Unto every person there is a name. If you think about it, our names are the only possessions that we retain throughout our lives and many of us worry if they will be remembered long after we pass. In Jewish tradition, names are symbolic of divine energy.
Memory can be also regarded as the lifeblood of Jewish tradition. We remember our dead every year with special dates in the Hebrew calendar that mark the anniversary of their death and by lighting a yahrtzheit (memorial) candle. But what of the millions who perished in the Holocaust? Whole families and communities who were murdered? How do we remember them?
One poignant way is through a project called Stolpersteine(stumbling stones).
If you walk through the streets of Prague or Berlin or any number of European cities, you will come across brass plates, no bigger than 10cm x 10cm, dotted all over the cities. These are Stolpersteine.
Stolpersteine or “stumbling stones’ was founded by artist, Gunter Demnig. The project was started as a way to commemorate the victims of the Nazis. These plates are painstakingly and respectfully placed into the pavement in front of the last voluntarily chosen places of residence of the victims of the Nazis. Their names and fate are engraved into a brass plate on the top of each Stolpersteine.
These modest memorials keep memory alive; they bear testament to the tenet that here too, lived a person. This person had a life, a family and a future. The person that lived at this address ceased to exist because of hatred and intolerance.
It is not just Jews that are honoured by the Stolpersteine project. Famed Holocaust survivor, Elie Wiesel, once commented that not all the victims were Jewish, but all the Jews were victims. The Nazis with their racist ideology, also deemed the Sinti and Roma, people from the political or religious resistance, people who had physical or mental disability and were “euthanized”, homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses and anyone who they felt was “sub-human” and not a perfect Aryan.
For some families, participating in the Stolpersteine project, it is not just a way to eternally memorialise their lost loved ones, but a way to learn family history. It is also important for the descendants of those who perished, to have the opportunity to restore dignity to the victims that were so cruelly robbed and to give their loved ones the funerals they never had.
Yair Chelouche has a Stolpersteine dedicated to his family members in Berlin and Halle, Germany shared some thoughts:
“When I visited Berlin a couple of years ago and participated in a guided tour, I became curious where these Stolpersteine came from. I wrote to the project founders; and was told that my application was referred to the relevant region where my family came from and that it could take a few years to process. One day, I was contacted by one of the volunteers who dealt with the Stolpersteine in Pankow, where my family lived. Finding information on my grandmother was easy because all the documentation was there, where she lived and where she died later in Theresienstadt. My grandfather was more of an enigma; but after a lot of intense research, we found out that he was a PhD from Heidelberg University and one of the founders of one of the first Jewish student fraternities of that university. He was a great Zionist who knew Herzl, Bodenheimer and others who were giants of the Jewish world,” continues Yair, a great-grandchild who searched for his family roots and history.
“Finally, we were able to tie up all the loose ends and close the painful chapters of our family history that we did not know. Through learning about our family during this process, we were able to give them their name, their dignity, make sense of the places they lived in. We were able to follow in their footsteps until the cruel end of their lives”, he says.
Stolpersteine exist in many countries across Europe but not everyone embraced the memorials. The German city council of Munich rejected the Stolpersteine following objections from Munich’s Jewish community (and particularly its chairwoman, Charlotte Knobloch, then also President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, and herself a former victim of Nazi persecution). Knobloch objected to the idea that the names of murdered Jews be inserted in the pavement, where people might accidentally step on them. It would be seen as “walking on the graves of dead Jews”.
Founder of the Stolpersteine project, Demnig, participated in the discussions, stating that “he intends to create a memorial at the very place where the deportation started: at the homes where people had lived last”. A compromise was reached where plaques were put up on the walls of homes of individuals and not the pavement.
In other cities, permission for the project was preceded by long, sometimes emotional discussions. In Krefeld, the vice-chairman of the Jewish community, Michael Gilad, said that Demnig’s memorials reminded him of how the Nazis had used Jewish gravestones as slabs for sidewalks. A compromise was reached that a stolpersteine could be installed if a prospective site was approved by both the house’s owner and (if applicable) the victim’s relatives. Since 2009, 23 Stolpersteine for the Belgian city of Antwerp have been produced but have not be placed due to local resistance against the project. They have been stored in Brussels where they are regularly exhibited.
Most cities across Europe welcome this initiative. They recognize that as time passes and the numbers of survivors dwindle, projects like Stolpersteine play an important part in saying, I too existed. I too lived and loved.
I too had a name.
