Israel News

The Philadelphia Jewish Voice strives to cover events of interest to our readers. Send your Israel related press releases, comments and suggestions to Israel Editor Eli Levine israel@pjvoice.org

Online Middle School Israel Educational Program

By Ferne Hassan

A new middle school curriculum, “LINK: Discovering Your Israel Connection” is now available nationwide. The 6-lesson unit allows students to explore the historic Jewish roots to Israel while discovering their own personal, modern connection.

Through a sophisticated, interactive, on-line application, LINK was developed by teachers, curriculum writers and internet experts who understand the need for a dynamic, educational experience of this kind. The outcome is a platform designed to enable students to determine for themselves, through experiential and project based learning, their own, unique Israel connection.

Students discover an Israel not usually found in traditional Jewish curricula; an Israel whose actions are informed by Jewish values and reflect the best of what matters to today’s youth. They learn about an Israel that is diverse, where humanitarian aid is a priority, and where there are opportunities for refugees and economic migrants. They are inspired by an Israel whose innovations and technologies are improving and saving lives throughout the world.

“LINK: Discovering Your Israel Connection” is headed by Mina Rush, Director of Middle School Education and programming for StandWithUs, a sixteen year-old, international Israel education organization. Mina’s background includes being the Director of Outreach for Jewish World Watch where she also did programming in Jewish education.

“The motivation behind this endeavor was to create a program that could reverse Jewish students’ diminishing relationship to Israel as evidenced by recent polls. My experience showed that traditional methods of teaching did not always achieve the desired results. I realized that students are best able to connect when the material represents their core values. This realization led to the direction that LINK has taken,” explains Rush.

A year-long pilot program of 20 schools across the US was completed in July, 2017. Jewish day schools and Jewish supplementary schools participated in the study, representing all Jewish denominations. Data was collected from teachers and students to measure progress and to determine if educational goals were being met.

Data analytics revealed that after participating in the LINK program:
– Students showed a 45% increase in knowledge and understanding about Jewish continuity in Israel.
-Students showed a 55% increase in knowledge, understanding and challenges of Israel’s size, demographics and location.
– Students showed a 75% increase in knowledge and understanding of Israel’s diversity.
– Students showed a 78 % increase in knowledge and understanding about Israel’s role in global humanitarian and disaster aid as well as efforts Israel makes at home with refugee and economic migrant populations.

– Students showed a 60% increase in knowledge and understanding about the global impact of Israeli advances in technology.

Teachers reported that students readily engage in the lessons and look forward to their experience with the curriculum. They articulate not just an increase in knowledge, but pride in and a connection to Israel.

“The use of technology and the presentation of the information truly honors today’s teen. When our students in the school were surveyed, many stated that the LINK program was the favorite part of their school day,” states Sandy Borowsky, CJE, MS.ED, Educational Director Orangetown Jewish Center in New York.

Rising Anti-Semitism at Swarthmore College

Swarthmore College. Photo courtesy: Swarthmore.edu

– Naomi Friedman

During the 2016-2017 school year, swastikas were found plastered in McCabe Library, the Crum Woods, Sparrow House and elsewhere on and about Swarthmore college campus. Most of us associate Nazi graffiti with—well, Nazis or neo-Nazis. But in recent years, swastikas have popped up on many campuses just prior to, during, or following  student votes to boycott, divest, and sanction (BDS) Israel and other anti-Israel activity.

I first noticed this in my hometown of Evanston at Northwestern University. In the 2015 spring semester, the student group Wildcats for Israel found their banner torn apart just as a BDS group formed to push for divestment from Israel.  Soon after, BDS student and faculty resolutions were followed by two swastika incidents and anti-Israel mock border checkpoint demonstrations.

[Read more…]

Knesset OK of Pluralistic Prayer Ban Has Far Reaching Consequences

The Western Wall, with crowd in front and Jerusalem Skyline beyond.

The Western Wall

Imagine being invited to a party. Of course, you knew that you would be invited since you are related to the celebrants. In fact, you helped pay for the party. Even though you are an out of town guest, you have been in touch with the hometown family, following their lives, investing in their businesses, and supporting their decisions. Whether or not you agree with them, you have been there for them and with them – always with unwavering devotion. That is what you expect of yourself as a member of this large extended family.

