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July 29, 2016 / 23 Tammuz, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘Jewish.’

Online Fundraiser for Medical Treatment of Abayudaya Jewish Infant

Wednesday, July 27th, 2016

Mugaga Treva, 4, is the son of Nantabo Esther, a member of Namanyonyi Synagogue, one of the Abayudaya Synagogues in Uganda. The boy has a chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, for which he was referred to Mulago National Hospital in Uganda. The treatment costs $750, but Esther Nantabo, a single parent, cannot afford it. A fundraising effort was launched Tuesday night which has begun to attract some donations.

The Abayudaya (“People of Judah”) are a Baganda community in eastern Uganda near the town of Mbale who practice Judaism. They are devout in their practice, keeping Kashrut, and observing Shabbat. The Abayudaya numbers are estimated at 2,000. They live in several villages and are recognized by the Reform and Conservative movements as Jews. Some of them practice strict Orthodox Rabbinical Judaism.

The group was founded by a Muganda military leader named Semei Kakungulu, who was converted to Christianity by British missionaries around 1880. When the British significantly limited his territory, and refused to recognize him as king—as they had promised, Kakungulu began seeking alternative religious affiliations, and came to believe that the customs and laws described in the Torah were true. In 1919, Kakungulu faced great resistance and was eventually ostracized when he insisted on circumcising his flock. He circumcised his sons and himself and declared that his community was Jewish. He then fled to the foot of Mt. Elgon and settled in a place called Gangama where he started a separatist sect known as Kibina Kya Bayudaya Absesiga Katonda (the Community of Jews who trust in the Lord). The British, infuriated by his move, severed all ties with him and his followers.

In 1920 a European Jew named Yosef arrived and taught the isolated community about the Jewish calendar and the Jewish holidays: Passover, Shavuot, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Succot. Yosef stayed for about six months, and educated the Abayudaya on Kashrut and Shabbat. Yosef convinced Semei Kakungulu to establish a kind of yeshiva, to pass on his teachings.

Kakungulu died in 1928, and was succeeded by Samson Mugombe, one of his disciples. The Abayudaya remained isolated for protection and survived persecution, including by Idi Amin, who outlawed Jewish rituals and destroyed synagogues. During the Amin persecutions, some of the Abayudaya converted to either Christianity or Islam. But a core group of some 300 members remained committed to Judaism, worshipping secretly, fearful that they would be discovered by their neighbors and reported to the authorities. This group later named itself She’erit Yisrael — the Remnant of Israel.

In 1962, Israeli Ambassador to Kenya Arye Oded, who at the time was studying at Makerere University, visited the Abayudaya and met Samson Mugombe. This was the first time the Abayudaya had ever met an Israeli and the first Jew they had met since Yosef. Oded conducted many long interviews with Mugombe and other leaders, and later reported on the group in his book “Religion and Politics in Uganda,” as well as in numerous articles.

In his article Shabbes Cholent in Uganda? Rabbi J. Hershy Worch wrote whimsically:

“You should have seen the grin on the faces of the young leaders of the community as they showed their elders the Shabbes-oven I had built into the packed earth floor of my bedroom, a shining smile that went from ear to ear. Eighty years they have waited for my cholent, can you imagine, the first hot food on a Shabbes morning for 80 years! Prometheus had no such thrill. Perhaps Moses, watching the Israelites licking their fingers over Manna in the wilderness may have had such naches, maybe.

“Most people know nothing about cholent, and those who do probably consider it no more than an odd quirk in the Jewish diet, something akin to gefilte-fish or latkes.

“To a hushed audience I explained the significance of the food they were eating. How Rabbinical Judaism, the Halacha, the Talmud well nigh demands hot food on Shabbes morning. This is how we Orthodox Jews may be distinguished from Karaites, Samaritans and other fundamentalists who rejected the Oral Torah. The hushed silence broke into a thunderous applause.”


Debbie Wasserman Schultz Kicked Out of Democratic National Convention Leadership Role

Sunday, July 24th, 2016

Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz has been kicked out from leading the Democratic National Convention, the traditional role for the DNC chair, Fox News reported Sunday.

