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May 24, 2016 / 16 Iyar, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘visit’

A Visit to the Old and New Hells of Europe Provides a Reminder of Israel’s Importance

Sunday, May 22nd, 2016

I just returned from a week-long journey through Hell! It began with a visit to the Auschwitz and Birkenau death camps in German occupied Poland, as a participant of the March of the Living, following a Conference commemorating the 80th Anniversary of the Nuremberg laws and the 70th Anniversary of the Nuremberg trials. My week was consumed with recurring evidence of the worst crime ever perpetrated by human beings on other human beings – the Holocaust

I travelled from the death camps to several small Polish towns from which my grandparents emigrated well before the Holocaust, leaving behind relatives and friends. During the course of my travels, I discovered the fate of some of my relatives. Hanna Deresiewicz (an original spelling of my family name) was a 16 year old girl living in the small town of Pilzno when the Nazis arrived; she was separated from her siblings and parents. “The soldiers took several of the most beautiful Jewish girls for sex, and then killed them. [Among those] taken [was] Hanna Deresiewicz, 16.” I also learned that another Deresiewics, named Benjamin, survived, though his wife and five children, along with his parents and siblings were all murdered. He may have been Hanna’s father, although I can’t document that. In the book Schindler’s Ark, on which the movie Schindler’s List was base, the following account is given: “[The Commandant of Auschwitz] suspended his 15 year old orderly, Poldek Dereshowitz, from the ringbolts in his office …” Although the book is fictionalized account, it is based on the

recollections of an eyewitness. I cannot, therefore, be sure of the veracity of that episode. But seeing the name Dereshowitz associated with Auschwitz had an impact on me.

This is not the first time I have visited Nazi death camps. I was fully familiar with the statistical evidence of how six million Jews were systematically murdered. I was also familiar with how the Nazi death machine searched out Jews in the furthest corners of Nazi occupied Europe, even as far as the Island of Rhodes, and transported them to Auschwitz to gas them. I also knew that this was the only time in human history when people were brought from far distances to camps designed for one purpose only – to kill every possible Jew they could find no matter where they lived. And I knew that because this was part of a planned genocide of the Jewish People, it was most important to kill every child, woman and man capable of producing future Jews.

But this visit, during which I learned the fate of members of my own family, brought the horrors home to me in a manner more personal than any statistic could provide. I was travelling with my wife and daughter, and I repeatedly imagined what it must have felt like for the parents and spouses of the murdered Jews to realize that everything precious to them was being annihilated and that there would be no one left to morn them or to carry their seed to future generations.

From the old Hell, Poland, I traveled to a new Hell, called Hungary. Budapest is a beautiful city, but it too, provided a hellish end to its Jewish residents in the final months of the Second World War when Hungarian Nazis turned the Blue Danube into a red mass grave. They shot their Jewish neighbors and dumped their bodies into the Danube River, even as the Nazis were retreating. And now in modern day Budapest, I was told of the resurgence of Nazism among many ordinary Hungarians. The increasingly popular Fascist party boasts of its anti-Semitism and of its desire to rid Hungary of its few remaining Jews. The Fascist Party in Hungary also hates Israel, and everything else that is a manifestation of Jewishness.

I ended my trip meeting with a Jewish man of Greek background who told me that his grandfather was murdered by the Nazis and that he was now being targeted by Greek Fascists for his outspoken defense of Israel and the Jewish people. Athens, too, has become a hotbed of Jew-hatred, with its popular Fascist Party.

There was not a moment during my visit to Europe that I was not reminded of that continent’s sordid history with regard to the Jewish people. Now, many Europeans—the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of those who were complicit in the murder of six million Jews—have turned against the Nation State of the Jewish People with a vengeance. This time the bigotry emanates mostly from the hard left, but has the support of many on the new Fascist hard right. The British Labor Party is as rife with hatred of the Jewish People and Jewish Nation as is the Hungarian Fascist Party. Once again, European Jews are caught between the extremes of the Black and the Red. Extremists on both sides seek the demise of Israel, arguing that there is no place in this world for one state that is overtly Jewish in its character, despite the universal acceptance of multiple Muslim and Christian nations. Other Europeans seek to boycott Israel’s products, its professors, and its performers. While still others simply apply a double standard to its actions — a standard they apply to no other nation, including their own.

