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May 24, 2016 / 16 Iyar, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘Jewish.’

In Search Of Jewish Identity

Friday, May 13th, 2016

The other day I was having a conversation with a Jewish intellectual and the question came up, as it often does, as to the nature of Jewish identity. What are we? What makes us Jewish? This has been one of the persisting debates about Jewish life ever since the nineteenth century. Until then, people by and large knew who and what Jews were. They were the heirs of an ancient nation who, in the Sinai desert long ago, made a covenant with God and, with greater or lesser success, tried to live by it ever since. They were God’s people.

Needless to say, this upset others. The Greeks thought they were the superior race. They called non-Greeks “barbarians,” a word intended to resemble the sound made by sheep. The Romans likewise thought themselves better than others, Christians and Muslims both held, in their different ways, that they, not the Jews, were the true chosen of God. The result was many centuries of persecution. So when Jews were given the chance to become citizens of the newly secular nation states of Europe, they seized it with open arms. In many cases they abandoned their faith and religious practice. But they were still regarded as Jews.

What, though, did this mean? It could not mean that they were a people dedicated to God, since many of them no longer believed in God or acted as if they did. So it came to mean a race. Benjamin Disraeli, converted to Christianity by his father as a young child, thought of his identity in those terms. He once wrote, “All is race – there is no other truth,” and said about himself, in response to a taunt by the Irish politician Daniel O’Connell, “Yes, I am a Jew, and when the ancestors of the right honorable gentleman were brutal savages in an unknown island, mine were priests in the temple of Solomon.”

The trouble was that hostility to Jews did not cease despite all that Europe claimed by way of enlightenment, reason, the pursuit of science and emancipation. It could now, though, no longer be defined by religion, since neither Jews nor Europeans used that as the basis of identity. So Jews became hated for their race, and in the 1870s a new word was coined to express this: anti-Semitism. This was dangerous. So long as Jews were defined by religion, Christians could work to convert them. You can change your religion. But you cannot change your race. Anti-Semites could only work, therefore, for the expulsion or extermination of the Jews.

Ever since the Holocaust it has become taboo to use the word “race” in polite society in the West. Yet secular Jewish identity persists, and there seems no other way of referring to it. So a new term has come to be used instead: ethnicity, which means roughly what “race” meant in the nineteenth century. The Wikipedia definition of ethnicity is “a category of people who identify with each other based on common ancestral, social, cultural, or national experiences.”

The trouble is that ethnicity is where we came from, not where we are going to. It involves culture and cuisine, a set of memories meaningful to parents but ever less so to their children. In any case, there is no one Jewish ethnicity: there are ethnicities in the plural. That is what makes Sefardi Jews different from their Ashkenazi cousins, and Sefardi Jews from North Africa and the Middle East different from those whose families originally came from Spain and Portugal.

Besides which, what is often thought of as Jewish ethnicity is often not even Jewish in origin. It is a lingering trace of what Jews absorbed from a local non-Jewish culture: Polish dress, Russian music, North African food, and the German-Jewish dialect known as Yiddish along with its Spanish-Jewish counterpart Ladino. Ethnicity is often a set of borrowings thought of as Jewish because their origins have been forgotten.

Judaism is not an ethnicity and Jews are not an ethnic group. Go to the Western Wall in Jerusalem and you will see Jews of every color and culture under the sun, the Beta Israel from Ethiopia, the Bene Israel from India, Bukharan Jews from central Asia, Iraqi, Berber, Egyptian, Kurdish and Libyan Jews, the Temanim from Yemen, alongside American Jews from Russia, South African Jews from Lithuania, and British Jews from German-speaking Poland. Their food, music, dress, customs and conventions are all different. Jewishness is not an ethnicity but a bricolage of multiple ethnicities.

Besides which, ethnicity does not last. If Jews are merely an ethnic group, they will experience the fate of all such groups, which is that they disappear over time. Like the grandchildren of Irish, Polish, German and Norwegian immigrants to America, they merge into the melting pot. Ethnicity lasts for three generations, for as long as children can remember immigrant grandparents and their distinctive ways. Then it begins to fade, for there is no reason for it not to. If Jews had been no more than an ethnicity, they would have died out long ago, along with the Canaanites, Perizzites and Jebusites, known only to students of antiquity and having left no mark on the civilization of the West.

So when, in 2000, a British Jewish research institute proposed that Jews in Britain be defined as an ethnic group and not a religious community, it took a non-Jewish journalist, Andrew Marr, to state the obvious: “All this is shallow water,” he wrote, “and the further in you wade, the shallower it gets.” He continued:

The Jews have always had stories for the rest of us. They have had their Bible, one of the great imaginative works of the human spirit. They have been victim of the worst modernity can do, a mirror for Western madness. Above all they have had the story of their cultural and genetic survival from the Roman Empire to the 2000s, weaving and thriving amid uncomprehending, hostile European tribes.

This story, their post-Bible, their epic of bodies, not words, involved an intense competitive hardening of generations which threw up, in the end, a blaze of individual geniuses in Europe and America. Outside painting, Morris dancing and rap music, it’s hard to think of many areas of Western endeavour where Jews haven’t been disproportionately successful. For non-Jews, who don’t believe in a people being chosen by God, the lesson is that generations of people living on their wits and hard work, outside the more comfortable mainstream certainties, will seed Einsteins and Wittgensteins, Trotskys and Seiffs. Culture matters…. The Jews really have been different; they have enriched the world and challenged it.

Marr himself is neither Jewish nor a religious believer, but his insight points us in the direction of this week’s parsha, which contains one of the most important sentences in Judaism: “Speak to the whole assembly of Israel and say to them: Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy.” Jews were and remain the people summoned to holiness.

