Almost daily, we receive news of anti-Semitic activity in the United States; whether it is Jews attacked, houses of worship damaged or other forms of hatred. Last week, I came across a company called Offensive Crayons, with a colour they market called Auschwitz Ash. To add further insult, the Company also manufactures an adult colouring book, Little Dictators, featuring Adolf Hitler in a comedic form.
We must be committed to “Standing Strong” against hatred. In a letter to the Company, I explained to them that during the Holocaust, 6 million Jews were murdered by the Nazis. At, Auschwitz-Birkenau, Jews were sent to gas chambers and their bodies cremated in ovens to ASH. More than one million Jews were murdered at Auschwitz alone.
I explained that “Hitler compared Jews to germs. He stated that diseases cannot be controlled unless you destroy their causes.” Hitler set out to exterminate the Jews across the world and eliminated 2/3 of the Jews in Europe. Featuring Adolph Hitler in a coloring book trivializes the horrors he committed.”
I was moved by a quote that had relevancy on the topic from Rabbi David Saperstein. “the Holocaust is used as the ultimate benchmark for our generation of the worst atrocity ever committed against one group of people.”
When my husband and I were honored by the Anti-Defamation League several years ago as Humanitarians of the Year, Abe Foxman, the former National Director of the ADL, gave me a book that I keep in my office to remind me every day of the atrocities committed by the Nazis. It is powerful and incredibly moving. The book has the word JEW written on each page with 40 columns per page and 120 lines per page. The word JEW is written 4800 times per page and there are 1250 pages in the book. The book contains the word JEW 6,000,000 times, conveying the magnitude of the tragedy. I used this book to explain to the creators of the Company the magnitude of the horrors at hand.
We must stand strong against these types of products. Holocaust distortion is a form of antisemitism, prejudice against or hatred of Jews. Holocaust distorters generally perpetuate long-standing anti-Semitic stereotypes, hateful beliefs that helped lay the groundwork for the Holocaust. Holocaust distortion & misuse undermine the truth and our understanding of history.
About the writer:
Gina Raphael is as an entrepreneur and business owner in Beverly Hills, CA. A graduate of Wellesley College and the University of Chicago Booth School of Business Gina is Chair of WIZO Los Angeles (Women’s International Zionist Organization), and Chair Israel Bonds Western Region. She is the mother of three daughters – Danielle Gross (21), Sydney Gross (19) and Mia Gross (10).
The reality of the WhatsApp group chat is as simple as “you can’t live with it and you can’t live without it”.
As a mother, you have no choice but to be involved in a group chat for your child’s class because you cannot afford to miss important information about goings-on. This misinformation may result in an inevitable melt down when your child is the only shmendrik in a coloured shirt when everyone else is wearing white. So to avoid such calamities or worse, we join the group chats. BUT, this is only the beginning… make no mistake, it’s a trap.
Usually there is a group for the child’s grade with the teacher as a member and who is the one to send out any important information. However, there is another separate group just for the parents. It is more acceptable for the second type to have ‘chatter’ whereas the first group is meant for important notifications. This is not the case. It’s all too easy to pop out one quick message but when everyone gets going, before you blink, there are 47 new unread messages. One would think there is a crisis at the school only to discover that Moshe is having a birthday party, and everyone wishes him Mazaltov.
Moreover, this same child of yours probably does one or more extra murals and, of course, each activity MUST have a communal forum for information exchange. Gone are the good old days whereby your child came home with a letter pinned to the back of his or her shirt. I sometimes wonder if my children would actually be capable of relaying any information to me, then I fear that this simple skill might eventually disappear from humanity.
Some of things that are announced on these groups never cease to amaze me. Absolutely everything! Everything from school complaints to the weather, to the latest sale at the local grocery store, warnings of a strange dog running in the road and the all-time winning one was that so and so had found a worm in her rice! My great challenge is saying “who cares” in such a way that I don’t offend anyone!
This is just groups pertaining to one child. Bli ayain Hara, I have four children. The traffic flow of messaging in my WhatsApp is multiplied by four! I may as well be an air traffic controller. These groups by the way, could prove to be a real game changer for people considering having more children. This influx of messaging happens on all the groups, all day long. It becomes a lot to deal with when you are trying to manage a stressful life juggling many things all day long. The truth is that a mother has a huge pile on her plate that never seems to clear – much like the dishes in the kitchen sink. After one issue is sorted out, the next one reveals itself. This is most likely the reason the WhatsApp groups are so annoying – because they present the constant nagging cherry on top of a mountain of mental submissions.
What about the unwanted invitation to a group chat?
A friend of mine, Etana Hecht, has coined the term Whatsnapped. (Look it up on urban dictionary). This is where you are added to a group without your consent, and which you now find yourself serving a life sentence trapped within the wallpapers of the app. Exiting this group could label you a snob or stuck up. (Truthfully, I’m sure some would be jealous of the courage that would take). Leaving a group is scandalous and doing so may provoke questions and concerns and even the evil Lashon Hara!! This is not a road one wants to travel on, so we remain, like loyal participants, in the prison chat.
Let’s talk about the struggle IsRael! This, as an olah chadasha (new female immigrant to Israel), is the clincher! My WhatsApp incoming messages are all in a foreign language now – the writing is literally backwards! This is where ‘fast pace’ checks of instant messaging has become a thing of the past. And back and forth trips to google translate quadruple the time spent reading messages!
