Archive for the ‘Uganda’ Category

House adopts resolution memorializing advocate for children who died in Uganda terrorist attack

July 27, 2010 Leave a comment

 WASHINGTON, D.C. (Press Release)– The House of Representatives on Tuesday passed a resolution (H. Res. 1538) introduced by Congresswoman Susan Davis (D-San Diego) condemning the World Cup bombings in Kampala, Uganda and recognizing San Diego activist Nate “Oteka” Henn who died in the terrorist attacks.

Henn was a volunteer with Invisible Children Inc., a non-profit organization based in San Diego that helps children, especially child soldiers, impacted by Uganda’s 23-year war.

“Invisible Children works to shed light on the grim reality that is faced by many Ugandans, particularly the children who are abducted and forced to become child-soldiers there,” said Davis during the debate. 

“Nate was a beloved and hard-working part of this cause…whether at the helm of an Invisible Children van as a member of a team of “roadies”…or as an effective and heartfelt fundraiser who helped send Ugandan students to school.”

As the world watched the World Cup finals on July 11, 2010, terrorists claiming to represent the Somalia-based al Shabaab terrorist organization launched suicide attacks against civilian targets in the city of Kampala, Uganda.  Tragically, at least 70 people died in the blasts, including the 25-year-old Henn.

Because of Henn’s outsized personality, his friends had given him the Acholi name of “Oteka,” which means “the strong one.”

Davis’s resolution sends a message to the allies and adversaries of the United States that it stands by our strategic partners. It also highlights the urgent need for the United States to continue to work with the international community to address the root causes of extremism and terrorism in Somalia and the region.

Preceding provided by Congresswoman Susan Davis

5 California teens win $36,000 each for tikkun olam efforts

July 15, 2010 Leave a comment

SAN FRANCISCO (Press Release)–The Helen Diller Family Foundation and The Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties has announced the 2010 recipients of the prestigious Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Award. 

Now in its fourth year, the award has significantly increased in awareness, tripling its visibility by drawing more than 175 exceptional teens—from more regions of California than ever before.  Each honoree has initiated innovative social action projects that are truly helping to repair and heal the world.
These five pioneering California teens will receive an award of $36,000 each, which will be presented at a luncheon ceremony in San Francisco on August 23, 2010.  The awards are funded by the Helen Diller Family Foundation, a supporting foundation of the Jewish Community Endowment Fund of the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties.
Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Award winners for 2010 are:

