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February 27, 2009

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, FEBRUARY 27, 2009 Wanted From page 1A ments if their interests are not met. The system also has made it difficult for governments to get things done. As historically larger po- litical parties continue to shrink, the calls for reform and more stable and effective government are growing. Kadima captured just 22 percent of the Feb. 10 vote, making it Israel's smallest winner in history. Reform proponents would like the Knesset to consider several measures. They in- clude: Automatically making the head of the largest party prime minister. Under the current system, the party leader able to assemble a Knesset major- ity coalition becomes prime minister. Raising the minimum threshold for parties to be elected to the Knesset to 5 percent of the popular vote. Currently the minimum is 2 percent. Making at least half of the Knesset's 120 seats repre- sentative of regional districts. This would make lawmakers directly responsible to con- stituents for the first time. Under the current system, voters elect nationwide par- ties, most of whose slates of candidates are chosen in internal party primaries. Despite the clamor for change, it could be little more than wishful thinking, experts caution. "Electoral reform is a rare phenomenon, and it happens only when very determined reformers use opportunities like the one they have now," Rahat said. Among those leading the call for change is Gidon Do- ron, a political science profes- sor at Hebrew University who formed a party that ran in the recent elections with the single mission of promoting electoral reform. The party received less than 1,000 votes. Doron said the idea wasn't for his party, called The Israelis, to win, but to draw attention to the idea of reform. Doron traces Israel's current governing woes to the 19th century and the founding of the modern Zionist move- ment. "Because they tried to speak for the entire Jewish people but were in actuality only about 1 percent of the Jews, they devised a very generous system of represen- tation," he said. At the time Israel was founded, there were plans to write a constitution that would rework the fractious system. But that has yet to happen, in part because it's so difficult to have Israel's disparate political parties agree on fundamental tenets. The most dramatic elec- toral reform to be instituted to date was a law for the direct election of the prime minister in the 1990s. The move was intended to consolidate power with the larger parties, but it backfired when voters split their ballots--casting one for a prime minister from a large party and another for Knesset representation for one of the smaller parties. Even though the lawwas repealed, the trend toward smaller parties has continued. The average lifespan of an Israeli government in recent years has been 21/2 years, and the average appointment of a minister is just a year-and- a-half. Israel has held five national elections in the past 10 years. "You cannot plan when you know the lifespan of a govern- ment is so short," Doron said. Like many Israelis, Doron wants to see a "professional government" in which minis- ters are appointed to posts on the basis of their professional expertise, not political consid- erations. Others say ministers should give up their Knesset seats once they are appointed to the Cabinet, so they can fo- cus on their ministerial work. Arian says regional rep- resentation in the Knesset 300 PAGE 15A is critical, though it's not a panacea. "It's very good, especially psychologically, because it gives the sense of change and connection with the politicians," Arian said. "But it does not necessarily lead to greater stability or greater accountability." Nevertheless, he called it "a long overdue reform." Rahat recommends a two- tiered system in which 90 seats would go to 16 multi-member districts and an additional 30 seats would be allocated to parties according to their share of votes nationwide. Acknowledging the dif- ficulty of change, Doron says there's still cause for optimism. "Remember, it's a new country," he said. "You can plan it." From page 1A get involved with the Max Fridman Orlando Chapter of AFMDA, contact Farzin Yashar, president, at 312-277- 8890 or BBYO American Friends of Magen David Adorn (AFMDA) sup- ports the lifesaving efforts of Magen David Adorn (MDA) in Israel and represents and advocates for MDA in the U. S. MDA is Israel's only govern- ment-mandated ambulance and emergency medical re- sponders, serving as Israel's second line of defense. A team of 1,500 professionals and 12,000 trainedvolunteers pro- vide all of Israel's population with pre-hospital emergency medical needs 24/7 includ- ing, disaster, ambulance and blood services. The MDA Na- tional Blood Services Center provides 100 percent of the blood requirements of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and 97 percent of the blood needs of Israel's hospitals and the general population. MDA's fleet of 700 MDA ambulances and Mobile Intensive Care Units travel over 6.75 million miles a year, taking care of more than 700,000 patients annually. MDA operates from over 100 Emergency Medi- cal Stations and 11 dispatch stations in communities throughout Israel. From page 1A ing the foundation for Jewish learning and leadership in our community." "BBYO had a huge impact Rubinger on my life," Gebaide said. "The AZAs and BBGs I met at the convention demonstrate that BBYO still makes a dif- ference for Jewish high school students. The teens are eager to educate themselves about Jewish and general issues and then act on that knowledge by creating programs that will make the world a better place...and they have fun while doing it. I'm certain they will become strong students and college campus leaders who will continue to serve the Jewish community throughout their lives using the skills they learned in BBYO." To find out more or to get involved with BBYO, con- tact Danielle Rubinstein at or by phone at 407-645-5933, ext. 292. Learn more and make a gift to BBYO at www.bbyo. org. Also, reconnect with your AZA and BBG friends at From page 4A to ask. Had a rocket landed on or even near our bUS, we wouldn't have had a chance. But you know what? That Wednesday when we traveled to those communities near the Gaza border, that was the first day in the entire week's time that we were there that no rockets were fired. I think Hamas must have heard that my wife, Donna, was coming and so they went into hiding! Donna, you see, takes no prisoners! It was amazing to stand on a hill in Sderot and look across the field and see the building both in Gaza City itself and in its outlying northern suburbs. You know what we saw? Most prominent were tall fancy