It Takes Two for Peace, President Abbas

DomeMuch of the angst between Israeli and Palestinian sides has been centered around finger pointing. It is easier to tell the other side what it must do before peace can come. The Israelis put the onus on the Palestinians, claiming Israel is ready to go. And the Palestinians do the same. Neither side makes hard decisions. Netanyahu digs his heels in. And Abbas likewise takes an intractable stand.

Many of us, who advocate for a two-state solution, speak of our ability to control only what happens on our side. We talk about the things that Israel can do to create space for peace, or even promote unilateral moves Israel can make to achieve peace. We continually call upon the Israeli government to take proactive steps regarding restarting peace talks and settlements. But realistically that is not enough.

The truth remains that peace can only come when both sides are prepared to make the difficult and courageous choices, which include concessions neither want to make. But they both are compelled to make these compromises in order to create the greater good of peace for all. Leaderships must be prepared to truly be visionaries and take bold steps.

So Mr. Abbas, your people, the world and your potential ally Israel are watching current events and your responses very closely. We hear your silence when youngsters brutally attack with knives and deliberately place themselves in harms way in a futile and desperate attempt to incite and murder. We hear your voice fanning the flames of hate with falsehoods playing on the emotions of the Muslim faithfuls regarding the Temple Mount/al-Haram al-Sarif/Har Habayit, and the purposeful false report of the death of a 13-year-old. Through these things, you clearly tell us where you stand as the leader of the Palestinians and on the opportunity for peace.

You appear to have turned your back on your people. You are willing to make them a nation of perpetual martyrs, permanently disenfranchised with no hope of a homeland, only the fantasy of victorious war over Israel.

It is time to make Israel your ally. She is both legitimate and permanent. So the choice is yours: a never-ending battle using your people as pawns, or the creation of a viable peace between two nations living cooperatively. Ultimately, perhaps your goal might be to someday stand like Ronald Reagan and declare it is the time for the Security Wall to come down. And in an era of peace, your Israeli counterpart will be all too likely to comply.

Israeli Family Copes With Wave of Terror

Marne Joan and Leora Shirit Rochester in their bomb shelter.

Marne Joan and Leora Shirit Rochester in their bomb shelter.

Matzav is Hebrew for “situation,” which is what we call it during times of unrest.

Last year, during the matzav I would sing with the kids in my daycare the song by Naomi Shemer based on the saying by Rebbi Nachman from Breslov:

All the world is a very narrow bridge. But the main thing is to not be afraid.

כל העולם כולו גשר צר מאוד, והעיקר לא לפחד כלל.

But how can one not be afraid when terrorists are running around the country killing people? I think what the song really means is to not let the fear take control.

I survived the first Gulf War with SCUD missiles landing in the backyard of my kibbutz, the first intifada, and the second intifada when every time we heard sirens my friends’ then-five-year-old child would ask, “Ima, where is the pigua?” (Pigua is Hebrew for “terror attack.”)

I have heard bombs go off. I have felt bombs go off. I have lost people I knew and cared about. I have survived these times of unrest without letting the fear take over, without locking myself inside. I kept going out and living my life as if there was no matzav, but with a bit more vigilance, always looking around.

Last week was my daughter Leora’s birthday. She has hit the double digits. Her party was based on the Israeli version of the show, “The Amazing Race.” We did “The Race for Leora”: The kids paired up and had to run around the neighborhood fulfilling different tasks to get the next clue.

Everything changed Tuesday. There was a shooting and stabbing attack in Armon HaNatziv, the next neighborhood, on a bus that I sometimes take. I know people who witnessed it and kids in the kindergarten and school right across the street from the attack. Before, all the rock throwing (more like cinder-blocks and rocks the size and weight of bowling balls and larger) and Molotov cocktails being hurdled in Armon HaNatziv seemed so far away. This attack seemed so close.

For the moment, Leora is not allowed to be outside by herself, and I do my best to find rides to and from places. I imagine once the shock of Tuesday wears off and if there is no other attack near the neighborhood, I will relax a bit.

