Being Jewish and American on 9/11

www.flickr.com/photos/vosherov/ Second Tower on Fire, 9/11 Vladimir Osherov

Twin Towers burning, view from Queens. Credit: Vladimir Osherov

by Lou Balcher

With the High Holidays around the corner, remembrance and reflection are part of our Jewish DNA. So what is the significance of 9/11 for us as American Jews?

Prominently placed on my suit jacket lapel is a 9/11 pin that is worn while speaking about Israel at community events. It always is a conversation starter. After the talk, unfailingly someone asks, “Why the 9/11 pin?” My answer is that on 9/11, our Christian neighbors and friends finally began to understand what it means to be Jewish and supportive of Israel. [Read more…]

Thou Shalt Not Remain Indifferent

Rabbi Marks, left. Elie Wiesel, center.

Rabbi Marks, left. Elie Wiesel, center.

Elie Wiesel was not an Israeli citizen. Nevertheless, the news in Israel refers to him as “one of our own.” In a country whose establishment is inextricably tied to the Holocaust, the messages conveyed by his words, both written and spoken, articulate both the lessons of the Holocaust and, in a powerful way, the importance of the State of Israel. Israel, of course, provides the place to which Jews may escape and find safe haven when the forces of anti-Semitism imperil their lives. Today, the influx of Jews from France provides but one example of how important this aspect of Israel remains. But Wiesel’s message went beyond anti-Semitism, challenging Israel to be more than a place for Jews, but a place illuminated by Jewish values. Wiesel loved Israel. Had there been an Israel prior to WWII, one can only imagine how many Jews could have been saved. But Wiesel loved Israel not only because it was a place for Jews, but because it was the only place in this world where Judaism, Hebrew and Torah could gain full expression.

I had the privilege of hearing Elie Wiesel speak on numerous occasions. Most memorable was his visit to our congregation, some twelve years ago, arranged for by our member, my dear friend and friend of Wiesel, David Pincus, z”l. Each time I heard Elie Wiesel speak, the power and poetry of his words touched me deeply. But it was not just the stories of the Holocaust which stirred him. As distance from the Holocaust grew, his message to those who would listen focused powerfully and forcefully on today’s world. Whether speaking to the UN about the growth of anti-Semitism or identifying today’s tyrants who orchestrate the mass murder of their own citizens, Wiesel was tireless, fearless and unwavering.

While mourning Wiesel’s death, we were reminded of the urgency and timeliness of the message of his life. Over the course of the 24 hours before or after his death, we learned of a spate of brutal, gruesome and senseless attacks. In a cafe in Bangladesh gunmen entered and executed 20 people. In Baghdad a suicide bomber drove his van into an area crowded with people celebrating the end of Ramadan, killing more than 140. ISIS has claimed responsibility for these attacks, as well as the attack in the airport in Istanbul. Here in Israel, during that same 24 hour period, we learned of the stabbing of a 13 year-old girl by a terrorist who broke into her house and stabbed her while she slept in her bed.

And then there was the random attack on a rabbi and his family coming home to prepare for Shabbat.

Rabbi Marks, left, looks on as Elie Wiesel attaches mezuza.

Rabbi Marks, left, looks on as Elie Wiesel attaches mezuza.

Rabbi Miki Marks, the Head Rabbi/Rosh Yeshiva of the Yeshiva in the town of Otniel, had a reputation for being open and kind, a rare Rabbi who wanted to find ways to live and co-exist with his Palestinian neighbors. It was because of this reputation that Elie Wiesel agreed to come to that Yeshiva some years ago as the Yeshiva’s new building was being dedicated. In a photograph being circulated today, Wiesel and Rabbi Marks are seen smiling and clapping hands as the mezuza was affixed to the doorpost at the entrance to the building by Elie Wiesel. It is ironic that the Rabbi was killed just before Shabbat, less than 24 hours before Wiesel died.