What does this mean? Rashi reads it in context. The previous chapter was about forbidden sexual relationships. So is the next chapter. So he understands it as meaning, be careful not to put yourself in the way of temptation to forbidden sex. Ramban reads it more broadly. The Torah forbids certain activities and permits others. When it says “Be holy” it means, according to Ramban, practice self-restraint even in the domain of the permitted. Don’t be a glutton, even if what you are eating is kosher. Don’t be an alcoholic even if what you are drinking is kosher wine. Don’t be, in his famous phrase, a naval bireshut ha-Torah, “a scoundrel with Torah license.”

These are localized interpretations. They are what the verse means in its immediate context. But it clearly means something larger as well, and the chapter itself tells us what this is. To be holy is to love your neighbor and to love the stranger. It means not stealing, lying, or deceiving others. It means not standing idly by when someone else’s life is in danger. It means not cursing the deaf or putting a stumbling block before the blind, that is, insulting or taking advantage of others even when they are completely unaware of it – because God is not unaware of it.

It means not planting your field with different kinds of seed, not crossbreeding your livestock or wearing clothes made of a forbidden mixture of wool and linen – or as we would put it nowadays, respecting the integrity of the environment. It means not conforming with whatever happens to be the idolatry of the time – and every age has its idols. It means being honest in business, doing justice, treating your employees well, and sharing your blessings (in those days, parts of the harvest) with others.

It means not hating people, not bearing a grudge or taking revenge. If someone has done you wrong, don’t hate them. Remonstrate with them. Let them know what they have done and how it has hurt you, give them a chance to apologise and make amends, and then forgive them.

Above all, “Be holy” means “Have the courage to be different.” That is the root meaning of kadosh in Hebrew. It means something distinctive and set apart. “Be holy for I the Lord your God am holy” is one of the most counter-intuitive sentences in the whole of religious literature. How can we be like God? He is infinite, we are finite. He is eternal, we are mortal. He is vaster than the universe, we are a mere speck on its surface. Yet, says the Torah, in one respect we can be.

God is in but not of the world. So we are called on to be in but not of the world. We don’t worship nature. We don’t follow fashion. We don’t behave like everyone else just because everyone else does. We don’t conform. We dance to a different music. We don’t live in the present. We remember our people’s past and help build our people’s future. Not by accident does the word kadosh also have the meaning of marriage, kiddushin, because to marry means to be faithful to one another, as God pledges himself to be faithful to us and we to him, even in the hard times.

To be holy means to bear witness to the presence of God in our, and our people’s, lives. Israel – the Jewish people – is the people who in themselves give testimony to One beyond ourselves. To be Jewish means to live in the conscious presence of the God we can’t see but can sense as the force within ourselves urging us to be more courageous, just and generous than ourselves. That’s what Judaism’s rituals are about: reminding us of the presence of the Divine.

Every individual on earth has an ethnicity. But only one people was ever asked collectively to be holy. That, to me, is what it is to be a Jew.

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks

Jewish Australian Politician Apologizes for ‘Concentration Camps’ Comment

Thursday, May 12th, 2016

Dr Mike Freelander, a Campbelltown, New South Wales, Australia pediatrician who is running for the key Western Sydney seat of Macarthur for the Labor party, has apologized for remarks he made describing Australia’s detention centers on Manus as “concentration camps,” J-Wire reported Thursday.

Freelander needs only a 3.3% swing in the July 2 vote to take it from the Liberals, which explains why he’d rather say I’m sorry than stick to his guns on this one.

The Manus Regional Processing Center is an immigration detention and offshore asylum facility located on Los Negros Island in Manus Province, Papua New Guinea, operated by a company named Broadspectrum on behalf of the Australian government. The center was closed in 2007, but in 2012, with the significant rise in the number of irregular maritime arrivals seeking asylum in Australia, the facility was reopened, with 936 asylum seekers being held there.

Freelander made his comments following a tweet from union organizer Corey Rabaut that said the German neo-Nazi party had endorsed Australia’s refugee policy.

Dr Freelander then told The Daily Telegraph, “I would hate to think we would be torturing children in a place like Manus Island – in a concentration camp and I could never support that.” He added that “sometimes you have to make decisions that go against the grain but support the greater good.”

And sometimes you don’t, apparently. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, campaigning with incumbent Liberal MP Russell Matheson, said: “I call on the Labor candidate for Macarthur to apologize to the government officials, to the people who are caring for those in detention facilities. For a candidate to try to draw a parallel between any action of an Australian government and the Holocaust and Nazi Germany is quite frankly shocking. He should apologize.”

And so Dr Freelander told J-Wire: “As a member of the Jewish community I’m deeply aware that I chose poor words yesterday. I’m sorry for the offence I caused to my community.”

The Executive Council of Australian Jewry has welcomed Dr Freelander’s apology.

David Israel

True Jewish Independence

Thursday, May 12th, 2016

Several years back, I spent Yom Ha’Atzma’ut with my relatives from a charming moshav in the Negev. They live a stone’s throw from Gaza. Translated in concrete terms relating to life and limb, these are the kinds of people who have approximately 15 seconds-or less-to find cover before rockets rain down upon them. During Round 1 of the unfinished debacle of “Operation Cast Lead,” one side of the family sustained a direct hit to their house from a Grad rocket. Thank G-d, no one was harmed.

As I held the remains of two Kassam rockets, (the Grad was quickly confiscated by the IDF, and probably given to some leftist who went on to create metal peace doves out of the remains) I considered what the modern day Amalek is getting away with in our times. I was standing in the sovereign State of Israel, and yet I might as well have been standing in blood-soaked Europe. It doesn’t matter what Israel could theoretically do to these sub-humans. The unwillingness of our leadership to destroy our enemies, and their willingness to tolerate murdered Jews is unforgivable. This is the “shtetl syndrome” personified. But there is a critical difference. There were few choices in the shtetl. In Eretz Yisrael, G-d gifted us a country and a powerful army.

