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June 30, 2016 / 24 Sivan, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘day’

‘At The End Of The Day, We Only Have Each Other’: An Interview with Israeli Consulate Spokesperson Shimon Mercer-Wood

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016

Shimon Mercer-Wood is the spokesperson and consul for media affairs at the Consulate General of Israel in Manhattan. A product of the London School of Economics and Yeshivat Ma’aleh Gilboa, Mercer-Wood previously served as political officer at Israel’s embassy in New Delhi and press officer at Israel’s embassy in London. 

The Jewish Press: What’s your background?

Mercer-Wood: My mother’s family is from Transylvania, which is Hungarian-speaking Romania, and my father’s family is from Ghana in West Africa. My father’s uncle was the ambassador of Ghana to Israel in the 1960s, and he brought along my father with him.

Why did he bring your father?

They were very close. Also, in that part of Ghana, it’s actually a matrilineal society, which means the person you inherit is not your father, but your mother’s brother. So as part of his being groomed to take over from his uncle, he went with him and was kind of like his protégé.

And then your father stayed in Israel?

In 1967, on the eve of the Six-Day war, Ghana’s embassy was ordered to evacuate because everyone was sure Israel was going to be destroyed. In Israel they were preparing mass graves in the public parks because they thought there would be, chas v’shalom, many casualties, and in Holland they were preparing refugee camps.

But my father had developed an interest in Judaism and felt it was disloyal to abandon the Jewish people in a time of danger, so he stayed in Israel. And then my father got swept up by the very obvious miracle of Israel going from the brink of peril to unprecedented victory in such a short time. So my father stayed in Israel, converted, joined the army, and has basically been in Israel ever since.

It’s quite a story.

Apart from it being my personal family story, though, it also speaks to Israel’s relationship with Africa in that time. Israel was a huge player in the African continent in the 1960s. This was part of Golda Meir’s policy to find friends around the world and to fulfill the aspiration of being an ohr la’goyim. So Israel was very active in introducing modern agriculture to Africa. In fact, Israel at that time had more embassies in Africa than any other non-African country. The relationship was so close that when my uncle was shifted from the Ghana Embassy in China to the Ghana Embassy in Israel, it was considered a major promotion.

What do you do at the Israeli consulate in Manhattan?

We try to introduce positive material about Israel into the media output, and I would divide that into three “battles.” The first battle is to engage with those journalists who write primarily about the Israeli-Arab conflict and provide them with information that may help them be more sympathetic to the Israeli position.

The second battle is to provide stories to journalists who are interested in writing about Israel. So, for example, we met a producer at one of the news channels who said, “I want stories about Israeli startups. Please feed me with stories.” Our job then is to seek out such stories – be in touch with relevant authorities and hubs in Israel – and build up story pitches.

The third battle, which is the most interesting, is to reach those journalists who don’t even think about writing about Israel, and introduce Israel to them. Recently, for example, we sent a journalist to Israel to cover a conference on accessibility – especially how to make tourism more accessible for people with disabilities. This is a writer to whom it would never have occurred to write a story about Israel. But she came back from that conference very enthusiastic, and it was a huge success. It’s very gratifying to find someone like that and put Israel on their radar in such a positive context.

I should add that we place a special emphasis on Jewish media, because the most important asset this building is charged with safeguarding is the relationship between Israel and American Jews. I very often meet people who adore Israel but their conception of Israel is kind of what Israel was like in the 1980s. Israel is a very dynamic place – it’s constantly changing – and it’s important for me to make sure people see Israel as it is today.

Why is this important?

Because we’re one nation, we’re one people. At the end of the day, on the face of the planet, we only have each other. And just like you keep in touch with your brother who lives in another city and you want him to know what’s happening in your life and you don’t want his perception of your life to be stuck like when you were in college, it’s important for the different components of the Jewish nation to know what the others are going through. It’s not because you want their “support.” It’s because that’s what it means to be one people.

Those who dislike Israel sometimes call it racist. When you speak to such people, do you find your skin color helpful in combating this argument?

There’s a spectrum of anti-Israel attitudes. On the light side you have ignorance, and in that case perhaps it helps. But further along the spectrum, there is entrenched hostility to Israel, and then nothing helps because they don’t really care. It’s not about knowledge or understanding. It’s an emotional issue. It’s a feeling of commitment to a struggle against Israel. And you can really see it physically when you speak to these people, how much their whole being is fired up with attacking Israel.

