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June 21, 2013     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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June 21, 2013

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PAGE 16A I I By Yoni Hirsch and Israel Hayom While the U. administra- tion has officially adopted the position that the Syrian re- gime used chemical weapons and has declared publicly that it will provide the rebels with military aid, it appears that behind-the-scenes prepara- tions are still being made for a much larger move. Israel, Jordan, and the U.S. are joirltly planning an attack aimed at destroying the unconventional weapons stockpiles in Syria, Time magazine reported over last weekend. According to the report, which was based on inter- views with senior Israeli military and intelligence of- ficials, such an attack would follow several scenarios, one of which is Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's removal from power, either if he is killed, flees the country or HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JUNE 21, 2013 Israel, U.S., Jordan reportedly coordinating attack on Syrian weapons simply disappears. These scenarios, according to the Israeli sources, would prompt the allies to attack the estimated 18 depots and other sites where weapons of mass destruction are stored. Search-and-destroy opera- tions would also reportedly be called into action if the weapons appeared to be on the cusp of falling into the hands of Islamist rebels. The Israeli officials, how- ever, stressed that it had not been decided whether Israeli or U.S. forces would act, or who would do what, accord- ing to the Time report. But the U.S. plans, said the Israeli officials, call for deploying ground forces in addition to the airstrikes, to assure that the chemical and biological components are neutralized. The report of such a plan comes even though U.S. President Barack Obama has said on several occasions that he did not foresee a situation in which U.S. soldiers would be sent into Syria. One senior Israeli intelli- gence official told Time that even though the U.S. waited before adopting the Israeli position that the Syrian re- gime used chemical weapons, cooperation between Wash- ington and Jerusalem never ceased. "We have our cards on the lable with the Americans for a long time. They've had all this information," the ntel- ligence official said. "Things are happening behind the scenes," another Isf'aeli official told Time. "Things are really happen- ing." The Israeli officials pointed to the U.S. stationing of F-16 fighter jets and Patriot mis- sile batteries in neighboring Jordan erlier this month, ostensibly for a joint military exercise ("Eager Lion") set to take place next week, as "a clear, purposeful, presence of a strike force near the border of Syria." "I think it's a message, a clear message," the official told Time, adding that the move was also meant as a message to Iran. "It's only a short leap to the Gulf," the official said. However, one of the Israeli officials emphasized that any military operation including Israel would be met with in- tense opposition by moderate Middle Eastern countries, like Jordan and Turkey. "If this [attack operation] is to hold water, this cannot involve Israel," the Israeli official told Time. The Pentagon on Saturday confirmed that Defense Sec- retary Chuck Hagel approved a Jordanian request to keep some of the F-16s and Patriot batteries in the kingdom at the conclusion of the joint Eager Lion exercise. Accord- ing to the Pentagon, "Tje U.S. has a long history of partnership with Jordan and is committed to its security." Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, meanwhile, speak{ng at the Washing- ton Institute for Near East Policy on Saturday, said that Israel was "placing three red lines on the Syrian regime: not to allow the delivery of sophisticated weapons to any terrorist factions or militia, whether Hezbollah or to any other faction; not to allow chemical agents to these kinds of factions; and to keep our sovereignty over the Golan Heights by not allowing any fire from the Golan Heights, intention- ally [or] not intentionally, to our side.., and when they  violate or cross these red lines, as they did on the Golan Heights, we act to destroy the Syrian regime's position that was responsible for this kind of fire." Ya'aion added that he was not impressed with Assad's recent gains on the battlefield. "Bashar Assad's victory at Qusair was not a turning point in the fighting and I don't bglieve he has the momentum required to win," said Ya'aion, diverging from the statement made last week by Israeli Intelligence, International Relations and Strategic Affairs Minister Dr. Yuval Steinitz, who said, "Not only is there a real possibility that Syrian President Bashar Assad will survive the civil war ravaging his country, but Assad could even prevail in his war against rebels trying . to topple him." Despite the Syrian regime's recent military achieve- ments, "Only 40 percent of the territory is in Assad's control; the rest is eld by Sunnis and Kurds," Ya'alon said. Ya'alon went on to em- phasize Israel's intention to avoid, as much as possible, involvement in the Syrian conflict. "Any Israeli intervention could influence the side we support, and not necessarily for the best," he said. Poland's Jewish renaissance brings to light 'underpinnings' of Judeo-Christian Western culture Koret Foundation San Francisco-based and Poland-born philanthropist Tad Taube, wose founda* tions committed $16 million to the Museum of the History of Polish Jews. that "1,000 years of Jewish history serve as the under- pinnings of our own Judeo- Christian Western culture." Much like the Jewish Culture Festival, Taube expects the museum to appeal to audi- ences well beyond the Jewish community. After it opened in April, the museum saw 15,000 visitors in its first three days and 45,000 in its first month. "I think our studies right now show that we're going to have in excess of a million people a year visiting the museum, and probably no more than 200,000 would be Jewish," Taube says. "So it's going to be a major global attraction. And the [attendance] model that we have is something that exists already, which is the Jewish Culture Festival in Krakow." Taube recalls a