What once was a lovely ping on my phone indicating that someone, somewhere was thinking of me has now become trigger for anxiety, denial and the perpetual eyeball roll. Upon opening WhatsApp and seeing 57 unread messages no longer makes me happy. In fact, my stress levels shoot through the roof, my hands become clammy and my heart starts palpitating. And because of the Hebrew names and I have to consciously remind myself to check for which child (name in Hebrew letters / grade / extra mural activity (chug) the notification is intended. Furthermore, I think I’ll just mention at this point that the ‘google translation’ is a serious cause for trust issues. Sometimes when I see all the messages, I simply close the app, gently place the phone face down on the table and happily pretend I hadn’t seen anything. Out of sight, out of mind.
Based on a recent Facebook survey, I have put together a list of ‘code of conduct’ rules for group chat users:
Any group created must have an official permission request before adding a person. A strict ‘no offence but no thank you’ is to be widely acceptable without judgement!
All comments made must be beneficial to ALL members of the group, if not, Private message (PM) the person of interest.
Please think 5 million times before you post anything at all. Then reconsider it once more. Should you ultimately decide to send a message, use minimal wording.
We all know its cold out. This does not need to be a public statement on a group and if you haven’t yet put a jacket on your child in 8 degrees, no WhatsApp group message is going to make you a better mother.
Birthday party invitations are always welcome, individual RSVP’s however are not. Please PM these.
Unless you are handing out personal gift vouchers, we don’t care about the 20% sale at the local supermarket, and while we are on the subject, I really don’t know where to buy yellow plums this time of year.
At all times, keep to the topic relevant to the group. I was so busy trying to scroll past ‘how to repair a broken zip’ that I missed the part about the money which needed to be handed in for the school trip.
When your two year old gets hold of your phone and sends a cute voice note, just delete it.
(Optional) Appoint a group birthday person to wish the birthday lady a onetime wish on behalf of everyone. We all have good wishes for you, what we don’t have is 7 hours to sift through all the heartfelt messages. (That is what Facebook is for).
Finally, remember that we all love each other dearly but we do all run very busy lifestyles. We all agree that phone time should be kept to a minimum so that we can focus on more important things. So let’s try keep life as simple as possible for each other.
Gabi Crouse – Based in Israel, Gabi writes opinions in fields of politics, Judaism, life issues, current social observations aswell as creative fiction writing. Having contributed to educational set works and examinations, as well as interviews, Gabi will usually add in a splash of humour.
Insightful perspectives in the twilight weeks of December 2019 from two Arab journalists on two politicians – one in the East and one in the West.
These writers note the duplicitous nature of both the Malaysian president, Dr. Mahathir Mohamad and the electorally trounced UK Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn and warn of the dangers of their flirtations with the world’s extremists and supporters of terrorism.
The Kuala Lumpur Summit – A Play To Mislead The World
By Ali Kassem
Al-Arab, London, December 21
It is very surprising that the Malaysian prime minister chose to speak about Islamophobia in front of three leaders who sponsor notorious acts of terrorism
Why did the president of Malaysia, Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, choose to talk about Islamophobia, blaming Islamic countries for the exacerbation of the phenomenon, in the presence of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, and the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani? And who exactly are the Islamic countries that bear responsibility for exacerbating Islamophobia, according to Mr. Mohamad?
Let’s start by introducing Mahathir Mohamad. He was born in 1925 and grew up in a poor suburb, in a household with modest financial and social means. His academic excellence enabled him to obtain a scholarship to enroll in an English school, after which he studied medicine. But his passion for politics sent him on a long journey in which he assumed various positions in government, including the premiership of Malaysia since 1981.
Mahathir brought many accomplishments to the prime minister’s office. His greatest achievement was his economic recovery strategy, which he implemented after the Asian economic crisis in 1998. He defied the opinions of his advisers, who foolishly urged him to peg his country’s currency to the US dollar, and this bold step was one of the main reasons for the recovery of the Malaysian economy at a faster rate than other Asian countries. Mahathir received many local and international awards and honors, including the Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding in 1994 and the King Faisal International Prize for Service to Islam in 1997. In 2007, he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
It is therefore very surprising that a man of such stature chose to speak about Islamophobia in front of three leaders who sponsor notorious acts of terrorism, generating the problem of Islamophobia in the first place. Perhaps it is Mohamad’s old age which rendered him blind to this fact. Mahathir’s comments were made during an Islamic summit in Kuala Lumpur, in which Saudi Arabia refused to participate. Riyadh explained that it will not attend a conference claiming to represent the interests of the world’s 1.75 billion Muslims unless it is held under the auspices of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.
At a time when Saudi Arabia is making efforts to combat manifestations of extremism and battle Islamophobia, the architect of political Islam, Mahathir Mohamad, has chosen to surround himself with three of the most powerful regimes sponsoring extremism and terrorism in the world. The strained relations between Saudi Arabia and Qatar are caused by the Qatari sponsorship of the Muslim Brotherhood, and its support for political Islam, both Sunni and Shiite. A Saudi presence in the summit would have given legitimacy to the Iranian regime, which does not hide its expansionist ambitions in the region. The same logic applies to Turkey. The three regimes mentioned above try to delude the rest of the world by participating in a conference condemning terrorism, while they ignite conflict and spew hatred behind the scenes. Mahathir would have been wiser not to associate himself with these three regimes.
Britain Needs To Get Rid Of Corbyn
By Amir Taheri
Asharq Al-Awsat, Lebanon, December 20
The British Conservatives’ victory in the recent election was described as a “landslide victory” and an “earthquake” by pundits. Indeed, given the fact that the Tories won their first parliamentary majority since the 1980s, the election may very well signal a “landslide victory” for Prime Minister Boris Johnson. And given the major defeat suffered by the Labour Party, the title “earthquake” seems fitting. However, a closer look at the results may give us a more nuanced picture of the results.