So I don’t bother arguing with them, because a) they don’t deserve it and b) it’s completely pointless. We really should focus our efforts on those who don’t have that level of hatred. I often hear people say, “Show them the facts!” They don’t care about the facts. They operate in a cultural sphere in which facts are of no importance. It’s part of a certain brand of post-modern mode of thought that says that everything is subjective and relative, and facts are just not important.

What’s Israel’s opinion of Donald Trump?

It’s important to understand that Israel has a relationship with the United States that exceeds the relationship with the president of the United States. So it sounds like a talking point but it’s actually true: Whoever the American people elect, Israel will be happy to work with because they will be elected by the American people.

What’s very important, though, is that the political relationship between Israel and the United States remain bipartisan. There are people in America – on both sides of the political spectrum – who are trying to undermine the bipartisan nature of this relationship for their own political reasons. These people don’t have Israel’s best interests in mind.

Several media outlets have reported that Bernie Sanders’s supporters hope to amend the Democratic Party’s platform so that it is less pro-Israel or even anti-Israel. Is Israel concerned?

I’m not going to comment on anything a particular politician is doing, but in general the attempt to make Israel a divisive issue is exactly what I was talking about before. Israel shouldn’t be a divisive issue.

I also think that recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is not an Israel thing. It’s a Jewish thing. When someone wants to remove reference to Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, they are trying to erase one of the most fundamental features of the Jewish heritage. You want to criticize Israel, go ahead. But if you erase reference to Jerusalem as our capital you’re insulting every Jew who has ever lived.

Syria is currently a mess. What are Israel’s hopes for the conclusion of that conflict?

Israel’s policy on Syria is that we don’t care who rules them, how they are ruled, what sort of government they have, etc. It’s none of our business. We just want to be left alone.

But the prime minister has laid down three red lines. First, anyone who shoots at us, we shoot back. Second, we will not allow Syria to become a conduit for advanced weaponry reaching Hizbullah in Lebanon. And third, we’re not going to allow anyone to build an infrastructure that can be used to threaten Israel in the future. So if we see someone building a terrorist network, the purpose of which is to threaten Israel, something may happen to that person. According to certain reports, these things have happened in the past and they will continue to happen so long as there are people who want to use Syria as a base for attacking Israel.

I have to add that on a human level it’s very sad to see such unspeakable suffering, and we try to extend humanitarian aid wherever we can. There’s an Israeli NGO called IsraAID which set up shop on the island of Lesvos in Greece giving medical care to refugees. Other Israeli NGOs are providing food and supplies in refugee camps in Jordan.

How is Israel dealing with Russia’s interests in Syria?

It’s a very complicated issue. Our interests in Syria do not correlate with Russia’s. Russia wants to keep Assad in power. Keeping Assad in power means strengthening Iran’s influence and presence – which is the main threat to us. And the Russians are also fighting shoulder to shoulder with Hizbullah which is one of our main enemies. So our interests do not correlate. Having said that, Israel and Russia share enough interests elsewhere and on other levels that we both have the motivation to make sure the conflicting interest don’t become a direct conflict.

What “other interests” are you referring to?

First of all, it’s interesting to note that Russia sees Israel as a special case on account of its huge population of Russian Jews. I remember meeting the Russian ambassador in Israel, and he said, “Since I’ve come to Israel, my English has deteriorated because from the supermarket to the president, everyone speaks to me in Russian.” So they feel there’s an important link there, and I think that makes for a different attitude.

I won’t go into too many details, but there are other issues on which Israel and Russia cooperate so that both countries wish to maintain cordial relations.

What’s Israel’s current policy toward Iran? Are we now beyond the point where destroying Iran’s nuclear program is possible?

Israel’s fundamental policy hasn’t changed. We will take every means necessary to make sure Iran doesn’t get nuclear weapons. What has happened is that because of the Iran deal, the crunch time – the point at which you have to make a decision – has been pushed off by a few years. But when we reach that crunch time again, I have no doubt that the prime minister of Israel will not hesitate to act.

