation there and add further insult to injury. Well, the Fighting Irish are fighting back and many of us along with them. The March may not have been for the most joyous of reasons, but those three kilometers in the hot sun were worth the effort and it was a stirring event. Looking around, it was also a reminder of how deep and long friendships are not just between individuals but between people. The marchers have all been at the barricades in so many cases and causes. Despite its historic challenges, the Irish community and the leaders that have sprung from it continue to lead us all with an abiding sense of optimism, courage and grace. We salute the organizers Paul Loftus, Scott Phelan, Victor Boyle, Fergus Keyes, Tim Furlong, Danny Doyle and the elected officials who turned out including Mayor Coderre, NDP leader Tom Mulcair and MP Marc Miller.

All your efforts, the difficult pursuit of all these causes, keep alive the dream embodied in another declaration of the late President. We choose to do these things not because they are easy but because they are hard and because they are necessary. Your actions are a living testament to the faith that has been kept.

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June 1, 2017   Posted in: Ethiopian Jews  Comments Closed

Tulsa company’s film series on Israel coincides with Trump visit – Tulsa World

As Donald Trump made his first visit to Israel as president, the airing of a Tulsa production companys documentary video series on Israel came to a conclusion this week.

The final segment of Impact Productions 13-part series Why Israel Matters aired Tuesday on the Trinity Broadcasting Network and will soon be available on DVD. It can be viewed in its entirety at tbn.org/programs/why-israel-matters.

Impact Productions produces television series, documentaries and feature films with inspirational and faith content, said Micah Barnard, producer of the Israel series.

Each episode of the series focuses on one major theme and explores that theme through personal stories, he said.

For example, one episode is about making aliyah, referring to Jews who were raised around the world returning to Israel to make it their home.

That episode tells the stories of three people who moved to Israel: a Jewish girl who grew up in China; an Ethiopian who was part of Operation Moses, in which 3,000 Ethiopian Jews were airlifted to safety from Sudan during a civil war there; and a childhood friend of Anne Franks who survived the Auschwitz concentration camp.

Barnard said he had never been to Israel before shooting this documentary.

It was just amazing how it opened my eyes to see the impact such a small nation has had on the world, he said.

Most visitors to Israel hit the tourist sites, he said, and never connect with the people.

Its so important to connect with the actual people of Israel, he said. We see through the lens of politics and the view of what the media wants us to see.

But to go over there and hear from the people, and sit in their homes and share coffee and meals with them, its different.

He urged people to look past the news headlines and actually explore Israel for what it is.

Tom Newman, founder of Impact Productions, said the Why Israel Matters series started with a conversation over breakfast with Mat Staver, head of Liberty Counsel, a high-profile law firm that defends Christian values and supports the nation of Israel. Liberty Counsel sends college students to Israel to learn about the nation.

Out of that conversation came the idea to make a documentary series to educate people about modern Israel, Newman said.

A lot of people dont realize how important Israel is.

The number of Nobel Prize winners from Israel is staggering. … People have no idea, he said.

Impact Productions contracted with Tulsa filmmaker Andrea Jobe to direct the series.

Jobe, with her husband, is founder of Pivot Films in Tulsa.

She said when Impact first approached her, she was not interested in going to Israel, but once there, I did a 180-degree turn. It was just so fascinating on every level imaginable.

Im very pleased with it (the series); I just wish each story could have been its own feature film, she said.

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Tulsa company’s film series on Israel coincides with Trump visit – Tulsa World

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May 28, 2017   Posted in: Ethiopian Jews  Comments Closed

Memorial Day for Ethiopian Jews – Atlanta Jewish Times

Wednesday, May 24, is being observed as a day of remembrance in Israel for Ethiopian Jews who died in trying to make aliyah.

More than 4,000 Ethiopian Jews died in the process of making their way to Israel, either in refugee camps in Sudan or somewhere along the route. They are remembered as heroes for their inspiration and their sacrifice for Judaism and religious freedom, said Habtnesh Ezra, the president of the Ethiopian Jewry Foundation.

The magnitude of suffering, struggling, pain, agony, as well as the indignations they went through, especially the women during their exhausting, long journey through the desert and the waiting time in the refugee camps even with the passage of time, we may never really come to fully know and to truly appreciate the sacrifices they endured for Kiddush HaShem, or sanctification for G-d, Ezra said.

The Ethiopian Jewry Foundation asks for those 4,000 to be remembered in your prayers May 24.

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Memorial Day for Ethiopian Jews – Atlanta Jewish Times

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May 25, 2017   Posted in: Ethiopian Jews  Comments Closed

Atlantan Angry at Israel for Forgetting Ethiopians – Atlanta Jewish Times

Gene Rubel doesnt mince words to express his outrage with the government of Israel.

Rubel, a Pittsburgh native who has lived in Atlanta for 20 years, isnt complaining about settlements or the lack of egalitarian prayer at the Western Wall. Instead, he uses terms such as bureaucratic malfeasance and racism about the behavior of the Israeli government toward Jews still living in squalor in Ethiopia, waiting to immigrate to Israel and be reunited with family members there.

I heard a lecture a few weeks ago in which it was said that there are no more Jewish refugees in the world anymore; thats not true, Rubel said. Some of these Ethiopians have been there for 20 years waiting to go to Israel. Some people are saying its necessary to build a social welfare program to help them in Ethiopia, but there already is one in Israel.

Since the early 1950s, the Jewish Agency for Israel has helped 90,000 Ethiopians make aliyah.

But Rubels complaints are related to a decision the Israeli government made in August to establish a system to interview people and make a list of those eligible to still make aliyah. In 2016, none were brought; 1,600 are supposed to be brought this year.

Gene Rubel visits with Ethiopian immigrant Talila while she is receiving steroid treatments at an absorption center in Jerusalem in 2013.

He said the Interior Ministry is supposed to create a list but hasnt done it. The Ministry of Absorption funding is available. The people just need to go through a two-minute conversion because they are already Jewish. The primary list is based on those who have relatives in Israel. The funds are allocated to hire people and for the travel.

But nothing is happening, so Rubel, a former CEO of Jewish Healthcare International, has decided to start a movement to pressure the Israeli government to fulfill its commitment.

This is a failure of the Israeli government to do what it says it will do. These Ethiopians dont have any advocates, he said. I decided I need to create a grassroots push in Israel and the United States.

Rubel, who lived in Israel as a child in 1954 and as a college student in 1961, is fluent in Hebrew and has two children who made aliyah. He said he keeps up with news from Israel more than news in Sandy Springs.

Enlisting the help of Melissa Goldberg, a marketing communications professional, Rubel has launched a website (www.aliyafalashmura.org) to explain the situation of the Ethiopian Jews, referred to as Falashmura, and enlist the support of American Jews and Israelis.

He initiated meetings with local rabbis by talking with Congregation Or Hadash Rabbi Analia Bortz and presented his campaign on behalf of the Ethiopians at a recent Shabbat service there. He is reaching out to other rabbis and Jewish community leaders to urge them to spread the word and contact Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders.

Rubels activism isnt limited to the United States. He has enlisted the support of the Jewish Agency, which appears ready to help settle the Ethiopians in Israel. But a planeload of about 17 families, all identified before the Israeli governments August decision, was postponed from May 17 and now is scheduled for Tuesday, June 6.

Rubel has reached out to the Israeli Ministry of Interior, which is supposed to create the new lists of eligible Ethiopians. He has requested a weekly report on the number of those interviewed and the number registered as meeting the criteria, but he hasnt received a response. Given the three-week period for Ministry of Health and other processes between the time a family is registered and flown, I infer that no new registrations have been processed by the Ministry of Interior. As we say in Hebrew, busha vecherpa: They should be ashamed.

Referring to the latest delay, Rubel said the interviewing of families to determine eligibility for aliyah was supposed to take place last fall. It is a disgrace that we are now almost five months into 2017, and not a single family has been registered. Meanwhile, thousands of people are living in hovels with little food and no medical care. It is a disgrace that the Israeli government has allowed this to happen and even a greater disgrace that there is virtually no organized condemnation of this sorry state of affairs. Where are the Israeli human rights organizations? Where is the U.S. Jewish community? Where are the rabbis? Where are the shuls? Where are the Jewish Federations?

He said he wrote to several Knesset members who conducted a hearing in March, but he has received no response. The Times of Israel reported in March that Knesset members Eli Alaluf (Kulanu), David Amsalem (Likud) and Avraham Neguise (Likud) accused the Interior Ministry of setting deliberate obstacles to scuttle Ethiopian aliyah.

The Times of Israel also reported that the last plane carrying Ethiopians, with 63 aboard, arrived at Ben Gurion International Airport in October.

Im trying to raise public awareness of this issue, Rubel said. We have some people who are in trouble, and I want to know, what are we going to do to help them?

He said Israel suffers from substantial racism and classism, resulting in a disproportionate number of Ethiopian immigrants working as hotel cleaners.

His goal right now is for the first Ethiopian Jew identified under the Israeli governments August decree to be transported to Israel, Rubel said. Once the first one goes, that means theres a process in place. Then well figure out how to get the rest to Israel. The objective is to have 50 olim every month, but if theres the reported 9,000, its going to take a while to get them all to Israel.

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Atlantan Angry at Israel for Forgetting Ethiopians – Atlanta Jewish Times

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May 25, 2017   Posted in: Ethiopian Jews  Comments Closed

Israel revels in undivided Jerusalem – Intermountain Jewish News

Israeli students participate in the annual flag dance from downtown Jerusalem to the Western Wall. (Kobi Richter/TPS)

JERULALEM Thousands of Jerusalemites and Israelis from around the country capitalized on a temperate, sunny day Wednesday, May 24, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the citys liberation during the 1967 Six Day War.

The reunification of the city ended a 19-year period of Jordanian occupation following the War of Independence in 1948.

President Reuven Rivlin opened the official celebration on the evening of May 23 at the Western Wall, where he spoke about the difficult battle for the city in 1967, and recalled the moment he heard the Old City had been secured under Israeli control.

We gave our all for Jerusalem because we knew that on Jerusalem we must insist, said the President at the Western Wall.