One of the key questions pundits have raised again and again is: How did voters who associated themselves with socialist values decided to abandon the Labour Party and vote Conservative this time around?
There are two possible ways to approach this question. First, what pundits fail to recognize is that the transition from Labour to Conservative isn’t necessarily new to these elections; it already happened during the 2016 vote on Brexit.
Put simply, the recent UK election just confirmed what we’ve previously seen in the Brexit referendum. Beyond the issue of Brexit, another key factor in Labour’s downfall is undoubtedly the party’s leader, Jeremy Corbyn. Corbyn’s duplicitous response to antisemitic tropes within his party, his flirtation with the Irish Republican Army, his “brotherly” affinity with Hezbollah and Hamas (as well as his decade-long career as a commentator on the English-language channel of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards), his anti-Israel sentiment, and his anti-NATO stance, have all rendered him an unfit candidate to lead a major Western democracy.
Corbyn and his colleagues did everything in their power to destroy British social democracy and replace it with a radical movement that suffers from what Lenin described in 1918 as a “childish disorder.” With their own hands, they destroyed the Labour Party of Britain. Much to the luck of liberal British voters, the central pillar of democracy is that nothing is irreversible. Even the Labour Party can recoup and rebound. However, it must reinvent itself first. This cannot, and will not, be achieved with Corbyn as its head. The sooner Corbyn and his supporters step aside and give room to a new Labour leadership, the better for democracy in Britain.
Perspectives this week from three Arab journalists on three countries in the region – Turkey, Iraq and Iran
The first, Ashraf Al-Barbari examines the price being paid by the people of Turkey due to the confrontational and reckless path of its long-serving President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan; the second, Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed reveals how the protest movement in Iraq is not calling for a coup against the regime but for early elections to hold corrupt politicians accountable and ensure the rule of law; and the third, Ameel Amin, speculates that Iran – facing debilitating sanctions and weakened in leadership beset by internal disagreement – could face “collapse” unless it negotiates soon with the USA.
Lessons Learned from the Tyranny of Erdoğan
Al-Shorouq, Egypt, December 6
It seems as if the illusions from which Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been suffering, have reached a new and unprecedented level. They now exceed the limits of perception. The man has redrawn his country’s map to unilaterally include many Greek islands. Determined by an obsession to recreate his country’s lost empire, he continued by signing an agreement with Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj to draw a maritime border between the two countries, even though the two countries share virtually no water between them. Although the entire purpose of a border demarcation agreement is to make it publicly known to all, Erdoğan made sure that his agreement with Sarraj stayed secret – mostly because he understands, better than anyone else, that the paper on which it is written lacks any value, especially from the standpoint of international law.
This agreement is nothing more than new evidence indicating that Erdoğan’s long stay in power has transformed him from a successful prime minister with undeniable development experience in his early years to a despotic ruler leading his country to the abyss after he toppled his closest allies and advisers. The leaders of Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party have paid the price for allowing Erdoğan to be transformed from a mere party leader whose term must not exceed two periods every four years to a lifelong leader. Erdoğan turned the party into his own political organization and toppled every leader who contested his authority. Now, the entire Turkish public is paying the price of allowing Erdoğan to stay in power for more than 16 years, whether as prime minister or president of the republic. In the past few years, Turkey found itself drowning in a sea of problems with virtually all of its neighbors, while the Turkish economy entered a freefall following years of stability and growth. Erdoğan’s transformation from a successful prime minister to a ruler haunted by paranoia and delusions was nothing but a direct, and possibly inevitable consequence of staying in power for too long. If the president had adhered to the rules of the democratic game and left his executive positions after eight years, Turkey would have perhaps continued on its path toward prosperity. Erdoğan is a living testament to the fact that power corrupts. In seeking to secure his own thrown, he manipulated the rules of the democratic game, overthrown his political partners and opponents, and corrupted his country.
Iraq Is in Great Danger
By Al-Rahman Al-Rashed
Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, London, December 8
Iraq, which is looking to get out of its crisis, may very well turn into another Syria unless Iraqi politicians, parliamentarians and the military apparatus remedy the situation and block the way to the “third party.” Sadly, the campaign to target unarmed protesters is getting more violent and bloody with each passing day. This will eventually push the protesters to turn violent, themselves. The perpetrators of these brutal crimes, known as the third party, are Iran-backed militias that get their money and the salaries of their tens of thousands of militiamen from the Iraqi government.
Since the demonstrations erupted in early October, about 500 protesters have been killed and 20,000 others have been injured. The attack on demonstrators this past Friday was the boldest and most violent we’ve seen to date, as unknown militants killed about 50 people in Baghdad, while security services remained neutral. And because no one calls the killers by their name, even though it is a secret known to everyone, whether they are Asaib Al-Haq or other armed groups, organized violence will continue, and the Iraqi state will continue losing its grip over the situation. These militias dare to engage in confrontations because no one calls them by name, and there is no public warning against them, and they exploit their semiofficial status. They live on the government’s money while not abiding by its rules, despite attempts to tame it. And the army, the country’s official military force, is sitting on the sidelines without intervening. No one wants to see Iraq pushed toward complete chaos, but everyone is monitoring with concern how Tehran increases its grip over Iraqi state organs. In Iraq, Tehran sees an opportunity to overcome its serious financial crisis brought about by the American sanctions. What about those who are claiming that the Iraqi protests are an attempt to collapse the Iraqi political system and should, therefore, be suppressed? Unfortunately, those making these claims, trying to sow distrust in the protests, are the very same people who are forcefully trying to take over Iraq. As for the protesters, they are, in fact, strengthening the Iraqi political system because what they are demanding is change and reforms from within; not a coup against the regime. The protesters actually recognize state institutions. Their only demands are early elections, to hold corrupt politicians accountable, and ensure the rule of law. The third party, in contrast, want to crush the protests because they fear institutional change that would diminish their power. The protesters represent the power of the state and the opportunity of the Iraqi political system to finally reform itself. Therefore, protecting protesters means protecting the regime, and fighting against the killing of protesters means fighting against the killing of the modern Iraqi state.
Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed
IRAN AND THE ESCAPE TO THE UNKNOWN
By Ameel Amin
Al-Arabiya, Saudi Arabia, December 6
Iran is still trying, in vain, to find a way out of the sanctions and its inevitable fate. But it failed yesterday, today, and will continue to fail tomorrow. Its leadership is failing to understand that its strategic recklessness does not improve its bargaining power; it only tightens the noose around its neck. Events of recent days suggest that the mullahs are anxious and confused, suffering from disagreements and contradictions even among themselves. This may be the reason why President Hassan Rouhani declared a few days ago that his country was ready to launch negotiations with the United States on a multilateral framework if Washington lifted the sanctions that it re-imposed on Iran. However, Trump resents the Iranians and, unlike his predecessor in office, is unwilling to make any gestures toward the mullah regime.
A few days ago, The Wall Street Journal drew attention to what US financial intelligence revealed – that the Iranian government is experiencing a crisis in foreign exchange reserves, a crucial indicator of the country’s ability to control economic forces and import supplies. This lack of foreign exchange reserves, the decline in oil exports, and the increasing trade deficit place Iran in greater economic distress than it was in 2013 – that is, before it signed the notorious agreement with the US in 2015.
Therefore, the immediate question is:
Will Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran, drink from the cup of poison that was drunk by Khomeini the founder, and accept submission to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s 12 conditions?
Evidence seems to suggest otherwise.
Observers of Iranian affairs believe that Iran would rather ignite the whole region in its attempt to save itself. On Wednesday, Washington was talking about new evidence indicating that Iran was smuggling new weapons and forces into the Middle East, possibly indicating that it was planning for a possible attack. In this context, the American Politico website reported that the US government is planning to support the protests of the Iranian people in several ways, most notably by lifting the Internet ban in the country and by escalating the media campaign in support of the Iranian people. The Americans believe that the recent Iranian youth protests are a sign of the effectiveness of the intense American pressure campaign against Iran. If the Iranian people take to the streets, the mullah regime will have no choice but to continue burning its foreign reserves to save the economy. This will only expose it to further danger and potential collapse unless it comes to the table and negotiates with the United States.
The HANDS of British voters eased the MINDS of global Jewry
By David E. Kaplan
Friday the 13th is considered an unlucky day in Western suspicion, evident by the endless number of spooky horror movies set on this day.
Not so Friday 13th 2019!
Jews the world over awoke on this worrying day, breathing a collective sigh of relief that Jeremy Corbyn would not only be the next Prime Minister of Great Britain but received such a thumping that will send him packing.
For Jews in the UK, the election was less about Brexit, which was the main issue, and more about antiSemitism. If we would go by conversations in Jewish households prior to the election, it might have ended up as “Jewexit” instead of “Brexit”!
If there was any doubt about that before the election note the British Chief Rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, entering the political fray in an unprecedent step by describing Corbyn as “not fit for high office” in a November 25 op-ed in The Times.
The Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth was imploring people not who to vote for, but who NOT to vote for.
The future of the UK Jewish community lay in the balance – in the hands of the British voter.
And If there was any doubt about this apocalyptic fear by Jewish voters, it was affirmed in the immediate post-election assurances by the former Tory leadership candidate, Michael Gove addressing a victory rally in Surrey Heath:
“You have had to live in fear for months concerned you may have a prime minister who trafficked in anti-Jewish rhetoric and embraced anti-Jewish terrorists. You should never have to live in fear again.”
Just think about it; this is what it has come down to! That the Jewish community in the United Kingdom has to be assured “You should never have to live in fear again.”
By contrast the man who is going to occupy number 10 Downing Street for the next five years is not only well known in Israel but the Jewish state is well known to Mr. Boris Johnson.
Boris’ connection to Israel ‘journeys’ back many years to the days in which no one was on the tarmac to welcome him at Ben-Gurion International Airport and no red carpets were in sight.
In 1984, two young Brits arrived in Kibbutz Kfar Hanassi as volunteers; they were the future Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his sister the future British journalist and television presenter, Rachel Johnson.
It was the summer of 1984, and the Johnson siblings undertook a six-week experience in Israel. In those days, it was “the thing to do”.
Rachel was on a gap year before heading to Oxford University, while Boris, 14 months her elder and already a student at the same university, had just finished his first year at Balliol College, where he was a classics scholar. “Our father thought this was a good way to get rid of us for the summer,” recalls Rachel.
In 2013 Rachel wrote on MailOnline of those experiences of nearly three decades earlier at Kibbutz HaNasi started by group of British Jewishimmigrants, members of the Habonim youth movement.
“I was a pale-skinned, fair-haired teenage girl visiting Israel for the first time with her even paler-skinned and fairer-haired older brother.
We’d come to work as volunteers at a kibbutz north of the Sea of Galilee, on the green banks of the Jordan river, just below the volcanic pointy hills of the Golan Heights and a few miles from Syria.