Elliot Resnick

Just a Typical Day in the Machane Yehuda Shuk

Tuesday, June 14th, 2016

King Daviud in Machane Yehuda

Photo of the Day

Rejuvenation: Harvests, Humanity and Humility- Happy Jerusalem Day [audio]

Friday, June 10th, 2016

What will you say on Judgement Day? Was the 1967 War a victory for mankind? It’s Jerusalem Day and we’re home in the heartland again.
Bible scholar Dr. Yael Zeigler and Eve Harow discuss the Book of Ruth, read on Shavuot next week, as the antitheses of the Book of Judges in the pre-Davidic period. Social justice, leadership, concern for the ‘other’, unconditional brotherly love- are all rooted in the Tanach, and part of ancient and modern Judean thought and action. Israel of today is collectively rising to the challenge, despite threats against us from within and without. A wheat field is so much more than its sheaves….and Israel so much more than the sum of our parts.

The Land of Israel

Tefillah: A Meeting With Hashem – The Day Of Love

Thursday, June 9th, 2016

Before you begin to wonder what “the day of love” is, I will let the cat out of the bag: I am referring to Shavuos. “Really!” you are probably thinking. “I know it is the day we receive the Torah, a day when many stay up all night learning, a day of celebrating with cheesecake . . . but a day of love?”

But that is the truth. We begin every Shemoneh Esrei of Yom Tov with the joyous declaration: “Atah vichartanu mi’kol ha’amim – You have chosen us from all the nations. Ahavta osanu – You loved us, v’ratzisa banu – You desired us.” The Siach Yitzchok (in Siddur Hagra) explains that these words refer to the three festivals. You chose us on Pesach, You showed us Your love on Shavuos by giving us the Torah, and You desired us on Sukkos, by returning the clouds of glory after the sin of the golden calf.

How does receiving the Torah show us Hashem’s love to us?

 

Ahava Rabbah!

The bracha that we recite right before krias shema of Shachris is also known as “the bracha of Torah,” as in this blessing we ask Hashem to teach us His Torah. The introduction to this prayer is “Ahava rabbah ahavtanu, chemla gedolah v’yiseirah chamaltah aleinu – With an abundant love You have loved us, with exceedingly great pity have You pitied us.” Such a declaration is unparalleled in our daily prayers. And in the evening prayer we say that it is an eternal love – Ahavas olam. The fact that Hashem gave us His Torah shows us that He does not merely love us – it is an eternal and overwhelming love!

Then we continue with the most heartfelt plea in the entire seder hatefillah: “Our Father, the merciful Father Who acts mercifully, have mercy upon us, instill in our hearts to understand and elucidate, to listen, learn, teach, safeguard, perform and fulfill all the words of Your Torah’s teaching with love!” And finally, it concludes “…who chooses Klal Yisroel with love.”

Were it not for the great and infinite love that Hashem has for us, we would not have received the Torah, nor would we dare ask for the gift of Torah on a regular basis. Let us explain.

 

Tree of Life

Rav Chaim Volozhiner (Nefesh Hachaim, Sha’ar 4, chapter 33) explains the pasukEitz chaim he la’machazikim bah – The Torah is a tree of life for those who grasp onto it” with a parable of a man drowning in a raging river. As he is about to go under, he notices a large tree floating by and grabs on for dear life. He knows if he will let go for just one second, he will die. So too, we have been thrown into the vast waters of “Olam Hazeh – this world.” The only way to stay alive is to grab hold of the tree of life – the Torah. If we let go and run after the empty pleasures of the world, even just for a short time, we will have immediately separated ourselves from the source of life. We will be in danger of drowning in the materialism of this mundane world and dying a spiritual death. Only when we learn Torah are we considered to be alive. And the Nefesh Hachaim explains (see chapter 10) that this is because when we learn Torah we attach ourselves – figuratively – to Hashem Yisborach, the true source of life.

How does learning Torah attach us?

The midrash (Shemos Rabah Parsha 33) states: “When a person buys an object, he doesn’t buy the seller with it. However, when Hashem gave us the Torah, He told us that kaviyachol we are taking Him along with it.” In many places the Zohar notes that Torah and Hashem are one.

Rabbi Eliezer M. Niehaus

Jerusalem Day: A Perception of Time and Space

Thursday, June 9th, 2016

Sunday was Jerusalem Day, the day we celebrate the miraculous salvation from the Arab threats of destruction that loomed over us by words and deeds, which was avoided by the stunning victories of the Six-Day War in 1967. That war also returned us to the heart of our homeland, Judea and Samaria, and – above all – brought about the reunification of Jerusalem.