We will always insist on Jerusalem, Rivlin reiterated. There never has been, there never will be any other reality. Here, in these stones, beats the heart of the Jewish people. Jerusalem is the heart of the State of Israel, and the Kotel is the heart of Jerusalem.

Colonel Motta Gurs call The Temple Mount is in our hands! over an IDF wireless device on June 7, 1967 quickly became a defining moment for a generation of Israelis. Jerusalem Day is celebrated according to the Hebrew calendar; in 1967, June 7 was on 28 Iyar, which this year coincided with May 24.

The capture of the Old City came two days after Israel launched a preemptive strike against Egyptian forces in response to Cairos closure of the Straits of Tiran.

The attack ignited war with Egypt and Syria, but Prime Minister Levi Eshkol sent word to Jordans King Hussein that Israel would not attack the Jordanians if they did not enter the war.

However, Hussein refused and began shelling Jewish communities in western Jerusalem. Israel responded and gained control of the eastern part of the city during the fighting.

In all, Israel tripled in size during the war, gaining control of the Sinai Peninsula, the Golan Heights, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and eastern Jerusalem.

However, since the war, Israels claim of sovereignty in Jerusalem and the holy sites has been the subject of international dispute.

Rivlin urged Jerusalem as a symbol of unity instead of dispute between peoples and called for bringing peace to Jerusalem.

The city of Jerusalem that was once a divided city is the same city where Jews and Arabs, religious and secular people, find the space to live together, to meet and get to know each other; to build a shared Jerusalem, together, he said.

Hundreds of people participated in the ceremony, including representatives of the IDF units that liberated Jerusalem in 1967, current IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot and Mayor of Jerusalem Nir Barkat, who paid tribute to the fallen soldiers who liberated the Old City and the Western Wall. According to the Foreign Ministry, between 776 and 983 IDF soldiers were killed during the battle for Jerusalem, 4,517 people were wounded and 15 Israeli soldiers were taken prisoner.

In the Knesset, a special plenum to mark the occasion was held on Wednesday, with government officials and opposition leaders commemorating the fallen soldiers while also promoting their political agendas.

[Israel] saved Jerusalem from neglect and distress, and we developed it successfully to become a high point in all areas, said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. What used to be here in Jerusalem? We must tell the truth Jerusalem, like the entire Land of Israel, was a marginal and desolate province in the Ottoman Empire.

He called Jerusalem an oasis of peace and interfaith within a turbulent and uncompromising Middle East, but said it faces a paradox: The more we continue to develop the city and preserve its unique character, the more the denial and lies regarding the connection of the Jewish people to its capital intensify.

The Western Wall is our identity card and testament to who was here and what brought us back to our homeland. We will not return to a situation where we stand overlooking while being unable to access it, Netanyahu concluded.

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog lauded the historical and cultural accomplishments of Jerusalem but warned that the citys demographic and geographic trends could bring about the failure of the dream the Six Day War fighters sacrificed for.

He mentioned recent statistics on Jerusalem indicating a negative migration trend, lower matriculation rates compared to the national rates, a distinct socio-economic weakness and an Arab population growth two times larger than its Jewish counterpart.

We need to ask ourselves if the earthly Jerusalem is up to par with the Jerusalem of Gold, stated Herzog.

The only way to preserve a Jewish Jerusalem for a Jewish state is to materialize the vision of the two-state solution and to separate ourselves from as many Palestinians as possible, he asserted. Only by separating from [neighborhoods such as] Shuafat and Issawiya will we truly unify and conquer Jerusalem.

Among the attendees at the Knesset session were Rivlin, Supreme Court President Miriam Naor and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat.

In a special Army Radio broadcast in honor of Jerusalem Day, Barkat said that Jerusalem is booming. We see it in the number and diversity of tourists, in the hi-tech sector, cultural renaissance, the tremendous investment in infrastructure for public transportation, new light rails, network cabling, among other things.

Jerusalem is becoming more attractive, not just for tourists but also for Israeli young people and its own residents, continued Barkat. I am sure this process will grow and flourish as long as we continue to invest in Jerusalem.

The Jerusalem Institute for Policy Research reported that the number of hi-tech employees in Jerusalem over the last two years has spiked by 28% (compared to a national average of 8%).

Barkat also said that Jerusalem is a successful story of coexistence, with many Arab residents living in Jewish neighborhoods, or haredi Orthodox Jerusalemites living in secular neighborhoods.

However, the 2017 Jewish People Policy Institute interim report on Jerusalem also indicates that many Jews around the world and in Israel feel that Jerusalem is not moving in the right direction, especially due to concerns about Jewish-Arab relations and religious pluralism.

According to Barkat, development budgets grew from half a billion shekels to three billion shekels under his leadership, but the city still faces important challenges.

The government helps Jerusalem residents in a difficult socio-economic situation by helping them with tax credits, but unfortunately the state does not make up for the socio-economic deficits the city incurs as a consequence, explained Barkat.

We do have work plans to address the citys needs for development, upgrading the infrastructure and improving the education system, Barkat said, but we still require more capital to move forward.

We all still have a lot of work to do to transform the saying If I forget you Jerusalem into a practical reality, said Barkat. Fortunately, if every person connects to Jerusalem in different ways, the love for the city is present in the hearts of each and every Israeli.

For the Ethiopian Israeli community, Jerusalem Day is also marked as a remembrance day. Ethiopian Israelis, Knesset members and Prime Minister Netanyahu held an official ceremony at Mt. Herzl on Wednesday with thanksgiving prayers and memorial services for community members who perished on the arduous journey from Ethiopia to Israel.

We all have strong feelings about Jerusalem Day, said Nava Asmare, a 42-year-old mother of three who was born in a small village in Ethiopia in 1975 and immigrated to Israel at the age of 10.

On one hand, there is an intense feeling of gratitude and humility that we made it to Jerusalem and to the Land of Israel.

On the other hand, it is the day we remember all the people who dreamed about Jerusalem but never made it here.

Asmares 10-month old sister died in her mothers arms during the journey.

When Ethiopian Jews began immigrating to Israel during the 1980s and 90s, the journey was often treacherous, marked by thousand-mile walks through hostile territory, hunger, sickness and wild animals. Veterans of the move remember people dropping and dying like flies in transit camps, waiting to be airlifted to Israel in 1984 during Operation Moses and during Operation Solomon in 1991.

According to Asmare, the lofty, mythical ideas of Jerusalem that many Ethiopian Jews grew up with led to a strong sense of a disconnection when they finally arrived in the Holy City.

I absolutely believed that Jerusalem would be this magical place, a real Jerusalem of gold, she said. We all did. We thought we would get to Jerusalem and be blinded by the gold and the light and the sanctity.

Of course, thats not Jerusalem today. We celebrate the unification of Jerusalem today, but we also know that in some ways the city is broken, not unified. Theres the upper, heavenly Jerusalem and the earthly Jerusalem. The Jerusalem of our dreams versus the actual city. So there are many, many mixed emotions, Asmare added.

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May 25, 2017   Posted in: Ethiopian Jews  Comments Closed

Former Clevelander Eliezer Jaffe, Israel Free Loan Assn. founder, dies at 84 – Cleveland Jewish News

Former Clevelander Eliezer (David) Jaffe, founder and president of The Israel Free Loan Association and a professor at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, died May 25 in Jerusalem. He was 84.

Jaffe, who made aliyah in 1960, started the IFLA in the 1980s to assist Russian and Ethiopian Jews who were moving in large numbers to Israel.

The idea for a free loan fund was born in 1989 after a visit to an immigrant absorption center in Jerusalem.

I brought my children along, he said at the time. Busloads of Ethiopian Jewish immigrants, straight off the airplane, had just arrived at the center and I explained that they were witnessing history in the making the in-gathering of the exiles. After we got home I thought to myself I have to get involved.

The IFLA has loaned more than $240 million and made more than 54,000 loans.

He also established Hebrew Universitys School of Social Work and co-founded the universitys Center for the Study of Philanthropy.

Jaffe was one of four recipients of the Knesset Speaker’s Prize for Quality of Life in Israel.

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Former Clevelander Eliezer Jaffe, Israel Free Loan Assn. founder, dies at 84 – Cleveland Jewish News

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The uses and abuses of anti-Semitism | SocialistWorker.org – Socialist Worker Online

Marching in Boston against Israeli apartheid

IT SEEMS On Semitism is intended to be used as a tool–there are study questions, suggested readings. What is your hope for this book?

Rebecca Vilkomerson: The more the conversation about Israel changes, the more it stays the same–there are some fundamental questions that come up over and over again that we need to untangle in order to have a breakthrough. Anti-Semitism is one of those questions.

It’s fundamental to JVP’s mission: fighting against bigotry in all its forms, including anti-Semitism. We want to open up a conversation, one in which the ways that anti-Semitism affects both Jewish lives and other communities gets proper weight, but also that will help people to distinguish between actual anti-Semitism and legitimate critique of Israel.

My own Jewish education was very much Holocaust-Israel, Holocaust-Israel. Jewishness as an identity was drilled into us as a legacy of oppression and discrimination, with statehood as the answer. With the establishment of Israel seen as the endpoint of that legacy, it created a reality where criticism of the state was assumed to be a criticism of Jewish people. You need to have tools with how to grapple with that, and unlearn that stuff, and have a much richer conversation.

THE CHARGE of anti-Semitism can be uniquely powerful, relative to other words like “racist” or “sexist” or “homophobe.” There’s particularity about what that charge can do to a person when made publicly. Why is that?

Rebecca Vilkomerson: In an ideal world, acts of Islamophobia or a charge of racism would be just as terrifying as acts of anti-Semitism. But the term has become so broad, and so associated with Israel instead of with actual acts of prejudice against Jewish people, that it’s also ripe for abuse.

Since Trump’s election, expressions of anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic actions have actually come closer to the U.S. power structure in a way that I certainly haven’t experienced in my lifetime. In an atmosphere like this one, we do want to hold on to the idea that anti-Semitism is not acceptable.

But there is now a dishonesty around the word “anti-Semitism” that has made it very hard to have honest conversations about Israel or Palestinian rights. It’s made it easy to throw around accusations that are extremely damaging.

