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Jerusalem tourism waxes and wanes with international politics

July 26, 2010 Leave a comment

By Ira Sharkansky

Ira Sharkansky

JERUSALEM–More than two million overseas visitors arrived in Jerusalem during a recent year. The attractions are well maintained places linked to individuals and events featured in the Hebrew Bible and New Testament, and a functioning Old City enclosed by walls built in ancient times and last reconstructed in the 16th century. The Old City offers sites and shopping for tourists, and four distinctive neighborhoods that are the homes of 30,000 Jews, Muslims, Armenians and other Christians. Only a short ride away is Bethlehem, equally compelling for those wanting to see the roots of Christianity. Jericho is not much further in another direction. It offers winter visitors a chance to dine comfortably in an outdoor restaurant, while ten miles away in Jerusalem it may be raining and close to freezing.
While the numbers coming to Jerusalem are impressive, and often a nuisance to locals having to cope with crowds and traffic, the city ranks lower than 50 others in the numbers of tourists it attracts. London, New York, Bangkok, Paris, and Rome attract from three to seven times the number of international tourists as Jerusalem. Dublin, Amsterdam, and Prague get twice as many, while even Kiev and Bucharest, plus resorts near Bangkok attract 50 percent more international visitors than Jerusalem.

Jerusalem may have more of a mystic pull than these other places. The “Jerusalem syndrome” is a documented condition whereby some visitors believe themselves to be biblical characters. Jewish and Christian sufferers act as David, Jesus, or some other figure associated with their faith. I am not aware of visitors to London and Paris thinking that they are Henry VIII, Napoleon, or any of the other figures associated with local history.
Why does Jerusalem rank only #51 on a sophisticated ranking of international tourism? 
Distance has something to do with it. Visitors to Western Europe can avail themselves of numerous attractive destinations as part of the same trip from home. There are decent beaches and other features in Tel Aviv and Netanya, but they attract only 60 and 10 percent of the overseas visitors as Jerusalem. Tiberias is on the Sea of Galilee and close to sites important to Christians, but draws only 25 percent of the number of visitors to Jerusalem. 
 
There are other sites in countries close to Jerusalem, notably Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon, but the borders of the Middle East are not as easy to cross as those of Western Europe. For some years now Israeli security personnel have not allowed Israeli Jews to visit Bethlehem or Jericho without special permits, and others have to pass through barriers and inspections meant to protect us.

Politics and tension are more likely to figure in a decision to visit Jerusalem than other cities. The number of overseas tourists to Israel dropped from 2.4 million in 2000, which was mostly prior to the onset of the latest intifada, to a bit over one million in 2003, which was one of the bloodiest years. Numbers increased to 1.9 million by 2005 when the violence had diminished significantly. No other country included in the regions of Europe and the Mediterranean surveyed by the United Nations tourist agency showed comparable variations in the same period. Even on a mundane issue like this, the U.N. is unable to consider Israel part of the Middle East region, which includes all of the countries bordering it and Palestine.

Jerusalem has drawn more tourists that some well-known sites in Europe. It does better than Florence and Venice, and is pretty much tied with Athens. Why less than Kiev and Bucharest? There are mysteries in the world of tourism that may boil down to nothing more than current fashion or a lack of precision in the numbers.

Tourist flows change with politics and economics. Thirty years ago there was virtually no direct travel between Israel, the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. Now Russian visitors are in second place behind those from the United States; there are sizable numbers from Ukraine and Poland. Thousands come each year from India, Korea, Japan, China, and Nigeria. Indonesia and Morocco receive Israelis and send visitors to Israel, even though there are no formal diplomatic relations. There are even a few hundred visitors annually from Malaysia and Iran, whose officials are usually among our most intense critics .

My latest Jerusalem experience may be part of a multicultural gesture to attract overseas visitors, or it may reflect nothing more than the lack of experience or attention by the person responsible. While I usually pay no attention to the music piped into the exercise room at the university gym, this morning I became alert to something familiar. It was Silent Night, in the English version I was required to sing many years ago at the Highland School. But only in December. Never in July.

*
Sharkansky is professor emeritus of political science at Hebrew University

The Jews Down Under: Roundup of Australian Jewish News

July 19, 2010 1 comment

 

Compiled by Garry Fabian

Shalit campaign goes postal

Garry Fabian

SYDNEY & MELBOURNE. 12 July – The deluge of petitions urging the United Nations to step up
its efforts to secure the release of Gilad Shalit
continued to flow in over the last week.

Less than a fortnight after launching
the campaign, almost 2500 letters have been
received, many with multiple signatures.

Sydney’s Moriah College and Melbourne’s Mount Scopus Memorial College each returned hundreds of  letters signed by their secondary students, while
Sydney’s Emmanuel College and Academy BJE also sent in bundles.

Sandy Koonin, the head of Hebrew at Moriah’s high school, said students in the middle and high schools completed a lesson about Israel Defence
Forces soldier Shalit’s situation to ensure they fully understood the campaign before signing the letter. More than 350 responded.

“Kids were very happy to sign and very interested to learn more about it and do something to help him get free,” Koonin said. “Most of the kids had
heard about him and they knew he was in captivity but they didn’t really know what had actually happened. We all hope the letters help.”

More than 250 secondary students at Mount Scopus College also answered the call. “I am pleased that our students, thousands of  miles away, feel a strong bond between themselves  and Israel and are prepared to act on this,”
Mount Scopus director of Jewish studies and Hebrew Avi Cohen said. “Our consistent message to  students throughout the Gilad Shalit campaign is
that we, as Jews, have a shared responsibility for our brethren wherever they might be in the world.

“Most importantly, we try to impress on students the fact that even though they live in Melbourne,  and even though they are only school students,
they can still make a difference.”

