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January 16, 2009     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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January 16, 2009

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PAGE 8A By Golda Shira Chicago Jewish News WASHINGTON Israel is not only achieving its goals in its war with Hamas, but it is also doing better in waging the battle of public opinion in the United States. So said Rafael Harpaz, director of public affairs for Israel's Embassy in Wash- ington, in a roundtable with a small group of reporters invited to the Embassy for a briefing. While acknowledging that Israel's public relations efforts in the past have not always been effective, this time, he said, "Israel has tried hard to raise public awareness about the situation, put things into context." Harpaz added that "the situation with Hamas didn't begin 10 days ago," but has been going on for years, with Hamas firing thousands of missiles into Israeli cities. He said that any other country facing that reality would de- fend itself, as Israel is doing. He asked what the U.S. would do if even one missilewas fired into an American city. "This is awar of self defense. No other country is daily liv- ing with this reality." HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JANUARY 16, 2009 View from the Israeli Emba.,;sy Harpaz said that Israel learned not only militarily from its war with Hezbollah two years ago, but also in terms of getting its message across. "We are using all the new media this time, have a Facebook page, are posting videos on YouTube." Beyond that, he said, the embassy has been giving briefings to bloggers explaining the Israeli perspective. This time, Harpaz said, "Israel has its talking points well coordinated, has held conference calls with a whole range of groups," and has made sure that its spokesmen who appear on TV are ready for prime time. In his view, all that has paid off. He said the support Israel has gotten in general has been "unbelievable," and said Israel is grateful for "the strong bi-partisan support from members of Congress." Harpaz said media coverage has been. for the most part, fair, though he said, he does wish the media would give a better sense of the "suffer- ing on the part of the Israeli people." As for the war itself. Harpaz said that Israel has two major objectives: one to destroy as many Hamas targets, with in Washington D.C. as few civilian casualties, as possible; and second to ensure that Hamas does not have the capacity in the future to produce more missiles and the capabifity to hit Israel. As to the first, Harpaz said that Israel has done very well, taking out a lot of the places where Hamas was building its missiles, and killing more Hamas leaders than the Pales- tinians are acknowledging. As to the second, he said that job is not yet done. "What we want is to create a new paradigm of peace, a situation where an endur- able and sustainable peace is achievable." And so, the war continues and with it the inevitable tragedies such as the attack that resulted in the death of Palestinian children at a school in Jabalya, something the Israeli government has called "heartrending." A statement by the Is- raeli government noted that "amongst the dead at the Jabalya school were Hamas terror operatives and a mortar battery cell who were firing on IDF forces in the area. Hamas operatives Imad Abu Askhar and Hassan Abu Askhar were among terrorists that were identified to be killed. "We face a very delicate situation where Hamas is using the citizens of Gaza as a protective vesC' IDF Spokesperson Brig. General Avi Benayahu said following the incident. Benayahu noted that "Hamas terrorists fired mor- tar bombs from the area of the school towards Israeli forces, who returned fire towards the source of the shooting. The Israeli return fire landed outside the school, yet a series of explosions followed, indi- cating the probable presence of munitions and explosives in the building. Innocent civilians should not have died. However, it is vitally impor- tant to understand how this horrific incident occurred and who truly bears the responsi- bility for it. "This tragedy occurred because Hamas consistently uses its own population as hu- man shields. While betting that Israel will hesitate to strike back at areas with civilians present. Hamas covers its bet with the knowledge thatshould civilians be harmed. Hamas still wins since Israel will be censured by the world's media. "The best way to avoid the use of Palestinians as human Shields is for the interna- tional community to begin to place the blame where it truly belongs--on the Hamas terrorists who exploit the suf- fering of their own people for political gain." Harpaz echoed that point noting that "there is no moral equivalency between Israel and Hamas. We value life, they value death. They have no rules, no limits." He said that while Hamas purposely targets Israeli civilians, Israel does all it can to avoid hitting any Palestinian civilians. He noted that Israel's "hearts and minds are with Gilad Schalit." the Israeli soldier who was kidnapped by Hamas in 2006 and is still being held by them. Harpaz said Israel hopes that one reslalt of the current action is that "with God's help. he will be back with us." And Israel hopes that the war will deal Hamas a blow "that will prevent them for being able to attack Israel in the future. "Hamas wants to discuss only one thing with us--our funeral arrangements." Harpaz said that as soon as the shooting of missiles into Israel stops, as soon as smug- gling arms in through tunnels from Egypt stops, then Israel will talk about a cease-fire. Once Hamas no longer has the capability to produce missiles, then Israel will talk about a cease-fire. "We are not looking for regime change. Our goal remains a two state solution living side by side in peace." Harpaz added that that hap- pening isnot only in Israel's interest, but also that of Egypt and Jordan who "see the risk from Iran.'" And, Harpaz said, peace is possible. He noted that since the Annapolis meeting of a year ago, things have improved, there are a lot of