Jason Bade from Foster City/San Francisco (age 19)
Megan Kilroy from Santa Monica (age 18)
David Schenirer from Sacramento (age 18)
David Weingarten from Woodland Hills/Los Angeles (age 18)
Kyle Weiss from Danville/San Francisco (age 17)
Tikkun olam is a Hebrew phrase that means repair the world; it signifies one of the basic precepts of Judaism.  “In a world struggling valiantly to recover from economic, environmental and humanitarian crises, our unconditional confidence in these young leaders is a model for decisive social action and sustainable change,” said Helen Diller, president of the sponsoring foundation. “The Tikkun Olam   Award is our investment in these five truly exceptional young Californians—we know this recognition will further the work they’ve begun in the spirit of tikkun olam, and create lasting differences to protect and preserve the earth and its people for generations to come.”
The awardees’ projects included a student-run environmental and recycling movement that saves six high schools millions of dollars per year; a marine preservation program that sparked youth-created environmental activist groups from coast to coast; a sorely needed teen culture and community center for Sacramento youth; an international partnership with Ugandan teens to strengthen Jewish identity, and an innovative social network and fundraising website that empowers African youth through soccer. Each project required leadership and careful organization in addition to fundraising.  Use of the award money is unrestricted, though recipients are encouraged to use the funding for college or to further implement a vision for making the world a better place.
The teens were awarded by a selection committee composed of educators and community leaders from San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Marin, Yolo, Fresno, Placer, Contra Costa, Alameda, Santa Ana and Orange Counties.  To be eligible, teens could self-nominate, or be nominated by an adult and complete a detailed application describing their projects, its goals, their inspiration and challenges, fundraising tactics and ultimate accomplishments.  
Nominees were required to be California residents, between 13 and 19 years old, and self-identify as Jewish.  The community service projects can focus on any area of interest to the teen.
2010 Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Award Recipients and their Projects:
Jason Bade (Foster City): Environmental Movement Saves Six Schools Millions Per Year –A heavy sense of moral obligation to heal the earth was instilled in 19-year old Jason Bade early—at first as his family’s recycling advocate, Jason transferred his passion into a step-by-step student greening blog to co-founding the “Green Youth Alliance,” the first high school environmental services organization in the U.S. that seeks to connect green student groups at high schools nationwide in a synergy of idea exchange and support.  Sparking an environmental consciousness movement throughout the Bay Area, Jason reinvigorated his high school’s old environmental club and established a student-run recycling initiative so efficient it now saves the school nearly $5,000 a year.  Jason also single-handedly lobbied high school board members to install solar panels to offset electricity usage and reduce carbon footprints in six Bay Area high schools, which will conserve nearly $4 million per year in electricity costs. He represented the U.S. at the UNESCO World Youth Festival panel and spoke at the Global Governors’ Climate Change Summit in Los Angeles; clearly, his vision for sustainable change is engaging entire regions to wake up and repair the earth.
Megan Kilroy (Santa Monica): Marine Preservation Initiative Inspires Teens To Save The Planet –As one of four teens honored with Nickelodeon’s TeenNick HALO Award—Helping and Leading Others—Megan Kilroy is strengthening her mission to fight for environmental issues and teach other teens nationwide that they too can make a difference.  As first-ever appointed captain of the student-driven environmental action initiative, “Team Marine,” Megan has passionately educated the public to adopt sustainable mindsets and behaviors and create awareness of the destructive impact their daily actions have on the ocean.  Dressed in bottletops as “Cap Woman,” she has lobbied City Hall in Sacramento and Santa Monica to encourage a ban on single-use plastic, and built a solar powered boat and electric car to demonstrate alternative energy usage and create awareness of the effects carbon emissions have on the ocean. Megan envisions a future production company that lets her harness the power of media to shed ignorance about human destructiveness, and educate youth about the global marine debris crisis—empowering others to step up and fight for change as well.
David Schenirer (Sacramento): Teen Culture Center Gives Sacramento Youth a Voice–David Schenirer grew up with a deeply rooted involvement in his Jewish community, inspiring a strong belief that “Tikkun Olam is, in spirit, hands on repairing of the world”—when he began losing his high school friends to substance abuse, he realized Sacramento youth needed a safe and supportive community to call their own.  With leadership roles in the North American Federation of Temple Youth and as President of California Association of Student Council, David and his best friend Julian became aware that teens need a strong, spirited community to feel connected and motivated. They raised nearly $400,000 in in-kind donations and co-created VIBE—a 100% organically youth-owned and operated urban lounge where teens can learn academic and vocational skills, engage in service learning, socialize with other youth, and freely express themselves.  A versatile space that can be transformed from a dance floor into a classroom, VIBE attracts all walks of teen culture from six different schools and backgrounds.  At age 18, David has been dedicated to giving every new generation of teens a voice and meeting the changing needs and interests of Sacramento youth.
David Weingarten (Woodland Hills): Partnership Revives Jewish Identity for Ugandan Teens–Named “Youth of the Year” by his synagogue, 16-year old David Weingarten’s heartfelt connection to the dwindling Abayudaya Jewish tribe of Uganda inspired him to engage his United Synagogue Youth (USY) chapter to create a partnership with teenagers in Uganda. David raised more than $12,000 to bring three Ugandan teens to the USY Regional Convention in Los Angeles, where they participated in program planning and leadership training with kids from all over the west coast.  As a result, the three Ugandan teens returned home empowered, and created their own community service and youth development and leadership programs.  The Ugandan group has grown swiftly, and has already initiated their own convention, uniting teens from eight villages to conduct youth-led activities and discussion sessions ranging from drug and alcohol abuse to leadership training.  Under David’s guidance, the Jewish teens of Abayudaya have transformed their community into a prosperous, supportive international Jewish stronghold, sparking youth movements throughout Africa to assist teens in becoming future leaders.
Kyle Weiss (Danville): Innovative Website Empowers African Youth Through Soccer –After attending the 2006 World Cup soccer game in Germany, 13-year old Kyle Weiss realized that a passion for soccer is the thread that holds communities together in many poverty-stricken African countries. When Kyle and his brother learned that African youth do not have the fields and equipment to play soccer, they co-founded “FUNDaFIELD,” a youth run non-profit organization dedicated to enriching the lives of African children.  By engaging Bay Area kids and their parents in creative fundraising initiatives, and by using his social media expertise to develop a website fundraising campaign that sells $1.00 squares on a virtual soccer field, they’ve raised over $100,000 to help build sevens fields in African villages.   Kyle’s confidence in the power of soccer is revolutionizing quality of life for African kids: “when we build a field in a community, so much more evolves,” he says.  Kyle’s impact has extended beyond sports to non-profit partnerships that facilitate HIV/Aids awareness and prevention programs, and help build drinking water wells on the soccer fields.  Kyle has also trained an ambitious and active force of American students who work tirelessly to create sustainable change for African youth.
The Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awards initiative is one of a number of projects funded by the Helen Diller Family Foundation through the Jewish Community Endowment Fund to develop leadership in teens and enhance Jewish education.  
Preceding provided by the Helen Diller Family Foundation