The move came after emails leaked by WikiLeaks revealed a bias in the party’s leadership during the primaries — which was supposed to be neutral — against Senator Bernie Sanders. The revelation prompted some 40 percent of his supporters to vow not to vote for Hillary Clinton at the polls in November.

The leaked emails supported earlier claims by Sanders and his supporters that the system was rigged in favor of Clinton.

GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump has maintained as well that the system was “rigged” against Sanders, and said so from the podium of the Republican National Convention during his speech accepting the nomination of his party last Thursday night.

The news was confirmed publicly shortly after noon on Sunday. She had not appeared at a rules committee meeting on Saturday, though she was slated to speak, nor did her name appear on a list of speakers for the convention.

Hana Levi Julian

The Power Of Jewish Women

Sunday, July 24th, 2016

The immense power of Jewish women has been documented from time immemorial, but there is one cataclysmic episode in the Torah that, to the best of my knowledge, has never been utilized as a prime example of exemplifying the absolute necessity of the presence of the woman/mother in Jewish history.

Before that episode is brought to bear, let us examine some prior history, as the Torah, in its inimitable wisdom, uses the iconic mother/heroines Sarah and Rivkah to delineate the incalculable preeminent position of women in the Jewish home.

Sarah, with her gifts of prophecy, not only knew that Yishmael was a mortal threat to Yitzchak’s existence, but also knew that as the son of an Egyptian woman, he could never identify as a Jew. Long before Ezra, she anticipated the necessity of matrilineal lineage, casting Yishmael out and making it clear to Avraham that only her son, only the son of a Jewish woman, could continue the line of the Jewish people.

As difficult as that action was for Sarah to take, the fact remains that Sarah was not rejecting her own son; Yishmael was Hagar’s, and thus the pain Sarah may have felt at Avraham’s own suffering at the loss of his son was not compounded by Yishmael being her own child.

Sarah’s difficulty may seem severe, but it pales next to Rivkah’s, as Rivkah had to reject her own son in order to preserve Jewish lineage. It is no accident that the episode in which Rivkah advises Yaakov to trick his father immediately follows the passage in which Eisav chooses wives from outside the Jewish people. Rivkah well knows that Eisav’s betrayal makes him unfit for preserving the Jewish line, and thus even though Eisav is her own son, she has the courage to reject him and make certain that Yaakov is chosen to become the progenitor of the Jewish people.

Yet even Rivkah’s test pales next to the unsung heroine of the Jewish people, Leah. The cataclysmic episode referred to above revolves around this utterly selfless woman who rarely gets enough credit for her critical part in the genesis of the Jewish people.

Just as it was Yaakov’s mission to keep his family together, to ensure that all of his children stayed Jews, it was Leah’s as well. Not only did she have to raise six sons of her own, but six others who weren’t hers; not only did she have to supervise the children of Zilpah and Bilhah, she had to raise the sons of her deceased sister, Rachel.

It is this dynamic – the raising of sons not her own and keeping them Jews –that elucidates the power of Leah and the crucial necessity of the Jewish woman in the home more clearly than any other instance in the Torah.

For centuries, the question has been asked: How could the sons of Yaakov have behaved so brutally toward Yosef, throwing him into the pit, selling him as a slave, letting their father believe his precious son was dead? Many explanations have been offered, including the thought that Yosef had threatened the preeminence of Yehuda with his dreams of supremacy, but the question remains: How could the sons act in such a way while their father was alive?

The answer is simple and instructive.

The brothers, led by Leah’s sons, were not disinclined to act in the fashion they did even though Yaakov was alive. His presence had little or no effect in dissuading them from their brutality.

The one whose presence was needed was Leah, their mother.

And Leah was dead.

According to Seder Olam Rabbah, Leah did not live over 45 years, which means she died the same year Yosef was sold. Rachel had died eight years before.

How do we know Leah died before her sons sold Yosef? Because in Bereishis 37:35, the Torah states, “Vayakumu chol banav v’chol b’nosav l’nachamo” – “And all his sons and all his daughters arose to comfort him.”

