Note: Unfortunately, this is the seventh year in a row that I feel compelled to circulate this call (the text is updated.....) best wishes for a happy and peaceful pesach, Gil Troy
Once again, during this year's seders, we will celebrate our joyous holiday of liberation with heavy hearts. Even as we revel in our freedom as Jews in the modern world, even as we marvel at Israel 's strength and tenacity in the wake of a terrorist onslaught, too many of our brothers and sisters in Israel are in pain. This year, in particular, as we think of three Israeli hostages and their families, truly in a Mitzraim, in dire straits, and as we think of more than one hundred civilians and soldiers murdered this summer, we must rise to the challenge to reclaim our symbols, to remember our losses, to reaffirm our commitment to Israel, to the Jewish people, and to a true peace.
In the bloody, unnecessary war begun when the Palestinians turned away from negotiations toward violence, too many died, too many have been injured, on both sides. And too many seders now have empty chairs - missing husbands, fathers, brothers, sons; missing wives, mothers, sisters, daughters.
The power of the seder - which remains one of the most popular of Jewish ceremonies - comes from its ritualization of memory. It is a most primal, most sensual, most literal, of services. The seder plate - with its representations of the mortar used in building, the charoset, and of the tears shed by the slaves, the salt water - helps us visualize the trauma of slavery.
The physical acts of reclining, of eating special foods, of standing to greet Elijah the prophet, help us feel the joy of Yetziat Mitzrayim, of leaving Egypt . And, in an affirmation of the importance of peoplehood, we mark this special moment not as individuals but as a community.
In that spirit, we cannot proceed with business as usual during these difficult times. We must improvise a new ritual that marks our present pain, that illustrates our vital connection with Israel and with Israelis today. Let each of us, as we gather at our seders, intrude on our own celebrations by leaving one setting untouched, by having one empty chair at our table.
Let us take a moment to reflect on our losses from these terrible six-and-a-half years, for even as stability has returned, terror attempts continue, freshly dug graves pockmark the Holy Land , and the mourning for those lost persists. And as we reflect, let us not just remember the dead as hundreds of nameless and faceless people, but let us personalize them. Let us take the time to find out the name of one victim of the current conflict, one Jew who cannot celebrate this year's holiday, one family in mourning.
Let us call out the names of Gilad Shalit, a 19-year-old with a shy smile, kidnapped by Hamas on the Gaza border in July; and that of Ehud Goldwasser, a 31-year-old engineer, and Eldad Regev, a 26-year-old pre-law student, kidnapped by Hezbollah just south of Lebanon. "This year we won't celebrate Pesach," Gilad's father Noam has said. "Pesach is about freedom, and we don't have that in our hearts. We want Gilad to return from imprisonment to freedom. It's been nine months, and we're not giving up."
Let us call out the name of Yaniv Bar-On, the 20-year-old son of a South African father and a Canadian mother, ambushed while trying to save Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev from Hezbollah's clutches, of Roi Klein, 31, a father of two, who jumped on a grenade crying "Shma Yisrael," Hear O' Israel, sacrificing his life to save his troops from certain death, and of Omer Pesachov, 7, and his grandmother, Yehudit Itzkovich, 58, who fled Nahariya one morning at the start of this summer's war, only to be bombed in Moshav Miron later that evening as the family prepared to welcome the Shabbat, the Sabbath.
Remembering earlier victims, let us call out the name of Benny Avraham, age 20, one of three young Israelis murdered by Hezbollah in a failed kidnapping in October 2000, whose body was kept frozen as the sadistic terrorists toyed with the emotions of the three grieving families - and people of conscience throughout the world.
Let us call out the name of Koby Mandell, age 13, a young American immigrant brutally killed in May, 2001, whose father, Rabbi Seth Mandell, talks about the empty seat at his Shabbat table and shares the pain of watching other boys grow up, watching their voices deepen, their shoulders broaden, their gaits quicken, even as his son lies dead.