It is unwillingness, rather than inability to fight, which prevents our timid leaders from destroying these savages. This is not independence. This is a denial of our ability to be free from Arabs in our own country. This is Jewish weakness. This is a modern re-enactment of the sin of the spies. Our own leadership views us as grasshoppers, and often treat our lives with similar regard.

My relative’s house has long been repaired, yet the tool shed remains a testament to Arab destruction. Hundreds of holes, large and small, litter the shed, in addition to an adjoining stone wall, courtesy of shrapnel shards that pierced their walls. Some holes are at neck, skull, and torso level, and if a person was in the vicinity, they would be dead or wounded unimaginably from the shards alone.

Alone in My Head

I often feel alone on Yom Ha’Atzmaut. Don’t misunderstand me— I don’t grill burgers by myself in the backyard. The better part of Yom Ha’atzmaut is spent in the company of family and friends. We grill together, and even if the hot-dogs leave me wanting some American “Abel & Heyman” dogs, the company and camaraderie are always good. I speak of an ideological loneliness. An inability to relate to the world-view of those around me. The religious in my corner of the desert are overwhelmingly from that camp of religious mamlachtim (loyalists) whose views on Jewish governance are far from my own. My vision is that of Rabbi Meir Kahane’s teachings, a fusion of rational, action based obligations based upon Torah, and so I cannot relate to those well-intended Jews whose fervor for the day is so different from my own. Nor can I abide those who see the question of Hallel with or without a bracha as an expression or barometer of one’s Zionism, such as it is.

Their version of “Religious-Zionism” (As a halachic Jew, I hate the term) is too parve for my liking. Too positive and “pie-in-the sky,” when glaring problems demand rectification. I accept the obligation to recognize and celebrate our victory over the Arabs, yemach sh’mam. But not with blind loyalism, orchestrated ceremony, and compromising on the halachic laws of warfare and gentiles in the land. The religious do not see the problems as I see them. They have magical solutions from Rabbis I respect (some of them) but cannot follow. Many distort Jewish sources to apply the category of B’nai Noach to undeserving Arabs, as many normative yeshiva daati leumi are wont to do. So the Religious-Zionism that is popular leave me wanting a Yom Haatzmaut with more edge. With a spine. With a desire and a resolve to want true torah independence–and a willingness to fight for it.

I cannot dance when killers are freed, and when Jewish innocents are tortured and imprisoned. I cannot truly celebrate when an IDF general compares us to Germany in the 1930’s on Yom Hashoah! Or when elderly women are stabbed by Arabs in Jerusalem. I cannot endure that Har Habayit prohibits Jewish prayer, and that the Arab losers are the victors atop our sacred site. I cannot abide the unfinished work. Perhaps the greatest personal difficulty is the desire to want to fight, and the limited means at my disposal at the moment.

Nor do the secular celebrations have any connection to me, save for the loud Mizrachi music and karaoke which will wake my baby up throughout the night. The contemporary secular celebration of Yom Ha’atzma’ut is a spectacle of fireworks, party favors, and naked nationalism that blinds the eyes.  Sometimes simplicity and nonsense give way to perversion. Several years back our former notorious mayor, had a noted Israeli transsexual musician perform for the town on Yom Haatzmaut. Fortunately, I never attend these things, and so my disgust at this humiliation was second-hand. And fortunately that wicked little mayor is gone, and in her stead, we have a thoroughly decent man.

I don’t blame secular Jews. Secular Jews have a better excuse. They have no reference for a Torah perspective. The religious have much more to explain. And I speak of all different groups. Those who deny the miracles, as well as those who accept and celebrate them, but tolerate corrupt government because they view government per say as a sacred institution. Sacred in its inherent form, and not something which requires sanctification. There are of course other groups of religious Jews throughout the country whose views are equally anathema to me. For example, the religious pluralists who think that Torah and liberal democracy can be fused.

Perhaps so much of my feelings of isolation is that I am geographically far from like-minded Jews, who understand that we have unfinished business. This in a sense is why I always spend the day with certain relatives, whose views on just about everything relating to Israel are foreign to my own. They are the warmest people I know, and they embraced my transplanted family with true ahavat yisroel. If I cannot enjoy ideological commonality, I will substitute it with celebrations with the those I love who don’t even share my perspective. So I celebrate with them, and in my heart I burn for a day when true Jewish happiness fuels all Yom Haatzmaut celebrations. A Yom Haatzmaut free of Arabs murdering Jews because there will be no Arabs in Israel.

As Jews we have an obligation to thank G-d for the many undeserved miracles He performed (and continues to perform) on our behalf when the Arabs rose up to annihilate us. We are required to thank him despite the fact that some Jews spit at the heavens and scorn the gift. But I’ll celebrate Independence Day with a little more fervor when the Jewish people returns to the Torah. I’ll rejoice fully when laws of biblical warfare are resurrected in the war with the Arabs (may we see them destroyed in total). Because there is no authentic independence in Israel. We are still at war with the Arabs.

Nor would mere freedom from man be an ends in itself. Kedoshim Tihiyu. As I noted in a recent article, the only free man is the G-d fearing one concerned with the Torah. May we become free in the near future, so that the next time the chag comes around, we can refer to ourselves as being truly independent of man and men, and as genuine Servants of the Almighty.

One final point. The haunting sirens of this season do indeed resonate with me, and I have no cynicism for the custom, only for the failure of leadership to learn the lessons. It evokes all kinds of emotions. The simplicity of the blaring shriek is somewhat akin to the shofar. It is blaring. It evokes fear, the unknown, introspection, and so many others. It demands that we recall the heroism and sacrifice of sacred martyrs who died Al Kiddush Hashem. It reminds me of our accursed enemies and the mandate to obliterate evil. Thoughts of teshuva, both personal and national come to mind. I hope that our leaders will truly listen to the siren.