There is no mention of Leah, for she was already niftar.

Now it finally makes sense. Why did the brothers treat Yosef so brutally? Why did they wait as long as they did to sell Yosef? It was because their mother was no longer there to say to them, “Treat your brother/cousin with respect. Behave yourselves. I know you are angry, but remember we are all one family.”

It is the very absence of Leah in which we realize the tremendous power and centrality of the mother in the Jewish home. Had she been present, the incident with Yosef may never have occurred, and the whole history of the Jewish people may have been different.

Yes, Sarah’s test was difficult; yes, Rivkah’s superseded Sarah’s, but only Leah – the unsung heroine, the woman enjoined with keeping her massive family on the straight and narrow – managed to keep Yaakov’s fractious family together as long as Hashem gave her life. When she was gone, everything came asunder.

The Torah’s emphasizes Rachel’s beauty, but in Leah we see a deeper beauty – in essence, the true beauty of the Jewish people. In Shmuel Bet, 1:19, David laments the death of Shaul and Yehonatan, crying, “Hatzvi Yisrael al bamosecha.” The word “tzvi” is variously translated as beauty, honor, or precious, implying the words’ synonymity. The closeness of “tzvi” to “tzaddik” can be seen in Yishiyahu 24:16, when Yishiyahu states, “Miknaf haaretz z’miros shaman t’zvi latzaddik” – “From the edge of the earth we have heard songs ‘Glory to the righteous.’ ”

Thus beauty and honor are quite closely related to righteousness. This concept goes to the heart of being a Jew. For Jews, unlike for others, true beauty is found in righteousness – and only righteousness.

And Leah, with her heroic struggle to raise 12 sons, six of whom were not hers, and knit them into one Jewish family after her sister had died, exemplifies the kind of selfless righteousness that is the essence of who we are as a people. Hers was the kind of exalted beauty that the Jewish woman and mother offers the world as a beacon in the murky darkness of immorality and violence; hers was the presence that inspired her sons to behave as just men, and her absence left a void that precipitated cataclysmic events.

It is the presence of the Jewish mother, with her selfless role in engendering harmony and peace, that is the fiercely burning flame within the holy light of the Jewish people.

David Shapiro

Coming to Jerusalem: Louis C.K. and his Jewish Root

Sunday, July 24th, 2016

The paternal grandfather of Louis Székely (pronounced se-kei), a.k.a. Louis C.K., Dr. Géza Székely Schweiger, was a Hungarian Jewish surgeon who immigrated with his family to Mexico, where he met C.K.’s paternal grandmother, Rosario Sánchez Morales. Morales was Catholic, and Schweiger agreed to raise their children Catholic, but, according to C.K., his grandfather remained “quietly Jewish.” C.K. is Catholic on his Irish American mother’s side. On August 18 C.K., possibly the most influential American standup comedian living today, will give two back-to-back concerts in Jerusalem’s Payis Arena. According to the show’s promoters, demand has been so great, they added more seats to the arena, with tickets going for as much as $180.

The gifted comic, whose capacity for self-deprecation and intimate exposure is extraordinary, is not focused on Jews and Jewish issues, but he has included enough comments over the years about Jews and things Jewish to reveal an intriguing understanding of both being and observing the most tense minority group in America.

In his 2010 special, “Hilarious,” Louis C.K. noted that the word “Jew” is “the only word that is the polite thing to call a group of people and the slur for the same group. … It’s the same word, just with a little stank on it, and it becomes a terrible thing to call a person.”

One of C.K.’s funniest Jewish-related jokes has him watching Schindler’s List on TV, at the point where the Warsaw Ghetto Jews are marched through the streets, and a little girl yells out at them: “Good bye, Jews!” C.K. is convinced the vignette was real, someone had probably told director Steven Spielberg about it and he decided he wanted it in the movie. And so, knowing how films are made, C.K. is convinced there’s an auditions tape out there, of fifty adorable little girls yelling “Good bye, Jews” at the camera.

