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 [email protected]

Anti-Semitism in Europe Today and What it Means for America

Photo by OsamaK https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:OsamaK

Eldad Beck is a multilingual, Sorbonne-educated Israeli journalist based in Europe. He has spent the past several years walking about the streets of Berlin, Paris, Budapest, and other cities listening to the people. According to him, anti-Semitism is alive and well in the hearts and minds of regular Europeans. The trends in Europe may be a roadmap for the Jewish community in the United States.

Since he covers the whole continent, he spoke of the situation in several countries. For the sake of brevity, we will focus on his experience in Germany.

Mr. Beck was curious about what young Germans think about Jews these days. Do they know what anti-Semitism is, and if it exists in Germany? Why is Israel so negatively seen in Germany?

He asked a class of college students about the news media. What do the reports say, and how does that make them feel? The students analyzed all the major German newspapers. They discovered that whether they were politically to the left or to the right, regardless of the other conflicts in the Middle East, all of the publications have an anti-Israel slant.

Mr. Beck wondered how Germany arrived at this place. He asked the students why they think Jews are negatively portrayed. The students shared three reasons that German gentiles don’t like Jews.

The first is that they feel like there are many Jews in Germany. Mr. Beck asked them how many Jews they thought live in Germany. They thought the community numbers one million. In reality, the Jewish population of Germany is two hundred thousand.

The second reason Germans don’t like Jews is that they think that there are many Jews in politics, with an outsize influence. The truth is that there is not a single Jewish politician serving in the Bundestag.

The third reason the students gave is that there are many Jews in the media. There are very few Jews in the German media.

How did these German college students come to have these beliefs?

They never learned about anti-Semitism. These young Germans were never taught about the process in Germany that led up to the Holocaust. Anti-Semitism is only one part of the hatred of Jews. It is possible to have anti-Semitism in places where there are no Jews.

The hatred of Jews started as a religious hatred. The issue was over who has the true religion. When Jews were faced with a choice of life or death, they could change their religion in order to save their lives. This is what occurred during the Inquisition.

The Inquisition was the root of the second type of hatred of Jews, a hatred of a race. Jews who converted to Catholicism, or “New Christians,” were not really considered clean by the Old Christians.

“Semite” replaced the word for “Jews” in Europe. Historically, anti-Semitism was hatred of Jews, and of no other Semites.

The State of Israel was founded after the Holocaust. Zionism was not a response to Nazism. It had originated much earlier, in the late 1890s, with Theodor Herzl.

Anti-Zionism is the political hatred of Jews. According to the anti-Zionists, Jews are not allowed to have their own state. In Europe, the word “Zionist” is a curse.

Germany has a double crisis. There is a revolt against the elites and a conflict between “old” Europeans and “new” immigrants and refugees. The one point of agreement between all these people is their hatred of Jews. This engenders all sorts of conspiracy theories.

One such theory is that Angela Merkel is a Jew. Mrs. Merkel supports Israel. She promotes good relations between Israel and Germany. Some Germans compare what the Nazis did to the Jews with what Israelis do to the Palestinians. This is a way for them to clean their conscience and memory from the Holocaust.

Germany has allowed so many Muslim immigrants into the country that the Germans now feel threatened by them. The German authorities refuse to acknowledge Muslim anti-Semitism. When anti-Semitic attacks occur, the police are afraid of interfering and escalating the situation. In 2014, three men of Palestinian descent threw a Molotov cocktail at the Wuppertal Synagogue near Dusseldorf. A German court ruled that this is considered a legitimate expression of anger at Israel.

Mr. Beck concluded that the difference between today and the past is the existence of the State of Israel. Jews all over the world have a country they can go to. Standing by Israel is one of the best guarantees against all forms of hatred of Jews. The fight against hatred must not stop. The battle today is against the existence of the State of Israel. Those who oppose Israel want the Jews to be weak and dependent on them. The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement is not a boycott movement. It is a movement to annihilate the Jewish State. The political slogan chanted by members of the BDS, “Palestine from the river to the sea,” means all the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. This means the destruction of the State of Israel.

There are 1.6 million Jews in the European Union. 38% of these Jews are considering immigration. 80% will not wear external Jewish symbols such as a Star of David or yarmulke, or go to Jewish public events. If the Jewish community in the United States does not open its eyes to the threats against it, it will inevitably face the same situation.

IsraAID’s Work in Puerto Rico

This year Israel is the only fully-participating foreign country in the annual SOMOS conference for Hispanic leaders of New York.

As part of the conference, Israel’s Consulate General in New York has organized for over 60 participants to tour two specific IsraAID projects in Puerto Rico, as the island continues to recover from Hurricane Maria: the new gravitational sand water filtration system in Barrio Real, and the donation of medical supplies at a school in Caguas.