Israelis, secular and religious alike, have been stunned by the senseless attack on the Rabbi of Otniel and the attack on a girl sleeping in her bed. Meanwhile, the world is shocked once again, by the murderous rampages of an unrestrained and unrepentant Radical Islam. (Israelis cannot comprehend how the world can be stunned by the terrorism perpetrated by ISIS around the world while remaining indifferent to attacks in Israel. But that discussion is for another time.) Even Wiesel’s powerful voice was unable to shake the world’s conscience in order to generate a global call for justice for Israel. But Wiesel never stopped trying.

I don’t know what Israel or humanity can do to fight the evil which seems to fill our world. Elie Wiesel charged us with the responsibility to bear witness. He implored us never to forget. In response to a lifetime of pleas by Elie Wiesel, in response to the terrorism which is inflicted daily upon Israelis, in response to a world which seems permeated with hatred, we must never stop trying. What then shall we do? That is a question we must each answer for ourselves. But this much I know: in response to a hate-filled and violence-crazed world, in solidarity with Israel and as an homage to the life and work of Elie Wiesel, z”l, we cannot forget, we cannot ignore, we must never become indifferent.

Jordan Had No Choice But to Execute Islamic Terrorist Prisoners

Jordanian pilot Muadh al-Kasasbeh captured and killed by ISIL.

Jordanian pilot Muadh al-Kasasbeh captured and killed by ISIL.

Ordinarily, I oppose the death penalty and I certainly oppose revenge killings, but ISIL left the Kingdom of Jordon no choice but to do exactly that.

Jordan was in negotiations with ISIL to exchange unsuccessful 2012 suicide bomber Sajida al-Rishawi and two other terrorists for Jordanian pilot Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh. Jordan was willing to agree to free terrorists from death row, but required proof of that the captured coalition pilot was still alive. They demanded the proof because there had been unsubstantiated rumors that Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh had been burnt alive shortly after being captured on January 3.

In fact, ISIL had been negotiating in bad faith. These terrible rumors were confirmed yesterday as ISIL released an extremely disturbing video showing the Jordanian pilot slowly burning to death while in a cage.

Now, ISIL knows that Jordan is willing to negotiate with terrorists and that they will free killers in exchange for soldiers. Having made the mistake of negotiating with this group, the terrorists on death row in Jordanian prisons became an enormous liability for the kingdom. ISIL had a great incentive to take an additional prisoner and simply by refraining from killing him so quickly, they would expect to free their comrades from Jordanian prisons and secure a major coup for their efforts to create a new Islamic State.

The only path forward for Jordan now was to expedite the execution of these terrorists. Fox news reported that today, just after the morning prayers, “prisoners Sajida al-Rishawi and Ziad al-Karbouli were executed”:

Al-Rishawi has been on death row for her role in a triple hotel bombing in the Jordanian capital Amman in 2005 that killed dozens…. Ziad Al-Karbuli was a former aide to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian Al Qaeda operative who was killed in 2006.

For His Family, Evyatar Borovsky Will Never Be a Statistic

— by Yaron Sideman, Israel’s consul general, Mid-Atlantic Region

On April 30, 2013, a Palestinian terrorist murdered Eviatar Borovsky at the Tapauch Junction in the northern West Bank. Eviatar, just 31 years old, was a righteous and God-fearing man who loved life. He loved making people laugh and was extremely funny. He had studied to be a medical clown, and saw it as his vocation to make patients smile and laugh. He didn’t care if they were Jewish or Arab.

To most of us, Eviatar Borovsky will, unfortunately, soon become a statistic — another casualty in the long list of victims of mindless hate.

More after the jump.
He will never become a statistic, though, to his family, friends and relatives, including his wife and five children, the eldest only seven years old. For the rest of their lives they will carry with them an unbearable burden; with the death of their loved one, something in them died as well. There is a sudden void that has been created in their lives, never to be filled again.  

He will never become a statistic to his brother, Elyada Barak. Elyada happens to be a colleague of mine in Jerusalem. Both of us work together at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I am sure that when I encounter Elyada in the future, he will continue being the good-natured, amicable person he has always been, but I will know that life for him will never be the same. A significant part of him died on April 30 and will never come back.