*Feature picture: A view of some “stolpersteine” in Berlin, August 2012. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images via JTA)
From the 2020 World Holocaust Forum in Jerusalem to the protest against Lithuania in Tel Aviv 24 hours later
By David E. Kaplan
As world leaders from some 50 countries descended on the capital of the Jewish people for the World Holocaust Forum at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, on the 23rd January 2020, marking 75 years since the “gates of Hell” were opened at Auschwitz, one commentator on i24NEWS remarked:
“This conference is about education,” to which another in the panel skeptically responded:
“Yes, but young people in Europe today not only know nothing about the Holocaust; they also don’t want to believe it. They deny it!”
And this is Europe where the largest mass murder in history occurred? Where the majority of its Jews today lie beneath its surface while above the horrific truth is obscured, denied, ignored, equated or “they had it coming”?
And with a world increasingly directing the “new antisemitism” on the ‘collective Jew’ – Israel – it was only fitting that the World Holocaust Forum was held in the centre of the Jewish people – Jerusalem – Israel’s eternal capital since King David over 3000 years ago.
If a world – and in particular one where its young generations – need to hear the truth, who better to hear it from than the President of Germany, Frank-Walter Steinmeier who addressed the memorial forum with:
“Seventy-five years after the liberation of Auschwitz, I stand before you all as President of Germany – I stand here laden with the heavy, historical burden of guilt.”
He confessed his country’s guilt to the world with:
“Germans deported them. Germans burned numbers on their forearms. Germans tried to dehumanize them; to reduce them to numbers; to erase all memory of them in the extermination camps.”
No less important for the world to hear was Steinmeier’s admission that Germans had not learned the lesson of the Holocaust as Jew-hatred was not disappearing but growing and that despite different times, the “same evil” prevails today. And while the German State President wished he could say that Germans had learned from history, he felt compelled to admit that “I cannot say that when Jewish children are spat on in the schoolyard; I cannot say that when crude antisemitism is cloaked in supposed criticism of Israeli policy,” and “I cannot say that when only a thick wooden door prevents a right-wing terrorist from causing a bloodbath in a synagogue in the city of Halle on Yom Kippur.”
Beginning and ending by reciting in Hebrew the Jewish blessing of “Shehehiyanu”, Steinmeier told the world there remains only one answer:
To ensure – “Never again! Nie wieder!”
But who was hearing in order to remember?
Even with Prince Charles representing the United Kingdom, President Emmanuel Macron representing France, Vice President Mike Pence representing the USA and President Vladimir Putin representing Russia, I switched TV channels to notice there was hardly a mention on CNN , Sky, BBC or RT of the event. The exceptions were France 24, i24NEWS and Israel’s Hebrew channels that gave live coverage.
Far more important than for Israelis to hear – Jews know what happened – it was for the billions across the world, in particular, the Europeans to listen, and to hear from their national leaders.
Did these international news networks not believe there was any interest despite the gathering of world leaders in Jerusalem? When these very same leaders were in Davos only a few HOURS before for the 50th Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum, there was continuous news coverage.
Even over news content, global economics trumps Jewish existential anxiety so are we surprised that antisemitism is here to stay?
For this writer, it was poignantly ironic and telling that only one day after the World Holocaust Forum in Jerusalem titled ‘Remembering the Holocaust, Fighting Antisemitism” initiated by the President of the European Jewish Congress Dr. Moshe Kantor, that there was a demonstration of Jews of Lithuanian descent outside Lithuania’s embassy in Ramat Gan in the district of Tel Aviv.
While I was there covering the event for Lay Of The Land it was also personal, and I had helped draft the invitation notice in English:
And why did over 200 people brave the freezing cold and rain to protest? They came to register their opposition to Arūnas Gumuliauskas, chairman of the Lithuanian parliament’s Commission on the Fight for Freedom and Historical Memory, who intends to propose a parliamentary resolution declaring that:
“Lithuania has no responsibility for the murders and extermination of Lithuanian Jews during the Second World War because it was occupied by Soviets and then by Nazi Germany.”
The proposed resolution is to absolve Lithuania and Lithuanians of involvement in the Holocaust for the murder of 95% of Lithuanian citizens because it was occupied successively by Russia and Germany!
The protestors knew the truth and could relate stories of members of their families who were killed. Etched in the memory of this writer, was my visit to Lithuania in 1992 when I met for the fist time a cousin who had survived the war by escaping into the forest and joining with the partisans. Alexander Judelis related the only reason he had not perished in his Shtetl of Riteva with his family was, “that my father had sent me to a Yeshiva in the north only a few weeks before the Nazi invasion. In fact, I did not want to go because I was not religious, but he saved my life.” Judelis further related that , “the day before the Nazis entered Riteva, local Lithuanians in our village, people who we knew all our lives, wanted to impress the Nazis before they came and went on a rampage of murdering most of the Jews,” which included members of his family.