After entering the dance hall, you approach a table with place-cards arranged alphabetically. It is strange that your place at a table is not listed. As the band plays, the celebrants dance the hora. You, however, are told to stand to the side. [Read more…]

The Denial of Genocidal Intent: The Dangerous New Rhetoric of Jewish Voice for Peace

 

While Jewish Voice for Peace, a left-wing organization focused on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, was spiraling through one of the worst weeks in its history earlier this month with a bitter public feud over its use of LGBT Jews for politics, many neglected to write about a far more disturbing talking point the organization tried to push with modest success: Israel provoked the Six Day War and was never under threat of annihilation.

The assertion was born out of two articles published in the first week of June to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the war. The first was published by “The Intercept,” an online left-wing news source. The second was in “Mondoweiss,” an extreme far-left website, whose sole purpose is to reframe any Israel-related news as tied to oppressing Palestinians.

The two articles’ respective headlines?

A 50-Year Occupation: Israel’s Six-Day War Started With a Lie

Israel provoked the Six-Day War in 1967, and it was not fighting for survival

Both of these articles were shared by Jewish Voice for Peace via its national Facebook page, local Facebook pages, and its members’ Twitter handles. The sole purpose of sharing these articles, which rely on scant evidence and are quite obviously trying to revise history, is to eliminate Arab leaders’ statements of intent and the original intent behind Israel’s June offensive: Self-Defense.

JewishVirtualLibrary.org.

Armies Surrounding Israel, May, 1967, Graphic: Jewish Virtual Library.

Three weeks before the war, Egypt closed shipping lanes in the Red Sea and Suez Canal to Israeli commerce, itself an act of war. Egypt’s president at the time, Gamil Abdul Nassir, ordered UN peacekeeping forces to leave the Sinai Peninsula, where they had been stationed as a buffer between the Israeli and Egyptian armies after the 1956 Suez War.

What followed was three weeks of threats to destroy the world’s only Jewish country – not just from Nassir, but other leaders in the Arab world who pledged to supply troops to a war of annihilation against Israel.

On May 20, 1967, Syrian Defense Minister Hafez al-Assad, who would launch a bloody coup for power in 1970 responsible for nearly 50 years of Assad dynastic rule in Syria, said very clearly, “Our forces are now entirely ready not only to repulse any aggression, but to initiate the act ourselves, and to explode the Zionist presence in the Arab homeland of Palestine. The Syrian army, with its finger on the trigger, is united. I believe that the time has come to begin a battle of annihilation.”

On May 26, 1967, Nassir said an invasion of Israel using those Sinai-based troops would be for one central purpose: “The battle will be a general one and our basic objective will be to destroy Israel.”

On May 31, 1967, President Aref of Iraq minced no words about his army’s intent in a war by saying, “The existence of Israel is an error which must be rectified. This is our opportunity to wipe out the ignominy which has been with us since 1948. Our goal is clear: to wipe Israel off the map.”

Jewish Voice for Peace is erasing history. None of these facts are addressed in the two articles cited above.

The “Intercept” piece was written by journalist Mehdi Hasan. His entire thesis is based on a single out-of-context quote attributed to General Matityahu Peled who said Israel was not in danger of genocide and that the notion was “born and bred after the war.”

The quote completely ignores the statements of intent from Arab leaders, which started decades before the crisis of 1967. The question here is not one of capability, but one of intent. While scholars debate the skills and preparedness of the two sides of the war, they are not debating what Nassir’s side claimed it would do if it got the upper-hand.

Jewish Voice for Peace’s tweet of article “A 50-Year Occupation: Israel’s Six-Day War Started With a Lie.”

Tweets like this one, from JVP Media Program Manager Naomi Dann, have one clear goal in mind: Delete the legitimacy of Israel’s self-defense and eliminate the major reason why the Six Day War occurred from the conversation. This further desensitizes people to revising Israel’s history and casting it as an imperial power.

The second article on “Mondoweiss” focuses on the theories of Norman Finkelstein, a known anti-Israel advocate who is not regarded as an objective source on the conflict.

Finkelstein applies the final result of the war as if it were Israel’s intent all along: Conquer territory and never relinquish it. That assumption relies on an impossible-to-plan chain of events to manifest Israel’s supposed and risky goal.

First, Egypt would have to block Israeli shipping and order UN peacekeepers out of the peninsula. Then Arab leaders from all countries, including a reluctant Jordan, would have to agree to a multinational alliance to invade Israel. Then those forces would have to NOT attack.

Jewish Voice for Peace’s Facebook post of article “Israel provoked the Six-Day War in 1967, and it was not fighting for survival.”

Finkelstein, precariously, claims Nassir had no intention of going to war with Israel. But the blockade of Israeli shipping was itself an act of war.