moderate Palestinians to deal with, that "Christmas in Bethlehem this year was the best in a long time. "We have been moving from a paradigm of conflict to a paradigm of discussion. That is a huge change." Golda Shira is a multi- award winningjournalist (Co- lumbia University Press As- sociation, Rockower awards) who has been part of the White House Press corps for more than 11 years and has been covering the Middle East for more than three decades. She was assistant to the Jerusalem Bureau Chief of the Los An- geles Times. Australian leaders mourn fallen J00'u,ish soldier SYDNEY, Australia (JTA)--Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd deliv- ered a moving eulogy at the military funeral Jan. 11 of a Jewish soldier killed by the Taliban in Afghanistan. At the request of the slain soldier's family, Rudd wearing a yarmulke de- livered a euology, telling almost 2.000 mourners at Melbourne's Lyndhurst Jewish Cemetery that Pvt. Gregory Sher's death was not in vain. "He believed not just in the service of which he was a proud member, but also ifl the ideals to which Australia was committed in the fight against terrorism." Rudd said. Sher. a 30-year-old South African-borrt soldier, was killed Jan. 4 in a rocket at- tack on a military compound southwest of Kabul. Dozens of dignitaries followed Rabbi Philip Hei- lbrunn from the makeshift marquee to the grave site, including opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull. Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gil- lard, Defense Minister Joel Fitzgibbon. members of the military's top brass and Israeli Ambassador Yuval Rotem. They were joined by dozens of soldiers and war vete rans. Private Sher's casket. draped in the Australian flag, arrived at the buri- al site in a gun-carriage escorted by members of Australia's elite forces and an honor guard from his own company. A volley of gun shots was fired before Sher's coffin was buried. The prime minister joined the Sher family and other mourners in shoveling earth into the grave. Bar Mitzvah 00z'/c 00Caflora um Eric Kaltbaum. son of SuzAnne and Gary Kalt- baum of Heathrow, Fla.. will be called to the Torah as a bar mitzvah on Sat- urday, Jan. 24. 2009 at Congregation Beth Am in Longwood. Eric is in the seventh grade at Lake Highland Preparatory School. He has a wonderful sense of humor and enjoys making people laugh. His interests include acting, tennis, golf and rock climbing. Sharing in the family's simchawill be Eric's brother. Aaron; grandparents Herb and Thelma Kaltbaum of Cliffside Park, N.J.; and grandfather David Firtell of Delray Beach. Fla. Sher is the eighth Aus- tralian soldier, and the first of the country's reservists, killed in Afghanistan since Australia sent forces to aid the United States-led coali- tion against the Taliban and al-Qaida in the wake of the Sept. 11. 2001. terror attacks. He is believed to be Australia's first Jewish mili- tary casualty at least since the Vietnam War. Fitzgibbon. the defense minister, told local media that Sher was "an Australian hero." "He understood the risks but willingly did what his country asked of him," Fitzgibbon said. Michael Danby, a Jewish parliamentarian in Rudd's government, told JTA he had never seen a funeral like it before. "There will probably never be a funeral like that ever again, where not just parents but the prime min- ister, leader of the opposition and three generals helped bury Greg Sher." he said. Rabbi Ralph" Genende. the local Jewish chaplain to the armed forces.-told the Australian Jewish News that Sher was "a courageous soldier, a mensch and a com- mitted Jew." Sher received a farewell from his comrades at a military ceremony Jan'. 8 in Afghanistan: a star of David was hung above his casket in the hangar before his body was repatriated to Melbourne Jan. 9. In a statement issued through the Defense De- partment, the Sher f.amily declared: "Greg was a man of purpose and committed determina- tion" and "was an extremely positive person with a kind soul. He was the sort of mate who would do anything for anyone, and his friends knew him for the great guy that he was." Sher had previously served in East Timor. where he received several medals. He was alsawarded the Af- ghanistan Campaign Medal, the NATO medal and the Australian Defense Medal. He moved to Australia with his family in 1986. and is survived by his two brothers, his parents and his partner. Volunteer opp00)rtunities abound at Kinneret Volunteers are needed to help at Kinneret Apartments. the Jewish community's twin residence towers for .senior citizens in downtown Orlando. "There are many areas that adults, families and religious school and b'nai mitzvah students can help and make a difference to the seniors that live here." says Leslie Collin. director of development and com- munity affairs for the Kin- neret Council on Aging. The Kinneret Council on Aging (KCO A) is a nonprofit agency that subsidizes a nutritious hot meal program available to residents and works with the community to provide additional programming and activities. "Our dining program is just one of the places that rely on volunteers. We provide din- ner to our residents Monday through Friday at 5 p.m. Volunteers are always needed to help set-up for dinner: refill water glasses or remove plates." Collin says. "Volunteers are also needed to assist in the resident library and the Co-op," she says. "Gently-used merchandise. like household knick-knacks. jewelry and clothing are al- ways needed in the Kinneret Boutique. Residents also enjoy innovative program- mingthat the community can share. This includes individu- als or groups who would like to perform on stage in the Delaney dining room and _lectures on current topics. A Nintendo Wii gaming system also provides the opportunity for youths to connect with residents." For information on how your organization can become involved, contact Leslie Col- lin at 407-425-4537, ext. 215. The Kinneret Apartments is a constituent agency of the Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando. Kinneret Aparlments resident Sandra Roth volunteers in the KTA Boutique. The boutique is open Fridays from 10 a.m. to I p.m.