Older members of the community have also rallied behind the campaign. Melbourne’s Jewish Holocaust Centre and Biz 120, a seniors club for Sydney’s Russian Jewish community returned piles of letters, while 67 residents at Sydney’s Montefiore Home collectively signed one copy of the letter

The initiative, marking the fourth anniversary of the young Israeli soldier’s kidnapping by Hamas,  has also gone international, after two Jewish
newspapers overseas picked up on the story and decided to urge their readers to do likewise. Individual responses from the US and UK have also
been received at The AJN’s Melbourne office.

Every day since the launch, hundreds of letters have poured into the office from across Australia. Later this month, the letters will be personally delivered to the United Nations headquarters in New York.

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Holocaust Video outrage

MELBOURNE, 14 July – A video of a Melbourne woman’s family singing and dancing along to the  Gloria Gaynor hit I Will Survive while on a trip
to a Nazi death camp has angered Jews across the globe.

Jane Korman, an artist who lives in Ashwood and is Jewish, posted the video of her 89-year-old  father Adolk – who survived the Holocaust – and
her three children dancing to the hit inside the Auschwitz death camp in Poland where as many as 1.1 million people were killed during World War II.
Although first displayed at a Monash University gallery in Caulfield last December and published on the online video site YouTube in January, the
Dancing Auschwitz video has gone viral over the past few days, racking up more than 200,000 hits.

The video shows the Korman family dancing in front of the Auschwitz sign ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ – Work Sets You Free – a Polish synagogue, the
German concentration camp at Dachau, the Czech concentration camp at Theresienstadt and a memorial in Lodz, Poland, to victims of the Nazi ghetto.

At one point, her father is seen wearing a t-shirt with the words “I will survive” written across its front.

Jewish Holocaust Centre education director Zvi Civins said the video was inappropriate.

“I feel the best expression of survival and the fact that Jews have survived is to educate people about what happened,” he said.

“Auschwitz is the site of over a million deaths and if dance is the best way to express the vitality of the Jewish people despite the holocaust perhaps a better location could have been chosen,” he said. “As an educator I think
Auschwitz needs to be seen through different lenses than that video clip has the potential of portraying.”

Kamil Cwiok, 86, was just a child when he and his family were rounded up by the Nazis.

Most of his family died in the gas chambers at Auschwitz.

“I don’t see how this video is a mark of respect for the millions who didn’t survive, nor for those who did,” he told the UK’s Daily Mail. “It
seems to trivialise the horrors that were committed there.”

Dozens of Jews have posted their outrage on YouTube alongside messages of support.

Ms Korman could not be reached today but told The Australian Jewish News last December she was aware the project would be highly offensive to
some people, survivors in particular, but that was not her intention.

“It might be disrespectful, but [my father] is saying we’re dancing, we should be dancing, were celebrating our survival and the generations after me, – the generation he’s created. We are affirming our existence,” the paper reported.

“I have explained to them [Holocaust survivors] that there’s no intention of being disrespectful, it’s about a new response, a fresh interpretation
of the history, the memory and the lesson so that these lessons keep on being remembered and not forgotten  not become a numbing memory, but a very powerful memory.”

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Holocaust survivors honour heroine

MELBOURNE, 14 July – Ditha Slowey today lives a peaceful life in central Victoria, but in World War II she was a hero. In 1945, when she was 19,
she helped 23 British RAF prisoners of war escape a death march through her home town of Lossen, eastern Germany. She fed them and treated their
wounds as they hid in a Catholic manse.

But that is not why she was honoured in a ceremony at the German consulate in South Yarra yesterday.

Mrs Slowey and her family risked their lives to support Jewish families who had lost their homes and jobs under Hitler.

A descendant of one of those families flew from the US to present Mrs Slowey with a proclamation of thanks, for her ”righteousness, compassion
and fortitude”, with the endorsement of the Leo Baeck Institute of New York that preserves German Jewish culture.

As Jewish farmers in Lossen (now Losiow, Poland), Bruno – a World War I hero for Germany – and Erna Zucker were stripped of their farm and subsisted under curfew with half-rations.

Mrs Slowey’s Aunt Martha and Uncle Fritz, who were butchers, defied orders to not serve Jews and smuggled meat to the Zuckers.

Mrs Slowey made regular secret night trips to deliver food, cash and letters to a ”two-room hovel” in the town of Oberglogau that housed
another Jewish family, the Hartmanns, who had owned a department store.

The Zuckers’ grandson, Oved Zucker, described Mrs Slowey, nee Bruncel, as a heroic woman. He said his grandparents had been ”debased, and
degraded”. They were outcasts, ”and in Nazi Germany, compassion was a capital crime”.

One Easter night in 1942, they were deported to Auschwitz and murdered. But Mr Zucker felt ”selfless, courageous and amazing acts of loving
kindness . would have surely brought some light and hope into their hearts”.

The Zuckers’ three sons had fled Germany before the war and there are now 10 great-grandchildren.

Oved Zucker, 71, a physicist from Virginia, says a cousin typing ”Lossen” and ”Zucker” into Google 18 months ago led him to Mrs Slowey’s 2006
biography, Into Enemy Arms, written by her British nephew, Michael Hingston (Ditha had married one of the British POWs she saved, the
late Gordon Slowey, and they moved to Australia in 1963).

”It was an incredible story,” Mr Zucker said, ”and so we decided as a family, ‘We have to do something.’ If you put yourself in the position of all the Germans who were out there who didn’t do anything, and then there is somebody who does something, has the courage to do it, for us as a
family, not to acknowledge, honour, respect, say thank you for it, is unthinkable.”

