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July 12, 2013

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH .NEWS, JULY 12, 2013 PAGE 5A 9rla m By Ben Cohen Following the ugly battle between the Egyptian mili- tary and Muslim Brother- hood President Mohamed Morsi, resulting in Morsi's ouster on July 3, aswell as the ongoing bloodbath in Syria, the arguments for the preservation of the Jor- danian modelmpolitically moderate, more democratic than its" neighbors, and proudly Islamic yet ame- nable to good relations with western nations and with Israel--are self-evident. When King Hussein of Jordan died in early 1999, Israel mourned him, as the veteran journalist Eric Silver pointed out at the time, "as one of its own." Flags on public buildings flew at half-mast, memorial candies glimmered in Tel Aviv's Rabin Square, and newspapers carried head- lines like "Shalom; King." At the King's funeral, an Israeli delegation that included Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the then Mossad chief, Ephraim Ha- levy, mingled openly and cordially with Arab leaders. In that short moment of remembrance, the Middle East was provided with a brief glimpse of what life would be like should a genuine peace with Israel be achieved--not a mere ces- sation of hos-tilities, but the type of friendly, cooperative peace that prevails among the countries of Europe and North America. Yet Silver-- one of the most perceptive reporters to ever cover the region, who is sadly no lon- ger with us--also observed, "Anxiety sits on the shoulder of Israel's grief. Is it all too good to be true now that Hussein has gone, and his 37-year-old son, Abdullah, an unknown quantity, has succeeded to the throne?" Fourteen years later, King Abdullah remains on his throne. Only the most churl- ish would deny that this in itself is an achievement, given Jordan's history of surviving, against the odds, as a sovereign state. For this small desert kingdom carved out by the British has been forced to contend with many enemies, internal and external, throughout its short existence. From the Egyptian dictator N rsser in the 1960s, through the radical Palestinian terrorist factions in the 1970s, to the Syrian butcher Bashar al- Assad today, Jordan and its ruling Hashemite monarchy has faced its fair share of close shaves. And while the goodwill that prevailed between Is- rael and Jordan at the time of King Hussein's death has dissipate.d somewhat, Israel's strategic interest in stability aiad continuity on the East Bank has remained solid. What has changed, though, is the nature of the threat. The belief that Jordan a SOllFce would be undone by the Palestinians was once a commonplace, which partly explains why "Jordan is Pal- estine" used to be a popular slogan on the Israeli right. Today, the Palestinians are far from being the main challenge to Jordan's surviv- al, so much so that even the achievement of that elusive final agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority would still leave Jordan painfully vulnerable to other dangers. The country's economy is in an awful state. Unlike many of its Arab neigh- bors, Jordan does not sit on huge oil reserves, and is completely dependent on imports to meet its energy , needs. Recent cuts in food, fuel and electricity subsidies resulted in angry protests on the streets of the capital, Amman, and in other cities too. Inflation has climbed by three points in the space of a year, to 7.1 percent, while unemployment hovers at a perilously high 13 percent. These factors have further alienated that sector of the population known as "native Jordanians"--Arabs long settled on the East Bank of the Jordan River who have traditionally been the principal source of support for the monarchy--from King Abdullah. Given the country's already scarce resources, the enormous influx of refugees into Jor- Preserved on page 15A By Ben Sales TEL AVIV (JTA) For the second time in less than three years, Egypt is erupting in chaos, with a popular protest movement leading to a swift change in the country's leadership. For I raelis. the Egyp- tian military's removal of Mohamed Morsi from the presidency lastweek is a cause for optimism. An Islamist and a leading figure in the Muslim Broth- erhood. Morsi's brief tenure saw a further estrangement between Israel and Egypt. The Brotherhood advocates Israel's destruction and sup- ports Hamas. the terrorist group that