We arrived at the kibbutz in the blasting heat of July. ‘Warm breeze,’ I wrote in my diary at the time. ‘Smell of blossom … and latrines.’ Soon after arrival, we were assigned our work sections. I had the Augean task of ‘male sanitation’.
Boris was bundled into the communal kitchen, which catered and cleared up after kibbutz Kfar Hanassi’s 600 members and volunteers who dined together three times a day on yogurt, houmous, eggs, houmous, yogurt and tomatoes (that’s all I remember eating at every meal, anyway).”
While comically depicting the scene with “There could not have been worse gigs for pampered, pale-faced public-school spawn,” Rachel reveals much about her brother, the future Prime Minister who would cause Labour its worst defeat since 1935.
While Rachel “moved to picking fruit, and then, after striking up a friendship with an attractive shepherd called David” and promoted “to being a shepherdess,” Boris, “doughtily remained at his post, his skin peeling from the heat and steam, and stayed sane by reading Homer and Virgil in the library in the evening.”
Boris Takes The Cake
In the land of destiny, the young man was destined for leadership.
Alec Collins, who hosted the future PM in his home at Kfar Hanassi in 1984 revealed in a recent interview “Even back then, he used to say, ‘I will be a leader one day”.
“He is a great guy to be around with and chat with,” continued Collins. “Boris can strike up a conversation with just about anyone, on the spot. He has a great sense of humor, and this will be of great benefit to the UK.”
This has proved so.
To quote Boris:
“My position on cake is clear: I’m pro-having it and pro-eating it. And once you have your cake and eat it, too, you’ve effectively laid claim to two cakes.”
Equipped with his unique twist of logic and inimitable wit will leave his adversaries baffled as he scales the proverbial ramparts.
Taking on Brexit, the most monumental issue since WWII, Boris can take inspiration from his political hero and wartime victor, Winston Churchill who too was tasked to lead armed with a mastery of rhetoric.
The Jewish Connection
Like Sir Winston Churchill – a great greatest supporter of the Zionist movement and of the 1917 Balfour Declaration – Boris too refers to himself as “A passionate Zionist”
In an article to commemorate the centenary of the Balfour Declaration in 2017, Boris wrote:
“I served a stint at a kibbutz in my youth, and… saw enough to understand the miracle of Israel: the bonds of hard work, self-reliance and an audacious and relentless energy that hold together a remarkable country.”
And on his visit to the country when he was the mayor of London, he lashed out at BDS – the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement – and pronounced Israel the only “pluralist, open society” in the region.
This is a far cry from the man too who aspired to be the resident of 10 Downing Street – Jeremy Corbyn.
While Boris has Jewish ancestry traced back through his mother to the revered 19th century Lithuanian Rabbi Elijah Ragoler, his feelings about Israel may stem just as strongly from Jenny Sieff, who became his stepmother when he was seventeen.
From a prominent Anglo-Jewish family, Jenny’s stepfather, Teddy Sieff, served as chairman of Marks and Spencer and was vice-president of the British Zionist Federation. In 1973, Sieff survived an assassination attempt by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine when he was shot by the assassin Ilich Ramírez Sánchez more familiarly known as Carlos the Jackal. Carlos fired one bullet at Sieff from his Tokarev 7.62mm pistol, which bounced off Sieff just between his nose and upper lip and knocked him unconscious; the gun then jammed and Carlos fled.
It was Jenny’s family in Israel, the distinguished South African-born Israeli diplomat, Michael Comay, who had been Israeli ambassador to Canada, the UN and the UK and his wife Joan, who would help arrange for Boris and his sister Rachel to volunteer at Kibbutz Kfar HaNassi.
According to Rachel, her brother showed great mettle volunteering on the kibbutz. While she admits how she finagled her way out of cleaning the men’s bathrooms and got herself reassigned to picking apples with “an attractive kibbutznik,” Boris dutifully stuck to his appointed job in the communal kitchen. There – as Rachel describes in her diary – “he showed inner steel scrubbing pots and pans and sweating it out in the heat of the kitchen, meal after meal.”
Clear early signs of the makings of a leader if one adheres to the wise words of President Truman: “if you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen”.
With Brexit the first order of business, the political ‘MasterChef’ is ready to make history. Clearly Israel has a friend at 10 Downing Street and can look forward to welcoming on the red carpet at Ben Gurion Airport that unmistakable blonde mop who first came to Israel on the way to kibbutz Kfar HaNasi 35 years ago.
Feature Picture: Boris Johnson on the campaign trailCREDIT: ANDREW PARSONS/ I-IMAGES
While focus on the Palestinian refugees of 1948 has remained steadfast, there has been scant global interest of the massive plight of Jewish refugees. There were over 850,000 Jews living in Arab countries and Iran at the time of Israel’s independence. Some scholars even think the number is closer to one million and yet few in the Arab world talk about why Jews suddenly left lands they had lived in for over 2500 years.
One Muslim Arab who talking about it, is Sarah Idan (Arabic: سارة عيدان), an Iraqi beauty queen who represented her country at the Miss Universe pageant in 2017. A self-described “secular Muslim”, Idan received death threats after she posted a selfie with Miss Israel, Adar Gandelsman, and then had her citizenship revoked.
On the 4th December 2019, the former Miss Iraq spoke at the United Nations headquarters in New York City about Jewish refugees from the Middle East “being largely forgotten”, and that there needs to be more awareness of their plight. The UN event was held in coordination with JIMENA (Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa), and was attended by ambassadors from around the world and UN officials.
“It’s about time,” Idan told JNS. “That decision should have happened many, many years ago. We always talk about Palestinian refugees and other countries, but we never talk about the Jewish refugees.”