I am thankful to Hashem for the tremendous miracles He performed from us, and the salvation from modern day Amalekites. I acknowledge and appreciate that despite the myriad problems with our clueless and G-dless leaders, we are back in Eretz Yisrael, and we could bring Moshiach tomorrow if the Nation had the inclination to do so. Even in the muck of the negative, of the indifference, and the frustrating manifestations of Jewish weakness which stains the Nation, there are historically unprecedented positives. We are one step closer.

And so I await the day when we see true Jewish fireworks, and merit the authentic Jewish independence of the Messiah, may we see him in our times. Perhaps someday soon, the IDF will have a real man of Torah at the helm who will unshackle our soldiers and allow them to fight the enemy, in the manner that the Torah demands we fight wars. Tikkun Olam with an M-16, if you will. And on that day, perhaps there won’t be any question at all about the Halachic requirement of reciting Hallel with a brachah.

*I refrained from addressing the perverse ideology of Neturei Karta, and various off-shoots (some of them trying to be a more palpable Neturei Karta lite) who are as far from Judaism as man is from the moon. Any doctrine which permits alliances with people committed to murdering Jews, is contrary to everything Jewish, and the adherents of such a diseased way of thinking are wicked. The sins of Israeli governments (both real and imagined) do not justify their own vile actions which endanger the Am and constitute a chillul Hashem on the world’s stage. They must not be lumped with more normative chareidi approaches which reject Zionism based on their interpretation (wrong as I may see them) of Jewish sources. Those religious post-Zionist types who apologize for the NK by calling them “misguided” betray their ignorance of Torah, and speak little of themselves. The same can be said for those vulgarians who reject the moniker of “Neturei Karta” but have adopted their grotesque language with terms such as lsraHELL, Zionazis, etc., and equally un-Jewish worldviews. May Hashem open the eyes of all decent Jews to find Torah expressions to sanctify the Nation and bring Moshiach.

 

Donny Fuchs

French Government Returns Stolen Degas to Jewish Owners

Monday, May 9th, 2016

“Trois danseuses en buste,” a late 19th-century charcoal sketch of three ballerinas by Edgar Degas which was discovered in 1951 in the building where the Nazi German Embassy resided during the occupation and had since been in the Louvre, was finally returned to its rightful owners on Monday, news outlets reported.

French Culture Minister Audrey Azoulay handed the work to Viviane Dreyfus, whose late father Maurice, the owner of the stolen drawing, died in 1957. Ms. Dreyfus said she was “extremely touched” by the gesture, and confessed she didn’t know the work existed, much less that her family owned it, since her father had never spoken about it.

According to the French government, the country’s museums are in possession of some 2,000 similarly unclaimed works, out of which some experts are certain at least 145 were stolen from their Jewish owners by the Nazis.

David Israel

Extraordinary Incident: Jewish Passengers Removed En Masse from EasyJet Flight in Europe

Monday, May 9th, 2016

{Originally posted to the Liberty Unyielding website}

At this point, it is difficult to know what to make of this astounding and troubling incident. I won’t try to frame confident conclusions in this post, but I do think it unquestionably bears looking into by at least three national governments: those of Spain, where the incident occurred; the UK, where EasyJet is a registered company; and France, whose citizens were the ones quite remarkably inconvenienced.

The incident took place on 1 May in Barcelona, and involved a flight from Barcelona to Paris. Most of the passengers were French Jews who had been in Spain for the Passover celebration, and were headed home. I won’t rehash the entire drama, because what I am presenting at the end of this post is the account of a Jewish man on the flight, a Mr. Alain Sayada. His post is in French, but I’ve prepared a rough translation and am copying it below. You can read it to get the full story.

Several English-language media outlets have picked up on this report, including the Jewish Press. The bottom line appears to be that a situation blew up that probably didn’t have to, in part due to a language barrier. (The flight crew had no one in it who spoke French. Mr. Sayada was able to communicate in English with the captain, but the Spanish cabin attendants’ English was very poor.)

Depending on their attitude going in, some readers will no doubt think Mr. Sayada’s take on the events is a little overheated, and will assume that there may have been some fault on both sides. The flight crew was defensive, apparently somewhat rude, and seemed to retreat behind excuses. A 15-year-old among the passengers may not have comported himself in a 100% saintly manner, and at least one adult passenger apparently raised his voice. It would be as biased to over interpret those things with prejudice for one side as to do so for the other — which is why I’m presenting the whole summary from Mr. Sayada below, so you can form your own opinion.

What concerns me about the incident is that, with two or perhaps three people on the flight whom the crew seemed to take exception to, the decision was made to offload everyone on the flight. According to Mr. Sayada’s report, the passengers were then held under armed guard in a room in the terminal for hours, being told nothing. The implied thinking is hard to miss: They’re all Jews, so take them all off the flight and hold them together.

Unfortunately, that’s a rational conclusion, in default of any actual information from EasyJet (see below for a link to the company’s statement). When individual passengers are determined to be troublesome, the authorities don’t typically offload everyone. They remove only the passengers identified by the crew. Whether that judgment about “troublemakers” was fair or not in this particular case, it would normally lead only to the specific individuals being removed from the plane. As Mr. Sayada points out, the demographic nature of the passengers was as low-risk as it could possibly be: a lot of children, parents, and old people. Most of us are well enough acquainted with security standards to recognize that it made no sense to empty the entire plane because of one or two “disruptive passengers.”

Why were all the passengers required to de-board? Why did they have to be held under armed guard in the terminal for six hours, with their passports taken from them? Why did the Spanish police threaten a young woman who had made recordings with her phone, demanding that she erase them or she would not be allowed to leave when the passengers were finally put on another plane?