My visit to Europe made one thing unmistakably clear: if there is any group in the world that needs a safe homeland—a sanctuary from bigotry and hatred—it is the Jewish people. When Hitler was willing to expel them from Europe, before deciding to exterminate them, no country – not even the United States or Canada – would give them asylum. Britain closed the doors of what is now Israel to them. They had no place to go. So they were murdered by the Nazis and their willing executioners throughout Europe. There is no group whose history entitles it to a safe and secure homeland more than the Jewish people. For reasons that are difficult to explain, the hatred of the Jewish people and its nation defies rationality, but it is as real as the gas chambers of Auschwitz -Birkenau and the emerging

Fascist parties of Greece and Hungary. Jews today continue to be scapegoated in many parts of the world, and their nation state is demonized at the United Nations, on university campuses, in the media and in legislative assemblies. Following the Holocaust, there seemed to be an understanding that Jews would no longer be victimized. Now less than a century after the Nazis came to power, that moratorium on Jew-hatred seems to have expired, as the memory of the Holocaust grows dim in most parts of the world.

My weeklong visit to Hell reaffirmed my commitment to defend Israel’s right to exist, to speak out for Israel when it is unfairly attacked, and to defeat its enemies in the marketplace of ideas. We owe nothing less to the victims of the worst crime in the history of humanity—a crime that could not have occurred without the complicity of most of the world. And a crime that will not recur if there is a

Alan M. Dershowitz

Candidate Kasich Uses Matzah Factory Visit to Sermonize on ‘Blood of the Lamb’ [video]

Thursday, April 14th, 2016

Republican presidential hopeful and Ohio Governor John Kasich visited Haredi Brooklyn on Tuesday, including stops at a Jewish bookstore, a school and a shmura matzah bakery. There, at the matzah bakery, where 18 minute discs of unleavened dough are hand-made with the proper spiritual intent by kosher Jews, for the crowd that wouldn’t touch a machine-made matzah on Passover, there is where cultures and religions clashed.

“It’s a wonderful, wonderful holiday for our friends in the Jewish community – the Passover,” Kasich told reporters after his tour of the matzah bakery, holding a box of precious, fresh “shmura matzah” in his hands. Then he proceeded, quite naturally, into a mini sermon about the connection between the Passover blood and the blood of you-know-who.

“The great link between the blood that was put above the lampposts (he meant the doorposts, or mezuzahs to you and me) — the blood of the lamb, because Jesus Christ is known as the lamb of God. It’s his blood, we believe …”

That was it. At least that’s all that the YouTube clip allows us to see of the Kasich visit’s Christian sermon part.

Publicist Ezra Friedlander tried to soften the blow for the press, as JTA’s Uriel Heilman, who was quite stunned by the blood of the lamb thing, described it.

“He’s very knowledgeable and he takes his religion very seriously,” Friedlander told Heilman. “In context, I thought it was appropriate.”

According to Heilman, Kasich also emphasized his points by shaking the box of shmura matzah, turning it into “shvura (broken) matza.” Considering how much these things cost on the week before the seder, he probably didn’t understand why folks were ogling him like he was using a Fabergé egg to hammer in a couple of nails.

At the bookstore, according to Heilman, Kasich told a group of young religious men, “You know who I like? Joseph. You guys like Joseph? You study Joseph? What do you think about Joseph? Did you hear the most important thing Joseph said to his brothers?” And the governor provided the answer, saying Joseph told his brothers, “My brothers, you meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.”

In other words, Kasich, a Roman Catholic turned Anglican, was actually implying for the benefit of his potential Jewish voters, that even though you people crucified you- know-who, it’s all good in the end.

A very knowledgeable man.

David Israel

Reflections from the Past and the More Distant Past

Monday, January 20th, 2014

I had visitors today – and in the back of my mind was another who wasn’t here. In my last years in the States, I had a job I loved – it was fun mostly because my boss was someone who seemed so balanced, able to handle stress as it came. He married a most amazing woman..the daughter of a former boss who in less than a year, found a permanent place in my heart.

So, I managed an office for a doctor who by all that’s normal in this world, should have been overwhelmed by his patients and their problems – but he never was. Somehow, each day it seemed we came into the office and left as relatively normal people.

I won’t write down the stories of the patients – I have guarded their names through the years, though I’ve occasionally shared pieces of what I experienced over that time. Working in a psychiatrists office is an experience, let me tell you.

So the Dr. and his wife came to visit with two of their three daughters. At one point, the Dr (no, I don’t call him doctor, but he’s the only person I ever met with his specific first name and her’s is not very common as well, so if I were to write their names, well, it’s not my right…so, with apologies – Dr. and Mrs. H.. at one point the Dr. asked me if I was famous because of the blog…that was kind of funny because no, I’m not – but it’s fun when occasionally someone recognizes me or says something like “oh, YOU’RE a soldier’s mother?”

