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May 31, 2016 / 23 Iyar, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘Rwanda’

Is Natalie Portman Right and Jews Need to Chillax about the Holocaust?

Tuesday, August 25th, 2015

(JNi.media) Israeli born actress Natalie Portman, whose great grandparents were murdered in Auschwitz, told the Independent that she believes Jewish education puts too much emphasis on the Holocaust. “I think a really big question the Jewish community needs to ask itself is how much at the forefront we put Jewish education, which is, of course, an important question to remember and to respect, but not over other things. We need to be reminded that hatred exists at all times and be reminded to be empathetic to other people who have experienced hatred also. Not used in a paranoid way of thinking that we are victims.”

Portman, 34, who starred in all three Star War’s prequels (The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith), also portrayed Anne Frank in a 1997 Broadway revival. She recently made her directing debut with an adaption of Israeli novelist Amos Oz’s “Tale of Love and Darkness,” a story based on the life of his parents at the dawn of the Israeli state after the nightmare of the Holocaust. The actress returned to Jerusalem to shoot some scenes of the film. She was born in Jerusalem, but her family left for America when she was three years old.

“Sometimes the Holocaust can be subverted to fear mongering and like ‘Another Holocaust is going to happen.’ We need to, of course, be aware that hatred exists, anti-Semitism exists against all sorts of people, not in the same way. I don’t need to make false equivalencies. We need it to serve as something that makes us empathetic to people rather than paranoid.”

Natalie Portman is a Harvard graduate, and, while enrolled at the University, responded to a an essay in the Harvard Crimson critical of Israeli actions against Palestinians. She graduated with a B.A. in Psychology and worked as a research assistant for Alan Dershowitz, author of “The Case for Israel,” “The Vanishing American Jew,” and “Chutzpah.” Portman also took graduate courses at Hebrew University.

Portman said she started forming these attitudes about Holocaust education when she realized that, when she was attending college, the Rawandan genocide was going on, and not nearly enough was being done about it. In 2007, she traveled to Rwanda to learn more about the genocide there. “I was shocked that the [genocide] was going on while I was in school. We were only learning about the Holocaust, and it was never mentioned what was happening while I was at school. That is exactly the kind of problem with the way it is taught. I think it needs to be taught, and I can’t speak for everyone, because this was my personal education.”

Not surprisingly, Natalie Portman’s remarks drew criticism. Colette Avital, former Labor MK and Chair of the Center of Organizations of Holocaust survivors in Israel, said, “While I agree with Natalie Portman that hatred exists in every part of the world, our area included, her understanding of the Holocaust seems limited. Natalie should understand that the Holocaust that befell us cannot be compared to other tragedies–our empathy notwithstanding. It was not merely hatred, it was a policy whose aim was to systematically wipe out a whole people from the face of the world.”

Aaron Goldstein of “The American Spectator” says the reason Portman’s comments about the Holocaust are so disturbing is not that she is just another pretty actress with an opinion, not that she, as stated by Colette Avital, has “limited” understanding of the Holocaust. But because her great grandparents died in Auschwitz, because she was born in Israel, and if “the Allies had been unable to liberate the concentration camps 70 years ago, and had Hitler and the Nazis triumphed, there would be no Natalie Portman, no Israel and no Jews. If an Israeli-born Jew whose ancestors were killed in Auschwitz doesn’t understand what separates the Holocaust from all other acts of genocide, then we have a big problem,” Goldstein writes. He thinks Portman’s views may be an indication of the feelings of other Israeli-born young Jews who are descended from Holocaust survivors. In addition, she is a public figure with a fan base, and is likely to influence others. Her statements arrive at a time when fewer and fewer people are still alive who witnessed the horrors of the Holocaust, and at this particular time, she questions the role of the Holocaust in Jewish education. Goldstein points out that Portman’s support for President Obama and her criticisms of Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu over remarks he made on the eve of his re-election–which were offensive to Arabs–means that she might have been using her allegation to suggest that the Holocaust is used to promote “fear mongering” and “paranoid thinking” by those who oppose Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran. “If she thinks Iran isn’t serious about wiping Israel off the map,” Goldstein writes, then it simply supports the idea that she doesn’t get what separates the Holocaust from all other acts of evil. That is why her comments are so deeply disturbing.”

JNi.Media

Rabbi Boteach Shoots Back at Critics and Calls Susan Rice a ‘Bully’ [video]

Monday, March 2nd, 2015

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach delivered a masterful response on CNN Sunday night to critics of his organization’s New York Times full-page advertisement that described National Security Adviser Susan Rice as “blind to genocide.”

The advertisement was a response to Rice’s statement that Netanyahu’s speech to Congress tomorrow is “destructive” for the relationship between the United States and Israel.