At the 2011 Louis C.K. concert Live at the Beacon Theater, the comic opened with a lengthy request that the audience not use their flash cameras during the show, and as he is making these pre-show requests, he adds, “What else… No Jews, I think they said that earlier, but they told me I have to say it. Jews aren’t allowed. If you’re Jewish, this is a good time to leave, If you see someone Jewey looking, please tell an usher and they will…” at which point he turns to a member of the audience, saying, “Sir, come on, let’s go…”

Like all comedy, context here is everything: while the very same lines from French Black anti-Semitic comic Dieudonné M’bala M’bala could land him in jail, no one suspects Louis C.K. of anti-Semitism, despite the obvious edginess of his material. Because C.K. does not single out Jews for his poking, his references to things Jewish are part of a rich tapestry of social and personal references. In fact, one has to dig far and wide to come up with actual Louis C.K. Jewish jokes.

Last Friday night, at the Forest Hills Stadium in Queens, NY, C.K. talked about being revolted by his uncircumcised non-Jewish father. Also that night, according to the NY Daily News, C.K. did minority accents which were pretty insulting, about which he commented: “Stereotypes are harmful, but the voices are funny.” And it’s that quality of being an equal opportunity ethnic insulter that permits C.K. to include Jews in his circle of often dark humor.


Longfellow And The Jewish Cemetery At Newport

Thursday, July 21st, 2016

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) is a beloved American poet and educator whose notable works include Paul Revere’s Ride, The Courtship of Miles Standish, The Village Blacksmith, and Evangeline. He wrote many lyric poems known for their musicality, often presented stories of mythology and legend, and was the first American to translate Dante’s Divine Comedy.

In the summer of 1852, Longfellow brought his family to Newport, Rhode Island, for a vacation and while walking the local streets he became captivated by the old Jewish cemetery, which he visited on July 9, 1852. As he wrote in his diary:


Here we are, in the clover-fields on the cliff, at Hazard’s house; near the beach, with the glorious sea unrolling its changing billows before us. Here, in truth, the sea speaks Italian; at Nahant it speaks Norse. Went this morning into the Jewish burying-ground, with a polite old gentleman who keeps the key. It is a shady nook, at the corner of two dusty, frequented streets, with an iron fence and a granite gateway…


The Jewish Cemetery at Newport, his poem about the site, published two years later, was a sensitive portrayal of the place and its people, as he included tender references to “Hebrews in their graves,” knowledgeable mentions of Jewish religious practices, and sympathetic references to Jewish persecution. Exhibited with this column is a quotation from the poem, originally signed “With Mr. Longfellow’s compliments.”

Founded in 1677, the Jewish Cemetery is the second oldest Jewish graveyard in the United States. Nonetheless, at the time of Longfellow’s visit to Newport with his family, it was logical for him to consider it strange to find a Jewish cemetery there. Newport had been financially devastated during the Revolution, when the British occupied the town and seized ships and other resources. After the successful resolution of the war, most prosperous merchants left for cities such as New York and Savannah, which by then had displaced Newport as commercial centers.Singer-072216

The Newport community was left behind by the rapid forces of industrialization, and successful Jewish merchants had moved on as well, so that by the time of Longfellow’s visit, there were very few Jews there. However, by the time he wrote The Jewish Cemetery the old seaport town had begun to attract members of Boston’s intellectual elite.

Longfellow began his poem by expressing his surprise at finding a synagogue – which he describes as being “a shady nook, at the corner of two dusty, frequented streets” – in an old New England port town. However, this was actually not surprising, since neither Portsmouth (where he grew up), nor Cambridge (where he lived), nor Boston, nor any other New England town or port, had a colonial-era Jewish community. “How strange it seems! These Hebrews in their graves, Close by the street of this fair seaport town…” Today the synagogue remains the oldest surviving synagogue building in the United States.