looking condo buildings--maybe 15 to 20 stories high--that years ago Yasser Arafat had paid to be built for his senior officers and cronies. Reforms From page 7A funding table to non-tradi- tional partners. "In seeking to have the best understanding of the Israeli scene, there is value in working with other partners other than the Jewish Agency and the Joint, including other NGOs and philanthropists," said Hoffman, who served a stint as UJC's top profes- sional. Even opening up the sup- plementary funding should be a step taken in consultation with the Jewish Agency and the JDC, Hoffman said. But, he added, "We should be able to talk to everybody." As for the debate before the meetings, Hoffman said itwas a case of misunderstandings and miscommunication. "Richie Pearlstone is en- We learned from the IDF (Israeli army) officer briefing us, that when Hamas had staged its coup against Fatah and had taken full control of Gaza, rather than just shoot- ing the supporters of Fatah, Hamas instead threw them off the rooftops of those high buildings as an object lesson to anyone who would not obey Hamas' orders. They are an staggeringly cruel regime, Hamas. People who built smuggling tun- nels that start in Egypt and end underneath the beds of innocent Palestinian civil- ians. Terrorists, too, who during the war, knowing that Israeli binoculars were watching their every move, would grab a child to hold onto when they would cross a street so as not to be fired upon by Israelis. There has been a lot of talk in the media about war crimes carried out during this war, always directed, of course, at the Israeli government. My friends, there were indeed serious war crimes that took place. But not by Israet: By Hamas, who stored weapons and shot rockets from elemen- tary schools and homes of civilians in direct violation of the international Geneva con- ventions. Those are truly--not just morally and ethically but legally--war crimes. We visited these commu- nities in large part to hear firsthand the stories of the residents of that region. We went as well to show our support to those citizens of Israel. In truth, I didn't know if our being there really was of much help and support to those folks. But while there I found out differently. Again and again, people thanked us for coming. We were told that since the war ended we were the largest group--all 50 of us--to come and visit, and people told us how much that did mean to them. titled to interpret things as he reads them, or Richie is entitled to raise concerns, but I don't think he needed to be concerned," Hoffman said. "I justwish the UJC had clarified the issue." While some proponents of more radical change privately say that the new planning- table proposal could be the first, albeit small, step in an eventual move to end the exclusive relationship that the federations have with the Jewish Agency and the JDC on core dollars, defenders of the current process seemed satisfied after the meetings. "Under no circumstances would one nickel go to other organizations other than the JDC and JAFI for core fund- ing. Chicago would leave the UJC," said Nasatir, whose federation gives more money than any other to the Jewish Agency. "This isn't a threat; this is the way it is. Butwe are not opposed to supplemental funding for other organiza- tions. What people want to do in a supplemental way, we do think as things change it is OK to explore." Several participants praised the meetings in Florida, de- scribing them as productive on several matters, in addi- tion to the developments on overseas funding. "This is the first time in 10 years that I have felt optimistic that we're going in the right direction, and that we'll be able to achieve the goals and aspirations we've set out," Shoshanna Cardin, a longtime national lay leader from Balti- more, said in a media release issued by the UJC. "For me, to feel optimistic is big." A young woman who is the educational director of a Masorti (Conservative) syna- gogue i/Beersheva perhaps expressed it most powerfully. She reminded us of the final section of that week's Torah portion, Behallach, which describes the battle between the Israelites and the ruthless Amalakites who also made a practice of at- tacking civilians. The Torah says that while Moses lifted up his hands, the Israelites would gain the upper hand, but if his hands fell to his sides, the Amalakites would gain in strength. And Moses' arms would tire from having them raised many hours during the battle. Therefore, while Moses sat on a stone, Aaron and Hur would hold up Moses' hands Book for him so that victory could be achieved. This young woman said that not only our coming, but their learning that throughout the war of all the rallies that were being held in Jewish communi- ties across Europe and the United States--such as the community rally held at Ohev--was of such great help to them. "You have no idea," she said, "how much those rallies meant to us. To know that others, fellow Jews and Christians around the world, were thinking about us, praying for us, standing up to show their support for us, was so precious to our hearts." Like Aaron and Hur who held up Moses' arms, we who showed our concern, our love for them, held up their hands and that helped in their victory more than we-could possibly imagine, she told us. We here in the U. S., we here in Orlando cannot fight along- side the soldiers to help protect Israel from those monsters of Hamas. But we can and we must continue to hold up their hands, to strengthen them not only during the times of actual war, but also in the battle for getting out the truth to the world about the genuine evil done by those masters of atrocities, Hamas, who have no regard for the lives of even their own people. So let us never fail, never tire, never weaken in our resolve to hold the hands of our brothers and sisters in Eretz Yisrael. From page 14A "We the Sephardis, if they had placed it in our hands to make peace with the Arabs, we would have done it, we would have succeeded better than the Ashkenazis because they don't have the mentality to speak with the Arabs," the official said. This talk ofanArab mental- ity sounds like just the kind of thing Shabi would despise coming from an Ashkenazi politician and represents an obvious case of wishful thinking. Most important, it ignores the fact that it is pre- cisely the Mizrahis who have flocked to hard-line political parties in Israel, Likud and Shas. Sadly, coexistence does not always lead to amity--a fact that "We Look Like the Enemy" demonstrates but would prefer to forget. Adam Kirsch is the author of "Benjamin Disraeli," a new biography in Nextbook's Jewish Encounters series. Reprinted from, a new read on Jewish culture. Help Wanted Advertising Sales Full or Part Time Call Jeff at 407-834-8787