Major American Jewish organizations and the White House harshly criticized the advertisement with adjectives ranging from “outrageous” to “perverse.”

The advertisement hit a raw nerve, and Rabbi Boteach explained to CNN’s Poppy Harlow that the goal of the publicity was “to raise consciousness in Americans to the indiscriminate slaughter of innocents around the world.”

He clearly illustrated that the Iranian threat to destroy Israel is only one of several threats or realities of genocide that the United States has not tried to stop. The problem is not the details of a deal with Iran. The problem is the fact that the Obama administration is even talking with Iran.

Harlow asked him to explain his goal by placing in the advertisement a picture of Rice next to skulls, with the headline “blind to genocide,” which smacked right in the middle of America’s conscience.

He answered:

We all have a blind spot when it comes to genocide, which is why we had Cambodia and Rwanda…. We have seen too many slaughters. This administration needs to step up and do something.

Iran is threatening the annihilation of the Jewish People. It is perverse that these negotiations are taking place without a demand that Iran first totally renounce their genocidal intentions against Jews.”

Rabbi Boteach justified his association of Rice with being blind to genocide based on a statement attributed to her by Samantha Power, her predecessor and now the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.

He said that Power stated in 1994 that Rice, who was an adviser to Bill Clinton, had declared that genocide in Rwanda could not labeled as such because it would harm Democrats in mid-term elections.

“The reason those pictures [of skulls] are there – those are skulls…from a church…in Rwanda. I was in that church. 800,000 people were hacked to death, and the United States did nothing.

We have to begin to intervene in genocide.

Rabbi Boteach added, “God gave us this military power…. That is our responsibility.”

As for the criticism of Jewish organizations, the ones who are armchair Zionists and carry the traditional torch of die-hard Diaspora Jews who want Israel to make them feel comfortable where they are, Rabbi Boteach said:

We don’t have our principles and convictions determined by popularity or by praise. We believe in the infinite human value and dignity of human life. We believe the United States has to intervene when it comes to genocide.

We believe Susan Rice should not be condemning the leader of a tiny little Middle East country, which is facing a nuclear threat from the foremost sponsor of terrorism around the world. She should not be saying on national TV that he has no right to speak out and [that] if he does he will harm the relationship with the United States.

That is a form of bullying… It is unfair. This country believes in the freedom of speech.

The interview with Rabbi Boteach on CNN can be seen here.

Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu

Rwanda Foreign Minister Visits Ashkelon

Monday, July 21st, 2014

Rwandan Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation Louise Mushikiwabo toured the Hof Ashkelon Regional Council Monday, accompanied by Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman. The foreign ministers visited the situation room at the regional council, observed the Iron Dome missile defense system in action, met with soldiers at Kibbutz Zikkim, and visited a home damaged several days ago at Netiv Ha’asara.

Foreign Minister Liberman thanked Mushikiwabo for visiting Israel during Operation Protective Edge, and added that he attributes great importance to the visit. “It is very important that she sees with her own eyes what is happening here. The Israel Foreign Ministry is working to maximize diplomatic credit in order to enable the IDF to complete its mission,” Liberman said.

Liberman also noted the significance of the visit given Rwanda’s current position on the Security Council, and praised her for making an effort “to understand the vastness of the challenge which we in Israel are facing.”

FM Liberman added, “Beyond the diplomatic importance of the visit by Rwandan Foreign Minister Mushikiwabo, we came to support the IDF soldiers, who are the most humane and bravest army in the world. They are doing everything to defend the State of Israel, while maintaining their moral values. We are committed to doing everything to strengthen our soldiers and provide them with the best conditions to complete the tasks entrusted to them.”

Mushikiwabo’s visit to Israel came on the heels of Liberman’s visit to Rwanda last month during a seven-country African tour. On June 12, the foreign ministers signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to strengthen business and economic ties between the two countrys. More than 200 Rwandan and Israeli businesspeople attended the MoU ceremony.

“I see great importance to investment in Africa, in the humanitarian, economic and political spheres,” said Liberman at the time. “There are many areas where Israel can help with aid and development: Agriculture, water management, medicine, combating terrorism, and more.”

 

 

Meir Halevi Siegel

Liberman Begins African Tour

Thursday, June 12th, 2014

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman arrived in Rwanda for the first leg of a 10-day African tour that will also take him to Rwanda, the Ivory Coast, Ghana, Ethiopia and Kenya. 

Liberman began the visit by placing a wreath at a memorial site to the 1994 victims of the Rwandan genocide. He also opened the Israel-Rwanda joint economic seminar, with the participation of 200 business people and met with Rwanda President Paul Kagame and with Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation Louise Mushikiwabo. The two countries signed a memorandum of understanding to upgrade diplomatic relations.