Let us call out the names of Ernest and Eva Weiss, aged 80 and 75, residents of Petach Tikvah who survived Nazi concentration camps only to be slaughtered while sitting down for the Pesach Seder at the Park Hotel exactly five years ago, Pesach, 2002.
Let us call out the names of Maryam Attar, 27, Kamar Abu Hamed, 12, Abigail Leitel, 14, Mordechai Hersko, 41, and his son Tom Hershko, 15, a Muslim, a Druze, a Baptist, and two Jews, among the 17 murdered in Haifa just over four years ago on March 5, 2003.
And as we condemn modern-day Pharoahs in Iran and elsewhere, as we recoil from the worldwide scourge of anti-Semitism this terrorism also unleashed, let us call out the names of Ilan Halimi, the 23-year-old French Jew cellphone salesman kidnapped, tortured and murdered in a Parisian suburb by anti-Semitic thugs last year, and of Daniel Pearl, the 38-year-old Wall Street Journal reporter kidnapped, then murdered, in Pakistan almost exactly four years earlier.
As we call out these names, let us vow to do what we can to bring the three hostages home. As we call out these names, let us commit to some action, to embrace the families of the victims - the thousand who died and the nearly ten thousand who were injured. As we call out these names, let us commit to building a friendship with Israel and Israelis which is not just about politics, and not solely about mourning and memory.
And as we call out these names, unlike too many of our enemies, let us not call for vengeance, let us not call for more bloodshed. Instead, as we mourn, let us hope; as we remember the many lives lost during this crazy and pointless war, let us pray ever more intensely for a just and lasting peace.
For more Infomation visit:
Information about many of the Israelis killed in the current violence can be found at
the Israeli Foreign Ministry's Web site:
http://www.mfa.gov.il/mfa/home.asp Click on
Terrorism -- Terror since 2000 - In Memory of the Victims of Palestinian Violence
Ideas about how to help families of victims can be found at
Gil Troy is Professor of History at McGill University and the author of
"Why I Am A Zionist: Israel, Jewish Identity and the Challenges of Today."
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
Note: Unfortunately, this is the seventh year in a row that I feel compelled to circulate this call (the text is updated.....) best wishes for a happy and peaceful pesach, Gil Troy
New York Jewish Week, 3-23-07
So far this year, Iran continues threatening Israel and America while seeking nuclear weapons. Palestinian terrorists temporarily stopped fighting each other in Gaza to murder Israelis in Eilat and plan other crimes the Israeli army thwarted. The Nation of Islam's Louis Farrakhan endorsed one book alleging Jews controlled the slave trade, one book claiming Jews control America 's banks, and Jimmy Carter's bestseller falsely accusing Israel of "Apartheid." And, across the Arab world, numerous cartoons criticizing Israel 's Mugrahbi Gate repairs in Jerusalem depicted Jews as hooked-nose demons.
Amid all this, what outraged many Progressive Jews, prompting denunciations in the New York Times, the New Republic, the Boston Globe, and the Forward? Professor Alvin Rosenfeld's short American Jewish Committee (AJC) pamphlet: "Progressive Jewish Thought and the New Anti-Semitism." This brouhaha over a careful scholar's attempt to define when disparaging Israel and Zionism goes "well beyond legitimate criticism" to feed modern anti-Semitism illustrates the techniques too many of these Progressives - not all - use when anyone dares criticize them.
The New York Times' January 31 article which triggered the controversy began by incorrectly calling the AJC a "conservative advocacy group." This signaled to the Times' overwhelmingly liberal readership that the AJC approach to anti-Semitism would be a McCarthyite hatchet job. The Times eventually issued a correction that the AJC's "stance on issues ranges across the political spectrum." This vague correction preserved the impression that the AJC takes conservative positions - like what, opposing anti-Semitism and terrorism? When did opposing anti-Semitism become conservative?
Beyond demonizing, a second technique is to caricature. Thus a Boston Globe op-ed proclaimed: "All Critics of Israel Aren't Anti-Semites." Professor Rosenfeld made that point in his essay. At the Global Forum Against Anti-Semitism held in Jerusalem that week, Israel 's Foreign Minister Tsipi Livni - and almost every other speaker - distinguished between legitimate criticism and anti-Semitism too. Still, these nuanced stands did not prevent the charge that Rosenfeld and the AJC were demonizing "all" critics.