One year after Hurricane Maria swept across the Caribbean, the Israeli humanitarian aid organization IsraAID, which was one of the earliest international responders to the disaster, has renewed its commitment to the region. In Puerto Rico, where the official number of fatalities was recently raised from 64 to 2,975, IsraAID’s team is working with local partners to provide safe water and develop community resilience. Many of the island’s residents are still without electricity or safe water.

IsraAID’s emergency response team touched down in Puerto Rico in September 2017, only a few days after Hurricane Maria made landfall. The NGO has had a team on the island ever since, providing WASH (water, sanitation, and hygiene) solutions, emergency medical care, and mental health support. During the initial emergency response phase, IsraAID distributed water filters for 6,000 people in six remote communities, operated six mobile medical clinics, treating hundreds of people from some of Puerto Rico’s most deprived communities in nine different areas, provided direct mental health support in six shelters, and trained the staff of two hospitals in using expressive arts techniques to respond to trauma. Since the initial emergency response phase, IsraAID’s team on-the-ground has focused on developing long-term programs to help accompany Puerto Ricans on the journey towards recovery and a sustainable future.

In early October 2018, IsraAID and the Interamerican University of Puerto Rico will complete construction of a new gravitational sand water filtration system in Barrio Real, a small, rural community, which is not served by the island’s water system. After Hurricane Maria destroyed the community’s main water source, Barrio Real’s residents were left with no access to safe water. It took seven days for bottled water to reach the remote mountain village, during which time only unsafe river water was available. IsraAID distributed temporary household water filters in the initial weeks after the hurricane.

A year later, the residents of Barrio Real are still without a permanent, communal supply of safe water. The new filtration system does not require electricity, ensuring that it can continue to provide a sustainable source of safe water for future generations. Volunteers from San Juan’s Jewish community have been trained by IsraAID to provide door-to-door workshops on safe water and hygiene to the residents of Barrio Real, ensuring that the new water system will be fully utilized. Every currently occupied household has been reached.

The psychological and social effects of the hurricane are still being felt across the island. The recently announced increase in Maria’s death toll is a stark reminder of the disaster’s long-term impact. Since arriving in Puerto Rico, IsraAID’s team has utilized the organization’s long-held expertise in mental health and psychological support to strengthen the island’s capacity to cope with the crisis. As part of its long-term programming, IsraAID’s has partnered with ASPIRA, a local organization providing alternative schooling for 3,400 at-risk young people across the island. IsraAID’s psychosocial support specialists are training ASPIRA’s teachers in how to build their students’ resilience and provide post-trauma support as they recover from the devastation of Hurricane Maria.

StandWithUs Israeli Soldiers Tour

By Ferne Hassan
Associate Director
StandWithUs/Mid-Atlantic Region

On October 14 two reservists will reveal their personal experiences in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). They will be in Philadelphia as part of StandWithUs “Israeli Soldiers Tour” (IST). These veterans will share stories from the front lines, not from the headlines. Ilan and Yuval (last names withheld for security purposes) will also share their backgrounds, life in Israel and answer any tough questions members from the audience wish to pose to them.

Ilan was born in Venezuela and moved to Israel in 2010. Ilan’s father is a Christian Venezuelan and his mother is the daughter of a Holocaust refugee. His home, education, and life have always exemplified multiculturalism and coexistence. Ilan served in the Humanitarian and Civil Affairs Unit in the IDF, also known as COGAT, working with Palestinian civilians and representatives in projects focused on improving the lives of Palestinian families. Ilan lives in Ramat Gan, Tel Aviv.

Yuval, 25, studies Law at the College of Management Academic Studies, in Rishon LeZion. At age 17 Yuval’s dance group won first place in a competition in Barcelona. At age 18, Yuval entered mandatory military service in the Israeli Air Force, administering tests both written and in a flight simulator to candidates for an Elite Pilots Course. After service, Yuval traveled by herself through Central and South America. Last year, she volunteered to be part of a humanitarian delegation to Tanzania helping renovate a school and taught children English and Mathematics. Yuval now lives in Kibbutz Palmachim.

Ilan and Yuval will speak at the Lower Merion Area Hebrew High School, Congregation Beth Or in Ambler, and the University of Pennsylvania Hillel.

This Is Not Peaceful Resistance

Hamas admitted that 50 of the 62 people killed in the recent violence on the Israel-Gaza border were Hamas members, while others among the dead have been identified as members of Islamic Jihad. In fact, organizers of the violence had laid out their intentions clearly, with the co-founder of Hamas saying unequivocally, “This is not peaceful resistance.”

We should take the organizers of this confrontation at their word. Orchestrated by Hamas, approximately 40,000 rioters gathered at the border and several thousand tried to storm into Israel at 13 locations. The campaign’s title “March of Return” reflects Hamas’ aim: to break the border fence and storm Israeli towns in order to attack and kidnap Israeli civilians. The closest Israeli communities are only half a mile away from the border. Israeli soldiers have been defending the border from what could lead to a successful breach of the fence. In this way, Israel has been acting as any sovereign nation would be expected to.