As Jews, JVP can play a very particular role in breaking down what is real anti-Semitism and what is a political accusation against the state of Israel. People need permission to be able to articulate those critiques, and to know that it’s about speaking up for human rights–not about being against the Jewish people.

RABBI ROSEN, your chapter takes up the rising number of anti-Semitic attacks across Europe. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rarely fails to use these attacks as opportunities to urge Jews emigrate to the safety of Israel. He’s essentially suggesting the only solution to anti-Semitism is ethnic separatism.

There’s a memorable anecdote related in the book, of a Netanyahu visit to France following the Jewish market attack January 2015. After he delivered his message in a Paris synagogue, the congregation rose to their feet and burst into the French national anthem. Not knowing what to do, he just stood there.

Brant Rosen: The Israeli government has been quick to pounce on every anti-Semitic attack in Europe to promote Jewish immigration to Israel, but we’ve heard nothing but crickets in response to the uptick of anti-Semitic hate acts in the United States since Trump’s election. The reason is obvious: Israel is eager to promote the narrative that “radical Islam” is the most serious anti-Semitic threat in the world. They’ve been far less eager to protest the rise of the radical right in Europe, and now in the United States, because Israel’s own political culture is increasingly dominated by the far right.

It’s fascinating to see how the newly emboldened alt-right in the United States has publicly embraced Israeli nationalism as an example of ethnic separatism that they would like to emulate. Alt-right leader Richard Spencer speaks admiringly of Israel as a home for Jews, and promotes white separation here along the same lines. (Of course, this “kindler, gentler” form of white supremacy is only a fig leaf for a more insidious vision of a “Judenrein” United States.)

FOR THE section of the European far right looking to go mainstream, the targeting of Jews has almost disappeared. A generation ago, National Front leader Jean-Marie Le Pen was not shy about anti-Jewish rhetoric. His daughter, Marine Le Pen, has totally eliminated that rhetoric in her bid for president and replaced it with attacks on Arabs and Muslims. With an influx of Arab and Muslim immigrants since 2015, and in the absence of any principled opposition from the French left, this shift has had some resonance.

Rabbi Rosen, you write, “as the refugees started coming in by the tens of thousands per day starting about a year ago, Europe became a safer place to be Jewish.” The same tools and tropes have been turned from Jewish scapegoating towards Arabs and Muslims. But despite this, there is clearly fertile ground to pit Jews against Arabs and Muslims and vice versa. How is this playing out?

Brant Rosen: The European right would love nothing better than to set European Jews and Muslims against one another. Not coincidentally, Israel is using the same playbook: they are finding common cause with European rightists by fomenting Islamophobia and painting Muslims as the common enemy of the West.

Those who are truly concerned with Jewish safety and security have to reject this narrative unabashedly. Our safety and security will not come by throwing in with the oppressors; it can only come through solidarity with the oppressed.

THE “NEW anti-Semitism” is a term Zionists are using more frequently, as an update of “anti-Semitism” to include criticism of Israel. How do they draw that direct line from anti-Semitism to criticism of Israel?

Rebecca Vilkomerson: There was a very deliberate schema set out by certain Jewish organizations to define Israel as “the Jew of the world.” The idea is that Israel is a person, and in the same way that Jews are discriminated against by non-Jews, Israel as the Jewish state is discriminated against by non-Jewish countries around the world. Therefore, every criticism of Israel is a reflection of anti-Semitism.

This is dangerous, but also effective, because it delegitimizes any criticism of Israel. Countries like France or the United States or Ghana can be criticized based on their political actions, both to their own citizenry and around the world. That’s a completely legitimate thing for people to talk about. Rather than Israel being a country like any other, the “new anti-Semitism” redefines what kind of criticisms are valid by putting this personhood on Israel.

It also does the reverse: It implicates all Jews into the Israeli project.

The Israeli government has made explicit claims that it is the nation of all the Jews, not a nation of its citizens. If you’re a Jew, you’re born with potential Israeli nationality. That’s why any Jew from around the world can come in and automatically become a citizen of the state of Israel, even as Palestinian citizens of Israel have less rights and state resources than Jewish Israelis. So all Jews around the world are de facto made a part of this Israeli project.

Of course, equating “Israel” with “Jews” erases the 25 percent of Israeli citizens who are not Jewish and ignores the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza entirely, where only Jewish Israelis have the rights of citizens.

It’s been also very successful within the Jewish community in getting people to see Israel as the expression of their Jewishness. They see Israel as their Jewishness, so an attack on Israel is made to feel like an attack on them. So something like the Gaza war happens, and Jewish communities have huge rallies in defense of Israel.

The phrase “anti-Israel” has become anathema. You can’t say that you’re anti-Israel, and being called anti-Israel is seen as the equivalent of being called anti-Semitic. But being anti-Israel is totally legitimate. If you’re a Palestinian who’s lost their home, lost their livelihood, is facing daily oppression, or you’re a refugee and you can’t go back, of course you’re anti-Israel. Israel is the country that has done these things to you!

The “anti-Israel is anti-Semitic” component discounts these facts and makes the conversation into a psychological thing, an irrational hatred of Jews, instead of one that is structural and fact-based. For those of us who are Jewish, we have a responsibility to say, you can hate the state of Israel, and that doesn’t mean you’re anti-Semitic.

OMAR BARGHOUTI argues in his chapter that the claim “criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic” is itself anti-Semitic.

Rebecca Vilkomerson: It flattens the Jewish experience. It discounts the historically constant Jewish strains of anti-Zionism–or non-Zionism, or post-Zionism, whatever you want to call it–that have always existed since Zionism was created. It ignores the vastly different experiences depending if you are an Ashkenazi (from Europe) Jew or a Mizrachi/Sephardi Jew, or Ethiopian Jew. When you’re talking about any sort of bigotry, part of the definition is the idea that you can make one overarching generalization about that people.

IN JUDITH Butler’s introduction, she writes, “Distinguishing among the very different historical trajectories of Ashkenazi, Sephardic, and Mizrahi Jews breaks up a monolithic understanding of what it is to be a Jew, and so deprives anti-Semitism of its noxious habit of vulgar generalization.” She’s saying that actually to draw out Judaism, in all its diversity, is to combat anti-Semitism. Isn’t it then true that by collapsing all Jews into one thing, support for Israel, Zionists create more fertile ground for anti-Semitism?

Rebecca Vilkomerson: Yeah. There’s also a deep sadness to it. A lot of rhetoric that comes out of Israel is that the only way that you can be Jewish–in a real way–is to be Israeli. The result is a loss of a very diverse and beautiful set of Jewish cultures. There’s something deeply sad about that.

OVER THE past couple of years, Israel passed a number of laws attempting to ban some form of the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement in Israel. First, small-business owners could sue Israeli BDS activists for damages if their business had been impacted. Now, known BDS activists from anywhere in the world are banned from Israel.

Rebecca Vilkomerson: The ban on BDS activists going in, for me personally, is a particularly sad moment. I have in-laws who are about to turn 80 there, I have family there and friends there.

ARE YOU not able to travel to Israel?

Rebecca Vilkomerson: I assume not. We’ll see how the law gets implemented.

YOU’RE A fairly prominent activist.

Rebecca Vilkomerson: The bill makes overt a policy that was already happening beneath the surface. Palestinians, Arabs, Muslims, people who look Muslim according to the customs agents at the Israeli border, people of color–it’s basically a racial-profiling system, of which Israelis seem very proud. They’re trying to sell it, actually, in these police exchanges that they do with the United States–selling this racial-profiling system for how they let people in and out.

This bill brings all that to the surface, by Israel saying that whole categories of people are being targeted for their political beliefs, so people like me are being added in to the people who have already been targeted historically. As the BDS movement becomes stronger and stronger, the Israeli state is going to try to clamp down harder and harder. It’s evidence of how scared they are of BDS, and what an impact it’s having on them. There’s no way to legislate away BDS. Not letting me into Israel is not going to keep me from supporting BDS. I think it’s actually going to make more liberal Zionists say, “Well, if they’re not going to let me in, then I may as well support the full call for BDS.” And it may make a lot more people who may not know much about Israel or Palestinians at all question how much of a democracy Israel really is.

With this increasing repression, the Israeli state is overreaching in a way that is helpful for understanding the degree to which the Israeli government is engaged in extreme forms of antidemocratic governance.

U.S. LAW has begun to use definitions of anti-Semitism that include criticism of Israel, making it some form of hate speech to criticize Israel.

Rebecca Vilkomerson: Some of the bigger Jewish organizations that have a lot of resources have specifically used recent acts of anti-Semitism as a way to suppress conversation on this issue. Most recently was the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act–a federal bill intended to codify criticism of Israel as anti-Semitic, which was fast-tracked through the Senate. The depth of the hypocrisy behind that bill was so clear when it was brought out right as Steve Bannon became a key adviser to Trump, and all of a sudden we were seeing a rise of anti-Semitic incidents and no response from the Trump administration.

The bill was a joint effort of American Israel Public Affairs Committee and the Anti-Defamation League, and is based on years of work in advancing a definition of anti-Semitism that is extremely dangerous. It could potentially make dissent about Israel illegal.

The Anti-Semitism Awareness Act did not go forward in the House (so far, at least) thanks to good organizing that JVP was a part of.

AS YOU mentioned, following Trump’s election, there was a sharp rise in reports of anti-Semitic attacks. Given how little it takes for Trump to go on the attack against something–SNL parodies of his administration, for example–you’d think he would have more to say about anti-Semitic attacks.

He’s called them reprehensible, but more often suggested that these attacks were “false flags” committed by political enemies to smear him. When actual anti-Semitism happens, it gets downplayed or ignored.

Meanwhile, anti-BDS legislation is moving forward in a variety of ways in national and state legislatures. Is the “new anti-Semitism” pushing actual anti-Semitism off the table and keeping only criticism of Israel?