There are few Jews in Lithuania today. The Holocaust in German occupied Lithuania resulted in the near total destruction of Lithuanian Jews (Litvaks) and as all who stood shivering in the cold outside the Lithuanian embassy knew, their forebears who died in peacetime were the lucky ones lying beneath simple gravestones. Those that came after them have no gravestones – they were dragged out of town, marched into the woods and shot to death in front of mass pits.
Many watching them dig their own graves before pulling the triggers of the submachine guns were their fellow Lithuanians. To the rat-a-tat soundtrack of gunfire, they gloated while murdering their neighbours, impressing their smiling German invaders.
This is the horrendous visual truth that Gumuliaskas wants to conceal by parliamentary legislation!
And this is what the shivering protestors outside the Lithuanian Embassy were determined not to permit – not without a fight.
Law is designed to reveal the truth not to hide it!
As chairman of the Association of Lithuanian Immigrants in Israel, Arie Ben-Ari expressed at the protest that “In the first months of the Nazi occupation, most of Lithuanian Jewry was annihilated by Lithuanians, and that from published information, over 22,000 Lithuanians participated in and carried out the murders in 214 places in Lithuania. Many of them advanced and subsequently served the Nazis as guards and murderers of Jews in concentration and extermination camps, including in Auschwitz.”
Yes, the very Auschwitz which in Jerusalem the day before, the world leaders assembled not only to commemorate its liberation 75 years earlier but to impress upon the world the words:
Conspicuous by his absence at the World Holocaust Forum was the President of Lithuania, Gitanas Nausėda, who declined to attend. He joined the Polish President Andrzej Duda who also did not come. Setting aside their issues with Putin, Duda too is introducing a law in Poland imposing fines and jail time on anyone who refers to Polish complicity in the Holocaust.
Instead of trying to conceal their nefarious past by introducing laws, had both presidents attended the World Holocaust Forum, they would have heard the wise words of former Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel, Yisrael Meir Lau, a Holocaust survivor who 75 years earlier, was liberated as a 7-year-old from the Buchenwald concentration camp.
Drawing a parallel of the world leaders before him together in one tent in Jerusalem with Noah’s ark where all the animals of the world – many of them too natural enemies – proved no threat to each other. With arms outstretched and looking at the world leaders in front of him he posed the question:
How did the snake and the lion share the confined space with the lamb and the dove? The answer was they feared a common enemy – “the flood”.
The “flood” today is poverty, disease, war, and antisemitism. “You as world leaders have the power to work together against these threats to mankind”.
But the presidents of Poland and Lithuania were not present to hear these words. While world leaders were all expressing “Never Again”, Lithuania had another use of the word “never” – that Lithuanians were “never” involved in the mass murder of its fellow Jewish citizens and that future generations must “never” hear again of Lithuanians mass murdering Jews.
The banners at the protest outside the Lithuanian embassy included with the wording “Lithuania – take responsibility for the Holocaust”, “Zero Tolerance For Antisemitism” and “Gumuliaskas – no law can wash away Jewish blood’.
And when the rain poured, the umbrellas went up and the protestors stayed at their posts.
Moderated by Zohar Cheskov, other speakers included Chairman of the Vilnius Association Mickey Cantor, the CEO of the Wiesenthal Center Dr. Ephraim Zuroff, Holocaust historian and researcher Remi Neiderfer and 91-year-old Holocaust survivor from Kovna (Kaunas) Rosa Bloch, who said Lithuanians “started to kill the Jews even before the Germans arrived.”
Since I was in Lithuania in 1992, the country has come a long way in confronting her wartime past.
However, maybe again, and possibly emboldened by the recent path of Poland’s leadership, does Lithuania too want to rewrite history and erase its ugly history of Nazi collaboration?
The message from the protestors outside the Lithuanian Embassy on the 24th January 2020 in Tel Aviv is a call for protest not only by Jews of Lithuanian descent; but all decent people around the world to join together against the rising “flood” in Lithuania and oppose the despicable resolution of Arūnas Gumuliauskas.