Israel made relentless efforts to prevent the Palestinian masses from violently breaching the border. These efforts included early warnings by leaflets, direct phone calls, radio and social media in Arabic, and other means.

In contrast, Hamas is taking steps to exacerbate the difficulties faced by its own people, as a play for international condemnation of Israel. Hamas turned back aid trucks containing medical supplies donated by Israel after the supplies had already entered Gaza. Despite the deteriorating health situation in Gaza, Hamas refused this humanitarian aid, returning it to Israel. This happened a week after Palestinians had sabotaged the Kerem Shalom aid crossing multiple times, including blowing up gas pipelines, in an attempt to bring about total chaos.

Israel’s need to defend itself and Hamas’ efforts to aggravate the plight of its own people are fundamental issues at the very core of the current violence. However, the way recent events have been framed does not do justice to the realities on the ground for either Israelis or Palestinians.

Candidates in the 4th Congressional District Offer Perspectives on Israel

With the primaries next week, candidates are crisscrossing the 18 newly drawn congressional districts in Pennsylvania, talking to voters about a host of issues, ranging from gun violence to education to healthcare to the environment. However, the issue of Israel is rarely discussed during candidate forums and speaking engagements. Since this issue is profoundly important to many of our readers, we have decided to ask some of the candidates about their views on Israel, starting with those in the 4th Congressional District, which now consists primarily of Montgomery County. [Read more…]

Job Opening for Knesset Rabbi: Now Accepting Women Applicants

By Steven Beck

The Knesset in Jerusalem. Photo: Xiquinhosilva

For the first time in Israel’s history, a woman can apply for the position of Knesset Rabbi.

Several months ago, the Knesset published a tender for the position of Knesset Rabbi to replace the current rabbi who will be retiring in a few months. The tender required applicants to present a certificate from the Chief Rabbinate, a provision that excluded women from applying as they are barred from completing the Rabbinate’s certification exams.

[Read more…]

Lone Soldier Yom Hazikaron (Remembrance Day) Ceremony: The Sons We Lost

— by Sara Kalker

On Israel’s Memorial Day, which begins on the eve of April 17, 2018, the Lone Soldier Center in Memory of Michael Levin will commemorate the hundreds of lone soldiers from abroad who gave their lives for the independence and continuous survival of the State of Israel. These brave young men and women fell far away from their family and birthplace, often leaving very few people, if any, to visit their graves or commemorate their lives on this momentous day.

The Lone Soldier Center will bring together hundreds of people for a special Yom Hazikaron (Remembrance Day) ceremony: one that honors and remembers our fallen lone soldiers. This ceremony is the only Yom Hazikaron ceremony in Israel to be conducted in English that is open to the public and will be available by live-stream to communities around the world. Our aim is to strengthen the connection of English speaking immigrants, tourists and students in Israel and abroad to Israel’s Memorial Day and the stories of Israel’s heroes.

This year’s ceremony will feature the mothers of fallen lone soldiers Alex Singer, Michael Levin and Max Steinberg, z”l, and a musical performance by musician Shlomo Katz.

Six Israeli Freedom Songs for Passover

Passover is a great time to listen to songs on the subjects of slavery and freedom. With all due respect to George Michael’s “Freedom” and Idina Menzel’s “Let It Go,” Israeli music is filled with beautiful songs on these subjects and should not be ignored.

If you do not understand Hebrew, fear not: This article includes six of the best Israeli freedom songs, translated into English as accurately as the differences between the two languages allow.

[Read more…]

Exodus From India to Israel

Little girl from India holding Israeli flag, makes aliyah to Israel. Photo: Shavei Israel

Little girl from India makes aliyah to Israel. Photo: Shavei Israel

Over 200 new immigrants came from the northeastern Indian state of Manipur to Israel.

The state, which is on the border with Burma, is home to the largest concentration of Bnei Menashe (Sons of Manassah) in India.

The new immigrants plan on settling in the Galilee, where many Bnei Menashe immigrants have made homes. They initially will reside in Shavei Israel’s absorption center in Kfar Hasidim, where they will formally convert to Judaism.

Upon arrival, the new immigrants will immediately begin preparing for Passover. [Read more…]

High School Rugby Boys Needed for Israel Tournament

Rugby sevens at the open 2017 Maccabi Games.

Maccabi USA is seeking male Jewish rugby players born between 2002 and 2004 to represent the U.S. in rugby sevens at the inaugural Maccabi Youth Games in Israel, taking place between July 22 and August 1, 2018.

This ten-day event will combine tournament-style competition with touring and experiential education, alongside Jewish teens from Australia, Canada, Great Britain, Israel, South Africa and more. The six days of competition will be based in and around the city of Haifa, followed by three days of touring based in Jerusalem. The Games are in cooperation with the JCC Association, the JCC Maccabi Games, BBYO, and Maccabi organizations around the world.

For more information, contact Maccabi USA’s program director, Shane Carr at 215.561.6900 or by email: [email protected].