Rebecca Vilkomerson: Since Trump’s election, support for Israel is overtly being offered as a defense against anti-Semitism. Public figures are essentially saying, “I can’t be anti-Semitic, I support Israel.” Then right-wing Jewish organizations, which spend a lot of time accusing BDS activists of being anti-Semitic, don’t make a peep when those kinds of excuses for these acts are thrown out there. Actual acts against Jews in the United States become de-prioritized; the only measure of anti-Semitism is how much you support the state of Israel.

AND THE United States has been importing this strategy over the last five years. “The world’s greatest democracy” is now curtailing free speech and attacking speech as hate speech, in order to defend their relationship with “the only democracy in the Middle East,” which is busy rolling out all sorts of antidemocratic measures.

Rebecca Vilkomerson: The United States already gives Israel more foreign aid than any country in the entire world. We already use all of our diplomatic, economic, military force to allow Israel to keep doing what it’s doing. Of course, the United States is not new to repression of its own people and its own forms of the security state. But the way that they are allying with one another is actually clarifying.

We have all these people who are newly activated and so upset about Trump. This is the moment when those people need to be brought into these fights.

We have an opportunity to say to them, “If you’re against the Muslim ban here in the United States, you should be concerned about the fact that Israel has had a de facto Muslim ban and a Christian ban for many decades. If you want to be consistent about your politics, you’re going to have to speak out about both of these things, and start to reconcile the fact that you have one set of criteria for the United States and another for Israel.”

There’s a lot of room right now to have those conversations with people, especially because it’s this elevated, activating moment where people have their minds open to really be able to talk about those parallels and what it means. If you as a political person identify with the values of equality, and freedom, and free access to countries, and refugee rights, and immigrant rights, you need to take a critical look at Israel.

JVP IS really growing–you now have over 12,000 dues-paying members. Why are so many people finding and joining JVP?

Rebecca Vilkomerson: Peter Beinart wrote a piece recently that I found extremely strange. I often appreciate his writing and how he’s openly wrestling with lots of issues. But in this article, in reaction to Israel’s ban on BDS activists, he wrote that he just wants his kids to love Israel. When they’re older they can wrestle with it, but for now he just wants them to have the space of love for it. So he tries to protect them from the realities of Israel.

To me, that’s the exact recipe for what we see with people coming into JVP who have been fed this Disney-fied picture of Israel. They feel completely betrayed when they find out it’s not the land of milk and honey that was empty and made for them, and start to understand the realities and look at the global context. The realities of life in Israel can’t be brushed aside. People are smarter than that.

Especially in this politically charged moment, people are looking for a place where they can be their authentic whole selves–where they can be Jewish and also fight strongly against Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. People come to JVP because they find that here, and also they find a place where we are doing it powerfully and in deep partnership with Palestinian allies and other communities.

First published in Jacobin.

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The uses and abuses of anti-Semitism | SocialistWorker.org – Socialist Worker Online

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Sites Trump Will Visit in His Holy Land Trip – Naharnet

When U.S. President Donald Trump lands in Tel Aviv on Monday for the Israeli-Palestinian leg of his trip, he will hold talks with leaders from both sides, but also visit key sites:

– Church of the Holy Sepulcher –

Located in the Old City of Jerusalem’s annexed eastern sector, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher contains a 19th-century shrine built on the site where tradition says Jesus was buried and resurrected.

The ornate shrine recently underwent a $3.7-million renovation that restored its stones to their original reddish-yellow and reinforced the heavily visited site.

The church draws tens of thousands of Christian pilgrims for the “Holy Fire” ceremony, the highlight of the Eastern Christian calendar, which takes place on the eve of Orthodox Easter.

One of Christianity’s holiest sites, the church is shared by six denominations: the Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Armenian Orthodox, Egyptian Copts, Syrian Orthodox and Ethiopian Orthodox.

– The Western Wall –

The Western Wall is the last remnant of the supporting wall of the second Jewish temple, built by King Herod and destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.

The holiest site where Jews can pray, the Western Wall is located in the Old City of east Jerusalem, which Israel occupied in 1967 and later annexed.

It is situated below the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, Islam’s third holiest site, referred to by Jews as the Temple Mount.

The Western Wall’s plaza serves as a place of gender-segregated Jewish prayer, administered by the ultra-Orthodox Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitz, who will accompany Trump on his visit there.

Trump will be the first sitting U.S. president to visit the site, where it is customary to place notes containing prayers and requests between the stones.

The White House reportedly refused to allow Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to join Trump at the site, known in Hebrew as the Kotel (wall).

Israel sees all of Jerusalem as its undivided capital, while the Palestinians view east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

When Trump’s envoy to Israel David Friedman arrived to take up his position this month, his first act was to visit the Western Wall, where he prayed and kissed the ancient stones.

– Yad Vashem –

Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, perched on a forested hillside in west Jerusalem, is among the world’s foremost Holocaust education, documentation and research centers.

The vast complex includes a variety of monuments, archives and displays, including the Hall of Names with its cone structure featuring pictures of Holocaust victims, and the Garden of the Righteous Among the Nations, where thousands of trees are dedicated to non-Jews who saved Jews during the Holocaust.

Dignitaries and celebrities visiting Israel nearly always find the time for Yad Vashem, which is the second-most visited site in Israel after the Western Wall.

Yad Vashem recently urged White House press secretary Sean Spicer to visit its website after he said that unlike the Syrian regime, Adolf Hitler did not use chemical weapons. Spicer later apologized for his “insensitive” remarks.

More than six million predominantly European Jews were killed during the Nazi genocide in World War II, many of them by poisonous gas.

– Israel Museum –

Not far from Yad Vashem is the Israel Museum, where Trump is set to deliver a speech, after the more exotic location of the desert fortress Masada was ruled out.

The museum boasts a collection of nearly 500,000 objects of art and archeology, ancient and modern, including the Dead Sea Scrolls which date back more than two millennia and include some of the earliest texts from the Bible.

In 2013, then-president Barack Obama viewed the Dead Sea Scrolls at the museum in a move seen as a nod to the ancient roots of the Jewish state.

– Bethlehem –

Trump is due to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem, located in the West Bank, occupied by Israel for 50 years.

It is the “little town” where Christians believe Jesus Christ was born and it attracts thousands of pilgrims at Christmas.

Located just 10 kilometers (six miles) from Jerusalem across Israel’s separation wall, it is the site of the Church of the Nativity, which contains an underground cave where Christians believe Mary gave birth to Jesus.

Israel’s separation wall is part of a project begun in 2002 during the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising, that is to extend around 700 kilometers (450 miles) once completed. It is a stark symbol of the occupation for Palestinians, and in Bethlehem it has been covered by graffiti and street art.

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Sites Trump Will Visit in His Holy Land Trip – Naharnet

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According to JTA, which cites Rabi’s Hebrew-language bio, she served as a medic in the Israeli Air Force and has … – Tablet Magazine

A new Miss Israel has been crowned, a Millennial model from Jerusalem named Rotem Rabi whose win is being covered as a social media victory because online voting factored in the decision. And kudos to her: Instagram (and Facebook) is the name of the game, and she does this well, Im told, enough to beat out 15 other contestant to take the title. Next: the Worlds in China in December. No Israeli has won since Linor Abargil in 1998.

According to JTA, which cites Rabis Hebrew-language bio, she served as a medic in the Israeli Air Force and has worked as a model while starting the process to join theIsrael Polices investigative division. She dropped out of the Miss Israel contestlast year to accept a modeling contract in Milan.

The timing of her win is interesting in one sense because Gal Gadot, Miss Israel 2004, has become a veritable Hollywood star. Her upcoming solo flick, Wonder Woman, should made oodles of cash,regardless of how goodor bad it is. Perhaps Rabis star will rise still.

Rabis victory reminds me of a fantastic article by Daniel Estrin about the outspoken Ethiopian-born Yityish Titi Aynaw, Israels Bold New Queen, who won the competition in 2013. (Notably, the Miss Israel contest has been held every year since 1950). In it, Estrin details Aynawslong Cinderella journey to Israel.

Born in a small township near Gondar in northwest Ethiopia, she was orphaned by age 10. Her father died a year after she was bornshe never found out howand a decade later her mother died of a sudden illness. Her mothers parents, who had already uprooted to Israel in 2000, arranged for her and her brother to move, too.

Aynaw grew up like many Ethiopian Jews, dreaming of going to Israel. I was told this was the land of milk and honey, she said, laughing. That Id go on the street, bend down, and pick up golden coins. Id open the faucet and milk would pour out.

In March 2003, Aynaw and her brother flew via Kenya to Israel. Her grandparents, whom she had hardly remembered, brought them to their hardscrabble immigrant neighborhood in the seaside town of Netanya. Without knowing a word of Hebrew, she was shuffled off to a religious Jewish boarding school in Haifa catering to new immigrants. Today her Hebrew is accentless and expressive. They threw me into the deep water. But thats how you learn to swim the best, she said.

Read the rest of Estrins piece here, and congratulations to Rotem Rabi.

Previous: The Chosen Ones: An Interview With Titi Aynaw

Jonathan Zalman, a staff editor, runs The Scroll, Tablet’s news blog.