75 years after Auschwitz – The importance today of educating medical professionals on the Holocaust
By Dr. Tessa Chelouche
On the 27th of January the world commemorates the 75th liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. In the past few years, the world has witnessed violent and disturbing antisemitic attacks in many countries. One of the ways to combat antisemitism is to educate on the Holocaust. The medical profession has a major responsible role to play in perpetuating this education because unlike other instances of genocide that the world has witnessed, the Holocaust was a medically sanctioned genocide. The greatest stain on the record of medicine in the 20th century was the role played by German physicians during the Nazi period.
When the Nazis came to power in Germany, medicine there was among the most sophisticated in the world. German medicine had contributed to, and shaped, academic and clinical medical practice worldwide. Despite its preeminence, however, German medicine became enmeshed in the Nazi ideology and broadly complicit in the conceptualization and promulgation of the Nazi racial and social programs. The engagement of the medical profession was extensive and was led by the active involvement and support of the academic establishment. Medicine was not alone in its support of National Socialist policies, but the medical profession differed from the other professions in its explicit commitment to an ethical basis, to a humanitarian stance and to a 2000-year-old Hippocratic Oath that placed the sufferer first.
German physicians began to elevate service to the state above medical ethics well before the Holocaust – the term used for the genocide of the Jews – occurred. In the early years of the 20th century, German physicians promoted policies of racial hygiene and eugenics in their eagerness to limit the reproduction of people believed to have hereditary disorders: the disabled and the chronically ill who were considered as a burden to society. Between 1939 and 1945 they sterilized an estimated 400,000 Germans with mental and physical disorders. Following this, German physicians designed and implemented the notorious T-4 “Euthanasia” program, where they performed medical murder on their mentally, physically and socially handicapped patients with the goal of producing a pure Aryan race. This policy was ethically sanctioned by the Nazi medical profession in Germany. Traditional medical ethics was adapted and altered to suit the policies of National Socialism. Nazi physicians did not abandon medical ethics as is usually perceived, but rather replaced traditional fundamental universal medical ethics with selective medical ethics. The disabled and the chronically ill, the feebleminded and the “unproductive” members of society were perceived as living “lives unworthy of living” and as such did not deserve to be treated according to the regular medical code. This new ethical code was taught at every medical school in Nazi Germany and a special textbook was required reading for this compulsory course. More physicians were members of the Nazi party than any other free profession. They were not forced but joined of their own free will and they joined early on. In this manner, German medicine became an arm of Nazi state policy. Nazi physicians failed to see themselves as physicians first, with a calling and an ethic dedicated to healing and caring for the well-being of human beings. Instead they believed that the welfare of the state was to take precedence over their individual loyalty to their patients.
The above-mentioned medical programs of sterilization and “Euthanasia” became enmeshed with the policy of virulent antisemitism, and as such were the forerunners for the Holocaust – the genocide of the Jews at concentration camps like Auschwitz-Birkenau and many others. The ‘medical murders’ that began in the hospitals in Germany and Austria, culminated in the murder of the Jews and other minorities in the camps, as the extermination of millions of people was considered as “treatment” for the state. The same professionals who were involved in the T4-“Euthanasia” program, among them many physicians, were consulted when the camps were built and were the medical experts who were consulted in the design and activation of the gas chambers.
Although the subject of ‘Medicine and the Holocaust’ usually brings to mind the cruel and barbaric experiments, medicine was involved long before the infamous experiments were performed at the various camps, hospitals and clinics. In 1946 one of the first post war trials to be held was the “Nuremberg Doctors’ Trial.” For the first time in history, physicians were tried for crimes against humanity for their participation in murderous and tortuous experiments conducted in the Nazi concentration camps. In the final judgment, the court articulated what is known as the “Nuremberg Code”, the first international code for human experimentation. In fact, it was in the ashes of the Holocaust, through the formulation of the Nuremberg Code that modern medical ethics, known as bioethics, was born. All contemporary bioethical codes are based on what transpired in the profession in the years preceding and during the Holocaust. Every ethical issue under consideration today – among others: the value of human life, disability care, equity in medical care, genetics, public health, research ethics, health system economics, reproductive medicine, abortion, military medicine, refugee care, death and dying – includes inquiry influenced by the Nazi medical crimes.
Medicine is a powerful profession and was especially so under the National Socialist regime. The questions that need to be asked are:
How did a professional group that was internationally respected, scientifically innovative and ethically advanced, evolve an understanding of their social, ethical and scientific obligations only to lead them to use their advanced medical knowledge and professional ethics to justify committing cruel and heinous medical crimes against humanity?
How did healers become killers?