The more important question he asked was if I was happy here – there are no words to describe how much I love it. I can only hope it comes out in each word I write.

Elie and Davidi were here. It was nice to catch up – we’ve seen them only once in the 20 years since we moved to Israel. Two daughters will be studying in Israel – we offered to adopt them – Aliza will be so grateful to have some girls in the house for a change (not that she doesn’t love Yaakov and Chaim, of course).

After some shmoozing, I took them for a trip around Maale Adumim, showing off the lake that by all that is normal, no one would build in the desert. I looked at it through their eyes, or imagined what they were seeing and for the first time realized how tiny it is…it’s more of a puddle than a lake. For one thing, I’m usually driving and rarely go down that side of the road; for another, if I’m down there, it’s usually in the evening and getting dark.

Perhaps in another world, they would call it, begrudgingly, a pond – but here, it is a lake. How pretentious it is, I thought to myself, that we call it a lake and yet…it is, you see, that very thing. It represents a dream – see, look at us. We Israelis can even build a lake in a desert!

I showed them the new music conservatory – yes, that too is pretentious, and the library…and the statue of two peace doves – the water fountain was being fixed…I didn’t even get a chance to show them the museum…what an amazing city I live in!

I talked and talked – and kept thinking I wanted to hear about them and I should have asked more.

I didn’t get a chance to tell them that in a few weeks, Davidi is going to Poland. Actually, the Dr. said he reads the blog, so I guess they know that. There was a story that I shared with them – I think I’ve shared it before here, but I’ll write it again  now.

Paula Stern

Russian Navy’s First Port Visit to Egypt in 21 Years

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

Suddenly, even Vladimir Putin looks more attractive.  He looks, at least, like he actually intends to fight radical Islamism – in some of its varieties anyway.  In theory, he has some pull with Iran.  He can exert a certain level of “check” on the Syria crisis.  His relatively well armed nation sits on the other side of Erdogan’s wild-card Turkey, which keeps bouncing from China to Iran to NATO and back again.  He’s not “Europe” – not really – but “Europe” acknowledges that he has to be given a place at the table.

Maybe he doesn’t look attractive, exactly; maybe the word is interesting.  Whatever it is, it’s showing up in real forms now, in regional nations’ decisions in the Eastern Mediterranean.  Last week came the flurry of reports that Putin would visit Egypt in November and announce a major arms sale, which will inevitably serve as something of a counter-smack to the U.S. decision to halt arms deliveries to Egypt a few weeks ago.

The newer news is from Monday, November 11, when Russia’s Slava-class missile cruiser Varyag pulled into Alexandria for the Russian navy’s first port visit in Egypt since 1992.  Pundits of varying quality have rushed to speculate that Moscow will soon have the use of Egyptian ports as bases in the region.  I doubt that; Egypt is too anxious to retain her stature and independence of action – properly so – and doesn’t “need” to accord Russia such privileges to keep useful ties going between the two of them.

In the current, comparative disarray of some Arab governments in the region, Egypt’s actually looks solid and moderate, and has the overt support of Saudi Arabia and Jordan, as well as the tacit support of Israel – all of which are well armed, well connected regional powers with common interests in a status quo.  The situation over which Al-Sisi presides is different from that of the Nasser regime in the 1950s and 1960s, when it was so eager for the great-power patronage of the erstwhile Soviet Union.

Russia, for her part, is unlikely to press this issue.  Between Syria, Greece, Cyprus, Montenegro, and Malta, the Russian navy has a lot of options now for making temporary landfalls for logistics.  Moscow wouldn’t necessarily even save money by concluding more literal “basing” agreements in the Mediterranean.

But I’m sure we can expect to see the Russian navy welcomed in Egyptian ports.  This makes a noteworthy, and regrettable, contrast with the U.S. Navy, which has been scarce in Egyptian ports in recent years – in spite of our two nations’ close relationship – largely because of the threat of terrorism.

Egypt, meanwhile, isn’t the only nation to roll out the welcome mat for the Russian navy in the past year.  In May, the Russian amphibious ship Azov arrived in Haifa for the first port visit ever by a Russian navy ship to Israel.  Russia and Israel have of course found some common ground in their opposition to radical Islamism, and the Netanyahu government has had a robust program of diplomatic outreach to Russia since it took over in the spring of 2009.  After Putin visited Jerusalem in June 2012 to pray for the rebuilding of the Temple, a naval port visit could hardly have been far behind.

Russian warships also visited Lebanon in March 2013, an exceedingly rare occurrence.  According to Russia’s defense ministry, the visit involved a frigate and two amphibious ships, and signified no intention on Moscow’s part to establish any permanent basing arrangement.