The matzav is also causing an internal conflict. Before the second intifada Jews would regularly go into the Arab villages to do business, buy things, have a cup a coffee, and socialize with the residents. Close relationships were formed. Jews and Arabs would attend each others’ celebrations. During the second intifada, the Jewish Israelis felt betrayed by people they considered friends when they would praise the terrorist attacks and celebrate them in the villages. Since then, the relationships never recovered.

Tuesday, after the attack in the neighborhood, a parent with a child in Leora’s youth movement and I were discussing how to get the kids to and from the activity, since neither one of us wanted our kids to walk. Usually, I encourage Leora to walk, but yesterday was not a usual day. I suggested that I pick them up in a cab, since I do not have a car, but we both wanted to make sure it was a safe company. That meant no Arab driver. Many of the terrorists, as well as cab drivers, come for the neighboring village. I used the same cab company for years until I found out that they did not hire Arab drivers. I did not want to be part of the racism. But now, my main concern is my daughter’s safety. With the celebrations in the villages after each attack, I just cannot trust them with the most precious thing in my life.

The same day I went food shopping. I always bring a book to read while waiting in line. That night it was a good thing it was a very thick book, because I was in line for 50 minutes. Almost half of the registers were closed. When I asked why, I was told that the girls were afraid to come to work, or their parents were afraid to let them.

It is one of the most inexpensive store chains and known for equal hiring of minorities. Last summer the owner was called to fire his Arab workers after three Jewish teens were butchered by Arabs. He rightfully refused. But after the attack carried out by the Arab worker of a phone company and the celebrations in the villages, people feel that they cannot even trust their co-workers. On the positive side, during the troubled times, Israelis are much kinder to each other. No one pushed or shoved or yelled while waiting on line, which is very unusual for the supermarket here. People stood patiently, having conversations with other customers.

When I finally got home, I saw an e-mail from my daughter’s school. They got the water company to stop the work they are doing on the pipes across from the school. Parents and school staff were concerned because some of the workers were Arab. A few years ago the “tractorists,” Arab workers who took the tractors they were working with to run over people, made people suspicious of all Arab workers. And the cleaning company the school uses is to come in only after the kids have left. I have very mixed feelings about this. I do not want the situation to affect honest people’s livelihood. I do not want my daughter or any of the other kids to be suspicious of all Arabs. Part of me feels like I should speak up. But my need to keep my daughter safe is stronger.

Here we are again, dealing with it the best we can. What can I do? I have ordered pepper spray and signed up for a class to learn self-defense against knife attacks. I hope to God I will not need these. Meanwhile, some dark humor and chocolate get me through the matzav.

Special Prayer: Shabbat of Unity With the People of Israel

— by Rabbi David Wolpe

We invite people around the world to recite this kavannah in unity with the State of Israel this Shabbat, October 17, 2015.

El Maleh Rachamim — Compassionate God,
We pray not to wipe out haters but to banish hatred.
Not to destroy sinners but to lessen sin.
Our prayers are not for a perfect world but a better one
Where parents are not bereaved by the savagery of sudden attacks
Or children orphaned by blades glinting in a noonday sun.
Help us dear God, to have the courage to remain strong, to stand fast.
Spread your light on the dark hearts of the slayers
And your comfort to the bereaved hearts of families of the slain.
Let calm return Your city Jerusalem, and to Israel, Your blessed land.
We grieve with those wounded in body and spirit,
Pray for the fortitude of our sisters and brothers,
And ask you to awaken the world to our struggle and help us bring peace.

Missiles Fired at Israel Set Back World Progress

At only 67, Israel is the most reliable, capable, predictable, democratic and unreserved ally of the U.S. This is in direct contrast to the violent, unreliable, turbulent and generally anti-U.S. Arab street.

Amb. (retired) Yoram Ettinger recently wrote about Israel’s importance to the U.S. in his blog:

Israel is the most battle-tested, cost-effective laboratory of the US defense industries, sharing with US manufacturers thousands of upgrades and modifications, enhancing the US global competitiveness, exports, research and development and employment. Israel is to the US defense industry what triple-A tenants are to shopping malls: increasing value and drawing clients – a mega-billion dollar bonanza. (April 22, 2015)

Some 280 global high tech giants (mostly from the US) have given kudos to Israel’s economy, in general, and Israel’s brain power, in particular, by establishing research and development (R&D) centers in the Startup Nation. Thus, Intel operates four R&D centers, Microsoft – 2, IBM – 3 R&D centers, etc. (June 5, 2015)

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Fundamental Democratic Values Under Attack in Europe

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Cartoon courtesy of The Cartoon Kronicles @ http://cartoonkronicles.com/

— by Jonathan Gilad and Ryan Greiss

Since the start of the new year, two groups have found themselves targeted in Europe: satirists and Jews.