Finally, rather than treating the essay as an honest analysis of a painful, complex issue, critics accused the AJC of stifling the debate. Such hysteria makes intellectuals look spoiled, thin-skinned and brittle. Best-selling authors like Noam Chomsky or billionaires like George Soros ritualistically applaud their own bravery and pretend they are lonely voices when joining the trendy intellectual pile-on against Israel . How it is that people who viciously criticize Israel and Zionism, who lecture the Jewish world about tolerating diverse opinions, suddenly cannot stomach vigorous debate when they ar criticized? Nothing in the AJC essay advocates hate laws, suppressing free speech, shunning, or any other intimidation. Professor Rosenfeld did what thinkers are supposed to do - identify, catalogue, analyze, explain, and challenge.
Israel's supporters are used to being criticized for criticizing critics. Natan Sharansky, the former Soviet dissident, has argued that disproportionate, demonizing language, judging Israel by a double-standard and singularly delegitimizing Israel, crosses a red line, feeding anti-Semitism not "just" anti-Zionism. The question is one of proportionality and judgment: it is bizarre to feel more threatened by Alvin Rosenfeld than by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad just as it is disreputable to compare Israelis to Nazis while ignoring Palestinian terrorism, Arab anti-Semitism, Iranian calls to genocide.
Unfortunately, too many Progressives have been silent about modern anti-Semitism, just as many of those same Progressives have been strangely silent in the fight against the broader Jihadist agenda. The New York Times recently quoted a New York area Hillel rabbi foolishly claiming that "The question about radical Islam and how do we fight it is unproductive. The question is how to break down the stereotypes facing the two religions." Not everything can be solved with diversity training. Progressives lose credibility when they domesticate the lethal Jihadist threat by reducing it to an all-American problem of group dynamics.
Here, then, is a way out of the impasse. Israel's critics could confuse the issue constructively, if they denounced modern anti-Semitism as vehemently as they object to any suggestions that their words might encourage the Jihadists. Let these Progressive critics spend some of the political capital they earned in criticizing Israel to demand that Palestinian textbooks no longer incorporate libels from the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion," that Arab cartoons and television programs avoid ugly Nazi stereotypes of devilish, money-hungry Jews, that international bodies sanction Iran's president for threatening to "wipe out" a legitimate member of the United Nations. And let these critics take a page from their own Progressive Jewish movement, which has repudiated Israeli policy with the powerful phrase: "Not In My Name." We need Israel 's critics, Jewish and non-Jewish, proclaiming to anti-Semites far and wide: "Not In My Name," demanding, "do not take my criticism of Israel policies to be used to target Jews or question's Israel 's legitimacy."
The necessary fight against anti-Semitism should not be misconstrued as endorsing Israeli policies, just as you need not love George W. Bush to hate Islamicism. The fight against anti-Semitism, like the fight against Islamicism, must not be imprisoned in our usual left-right paradigm. A broad-based condemnation of anti-Semitism and eliminationist Anti-Zionism should be a positive first step in reinvigorating a wide coalition for freedom and against bigotry.
Gil Troy is Professor of History at McGill University and the author of "Why I Am A Zionist: Israel , Jewish Identity and the Challenges of Today."
Monday, March 26, 2007
He knows because as part of his daily routine, he has to bear the brunt of complaints from his constituents in the southern development town of Sderot that more properly should fall in the laps of the two senior government ministers.
Faced with an unrelenting barrage of Qassam missiles from Palestinian controlled Gaza, the residents of Sderot “talk to me and see me like a prime minster, chief of staff or the defence minister,” he said.
“They tell me, it’s your job to do something. When I explain I can’t give orders to the army I stand there and get shouts and criticism in place of the government. I don’t mind, because they can’t see or talk to [Prime Minister] Ehud Olmert or [Defence Minister] Amir Peretz.”