Remembering another July 4 when an American president stood up for Israel

July 4, 2010 Leave a comment

 By Rabbi Ben Kamin  

Rabbi Ben Kamin

SAN DIEGO — One recalls July 4, 1976—the great Bicentennial—with much nostalgia and affection.  America was exactly 200 years old, had survived the Watergate scandals and a presidential resignation without bloodshed or constitutional tremors.   

The dreadful Vietnam War was over after some fifteen years of entanglement, though we struggled (and still do) with the cosmic shock of having lost 57,000 young lives in war that we lost and through which we all but lost our national soul.  Vietnam itself was a scarred waste of napalm and blood; for what?

But on July 4, 1976, the President of the United States, Gerald R. Ford, stood up in the White House and proclaimed:  “Today, Israel has given us the best present we could have on the Fourth of July.”  This decent and plain-spoken president then announced the details of Israel’s brilliant and daring rescue of 103 civilian hostages at Entebbe airport, near Kampala, in Uganda.

An Air France jet had taken off a week earlier and was skyjacked by Palestinian terrorists.  After landing at Entebbe, all the non-Jewish passengers were released (an act dubiously reminiscent of standard Nazi procedure).   The rescue of the hostages and the defeat of the terrorists and their Ugandan hosts was a feat of unparalleled intelligence and military luster.  One Israeli commando was killed—the commander of the mission, Jonathan Netanyahu, the brother of Israel’s current prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

President Ford was moved and had the integrity and uprightness to praise and congratulate our ally, Israel.  Indeed, the operation inspired a variety of American tactical rescue scenarios and the deployment of similar teams; American military reliance upon and interaction with Israeli intelligence and maneuvers has been a hallmark of the unique friendship between these two democracies for over sixty years.   It may be more important than ever, given the trending of Turkey (long before the recent contrived flotilla incident) away from the West and into the hands of Islamist plotters.

Why the ambivalence and hand-wringing now of our president and government about the fundamental and irreparable alliance we share with both the practical and historical narrative of the State of Israel?   

For the love of God, we wine and dine and wink and rationalize the ignominy of Afghanistan’s ungrateful and fraudulent  warlord president; we pine for Iran to turn into Oz; we practically apologize to the Arab global establishment after its hard-boiled and virulent opposition to the American ideals of education, liberty, creativity, and gender equality continue to be embellished by the unchecked Koranic provocation that blankets more and more millions of people from the Middle East to Africa to Asia and into Europe.

Why not love and admire our friend and acolyte and defender, Israel, its flaws (and our own) notwithstanding?   Would we prefer the Iranian / Hamas / Hezbollah public goals of Israeli and Jewish extermination?  Who would we then to turn to—Egypt?  Syria?  Somalia?  Iran?

Would that we had a president again who had the audacity to stand up for our real friends on July 4.

Rabbi Kamin is a freelance writer and author based in San Diego.

Remembering Entebbe, 34 years later

July 4, 2010 Leave a comment

By Judy Lash Balint

Judy Lash Balint

JERUSALEM, July 4–Today marks the 34th anniversary of Operation Yonatan, Israel’s dramatic rescue of 103 hostages that took place on July 4, 1976 at Entebbe, Uganda.

As a college student in the US, I vividly remember watching events unfold as most of the rest of the nation was focused on the celebration of America’s bi-centennial.

Jews around the world held their breath as the terrorist incident ended with a relatively minimal loss of life. Pride and admiration for the daring and courage of Israel’s decision-makers and generals was the order of the day.

In Israel, the anniversary of the operation was marked for years by public official commemoration ceremonies. This year, it appears that the only remembrance will be for Yoni Netanyahu, commander of the operation and the only Israeli soldier killed at Entebbe. The Netanyahu family placed a newspaper ad announcing the annual pilgrimage to the grave of Yoni, older brother of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

Back in July 2001, during the height of the terrorist war that followed the Camp David talks, things were different and an official state commemoration of the 25th anniversary took place at the Binyanei Hauma Convention Center in Jerusalem.

