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February 13, 2009

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mnmmnnnun -  mmuuuumulnnmn)nnlumll The Good 00ord PAGE 4A Lessons on terror, a teacher's error In a Jan. 26 column in The Orlando Sentinel, Dr. Stephen Day, an adjunct instructor at Rol- lins College, spoke of Israel when he wrote that "Any state beyond criticism endangers itself and the world." He also said, "The reality is that criticism of Israel is rising on American campuses. Where such criticism may once have been frowned upon, it is nearly impossible to teach Middle East politics today without expressing ideas critical of Israel." Now, let's get something straight. An adjunct instructor at a college or university is not a professorship. It's a low level, low paying po- sition that fills introductory classes. I should know. I was an adjunct writing instructor at UCF for severalyears. So while I am not certain Museum: Don't build on historic Muslim cemetery A large and growing number of responsible, mainstream Jewish voices have spoken out against the museum, including the Reform movement's Israel Religious Action Center. Dr. Raft Greenberg, a prominent archaeologist at Tel Aviv University, has argued that Mamilla is one of the few surviving Islamic sites in western Jerusalem and therefore must be left intact, Especially important has been the criticism of the former rector of the Hebrew University, Professor Yehoshua Ben-Arieh, who is perhaps Israel's most prominent expert on the geo- graphical history of Jerusalem. Ben-Arieh has cast doubt on the claim that Muslim authori- ties permitted construction on the grounds of the graveyard in the past, and has asserted that building the museum will cause damage to Jewish-Muslim relations that will last for generations. It is true that radical Islamic voices. within and outside of Israel, have attacked the museum, and not a few of these voices are motivated by hostility to Jews and the Jewish state. Sadly, Wiesenthal spokespeople have attempted to portray all criticism of the museum as the rantings of Israel bashers and left-wing fanatics. They have gone as far as to suggest that those who attack the museum are serving non-Zionist ends and delegitimizing the Jewish state. Such claims, however, are absurd. The cries of Islamic fanatics cannot discredit critics of the museum any more than the ap- pearance of black radicals could discredit the drive for black equality in America. What is important here is what Israel and the Jewish people do to promote human dignity and true tolerance, and understanding the religious concerns of our non-Jewish neighbors is the essence of enlightened Zionism. It strengthens rather than weakens Israel's cause. This is an uncertain time in the Middle East. The war in Gaza. waged by Israel to defend its dtizens in the South, has unsettled the area. The Obama administration is consideringwhat role itwfll play in the Arab-Israeli conflict. The last thing that Israel needs now is a religious crisis that can easily be avoided. Let's admit the simple truth: There is some- thing profoundly disturbing about the idea of putting a Jewish Museum of Tolerance on a plot of land where Muslims have been bury- ing their dead for most of the last 800 years. I have great respect for the Simon Wiesen- thai Center, and I would liketo see its museum built--somewhere else in Jerusalem. Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie is the president of the Union for Reform Judaism. By Eric Yoffie NEW YORK (JTA)--If one were intent on undermining Israel's claim to Jerusalem. there would be no betterway to accomplish this goal than to build a Jewish museum atop a historic Muslim cemetery in the heart of the City. Incredibly, the SimonWiesenthal Center--a Los Angeles-based organization that combats anti-Semitism and advocates for Jewish rights around the world--has undertaken to do just that. It has begun construction of a Museum of Tolerance on the grounds of the Mamilla cemetery in the downtown area of western Jerusalem. Mamilla is an 800-year-old site that was an active Muslim graveyard until at least the 1930s. The Wiesenthai Center is aworthy and admi- rable institution, but in this case it has lost its way. In a city that is sacred not only to Jews but to more than 2 billion Christians and Muslims. Israel's legitimacy as a sovereign power rests on its sensitivity to the religious concerns of its sister faiths. As critics have noted, if Muslims were uprooting Jewish graves in order to build an Islamic museum on the Mount of Olives, Jews in Israel and throughout the world would respondwith outrage. Muslims can be expected to respond similarly to the Wiesenthal museum. and indeed have begun to do so. No one claims that Wiesenthal set out to offend Muslim sensibilities. Awarded the site by the Municipality of Jerusalem. only later did Wiesenthal realize that the museum would be erected on a graveyard. Instead of agreeing to build elsewhere, however, its leaders chose to fight in Israel's Supreme Court for the right to continue construction. Last October they won their case, largely on technical grounds. The court noted that planning had been com- pleted, a permit issued and