Idan’s native Iraq once boasted a large community of Jews having lived there for over 2600 years. That came to a tragic and traumatic end with the exile of 135,000 Jews during the 1940’s and 1950’s. Few outside the Jewish community recall the violent riots known as the Farhud that erupted in June 1941 – mainly in Bagdad – targeting the Jewish population. Dejected soldiers of a failed coup took advantage of a power vacuum and swarmed into Jewish communities together with a bloodthirsty mob, murdering 179 Jews, injuring more than 2,100, and leaving 242 children as orphans. This act of violence was celebrated across the Arab world and in Nazi Germany.
Similar tragedies unfolded across Muslim lands over the same period , which Idan was bold enough to speak about and at the very forum that perennially attacks Israel – the UN.
While familiar with the plight of the Palestinians, it is doubtful that the esteemed diplomatic representatives to the world body are as familiar that in the North African region:
– 259,000 Jews fled from Morocco
– 140,000 from Algeria
-100,000 from Tunisia
– 75,000 from Egypt
– 38,000 from Libya
Or that in the Middle East, apart from the 135,000 Jews exiled from Sarah Idan’s Iraq:
– 55,000 fled from Yemen
– 34,000 from Turkey
– 20,000 from Lebanon
-18,000 from Syria
– 25,000 from Iran
In most of these country there were pogroms resulting in the mass murder of Jews.
In her speech, Idan, spoke about the history of Iraqi Jewish refugees, the kinship she has always felt for them, and how she could personally relate to the struggles they faced by being expelled from Iraq.
She also spoke about her trip to Israel in 2018, where she met Iraqi Jewish refugees in Jerusalem and connected with them. She said they welcomed her “with open arms and with so much love, even though my country treated them unfairly.”
“When I saw Iraqi government stamps on their passports saying, ‘one-way exit—not allowed to return,’ I started crying,” she said.
“I told them I was utterly ashamed. Not because of dirty politics, which led to the ethnic cleaning of 135,000 Jews from Iraq, but by my own people, who watched this happen and didn’t have the courage nor sympathy to stand with the Jewish community.”
She also stated how antisemitism paved the way for the expulsion of Jews from Iraq.
“As an Iraqi, I learned so much from parents and grandparents about how the Jews played a pivotal role in the development of our country. What I always heard from my family was that they had such good hearts, were well educated, respected and loved. Sadly, a 3,000-year chapter of Jewish life in Iraq, along with the larger Middle East and North Africa, came to an abrupt and traumatic end — and much of this is the result of antisemitism.”
The Baghdad-born model and human-rights activist concluded by saying:
“It is only by recognizing and facing the historical injustice endured by the 1 million Jewish refugees from North Africa and the Middle East that we can move forward to a better place of humility and healing.”
Correcting The historic Injustice
Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon announced that Israel will submit a resolution to formally recognize Jewish refugees from Arab countries. He aims to “put Jewish refugees in the right place in history and change the narrative so in the future, one day, when the issue of the Palestinian refugees will be brought up, we will be able to bring our issues as well.”
The ambassador is all too familiar with the history as his late father, Joseph Danon had been a Jewish refugee from Egypt who moved to Israel shortly after the establishment of the Jewish state.
During the 1948 War of Independence, thousands of Egyptian Jews were put into internment camps, forced from their jobs, and arrested. Jewish synagogues, homes, and businesses were bombed, and many Jews were killed and wounded. Between 1948 and 1958, more than 35,000 Jews fled Egypt. Danny Danon’s father arrived in 1950.
Like the Iraqis that Idan met in Jerusalem, Joseph Danon was among the 850,000 Jews who were expelled or fled from their homes in Muslim lands during the mid-20th century.
Recognising that Jewish communities existed in Arab countries for more than 2,500 years, Ambassador Danon lamented that “Every time the U.N. talks about the refugees of Israel’s war of Independence, they speak only of the Palestinian refugees!”
What about the Jewish refugees?
The ambassador emphasized that Jewish refugees should not be forgotten; denying the rights of Jewish refugees and attempting to erase them from the narrative is an antisemitic historic injustice. “We must work to correct the historic injustice that has left the Jewish refugees out of the narrative of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” he said.
From Iraq With Love
Kudos to Sara Idan in speaking out at the UN despite the threats to her life and those of her family who today live in the USA. She remains undaunted.
When snapping and posting online the first photo with Miss Israel, Adar Gandelsman at the 2017 pageant in Las Vegas, Idan added the caption:
“Peace and Love from Miss Iraq and Miss Israel“.
But some people in Iraq did not see it that way and sent her death threats.
“When I posted the picture, I didn’t think for a second there would be blowback,” she told CNN at the time. “I woke up to calls from my family and the Miss Iraq Organization going insane. The death threats I got online were so scary.”
The intimidation did not stop the beauty queen reuniting with Gandelsman the following year in Israel, when she again posted fresh pictures online. Idan posted a photograph and a video on her Instagram page, with the caption: “Sisters reunion“
Despite the pressure from the Miss Iraq organisation, a defiant Idan refused to remove the selfie, and added a follow up post saying:
“I would like to apologise to anyone who considered the photo to be offensive to the Palestinian cause as this was not the aim behind the post, it was merely a call to peace and hope for a solution to the crisis.”
Like most visitors to Israel, Idan toured Jerusalem’s famed Mahane Yehuda Market where she was warmly received.
“It actually felt weird,” she wrote. “The people look like my people. And the city looks like Damascus, like Syria, and I’ve been there, so everything seems familiar to me.”