These and other questions have no satisfactory answers at this point. There are some things we don’t know, such as how many of the passengers were non-Jewish. (Some sources say that of the 180 passengers that could have been accommodated on the aircraft, 150-some were Jews from France. You will note that Mr. Sayada has the number of passengers wrong, referring to it several times as “250.”)

EasyJet, in an official statement about the incident, claims that passengers were given vouchers for refreshments and were allowed to move about the terminal during the time they waited for a follow-on flight. This statement is at odds with what the Jewish passengers have reported, but that seems to be accounted for by this passage from EasyJet:

The police took a number of passengers for questioning. All other passengers were able to go back into the terminal and were provided with refreshment vouchers and received regular updates on the new departure time.

It sounds on the face of it like the Jewish passengers were “taken for questioning,” and the 20 or 30 others were allowed to roam the terminal. That, at least, would be the obvious way of reconciling the conflicting accounts. We won’t hear more from EasyJet at this point, according to their spokeswoman:

“As to the nature of the incident, as this is now in the hands of the Spanish police and part of an on-going investigation we are unable to comment further,” she said.

Having traveled through Spain a number of times, I don’t need to be told that the Guardia Civil is by no means “civil,” and is often hard to deal with. But, parse this as you will, it still doesn’t make sense to take everyone off the plane and keep dozens of passengers under armed guard for hours based on the allegedly “disruptive” behavior of a few.

So far, little multimedia coverage of the flight has emerged on the web. Video taken by a passenger has been incorporated in a YouTube video by Zionist Radio:

The passengers certainly don’t look like an unruly mob in this clip. The governments in question need to be held publicly accountable for a thorough investigation, and although I’m not a friend of reflexive lawsuits over every annoyance, this incident needs to be poked and prodded with a sharp stick until we all know what happened. Frankly, if you look for excuses for EasyJet or the Spanish authorities about this one, you’re deluding yourself. These are not normal times, and there need to be facts and specific, straightforward answers, not euphemisms, complacent assumptions, and half-truths.

Here is the translation of Alain Sayada’s post. (It’s in rough and ready form; in a number of places, I have colloquialized it for sense rather than making a word-for-word translation. For readability, I’ve tried to keep embedded commentary on the translation — in brackets — to a minimum.)

What really happened on EasyJet flight EZY 3920 from Barcelona to Paris

My turn to tell what happened on EasyJet flight EZY 3920 from Barcelona to Paris, [which was scheduled to depart] 1 May 2016 at 13:05 [1:05 PM].

May wife and two children (aged 3 and 1) and I boarded with more than 150 other Jewish people after a superb trip to Spain organized for the Jewish Passover celebration. We were all very relaxed, in good humor and cheerful.

Everyone was seated, with seatbelts on, the plane was on the runway. It was near takeoff.

During the security briefing [to the passengers], one of the flight attendants named OMAR allowed himself to say “CHUTT” in a loud voice [i.e., “shush!” in an implicitly rude manner] to an old person who was speaking quietly to his 15-year-old grandson, blasting instructions at him in Spanish and not English. The old man, not understanding Spanish, stopped talking.

I was seated at the front of the plane in seat 3C and I saw OMAR complain to the cabin chief about the bad behavior of a passenger; the cabin chief responded in English that they [would] see about that in Paris.

About 30 minutes later, the attendants complained over the microphone that a person didn’t want to secure her children and [therefore] we couldn’t take off. One of my neighbors offered to go speak to this family, as perhaps they couldn’t speak English.

This man got up and I saw him return a minute later telling me he didn’t understand: everyone was secured, there was no problem.

And for another 20 minutes, we waited. An attendant named Christina went back and forth with the one named Omar, and spoke constantly over the microphone in a hurried and [unhealthy; probably “unprofessional”] manner. She spoke in Spanish or a really inferior English, proclaiming that she didn’t speak a word of French.

Not understanding, a teenage boy of 15 asked with hand gestures “What’s going on? What are you saying?” while this Christina person spoke in the microphone in SPANISH, knowing perfectly well that not one passenger understood the language.

Then, with the passengers as a whole completely confused, after an hour of waiting the cabin chief and the captain decided to return [to the Barcelona airport terminal] to remove the teenager [from the plane].

After 20 minutes, the plane stopped next to 4 Guardia Civil vehicles [apparently next to the terminal].

A half dozen men climbed into the plane wanting to [take the 15-year-old for questioning]. His mother intervened, saying he was not an adult, if they wanted him to take him, they’d have to take her too. They [the men] refused. They wanted the young man, by himself.

The police not speaking a word of English, the language barrier was a real problem.

During this time, the captain remained silent, leaning against the wall, letting the situation deteriorate.

The family [of the 15-year-old, apparently] was trying to understand and explain, but the attendants were vile and heartless and demonstrated a really overzealous [attitude].

5 minutes later, a lady succumbed to a panic attack and fainted amidst the tension, panic, and crying of numerous children.

So I decided to go speak to the captain and ask him to make a decision and take managerial responsibility for the situation; he looked at me and said in English that he didn’t really know what to do and he didn’t want to take off if everyone wasn’t seated. An inadequate response in view of the situation with 250 agitated passengers [the real number would not have exceeded 180 on this flight. – J.E.].

Behind me, a man, the father of 6 children, raised his voice although without unseemly gestures or vulgar words, I tried to calm him down but the [heat of confinement in the plane; i.e., the emotional agitation] made the atmosphere electric.

The police made the decision to disembark everyone and to take us to a place in the airport apart from everyone else.