In a masterful, moving event that was at once entertaining and educational, the state of Israel marked the passage of a quarter of a century since the dramatic hostage rescue. If the event were to be translated and exported, Israel ‘s image problems could be improved dramatically, and Jews the world over might even begin to regain pride in the Jewish state.

In the week leading up to the anniversary, Israel’s media focused on the unprecedented operation that took dozens of soldiers from Israel’s elite brigades on a daring and dangerous mission to rescue Jews thousands of miles away.

A TV documentary focused on Yoni Netanyahu’s career, featuring extensive photos, film clips and interviews with his brothers and former girlfriend.

True to form, a post-Zionist columnist in Haaretz said the program, “Seems more like a propaganda film,” and opined “the Yoni that emerges from the film is not a flesh and blood character, but something closer to a modern day Bar Kochba.”

A few years after his death, the Netanyahu family published a book of Yoni’s letters written over a 13-year period between 1963-1976.

Entitled ‘Self Portrait of a Hero,’ the letters paint a picture of a passionate Zionist as they chronicle Yoni’s passage through the army and his participation as a paratrooper in two of the most crucial battles of the Six Day War.

The 25th anniversary event was attended by the nation’s leading politicians; those who took part in the Entebbe operation, former hostages and their rescuers; and thousands of soldiers from Sayeret Matkal, Tzanchanim and Golani, the brigades that carried out the rescue 25 years ago.

On film, we watched as the political leaders of 1976 debated what to do about the Jewish hostages who had been sitting under Ugandan dictator Idi Amin ‘s guard for days. The familiar faces of Yitzhak Rabin, Yigal Allon, Yitzhak Navon and Shimon Peres flitted across the screen.

Interspersed with film clips, the accomplished singing troupes of several army and air force divisions belted out some of the old rousing Israeli anthems.

President Moshe Katzav thanked those who had liberated the hostages. “We say to the terrorists of today: we did it then and we can do it now if we want.”

Following Katzav ‘s speech, several minutes of film of former hostages describing their ordeal were screened. The hostages tell of their disbelief that the IDF had sent their forces across the African continent to rescue them. In excruciating detail they calmly recount the selection procedure that separated the Jews and Israelis from the non-Jewish passengers on the Air France flight.

Foreign Minister Shimon Peres rose to speak and chose to address himself to the assembled young soldiers who filled the hall. He urged them not to think of the Entebbe fighters as legendary heroes. “Each of you has the potential to do the same thing,” he said. “You represent the best hope for the people.”

Next on film was a short clip of an interview with a handsome middle-aged civilian who was a pilot of one of the Hercules planes that left the Sirkin air force base for the seven -hour trip to Entebbe. “We were so afraid of failure,” he says, his dark eyes looking unflinchingly at the camera. “But on the way back, I felt like it was Pesach. I recalled the words of the Hagaddah: ‘I and no angel: I and no messenger brought you out of the land of Egypt,’ concluded the pilot who wore no kippa on his silver hair. “If they told me now, 25 years later to go on such a mission, I’d go without hesitation. Ayn Lanu Eretz Acheret! We have no other country,” he said, in a theme that was to echo throughout the evening.

Film interviews with others involved in the rescue followed. Almost all those who played significant roles in Entebbe went on to illustrious military and political careers. We watched as Ehud Barak, Matan Vilnai, Dan Shomron and Ephraim Sneh spoke of their recollections twenty-five years on.

Shomron, the overall planner of the operation told the former hostages: “We knew we were endangering you too. No one had any idea how many would fall.

You were part of the campaign, you’re part of the fight against terror.”

Two of the paratroopers came on stage to read short statements in their own words about their feelings on the anniversary of the operation.

One tall, balding man with a gray mustache said he was disappointed that his teenage son ‘s classmates knew nothing about Operation Yonatan. “We’re facing the same things today, they need more than virtual Zionism, ” he said.

Benny, a younger man who was only 13 years old when he was taken hostage by the terrorists, told the audience in a trembling voice that he remembers every moment of the torment. “I was a kid who saw death in front of him.”

Tzipi Cohen was only 8 years old when she witnessed her father Pasco bleeding to death as he was accidentally shot by Israeli soldiers in the confusion of the rescue. Pasco Cohen lifted his head to look for his son when the shooting started and became one of four Jewish hostages who perished in Uganda. His daughter ended her brief remarks by reiterating her gratitude to the IDF for saving all the hostages, despite her personal tragedy.