First in Paris and now in Copenhagen, two of the foundational values of Western democracies have come under attack: the freedom to identify openly and without fear as part of a religious or ethnic minority group; and the freedom of expression that permits satirical commentary about such groups.

The president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA), Rabbi Steve Gutow, said that these attacks “are not just attacking these individual communities, but the very foundations of freedom of expression, tolerance and security that we have come to expect.”

The JCPA chair, Susan W.  Turnbull, expressed hope that the attacks “will galvanize the world to take the steps needed to stem the tide of such violence and work toward a more tolerant future.”

The World Jewish Congress president, Ronald S. Lauder, said that “European governments should recognize that we are facing a vicious new wave of anti-Semitism and violence,” and that it is “crucial that Europe contends with this growing threat.”

The French Jewish Community’s Future

French-American Jew Helen Loeb was invited to speak at Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El in Wynnewood, Penn. on the terrorist attacks last week in Paris and the state of the France’s Jewish community.

Last year almost 1% of French Jews immigrated to Israel. How many will make aliyah next year?

Last year almost 1% of French Jews immigrated to Israel. How many will make aliyah next year?

Many have come to me in the past few days to express their sympathy and ask about the well-being of my family. Many have also come to me to inquire and reflect about the future of the French Jewish community. So where do I start?

I am appalled by the current developments in France, of course, but also in Brussels and other places in Europe.

I grew up in Toulouse, infamous for the murder of one rabbi and 3 children just about two years ago. The Ozar Hatorah school is just 2 miles from where I grew up, where my mother and sister still live. Used to be known for its aeronautical industry and opera singing, Toulouse has become a symbol of antisemitism and homegrown terrorism.

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‘The Biggest Rally Paris Has Ever Seen’

(DEBKA) French officials say the Unity March against Islamist terror was the biggest rally Paris has ever seen with an estimated 2-3 million people taking part.

President Francois Hollande, who led the march with world figures, joined Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on a visit to the Grand Synagogue to express condolences for the deaths of four Jews at the hands of a terrorist in a kosher store and solidarity with the French Jewish community.

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The victims — Yohan Cohen (22), Philippe Braham (40), François-Michel Saada (in his 60s) and Yoav Hattab (21) — were shot in the early stages of the seven-hour standoff, which ended when police stormed the shop and killed the hostage taker, Amedy Coulibaly. The families of the four victims requested to have them buried in Israel and Netanyahu promised to arrange this.

Terrorist Linked to Charlie Hebdo Assailants Kills 4 in Kosher Market

Screen-Shot-2015-01-09-at-7.53.31-PM-e1420825891680-635x357[1]A terrorist linked to the men who killed 12 people in the offices of the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, and suspected of killing a police officer, shot and killed four people, wounded many more and held at least five hostages inside a kosher market in Paris.

Police freed the surviving hostages and killed the gunman, reported to be Amedy Coulibaly. The Charlie Hebdo assailants were killed in a simultaneous raid on a printing business, where they also held a hostage, who was eventually freed.

B’nai B’rith International said that “terrorizing of a kosher market is not just an attack on Jews, but a reprehensible assault on free societies everywhere.”

March against terrorism, Newseum, Washington DC, January 11, 2014. (Photo: Helen Loeb)

March against terrorism, Newseum, Washington DC, January 11, 2014. (Photo: Helen Loeb)

The World Jewish Congress president, Ronald S. Lauder, praised the European government leaders for spontaneously traveling to Paris on Sunday to take part in a solidarity march, but urged a strong response from civil society:

We hope that this barbaric attack will trigger the same outcry among citizens in France and the rest of the Western world as did Wednesday’s attack on Charlie Hebdo. France has the world’s third largest Jewish community, and yet Jewish life in France will not have a future if the lethal threat posed by Islamic terrorists is not tackled effectively and quickly.