conversa- tion he once hadwith a Polish consular official who noted, "In 1939, the population of Poland was 35 million, and roughly 10 percent of that population was Jewish, but the contribution to Polish culture was probably more like 75 percent. So, when the Nazis murdered the Jews, it was as if Polish culture had been amputated." The consulate official's point is why Taube believes Polish culture at large--not just Pol- ish-Jewish culture--is being revived through the Museum of the History of Polish Jews. By Jacob Kamaras June 28 will mark the start of the 23rd annual Jewish Culture Festival in Krakow, Poland, whose closing event is a concert that routinely draws 20,000-25,000 people and exemplifies the re- emerging broad appeal of Jewish culture in a country that was home to 3 million Jews who died during the Holocaust. "Probably less than 10 percent of the people that are at that concert are Jewish," San Francisco-based and Poland-born philanthropist Tad Taube tells But now, the Jewish Cul- ture Festival is not alone as a symbol of Poland's Jewish renaissance. The Museum of the History of Polish Jews--for which two foun- dations Taube heads, the Koret Foundation and Taube Philanthropies, have made commitments of $16 million in total--opened to visitors this April in Warsaw and according to Taube is begin- ning to deliver the message Taube says the "unfortu- nate aspect of modern think- ing about the Holocaust" is that it "tends to obscure a great culture that existed for a millennium in Poland, and which had an enormous influence on Western cul- ture." While the Holocaust occurred in a relatively short time frame, Jewish history and culture in Poland goes back 1,000 years. "[The Jewish community] brought to Poland a great deal of art, music, theater, literature, philosophy, law, charity, family values, com- munity values--all of the things that are embraced today as part of Judeo- Christian Western culture, and 'it brought those [ele- ments] to Poland and to Jews as well as mostly non-Jews, because the Jewish popula- tion in Poland was always the minority, although a very large minority," Taube says. The most recent chapter of pre-Holocaust Polish Jewish history involved the late Poland-born Pope John Paul II, whose hometown of Wadowice was more than 40-percent Jewish before the Nazis annexed the town in 1939. John Paul II left Wadowice in 1938 to study at Jagiellonian University in Krakow, but would fre- quently return later in life, including three times as the pope. Among the current efforts to rediscover Poland's rich history is the School for Dialogue Among Nations, a yearlong learning program through which students in Polish high schools learn aJoout the Jewish history of their local regions. Last winter, reported on how these efforts are being implemented in the pope's hometown. "Poland has been for many, many years a predomi- nantly Catholic country, and the Polish Pope John Pat II and the Polish people were essentially unified in terms of their thinking about re- ligious issues," Taube says. "And what Pope Johan Paul II did in terms of his impact on the Jewish people, is he took it upon himself to go to Poland, condemn anti- Semitism, commemorate the Holocaust, and establish diplomatic relationships with Israel. On another trip to Poland in 1979, he knelt and prayed at Auschwitz, which for Jews is very, very sacred territory." John Paul II's most impor- tant to Jewish-Christian re- lations was "that he delivered the message in Poland that the Jewish people were not responsible for the death of Christ, and also delivered the message that anti-Semitism was a sin against God and the Church," Taube says. Taube explains that his motivation for contributing to Poland's Jewish renais- sance doesn't have a lot to do with his Polish birth, even though he lost a large segment of his family in the Holocaust. "I became involved in Jew- ish community life to a fairly significant extent starting about 40 years ago," Taube recalls. "And I became con- cerned that what I saw was rather defensive in nature. I thought some of the Jewish organizations and in fact their Jewish leadership, were I would say eager to manifest their Jewishness, but at the same time in a very narrow context. You might have a philanthropist that gave a significant gift to a Jewish organization, but maybe 95 percent of that individual's gifts would go to non-Jewish organizations. And I started wondering, 'Why?'" The answer, according to Taube, involves the Holo- caust, which "obscured Jew- ish thinking in the sense that it dominated our perception about ourselves, and what was lost in the process was the contribution that the Jewish people made to West- ern culture, avery important contribution." "Indeed I would say that Jewish people, and our culture, and our history, serves as basic foundations of Western culture," Taube says. "I'd much rather talk about that than talk about the Holocaust. So, it "has been my view that we wane to give my people back the heritage that we rightfully claim, instead of making that heritage part of a systematic process of murder." Following the devastation of the Holocaust, Poland is now a "very young country," Taube says, stressing the importance of events such as the Jewish Culture Festival in Krakow engaging a young demographic. "Those aren't 85-year- olds that are dancing in the streets [at the Jewish Cul- ture Festival]," Taube says. "[Young Poles] celebrate our Jewish events with us with great excitement and enthusiasm, and Poland emerged today as a pretty open society, free of a lot of the issues that it had to face before the war. As a matter of fact, most of the people that were facing those issues are dead." As the Jewish renaissance in Poland moves forward with efforts such as the cul- ture festival and the Museum of the History of Polish Jews, Taube says having a "toler- ant Christian population" is crucial. "Having a tolerant Chris- tian population that under- stands Jewish issues and understands Jewish history and culture, and acknowl- edges that we've played a very fundamental role in helping to shape their value systems--I think all of those things bode well for moving towards a [Polish] society where there is less hatred," he says. "We need to teach people how to love one an- other and we need to stop looking for excuses to hate."