Though he tells this story in measured tones, it’s clear Moyal is quite angry at the Israeli government. He feels it has let down the community of 24,000 that is situated only one kilometre from the border with Gaza. As a result of its location, the town, as well as nearby kibbutzim, have been hit with numerous primitive, though deadly, missiles.
“We stopped counting after 4,000,” Moyal said last week following a breakfast briefing for a UJA Federation of Greater Toronto leadership group.
The missiles started raining down on Sderot in 2000 but the frequency increased markedly after Israel pulled out of Gaza in August 2005. Since the Palestinian “ceasefire,” more than 600 have been fired and in the period following the Mecca accord, the average has reached nearly two per day.
So far, seven residents of Sderot have been killed, hundreds wounded and hundreds of homes have been damaged.
Those are the statistics. But what is really affecting the quality of life in the town is the impact the missile attacks are having on children. As for the adults, “we’ll manage,” Moyal said stoically. “We served in the army and we know how to manage. We’re talking about the children, the soft souls.”
In Sderot, as in nearby kibbutzim, many “go into shelters at night.
“We’re talking about traumas and fears of children who cannot sleep. Kids who refuse to go outside after sunset. You have children sleeping in shelters, sleeping with parents, peeing the bed again.”
Others are taking various pills and medicines to help them cope.
“We’re talking about a lot of problems. We’re talking about something that has been studied at Tel Aviv University for the psychological impact on our children.
“One hundred per cent of Sderot children are suffering post-traumatic stress syndrome, which is very bad. This is a story nobody has heard about and we’re dealing with it every day.”
While the government has not provided the military solution Moyal is advocating, the response from other Israelis has been heartening. Many psychologists and social workers have visited the town to help the people cope. Respite programs have been put in place allowing residents to leave for a brief vacation.
But Moyal is adamant that what is really needed is a military strike to stop the missiles from being launched and to deter further attacks. The past three Israeli governments, two headed by Ariel Sharon and the current Olmert administration, “did nothing to stop these missiles,” he said.
“They are wrong in their policy. They think by talking, it will end. They think that by giving land to the Palestinians, it would bring some sheket (quiet). They were wrong.”
Moyal pointed out the intensity of the rocket attacks increased after Palestinians were handed all of Gaza. The lesson he learned is plain: “We didn’t react properly in the beginning. We didn’t ask them to pay a full price for shooting on civilians. We accepted it. That’s why it continued.”
Asked what the full price should be, Moyal replied, “I don’t care. My mitzvah (commandment) is to prevent [those] who are trying to kill me.”
Israel “should destroy the places they are shooting from.” Palestinians should be warned and then the Israel Defence Force should “destroy the whole area.” The IDF should re-enter the Palestinian territory and “clean the Gaza and go back home.
“But we didn’t use that [tactic] at the beginning in the right way, that’s why they continue.”
נועם שליט לאולמרט: שחרור חטופים אינו נדל"ן
עצרת המונית לשחרור החטופים שהתקיימה בנהריה הפכה למצעד ביקורת נגד ראש הממשלה. אביו של גלעד שליט, נועם: "אדוני ראש הממשלה, שחרור הבנים שנשלחו על-ידי צה"ל ועל ידך להגן על גבולות המדינה זה לא עסקת נדל"ן" שרון רופא אופיר
פורסם: 23.03.07, 14:52
שרון רופא אופיר
נועם שליט, אביו של החייל החטוף גלעד, הפנה היום (ו') ביקורת קשה אל ראש הממשלה, אהוד אולמרט, בשל טיפולו בשחרור החטופים: "אדוני ראש הממשלה, שחרור הבנים שנשלחו על-ידי צה"ל ועל ידך להגן על גבולות המדינה זה לא עסקת נדל"ן. שחרר את הבנים לאלתר".