It was precisely the success and power of the profession in Nazi Germany that led to its hubris and collusion with a racist political regime. These physicians were not peripheral actors in the attempt at collective regeneration. Rather, they were central and crucial to the running of Auschwitz and the other camps as well as to the evolution and fulfillment of broader extermination policies.
Medicine was abused then and is constantly in danger of being abused today. It is not enough just to say, “Never Again.” As medical professionals, we have a responsibility to act so that this does not happen again, certainly within our profession. Education on ‘Medicine and the Holocaust’ can contribute significantly to professional identity formation of healthcare students. This history can help to instill a moral compass in future generations of healthcare professionals. Learning from the past can provide them with a way of reflecting and discussing inherent medical challenges in the present. Using this lens, we can encourage the aversion to racism and overt prejudice. But in addition to the value that this discourse can have on the next generation of medical professionals, the inclusion of education on the Holocaust in today’s world can also do much to vanquish the evil that is antisemitism.
75 years after Auschwitz the time has come to teach!
Dr Tessa Chelouche, born in South-Africa, is a Family Physician in Israel. She is the Co-chair of the Unesco Deaprtment for Bioethics and the Holocaust, Unesco Chair of Bioethics, Haifa and the Co-director of the Maimonedes Institute for Medicine, Ethics and the Holocaust.
*Feature Picture: Nazi Medicine: In the Shadow of the Reich & The Cross and the Star (1997) – studies the step by step process that led the German medical profession down an unethical road to genocide. It graphically documents the racial theories and eugenics principles that set the stage for the doctors’ participation in sterilization and euthanasia, the selection at the death camps, as well as inhuman and unethical human experimentation. Director John J. Michalczyk
Why does the ANC Government Support the most dangerous regime In the world – IRAN?
By David E. Kaplan
An ever-increasing menace on the international stage by facilitating global terrorism, cunningly creeping towards military nuclearization, violently suppressing its civilian population, shooting down a Ukrainian civilian aircraft with 176 passengers on board then trying to cover up its crime – quite literally – with ‘bulldozers’, is it not time for Iran’s regime of the Mullahs to exit that stage?
Its own people are demanding so!
Coming onto the street in mass protests across the country, is this the proverbial “beginning of the end” as expressed by the former Crown Prince of Iran Reza Pahlavi this January at the Hudson Institute in Washington?
Pahlavi argued that the recent protests in Iran are different than previous demonstrations in that “People smell the opportunity for the first time in 40 years.” Drawing a distinction to the earlier protests of 1997 and 2009, “The people have had it,” says Pahlavi. “Today’s generation of young Iranians cannot take it anymore. They want to have an opportunity for a better future. They want to be on the path of modernity and freedom. The only thing that stands between them and the free world is this regime.”
However, what also “stands between them and the free world” are countries still supporting the menace of the Mullahs like South Africa.
Criticized by its own people for literally “not seeing the light” with its endless power outages now referred to in local parlance as “load shedding”, South Africa’s ANC government fails to see or chooses not to see that Iran’s present leadership is evil and a danger to world peace.
Writing in ForeignAffairs.com in November 2019, Kitaneh Fitzpatrick reveals that amongst hundreds of Iranian intelligence reports recently leaked shedding light on Teheran’s success in bolstering its influence throughout the region – notably Syria, Iraq, the Lebanon and Yemen – the Islamic Republic’s reptilian reach extends far beyond the Middle East. Facing crippling sanctions as well as increasing diplomatic isolation, Iran has developed a close partnership with South Africa.
Fitzpatrick writes that “South Africa has long been a cornerstone of Iran’s South-South strategy, which aims to strengthen ties with African and South American states.”
Being one of the first countries to resume trade with South Africa following the end of Apartheid, the Islamic Republic has enjoyed strong relations ever since. “Trade has been an integral element of this relationship, with Iranian officials estimating the value of Iranian Foreign Direct Investment in South Africa in 2018 at roughly $135 billion.”
South Africa has well reciprocated proving a strong ally and friend to the murderous and mendacious regime. It did not hesitate in calling the U.S. withdrawal from the Iran Nuclear deal “regrettable”; advocating for Iranian interests at the UN; siding with Iran on critical issues at the UN Security Council and the International Atomic Energy Agency; and more recently with President Cyril Ramaphosa calling Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to convey his condolences on the US dispatching of Iranian arch-terrorist Qasem Soleimani.
According to the official Iranian government website, Ramaphosa called the assassination of Soleimani “a cowardly act” and expressed that he was “very shocked by the news of Lt-Gen Soleimani’s martyrdom who was very popular among people.”
So popular that people are risking their lives in protests.