He then claims Israel’s masterful generals pulled the wool over the eyes of their own citizens. He then ignores Egypt’s deployment in the Sinai to say, “The leaders were culpable twice over; they provoked the crisis and then launched an unprovoked attack.”

This rehash of history intends to recast all the characters in the events leading up to Israel’s preemptive strike: Israel was the aggressor, not the threatened. Israel provoked the war, not Arab armies threatening destruction. Nassir was never serious about war, and pointing to Nassir’s literal acts of war is not relevant.

This is a clear denial of genocidal intent.

It is a rare thing in 20th century history to look at the crime of attempted genocide. The case more often, humanity had to look back and wonder why no one acted to save the Jews in World War II, the Armenians in World War I or the Tutsis in the 1994 Rwandan Genocide. With 20/20 hindsight, we realize the murderous rhetoric of Adolf Hitler in the 1930s, the Young Turks in the 1910s, and the Hutu government in 1994.

But we have a case, in 1967, when Israel heard these threats, built on decades of rhetoric, to destroy its existence. Israel, through a combination of preparedness and fear, struck first and averted what many thought would be a second Holocaust.

Denying the intent of Arab leaders to wage genocide against Israelis is akin to denying genocides after they have happened. Trafficking in this level of historical revisionism is no different than white supremacist denials of the Holocaust and Turkish denials of the Armenian Genocide.

Jewish Voice of Peace should be ashamed of itself.

 

 

 

 

FIDF Event Shines a Light on Siblings of Fallen Soldiers

Gil Lesnik

The Friends of the Israel Defense Forces hosted a Shabbat dinner in Center City. The evening’s special guest was Israeli writer, producer and director Gil Lesnik, who screened his film “My Younger Elder Brother” at the dinner. The film documents the struggles of a previously overlooked group of bereaved people: the younger siblings of fallen soldiers. [Read more…]

Jerusalem Reunification From the Eyes of a Child

Western Wall, Jerusalem, June, 1967

Western Wall

-Written by Eli Yaron

I witnessed the reunification of Jerusalem firsthand. I was a nine-year-old boy when this modern-day miracle unfolded during the Six-Day War in 1967.

Three weeks before the war, I was enjoying the Yom Hatzmaut (Independence Day) celebrations, which included the IDF parade during the day, and the yearly Israeli song festival in the evening. The parade took place in Jerusalem that year. However, because the occupying Jordanians had restricted the access of Jews within the walls of the ancient part of the city, the parade had to be held in the newer part. Due to the cease-fire agreements with Jordan, the parade was limited to marching troops and jeeps. Although the air force flyby and the columns of tanks were not allowed, the parade was still a show of force.

Singer Shuly Nathan with her guitar on stage

Singer Shuly Nathan

The song festival included 12 songs that competed for first prize. I recall my family sitting around the radio listening to the songs. Then, it was announced that the mayor, Teddy Koleck, had asked for a special song, that was not part of the contest, to be written about Jerusalem. A young singer whom none of us had ever heard before, Shuli Nathan, started singing “Avir Harim Tzalul K’Yaytin” (Mountain Air That Is Pure as Wine), written by Naomi Shemer. We were mesmerized. My mother came in from the kitchen, and when the refrain of “Yerushalayim Shel Zahav” (Jerusalem of Gold) was sung for the first time, I saw her wiping a tear. On the radio, we could hear the crowd singing the refrain, followed by a brief silence and then applause that seemed to last forever. My father simply said, “Hayinu Kecholmim (as if we are dreaming).”

Most Israelis do not recall which song won the 1967 song festival contest. But all those who listened to the broadcast recall vividly that at the end of the evening, Shuli Nathan came on stage again to sing “Yerushalayim Shel Zahav,” with the audience joining her and choking back tears.

The next morning, the 7 a.m. news started with Nasser, the president of Egypt, demanding the removal of the UN peace-keeping forces between Israel and Egypt. The UN forces vacated their position on the border, and the Egyptian army took their place. In response, Israel mobilized those in military reserve units. Within a few days, our neighborhood changed — only children, young women, and the elderly were left. School continued as usual, and the only difference in my life was that my parents were working long hours. My father was working around the clock at ZIM, the Israeli shipping line. He came home every third or fourth day for a quick shower and meal, before going right back. My mother was working full-time at a friend’s hardware store, as he was called to reserve duty as well.