As a former language professor at Harvard, Longfellow could read and write Hebrew, and his musings on what might have led the first Jews to Newport in the 17th century indicate that he knew a bit of their history. Isaacs, Judah, Moses, Alvares, Rivera…these first Jews of Newport had fled religious persecution and arrived at New Amsterdam in the New World in 1658. The settlement of Newport, then only nineteen years old, welcomed them and later embraced a group of Spanish Portuguese Jews who fled the Inquisition. Obviously moved by, and sympathetic toward, the plight of the Jews, Longfellow was eerily prophetic in his poem; his well-educated, enlightened mind could surely not have imagined the persecutions and suffering that were still to come for the Jewish people

In the tradition of English contemplative poetry of the 18th century, he both paints a physical portrait of the cemetery and explores his own ruminations. But it is the final – and controversial – line that has caused the poem, and the cemetery, to be remembered:


But ah! what once has been shall be no more!

The groaning earth in travail and in pain brings forth its races, but does not restore,

and the dead nations never rise again.


The poet Emma Lazarus (1849-1887), who frequented Newport at her family’s summer home, was inspired at age 18 to write In the Jewish Synagogue of Newport (1867), one of her earliest creative expressions of Jewish consciousness. Famously arguing that while the Jews may be down they will nonetheless exist forever, she concentrated on the synagogue and its continuing living power and concluded that “the sacred shrine is holy yet.”

Thus, while Longfellow wrote from the perspective of cynicism and old age and as a non-Jewish outside observer, Lazarus considered the same subject from the perspective of youth and as an insider raised within the Jewish community. She later developed a friendship with Longfellow, frequently corresponded with him and, upon his death, eulogized him in the April 4, 1882 edition of The American Hebrew.

And of course, when all is said and done, Lazarus was correct and Longfellow was dead wrong. As we say in the vernacular: Am Yisrael Chai!



Saul Jay Singer

‘The Way To Fight Anti-Jewish Is By Doing Jewish’: What David Nesenoff Learned From His Infamous Encounter With Helen Thomas

Wednesday, July 20th, 2016

David Nesenoff travels the world talking about his May 27, 2010 encounter at the White House with the late Helen Thomas, longtime star reporter and dean of the White House press corps.

Invited by Brooklyn’s Chabad of Sea-Gate, Nesenoff spoke last month at Kneses Israel (the Big Shul). Rabbis Chaim Brikman, Leiby Brikman, Pinny Marozov, and Heshy Ceitlin thought it important for their fellow Jews to know the backstory of Nesenoff’s exchange with Thomas, especially with anti-Semitism and hostility to Israel on the rise in so many parts of the world.

Nesenoff – rabbi, filmmaker, blogger, author (David’s Harp), cartoonist, musician, motivational speaker, and professional comic – delivers his serious message leavened with humorous anecdotes.

At the heart of the story are Nesenoff, his then-teenage son Adam, and Adam’s friend Daniel Landau, who were attending a Jewish Heritage Month celebration on the White House lawn.

Nesenoff’s idea was to tape people’s responses to the question “What do you think about Israel?” He planned to publish the responses on his RabbiLive.com website. Suddenly, Nesenoff spotted Thomas walking toward them.

“Any comments on Israel?” Nesenoff asked her.

“Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine,” said Thomas, a daughter of Lebanese immigrants.

Nesenoff reacted like he’d been stun-gunned to the core of his being. “Oooh!” he said. “Any better comments?”

Weirdly laughing, Thomas admonished Nesenoff: “Remember, these people [the Palestinians] are occupied and it’s their land. It’s not Germany. It’s not Poland.”

Though not a seasoned journalist, Nesenoff knew enough to keep it going and ask the logical follow-up: “So where should they go? What should they do?”

Thomas: They should go home.

Nesenoff: Where’s home?

Thomas: Poland. Germany.

Nesenoff repeated it back, making sure he’d heard what he thought he’d heard: “So the Jews should go back to Poland and Germany.”

“And America – and everywhere else,” added Thomas, who then asked rhetorically, “Why push people out who live there for centuries?”

To which Nesenoff asked her, “Are you familiar with the history of that region and what took place there?”

Thomas replied: “Very much! I’m of Arab background.”

The video of that conversation was posted online and quickly went viral, with media reps and reporters condemning Thomas, while contacting Nesenoff with interview requests.