When I meet people from Berlin I always ask them: “East Berlin or West Berlin?” The answer, always accompanied by a chuckle, is: “Well, it’s all just Berlin today”. I agree with them, but then I point out: “Berlin has been around a lot less than Jerusalem. Jerusalem has been the Jewish nation’s political and spiritual capital for over 3,000 years. Berlin was artificially divided into east and west as a result of military occupation at the end of WW II. It was divided for 44 years, and now that’s it’s been reunited you say it’s just all Berlin. Jerusalem was artificially divided into east and west as a result of the illegal, Jordanian military invasion and subsequent occupation of part of the city, causing the division of the city for 19 years. Now the city has been reunited for 49 years – and yet some people still insist on using the archaic terms ‘East Jerusalem’ and ‘West Jerusalem’! Do you see the absurd? Using those terms reveals either ignorance of history – or an anti-Semitic agenda to denigrate the Jewish connection to the Holy City.

The same matter of perception can relate to the Golan Heights. In Syrian hands they served as a base for attacking Israel almost incessantly, shelling the Israeli villages below. Since the Golan was taken in 1967, the Israeli villages below know peace, as do the Israeli and Druze villages on the Golan – in stark contrast to the current events in Syria. On the Golan you find ruins of ancient Jewish towns and villages that have in them synagogues dating back over two thousand years. Only under Israeli rule have the Golan Heights become fruitful, prosperous, tranquil and an area of hiking and picnicing for an entire state. The Golan has been part of Israel for 49 years. If you go back 49 years from 1967 you come to 1918. There was no Syria, which didn’t even exist as an independent state until 1946! So the Golan has been in Israeli hands more than twice as long as it was in Syrian hands. Yet some insist on referring to the Golan as Syrian, even though it has been in Israeli hands longer, even though it was in Syrian hands only because of the infamous Sykes-Picot imperialist agreement.

On Jerusalem Day I guided some of my students on a walking tour on Mt. Zion, at the site of King David’s Tomb (or perhaps more properly the tombs of the latter kings from the House of David). As we arrived we met a group of Muslims from Turkey and a group of Christians from Russia, each group with their own guide. I thought to myself: this site is holy to Jews, Christians and Muslims. Yet from 1428 until 1948, the site was controlled by Muslims, and neither Jews nor Christians were allowed to visit freely, only Muslims. Since 1948, under Israeli control, the site of King David’s Tomb has been open to people of all nations and all religions.

As we entered Zion Gate into the Old City I recalled that during 19 years of Arab-Muslim rule between 1948 and 1967, – despite signed armistice agreements – Jews weren’t allowed to visit the Old City, its synagogues (which were all systematically destroyed) or the Western Wall. In contrast, for the last 49 years, under Israeli rule, all nations and all peoples can freely visit the Old City of Jerusalem.

Similarly, I recalled that in Hebron, up until 1967, under Muslim rule, Jews weren’t allowed to enter the Tomb of the patriarchs to pray at the site of our ancestors’ graves. Only since 1967, under Israeli rule, is their freedom of access and freedom of religion, except for one place: the Temple Mount. There, despite being in Jewish hands since 1967, out of Israeli high-minded tolerance the Temple Mount has been left to the supervision of Muslim officials, whose intolerance forbids non-Muslims to pray there. But besides that – I’m always proud to see that in the streets of Jerusalem, under Israeli sovereignty, people from every nation and every religion, can walk safely and happily.

It’s all a question of perception of time and space.

Dovid Ben-Meir

Confronting the Left at the Jerusalem Day Parade [video]

Tuesday, June 7th, 2016

Before you watch the video below, please read! (From the Facebook post)

Yesterday was awesome! I mean really awesome!

There were tens of thousands of Jews who gathered in Jerusalem to sing, dance and celebrate the Jewish return to Zion. Something we dreamed about for 2,000 years. After you watch it, please share it. It is important for all to see!

While so many joined the festivities of Jerusalem Day, left wing organizations attempted to ruin the party. Many left wingers curse the day we liberated Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria. They actually treat this day with disdain. It is heartbreaking to see Jews siding with our enemies instead of focusing on rejoicing with the gift we were given; Jerusalem. It is horrible to hear Jews accepting historical lies our enemies are using to justify the murder of Jews.