אלפים הגיעו לעצרת שהתקיימה בנהריה וקראו להחזיר הביתה את החיילים החטופים. מלבד בני משפחותיהם של אלדד רגב, אהוד גולדווסר וגלעד שליט, הגיעו לעצרת גם בני משפחותיהם של עדי אביטן ובני אברהם, שנחטפו לפני שבע שנים בדרום לבנ
נועם שליט ביקש להודות למי שדואגים להזכיר את הנושא לציבור: "זה בכל פעם מחמם את הלב ומרגש כל כך. אין ספק שעצרות עושות משהו לעם במיוחד ערב הפסח, ערב חג החירות. אני מקווה שהן עושות משהו גם למקבלי ההחלטות, ערב החג שאותו השנה לא נחגוג לצערי". שליט דורש מאולמרט תוצאות: "אדוני ראש הממשלה, אתה טוען שאתה עושה הכול למען שחרור הבנים אבל אנחנו רוצים תוצאות. אחרי תשעה חודשים זו לא בקשה מופרזת. מנהיגים נבחנים במעשים ולא בהצהרות ודיבורים".
שלמה ומיקי גולדווסר במהלך העצרת (תצלום: ודים דניאל)
את האירוע יזם בית הספר עמל בנהריה. דודו לוברצקי, חברו של אודי גולדווסר לפלוגת המילואים עקץ את ראש הממשלה, בעקבות תשובתו לביקורת שהוטחה בו באירוע קודם: "ראש הממשלה טוען שלא מחזירים חטופים בצעקות. למעלה מ-250 ימים שאודי, אלדד וגלעד צועקים 'תחזירו אותי הביתה'. אדם נמדד לפי מעשיו ולא לפי מידת הפופולריות שלו, ובמבחן התוצאה - כשל ראש הממשלה, כשל שר הביטחון וכשל המטה הכללי של צה"ל".
במהלך העצרת נשאו דברים גם אשתו של אודי, קרנית, מנכ"ל עיריית נהריה, נציג ממועצת התלמידים של בתי הספר בעיר, השר שלום שמחון וחיים אברהם, אביו של בני. "40 שנה הציניות אוכלת בנו כל חלקה טובה. הגיע הזמן שהמדינה תתעורר ותשנה את המדיניות שלה. המדיניות תמיד הייתה מי ימצמץ ראשון אך לנסראללה זה לא משחק. מה שמשחק לו זה אם נגרום לו נזק ועד שלא נקפד את ראשו של העקרב מדרום לבנון, שום דבר לא יזוז".
אברהם מוסיף: "אני מרגיש שאני בתסריט חוזר. מה שקרה עם הבנים שלנו קורה גם כאן ואם לא נעשה מעשה העולם לא יביא פיתרון לבנים שלנו שנמצאים בשבי
Schools throughout Israel host ceremonies to mark 250 days since Hizbullah kidnapped soldiers. Family members, Knesset members attend ceremonies
Schools throughout Israel host ceremonies to mark 250 days since Hizbullah kidnapped soldiers. Family members, Knesset members attend ceremonies Ahiya Raved
Published: 03.20.07, 14:31 / Israel News
Three hundred schools throughout Israel held solidarity ceremonies Tuesday morning to mark 250 days since the abduction of Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev in July.
“We won’t be able to celebrate freedom this year. We will sit at home, and wait for Gilad to be set free,” said Noam Shalit, father of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit.
He spoke at a ceremony held at his son’s former school, and said that it was particularly heartwarming, since the students put in so much time and effort into it, in the hopes that Gilad would soon be released.
“Gilad is our child, he studied here, and we expect the government and the IDF to do everything possible in order to bring the boy home,” said Gila Michael, the school’s principal.
Eyal Regev, Eldad’s brother, said that the fighting in Lebanon shouldn’t have stopped before the soldiers were returned.
“Their return was possible without putting soldiers at risk. We hope and believe the government is doing everything, and not placing obstacles in the way of bringing back the captured,” Regev said during his speech at Eldad’s high school in Haifa.
Miki Goldwasser, Ehud’s mother, spoke at a ceremony in Tel Aviv, and said that issue of the kidnapped soldiers, and efforts to release them, were a part of “our identity”.