Mrs Slowey said she was overwhelmed and had not expected accolades. She had acted out of ”human compassion” and could not stand by ”seeing
people so badly treated, with such indignity. I find hard to take, the gratitude that the Jewish community has extended to me, for the little we
were able to do. That is what moves me the most of all.”

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Australian Aliyah expected to surpass record numbers in 2010

MELBOURNE, 14 July – The Zionist Council of Victoria will farewell a record number of Olim at its Executive meeting later this week.

Over 30 Australian Olim ranging in ages from babies to baby boomers will be presented with Mezzuzot for their new homes in Israel by the
ZCV, with about 100 family and friends of the Olim watching on.

“With Australian Aliyah numbers ever increasing the Aliyah Mezzuzah presentations are a tradition the ZCV is delighted to embrace” says ZCV President Dr Danny Lamm.

The Aliyah office has never been so busy. Australia Federal Aliyah Shaliach Oren Sella is particularly thrilled about the record of Australian Olim expected to be broken this year.

“Since 1979 the magic number of 200 Australian Olim has never been surpassed” Oren says. “However in 2010 this record is about to be
reset; by the end of August over 180 Australians will have made Israel their home” he proudly reports.

Oren is duly proud of another fact: In the first 6 months of 2010 Australia showed the largest growth of Aliyah in the world, more than 50
percent, as compared to the same period in 2009.

Interestingly, the Australian Olim are not from one particular demographic group. “Australian Olim are families, singles, religious, traditional, secular and of all ages” explains the Aliyah Shaliach. “And of course Israel can’t wait to greet them all!”

The Zionist Council of Victoria leads and encourages Jewish and Zionist activity and expression within Victoria, to represent the Jewish community, to promote and communicate Israel’s interests within the broader Victorian
community and to promote Victoria’s relationship with Israel.

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Soccer fan still critical

MELBOURNE 16 July – The mother of critically ill Melbourne teenager Reagan Milstein has thanked the community for its support during a difficult time.

Reagan remains in a Singapore hospital with his  parents by his bedside, after suffering major complications following a diving accident in Malaysia.

His mother Tamara said “Our immediate aim is to bring our beautiful boy safely back to Melbourne and that alone has its many challenges.

“We are hopeful that the doctors in Singapore will be able to stabilise Reagan in the next few days so that he can be transferred back to a Melbourne hospital and in the meantime, we continue to hold his hand and sit beside him as he tries to find his way back to us.

She said the family have been overwhelmed with good wishes and prayers. “Our entire family has been overwhelmed by the love and support of
friends, the community and the outpouring of kindness from across the world and this continues to be a constant source of comfort to us during this unbearably sad journey.

Reagan’s father Kevin Milstein said via Facebook that Reagan’s condition was more complicated than the bends, a common diving accident, and he had
suffered brain damage due to the blood supply being cut off to his brain.

“We cannot know what the future holds for Reagan but we can be certain that the beautiful boy that left for the World Cup in June is not the same
one that will be returning home,” he posted.

Meanwhile, students and staff at Melbourne’s Bialik College are continuing to pray for the year 8 student’s recovery.

The Milstein family has been associated with the school for 20 years and the accident has profoundly impacted on the school, where Kevin works as an integration aide and Reagan’s brother Corey is a year 11 student.

Principal Joseph Gerassi said Reagan and the Milstein family were in the thoughts of all at the school.”We continue to pray for Reagan and to hope for
news of some improvement,” he said.

Since news of the accident reached the school, counsellors have been made available to provide support to both students and staff.

Regular lunchtime prayer sessions have been held by campus Rabbi Steven Link, and both staff and students have written personal notes to Reagan,
which are being sent to the Milstein family in Singapore.

A Facebook group called “Reagan’s Recovery” had attracted over 1300 members as of Wednesday morning.

Reagan’s favourite soccer team, the Melbourne Victory, also sent its support. In addition Reagan’s Maccabi soccer club, the U15B Thunder,
dedicated their game on Sunday to their friend and teammate.

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People of the Book

MELBOURNE, 19 July – Outreach is the theme of Makor Jewish Community Library’s annual appeal, which was launched this week. According to
director Leonie Fleiszig, the facility is the only connection many Jews have with the community.

“Most people who come to Makor don’t live in Caulfield. In fact, 90 per cent who come in on a Sunday are Israelis living in areas like Warburton ( a country town some 80 kms from Melbourne) and Footscray. ( western suburb not known to have a Jewish population) We will also
send books out to them,” she said.

“Many people, non-Jews too, will come in, read and use the library. You don’t have to pay if you’re not a member.”

The library has a large range of Hebrew books and films, runs regular “Hebrew Hour” programs and screens Israeli films monthly.

The elderly are also voracious users of the library – some participating in the Write Your Own Story program and others benefiting from
Makor’s wide range of audio books, and the pick-up and delivery service. Fleiszig said the library is always looking at extending its work with the
elderly, and is currently in discussion with Jewish Care to run the Write Your Own Story program with the residents at Gary Smorgon House.
Extending the audio book and Yiddish sections are also priorities.

In addition to holding the catalogues of the Jewish Historical and Genealogical societies, Makor also collaborates with major libraries in Victoria and beyond, which coordinate their databases with Makor’s. Fleizsig said many
council and public libraries also refer people to Makor when looking for specific Jewish items.

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Fabian is Australia bureau chief for San Diego Jewish World

Israel’s ‘Lousy PR’ vs. its national defense needs

June 30, 2010 Leave a comment

 By Shoshana Bryen

Shoshana Bryen

WASHINGTON, D.C. — In a strange conversation, a journalist called to ask how badly Israel’s image had been damaged by the flotilla incident. Our first thought was, “Not as badly as if the precedent was set for ships to land in Gaza without Israeli inspection, or if the millions of Euros in their pockets had actually reached Hamas.” But that wasn’t what he was asking. He really wanted to know whether countries or people who had previously “liked” Israel “liked” Israel less now, and if Israel would have “done better” if it could have explained itself better. 
It was, in fact, the dreaded “Israel’s lousy PR” question.
 