Ari Fleischer, former press secretary to President George W. Bush, called Nesenoff and told him it was important to find a “message” to go with the story.

But what, Nesenoff wondered, was the right message? His son asked him, “You can speak to anyone in the world – who do you want me to call?”

Nesenoff’s first choice, Elie Wiesel, said he’d read about Nesenoff’s habit of davening with ChabadFind out what the Rebbe would have said about putting a message to the story, Wiesel suggested.

Nesenoff contacted Chabad Rabbi Abraham Shemtov, who had known the Rebbe well.

What the Rebbe would have advised, said Shemtov, was something like this: “We are not the friends of Israel; we are the Children of Israel. Sometimes we are away for a little while in galus or sometimes we are away for a few years in Auschwitz. But we are still the Children of Israel. Israel and the Children of Israel are one – forever.”

Nesenoff repeated the Children of Israel message on CNN’s “Reliable Sources” program a couple of weeks after his encounter with Thomas.

Yale University professor Charles Asher Small was near a TV when the CNN show aired. Small asked Nesenoff to be the keynote speaker at Yale’s inaugural 2010 Symposium on Global Anti-Semitism, which Small was chairing later that summer.

Meanwhile, criticism of Thomas’s remarks, which had come fast and furious from the moment Nesenoff put the video online, continued unabated, even after Thomas apologized a week after the encounter and retired a few days later.

President Obama condemned Thomas’s comments, calling them “offensive” and “out of line.” Lanny Davis, special counsel to former president Bill Clinton, said Thomas “showed herself to be an anti-Semitic bigot.” Ari Fleischer called for Thomas to be fired, adding, “If this isn’t bigotry, what is? What she said is as bad as someone saying all blacks should leave America and go back to Africa.”

Poster advertising Nesenoff’s appearance in Sea Gate last month.

Poster advertising Nesenoff’s appearance in Sea Gate last month.

Thomas’s agency, Nine Speakers, Inc., dropped her as a client. Craig Crawford, who had co-authored Thomas’s book Listen up, Mr. President, said he would “no longer be working with Helen on our book projects.” Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda, Maryland, canceled the commencement speech Thomas was scheduled to deliver at the school.

The White House Correspondents’ Association, over which she had once presided, called her remarks “indefensible” and the plaque engraved with her name was removed from her front row seat in the White House briefing room. In January 2011, the Society of Professional Journalists voted to do away with the Helen Thomas Award for Lifetime Achievement. Her alma mater, Wayne State University, took back the tolerance award it had bestowed on her.

There were plenty of people who still loved Thomas, though – some perhaps more than before – and Nesenoff (who would go on to receive the National Jewish Hero Award from the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute) was deluged with hate mail, even death threats, and required police protection.

Her fans included consumer advocate Ralph Nader, television personalities Joy Behar and Rosie O’Donnell, and political commentator Keith Olbermann, who called Nesenoff’s video a totally unfair “ambush” interview.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) gave Thomas a lifetime achievement award in October 2010. And, a bit belatedly, the Palestine Liberation Organization’s General Mission to the U.S. gave Thomas an award in April 2012 in honor of her “long career in the field of journalism, during which she defended the Palestinian position every step of the way.” PLO Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi presented the honor to Thomas on behalf of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Nearly a year after her confrontation with Nesenoff, Thomas admitted her apology was disingenuous, telling writer David Hochman that she really didn’t regret her anti-Jewish, anti-Israel statements. In the course of that interview, published in the April 2011 issue of Playboy, she unabashedly proclaimed her belief in an “Elders of Zion”-type Jewish conspiracy that entailed “total control” over the White House, Congress, and U.S. financial markets.

“Everybody is in the pocket of the Israeli lobbies, which are funded by wealthy supporters, including those from Hollywood,” Thomas told Hochman.

An incredulous Hochman asked her whether she really believed “there’s a secret Jewish conspiracy at work in this country.” To which Thomas replied: “Not a secret. It’s very open. What do you mean secret?”