When, from a young age, Palestinian children are indoctrinated to hate Israelis, when their curriculum in Gaza includes a course on using hand grenades and Kalashnikov rifles against Israelis, when Palestinian suicide bombers are glorified and public squares in major Palestinian cities are named after them, when Palestinian terrorists receive handsome financial support from the Palestinian Authority for their acts of ‘heroism,’ and when such a culture of hate is systematically being fostered and is absorbed from a very young age — then perhaps we shouldn’t be that surprised that innocent Israelis like Eviatar Borovsky are brutally murdered at the hands of Palestinian terrorists.

Eviatar Borovsky should not become a statistic. It is my hope that his tragic and untimely death will not have been in vain; that it will impress the need to change the Palestinian mindset, starting with educating the youth.

My hope is that one day the values of tolerance and acceptance will replace those of hatred and animosity in the textbooks of Palestinian children, and that Eviatar Borovsky will be the last victim of a culture of hate.  

Boston Bombing: We are All Targets

As I reflect on the events of the past 24 hours, my thoughts and prayers are with the 130 people who have been injured, to greater or lesser degrees, by the bombs that exploded in Boston. May they be granted speedy and complete recoveries. May G-d strengthen the hands of those who tend to their injuries and wounds. May those in need be granted healing, both physical and spiritual. I know that you join me in extending heartfelt sympathy and prayers for comfort to the families of the three victims who died from their wounds. I pray that those whose job it is to find and apprehend those responsible are successful in their work. May those who are guilty be brought to justice and be held accountable for these heinous crimes. [Read more…]

Obama Administration Condemns Hizballah for Burgas Attack

— by David Streeter

The Obama Administration strongly condemned the now-confirmed involvement of Hizballah in the attack on Israelis in Burgas, Bulgaria. Secretary of State John Kerry said:

The United States commends our close friend and NATO ally Bulgaria for its thorough and professional investigation into the July 18, 2012, Burgas terrorist attack.

The finding is clear and unequivocal: Lebanese Hizballah was responsible for this deadly assault on European soil.

More after the jump.

We condemn Hizballah in the strongest terms for an attack which bears striking similarities to other disrupted plots of the last year. The United States is acting decisively and comprehensively to curtail Hizballah’s destabilizing actions in Europe, Southeast Asia, South America, and the Middle East, and we are prepared to do all within our power to assist the Government of Bulgaria in bringing those responsible for the Burgas attack to justice.

We strongly urge other governments around the world — and particularly our partners in Europe — to take immediate action to crack down on Hizballah. We need to send an unequivocal message to this terrorist group that it can no longer engage in despicable actions with impunity.

Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism John Brennan said:

The United States commends the Government of Bulgaria for its professional and comprehensive investigation into the barbaric July 18, 2012 terrorist attack in Burgas. Today, following a thorough review of the evidence collected to date, Bulgarian authorities announced their judgment that Lebanese Hizballah was responsible for carrying out this act of terrorism, which killed six innocent civilians and injured many others.

Bulgaria’s investigation exposes Hizballah for what it is — a terrorist group that is willing to recklessly attack innocent men, women, and children, and that poses a real and growing threat not only to Europe, but to the rest of the world. We commend Bulgarian authorities for their determination and commitment to ensuring that Hizballah is held to account for this act of terror on European soil. The United States will continue to provide the Bulgarian Government assistance in bringing the perpetrators of this heinous attack to justice.

Hizballah’s dangerous and destabilizing activities — from attacking tourists in foreign countries to leader Hassan Nasrallah’s active support of Bashar al-Assad’s violent campaign against the Syrian people — threaten the safety and security of nations and citizens around the world. Bulgaria’s implication of Hizballah underscores the importance of international cooperation in disrupting terrorist threats. We call on our European partners as well as other members of the international community to take proactive action to uncover Hizballah’s infrastructure and disrupt the group’s financing schemes and operational networks in order to prevent future attacks.

The United States is proud to stand with its friend and NATO ally Bulgaria. We deeply value our strong partnership on a wide range of issues including advancing global and regional security in Afghanistan and the Balkans, expanding economic and commercial ties, and promoting cultural and education programs.