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According to JTA, which cites Rabi’s Hebrew-language bio, she served as a medic in the Israeli Air Force and has … – Tablet Magazine

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keeping the faith…. | Editorials | thesuburban.com – The Suburban Newspaper

This week we commemorate the centenary of the birth of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy. The man who challenged the world to, Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country. We owe a duty of action, but not just that. We owe a duty of memory and witness to that universal message. Over the past week, the legacy of JFKs words was put into robust reality by so many of you. We would like to pay tribute to your endeavours that are testament to his clarion call of just over a century and a half ago. A call to be involved in the passions and tempers of our times. Human rights activists joined members of the Jewish community in remembering the 26th anniversary of Operation Solomon. It was the largest rescue operation in history. On May 24,1991, 35 Israeli planes transported tens of thousands of Ethiopian Jews to Israel. Without that miraculous effort, these Jews would have faced certain destruction.One of the military commanders reported that one grim reality made the numbers possible. These survivors had suffered such hardships, including starvation, that their bodies had deteriorated to an unbearable thinness. The commemoration took place at Congregation Shomrim Laboker which is the synagogue that welcomed the first Ethiopian Jews to arrive in Montreal and who still form a vital part of its community. The late Ethiopian rights activist Baruch Tegegne was instrumental in getting this operation the highest priority of the Israeli government. Much of his family lives in Montreal. The hundreds in attendance listened to former Justice Minister Irwin Cotler who was the keynote speaker at this years event. Cotler is entering his 40th year of advocacy on behalf of Ethiopian Jews. Also addressing the gathering were Deputy Israeli Consul-General Rotem Segev, Mount Royal MP Anthony Housefather and our own editor Beryl Wajsman. Last Saturday afternoon thousands of marchers representing some two dozen cultural communities took part in the annual March for Humanity and Genocide Prevention through the streets of downtown Montreal. This March was originally started by the Armenian National Committee in its drive to educate the public about the genocide of 1.5 million Armenians at the hands of the Ottoman Turks between 1915-1917. Their original efforts resulted in Prime Minister Harper giving official recognition to the Genocide. Over the years the Armenian community has attracted others to march with them . It was quite a sight to see Armenian, Greek, Israeli, Italian, Lebanese and so many other flags fluttering in the wind alongside the Maple Leaf and the Fleur-de-Lis. The Greek community in particular is now publicizing the history of the Pontic Genocide of 1913. Leading the march were the heads of the communities but it was all the more striking that they were joined by Mayor Denis Coderre, Deputy Mayor Mary Deros, federal Minister Mlanie Joly and Prof. Cotler. Never Again is a message that must be made real by action not just words and this past weekend it was. This past Sunday over a thousand members of the Irish community were joined by representatives of many other communities and organizations, including from this newspaper, in its annual March to The Stone. People came from as far away as Toronto, Ottawa and Quebec City to participate.We do not have to tell you that the Irish are a foundational people of this great city. Though this March takes place every year, it had a special importance this year. The Stone is the memorial to 6,000 Irish immigrants who succumbed to typhus in the great immigration of 1848-1850. Those dead represented some 10% of the population of Montreal at the time. The Stone sits in front of their graves. Sadly, the graveyard was covered over for a parking lot years ago. That was enough of a desecration.But now Hydro-Quebec wants to build a substation there and add further insult to injury. Well, the Fighting Irish are fighting back and many of us along with them. The March may not have been for the most joyous of reasons, but those three kilometers in the hot sun were worth the effort and it was a stirring event. Looking around, it was also a reminder of how deep and long friendships are not just between individuals but between people. The marchers have all been at the barricades in so many cases and causes. Despite its historic challenges, the Irish community and the leaders that have sprung from it continue to lead us all with an abiding sense of optimism, courage and grace. We salute the organizers Paul Loftus, Scott Phelan, Victor Boyle, Fergus Keyes, Tim Furlong, Danny Doyle and the elected officials who turned out including Mayor Coderre, NDP leader Tom Mulcair and MP Marc Miller. All your efforts, the difficult pursuit of all these causes, keep alive the dream embodied in another declaration of the late President. We choose to do these things not because they are easy but because they are hard and because they are necessary. Your actions are a living testament to the faith that has been kept.

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Tulsa company’s film series on Israel coincides with Trump visit – Tulsa World

As Donald Trump made his first visit to Israel as president, the airing of a Tulsa production companys documentary video series on Israel came to a conclusion this week. The final segment of Impact Productions 13-part series Why Israel Matters aired Tuesday on the Trinity Broadcasting Network and will soon be available on DVD. It can be viewed in its entirety at tbn.org/programs/why-israel-matters. Impact Productions produces television series, documentaries and feature films with inspirational and faith content, said Micah Barnard, producer of the Israel series. Each episode of the series focuses on one major theme and explores that theme through personal stories, he said. For example, one episode is about making aliyah, referring to Jews who were raised around the world returning to Israel to make it their home. That episode tells the stories of three people who moved to Israel: a Jewish girl who grew up in China; an Ethiopian who was part of Operation Moses, in which 3,000 Ethiopian Jews were airlifted to safety from Sudan during a civil war there; and a childhood friend of Anne Franks who survived the Auschwitz concentration camp. Barnard said he had never been to Israel before shooting this documentary. It was just amazing how it opened my eyes to see the impact such a small nation has had on the world, he said. Most visitors to Israel hit the tourist sites, he said, and never connect with the people. Its so important to connect with the actual people of Israel, he said. We see through the lens of politics and the view of what the media wants us to see. But to go over there and hear from the people, and sit in their homes and share coffee and meals with them, its different. He urged people to look past the news headlines and actually explore Israel for what it is. Tom Newman, founder of Impact Productions, said the Why Israel Matters series started with a conversation over breakfast with Mat Staver, head of Liberty Counsel, a high-profile law firm that defends Christian values and supports the nation of Israel. Liberty Counsel sends college students to Israel to learn about the nation. Out of that conversation came the idea to make a documentary series to educate people about modern Israel, Newman said. A lot of people dont realize how important Israel is. The number of Nobel Prize winners from Israel is staggering. … People have no idea, he said. Impact Productions contracted with Tulsa filmmaker Andrea Jobe to direct the series. Jobe, with her husband, is founder of Pivot Films in Tulsa. She said when Impact first approached her, she was not interested in going to Israel, but once there, I did a 180-degree turn. It was just so fascinating on every level imaginable. Im very pleased with it (the series); I just wish each story could have been its own feature film, she said.

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Memorial Day for Ethiopian Jews – Atlanta Jewish Times

Wednesday, May 24, is being observed as a day of remembrance in Israel for Ethiopian Jews who died in trying to make aliyah. More than 4,000 Ethiopian Jews died in the process of making their way to Israel, either in refugee camps in Sudan or somewhere along the route. They are remembered as heroes for their inspiration and their sacrifice for Judaism and religious freedom, said Habtnesh Ezra, the president of the Ethiopian Jewry Foundation. The magnitude of suffering, struggling, pain, agony, as well as the indignations they went through, especially the women during their exhausting, long journey through the desert and the waiting time in the refugee camps even with the passage of time, we may never really come to fully know and to truly appreciate the sacrifices they endured for Kiddush HaShem, or sanctification for G-d, Ezra said. The Ethiopian Jewry Foundation asks for those 4,000 to be remembered in your prayers May 24.

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Atlantan Angry at Israel for Forgetting Ethiopians – Atlanta Jewish Times

Gene Rubel doesnt mince words to express his outrage with the government of Israel. Rubel, a Pittsburgh native who has lived in Atlanta for 20 years, isnt complaining about settlements or the lack of egalitarian prayer at the Western Wall. Instead, he uses terms such as bureaucratic malfeasance and racism about the behavior of the Israeli government toward Jews still living in squalor in Ethiopia, waiting to immigrate to Israel and be reunited with family members there. I heard a lecture a few weeks ago in which it was said that there are no more Jewish refugees in the world anymore; thats not true, Rubel said. Some of these Ethiopians have been there for 20 years waiting to go to Israel. Some people are saying its necessary to build a social welfare program to help them in Ethiopia, but there already is one in Israel. Since the early 1950s, the Jewish Agency for Israel has helped 90,000 Ethiopians make aliyah. But Rubels complaints are related to a decision the Israeli government made in August to establish a system to interview people and make a list of those eligible to still make aliyah. In 2016, none were brought; 1,600 are supposed to be brought this year. Gene Rubel visits with Ethiopian immigrant Talila while she is receiving steroid treatments at an absorption center in Jerusalem in 2013. He said the Interior Ministry is supposed to create a list but hasnt done it. The Ministry of Absorption funding is available. The people just need to go through a two-minute conversion because they are already Jewish. The primary list is based on those who have relatives in Israel. The funds are allocated to hire people and for the travel. But nothing is happening, so Rubel, a former CEO of Jewish Healthcare International, has decided to start a movement to pressure the Israeli government to fulfill its commitment. This is a failure of the Israeli government to do what it says it will do. These Ethiopians dont have any advocates, he said. I decided I need to create a grassroots push in Israel and the United States. Rubel, who lived in Israel as a child in 1954 and as a college student in 1961, is fluent in Hebrew and has two children who made aliyah. He said he keeps up with news from Israel more than news in Sandy Springs. Enlisting the help of Melissa Goldberg, a marketing communications professional, Rubel has launched a website (www.aliyafalashmura.org) to explain the situation of the Ethiopian Jews, referred to as Falashmura, and enlist the support of American Jews and Israelis. He initiated meetings with local rabbis by talking with Congregation Or Hadash Rabbi Analia Bortz and presented his campaign on behalf of the Ethiopians at a recent Shabbat service there. He is reaching out to other rabbis and Jewish community leaders to urge them to spread the word and contact Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders. Rubels activism isnt limited to the United States. He has enlisted the support of the Jewish Agency, which appears ready to help settle the Ethiopians in Israel. But a planeload of about 17 families, all identified before the Israeli governments August decision, was postponed from May 17 and now is scheduled for Tuesday, June 6. Rubel has reached out to the Israeli Ministry of Interior, which is supposed to create the new lists of eligible Ethiopians. He has requested a weekly report on the number of those interviewed and the number registered as meeting the criteria, but he hasnt received a response. Given the three-week period for Ministry of Health and other processes between the time a family is registered and flown, I infer that no new registrations have been processed by the Ministry of Interior. As we say in Hebrew, busha vecherpa: They should be ashamed. Referring to the latest delay, Rubel said the interviewing of families to determine eligibility for aliyah was supposed to take place last fall. It is a disgrace that we are now almost five months into 2017, and not a single family has been registered. Meanwhile, thousands of people are living in hovels with little food and no medical care. It is a disgrace that the Israeli government has allowed this to happen and even a greater disgrace that there is virtually no organized condemnation of this sorry state of affairs. Where are the Israeli human rights organizations? Where is the U.S. Jewish community? Where are the rabbis? Where are the shuls? Where are the Jewish Federations? He said he wrote to several Knesset members who conducted a hearing in March, but he has received no response. The Times of Israel reported in March that Knesset members Eli Alaluf (Kulanu), David Amsalem (Likud) and Avraham Neguise (Likud) accused the Interior Ministry of setting deliberate obstacles to scuttle Ethiopian aliyah. The Times of Israel also reported that the last plane carrying Ethiopians, with 63 aboard, arrived at Ben Gurion International Airport in October. Im trying to raise public awareness of this issue, Rubel said. We have some people who are in trouble, and I want to know, what are we going to do to help them? He said Israel suffers from substantial racism and classism, resulting in a disproportionate number of Ethiopian immigrants working as hotel cleaners. His goal right now is for the first Ethiopian Jew identified under the Israeli governments August decree to be transported to Israel, Rubel said. Once the first one goes, that means theres a process in place. Then well figure out how to get the rest to Israel. The objective is to have 50 olim every month, but if theres the reported 9,000, its going to take a while to get them all to Israel.