The final segment of the two-hour program was entitled ‘The Price.’ Besides the loss of Yoni Netanyahu and the four hostages, one soldier, Surin Hershko, became a quadriplegic as a result of the injuries he sustained at Entebbe. We watched on screen as Surin used his computer at home. He uses an elongated straw manipulated by his mouth to write on the keyboard.

Hershko is completely paralyzed, but rolled to the front of the auditorium in his wheelchair to reminisce about the last time he ran or walked. “I remember what it was to be a fighter,” he recalled.

After presenting Hershko with a special medal commemorating Entebbe, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon delivered a speech that tied Israel’s efforts to combat terror in the 1970s to today’s struggle against the same enemy:

“In these confusing times, when there are those who question our capabilities or the justness of our cause, we return to those few hours when Israel stood up and in the face of the entire community of nations, waged a battle against violence and terrorism, proving that we can win.

These days, when we are in the midst of an ongoing battle against terrorism, violence and incitement, and when we are making a joint national effort to return to political negotiations without fire, we must rekindle the spirit of that operation. The secret of our strength lies in such spirit and faith, and if we learn how to renew it we will be able to meet all the challenges that still lie ahead.”

Nine years after those words, how little has changed…

Balint is a freelance writer based in Jerusalem.  Her column appears on the website, Jerusalem Diaries: In Tense Times

OECD mischaracterizes Israel’s economy

January 23, 2010 1 comment

By Ira Sharkansky

JERUSALEM — Israel is usually in the headlines about war, terror, great power efforts to make peace, or some other bloody or politically charged issue. This note is not about any of that exciting stuff, but deals with the way others and Israelis often view themselves. That may have something to do with having the world’s most popular publication assign us the label of Chosen People living in what the same book calls God’s Promised Land. Extremism is the language in dealing with Israel. Adversaries or our own domestic critics think it is the worst, and some friends consider it only a small measure removed from Paradise.

Recently some ranking officials of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development visited Israel to wrap up the country’s application for membership. The OECD is a prestigious organization, arguably of the world’s best countries, growing out of the reconstruction of Europe after World War II. Israel is expected to join within the coming months, and that will add another mark of distinction to a place thought by many to be a pariah.

What has marked the visit of OECD dignataries is their statements that Israel would be the poorest member, as well as most marked by inequality between its well-to-do and poor. The allegations have been repeated by left of center Israeli politicians, including the distinguished economist and former university president, Avishay Braverman, who is serving as a minister in the government with responsibility for minorities. Braverman appeared on a discussion program to assert that he would work to assure the entry of Israel to the OECD, and would press his colleagues in the government to allocate more resources to the underprivileged Arab sector. Joining him on the program was a prominent Arab Member of Knesset. Mohammed Barake discounted Braverman’s promises, and demanded that the OECD suspend Israel’s membership application on account of its discrimination against Arabs.

Even a minister from the right-of-center Likud signed on to the claims that Israel would be the poorest and least equal of the OECD members. Or maybe this minister was seeking to get something for his education portfolio in the discussion about membership. Gideon Sa’ar said that the OECD report was a reflection of the reality of Israel’s society. 

“Investment in human capital and higher education is the future of Israel . . .We are going to make every effort to improve teacher skills and qualifications and ease the entry and participation in education for the Arab and haredi sector.”

Sounds good, insofar as it comes from reputable people, but it ain’t so.

Israel would be neither the poorest nor the least egalitarian of the OECD members. Data from the World Bank indicate that on a common measure–Gross Domestic Product per capita–Israel scores wealthier than existing OECD members Portugal, the Czech Republic, South Korea, the Slovak Republic, Hungary, Poland, Turkey, and Mexico. On a common measure of income equality (Gini coefficient), it scores more egalitarian than OECD members Turkey, United States, and Mexico, and the Gini coefficients for Portugal and Japan are only fractionally in the direction of greater income equality than Israel’s.

The distinguished people who comment inaccurately on Israel’s poverty and inequality make more sense when they speak about other traits of the country. They emphasize that the ultra-Orthodox and Arab minorities are poorer than the average. That is true, but both owe some of their poverty to themselves and the politicians who represent them. The ultra-Orthodox volunteer for poverty. The men avoid work for prolonged study of religious texts. Their families live on the incomes of wives as teachers or in other low-paid occupations, and the payment of poverty-level stipends to mature yeshiva students and child allowances for their large families. These payments–and the continued abstention of ultra-Orthodox men from the workforce–reflect the importance of ultra-Orthodox parties for government coalitions.