In past years, there have been incidents of vandalism as individuals used the celebration to vent their anger at the Islamic terror and they inexcusably took it out on random Arab people. This behavior has nothing to do with the tens of thousands of others who were there to celebrate, but facts like that do not have any importance to the left wing activists I met.

The first activist I met was Sarah Tuttle Singer. For those who don’t know Sarah, she is the head social media person at the The Times of Israel.

She did not come to march, she came to stand against the march and when I asked if she was here to celebrate, all she could do was let out a gag as if to say, “you must be kidding me!”

She was there to report on what she was hoping to see, the vandalizing minority that people like Sarah thrive on. The problem is, she did not find them! NOT ONE!

While she must have been disappointed that she was unable to justify her rabid anti Jerusalem Day parade attitude, she was unable to admit it as she wrote her status that evening and said that others were saying this was one of the most calmest Jerusalem Day Parades. What do you mean others said, YOU WERE THERE SARAH! Can’t you admit you were MISTAKEN!

I asked her several questions about her political views which she had a hard time explaining and then I shut off the phone per her request. We did continue talking and as she usually does, she began to use profanity and sexual innuendo. She proudly told me how the Muslims in the area are her friends and I explained to her that is because she shares the same views as they do. I challenged her to go into the market and ask the first Muslim why they built a mosque on our Temple Mount and see how friendly they react. I offered to join her in the market as we challenge any Arab shop owner to give a date when Israel occupied Palestine from them or when such a country called Palestine ever existed. At first she agreed and then she said that she does not want to cause incitement…

CASE CLOSED! She did promise we would do so in the future…ya never know.

Next I met people from an organization call Tag Meir. This is an organization that fights Jewish violence and says absolutely nothing about Islamic terror. This is not a charge I am making, this is their charter.

The problem is not that this organization is opposed to random acts of violence by Jews, the problem is the Muslims they were giving flowers to are the ones who believe they are justified in attempting to destroy Israel and murder Jews. The leftists claimed 4 Arabs have been murdered by “Tag Mechir” over the last 68 years. I do not know who those 4 are but even if the number is true and unfortunate, not sure 4 murders justifies an organization to give flowers out to those who encourage the murder of Jews or focus on Jewish acts of vandalism while ignoring the thousands of Jews murdered by radical Islamic terror.

The bonus round was the Young Arab lady who was there and who claimed we occupied Jerusalem from the Arabs in 1984!!! When asked when an Arab Palestine country existed pre-Israel, she really lost it. Unfortunately my phone shut off and I did not get the Israeli women who claimed that Israel was the one who refused the partition plan because we wanted war with the Arabs. I tried to get her name to have her repeat her ludicrous claims afterwards but she naturally refused.

I then met a guy with another left wing, self hating organization that was there specifically to catch any Jews who bangs on Arab doors. The problem is not that they wanted to catch these vandals, the problem was they were spreading libels against the tens of thousands of people there as if they were involved in a crime that simply did not happen yet! They were there not to cover the event but to cover the person who is misbehaving and they made it perfectly clear that they were indeed generalizing.

Why is this important to see?

It is important to see because today’s war is an information war and it must be known that we have people from within who are simply misinformed and causing tremendous harm to Israel. We must not be silent! We must stand up and shout the truth.

Talking about shouting, my blood was boiling! How could Jews act like this and side with our enemies?

HOW?

Ari Fuld

ZOA Florida At Capitol Mission Day

Monday, June 6th, 2016

ZOA Florida attended the recent Capitol Hill Mission Day in Washington. The organization brought one of its largest groups to the event.

The attendees heard from dozens of lawmakers and met with key senators and representatives or their aides.

ZOA Florida urged lawmakers to co-sign the Iran Ballistic Missile Sanctions Act of 2016 (S. 2725 and H.R. 4815) and increased sanctions legislation with S.2726 and H.R. 4992. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) is a co-signer of both. They also advocated for withholding funding to the Palestinian Authority so long as incitement and terrorism continue and urged them to block any U N Security Council resolutions that would be dangerous for Israel, especially any actions that grants Palestinian Arabs a state unilaterally.

For more information and updates contact florida@zoa.org.

ZOA Florida constituents meeting with Florida congressman Ron DeSantis (fourth from left).

ZOA Florida constituents meeting with Florida congressman Ron DeSantis (fourth from left).

Shelley Benveniste

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/community/south-florida/zoa-florida-at-capitol-mission-day/2016/06/06/

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