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Israel revels in undivided Jerusalem – Intermountain Jewish News

Israeli students participate in the annual flag dance from downtown Jerusalem to the Western Wall. (Kobi Richter/TPS) JERULALEM Thousands of Jerusalemites and Israelis from around the country capitalized on a temperate, sunny day Wednesday, May 24, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the citys liberation during the 1967 Six Day War. The reunification of the city ended a 19-year period of Jordanian occupation following the War of Independence in 1948. President Reuven Rivlin opened the official celebration on the evening of May 23 at the Western Wall, where he spoke about the difficult battle for the city in 1967, and recalled the moment he heard the Old City had been secured under Israeli control. We gave our all for Jerusalem because we knew that on Jerusalem we must insist, said the President at the Western Wall. We will always insist on Jerusalem, Rivlin reiterated. There never has been, there never will be any other reality. Here, in these stones, beats the heart of the Jewish people. Jerusalem is the heart of the State of Israel, and the Kotel is the heart of Jerusalem. Colonel Motta Gurs call The Temple Mount is in our hands! over an IDF wireless device on June 7, 1967 quickly became a defining moment for a generation of Israelis. Jerusalem Day is celebrated according to the Hebrew calendar; in 1967, June 7 was on 28 Iyar, which this year coincided with May 24. The capture of the Old City came two days after Israel launched a preemptive strike against Egyptian forces in response to Cairos closure of the Straits of Tiran. The attack ignited war with Egypt and Syria, but Prime Minister Levi Eshkol sent word to Jordans King Hussein that Israel would not attack the Jordanians if they did not enter the war. However, Hussein refused and began shelling Jewish communities in western Jerusalem. Israel responded and gained control of the eastern part of the city during the fighting. In all, Israel tripled in size during the war, gaining control of the Sinai Peninsula, the Golan Heights, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and eastern Jerusalem. However, since the war, Israels claim of sovereignty in Jerusalem and the holy sites has been the subject of international dispute. Rivlin urged Jerusalem as a symbol of unity instead of dispute between peoples and called for bringing peace to Jerusalem. The city of Jerusalem that was once a divided city is the same city where Jews and Arabs, religious and secular people, find the space to live together, to meet and get to know each other; to build a shared Jerusalem, together, he said. Hundreds of people participated in the ceremony, including representatives of the IDF units that liberated Jerusalem in 1967, current IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot and Mayor of Jerusalem Nir Barkat, who paid tribute to the fallen soldiers who liberated the Old City and the Western Wall. According to the Foreign Ministry, between 776 and 983 IDF soldiers were killed during the battle for Jerusalem, 4,517 people were wounded and 15 Israeli soldiers were taken prisoner. In the Knesset, a special plenum to mark the occasion was held on Wednesday, with government officials and opposition leaders commemorating the fallen soldiers while also promoting their political agendas. [Israel] saved Jerusalem from neglect and distress, and we developed it successfully to become a high point in all areas, said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. What used to be here in Jerusalem? We must tell the truth Jerusalem, like the entire Land of Israel, was a marginal and desolate province in the Ottoman Empire. He called Jerusalem an oasis of peace and interfaith within a turbulent and uncompromising Middle East, but said it faces a paradox: The more we continue to develop the city and preserve its unique character, the more the denial and lies regarding the connection of the Jewish people to its capital intensify. The Western Wall is our identity card and testament to who was here and what brought us back to our homeland. We will not return to a situation where we stand overlooking while being unable to access it, Netanyahu concluded. Opposition leader Isaac Herzog lauded the historical and cultural accomplishments of Jerusalem but warned that the citys demographic and geographic trends could bring about the failure of the dream the Six Day War fighters sacrificed for. He mentioned recent statistics on Jerusalem indicating a negative migration trend, lower matriculation rates compared to the national rates, a distinct socio-economic weakness and an Arab population growth two times larger than its Jewish counterpart. We need to ask ourselves if the earthly Jerusalem is up to par with the Jerusalem of Gold, stated Herzog. The only way to preserve a Jewish Jerusalem for a Jewish state is to materialize the vision of the two-state solution and to separate ourselves from as many Palestinians as possible, he asserted. Only by separating from [neighborhoods such as] Shuafat and Issawiya will we truly unify and conquer Jerusalem. Among the attendees at the Knesset session were Rivlin, Supreme Court President Miriam Naor and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat. In a special Army Radio broadcast in honor of Jerusalem Day, Barkat said that Jerusalem is booming. We see it in the number and diversity of tourists, in the hi-tech sector, cultural renaissance, the tremendous investment in infrastructure for public transportation, new light rails, network cabling, among other things. Jerusalem is becoming more attractive, not just for tourists but also for Israeli young people and its own residents, continued Barkat. I am sure this process will grow and flourish as long as we continue to invest in Jerusalem. The Jerusalem Institute for Policy Research reported that the number of hi-tech employees in Jerusalem over the last two years has spiked by 28% (compared to a national average of 8%). Barkat also said that Jerusalem is a successful story of coexistence, with many Arab residents living in Jewish neighborhoods, or haredi Orthodox Jerusalemites living in secular neighborhoods. However, the 2017 Jewish People Policy Institute interim report on Jerusalem also indicates that many Jews around the world and in Israel feel that Jerusalem is not moving in the right direction, especially due to concerns about Jewish-Arab relations and religious pluralism. According to Barkat, development budgets grew from half a billion shekels to three billion shekels under his leadership, but the city still faces important challenges. The government helps Jerusalem residents in a difficult socio-economic situation by helping them with tax credits, but unfortunately the state does not make up for the socio-economic deficits the city incurs as a consequence, explained Barkat. We do have work plans to address the citys needs for development, upgrading the infrastructure and improving the education system, Barkat said, but we still require more capital to move forward. We all still have a lot of work to do to transform the saying If I forget you Jerusalem into a practical reality, said Barkat. Fortunately, if every person connects to Jerusalem in different ways, the love for the city is present in the hearts of each and every Israeli. For the Ethiopian Israeli community, Jerusalem Day is also marked as a remembrance day. Ethiopian Israelis, Knesset members and Prime Minister Netanyahu held an official ceremony at Mt. Herzl on Wednesday with thanksgiving prayers and memorial services for community members who perished on the arduous journey from Ethiopia to Israel. We all have strong feelings about Jerusalem Day, said Nava Asmare, a 42-year-old mother of three who was born in a small village in Ethiopia in 1975 and immigrated to Israel at the age of 10. On one hand, there is an intense feeling of gratitude and humility that we made it to Jerusalem and to the Land of Israel. On the other hand, it is the day we remember all the people who dreamed about Jerusalem but never made it here. Asmares 10-month old sister died in her mothers arms during the journey. When Ethiopian Jews began immigrating to Israel during the 1980s and 90s, the journey was often treacherous, marked by thousand-mile walks through hostile territory, hunger, sickness and wild animals. Veterans of the move remember people dropping and dying like flies in transit camps, waiting to be airlifted to Israel in 1984 during Operation Moses and during Operation Solomon in 1991. According to Asmare, the lofty, mythical ideas of Jerusalem that many Ethiopian Jews grew up with led to a strong sense of a disconnection when they finally arrived in the Holy City. I absolutely believed that Jerusalem would be this magical place, a real Jerusalem of gold, she said. We all did. We thought we would get to Jerusalem and be blinded by the gold and the light and the sanctity. Of course, thats not Jerusalem today. We celebrate the unification of Jerusalem today, but we also know that in some ways the city is broken, not unified. Theres the upper, heavenly Jerusalem and the earthly Jerusalem. The Jerusalem of our dreams versus the actual city. So there are many, many mixed emotions, Asmare added.

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Former Clevelander Eliezer Jaffe, Israel Free Loan Assn. founder, dies at 84 – Cleveland Jewish News

Former Clevelander Eliezer (David) Jaffe, founder and president of The Israel Free Loan Association and a professor at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, died May 25 in Jerusalem. He was 84. Jaffe, who made aliyah in 1960, started the IFLA in the 1980s to assist Russian and Ethiopian Jews who were moving in large numbers to Israel. The idea for a free loan fund was born in 1989 after a visit to an immigrant absorption center in Jerusalem. I brought my children along, he said at the time. Busloads of Ethiopian Jewish immigrants, straight off the airplane, had just arrived at the center and I explained that they were witnessing history in the making the in-gathering of the exiles. After we got home I thought to myself I have to get involved. The IFLA has loaned more than $240 million and made more than 54,000 loans. He also established Hebrew Universitys School of Social Work and co-founded the universitys Center for the Study of Philanthropy. Jaffe was one of four recipients of the Knesset Speaker’s Prize for Quality of Life in Israel.