And she revealed to Hochman that shortly after she’d made the comments that would end her career, a sympathetic Jimmy Carter called to offer his support. “He talked about the Israelis in the Middle East, the violations. It was very nice of him to call, but I don’t want to get him into trouble,” confided Thomas.

Having aired her true feelings to Hochman, Thomas doubled down on her defiant and unapologetic attitude, telling an Ohio radio station a few months later that she realized soon after talking to Nesenoff that she would be fired because “I hit the third rail. You cannot criticize Israel in this country and survive.”

She added that she issued an apology because people were upset but she still “had the same feelings about Israel’s aggression and brutality.”

Helen Thomas died on July 20, 2013, at the age of 92.

As for Nesenoff, the lesson he took away from his fateful encounter with Thomas is simple and straightforward.

“Each time I tell my story,” he says, “I tell my audiences the way to fight anti-Jewish is by doing Jewish. I know this is what the Rebbe would have wanted me to say.

Do Torah! Do Mitzvot! Do Shabbat! Do Kosher!”

Beth Sarafraz

Exclusive: Arab Outraged as Peter Beinart, US Jewish Activists, Occupy his Land [video]

Monday, July 18th, 2016

A group of anti-Israel Jewish activists arrived in Hebron to award the city its first movie theater. But in the process, according to local Jewish residents, they destroyed the grazing grounds of a local Arab shepherd.

According to a JTA report by Andrew Tobin, dozens of American Jews spent Friday in Hebron “practicing nonviolent resistance against Israel’s presence,” singing “The World is Built with Loving Kindness” in English and Hebrew, clearing scrap metal, weeds and debris from a dirt lot with several low-slung cement structures, singing Jewish and protest songs, and passing around bags of popcorn labeled “Cinema Hebron” below a “triumphant” sign that read “Cinema Hebron: Coming Soon.” Indeed, the mission last Friday was to endow Hebron its “first Palestinian movie theater.”

Eventually, soldiers and police officers demanded that the activists leave the area, and when said activists sat on the ground, locked arms and sang “Lo Yisa Goy el Goy Herev,” they were pulled up one by one and removed. The Israelis in the group were detained, the Americans were let go (which was their strategy). Around 2 PM the American activists left the Israelis behind bars and proceeded to have a much deserved lunch.

There are many things wrong with the above two paragraphs, and we encourage you to read the entire JTA report to better appreciate our story (Peter Beinart joins US Jews for civil rights-style protest in West Bank). We spoke to Tzipi Shlisel, who is actually quoted by Tobin in his story, where he uses her as the obligatory reactionary settler’s counter-view: “[The activists] think they’re doing a good thing, but they’re really helping the terrorists,” and, “I’ll tell you, in the Holocaust, Jewish people helped Hitler, too.”

Tzipi Shlisel’s father, Shlomo Ra’anan HY”D, was stabbed to death by a local Arab back in 1998, the year when then Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu handed over most of Hebron to PA Chairman Yasser Arafat. Shlisel recalls it was a scene similar to the devastating stabbing of 13-year-old Hallel Yaffa Ariel, in Kiryat Arba two weeks ago.

But Tzipi Shlisel contacted JewishPress.com not because Tobin’s report treated her father’s murder with less empathy than it did the activists’ lunch, or Because Tobin used her as a necessary color stain on his canvas describing brave Jewish activists defying Israeli occupation with action and song. Tzipi Shlisel insists Tobin’s report is partial, and that he missed out on a wealth of historic and cultural information, including the fact that the area the Jewish activists weeded so energetically was prized for its weed by a local Arab shepherd.

The lands in question are in Tel Rumeida (biblical Hebron according to some authorities) which were purchased by the Hebron Jewish community 200 years ago, the first one in 1811, the second in 1816. During the 1949-67 Jordanian occupation, the Abu Aisha clan took over some of those lands. The neighborhood of Admot Yishai was built on a small part of this land, which is otherwise known as the Tel Remeida settlement, over which the Arabs are fighting the Jewish community. “But we have aerial photographs of the entire area, including the ancient olive trees which were purchased along with the land, as is noted in the purchase documents, and these lands all belong to the Jewish community,” Shlisel insists.