governs in Gaza. And while Morsi upheld the 197.9 peace treaty with Israel during his year in office, his refusal of contact with Israel andhis warm relations with other Islamist governments portended future tension between the countries. With Morsi gone and the Egyptian milit~ary reassert- ing itself. Israel can breathe a little easier. Israel has en- joyed close cooperation with the Egyptian Army in recent decades, born of their shared interest in combating terror- ist groups and maintaining stability. "To get rid of the Muslim Brotherhood is great ~or Egypt and for the region." said Zvi Mazel. Israel's am- bassador to Egypt in the late 1990s. "It's the best thing that has happened this year. One of their central goals is to destroy Israel." The takeover also poses risks for Israel. Aweak and unstable Egypt will be less able to maintain calm in the Sinai Desert. act as an anchor of stability in the Arab World or step in as a mediator betv~een Israel and its enemies.. And while dealing with a country led by secular pragmatists is obviously preferable to one led by Islamists, the 2011 Egyptian uprising showed that a government inclined posifively toward Israel may only be possible amid signifi- cant repression at home. Israel thus far has stayed silent in response to the un- rest in Egypt's capital, neither praising nor condemning the military's actions nor reach- ing out publicly to the new government in formation. In an interview last week with the Italian newspaper La Corriere Della Sera, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Ne- tanyahu said only that Israel is watching events in Egypt very carefully. Netanyahu also made only passing refer- ence to Egypt ha his weekly speech to the Cabinet on Sunday. The Israel Defense Forces also have reacted calmly. Troop activity on Israel's southern border has not increased meaningfully, .de- spite a rocket exploding last week near the resort town of Eilat and the bombing of an Egyptian gas pipeline to Jor- dan. Lastweek, Israel allowed Egypt to move troops into the Sinai amoveprohibited by their peace treaty as an added security measure. Despite ongoing close coordination between the Israeli and Egyptian mili- taries, the Sinai has been a hotspot of terrorist activity since Mubarak's ouster, a situation that could get worse with Egypt's top brass focused on containing the unrest in Cairo. which already has claimed dozens of lives. In addition to the pipeline bombing, an Egyptian soldier was killed there on Sunday. Morsi's fall also has weak- ened Hamas, which enjoyed a small uptick in prestige during his administration. In October, the emir of Qatar became the first head of state to visit Gaza. The following month, Morsi's mediation of the conflict between Hamas and Israel led to a slight eas- . ing of Israel's Gaza blockade. Now. Hamas again is on the ropes. Its parent orga- nization has been removed from leadership after only a year and it has lost some financial support from Iran for choosing to back the reb- els fighting Syrian President Bashar Assad, an Iranian ally. If the Egyptian military clamps down on weapons transfers in the Sinai and underground tunnels to Gaza, it could stanch Hamas' supply chain. For now, Israeli officials are reacting with a poker face. But if the Brotherhood's fall portends a decline in Istamist fortunes across the region, Israelis will likely smile and collectively exhale. "The interests of the [Egyp- tian] government are prag- matic-to work in Sinai against terror and to revive the Egyptian economy,'" Mazel said. "They may even cooperate with us more eco- nomically. It was a :old peace. We'll see what happens now." By Edmon J. Rodman LOS ANGELES (JTA)--On Yom Kippur, we ask "Who by fire?" Sadly, this year at Tisha b'Av we already know who--the 19 firefighters who perished in Arizona. "This is as dark a day as I can remember," Gov. Jan Brewer said in a statement Unknowingly, the gov- ernor connected me to the mood of the Ninth of Av, the Jewish day of mourning that begins this year on the evening of July 15. Each year we come from the sun summer unpre- pared for this darkest day on the Jewish calendar. With the itinerary of vacation days on our minds, we reluctantly stop over on this day without even a road map of the trag- edies of our people. Perhaps that's why this year, with the tragedy of Ari- zona, I found myself reflecting on those who gave their lives, so that others