In a second strange conversation, an admittedly cynical diplomat told us to disregard the posturing anti-Israel statements at the European Parliament, the UN Human Rights Commission and other international bodies. “People don’t really know anything, they just say things.” But, he added, Israel couldn’t expect to get a fair shake in those places because it doesn’t spend enough time making its case to European diplomats. 
 
Again, “Israel’s lousy PR,” was the issue, not the reality of the Arab/Islamic threat to Israel or the reality of Israel’s defense.
 
Our belief is that the flotilla incident actually made people and countries behave more like themselves. 

There are those inclined to dislike Israel for ethnic or religious reasons; or because they see only the limited view of Israel their media-controlling governments want them to see; or because they reflexively support people who look sad. 

There are those, on the other hand, who are inclined to appreciate the difficulties of Israel in the Middle East and find in Israel a like-minded, democratic ally under attack by radical forces that also threaten the West. This group often includes post-Soviet countries including Poland and the Czech Republic, and in this case includes Italy and The Netherlands. 

And there is a third type, those who travel in groups or packs – among them the media, Western Europeans, and left-wing Democrats – who don’t necessarily want Israel to disappear; and who do in fact understand the substance of Israel’s difficulties; and who would never think of themselves supporting Hamas, Hezbollah or Iran; but who can’t defend Israel in public because it isn’t fashionable; but won’t condemn it more than absolutely necessary; and will still do business with Israel where they find it useful. Cynical diplomats often find themselves here.

All reacted to the flotilla in predictable ways.

Arabs governments, Arab and other media, Turkey and Iran trashed Israel. 

Americans were far more supportive of Israeli actions than Europeans, but President Obama and Congressional Democrats walked a finer line in their support than conservatives. 

And while the EU Parliament – a body responsible to no one for anything – loudly denounced Israel for the raid, the European countries on the UN Human Rights Commission largely abstained from the slander of Israel and the call for a UN-run investigation (Norway always, sadly, excepted).

The actual elected leaders of the G-8 – the United States, Canada, Japan, Britain, Germany France, Italy and Russia – people who have a responsibility for policy, put forward a communiqué calling for direct Israeli-Palestinian talks (as Israel has), welcomed Israel’s own investigation (not mentioning the UN or any other international investigation) and Israel’s own decision to change the rules of the embargo, noted that the “legitimate security concerns of Israel that must continue to be safeguarded,” and called for the “immediate release” of Gilad Shalit. 

And, interestingly, while Iran naturally trashed Israel and threatened it with future flotillas, faced with the reality that Israel would not permit future ships to land and would consider blockade busting to be an act of war, the Iranian government called the whole thing off. Ditto the government of Lebanon.

Israel and supporters of Israel have to make the best possible case for Israeli defensive activities with the full understanding that there is a double – and triple – game out there. The requirements for national defense have to trump PR. If Israel (or America, for that matter) allows itself to be undone by the PR ramifications of defense, or if PR becomes the ultimate determinant of rightness or wrongness in security matters, defense will become impossible – for Israel, for the United States and for the West.

*

Bryen is senior director of security policy of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs.  Her column is sponsored by Waxie Sanitary Supply in memory of Morris Wax, longtime JINSA supporter and national board member.

Roll call on Gaza flotilla portrays the values of international community

June 4, 2010 Leave a comment

By Shoshana Bryen

Shoshana Bryen

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Israel was victimized twice this week, first by terrorists hiding yet again among the civilian population (one Turkish-sponsored jihadi boat traveling with five more-or-less civilian boats) and second by a world all too ready to blame Israel for the violence engendered by those who sought a bloody death for themselves and any Jews they could take along. By the end of the week, things began to look more normal-those who are already against remained against; those who try to split the difference split it (consider the “abstain” list below); and a few stood honorably above the rest.   

1) Italy, Netherlands and the United States voted against resolution A/HRC/14/L.1, “Grave Attacks by Israeli Forces against the Humanitarian Boat Convoy” in the UN “Human Rights” Council. It is of note that the major Italian newspapers supported Israel editorially as well. In the United States, public opinion ran strongly in Israel’s favor, as usual. 
 
After a nasty and public denunciation of Israel by President Sarkozy and Foreign Minister Kouchner, France abstained, probably reminded that in 1985 French commandos sunk a Greenpeace ship in what was called Opération Satanique. (You know what a threat those satanic environmentalists pose to Paris.) France was joined by Belgium, Burkina Faso, Hungary, Japan, Republic of Korea, Slovakia, Ukraine and UK.
 
Voting in favor of the commission whose conclusion is in its title were Angola, Argentina, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Chile, China, Cuba, Djibouti, Egypt, Gabon, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, Mauritius, Mexico, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Philippines, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Slovenia, South Africa, and Uruguay. 
 
Surprised?
 
2) President Obama: He almost got it right in a TV interview, but missed the essential point. “You’ve got a situation in which Israel has legitimate security concerns when they’ve got missiles raining down on cities along the Israel-Gaza border. I’ve been to those towns and seen the holes that were made by missiles coming through people’s bedrooms. Israel has a legitimate concern there.  On the other hand, you’ve got a blockage up that is preventing people in Palestinian Gaza from having job opportunities and being able to create businesses and engage in trade and have opportunity for the future.”
 