Cyprus hosted multiple visits by Russian warships in 2013, fueling the usual speculation that Moscow is negotiating for basing rights on the island.  (See here for more on Russia’s strategic approach to Cyprus.)  It has become routine in the last few years for Russian navy ships to visit ports in Greece and Malta.  Russian officials announced earlier this year that the navy’s newly constituted (or, in effect, reconstituted) Mediterranean squadron would use a port in Montenegro as well, referring to the port of Tivat (which for many years during the Cold War was a Yugoslav navy base, used as a Mediterranean base by the Soviet navy).  A September 2013 press release on the upcoming activities of amphibious landing ship Yamal indicated the ship would visit Greece and Montenegro this fall.

J. E. Dyer

A Week after Phone Call, U.S., Iran, Exchange Doubts

Saturday, October 5th, 2013

Entangled as he is, in a government shutdown in its fifth day, President Barack Obama devoted only a marginal portion of his interview with the Associated Press Saturday to his diplomatic outreach to Iran, in an attempt to bring an end to Islamic Republic’s nuclear program. A week or so after Obama’s phone conversation with President Hassan Rouhani—the first direct talk between American and Iranian leaders in more than 30 years, some of the initial excitement appears to have given way to pragmatism.

“Rouhani has staked his position on the idea that he can improve relations with the rest of the world,” Obama told the AP. “And so far he’s been saying a lot of the right things. And the question now is, can he follow through?”

Obama acknowledged that Rouhani is not Iran’s only “decision-maker. He’s not even the ultimate decision-maker,” he added, alluding to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Israel and other countries have questioned whether Rouhani’s public relations effort represents real change in Iran’s leadership.

The supreme leader Khamenei himself said on Saturday that he supports Rouhani’s attempts at moving closer to the West, but said that the U.S. leader is “untrustworthy, arrogant, illogical and a promise-breaker.”

He could probably win if he ran on a Republican ticket in most southern and mid-western states…

“We support the movement in the government’s diplomacy, including the New York visit, since we hold trust in the government and we are optimistic about it, but some of what happened in the New York visit were not proper because we believe the U.S. administration is untrustworthy, conceited, illogical and unfaithful to its pledges,” Ayatollah Khamenei said, addressing a cadets graduation ceremony in Tehran on Saturday.

Obama was careful to distance U.S. assessments of when Iran might have the capacity to build a nuclear weapon from what Israel is predicting. Israeli officials have been saying that Iran is a mere months away from building a bomb, but Obama said today that Tehran is at least a year away from having that capability.

The president used the same time frame last March, before his visit to Israel.

The Fars News agency reported that, in their phone conversation, Presidents Rouhani and Obama stressed the necessity for mutual cooperation on different regional issues. Then Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and Secretary Kerry were commissioned to begin follow up talks between the two countries.

“But after meeting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in New York, the US president made a U-turn, and said that ‘we take no options off the table, including military options,'” Fars complained, saying this “revealed the U.S. administration’s lack of independence and decision-making power.”

Oh, Bibi, Bibi, why must you rule so harshly over poor President Obama…

Yori Yanover

Egyptian FM Visiting PA Capital Ramallah

Monday, August 26th, 2013

Egyptian foreign minister Nabil Fahmy is visiting Ramallah on Monday to discuss bilateral relations between Egypt and the Palestinian Authority with Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, the Egyptian ambassador to the PA told Ma’an.

Yasser Othman said that the visit comes in support of the Palestinian return to negotiations and in gratitude for the Palestinian Authority’s position in support of the Egyptian government.

Othman added that the Egyptian people and media are aware of who supports them and who incites against them.

Diplomatic and media delegations will accompany the minister on his day long visit, the ambassador added.

Jewish Press News Briefs

Fire Destroys Bunkhouse at NY Camp for Kids with Cancer

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

A fire at Camp Simcha, a camp  for children with cancer, destroyed one bunkhouse and damaged a newly built one.

The fire was discovered when a counselor at the camp in Glen Spey, N.Y., woke up early Saturday morning and smelled smoke. The counselors evacuated the 15 residents of the cabin, including one camper in a wheelchair, VIN News reported.

The entire camp then was evacuated to a helicopter landing field near the camp. Several people were treated for smoke inhalation.

Firefighters believe the cause of the fire is electrical, VIN reported.

Donors to Chai Lifeline, the organization that sponsors the camp, are sponsoring a visit to a local shopping mall to help the campers in the destroyed bunk replace their personal items, according to the report.

The camp season ends Tuesday.

JTA

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