The foreign minister also met with Rwandan Minister of Agriculture Dr. Agnes Kalibata, inaugurated the Rwanda-Israel Center of Excellence for Horticultural Development, a joint project of the Rwandan government and MASHAV,  Israel’s agency for international development cooperation

The Center of Excellence, based on an India-Israel model of cooperation, was established following a request by Dr Kalibata to facilitate and serve all levels of the Rwandan farming community, from small holder farmers to commercial farmers.The center will be defined by four main products: transfer of knowhow, capacity building and demonstration; agro-inputs (nurseries for better seedlings and varieties) and fresh produce. The center will display a whole range of technologies for horticulture production under cover and open field, and will be made available for applied R&D, training and exhibition.

Prior to the visit, FM Liberman stated: “I see great importance to investment in Africa, in the humanitarian, economic and political spheres. There are many areas where Israel can help with aid and development: Agriculture, water management, medicine, and more. We have established partnerships with various countries for investment in Africa, including the United States, Canada, and Italy, and the highlight is the African Initiative, a joint project with Germany that was decided upon during the last meeting of the Israeli and German governments.”

Meir Halevi Siegel

Solar Power Field in Jewish-Sponsored Youth Village in Rwanda

Monday, February 17th, 2014

The first utility-scale solar power field in East Africa will be built on land belonging to a Jewish-sponsored youth village in Rwanda.

The nearly $24 million project was announced Monday by Yosef Abramowitz, the president of Gigawatt Global Cooperatief, which arranged for its financing.

Construction has already started on the solar field on land belonging to the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village  for orphans from the 1994 Rwandan genocide and founded by the late Anne Heyman, who died earlier this month in a horse-riding accident in Florida.

rowanda solar field under construction

The solar field will feed electricity into the national grid under a 25-year power purchase agreement with the Rwanda Energy, Water and Sanitation Authority. It is expected to be operational this summer.

“It takes a global village to raise a solar revolution,” said Abramowitz, who also is CEO of Energiya Global Capital, Gigawatt’s Israeli affiliate, which provided seed money and strategic assistance for the project. Gigawatt Global was founded by Arava Power Company’s American founders. Arava Power Company has developed six solar power plants in Israel.

Abramowitz called the solar field, which will provide an 8 percent increase in the country’s energy supply, “a game-changer for humanity and the environment.”

The youth village is leasing land to the solar facility and will use the proceeds to fund its charitable mission.

“Anne Heyman, our founder of blessed memory, held to a vision in which the village practiced tikkun olam, the Jewish teaching to help heal the world,” said Laurie Toll Franz, the youth village’s newly elected board chair. “In addition to our work with Rwanda’s most vulnerable children, we’re now helping to improve the lives of thousands of people through sustainable electricity generation.”

JTA

Jewish Philanthropist Killed in Horseback-Riding Accident

Sunday, February 2nd, 2014

Anne Heyman, a Jewish philanthropist who founded a Rwandan youth village for children orphaned in that country’s 1994 genocide, died in a horse-riding accident.

Heyman, 52, died Friday afternoon after falling off a horse during a jumping competition at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center in Florida, The Palm Beach Post reported.

Heyman’s interest in aiding Rwanda was spurred by a 2005 talk on the genocide that she and her husband, Seth Merrin, attended. Together they raised $12 million to create Rwanda’s Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village, according to the Post.

The village opened in December 2008, and 500 Rwandans age 14-21 currently live and study there. The village was inspired by the youth villages in Israel that resettled young Jews orphaned by the Holocaust.

Rwandan government officials expressed sorrow over Heyman’s death.

“RIP ‪#AnneHeyman‬ – your legacy will live on forever, our thoughts are with your family and hundreds of youth in ‪#ASYV‬ who just lost a mother,” Jean Nsengimana, Rwanda’s youth minister, tweeted.

Originally from South Africa, Heyman has been involved in numerous American Jewish philanthropies. She is a former board president of Dorot, a Jewish nonprofit that organizes volunteers to help the elderly and reduce their social isolation.

JTA

Elie Wiesel and Kagame of Rwanda Discuss Genocide & Syria

Monday, September 30th, 2013

There were several important news making items that emerged from our historic discussion on genocide that our organization, This World: The Jewish Values Network, together with NYU Hillel, staged on Sunday night, 29 September, at Cooper Union’s Great Hall in New York City – the venue that brought Abraham Lincoln to national prominence in 1860 – before 1000 people. The event – introduced by philanthropists Sheldon Adelson and Michael Steinhardt and which I moderated – was historic because it brought together the two biggest names in global genocide remembrance: Prof. Elie Wiesel, the living embodiment of the martyred six million of the holocaust, and President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, the only man alive who can claim to have stopped a genocide when his RPF forces conquered Rwanda in 1994 and ended the slaughter that had taken the lives of nearly one million Tutsis.