The President doesn’t know, or didn’t say, that Hamas is responsible both for the attacks on Israel and for the misery of the Palestinians in Gaza. Instead, he wanted to “work with all parties concerned-the Palestinian Authority, the Israelis, the Egyptians and others-and I think Turkey can have a positive voice in this whole process once we’ve worked through this tragedy. And bring everybody together…”
 
Aside from the fact that Turkey is fully complicit in the incident and thus should forfeit any seat at any future table, the Palestinian Authority has not represented Gaza Palestinians since Hamas evicted it in a bloody putsch in 2007. Instead of hoping to “bring everybody together…” the President should be working to evict Hamas from Gaza, for the sake of the Palestinians as much as anyone else.
 
3) The Czech Republic: Small countries that know what it means to disappear when others find them inconvenient stick together and we are grateful that they do. The President of the Czech Senate, Dr. Přemysl Sobotka, told Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, “As a doctor, I certainly regret any loss of life, but there is no doubt that this was a planned provocation designed to drag Israel into a trap… Many in the European community feel as I do, but they are afraid to speak out publicly… I support the position that views Hamas as a terrorist organization… It is too bad that European countries present an unbalanced position on this matter. Unfortunately, the positions of the international community are not always to my taste, particularly in Europe.”
 
We are reminded that 18 months ago, the Czech foreign minister issued this statement: “I consider it unacceptable that villages in which civilians live have been shelled. Therefore, Israel has an inalienable right to defend itself against such attacks. The shelling from the Hamas side makes it impossible to consider this organization as a partner for negotiations and to lead any political dialogue with it.”
 
And finally…
 
4) Mesheberach: During the Jewish Sabbath service, there is a prayer is for those who are ill or injured.   The “Mesheberach” includes the name of the person for whom the prayer is offered and, in an unusual practice, the name of the person’s mother rather than his or her father. Whether in the synagogue or not, we hope readers will remember the six soldiers injured while protecting the people of Israel:

Dean Ben (son of) Svetlana
Roee Ben (son of) Shulamit
Daniel Lazar Ben (son of) Tina Leah
Yotam Ben (son of) Dorit
Ido Ben (son of) Ilana
Boris Ben (son of) Eelaina

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Bryen is senior director of security policy of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs.  Her column is sponsored by Waxie Sanitary Supply in memory of Morris Wax, longtime JINSA supporter and national board member.

Many UN members walk out after yet another Ahmadinejad diatribe

May 7, 2010 Leave a comment

(WJC)–Iran’s hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad once again triggered a walkout by Western countries at the UnitedNations following a blistering attack against the United States and Israel at a nuclear non-proliferation conference of the United Nations in New York. Ahmadinejad called for the US to be dismissed from the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency for “threatening non-nuclear states”. In a 35-minute speech Ahmadinejad – who was the only head of state to attend the conference – berated the Obama administration for menacing other countries and accused it of hypocrisy for supporting Israel.

“The Zionist regime continues to threaten other nations with terror and invasion and its nuclear program is assisted,” he declared. The delegates of Australia, Britain, Canada, the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Morocco, New Zealand, the Netherlands and the United States boycotted his speech or left the General Assembly Hall when Ahmadinejad launched his diatribe.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was not present during the Iranian leader’s speech, but afterwards held a bilateral meeting with him, apparently at the request of Ahmadinejad. Ban urged Iran to restore trust with the international community.

Canada’s Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon, who was not in the room during Ahmadinejad’s speech, said: “We are extremely disappointed in his statement. He had a wonderful opportunity … to dispel certain doubts around Iran’s intentions. It was the same speech, the same aggressive tone. Nothing in here would indicate that Iran wants to conform to what over 100 countries have been able to do.”

Unlike Israel, Iran is among 189 signatories of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). With non-proliferation and the downsizing of nuclear arsenals key goals of President Barack Obama, the UN conference is better to check the spread of nuclear weapons and bring about their gradual elimination.

The director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Yukiya Amano, opened the NPT Review Conference by saying that Iran had failed to provide “necessary cooperation” with the IAEA. “In the case of Iran, the agency continues to verify the non- diversion of declared nuclear material, but remains unable to confirm that all nuclear material is in peaceful activity because Iran has not provide the necessary cooperation,” he said. “I continue to request Iran to take steps towards the full implementation of its Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement and relevant resolutions of the IAEA Board of Governors and the United Nations Security Council, and to clarify activities with a possible military dimension,” Amano added.

Outside the UN compound, American politicians and Jewish leaders held a rally against Ahmadinejad.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who addressed the UN conference a few hours after the Iranian leader, lambasted the regime in Tehran for “flouting the rules” and for its failure to comply with the NPT and with international demands concerning its nuclear program. Clinton also revealed that the United States possesses 5,113 nuclear warheads. That number was until now a closely kept secret. After Clinton’s speech, the Pentagon said that figure had plummeted from a peak of 31,255 in 1967. “We think it is in our national security interest to be as transparent as we can about the nuclear program of the United States,” Clinton told reporters. “We think that builds confidence.”

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Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress.

ADL lauds walkout on Ahmadinejad’s nuclear speech at U.N. conference

May 3, 2010 Leave a comment
 
WASHINGTON, D.C. (Press Release)–The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) on Monday praised the countries whose delegates walked out on Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s speech at a United Nations conference after he accused the U.S., Israel and an unspecified European country of threatening Iran with nuclear weapons.
The Iranian president was delivering remarks to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review conference.

Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director issued the following statement:
 
While there may be legal and diplomatic obligations to grant Ahmadinejad the UN podium, there is also a moral obligation to condemn his words, his actions and what he stands for. Ahmadinejad denies the Holocaust, denies there are homosexuals in Iran, and denies the existence of Iran’s nuclear weapons program. To this list of lies he added another – that the U.S. and Israel pose a nuclear threat to Iran, when in fact the opposite is true.
 