would not die or lose their homes in fire. Tisha b'Av marks a day on which we are supposed to connect with pain and loss. It's a day to wail about how the awful happened and wtiy. The flames from the de- struction of the first and second Temples, as well as other tragedies that we re- member on Tisha b'Av. seem so distant until a story of flames and heroism burns a . its present and its past. Ac- connecting path. All but one of the Granite Mountain Interagency Hot- shots, an elite'firefighting crew trained in wildfire sup- pression, died in an effort to protect a subdivision near the small town of Yarnell. None of the victims were Jewish. yet their loss and the mourning of their loved ones cannot help but remind us at this time of Year of those Jews who died in flames. In Los Angeles and the West, during the weeks lead- ing up to Tisha b'Av, it is al- most always high fire season. In 2007. during the" Griffith Park fire here, I could see the flames comingdown from the Hollywood Hills. As I looked at the faces of my neighbors standing in the street, I could see that fear of fire. of the hor- rendous loss it can bring, was not religion specific. The Arizona Forestry Di- vision reported that the Yarnell Hill fire started from a lighting strike, not as from Jewish mart crdom from the torch of a conquering army or homicidal mob. Yet the result is the same: wives are without husbands, children without fathers, parentswithout sons. Some 30 miles away from Yarnell, where many of the memorials to the firefighters have been held, is Prescott, Ariz. -- a city with Jews in cording to the University of Arizona's Southwest Jewish Archives, in 1928, the Ku Ktux Klan marched past the M. Goldwater store, owned by Michael Goldwater (Goldwas- ser), who was presidential candidate Barry Goldwater's Jewish great-grandfather. Today there is a congre- gation in Prescott. Temple B'rith Shalom, and its new rabbi, Jessica Rosenthal. was planning to hold a memorial service to recall and honor those who had been killed or injured in the blaze. Unfor- tunately, memorial services and mourning are aspects of life with which we have too much experience. On Tisha b'Av. the saddest day of the Jewish year. we have customs .that connect us to tragedy. Traditionally, you do not eat. drink or bathe: there is no sex; and as a sign of mourning you do not wear leather, which is considereda sign of luxury. In some com- munities duringservices, the worshipers sit on the floor or on low stools and recite prayers in a subdued voice: On Tisha b'Av, we also chant Eicha, a dirge that in part po- etically and painfully captures the fall of Jerusalem. Filled with phrases such as "their faces are blacker than soot." you can't help but imagine the flames. Adding to the flames. the cover oftheArtScroll edi- tion of Eicha shows a croll that's been singed. Eicha is dense with anguish and in places difficult to fol- low. But while rereading it, after following the stories of the firefighters' wives, those who lost husbands and the fathers of their children. phrases that once made little sense began to pop from the page, helping me to connect to their loss: "Panic and pitfall are our lot Death and destruction. My eyes shed streams or water Over the ruin of my poor people." In Eicha. which in Hebrew means "how," a text illumi- nated with "blazing wrath," who could not but think of how these men died protect- ing their community. "None survived or escaped." the text says. In Eichawe also find the words, "Why have you forgot- ten us utterly" and "pour out your hearts like water." Transporting the agony of Eicha to Arizona were the words of Patricia Huston, who is married to a member of a different lnteragency Hotshot crew. She wrote a few days after the tragedy on the Wildland Firefighter's Wives blog, "The poor wives who were greeted by a uniformed official knocking on their door last night. I can't even imagine.'" Huston also wrote a Hot- shot Firefighters Pr yer. It closes this way: "For if this day on the line, I should lose my life, Lord, bless my Hotshot Crew. my children and my WIFE." Perhaps in age-old con- AMERICA SAYS THAT OOPlN6 ALLIES IS NO BIG DEAL AND THAT EVERYONE DOES W. versation. Eicha responds, "Our dancing has turned into mourning." But closing on words of hope it ends, "Renew our days as of old." Edmon J. Rodman is a JTA columnist who writes on Jewish life from Los Angeles. Contact him at edmojace@ \