We had all been sequestered and left stuck (prohibited from going out to smoke a cigarette or stretch or get some air) in a room without air conditioning. We were very hot. The babies were red and hot and many of the mothers had nowhere to sit. They [the babies, children] were hungry and crying, as the parents had not expected to have to plan for a 9-hour trip, but only for 3. A pregnant woman was crying on the phone. Children ran around and cried, not understanding… An older person felt ill… It was a nightmare! All this while in the room, we were surrounded by Guardia Civil officers, with guns and batons, as if we were terrorists!

Yet there were only families and old people on this flight, we have proof of that with photos. Next, we waited 5 hours, from 1400 to 1900 [2 PM to 7 PM] in this room, in horrible conditions. Parents went to ask the Spanish law enforcement officers for information, and if they knew when we might [be allowed to board again]? And if there was a reason why were all stuck under guard in this room for an indefinite period? They [the officers] didn’t answer. One of the Guardia Civil men violently shoved a father when he went to ask a question… To document this, a woman began to record his violent actions. One of the men [i.e., a Guardia Civil officer] literally leaped on her, shoving her violently and taking her phone from her.

Around 1730 [5:30 PM], 12 Guardia Civil officers, batons in hand, forcibly took away a 40-year-old father of 6 with a kippa on his head who merely raised his voice a bit in requesting that someone explain to us [what was going on], help us in this situation.

I fully understood at that moment that anyone who didn’t do exactly as they said [i.e., the Guardia Civil officers] would be immediately set upon.

An old man [among the passengers from the flight], a Holocaust survivor, said of these [Spanish law enforcement] men, “These guys, this is what the SS was like during the Shoah.” Needless to say, they made us all think of the SS and the Gestapo.

We remained uncertain of when we would be able to get home for six long hours. In this room where we were stifled by the heat and weren’t allowed to leave. I think at this stage, we could call this nightmare a hostage situation. Sequestration in atrocious conditions. And we were helpless. We contacted [Assembly] Deputy Meyer Habib from there. He notified the Quai d’Orsay [the French foreign ministry] and [Foreign Minister] Manuel Valls. We also tried to contact France 3 [media network] and BfmTv from the room, without much success.

Finally, after six long and interminable hours, they decided to let us reembark, they assembled the passengers. They wouldn’t let the 15-year-old young man or his 70- and 80-year-old grandparents on this flight, or the 40-year-old father [i.e., the one who raised his voice]. [Those particular passengers] had to take another flight, scheduled for 2 hours later. More interminable waiting.

As we were reboarding, they stopped a young woman of 22 and told her that if she didn’t erase the videos and photos she had taken, she wouldn’t be allowed to fly. Her mother begged them on her behalf. They [the authorities] kept our passports and ID cards so they could threaten us that way.

It was my turn to board, and at that point, to my great surprise, I was denied boarding, for the sole reason that the captain asked something of the police [apparently about the narrator].

I went to see the police officers at the departure point, who promised to see the captain and let him know I’d rather help them all out by translating between English and French [i.e., speak to the captain directly], but the captain didn’t want to hear about it.

The policeman said quietly in my ear: here, we are under the captain’s order, if he doesn’t want you, you don’t go.

My wife would have to travel alone, 5 months pregnant and with two children 1 and 3 years old.

She [melted down, basically – panicked, screamed, cried] but they came back again to look for me [apparently with batons out].

At 5 months along, any shock or major stress could be fatal for the baby.

Seeing that I remained calm and impassive, 5 officers went again to explain my situation and that of my wife to the captain who apparently didn’t have the guts to make a sensible decision all day, but fortunately, I was allowed on the flight at the last minute.

Entering into the plane, the flight crew had changed out, one attendant spoke excellent French, the two others fluent English and everything went fine with them. Needless to say, what we had just lived through was shocking and traumatic for each one of us. Let it not be forgotten that the 250 passengers [it was actually 180 max] were women, children, parents, old people, babies, etc. There could hardly be anyone more inoffensive! And we were treated like common animals.

Having arrived 2 May in Paris, my wife had a visit with the gynecologist and the verdict came down, a situation like this put the health of our future child in grave danger.

I am lodging today a complaint against EasyJet for discrimination suffered during flight EZY 3920.

J. E. Dyer

Jewish Response to Murder: Yet Another Building Acquired in Old City

Monday, May 9th, 2016

Last October, Rabbi Nehemia Lavi, 41, his wife and their seven children were having the third meal in their rooftop sukkah in the “Muslim Quarter” (which used to have an even mix of Jews, Muslims and Christians until the 1929 Arab riots) of the Old City of Jerusalem when they heard a woman’s cries for help from the street below. Rabbi Lavi, an officer in the IDF Reserves, grabbed his gun and ran downstairs, where an Arab terrorist, who had already murdered 22-year-old Aharon Bennett and seriously wounded his young wife Odel, repeatedly stabbed Lavi in the chest and neck, killing him, too. Then the Arab took the rabbi’s gun and shot the Bennetts’ toddler in the leg. Odel, with a knife in her shoulder, managed to run to an Israeli police outpost fifty meters away before losing consciousness. The police shot and killed the terrorist.

In what they dubbed a “true Zionist response” to Arab hatred and terror, Ateret Cohanim, an Israeli Jewish organization with a yeshiva and about 1,000 Jewish residents in the “Muslim Quarter” of the Old City of Jerusalem, recently helped facilitate an acquisition of another building located not far from the Flowers Gate, near the site of the murders, continuing the Jewish return to this part of the Old City.

New building acquired in Old City by Areret Cohanim - interior / Courtesy

New building acquired in Old City by Ateret Cohanim – interior / Courtesy

The building (yet to be named) will be home to 3 or 4 Jewish families and some Yeshiva students. Ateret Cohanim is also involved in the revival and strengthening of Jewish life in the old Yemenite Village of Shiloach (Silwan), which has doubled over the last year; in the Jewish neighborhood of Maaleh HaZeitim (near Ras al’Amud on the Mt Olives); and in Kidmat Zion, at the eastern border of Jerusalem.