“We appreciate the gesture made by those states that walked out, for it sends a strong personal message to Ahmadinejad that his rants do not deserve the respect of an audience. We also appreciate UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s preemptive and public declaration that ‘the onus is on Iran’ to resolve this crisis.
 
“Ahmadinejad’s presence at the NPT conference is a perfect opportunity for the international community to send him the message that he needs to hear: If Iran doesn’t shut down its nuclear weapons program, there will be severe consequences.”
 
Representatives from the United States, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Morocco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and the United Kingdom left the room as Ahmadinejad opened his remarks. Canada reportedly boycotted the speech from the outset.

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Preceding provided by the Anti-Defamation League

 

The Jews Down Under… Roundup of Australian Jewish News

April 19, 2010 Leave a comment

 

Garry Fabian

Compiled by Garry Fabian

The Zentai saga rolls on

PERTH 13 April – The Federal Court in Western Australia will next month begin hearing an appeal from Perth man Charles Zentai against his
extradition to Hungary to face war crimes charges.

The court has postponed the start of a judicial review into the case to April 27; it was supposed to begin last month. A review favourable to
Zentai is widely seen as his final opportunity to avoid extradition.

Earlier this month, lawyers representing Zentai and Home Affairs Minister Brendan O’Connor met inFederal Court over the defendant’s right to see a full version of the documents used by O’Connor in reaching his decision to green-light the extradition.

Zentai is accused of playing a role in the murder of Peter Balazs, a young Budapest Jew who was beaten to death in November 1944.

Zentai, who was arrested in 2005 on a Hungarian warrant, denies the charges.
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Remembering Six Million

MELBOURNE, 12 April – Commemorations for Yom Hashoah, Holocaust remembrance day, were held around Australia on Sunday, April 11 and Monday, April 12.

In Melbourne, survivors from the “Buchenwald boys” lit memorial candles at a memorial at
Monash University’s Robert Blackwood Hall.

Sydney’s Jewish community hosted a number of functions, including a name reading ceremony at
the Sydney Jewish Museum in Darlinghurst. More than 300 people, including consul generals from
Germany, Austria, Poland, Lithuania, Costa Rica, Britain, Croatia and Romania, joined school
children, many of them from non-Jewish schools, at Sunday’s moving commemoration.

Moriah College hosted a Yom Hashoah event, with a keynote speech from Israel Embassy deputy Eli Yerushalmi, while Masada College had scheduled its own commemoration for Monday night.

Yom Hashoah memorials were also held in Perth, where Associate Professor Mark Baker was keynotespeaker, and in Canberra, where diplomats,politicians and representatives of various faiths
came together to remember the Holocaust.

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Goodby to politics but not Jewish Community

SYDNEY, 12 April – After years of involvement, Malcolm Turnbull said his resignation as
Wentworth MP will not see him cut ties with the Jewish community.

Speaking the day after announcing he would not contest the next election, the former Liberal
leader called the local Jewish community “the heart and soul” of his electorate.

“I don’t intend to stop my association with the Jewish community just because I am out of
Parliament. I’ve loved my involvement at so many communal events and just having so many friends in the Jewish community.”

Using the new social medium Twitter, Turnbull announced on Tuesday he would not recontest the
inner-eastern Sydney seat come the next election.

The decision was made, he said, following his loss of the Liberal Party leadership to Tony
Abbott by one vote in December last year. The catalyst for that vote was the emissions trading
Bill, which Turnbull continues to strongly support, but which much of the Coalition opposes.

But he never had trouble keeping the Jewish community on his side ­ even those who weren’t
Liberal voters held Turnbull in high esteem because of his commitment to the community.

It was Chanukah parties that Turnbull highlighted as some of the best memories during his time in
office. “I really enjoyed Chanukah celebrations, whether it was the event at Double Bay that Yanky
Berger does, or the Russian ceremony,” he said, adding he once gave a memorised speech in
Russian, which “amused some of the older attendees”.

One organisation that Turnbull has had a strong involvement with for the past three years is
Sydney’s Montefiore Home, where he is the ambassador.

This week, Montefiore vice-president Gary Inberg said he hoped Turnbull’s role as the home’s
“ambassador, supporter and friend” would continue. “Our residents are always delighted to
see Malcolm and we have enjoyed hosting him at the home on numerous occasions. It is a pleasure
and an honour to be associated with him,” Inberg said.

Executive Council of Australian Jewry president Robert Goot also paid tribute to the politician.

“We regret, but understand, Mr Turnbull’s decision. He was a most effective advocate for a
variety of matters of concern for the Jewish community,” Goot said.

In terms of a successor, the Liberal Party has opened nominations for a new candidate to contest
the increasingly marginal seat.

A number of Jewish names have been suggested ­ including party bigwigs Richard Shields and
Julian Leeser, as well as former Turnbull staffer Anthony Orkin and current local councillor
Anthony Boskovitz. The vote is expected to be held within a month.

Turnbull weighed in on the speculation of his successor, but in a non-partisan way.

“People often assume, in a somewhat patronising way, that the Jewish community will always vote
for a Jewish candidate. I think there are a lot of people in the Jewish community who would make
great candidates for Parliament, but ultimately it is the quality of the candidate that matters,” he said

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Push for closer diplomatic ties

CANBERRA, 13 April – Ronen Plot, director-general of Israel’s Ministry of Public Diplomacy and
Diaspora Affairs, was in Australia this week in what is seen as part of a larger effort to
cultivate a better relationship between the local community and the Jewish State.

The director-general, who also spent time liaising with Jewish community leaders in Hong
Kong and New Zealand as part of his regional sweep, said that his trip had a dual purpose: as
a fact-finding mission to learn more about Diaspora communities and develop a working
relationship with their leadership, while also looking for opportunities for new collaborative
projects in education and other spheres.