Near the neighborhood there’s an area where the army built a bunker behind which there is a copper factory which was shut down for environmental reasons more than 30 years ago. “It generated crazy air pollution, Jews, Arabs, no one could breathe,” Shlisel recalls.

“Eighteen years ago, after my father was stabbed to death by an Arab, the IDF created check points for the Arab traffic near our neighborhoods, and the area around the inactive copper factory is off-limits to Arabs.”

Hebron is divided into the H1 and H2 zones. H1 compromises 80% of Hebron, and Jews are forbidden to go there. The Arabs, on the other hand, can move freely in much of H2.

“Now, when the activists arrived with their tremendous singing, they cleaned up the area thoroughly, it was truly amazing, but the local Arab, a member of the Abu Aisha clan, who’s been claiming that these are his lands, and even says they are registered as his with the city of Hebron, was not consulted.

“Later, a police officer told me there was a military order (tzav aluf — lit. decree issued by a General) to evacuate the activists and that the Arab had filed a complaint with local police,” Shlisel said.

JewishPress.com contacted the local Hebron police station chief who said there had been no complaint filed. But a different source in the Hebron community who asked to remain anonymous told the JewishPress.com that the leftwing activists, one of whom was a former Tanzim activist from the Abu Aisha clan, convinced the Arab shepherd not to file a complaint. The fact is police and IDF soldiers did show up to remove the activists, and the Arab is seen asking police to chase away the American invaders.

In any event, in the video, shot by Shlisel for TPS, the Arab is telling police, “Yalla, take them from here … these are my lands …”

“I heard the same Arab complaining that they pulled out his grazing weed from the ground, that he owns a herd which he keeps in Dura village, and the old factory is one of the area where his goats graze. Those peace activists did a cleanup job on his source of livelihood. They raked and tore up the weeds, and from a Western culture point of view they did a fantastic job, but from this Arab’s point of view they destroyed his grazing field,” Shlisel said.

Responding to an inquiry JewishPress.com emailed Peter Beinart, Sharon Rose Goldtzvik of “Uprise – communications consulting for good guys,” wrote back:

The report you received is incorrect. Early in the day, Israeli police questioned Mr. Abu Aisha’s ownership of the land, and Mr. Abu Aisha quickly produced documents proving that he is indeed the owner. The police then dropped the claim. The “local Arab farmer” you reference was never named and was not present; in fact, there is no evidence that such a complaint was ever filed. Again, Mr. Abu Aisha was able to quickly prove that he owns the property and police recognized his rightful ownership. The IDF later returned with a “closed military zone” order; this was the basis for removing the activists.

I should also mention that the property was a relatively small plot consisting of a couple of cement and cinder block buildings, and a lot of debris. It could not have been used for animal grazing. I don’t know who reported otherwise.

But as can be heard on the video, Abu Aisha is clearly asking police to remove the activists, and says that he often grazes his animals there (watch the last half of the tape, shot by Shlisel for TPS, starting sec. 23).

As to the idea of “Cinema Hebron” (the name of the city in Arabic is Al-Khalil, meaning “friend,” after Abraham who was the friend of God, while Hebron is the colonialist-Zionist name used by the occupiers) Hebron is probably the most conservative religious Muslim city in all of Israel, where men and women are completely segregated, where Hamas rules, and where the very idea of attending a movie, never mind opening a movie theater, could get a man flogged.

That these American “liberators” would be so ignorant of the cultural and religious values of the people they have come to set free with song and hard weeding is possibly the funniest, even hallucinatory, idea of all.

“Which is why the only place where they could advocate having a movie theater in all of Hebron was near the Jewish neighborhoods, where at least no one would stone the living daylights out of them for their insolence, Tzipi Shlisel said, adding, “These human rights group who say they want to help the Arabs are actually ignorant of who these Arabs are. They step on their culture, trampling their values, with great glee and with a loud song on their lips.”

David Israel

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/exclusive-arab-outrages-as-peter-beinart-us-jewish-activists-occupy-his-land-video/2016/07/18/

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