Ateret Kohanim issued a statement Monday morning saying, “Arab terror and ongoing Arab incitement and violence, aim to drive Jews out of Jerusalem, to keep Jews away from the Old City, the Temple Mount and even the Kotel, and also intend to weaken the resolve of the Jewish people, especially of the families and students in and around the Old City. However, the Arabs are mistaken on all fronts. We will not be driven out of ‘our Jerusalem’ and such acts of violence have only strengthened our resolve, conviction, faith and fortitude.”

JNi.Media

Jewish Travelers Separated, Removed from British-based EasyJet Airline in Barcelona

Sunday, May 8th, 2016

Update: EasyJet’s response to the article can be read here.

A group of Jewish families that included elderly people, pregnant women and children were taken off an EasyJet passenger plane in Barcelona waiting to depart for Paris, according to a report on the European Jewish Press.

One of the passengers, a Holocaust survivor, said the behavior of police who came to take the travelers off the flight was similar to that of the German Nazi SS police during World War II.

The families were removed after the plane had been sitting on the tarmac for more than two hours, waiting for departure. Many of the Jewish men were wearing kippahs, making them clearly identifiable.

They were returning home to Paris after having spent the Passover holiday in Spain, but were removed from the flight by armed Spanish police officers.

Despite the fact that the British-owned EasyJet flight was en route to Paris from Barcelona, the flight attendant chose to speak only Spanish when she told the Jewish group they were being removed from the flight.

When they asked her to speak in French, she declined, saying she could not speak a word in French or English.

One of the Jewish passengers, a 15-year-old boy, tried to use sign language, motioning with his hands to ask what was going on. In response the flight attendance called the Spanish Guardia Civil Police, a passenger told JPUpdates.

Another passenger, Franck Ben, described the nightmare in a French-language Facebook post, saying he and others felt like they were being treated like terrorists. Ben said the police tried to take away the teenager who had tried to communicate with hand gestures, but his mother intervened and would not allow him to be taken without her.

Placed under armed guard by the Spanish Guardia Civil Police — who were hardly civil — the frightened Jewish passengers were held for six long hours in a secluded area of the terminal without air conditions without being told why; nor were they told when they might be allowed to leave.

Blogger J.E. Dyer wrote about the incident on the Liberty Unyielding website, noting that the situation “blew up that probably didn’t have to, in part due to a language barrier.”

Dyer, whose language skills are clearly very good, also provided a translation for the French-language account of passenger Alain Sayada, who posted a full first-person narrative on Facebook and on an independent website of the events that took place.

What really happened on EasyJet flight EZY 3920 from Barcelona to Paris

My turn to tell what happened on EasyJet flight EZY 3920 from Barcelona to Paris, [which was scheduled to depart] 1 May 2016 at 13:05 [1:05 PM].

May wife and two children (aged 3 and 1) and I boarded with more than 150 other Jewish people after a superb trip to Spain organized for the Jewish Passover celebration. We were all very relaxed, in good humor and cheerful.

Everyone was seated, with seatbelts on, the plane was on the runway. It was near takeoff.

During the security briefing [to the passengers], one of the flight attendants named OMAR allowed himself to say “CHUTT” in a loud voice [i.e., “shush!” in an implicitly rude manner] to an old person who was speaking quietly to his 15-year-old grandson, blasting instructions at him in Spanish and not English. The old man, not understanding Spanish, stopped talking.

I was seated at the front of the plane in seat 3C and I saw OMAR complain to the cabin chief about the bad behavior of a passenger; the cabin chief responded in English that they [would] see about that in Paris.

About 30 minutes later, the attendants complained over the microphone that a person didn’t want to secure her children and [therefore] we couldn’t take off. One of my neighbors offered to go speak to this family, as perhaps they couldn’t speak English.

This man got up and I saw him return a minute later telling me he didn’t understand: everyone was secured, there was no problem.

And for another 20 minutes, we waited. An attendant named Christina went back and forth with the one named Omar, and spoke constantly over the microphone in a hurried and [unhealthy; probably “unprofessional”] manner. She spoke in Spanish or a really inferior English, proclaiming that she didn’t speak a word of French.

Not understanding, a teenage boy of 15 asked with hand gestures “What’s going on? What are you saying?” while this Christina person spoke in the microphone in SPANISH, knowing perfectly well that not one passenger understood the language.

Then, with the passengers as a whole completely confused, after an hour of waiting the cabin chief and the captain decided to return [to the Barcelona airport terminal] to remove the teenager [from the plane].

After 20 minutes, the plane stopped next to 4 Guardia Civil vehicles [apparently next to the terminal].

A half dozen men climbed into the plane wanting to [take the 15-year-old for questioning]. His mother intervened, saying he was not an adult, if they wanted him to take him, they’d have to take her too. They [the men] refused. They wanted the young man, by himself.

The police not speaking a word of English, the language barrier was a real problem.

During this time, the captain remained silent, leaning against the wall, letting the situation deteriorate.

The family [of the 15-year-old, apparently] was trying to understand and explain, but the attendants were vile and heartless and demonstrated a really overzealous [attitude].

5 minutes later, a lady succumbed to a panic attack and fainted amidst the tension, panic, and crying of numerous children.

So I decided to go speak to the captain and ask him to make a decision and take managerial responsibility for the situation; he looked at me and said in English that he didn’t really know what to do and he didn’t want to take off if everyone wasn’t seated. An inadequate response in view of the situation with 250 agitated passengers [the real number would not have exceeded 180 on this flight. – J.E.].

Behind me, a man, the father of 6 children, raised his voice although without unseemly gestures or vulgar words, I tried to calm him down but the [heat of confinement in the plane; i.e., the emotional agitation] made the atmosphere electric.