Speaking in Hebrew, Plot said that his visit was considered essential in order to carry out the mission of his department.

“You can’t have a situation where you have an office of Diaspora affairs and run it exclusively
from Israel,” Plot said. “It’s extremely important to meet and get to know people in the
Diaspora communities themselves.”

Dr Ron Weiser, past president of the Zionist Federation of Australia and current committee
member of the Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency, was one of the many communal officials
who met with Plot during his Pesach visit.

Dr Weiser said that Plot’s visit represents the beginning of a long-term process to change the
relationship between Jerusalem and the Diaspora. He recalled the words of former prime minister Ehud Olmert in a speech to the Jewish Agency Board of Governors. “[Olmert] said, for the past
60 years, Israel has been the project of the Jewish people. For the next 60 years, the Jewish
people will need to be the joint project of Israel and Jewish communities around the world.”

The current visit is the latest step in that process, Dr Weiser said.Plot dismissed speculation that his trip had any connection to recent allegations that Israel had forged Australian passports.

His visit, he said, was planned well in advance of the scandal and had very clear objectives far
removed from such controversies.

Plot added that, at any rate, there has been no proven link between Israel and the forgeries.

In related news, Plot could not confirm the accuracy of a report in The Jerusalem Post last
Thursday that PM Binyamin Netanyahu’s former bureau chief Ari Harow may accept the position of
deputy director-general of the Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Ministry.

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Passport report in, but no action to date

CANBERRA, 15  April – Foreign Minister Stephen Smith has said he will not rush his response to
an Australian Federal Police (AFP) report into the alleged misuse of four Australian passports
in the assassination of Hamas terror chief Mahmoud al-Mabhouh .

The AFP investigation, which saw three officers travel to Israel, was completed recently, with
Smith receiving the findings last Friday. The Foreign Minister said he had looked at the
report, but was not ready to make any decisions.

“I haven’t yet had the opportunity of very carefully considering that, but it’s clear from a
preliminary assessment of that report that I need to get further advice and see further work and
have further discussion with other agencies,” he told Channel Nine.

He said he would be discussing the report with Australia’s two premier security agencies ­ the
Australian Security Intelligence Organisation and the Australian Secret Intelligence Service ­ before making any decisions.

“When that work has been done, and I’ve had the chance to fully consider, not just the AFP
report, but also that further work and advice from other agencies, then I’ll make the detail of
the government’s deliberations about this matter public.”

Responding to whether the Australian investigation was taking too long, Smith said he
wanted to be sure of the facts.

“I need further work done by our intelligence agencies and I’m going to get this right rather
than rush it in any way. It’s a very important issue. It has very significant ramifications for
use of passports and our relationships with a number of countries, and I’m not proposing to be
rushed. I want the exhaustive work to be done carefully and properly.”

The investigation was launched in late February after forged passports in the names of
Australian-born Israelis were discovered by Dubai police. Fingers were pointed at Israel’s Mossad
secret service, with Smith calling Israel’s Ambassador to Australia Yuval Rotem to Parliament
for an explanation and asking for his cooperation.

Last month, Britain expelled an Israeli diplomat after completing its own investigation into
forged passports in the names of British-born Israelis

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Rabbis reach out to youth

MELBOURNE, 15 April – Local Orthodox rabbis are this week launching a range of programs in a bid
to relate better to younger Jews and to become more professional.

Tonight (Thursday), the Rabbinical Council of Victoria (RCV) will unveil a number of projects
at a gala reception in the presence of Victorian Government ministers, community dignitaries and young people.

Speaking in the lead-up to the event, RCV president Rabbi Yaakov Glasman said the rabbis
are hoping to offer their expertise to the community in different ways.

“The RCV hopes to work in collaboration with other communal organisations and believes the
Victorian rabbinate has a wealth of knowledge and experience to offer the Jewish, and indeed, wider community,” the North Eastern Jewish Centre rabbi said.

One way it hopes to do this is through the “Mashpia” or mentoring program, which will link rabbis with young Jews.

“The purpose of this initiative is to encourage young Jewish adults, particularly in their latter
formative teenage years, to feel comfortable thinking and speaking about matters relating to
spirituality and religion, which some may feel naturally inhibited to do because of societal norms and expectations,” he said.

Those older than school age will also be catered for, with Rabbi Glasman hinting at a program that
will help young adults entering the workforce find a place in their busy lives for religion.

Some of the community’s most prominent businessmen are being engaged to assist.

The other area the RCV is pushing into is professional development. “We want to be
professional, we don’t want rabbis to deal with crises en route,” the president said.

These initiatives are currently being sponsored by the Victorian Multicultural Commission, but
Rabbi Glasman said the community will also be called upon to assist.

“We want communal donors to recognise that investing in the rabbinate is worthwhile.”

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Limmud Oz back for another year

MELBOURNE, 15 April – Planning for Limmud Oz, the festival of Jewish learning and culture, is
currently underway, with the conference returning to Melbourne for the Queen’s Birthday long weekend in June.

Held annually ­ this year over three days ­ Limmud Oz gives participants an opportunity to
engage with and learn topics of Jewish interest.

“It will take you another step further in your Jewish journey,” Limmud Oz committee member
Sylvia Urbach said. “It will have some appeal to all people regarding any aspect of Jewish life
and Jewish thought ever considered.”

A host of international presenters are already on board, including executive director of the Israel
Religious Action Centre and Women of the Wall participant Anat Hoffman, Israeli professor of
political studies Efraim Inbar and Dr Aaron Rosen, a research fellow in Jewish history and culture at Oxford University.