She believed that “there are a lot of Iraqi people who don’t have a problem with Israel or with the Jewish people. There are a lot of Iraqi people on my side, and I believe they are happy I am here.”
If only the sisterhood developed between the former Miss Israel and Miss Iraq could evolve into a brotherhood of their respective countries.
*Feature Picture: Miss Iraq Sarah Idan—recently designated as an Ambassador for Peace by UN Watch, which invited her to the United Nations—took the floor at the United Nations to support peace with Israel. Following two speeches to the UN’s highest human rights body, the Iraqi Parliament’s Security and Defense Committee reportedly called for her Iraqi citizenship to be revoked, labeling her advocacy a “crime.”
Someone recently told me that you cannot change the world, that we need to learn that the world is not our problem, and we can’t fix the things that we can’t fix. All we can do is fix ourselves and help others. The rest will fall into place. No form of education will accomplish anything. The only way to make a difference is to lead by example.
Surely, I have a responsibility to try?
Even the minutest little pebble will cause a ripple when it hits the surface of the water. Even the tiniest of flames will illuminate the path when walking in total darkness.
The butterfly effect.
The murder of 6 million Jews was not so long ago. Most of my generation have (or had) close relatives who were survivors, and family members that were not so fortunate to survive. Most of my generation have witnessed the sight of a tattooed arm at some stage, heard the horror stories firsthand, experienced the consequences of being raised in a home that was tormented by PTSD and the obsessions that resulted.
And yet, we are once again living in a world that not only appears to be strife with anti-Semitism, but a world where anti-Semitism is widely accepted, and acts of hate and terror are becoming tolerated and a common event.
And I cannot just sit back and watch, while trying to be a better person and leading by example. I have a voice. I need to use it. And if I only get to influence one person, if I only enable one person to see the light and change their perspective, then I am proud to have used my voice.
ואהבת לרעך כמוך Ve’ahavta Le’raecha Kamocha
Love your neighbor as yourself.
What exactly does that mean?
What does it mean to love others as you would love yourself? How do we interpret this basis and foundation of Judaism, and of many other religions?
Well, for me the answer is simple and is probably something you have heard many times before. In order to be able to love your neighbor, your fellow Jew, your fellow Human Being, the residents of this world……YOU first need to love yourself. And to love yourself means to know yourself. And to know yourself means understanding your heritage, valuing your culture and treasuring your traditions. Loving yourself means being proud to be a Jew, to hold your head up high and stand fast in your meaningful traditions – traditions that connect you to your people of thousands of years. Once, and only once you know who you truly are, will you have the ability to love yourself, and fully love your neighbor.
Jews do not bow down or kneel to anyone except the Almighty. We do not lower ourselves nor do we prostrate ourselves in front of any human being, any idol or any other set of customs and traditions. We are proud of our heritage. We stand by it. We uphold it. Always.
It’s from this position of pride, confidence, strength and respect that we have the power to help others, to educate, to make a difference in this world.
Take the time to practice your religion. And by this I am not asking you to become Sabbath observant, Kosher or follow the laws of family purity. I am asking you to learn and understand who you are and where you have come from, to stand proud and strong, to celebrate our traditions and to embrace the religious practice of loving yourself and then loving others.
And maybe, just maybe from this place of love and strength, we will be able to reach out and be that minute little pebble that makes gentle ripples or that tiniest of flames that illuminates a path in the darkness. And slowly, one person at a time, we can change perspectives, remove hatred, animosity and violent acts of terror in this world that we call home.
In the words of Shuli Rand and Amir Dadon:
והמסע הזה כבד וקצת גדול עליי
אני צריך לגדול מזה ודי
Hamasa haze kaved ve’ketsat gadol alie
Ani tsarich ligdol mezeh ve’die
This journey is heavy and a little too heavy for me
I need to grow from it, it’s enough
Martine Maron Alperstein made aliyah from Cape Town 21yrs ago. She currently resides in Modiin with her husband, kids and kitty cats.
He had plenty of positive things to say about the Holy Land but concluded with one negative – its cuisine. “OMG where am I to go for dinner after this lecture. Your country may have plenty to offer, but good food is not one them!”
The audience laughed.
A quarter of a century ago, Archer was dead right.
Today he would be dead wrong!
Affirming this transformation is none other than that esteemed writer’s country’s public service broadcaster – the BBC. Its ‘Good Food’ ranked Tel Aviv in the Top 10 Destinations For Foodies In 2020. Israel’s “City that never sleeps” came in seventh following Galway in Ireland, Lyon in France, Los Cabos in Mexico, Holland, Malta and Marrakesh in Morocco. In ranking Tel Aviv so highly, the BBC’s Good Food spotlighted the city’s well-deserved moniker as “the vegan capital of the world.”
Writes BBC Good Food:
“With vegan dishes at the heart of Tel Aviv’s culinary tradition, it’s always been a great destination for lovers of plant-based food. Backed by vast agricultural land, this seaside city serves up veggies that often travel farm-to-fork in the same day. In recent years, Tel Aviv has upped its game to become the world’s self-designated vegan capital, with slick vegan coffee shops, and local chains such as Domino’s offering animal product-free pizza. This young, LGBT-friendly beach buzzy city has boutique Bauhaus-style hotel hangouts with cool cocktail bars, and a burgeoning crop of cheffy restaurants, but the budget-eats steal the show. For stellar street food, there’s nothing like Tel Aviv’s hummus, falafel and shakshuka, served at hole-in-the-wall joints, street stands, and stalls lining local markets such as the sprawling Shuk Hacarmel. Just four-five hours’ flight from the UK, this is an exotic break that doesn’t require a long-haul schlep.”