The police made the decision to disembark everyone and to take us to a place in the airport apart from everyone else.

We had all been sequestered and left stuck (prohibited from going out to smoke a cigarette or stretch or get some air) in a room without air conditioning. We were very hot. The babies were red and hot and many of the mothers had nowhere to sit. They [the babies, children] were hungry and crying, as the parents had not expected to have to plan for a 9-hour trip, but only for 3. A pregnant woman was crying on the phone. Children ran around and cried, not understanding… An older person felt ill… It was a nightmare! All this while in the room, we were surrounded by Guardia Civil officers, with guns and batons, as if we were terrorists!

Yet there were only families and old people on this flight, we have proof of that with photos. Next, we waited 5 hours, from 1400 to 1900 [2 PM to 7 PM] in this room, in horrible conditions. Parents went to ask the Spanish law enforcement officers for information, and if they knew when we might [be allowed to board again]? And if there was a reason why were all stuck under guard in this room for an indefinite period? They [the officers] didn’t answer. One of the Guardia Civil men violently shoved a father when he went to ask a question… To document this, a woman began to record his violent actions. One of the men [i.e., a Guardia Civil officer] literally leaped on her, shoving her violently and taking her phone from her.

Around 1730 [5:30 PM], 12 Guardia Civil officers, batons in hand, forcibly took away a 40-year-old father of 6 with a kippa on his head who merely raised his voice a bit in requesting that someone explain to us [what was going on], help us in this situation.

I fully understood at that moment that anyone who didn’t do exactly as they said [i.e., the Guardia Civil officers] would be immediately set upon.

An old man [among the passengers from the flight], a Holocaust survivor, said of these [Spanish law enforcement] men, “These guys, this is what the SS was like during the Shoah.” Needless to say, they made us all think of the SS and the Gestapo.

We remained uncertain of when we would be able to get home for six long hours. In this room where we were stifled by the heat and weren’t allowed to leave. I think at this stage, we could call this nightmare a hostage situation. Sequestration in atrocious conditions. And we were helpless. We contacted [Assembly] Deputy Meyer Habib from there. He notified the Quai d’Orsay [the French foreign ministry] and [Foreign Minister] Manuel Valls. We also tried to contact France 3 [media network] and BfmTv from the room, without much success.

Finally, after six long and interminable hours, they decided to let us reembark, they assembled the passengers. They wouldn’t let the 15-year-old young man or his 70- and 80-year-old grandparents on this flight, or the 40-year-old father [i.e., the one who raised his voice]. [Those particular passengers] had to take another flight, scheduled for 2 hours later. More interminable waiting.

As we were reboarding, they stopped a young woman of 22 and told her that if she didn’t erase the videos and photos she had taken, she wouldn’t be allowed to fly. Her mother begged them on her behalf. They [the authorities] kept our passports and ID cards so they could threaten us that way.

It was my turn to board, and at that point, to my great surprise, I was denied boarding, for the sole reason that the captain asked something of the police [apparently about the narrator].

I went to see the police officers at the departure point, who promised to see the captain and let him know I’d rather help them all out by translating between English and French [i.e., speak to the captain directly], but the captain didn’t want to hear about it.

The policeman said quietly in my ear: here, we are under the captain’s order, if he doesn’t want you, you don’t go.

My wife would have to travel alone, 5 months pregnant and with two children 1 and 3 years old.

She [melted down, basically – panicked, screamed, cried] but they came back again to look for me [apparently with batons out].

At 5 months along, any shock or major stress could be fatal for the baby.

Seeing that I remained calm and impassive, 5 officers went again to explain my situation and that of my wife to the captain who apparently didn’t have the guts to make a sensible decision all day, but fortunately, I was allowed on the flight at the last minute.

Entering into the plane, the flight crew had changed out, one attendant spoke excellent French, the two others fluent English and everything went fine with them. Needless to say, what we had just lived through was shocking and traumatic for each one of us. Let it not be forgotten that the 250 passengers [it was actually 180 max] were women, children, parents, old people, babies, etc. There could hardly be anyone more inoffensive! And we were treated like common animals.

Having arrived 2 May in Paris, my wife had a visit with the gynecologist and the verdict came down, a situation like this put the health of our future child in grave danger.

I am lodging today a complaint against EasyJet for discrimination suffered during flight EZY 3920.

It is obvious to anyone who reads the above account of Alain Sayada (translated by J.E.Dyer) that the incident demands investigation by the governments of Spain, France and Britain, all of whose nationals were involved in this Entebbe-like affair.

A spokesperson for the British-based EasyJet airline confirmed the veracity of the incident.

“We would like to apologize to customers for the inconvenience and the delay,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “The safety and well-being of passengers and crew is always EasyJet’s priority.” Police were called, the statement added, “due to a group of passengers behaving in a disruptive manner.” JPUpdates asked the airline about the allegations of the families regarding their separation due to their faith.

The response of the airline’s spokesperson is illuminating: “All of our staff are carefully selected and undergo a rigorous training program to maintain our high level of customer care. To confirm, we have a zero tolerance towards discrimination of any kind.”

EasyJet is a British low-cost airline based at London Luton Airport. It may be of interest to note that Luton’s Labour councilor Aaysegul Gurbuz, 20, was suspended last month over claims that she called Adolf Hitler ‘the greatest man in history,’ according to the April 9, 2016 edition of the UK’s Daily Mail newspaper.

Gurbuz is accused of posting a number of anti-Semitic tweets between 2011 and 2014, including one in 2013 that said ‘the Jews are so powerful in the U.S. It’s disgusting.’

Gurbuz resigned two days later.

Hana Levi Julian

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/jewish-travelers-separated-and-removed-from-british-airline-in-barcelona/2016/05/08/

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