Videos and reporting convey Iranian popular anger:
– At the University of Kurdistan in Sanandaj, protesters defied authorities: “We are so sick of crime, why should we be afraid?
Iranians are proving less afraid to make a stand.
Take for example Kimia Alizadeh, the lithe, six-foot-tall athlete with raven hair who won the bronze medal for Iran in Taekwondo at the 2016 Rio Olympics. The only Iranian female to ever win an Olympic medal, the 21 year-old athlete – this January 2020 – defected from Iran announcing on social media that she did so because she didn’t want to be part of “hypocrisy, lies, injustice and flattery”. She described herself as “one of the millions of oppressed women in Iran”.
In a message on Instagram, she wrote, “How do I start? With a hello, a goodbye or to offer my condolences? Hello to the oppressed people of Iran, goodbye to the noble people of Iran, and my condolences to the perpetually mourning people of Iran.”
She recounted being “a pawn” of a regime that told her how to dress, dictated what she said, and paraded her and her medals around for political gain. “To the kind and oppressed people of Iran: I did not want to climb to a pedestal whose steps are paved with lies and deceit,” she wrote. “I am willing to bear the difficulty of living in exile because I could no longer stay at a table where dishonesty, con-artistry and injustice were being served. Making this decision was more difficult than earning the Olympic medal.”
No more “a pawn”, Alizadeh is a today “a Queen” for her public defiance against evil.
While this movement may lack leaders or a clearly defined goal, it does convey a palpable sense of disgust and anger and a willingness to defy the authorities. Even Iranian journalists have joined in the struggle.
While reporters for Iran’s state media routinely toe the government line, in the chaotic aftermath of Iran’s admission that it shot down a Ukrainian airliner, that admission appears to have pushed several journalists to resign.
It would seem professional red lines were crossed when Iranians in media were being coerced to blatantly lie by initially reporting of the deaths of 80 U.S. soldiers in Iranian strikes against bases in Iraq in response to the U.S. killing of Iranian Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani and repeated claims that technical problems had caused the crash of a Ukraine-bound passenger jet shortly after its takeoff from Teheran.
Several journalists revealed on social media that they had quit with one state TV anchor, Gelare Jabbari, apologizing for “having lied to you on Iranian TV for 13 years.”
The South African media is replete with photographs of Iranian and South African foreign ministers frequently meeting to discuss enhancing cooperation.
Despite Iran’s menacing foreign policy across the Middle East, South Africa has emerged as an important defense partner. Writes Kitaneh Fitzpatrick:
“Teheran has sought to leverage its longstanding relationship with South Africa to support Iranian naval expansion outside of the Middle East, and has conducted limited out-of-area naval operations in South Africa, according to a recent U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency report. Iran and South Africa have also signed basic military cooperation agreements. …..South Africa is part of Teheran’s effort to offset the cost of U.S. sanctions and increasing diplomatic isolation from the West.”
Unlike South Africa, other countries are “seeing the light”.
There is increasing acceptance by western European nations that Iran’s desire to achieve nuclear proliferation was not curbed by the 2015 nuclear deal known as the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action). January 2020 saw Britain, France and Germany formally accusing Teheran of violating the terms of the agreement with Britain’s new Prime Minister, Boris Johnson telling the BBC, “If we’re going to get rid of it then we need a replacement.”
At the same time, an assessment by Israeli intelligence reveals that Iran has enough enriched uranium to produce a nuclear bomb by the end of 2020 and a missile capable of carrying a nuclear payload within two years.
An Iran under pressure – internationally and internally – is unpredictable and dangerous.
Rather than the misguided South African path of cozying up to the Mullah regime, better to heed the advice of Pahlavi who has called for Ayatollah Khamenei to step down to allow a peaceful transition with a minimal number of casualties.
To the Iranian forces that are employing repression as a tool, Pahlavi says “there are not enough people they can kill to maintain this regime in power. They better stand down and join with their brethren.”
He concluded his message at the Hudson Institute with “This regime cannot be reformed and must be removed,” emphasizing that there is no point to try and negotiate with the Islamic Republic.
And the message to South Africa’s political leadership – considering its own history- be a friend of the Iranian people not its murderous regime!
A letter to Israel’s iconic first female prime Minister
By Rolene Marks
I have often wondered what I would say to you if I ever was to meet you. What would an immigrant to the beautiful country that you helped establish, say to one of the greatest leaders of all time? You were Israel’s fourth Prime Minister and very first female leader at a time in the world when this was virtually unheard of; and remain an inspiration to this day. You gave the impression that even though you were a formidable leader, you were still “savta” (grandmother: Hebrew) Golda, with your trademark bun and cigarette, an approachable “bubbe” (grandmother: Yiddish) who we could count on for advice.