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May 25, 2017   Posted in: Ethiopian Jews  Comments Closed

The uses and abuses of anti-Semitism | SocialistWorker.org – Socialist Worker Online

Marching in Boston against Israeli apartheid IT SEEMS On Semitism is intended to be used as a tool–there are study questions, suggested readings. What is your hope for this book? Rebecca Vilkomerson: The more the conversation about Israel changes, the more it stays the same–there are some fundamental questions that come up over and over again that we need to untangle in order to have a breakthrough. Anti-Semitism is one of those questions. It’s fundamental to JVP’s mission: fighting against bigotry in all its forms, including anti-Semitism. We want to open up a conversation, one in which the ways that anti-Semitism affects both Jewish lives and other communities gets proper weight, but also that will help people to distinguish between actual anti-Semitism and legitimate critique of Israel. My own Jewish education was very much Holocaust-Israel, Holocaust-Israel. Jewishness as an identity was drilled into us as a legacy of oppression and discrimination, with statehood as the answer. With the establishment of Israel seen as the endpoint of that legacy, it created a reality where criticism of the state was assumed to be a criticism of Jewish people. You need to have tools with how to grapple with that, and unlearn that stuff, and have a much richer conversation. THE CHARGE of anti-Semitism can be uniquely powerful, relative to other words like “racist” or “sexist” or “homophobe.” There’s particularity about what that charge can do to a person when made publicly. Why is that? Rebecca Vilkomerson: In an ideal world, acts of Islamophobia or a charge of racism would be just as terrifying as acts of anti-Semitism. But the term has become so broad, and so associated with Israel instead of with actual acts of prejudice against Jewish people, that it’s also ripe for abuse. Since Trump’s election, expressions of anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic actions have actually come closer to the U.S. power structure in a way that I certainly haven’t experienced in my lifetime. In an atmosphere like this one, we do want to hold on to the idea that anti-Semitism is not acceptable. But there is now a dishonesty around the word “anti-Semitism” that has made it very hard to have honest conversations about Israel or Palestinian rights. It’s made it easy to throw around accusations that are extremely damaging. As Jews, JVP can play a very particular role in breaking down what is real anti-Semitism and what is a political accusation against the state of Israel. People need permission to be able to articulate those critiques, and to know that it’s about speaking up for human rights–not about being against the Jewish people. RABBI ROSEN, your chapter takes up the rising number of anti-Semitic attacks across Europe. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rarely fails to use these attacks as opportunities to urge Jews emigrate to the safety of Israel. He’s essentially suggesting the only solution to anti-Semitism is ethnic separatism. There’s a memorable anecdote related in the book, of a Netanyahu visit to France following the Jewish market attack January 2015. After he delivered his message in a Paris synagogue, the congregation rose to their feet and burst into the French national anthem. Not knowing what to do, he just stood there. Brant Rosen: The Israeli government has been quick to pounce on every anti-Semitic attack in Europe to promote Jewish immigration to Israel, but we’ve heard nothing but crickets in response to the uptick of anti-Semitic hate acts in the United States since Trump’s election. The reason is obvious: Israel is eager to promote the narrative that “radical Islam” is the most serious anti-Semitic threat in the world. They’ve been far less eager to protest the rise of the radical right in Europe, and now in the United States, because Israel’s own political culture is increasingly dominated by the far right. It’s fascinating to see how the newly emboldened alt-right in the United States has publicly embraced Israeli nationalism as an example of ethnic separatism that they would like to emulate. Alt-right leader Richard Spencer speaks admiringly of Israel as a home for Jews, and promotes white separation here along the same lines. (Of course, this “kindler, gentler” form of white supremacy is only a fig leaf for a more insidious vision of a “Judenrein” United States.) FOR THE section of the European far right looking to go mainstream, the targeting of Jews has almost disappeared. A generation ago, National Front leader Jean-Marie Le Pen was not shy about anti-Jewish rhetoric. His daughter, Marine Le Pen, has totally eliminated that rhetoric in her bid for president and replaced it with attacks on Arabs and Muslims. With an influx of Arab and Muslim immigrants since 2015, and in the absence of any principled opposition from the French left, this shift has had some resonance. Rabbi Rosen, you write, “as the refugees started coming in by the tens of thousands per day starting about a year ago, Europe became a safer place to be Jewish.” The same tools and tropes have been turned from Jewish scapegoating towards Arabs and Muslims. But despite this, there is clearly fertile ground to pit Jews against Arabs and Muslims and vice versa. How is this playing out? Brant Rosen: The European right would love nothing better than to set European Jews and Muslims against one another. Not coincidentally, Israel is using the same playbook: they are finding common cause with European rightists by fomenting Islamophobia and painting Muslims as the common enemy of the West. Those who are truly concerned with Jewish safety and security have to reject this narrative unabashedly. Our safety and security will not come by throwing in with the oppressors; it can only come through solidarity with the oppressed. THE “NEW anti-Semitism” is a term Zionists are using more frequently, as an update of “anti-Semitism” to include criticism of Israel. How do they draw that direct line from anti-Semitism to criticism of Israel? Rebecca Vilkomerson: There was a very deliberate schema set out by certain Jewish organizations to define Israel as “the Jew of the world.” The idea is that Israel is a person, and in the same way that Jews are discriminated against by non-Jews, Israel as the Jewish state is discriminated against by non-Jewish countries around the world. Therefore, every criticism of Israel is a reflection of anti-Semitism. This is dangerous, but also effective, because it delegitimizes any criticism of Israel. Countries like France or the United States or Ghana can be criticized based on their political actions, both to their own citizenry and around the world. That’s a completely legitimate thing for people to talk about. Rather than Israel being a country like any other, the “new anti-Semitism” redefines what kind of criticisms are valid by putting this personhood on Israel. It also does the reverse: It implicates all Jews into the Israeli project. The Israeli government has made explicit claims that it is the nation of all the Jews, not a nation of its citizens. If you’re a Jew, you’re born with potential Israeli nationality. That’s why any Jew from around the world can come in and automatically become a citizen of the state of Israel, even as Palestinian citizens of Israel have less rights and state resources than Jewish Israelis. So all Jews around the world are de facto made a part of this Israeli project. Of course, equating “Israel” with “Jews” erases the 25 percent of Israeli citizens who are not Jewish and ignores the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza entirely, where only Jewish Israelis have the rights of citizens. It’s been also very successful within the Jewish community in getting people to see Israel as the expression of their Jewishness. They see Israel as their Jewishness, so an attack on Israel is made to feel like an attack on them. So something like the Gaza war happens, and Jewish communities have huge rallies in defense of Israel. The phrase “anti-Israel” has become anathema. You can’t say that you’re anti-Israel, and being called anti-Israel is seen as the equivalent of being called anti-Semitic. But being anti-Israel is totally legitimate. If you’re a Palestinian who’s lost their home, lost their livelihood, is facing daily oppression, or you’re a refugee and you can’t go back, of course you’re anti-Israel. Israel is the country that has done these things to you! The “anti-Israel is anti-Semitic” component discounts these facts and makes the conversation into a psychological thing, an irrational hatred of Jews, instead of one that is structural and fact-based. For those of us who are Jewish, we have a responsibility to say, you can hate the state of Israel, and that doesn’t mean you’re anti-Semitic. OMAR BARGHOUTI argues in his chapter that the claim “criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic” is itself anti-Semitic. Rebecca Vilkomerson: It flattens the Jewish experience. It discounts the historically constant Jewish strains of anti-Zionism–or non-Zionism, or post-Zionism, whatever you want to call it–that have always existed since Zionism was created. It ignores the vastly different experiences depending if you are an Ashkenazi (from Europe) Jew or a Mizrachi/Sephardi Jew, or Ethiopian Jew. When you’re talking about any sort of bigotry, part of the definition is the idea that you can make one overarching generalization about that people. IN JUDITH Butler’s introduction, she writes, “Distinguishing among the very different historical trajectories of Ashkenazi, Sephardic, and Mizrahi Jews breaks up a monolithic understanding of what it is to be a Jew, and so deprives anti-Semitism of its noxious habit of vulgar generalization.” She’s saying that actually to draw out Judaism, in all its diversity, is to combat anti-Semitism. Isn’t it then true that by collapsing all Jews into one thing, support for Israel, Zionists create more fertile ground for anti-Semitism? Rebecca Vilkomerson: Yeah. There’s also a deep sadness to it. A lot of rhetoric that comes out of Israel is that the only way that you can be Jewish–in a real way–is to be Israeli. The result is a loss of a very diverse and beautiful set of Jewish cultures. There’s something deeply sad about that. OVER THE past couple of years, Israel passed a number of laws attempting to ban some form of the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement in Israel. First, small-business owners could sue Israeli BDS activists for damages if their business had been impacted. Now, known BDS activists from anywhere in the world are banned from Israel. Rebecca Vilkomerson: The ban on BDS activists going in, for me personally, is a particularly sad moment. I have in-laws who are about to turn 80 there, I have family there and friends there. ARE YOU not able to travel to Israel? Rebecca Vilkomerson: I assume not. We’ll see how the law gets implemented. YOU’RE A fairly prominent activist. Rebecca Vilkomerson: The bill makes overt a policy that was already happening beneath the surface. Palestinians, Arabs, Muslims, people who look Muslim according to the customs agents at the Israeli border, people of color–it’s basically a racial-profiling system, of which Israelis seem very proud. They’re trying to sell it, actually, in these police exchanges that they do with the United States–selling this racial-profiling system for how they let people in and out. This bill brings all that to the surface, by Israel saying that whole categories of people are being targeted for their political beliefs, so people like me are being added in to the people who have already been targeted historically. As the BDS movement becomes stronger and stronger, the Israeli state is going to try to clamp down harder and harder. It’s evidence of how scared they are of BDS, and what an impact it’s having on them. There’s no way to legislate away BDS. Not letting me into Israel is not going to keep me from supporting BDS. I think it’s actually going to make more liberal Zionists say, “Well, if they’re not going to let me in, then I may as well support the full call for BDS.” And it may make a lot more people who may not know much about Israel or Palestinians at all question how much of a democracy Israel really is. With this increasing repression, the Israeli state is overreaching in a way that is helpful for understanding the degree to which the Israeli government is engaged in extreme forms of antidemocratic governance. U.S. LAW has begun to use definitions of anti-Semitism that include criticism of Israel, making it some form of hate speech to criticize Israel. Rebecca Vilkomerson: Some of the bigger Jewish organizations that have a lot of resources have specifically used recent acts of anti-Semitism as a way to suppress conversation on this issue. Most recently was the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act–a federal bill intended to codify criticism of Israel as anti-Semitic, which was fast-tracked through the Senate. The depth of the hypocrisy behind that bill was so clear when it was brought out right as Steve Bannon became a key adviser to Trump, and all of a sudden we were seeing a rise of anti-Semitic incidents and no response from the Trump administration. The bill was a joint effort of American Israel Public Affairs Committee and the Anti-Defamation League, and is based on years of work in advancing a definition of anti-Semitism that is extremely dangerous. It could potentially make dissent about Israel illegal. The Anti-Semitism Awareness Act did not go forward in the House (so far, at least) thanks to good organizing that JVP was a part of. AS YOU mentioned, following Trump’s election, there was a sharp rise in reports of anti-Semitic attacks. Given how little it takes for Trump to go on the attack against something–SNL parodies of his administration, for example–you’d think he would have more to say about anti-Semitic attacks. He’s called them reprehensible, but more often suggested that these attacks were “false flags” committed by political enemies to smear him. When actual anti-Semitism happens, it gets downplayed or ignored. Meanwhile, anti-BDS legislation is moving forward in a variety of ways in national and state legislatures. Is the “new anti-Semitism” pushing actual anti-Semitism off the table and keeping only criticism of Israel? Rebecca Vilkomerson: Since Trump’s election, support for Israel is overtly being offered as a defense against anti-Semitism. Public figures are essentially saying, “I can’t be anti-Semitic, I support Israel.” Then right-wing Jewish organizations, which spend a lot of time accusing BDS activists of being anti-Semitic, don’t make a peep when those kinds of excuses for these acts are thrown out there. Actual acts against Jews in the United States become de-prioritized; the only measure of anti-Semitism is how much you support the state of Israel. AND THE United States has been importing this strategy over the last five years. “The world’s greatest democracy” is now curtailing free speech and attacking speech as hate speech, in order to defend their relationship with “the only democracy in the Middle East,” which is busy rolling out all sorts of antidemocratic measures. Rebecca Vilkomerson: The United States already gives Israel more foreign aid than any country in the entire world. We already use all of our diplomatic, economic, military force to allow Israel to keep doing what it’s doing. Of course, the United States is not new to repression of its own people and its own forms of the security state. But the way that they are allying with one another is actually clarifying. We have all these people who are newly activated and so upset about Trump. This is the moment when those people need to be brought into these fights. We have an opportunity to say to them, “If you’re against the Muslim ban here in the United States, you should be concerned about the fact that Israel has had a de facto Muslim ban and a Christian ban for many decades. If you want to be consistent about your politics, you’re going to have to speak out about both of these things, and start to reconcile the fact that you have one set of criteria for the United States and another for Israel.” There’s a lot of room right now to have those conversations with people, especially because it’s this elevated, activating moment where people have their minds open to really be able to talk about those parallels and what it means. If you as a political person identify with the values of equality, and freedom, and free access to countries, and refugee rights, and immigrant rights, you need to take a critical look at Israel. JVP IS really growing–you now have over 12,000 dues-paying members. Why are so many people finding and joining JVP? Rebecca Vilkomerson: Peter Beinart wrote a piece recently that I found extremely strange. I often appreciate his writing and how he’s openly wrestling with lots of issues. But in this article, in reaction to Israel’s ban on BDS activists, he wrote that he just wants his kids to love Israel. When they’re older they can wrestle with it, but for now he just wants them to have the space of love for it. So he tries to protect them from the realities of Israel. To me, that’s the exact recipe for what we see with people coming into JVP who have been fed this Disney-fied picture of Israel. They feel completely betrayed when they find out it’s not the land of milk and honey that was empty and made for them, and start to understand the realities and look at the global context. The realities of life in Israel can’t be brushed aside. People are smarter than that. Especially in this politically charged moment, people are looking for a place where they can be their authentic whole selves–where they can be Jewish and also fight strongly against Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. People come to JVP because they find that here, and also they find a place where we are doing it powerfully and in deep partnership with Palestinian allies and other communities. First published in Jacobin.