BBC’s Good Food picked up on Israel being in the vanguard of healthy eating, focusing on what grows in the field rather than what dwells on it. For one Israeli company, Aleph Farms, its philosophy is that man’s eating experience should not be at the expense of the life of an animal. In October, Lay Of The Land published an article “Israel leading A Slaughter-Free Revolution For A Healthier World” revealing this company served the world’s first lab-grown steak.
However, not only is Israel looking to ‘cultivate’ meat involving no slaughtering of animals but is catering to the ever-increasing appetite of VEGANS which was glowingly acknowledged by BBC Good Food. It highlighted that the country has in recent years “upped its game,” offering “slick vegan coffee shops, and local chains such as Domino’s offering animal product-free pizza.”
Tel Aviv is home to at least 400 vegan and vegan-friendly kitchens and hosts annual vegan festivals.
Viva La Vegan
So, with 400 vegan and vegan-friendly kitchens serving most of Israel’s 200,000 vegans, going meat-free isn’t only easy, it’s a chance to chew on the best chow in town.
As one food critic noted:
“Thanks to the sun-kissed climate, high quality fruit and veg is never too far – you can see it in the colour, taste it in the flavour and smell it in the aroma of what’s on your plate.”
In Tel Aviv, “there is a real emphasis on freshness of produce,” says vegan restaurant owner Merav Barzilay. Though he founded Meshek Barzilay on an organic farm 15 years ago, he says it was an easy move to the city. Tel Aviv’s proximity to fresh vegetables “means a customer can eat a tomato the same day it was picked in the field”.
For Tel Aviv’s green chefs, preparation for the day ahead, starts with a stroll through the kaleidoscope of colour and chaos of its “shuks” (markets) selecting fresh produce.
“That’s the beauty of the marketplace – everyone is feeding each other,” says Cafe Kaymak’sJo Cohen, one of the first vegetarian coffee shop owners in Tel Aviv. Sourcing for his multicultural kitchen from the nearby Carmel Market, “We draw from many different wells,” he says, “Turkey and Greece as well as Japan, Morocco, Tunisia and, of course, the Middle East.” His signature vegan dish, galean mjadra, is a spicy hot-pot of lentils, paprika, almonds and berries cooked and presented on a bed of bulgur wheat and topped with salsa and tahini.
In the past seven years, the explosion of plant-based restaurants has transformed Israel’s population of just eight million into the largest vegan nation, per capita, in the world. Israel’s Tourism Ministry now promotes the country as a “vegan nation” – and Tel Aviv is at the heart of this culinary movement.
Nothing surprising in this phenomenon, explains Sharon Berger in the Forward:
“Unless you have been living under a rock you will probably already know that Israel has become the leading vegan country in the world, with 5.2% of the population eschewing all animal goods in their daily diet. This number has more than doubled since only 2010 when 2.6% of the population was vegan or vegetarian.”
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Israeli staples naturally includes a large amount of vegetables, fruit, grains and legumes already, including hummus and falafel, the country’s best-known dishes.
“The fresh produce is top quality and the Mediterranean diet has lots of flavours in its naturally vegan dishes,” says Ruthie Rousso, a Tel Aviv-based food historian and critic. “The Israeli diet is based on the meze (the little salads you eat before the meal). So giving up on meat is not the biggest sacrifice.”
Inbal Baum, a former attorney and founder of Delicious Israel, a company that offers culinary tours, sees veganism’s popularity as a natural evolution of Israelis’ relationship with the land.
“Veganism makes so much sense historically in the Israeli diet because eating from the land has always been significant,” she explains. “Eating vegetables was a way of survival. We don’t call it ‘farm to table’ here, but this style of local-produce-based eating is how my grandfather was able to live when he arrived at the kibbutz back in the 1930s – they ate what they grew.”
Times They Are A-Changin’
You must know that change is about when even ‘the one and only’ shawarma – that Middle Eastern sliced-meat sandwich beloved by all the world over – is being popularised in its vegan form – most notably at Sultana, a completely vegan eatery in Tel Aviv.
Sultana uses ‘forest mushrooms that have a texture reminiscent of chicken’ and promises to be ‘the original shawarma experience, only 100 percent vegan. Chef Harel Zakaim is bent on changing the rules of the game regarding everything we knew about vegetarian-vegan shawarmas.
Weighing in on why veganism is so increasingly popular in Israel,
Israeli-based international promoter of vegan culture, Ori Shavit, believes there are a number of unique reasons why Israelis are leading this global trend. Over and above the sensitivity to animals, she adds “the country is very young and still evolving so people here are less attached to traditional eating and are used to trying new things, love innovations and not scared to making changes in their diet.”
Shavit points out that when in 2013 Domino’s Pizza launched its first vegan pizza with non-dairy cheese, it was ‘pioneering’ and “only now just becoming available in other countries.” Israel is also the first country outside of the USA to offer Ben and Jerry’s VEGEN ice cream flavours. “As Israel has a relatively small population,” writes Shavit, “it’s interesting that these two major international chains both chose to launch their dairy-free products in the holy land.”
Interesting but not surprising.
With Israel in the vanguard of the global vegan trend, it was little wonder that the Holy Land came in the BBC’s Good Food Top 10.
It’s indicative of who we are and how we would want to live.
“No matter where you live,” says Shavit, “the greatest effect an individual can have on the world starts on his or her plate — so no wonder that people who understand that will try to make a better choice for their food.”
*Feature Picture:From The Field To The Fork. Each day, Tel Aviv’s top vegan chefs shop for fresh produce at the ‘shuks’ like the famous Carmel Market