construction had commenced. It also pointed to evidence, which was far from conclusive, that some Muslim authorities no longer saw the site as sacred. Yet while winning the legal argument. Wiesenthal has lost the moral one. What is legally permissible may be ethically question- able and religiously offensive. Indeed. there is something perverse and ironic about build- ing a monument to tolerance that will be a permanent source of tension in the region and that undermines the mutual respect and trust that tolerance requires. Furthermore, constructing the museum in Mamilla sets a dangerous precedent that will undermine Jewish efforts to preserve abandoned Jewish cemeteries and sacred sites in Eastern Europe and the Muslim world. [THE VIEWS EXPRESSED ON THIS PAGE ARE NOT NECESSARILY THE VIEWS OF HERITAGE MANAGEMENT.   CENTRAL FLORIDA'SINDEPENDENTJEWISHVOICE   ISSN 0199-0721 Winner of 40 Press Awards Editor/Publisher Jeffrey Gaeser Editor Emeritus Associate Editor Assistant Editor Gene Starn Lyn Payne Mike Etzkin HERITAGE Florida Jewish News (ISN 0199-0721) is published weekly for $37.95 per year to Florida ad- Society Editor Bookkeeping dresses ($46.95 for the rest of the U.S.) by HERITAGE Gloria Yousha Paulette Harmon Kim Fischer Central Florida Jewish News, Inc., 207 O'Brien Road, Suite 101, Fern Park, FL 32730, Periodicals postage Account Executives paid at Fern Park and additional mailing offices. Barbara do Carmo Marci Gaeser POSTMASTER: Send address changes and other correspondence to: HERITAGE, P.O. Box 300742, Contributing Columnists Fern Park, FL 32730. Jim Shipley Ira Sharkansky Steve Levine Tim Boxer David Bomstein Gail Simons MAILING ADDRESS PHONE NUMBER EO. Box 300742 (407) 834-8787 Production Department Fern Park; FL 32730 FAX q 407) 831-0507 David Lehman Teri Marks Louis Ballantyne email: Elaine Schooping Gil Dombrosky. HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, FEBRUARY 13, 2009 what Dr. Day has done to deserve the position of local expert on Middle East affairs, in this case he may be right. It would not surprise me, when faced with the bloody pictures of the recent invasion ofa3aza, coupled with a well-oiled Palestinian propaganda machine, that students, as well as world leaders, are hav- ing a harder time supporting Israel's military actions. He makes the point, albeit an obvious one, that bombing houses and killing civilians may create more terrorists, not reduce their numbers. It's a point of view I've had on and off for years. But then Dr. Day, pardon the expression, shoots himself in the foot when he asks, "Are we really to believe it still makes sense to kill women and children when Islamic extremists use them as 'shields?'" I have a question for you, good doctor. What would you have Israel do? When you have a group of extremists who knowingly and wilL- ingly put the citizens they should be protecting in harm's way, what do you do? Blame, in this case, is divided three ways. Israel gets a por- tion. because there is no good that comes out of killing civilians other than teaching a tough lesson mess with me and you're going to get hurt. The Palestinian innocents deserve some share of the blame, however harsh that sounds. for not raising their voices (and their fists) in dissentastheirelectedleaders Ham,s bra- zenly use them and living shields. And the vast majority of the blame falls squarely on Hamas, Who have chosen to treat their people as pawns in both the ongoing battles with Israel and the ongoing PR campaign against Israel. So what should Israel do? Should Israel stop bombing supply tunnels that are connected to people's homes? Should Israel not target missiles that are set up in the courtyards of apartment complexes? Should Israel not take out bomb making sites and terrorist leaders who use hospitals and schools as their bases? What Israel does is warn people to get away. It gives them a chance, something these "vic- tims" are not being given by their extremist leaders. Are the Palestinians victims? Abso- lutely. But the oppressors are the people they have put in power as much, if not more than the Israeli army that bulldozes their homes. I have long been a proponent of social change through complex, multi-layered actions. I be- lieve that peace can be achieved with jobs and roads and schools and hospitals as opposed to guns and bombs and innocent casualties. But I also believe that, in the horrible situation Israel lives in on a daily basis, there must be a constant, undiminished show of strength. We have witnessed how, every time Israel gives something up or capitulates on a point, it is taken by radical Muslims as one more step toward her ultimate demise. This isn't justification for warfare. But it means that Israel must travel two roads, one a rebuilding of social and cultural infrastructure, so the Palestinians don't have something to fight against, and the other a hard line response to anyone or anything that endangers her survival. And even then. if the end of the road is to be reached,- Israel will have to give in to some demands. Israel will concede some points, possibly some territory. But she will do so only with assurances of future stability and security. It's a complicated path and a painful journey, one our