As to the discussion of whether President Franklin Roosevelt did enough to stop the murder of Europe’s Jews, Elie Wiesel came down firmly on the side of those who say he failed at this great moral responsibility. He deserves credit for defeating Hitler, Wiesel said, but as a someone who confronted a genocide and did not limit it, he deserves to be severely criticized.

I then turned the question to Kagame, adjusted to the Rwandan genocide. Did he harbor anger toward the United States, a moral and righteous superpower who blew it completely in Rwanda, doing next to nothing to stop the genocide and, arguably, even obstructing the efforts of other nations to assist. No, the President said. We’re way past that. It’s not about anger but our conclusion that we alone can protect ourselves and can never rely on a fickle world for our defense. Rwandans can rely on Rwandans for their defense.

I pointed out to the president that Israel came to the same conclusion about its defense in general, and is now pondering whether it will apply that principle by striking Iran alone, now that President Obama has decided to engage the Iranian president even as he continues to enrich Uranium and fund Hezbollah and Hamas terrorists.

I asked Elie Wiesel about Syria. Given the Bible’s commandment ‘not to stand idly by the blood of your neighbor,’ did the United States have a moral obligation to punish Assad for gassing children, even if he surrenders his chemical arsenal? Wiesel was unequivocal. Both the American political, and Jewish communal leadership had failed on Syria. Chemical gas was a trigger point for genocide and mass murder. The fact that Assad had paid no price for gassing children was a tremendous moral failure that had to be corrected, and the Jewish community should have been at the forefront of saying so.

President Kagame echoed that sentiment. Those who use either chemical, or even conventional weapons to slaughter innocent people must be held accountable or nothing will check further aggression and murder. Here were the world’s two leading voices on genocide were being jointly critical of the American government’s decision to commute the military attack on Assad to simply destroying his arsenal. Even if he did so he still had to pay a personal price for mass murder.

My close friend Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo had already announced, at a press conference we convened in October of last year, that Rwanda would be opening an embassy in Israel. I turned to the President and said to him that countries like Rwanda can understand Israel’s security situation in ways that few others could. The similarities between the two countries is striking. They are of similar size. They have terrorist enemies on their borders. Israel has Iran-funded Hezbollah and Hamas and Rwanda the FDLR in Eastern Congo. Both are regularly criticized unfairly by the UN. Both have had frictions with France which has at times assumed a curiously negative posture toward both countries. And, of course, both have experienced genocides of staggering proportions.

In light of the unique relationship between the two countries, I asked the President would it not be proper for Rwanda to open its embassy not in Tel Aviv but in Jerusalem, becoming one of the first nations to affirm the holy city as Israel’s eternal and undivided capitol? The President was surprised by the question but answered graciously. Rwanda and Israel indeed share similar histories and security challenges. He was very happy that they were increasing their bilateral relations with Rwanda opening an embassy in Israel. It was an important step in an evolving relationship and opening an Embassy in Jerusalem would be too great a leap for now. He and I both smiled at his response, with the President knowing I had put him on the spot and with me knowing that he had artfully dodged my question.

I turned to Professor Wiesel and told him that the full page ads he took out in America’s major publications in March, 2010, mildly rebuking President Obama, with whom he is close, for his pressure on Israel to cease building in parts of Jerusalem were widely credited with reversing the Administration’s policy. Would he be consider taking out similar ads questioning the President’s decision to open diplomatic relations at the highest level of the Iranian leadership without first demanding that Iran cease funding Hamas and Hezbollah terrorists, or enriching Uranium? Wiesel said that Iran’s holocaust denial was dangerous and delusional, and that opening diplomatic relations with the Iranians before they had formally renounced their genocidal aspirations against the Jewish state was unacceptable. He would consider the ads.

At last, I asked Professor Wiesel about a subject he and I had discussed many times. Why was it inappropriate to hate those who have committed genocide? Should we not despise the SS who murdered his family, or Hutu genocidaires who hacked children to death with machetes? Wiesel was adamant. Once you start hating, the emotion is internalized and you cannot control its spread and growth. It’s not long before it is directed even at those whom it is inappropriate to hate.

I have been close to Wiesel for 25 years. He is my hero and teacher. But on this one point, I remain unsure, and continue to despise those monsters who would murder a child because of his nationality, religion, or race. Never again must mean just that, Never again.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/america-rabbi-shmuley-boteach/elie-wiesel-and-kagame-of-rwanda-discuss-genocide-syria/2013/09/30/

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