“I’m sure that the government won’t fail in bringing them home, since it cannot handle the shame,” Goldwasser said.
Education Minister Yuli Tamir said, “If we must go to the Syrians or to Lebanon to find out their fate, we must not be afraid to do so. We must offer everything we are willing to offer in order to know how to get the sons back home. We have to open the door for a dialogue now," she said.
MK Silvan Shalom (Likud) attacked the international community for not doing enough to help bring the soldiers home. He called on the UN secretary general to do all in his power to make sure the soldiers were released.
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Recently, I gave an audience of 200 involved Jews in Montreal a pop quiz.
WE MUST ACT TO FREE THE SOLDIERS
"How many of you have heard of Gilad Shalit, Ehud Goldwasser, and Eldad Regev," I asked. Most hands shot up proudly, as people recognized the names of the three Israelis kidnapped this summer - and still held hostage by Hamas and Hezbollah. I then asked: "How many of you have done anything to support their families or demand their release?" Every single hand dropped, dejectedly.
Shame on us. How could we observe the Jewish holidays without imagining even briefly what it must have been like for these three families with a son, a brother, absent from the table? How could we celebrate without empathizing with these three young men, caught in a hellish purgatory devised to impose pain on them, their families, the State of Israel and the Jewish people?
We cannot sit idly by anymore. We must act.
There are two kinds of constructive responses to the hostage crisis. We can reach out to the three affected families with the simple message of "anachnu eetchem," we are with you. Letting these people, wracked by worry, know through cards, letters, children's drawings and little gifts that they are not alone is important. It strengthens them by placing their personal predicament in the broader sweep of Jewish history, the Israeli narrative, and the modern struggle between democracies and Islamist terror. Small gestures can't save the boys, but they can lighten the load, even momentarily, that these three families have borne since the summer with grace.
The person-to-person contact is easy. And, as my family discovered when we tried to help the three soldiers Hezbollah kidnapped ? and murdered ? in October 2000, the rewards can be tremendous. We as a family bonded so deeply with one of the families, that of Benny Avraham, of blessed memory, that my children now have a special set of Israeli "grandparents."
The greater challenge is determining what kind of political efforts will facilitate the three?s release. This requires a sophisticated analysis of the dynamics surrounding the two separate kidnappings - that of Gilad Shalit, a 19-year-old with a shy smile, by Hamas on the Gaza border; and that of Ehud Goldwasser, a 31-year-old engineer, and Eldad Regev, a 26-year-old pre-law student, by Hezbollah just south of Lebanon.
Clearly, direct pressure on the two terrorist organizations is not likely to work. But constant, relentless, constructive pressure on their supporters or neighbours might help. We need to mobilize a vast coalition of Jews and non-Jews to bombard Lebanese officials and activists for the Palestinian cause - as well as western diplomats who interact with Palestinian and Lebanese officials - with a simple message: free the kidnapped victims today.
Palestinians seeking a resumption of western aid must know that until Shalit is home again, no aid will flow. And those who support the Palestinian cause, waving the flag of humanitarianism, should be challenged to try saving a young kid caught in the crossfire. "Treat him as a human. Make a stand for our common humanity," we should say.
Similarly, as the Lebanese government begs the international community for reconstruction aid, all assistance should be contingent on arranging the release of Goldwasser and Regev. This summer's ceasefire was supposed to secure their release. We cannot allow the world to forget their fates.
In late September, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper refused to join a massive pile-on against Israel at the Francophonie summit. Most of the other 72 countries were ready to approve a resolution lamenting Lebanon's suffering and not Israel's. Standing on principle, Harper forced the leaders of the world's French-speaking nations to acknowledge the suffering of everyone caught in the crossfire. Since then, many have asked how they can thank Harper, and they have responded logically by donating money to his party, by joining his party and by seeking effective candidates who can win in contested districts.
Another way to salute Harper is to emulate his example. We have an opportunity to stand on principle, to rally around a seemingly hopeless cause, and make a statement affirming humanity, democracy and civilization. If we fail, there are at least three families in Israel who will remain grateful for our efforts.