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May 25, 2017   Posted in: Ethiopian Jews  Comments Closed

Sites Trump Will Visit in His Holy Land Trip – Naharnet

When U.S. President Donald Trump lands in Tel Aviv on Monday for the Israeli-Palestinian leg of his trip, he will hold talks with leaders from both sides, but also visit key sites: – Church of the Holy Sepulcher – Located in the Old City of Jerusalem’s annexed eastern sector, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher contains a 19th-century shrine built on the site where tradition says Jesus was buried and resurrected. The ornate shrine recently underwent a $3.7-million renovation that restored its stones to their original reddish-yellow and reinforced the heavily visited site. The church draws tens of thousands of Christian pilgrims for the “Holy Fire” ceremony, the highlight of the Eastern Christian calendar, which takes place on the eve of Orthodox Easter. One of Christianity’s holiest sites, the church is shared by six denominations: the Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Armenian Orthodox, Egyptian Copts, Syrian Orthodox and Ethiopian Orthodox. – The Western Wall – The Western Wall is the last remnant of the supporting wall of the second Jewish temple, built by King Herod and destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD. The holiest site where Jews can pray, the Western Wall is located in the Old City of east Jerusalem, which Israel occupied in 1967 and later annexed. It is situated below the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, Islam’s third holiest site, referred to by Jews as the Temple Mount. The Western Wall’s plaza serves as a place of gender-segregated Jewish prayer, administered by the ultra-Orthodox Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitz, who will accompany Trump on his visit there. Trump will be the first sitting U.S. president to visit the site, where it is customary to place notes containing prayers and requests between the stones. The White House reportedly refused to allow Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to join Trump at the site, known in Hebrew as the Kotel (wall). Israel sees all of Jerusalem as its undivided capital, while the Palestinians view east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state. When Trump’s envoy to Israel David Friedman arrived to take up his position this month, his first act was to visit the Western Wall, where he prayed and kissed the ancient stones. – Yad Vashem – Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, perched on a forested hillside in west Jerusalem, is among the world’s foremost Holocaust education, documentation and research centers. The vast complex includes a variety of monuments, archives and displays, including the Hall of Names with its cone structure featuring pictures of Holocaust victims, and the Garden of the Righteous Among the Nations, where thousands of trees are dedicated to non-Jews who saved Jews during the Holocaust. Dignitaries and celebrities visiting Israel nearly always find the time for Yad Vashem, which is the second-most visited site in Israel after the Western Wall. Yad Vashem recently urged White House press secretary Sean Spicer to visit its website after he said that unlike the Syrian regime, Adolf Hitler did not use chemical weapons. Spicer later apologized for his “insensitive” remarks. More than six million predominantly European Jews were killed during the Nazi genocide in World War II, many of them by poisonous gas. – Israel Museum – Not far from Yad Vashem is the Israel Museum, where Trump is set to deliver a speech, after the more exotic location of the desert fortress Masada was ruled out. The museum boasts a collection of nearly 500,000 objects of art and archeology, ancient and modern, including the Dead Sea Scrolls which date back more than two millennia and include some of the earliest texts from the Bible. In 2013, then-president Barack Obama viewed the Dead Sea Scrolls at the museum in a move seen as a nod to the ancient roots of the Jewish state. – Bethlehem – Trump is due to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem, located in the West Bank, occupied by Israel for 50 years. It is the “little town” where Christians believe Jesus Christ was born and it attracts thousands of pilgrims at Christmas. Located just 10 kilometers (six miles) from Jerusalem across Israel’s separation wall, it is the site of the Church of the Nativity, which contains an underground cave where Christians believe Mary gave birth to Jesus. Israel’s separation wall is part of a project begun in 2002 during the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising, that is to extend around 700 kilometers (450 miles) once completed. It is a stark symbol of the occupation for Palestinians, and in Bethlehem it has been covered by graffiti and street art.

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May 21, 2017   Posted in: Ethiopian Jews  Comments Closed

According to JTA, which cites Rabi’s Hebrew-language bio, she served as a medic in the Israeli Air Force and has … – Tablet Magazine

A new Miss Israel has been crowned, a Millennial model from Jerusalem named Rotem Rabi whose win is being covered as a social media victory because online voting factored in the decision. And kudos to her: Instagram (and Facebook) is the name of the game, and she does this well, Im told, enough to beat out 15 other contestant to take the title. Next: the Worlds in China in December. No Israeli has won since Linor Abargil in 1998. According to JTA, which cites Rabis Hebrew-language bio, she served as a medic in the Israeli Air Force and has worked as a model while starting the process to join theIsrael Polices investigative division. She dropped out of the Miss Israel contestlast year to accept a modeling contract in Milan. The timing of her win is interesting in one sense because Gal Gadot, Miss Israel 2004, has become a veritable Hollywood star. Her upcoming solo flick, Wonder Woman, should made oodles of cash,regardless of how goodor bad it is. Perhaps Rabis star will rise still. Rabis victory reminds me of a fantastic article by Daniel Estrin about the outspoken Ethiopian-born Yityish Titi Aynaw, Israels Bold New Queen, who won the competition in 2013. (Notably, the Miss Israel contest has been held every year since 1950). In it, Estrin details Aynawslong Cinderella journey to Israel. Born in a small township near Gondar in northwest Ethiopia, she was orphaned by age 10. Her father died a year after she was bornshe never found out howand a decade later her mother died of a sudden illness. Her mothers parents, who had already uprooted to Israel in 2000, arranged for her and her brother to move, too. Aynaw grew up like many Ethiopian Jews, dreaming of going to Israel. I was told this was the land of milk and honey, she said, laughing. That Id go on the street, bend down, and pick up golden coins. Id open the faucet and milk would pour out. In March 2003, Aynaw and her brother flew via Kenya to Israel. Her grandparents, whom she had hardly remembered, brought them to their hardscrabble immigrant neighborhood in the seaside town of Netanya. Without knowing a word of Hebrew, she was shuffled off to a religious Jewish boarding school in Haifa catering to new immigrants. Today her Hebrew is accentless and expressive. They threw me into the deep water. But thats how you learn to swim the best, she said. Read the rest of Estrins piece here, and congratulations to Rotem Rabi. Previous: The Chosen Ones: An Interview With Titi Aynaw Jonathan Zalman, a staff editor, runs The Scroll, Tablet’s news blog.

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May 15, 2017   Posted in: Ethiopian Jews  Comments Closed


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