It is 2020; and the tiny little country that you helped birth is a thriving, cosmopolitan and beautifully flawed democracy. Women’s rights have grown in leaps and bounds since you paved the way for us to realise we can become so much more than we ever thought we could. We are pioneers and trailblazers, entrepreneurs and home makers, politicians and doctors, ballerinas, soldiers and teachers. We are nation builders. In a neighbourhood where many women are silenced, persecuted, raped and denied basic human rights, Israel’s women are the backbone of our great state.
A lot of this we owe to you.
You mentioned in your memoir of how emotional it was to sign the Declaration of Independence. I wish you could see us now!
Dear Golda, Israel has always been the birthplace of ideas. You were so proud of this fact and always encouraged education and now we are world leaders in science, medicine, agriculture and technology. We have been renamed “The Start-Up Nation”. You would be amazed at the incredible creativity bursting from our young, innovative citizens. We even sent an unmanned vehicle to the moon and arrived with a bang! It wasn’t the landing we were hoping for; but we did it regardless and now we have our sites set even higher. The sky is not our limit – we seek to explore the universe!
One of your most memorable quotes was that there would be peace “when the Arabs love their children more than they hate us”. Golda, it breaks my heart to tell you that this has not changed. You wrote in your memoir “My Life” that you worried about preparing the next generation of 9 and 10-year-olds for the army. Sadly, the same incitement and terror that you worried and opined about has not stopped and we have had to fight several more wars and endure two “Intifadas” as a result of such hostility. But you know we are a stubborn people and we sanctify life and will never lose our hope for peace. We never lose hope that our neighbours will choose to educate their children to become members of the start-up generation instead of educating them with hate filled rhetoric. We face a brutal enemy in the form of Iran and its proxies, but our hope lies with the Iranian people who seek to overthrow this brutal regime. While this is happening, many Arab countries are starting to see the benefits of warming ties with us. Who would have thought that this could happen!
Dear Golda, we have mourned together and suffered loss as a nation. Our heads have been bowed but our spirits have never been broken. Our defiant love for life sustains and motivates us to carry on. At a time when stones are weapons of war, we use ours to build homes. When barbaric terrorists behead their victims, we use ours to look for groundbreaking solutions and at a time where women are maligned and mistreated in our neighbourhood, we endeavor to follow in your trailblazing footprints.
Dear Golda, you raised the ire of some, but I reckon if people applaud every single thing you do, you probably aren’t doing your job effectively enough. You sometimes made decisions that were not always popular but as a true leader, always had Israel’s best interests at heart.
Africa held a special place in your heart, and you believed that many of the countries shared a similar history and yearning for statehood that we did. You would be delighted to see the contribution Israel is making on the continent in helping with sustainability and growth. We pride ourselves in living up to the tenet of Tikkun Olam and wherever there is a crisis or natural disaster, you will find Israel leading the way. Our enemy Syria has been engaged in a civil war for many years and despite this, Israel has saved over 2000 lives. Wherever there is a call in distress, we answer immediately and send our finest to help.
You would be amused that some of your most awe-inspiring quotes are used by us, generations later, to effectively communicate how much we love our country and how we share the same frustrations you did. You had a way with words and in today’s technologically driven world I cannot help but wonder what you would have thought about social media and its importance in telling Israel’s story? Today we will not be silent in the face of adversity and rising antisemitism and even though you are no longer with us, your words continue to inspire us and give us fortitude.
Dear Golda, we may not share the same taste in shoes but I would so love to join you in a celebratory glass of your favourite Israeli wine and toast to Israel, to her pioneering people and to you, a venerable leader who burst through the ceilings, raised the standards and blazed a glowing trail.
Cries from Australia’s wildlife heard in Jerusalem
By David E. Kaplan
Turn on the news on TV these days and the screen flares up in shades of bright orange, with men in protective fighter-fighting garb trying to douse roaring flames.
Australia is in the grip of one of its worst wildfire seasons on record with the human death toll standing at 27 and over 2,000 homes destroyed across more than 10 million hectares of land — an area larger than Portugal.
Caught in this nationwide inferno are Australia’s endearing but vulnerable wildlife, and it is estimated that already 1 billion wild mammals, birds and reptiles have perished. Blessed with a unique eco-system, many species however are now threatened with extinction.