Arab family incomes are actually closer to those of the Jewish majority than are comparable figures for minorities and majorities in the United States. That is not a great compliment for Israeli egalitarianism, insofar as the United States is a prominent outlier among wealthy countries, noted for its lack of equality. Statistics from the Central Intelligence Agency rank the United States close to the Philippines, Uganda, Jamaica, Uruguay, Cameroon, the Ivory Coast, Iran and Nigeria, and far from Western European democracies on the conventional measure of income equality.

Israel’s Arabs might gain a larger share of the country’s opportunities if the parties that most of them vote for learned the political game of going along to get along. Instead of trading their 11 votes in the Knesset for their constituents’ benefits, the Arab parties continue to stand united in opposition to whoever is in the government. Severe criticism rather than cooperation is the name of their game. For someone who sees the trading of political support for benefits as the key of civilization, the Arabs who vote for those parties get what they deserve.

Some of you have ridiculed my claim that Israel is a normal country. You are partly right. Thanks to those who would sanctify or demonize it, Israel is different from other countries. But if you look at reputable statistics, most extreme claims pro or con prove to be false. The most prominent indicators that show it to be abnormal are that 80 percent of the population is Jewish, and that it allocates two or three times the proportion of its resources to defense compared to other western democracies. The defense indicator reflects the chronic aggression threatened by Israel’s neighbors, which makes them far less normal than Israel itself.

And if any of you object to my designation of Israel as a western democracy, go read something else.

Sharkansky is professor emeritus of political science at Hebrew University.

Two Guantanamo detainees transferred to Algeria

January 23, 2010 1 comment

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Press Release)–Two Algerian detainees, Hasan Zemiri and Adil Hadi al Jazairi Bin Hamlili, have been transferred from the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay to the custody and control of the Government of Algeria.

As directed by the President’s Jan. 22, 2009 Executive Order, the interagency Guantanamo Review Task Force conducted a comprehensive review of these cases. As a result of that review, which examined a number of factors, including the potential threat posed by each individual and the receiving country’s demonstrated capabilities to mitigate potential threats posed by the individuals in their home country, each detainee was approved for transfer.

The transfers were approved by unanimous consent among all the agencies involved in the review — including the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as well as the Departments of Defense, State, Justice and Homeland Security.

In accordance with Congressionally-mandated reporting requirements, the Administration informed Congress of its intent to transfer these detainees at least 15 days before their transfer. These transfers were carried out under an arrangement between the United States and the Government of Algeria. The United States coordinated with the Government of Algeria to ensure the transfers took place under appropriate security measures.

Since 2002, more than 570 detainees have departed Guantanamo Bay for other destinations, including Albania, Algeria, Afghanistan, Australia, Bangladesh, Bahrain, Belgium, Bermuda, Chad, Denmark, Egypt, France, Hungary, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Italy, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Maldives, Mauritania, Morocco, Pakistan, Palau, Portugal, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Spain, Sweden, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Uganda, United Kingdom and Yemen.

Eight detainees were transferred from Guantanamo Bay to Algeria under the previous Administration. As of Friday, 196 detainees remain at Guantanamo Bay.

Preceding provided by U.S. Justice Department

U.S. Senators urge Uganda not to criminalize homosexuality

January 20, 2010 Leave a comment
WA SHINGTON, D.C. (Press Release)—U.S. Senators Benjamin L. Cardin of Maryland and Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, both Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and 10 other Senators today urged Ugandan President Yoweri Musseveni to block enactment of a law that would criminalize homosexuality and codify prejudice against gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgendered and HIV-positive Ugandans.

The bill, which if passed would impose sentences as severe as life in prison or death, runs counter to global declarations of universal human rights and efforts to expand tolerance and health assistance in Africa and worldwide. In addition to Senators Cardin and Durbin, the letter was also signed by Democratic  Senators Patty Murray of Washington,  Christopher Dodd of Connecticut, Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Mark Udall of Colorado, Barbara Boxer of California, Daniel Akaka of Hawaii,  Diane Feinstein of California, and Independent Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut. 

“Legislating prejudice is wrong for any government in any country. President Musseveni must take any and all steps available to end this serious breach of human rights and basic tolerance,” said Senator Cardin, who also serves as chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission. “Ugandans who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered or HIV-positive, should not live in fear or be punished for simply living their lives.”
“If this proposal carries the day, their government will undermine years of positive Ugandan leadership combating HIV infections, and instead, will begin pursuing a policy of intolerance,” Durbin, Chairman of the Human Rights and the Law Subcommittee, said. “I urge President Musseveni and the Ugandan Parliament, to reject this legislation outright and hope that they, along with the world at large, will rethink policies that institutionalize fear and bigotry.”
The full text of the letter is below.  