A few days later, two major events took place. On the foreign affairs front, Nasser announced he was closing the Tiran Straits to Israeli ships. And on the home front, our cleaning lady, a widow who lived in downtown Haifa in a mixed Jewish-Arab neighborhood, came crying to my mother. Our cleaning lady said that her Arab neighbor told her, “Wait until we win. We are going to kill your children first, and then we will kill you!” My mother told her not to worry about a thing, because that would never happen. Tuning in to the Arab radio stations that broadcasted in Hebrew, we repeatedly heard the same message: “We will slaughter you and throw your bodies into the Mediterranean Sea, as none of you will remain alive at the end of the war.” [Read more…]

Celebrate Israel Festivals in 15 Cities Coast-to-Coast

By Meira Fine

This spring, the Israeli American Council is partnering with Jewish Federations, JCCs, and other organizations to host major Celebrate Israel festivals in Los Angeles, New York, Boston, Las Vegas, Arizona, Seattle, Chicago and New Jersey from May 7th until June 11th. Additional celebrations will be hosted by community groups through IAC Beyachad (IAC Together) in many metropolitan areas, including Salt Lake City, Tucson, St. Louis, Atlanta, and Omaha. More than 50,000 pro-Israel Americans of all backgrounds and faiths will come together to celebrate Israel and commemorate the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem.The events will constitute the largest Israel celebration outside of Israel on record, a feat the IAC repeats each year.

“We are thrilled to bring people together from across the pro-Israel community to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Jerusalem’s reunification in what will be the largest celebration of Israel outside of Israel in history,” said IAC CEO Shoham Nicolet. “Israeli-Americans are very proud of the increasing role that we are playing as a bridge between the America and Israel, and within the Jewish and pro-Israel
communities here in the United States.”

Each event will feature its own depictions of Jerusalem’s reunification. In Los Angeles, a 24-ft. tall Towerof David, life-size replica of the Kotel, and past-and-present photography exhibit by Noam Chen will bring participants face-to-face with the Jewish people’s eternal capital. In Boston, attendees will enjoy an archeological dig, shop in a replica of the Machane Yehuda Shuk, and enjoy performances from a
range of Israeli and Jewish artists and student groups.

Past Celebrate Israel events have brought unique and iconic Israeli experiences to regions across the U.S. – from the more than 15,000 attendees who turned out years past in Los Angeles to hear the sounds of Israeli headliners, like Idan Raichel, to the thousands of participants who mingled in Tel Aviv beach sand in Boston.

Holocaust Survivors Travel With IDF Officers to Poland and Israel

Miroslawa Gruszczynska (left) and Holocaust survivor Miri Amir. Photo credit: Shahar Azran.

Miroslawa Gruszczynska (left) and Holocaust survivor Miri Amir. Photo credit: Shahar Azran.

Auschwitz-Birkenau survivor Bronia Brandman, 86, returned to the death camp for the first time since her liberation. Holocaust survivor Miri Amir was reunited yesterday with Miroslawa Gruszczynska, the woman whose family — awarded the title “Righteous Among the Nations” by Yad Vashem — hid her from the Nazis in Poland during World War II. Both of these emotionally charged events took place during a trip to Poland by Holocaust survivors, officers from the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and a delegation of 40 supporters of the organization Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF). During the second leg of the journey, the group also traveled together to Israel.

[Read more…]

Palestinian Women Tried to Smuggle Explosives as Cancer Medicine, Media Shrugs

Reprinted with permission from Snapshots, a CAMERA blog

Photo courtesy of Snapshots, a Camera blog.

Two Palestinian sisters tried to smuggle explosives into Israel from Gaza by labeling them as cancer medication. The Israeli security service Shin Bet caught the two women on April 19, 2017. Many major U.S. news outlets failed to report the event.

[Read more…]

Schumer Speaks at AIPAC Policy Conference

On Tuesday, March 28, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) took to the podium at the AIPAC Policy Conference. In a heartfelt address peppered with personal anecdotes, he spoke to the strength of the bond between the United States and Israel. He discussed the recent rise of anti-Semitism in Europe and the United States. He also characterized the campaign to delegitimize Israel — waged by movements like BDS (Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions) and by the United Nations — as a “cloaked” form of anti-Semitism. Finally, he called for unified support for Israel across the American political spectrum, and pledged, “[A]s long as HaShem breathes air into my lungs, I will fight to make Israel a safer, more secure, more prosperous nation.”

The transcript of Sen. Schumer’s speech, as provided on the AIPAC Policy Conference website, appears below. [Read more…]