Diverse local speakers will also feature on a broad range of topics ­ including Adam Goodvach’s
analysis of Australia’s closest neighbour Indonesia, Victor Majzner talking about art and a
discussion with Lionel Sharpe, one of the community’s foremost genealogists.

“There is a wide array of Jewish topics and speakers from religious to secular in every way,
shape or form,” Urbach said. “What’s important is that it is non-denominational and inclusive, with
subjects and speakers relevant to all Jews.”

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Artistic memlories of a bleak place
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Detail from the Jewish Museum of Australia’s newest exhibition.

Detail from the Jewish Museum of Australia’s
newest exhibition. Photo: Peter Haskin

MELBOURNE’– Jewish Museum of Australia launched its latest exhibition, titled Theresienstadt:
Drawn From the Inside, last week in the presence of MPs including Victorian Arts Minister Peter Batchelor.

More than 20 years ago, Holocaust survivor Regina Schwarz donated a battered suitcase containing 142 watercolours and drawings created in the Nazi concentration camp at Theresienstadt by her husband Paul and fellow artist Leo Lowit.

The rare collection of artworks was exhibited at the Jewish Museum of Australia in 1990, but has
remained in the museum archives since then.

A year ago curator Mera Brooks started sorting through the collection to select 90 works for the museum’s latest exhibition.

Paul and Regina Schwarz and Leo and Jindriska Lowit arrived in Theresienstadt in December 1941,
among 6000 Jews who arrived at the camp by rail transport from Prague that month. Paul, Leo and Jindriska were killed in Auschwitz in October 1944. Regina survived Auschwitz and settled in
Melbourne after World War II where she died in 1987.

The Theresienstadt: Drawn From the Inside exhibition is at the Jewish Museum of Australia
from April 11 until March 13, 2011.
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Nonagenarian still an active athlete
MELBOURNE, 19 April–90 years young and still as active as ever – Simon Shinberg, you are an inspiration! When ‘Friend of Maccabi’, Simon Shinberg called the office this week to RSVP to the upcoming Friends of Maccabi Luncheon, he told me that he was very much looking forward to hearing motivational Special Guest Speaker, Brian Rabinowitz, as Brian was Simon’s Spinning
instructor! I had to find out more…..

Simon Shinberg not only takes 45 minute Spinning classes 4 days a week, he also does a couple of
hours of gym 4 times a week too!

Simon has been involved in sport for as long as he can remember. He was a member of the first
AJAX Athletics Club, focussing on sprints, high jump and shotput. He represented Victoria at both
the 1937/38 Carnival in Melbourne and the 1938/39 Carnival in Sydney, where he won the High
Jump.  He also played soccer for Hakoah when he was 18 years old.

During the many years of running his successful clothing manufacturing business, Simon went for a
run at 6am every morning, keeping him energised for the remainder of the day.

And Simon has no plans to slow down now, saying that keeping active and his wonderful friends
both from Maccabi & other walks of life is what keeps him going each day. Simon Shinberg, you are an inspiration!

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Agitating for change at Yeshivah

MELBOURNE, 19 April –  Yeshivah Centre members in Melbourne have called for more democracy in the 52-year-old organisation after accusations the facility’s dayan, Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Telsner, censored their newsletter.

The Pesach edition of the publication included three articles discussing the value of removing
or retaining the controversial “Yechi” sign on the wall of the main shul. But by the end of
Pesach, the two pieces calling for a vote on its presence had been deleted from electronic and paper copies. When asked for confirmation, Rabbi Telsner said he knew “nothing about it”.

However, in a letter to Rabbi Telsner, congregant David Werdiger claims that during a discussion
they had had, the dayan admitted that he had instructed their removal.

Werdiger said he objected to the censorship and would, after 40 years, stop praying at the main
Yeshivah shul. “It is sad and ironic that this has happened in our community, many of whose
founders lived under an oppressive regime in Soviet Russia where there was a standard method
for dealing with dissent,” Werdiger said.

The sign, according to an article by YeshivahGedolah head Rabbi Binyomin Cohen, implies that
the late Lubavitcher Rebbe is the messiah and that he never really passed away.

Despite the sign being up for some years, its presence came to the fore in January when Rabbi
Telsner excised a small group of people – the “Moshiach Men” – from the community.

A number of Yeshivah members called for the sign to be removed, claiming it was divisive and
promoted disharmony. Despite securing more than 100 signatures, Rabbi Telsner and the va’ad
ruchni, or committee, ignored the request.

Articles in the recent newsletter continued the debate about the Yechi sign. In the piece that
was retained, Rabbi Cohen argued in favour of leaving the sign because that is what the late
Yeshivah director, Rabbi Yitzchok Dovid Groner, wanted.

“There should be enough room for all of us, and no-one should feel that his emunah [faith] is
going to be somehow compromised by davvening [praying] together with another Jew who sees
things very differently,” Rabbi Cohen wrote.

Another congregant and one of the organisers of the petition, Yudi New, argued in the original
newsletter that the shul was alienating members of the Jewish community, against its own
philosophy. He called the sign a “slogan” and said there was no room for slogans in a place of
worship, adding its benefits had not been made clear.

On a more general note, New implored the centre’s leadership to welcome mature debate among
members. “Whatever course the leadership and community charters, we must concede that Yeshivah has become a shell of its former self.”

Another member, Pinchas Henenberg, also had his say before the newsletter was censored. “The
issue is not going to go away by itself – responding ‘no comment’ to the public and
instructing mispallelim [congregants] to ‘listen to your leaders and put aside your own thoughts
and concerns’ simply exacerbates the issue,” he wrote, before calling for a public members vote.

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Fabian is Australia bureau chief for San Diego Jewish World