The Honorable Yoweri Museveni
President, Republic of Uganda
c/o of the Embassy of Uganda
5911 16th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20011
Dear Mr. President:
We write to express our deep concern regarding the anti-homosexuality bill currently before the Ugandan Parliament. 
This troubling legislation would sanction prejudice toward people in Uganda based solely on sexual orientation, or even HIV status. This is in great contrast to trends toward greater tolerance in the global community.  By creating harsh penalties for homosexuality, this bill not only codifies prejudice, but could also foster an increase in violence towards people simply based on sexual orientation.
The legislation also requires persons “in authority,” which could include government officials, employers, clergy, or others, to provide information about suspected violations of the Act. It further criminalizes the work done by human rights and health organizations that benefit lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens, claiming those actions to be “homosexual promotion.” Certainly these are not the types of actions to be encouraged as the world strives to reverse violence, poverty, and human suffering caused by divisiveness and repression. 
While your nation has been a leader in Africa on many fronts, including the reduction of HIV infections, this proposed legislation will be a glaring setback in Uganda’s human rights standing. Unfortunately, even the mere threat of the new and severe penalties for homosexual behavior suggested in this bill, including life imprisonment and the death penalty, could easily add to an already intolerant atmosphere in Uganda based on sexual orientation. 
We understand you have recently raised concerns over the legislation and urge you to do to everything within your power to block its advancement. We look forward to continue the process of building a strong and long-lasting relationship between the United States of America and the Republic of Uganda.
Senator Benjamin L. Cardin
Senator Richard J. Durbin
Senator Daniel Akaka
Senator Christopher Dodd
Senator Joseph Lieberman
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand
Senator Sherrod Brown
Senator Jeff Merkley
Senator Patty Murray
Senator Mark Udall
Senator Diane Feinstein
Senator Barbara Boxer

Preceding provided by Senator Cardin


Has Britain prohibited Queen Elizabeth from traveling to Israel?

December 14, 2009 Leave a comment

LONDON (WJC)–The eminent historian Andrew Roberts has said that the British government had a de facto ban in place on state visits by Queen Elizabeth II to Israel.

“The true reason of course, is that the FO [Foreign Office] has a ban on official royal visits to Israel, which is even more powerful for its being unwritten and unacknowledged. As an act of delegitimization of Israel, this effective boycott is quite as serious as other similar acts, such as the academic boycott, and is the direct fault of the FO Arabists. It is, therefore, no coincidence that although the queen has made over 250 official overseas visits to 129 different countries during her reign, neither she nor one single member of the British royal family has ever been to Israel on an official visit,” Roberts told a gala dinner in London.

The historian’s work includes biographies of former British prime ministers Winston Churchill and Neville Chamberlain, as well as Hitler and Roosevelt. Roberts said that Britain had been at best “a fair-weather friend” to Israel, and even though Queen Elizabeth’s mother-in-law, Princess Alice of Greece, had been recognized as a Righteous Among the Nations for sheltering a Jewish family in her Athens home during the Holocaust, and is buried on the Mount of Olives, Prince Philip had not been allowed to visit his mother’s grave until 1994 – “and then only on a private visit.”

“Perhaps her majesty hasn’t been on the throne long enough, at 57 years, for the Foreign Office to get round to allowing her to visit one of the only democracies in the Middle East. At least she could be certain of a warm welcome in Israel, unlike in Morocco, where she was kept waiting by the king for three hours in 90-degree heat, or at the Commonwealth heads of government meeting in Uganda the time before last, where they hadn’t even finished building her hotel,” Roberts remarked.

Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress

On completing six months of teaching with the Abayudaya

November 16, 2009 2 comments

 By Lorne Mallin

NABUGOYE HILL, Mbale, Uganda—Endings and beginnings. The Jewish world recently celebrated Simchat Torah, when we mark the end of the yearly cycle of Torah reading by chanting the last few verses of the scroll and then beginning anew with the first few verses of Genesis. I joined the Abayudaya community at services in drumming, dancing and singing our hearts out.

My time at Nabugoya Hill is coming to an end. I will miss the beauty of the land and the Abayudaya. There are many threads to weave together in the next few days from my volunteer work over the past six months. On Shabbat I’m sponsoring a Kiddush lunch of rice,beans, goat and eggplant (including a token contribution from whatsurvived in my garden). On Sunday, I’m going to Entebbe airport with JJ Keki, who is flying to Amsterdam with me before we separate – JJ to New York to begin his Kulanu-Abayudaya speaking tour
(, and me back to Canada….