Pictures of koalas with charred feet and kangaroos hugging their human rescuers have through social media and television brought tears to the eyes of people the world over. Many are responding.
The ‘cries’ of these animals were heard in the Israeli capital’s internationally renowned Jerusalem Biblical Zoo that is responding by donating veterinary medical supplies to be used in Victoria’s East Gippsland region.
The Jerusalem Biblical Zoo understands only too well the danger of animals facing extinction, which explains why the zoo’s primary focus is on species from the land of Israel mentioned in the Bible but roam no more!
The zoo projects this history revealing the animals that roamed this region at the time of the forefathers of the Jewish People.
While so many of the world-renowned archeological sites around Jerusalem are a reminder of what life was like in the ancient city, the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo – officially known as the Tisch Family Zoological Gardens – is a ‘living’ reminder of what animals roamed this region in biblical times.
One of the many in Israel watching the human and animal tragedy unfold on her TV was the Biblical Zoo’s International Manager,Rachael Risby Raz, who grew up in Melbourne, and who still has family living there.
Understanding with professional clarity the devastation befalling the flora and fauna of her native Australia, coupled with her position at the JerusalemBiblical Zoo meant that Raz was well placed for her response to be meaningful and effective.
She knew instinctively what the animals most urgently required and quickly put together “a wish list” of veterinary supplies that included: burn creams, milk formulas, teats for bottles, wound sprays, hydration concentrates, syringes, disinfectant, feeding bottles and more. She then followed up by launching a fundraising campaign to raise money to purchase the equipment online and have it sent directly to the rescuers on the ground. Within 24 hours of launching her appeal, she raised thousands of dollars as more and more heart-wrenching reports of the plight resonated globally.
“It went viral,” she told local media. “Even though we’re so far away – more than 6,000 miles – people are nevertheless so moved and stressed by what’s happening in Australia.”
According to the Biblical Zoo’s press statement, “The supplies will be purchased in Australia and sent directly to the volunteers on the ground,” notably the volunteers working with the East Gippsland Fire Wildlife Support Team.
Although over “6,000 miles” away, The Jerusalem Biblical Zoo felt what was unfolding was close to home as the zoo has a special section dedicated to animals from Australia. “We have a colony of kangaroos who, at the moment, are experiencing a baby boom,” said Raz, “as well as fruit bats which came from Sydney.” They had been rescued after they were injured “and we had a whole group of them come and they live here at our zoo.” The area dedicated to the Down Under also includes a cheeky kookaburra, a bettong, bearded dragons, blue tongue lizards and cockatoos. “This is why it’s probably extra distressing. I look out the window of my office and see kangaroos we know by name and love and then see pictures of their peers in Australia burned – it’s heartbreaking!”
While Raz understands that it’s going to be an uphill struggle and that “the situation is just beginning and going to have consequences that can go on for months, even years,” she sees hope in the overwhelming response from people so far removed geographically from the disaster. After all, these are people who have never even visited Australia and may never visit, but their hearts pour out for these defenseless animals.
In a profound sense, the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo was a ‘natural’ to respond.
Viewing the situation through a biblical prism, Raz asks “What is the role of the zoo?” and then answers herself that “the zoo is like a modern Noah’s Ark. The animals that we have here at the zoo are basically being looked after for the next generation.”
This sentiment is all too evident in the many animals that roamed in the region in the time of the Bible and today no longer do.
This is not something that should be allowed to befall the animals of Australia.
Elsewhere in Israel, Tel Aviv too is galvanizing support for Australia. Fashion model Abbiemay Doré, is one of thousands of Australian ex-pats residing in Israel. Originally from Wodoga, Victoria, the model is helping organize an Australian-themed trivia night at a bar in Tel Aviv to help raise awareness and funds.
While she reveals that she has “never really organized something like this before,” these are extraordinary times in Australia.
“Armageddon Is Here” have read headlines in Australia giving an indication how bad the situation is and how much worse it can still be!
While humanitarian groups like the Tel Aviv-based IsraAid are watching developments closely and considering about different ways in which they can be of assistance, on Instagram, Israel’s ‘Wonder Woman’, Gal Gadot asked her 34 million followers to donate to relief efforts down under. “Nature is so beautiful and powerful and fragile all at the same time,” she wrote. “I’m so devastated.”
“Devastated” is the operative word!
For Israelis the devastation is brought all the more home when one realizes that the area so far devastated is more than double the size of Israel.
From Wonder Woman to the wonderful people of Israel and around the world, may the collective support bring this tragedy to a speedy end and that the animals Down Under don’t themselves go down under.