erstwhile expert. Dr. Stephen Day, fails to comprehend. Perhaps he needs to take another look at his course book, and come to terms with an age-old adage. The world is colored in shades of gray, not in black and white, or in this case. Israelis and Palestinians. It's too easy to say, "Once I supported Israel. Now I don't." Think instead of the challenges ahead, the distance to be traveled to achieve a lasting peace, and the structures that must be implemented in order to make it so. And that's the good word. The opinions in this column are those of the writer and not the Heritage or any other individual, agency or organization. Send your thoughts, com- ments, and critiques to the Heritage or email Museum: Beacon of hope in the center of Jerusalem By Marvin Hier LOSANGELES (JTA) OnOct.29.2008. the Israeli Supreme Court rendered a unanimous decision permitting the Simon Wiesenthal Center to resume construction on its Mu- seum of Tolerance project on the site of the municipal parking lot in the heart of western Jerusalem. The court denied the contention of the project's chief opponent, Sheik Raed Salah. a notorious anti-Semite and Hamas supporter. that the parking lot was a Muslim cemetery and allowed construction to resume even on the small portion where bones were found. For halfa century, hur/dreds of Jews. Chris- tians and Muslims parked their cars every day on the site, with no protest whatsoever from any Muslim groups, religious leaders, nongovernmental organizations or professors. As the court noted, "for almost 50 years the compound has not been a part of the cemetery, both in the normative sense and in the practi- cal sense, and it was used for various public purposes." It also said, "During all those years no one raised any claim, on even one occasion. that the planning procedures violated the sanctity of the site. or that they were contrary to law as a result of the historical and religious uniqueness 6f the site." And. "For decades this area was not regarded as a cemetery by the general public or by the Muslim community." "No one," the court said, "denied this posi- " tion." In 1964, the highest Muslim authority, the Muslim Religious Council. even ruled that the adjacent Independence Park(Mamilta Cemetery) was a"mundras." an abandoned site where building is permissible. Today, mundras is a widely relied-upon categorization and sanctioned throughout the Arab world--in Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Palestinian territories. While traditional Judaism does not have such a concept, the court noted that "in practice, where public needs required this, an agreed Jewish law solution has usually been found, and this allowed the building to be carried out in a way that minimized ... the violation of the graves." Since the Israeli government and City of Jerusalem gave us the land eightyears ago, the Wiesenthal Center has endured many checks and balances planning and architectural meetings, City" Council hearings, displaying the Frank Gehry model at Jerusalem City Hall. placing ads announcing the project in Hebrew. Arabic and English newspapers. During all these years, while tens of millions of dollars were being spent, not a single protestwas heard. No scholar, ordinary citizen or government official argued that the site was a cemetery. Why? Because they agreed with the court that"the area has not been classified as a cem- etery for decades." The bones found during the excavation process were between 300 and 400 years old. unaccompanied by a single marker or monument identifying any individual name. family or religion. Under the supervision of the Israel Antiqui- ties Authority, the bones discovered will be treated with the utrrtost dignity and will be re- interred in accordance with Muslim tradition. Jerusalem is more than 3.000 years old. Hardly a street or neighborhood is without relics or bones. We could declare it a cemetery, off limits to everyone--a city of the past with no future or we could find a better way to revere the past without choking off the future. Some recent critics such as Americans for Peace Now and the Council on American- Islamic Relations argue that the museum should set a higher standard. We have. Even though our opponents deliberately watched our project move forward without protest- ing, our lawyers still attempted to meet with Sheik Salah but were rebuffed. The court's own mediator tried but fared no better. We offered practical solutions to build on top of the bones without "disturbing them --also rejected. We offered to restore the virtually abandoned nearby Mamilla Cemetery they were not interested. The sheik had one objective--to declare this site in western Jerusalem a Muslim site. He himself chose the venue of the Supreme Court but is unwilling to accept and abide by its unanimous decision. The Museum of Tolerance will not allow itself to fall victim to intimidation and intolerance. Fortunately, many Israeli and Jewish lead- ers have endorsed our project: Prime Minster Ehud Olmert; former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu; the executive vice-chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Malcolm Hoenlein; Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershow- Heir on page 19A