And then a new beginning. God willing, I’ll return to Uganda around Dec. 1 to get settled in my new home in Kampala and begin working Dec. 15 as manager of publications and material development for the Uganda office of BRAC, the world’s largest antipoverty group ( A great fringe benefit of the job is that with BRAC being Bangladesh-based, the lunch room serves yummy curries.

In Kampala, I’ve rented a brand-new three-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment for $383 Canadian a month (far more than mostUgandans earn in a month). It’s a 10-minute walk from my new office,which is about five kilometres south of downtown Kampala. In the ritzier sections of the city it would easily cost three times as much.

There are cattle, chickens and vegetable plots along the dirt road to my place. Unfurnished here means no fridge or stove. With no legislated tenant protection, landlords have free rein – six months’ rent in advance plus a month’s security deposit.

The High Holy Days were very high here in Nabugoya with almost 300 people, many dressed in white, jamming the Moses Synagogue.

Services were a combination of Abayudaya practices developed over the 90 years since their community began, and more familiar Conservative songs and prayers from Rabbi Gershom Sizomu’s training in that movement. I walked late into mincha (afternoon) services on Rosh Hashanah to hear something for the first time – Shirat Hayam,the Song of the Sea (of reeds), translated into Luganda by the founder of the Abayudaya, Semei Kakungulu. The rhythm he composed was steady, almost plodding, and the melody simple and repetitive, evoking the songs of Canadian First Nations peoples.

For many years, this was the centrepiece of Abayudaya worship and everyone memorized

Another first was offering the Birkat Hacohanim (Priestly Blessing) by myself. I’m usually one of a number of descendents of the priestly tribe in the congregation. One Israeli visitor on Rosh Hashanah happened to be a Levi and helped me with the ritual handwashing.

I also enjoyed being the Baal Tekiah, blowing the shofar that punctuates the services, and reading Torah on Yom Kippur.

Friends and I felt very elevated in our full-length, white kanzu robes. The Yom Kippur fast went quite easily,except for when the sun’s beating down on the metal roof turned the synagogue into a steambath. We all broke the fast with cups of steaming porridge from a large vat.

After returning to Uganda, I’m planning to visit the Abayudaya one Shabbat a month. There’s no synagogue in Kampala. Almost all the 200 or so Israelis there are secular. There are some non-Israeli Jewish expatriates and a handful of Abayudaya students going to university.

I love Shabbat and hope to create some kind of prayer/chant/ communal opportunity.

I leave here with a sense of some accomplishments and some loose ends. Great news: A $5,000 US grant for cervical cancer screening for the Abayudaya women and their neighbors has been approved with the very real prospect of saving lives. The poultry project is back on track with the chicken coop virtually complete and day-old chicks ordered. Aaron Kintu Moses, headmaster of Hadassah Primary School and my best friend here, took back the project from the contractor, who had only worked two days in six weeks. I’m invited every Shabbat morning to lead my teacher Rabbi Shefa Gold’s chant for Nishmat Kol Chai with the English part translated into Luganda.

The Mbale Spelling Challenge was a success even though MTN, the telecom giant, failed at the last minute to provide major sponsorship. But they did give us T-shirts that the students love. In the end, Mbale Secondary School won the trophy with 17 points, Hamdan Girls’ High School (a Muslim boarding school) earned 13 and our team racked up six. Still, our students came home in high spirits. They had enjoyed a special day with lunch at the guest house, transportation in a minivan taxi, the thrill of competition, plus the shirts and Certificatesof Participation as rewards. Now the schools know how to conduct
a spelling contest and everyone wants them to continue. MTN is talking about a 15-school competition next year but I don’t knowwhether that’s more than talk.

The Abayudaya Jewish Cookbook project now has a good body of recipes and photographs from several villages. It has been a wonderful and often tasty experience to work with the women and get a glimpse into their lives. In the coming months, I intend to test the recipes in my own kitchen and turn the research into a book proposal toattract an agent who will interest a publisher. All profits will go to the Abayudaya Women’s Association.

This article was reprinted from the fall issue of Kulanu (   Lorne Mallin is a journalist and chant leader who volunteered for six months in Uganda, teaching writing to 11th graders, coaching a spelling team, launching an orphans’ lunch program, coaching teachers, working to bring cervical cancer screening there and to neighboring towns, putting together a cookbook of Abayudaya recipes, et al.