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July 31, 2009

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PAGE 4A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JULY 31,2009 i ] " r . Young Jews need to start up a love affair00with Israel By Elan Merry j. the Jewish news weekly of Northern California connecting with Israel and seeing it for more than just that place we turn to when praying. Israel is a refuge for Jews of any back- ground. Our Jewish history is full of stories of persecution, and since its i:reation in 1948, Israel offers a refuge, always with open arms. In just the past 25 years, Jews from the former Soviet Union and Ethiopia have sought refuge in their historical homeland. Now, with a strong and independent Israel, Jews from all over the world are assured a safe haven in case of anti-Semitism and persecution. In 1939, just before the start of World War II. the United States turned away the M. S. St. Louis, packed with Jewish refugees from Germany. With no Jewish homeland to go to, the ship ended up returning to Europe, where many of the passengers were forced to disembark in countries that soon fell under Nazi persecution. In 1948, during the War of Independence in Israel. many American Jews left their homes to bear arms and stand with their Israeli brothers. This American Zionist zeal is mostly gone. I am extremely lucky to have a large fam- ily in Israel, and I have been to the country countless times. When I travel to Israel, the culture, music and streets of Tel Aviv make me feel more Jewish than any Sh'ma ever has. This amazing effect Israel has can really be a vitalizing effort in reinvigorating the U. S. Jewish relationship and identity with Israel. SAN FRANCISCO--I stood gazing at the audience in front of me, excited to become a bar mitzvah. I was about to give the sel:mon I had been working on for months. It actuly was a-really good speech, riddled with pithy dialogue and a dynamite introduction and conclusion. My topic was one to make anyone smile: Israel. All Jews love Israel. The speech and the service concluded smoothly, and soon relatives and friends surrounded me, congratulating me on an excellent speech. However, as I began to discuss my lecture with some synagogue members, I became confused. Many people I talked to had a lack of passion for Israel, and they also didn't seem to place much importance on the Jewish state--which left me mystified. It began to dawn on me that most American Jews have not made a legitimate connection with the country so important to all of us. What many define as having "a passion for Israel" is donating a few bucks to have a tree planted there. ManyAmerican Jews have lostwhat Israel re- ally means andwhy it needs to play such a major part in every Jew's life. To reverse this trend, it is essential for young American Jews to start Palestinian terrorism: By Jonathan Tobin Commentary Magazine The movie citement against Jews and Israel onPalestinian TV and radio has been incessant and effective. Children's shows are particularly /ile as they laud suicide bombings and encourage kids to aspire to nothing higher than murdering as many Jews as possible. Hamas's current goal is towin greater inter- national sympathy for its cause and undermine the economic boycott of Gaza. Th boycott's goal is to prevent the terrorist group from re- arming and to make it plain to its supporters that so long as they allow themselves to be ruled by terrorists, normal relations with the rest of the world are impossible. When Israel withdrew every settler and soldier from the Strip in 2005, Palestinians could have used their new autonomy to build a decent life. Instead. under Hamas's leadership, they have redoubled their efforts to wage war on Israel. While we would hope that more Palestinians express their disgust with the rocket attacks and Hamas"s decision to sacrifice their own people on the altar of anti-Israel terror, the prospects for change appear dim. Though Bronner sees as part of a competition to win the sympathy of the world Hamas's cur- rent strategy and Israeli initiatives to lessen the suffering of ordinary Palestinians held hostage by the terrorists, the real key to peace is the race for the hearts and minds of the Palestinian people. One of the key failures of Middle East peace processors in the past has been ignoring the way both Fatah and Hamas taught hatred andrej e ction of peace with a Jewish state. Presi- dent Obama's obsessionwith Jewish settlement- building in and outside Jerusalem has shifted the focus away from the real obstacle to peace, which is a Palestinian political culture steeped in martyrdom, violence, and an unwillingness to accept the legitimacy of Israel. Jonathan Tobin is executive editor of Com- mentary Magazine, from which this column is reprinted with permission. Read Commentary online at If you like Palestinian terrorism then you'll love the new Hamas-produced movie now premiering in Gaza. In a recent issue of the New York Times. Ethan Bronner writes that the film (shot in a media center built in what used to be the Israeli settlement of Gush Katif) profiles the life of Emad Akel, a Hamas leader killed in 1993. According to the article. "The Women of "Gaza and the Patience of Job" is part of a new Palestinian cultural renaissance aimed at building.a "culture of resistance." The artistic boom in Gaza includes movies, plays, art exhibits, poetry, and television series. Bronner notes that not everybody in Gaza is thrilled with the result of Hamas rule, since it has brought nothing but death and poverty. But that's why the leadership of the Islamist terrorist group thinks it's all the more important to devote themselves to propaganda that will help justify their ideology of war-to-the-death against Israel. Though their rocket fire against Sderot and other Israeli towns and villages has slowed, they believe their top challenge is to dramatize the plightofthe Palestinians in Gaza, whose misery is a direct result of being run by a group bent on confrontation with Israel but completely uninterested in giving the people there a better life. The importance ofthis"culture of resistance" should not be underestimated. Though Bronner treats the Hamas arts-festival as a change of direction for the Palestinians. the last decade of anti-Israel terrorism was fomented in no small part by the official media of the Palestinian Authority, which took over the West Bank and Gaza in 1994. One of the greatest ironies of the Oslo peace-process was that it facilitated the indoctrination in hatred and violence of a generation of Palestinianyouths.As monitoring organizations such as Palestine Media Watch and MEMRI have shown, the drumbeat of-in- THE VIEWS EXPRESSED ON THIS PAGE ARE NOT NECESSARILY THE VIEWS OF HERITAGE MANAGEMENT. CENTRAL FLORIDA'S INDEPENDENT JEWISH VOICE Editor/Publisher Jeffrey Gaeser Editor Emeritus Associate Editor Assistant Editor Gene Starn Lyn Payne Mike Etzkin Society Editor Bookkeeping Gloria Yousha Paulette Harmon Kim Fischer Account Executives Barbara do Carmo Marci Gaeser Contributing Columnists Jim Shipley Ira Sharkansky Tim Boxer David Bornstein Production Department David Lehman David Gaudio Teri Marks Louis Ballantyne Elaine Schooping Gil Dombrosky ISSN 0199-0721 Winner of 40 Press Awards HE ITAGE i0000o0io00,00wi0000 HERITAGE Florida Jewish News (1SN 0199-0721) is published weekly for $37.95 per year to Florida ad- dresses ($46.95 for the rest of the U.S.) by HERITAGE Central Florida Jewish News, Inc., 207 O'Brien Road, Suite 101, Fern Park, FL 32730. Periodicals postage paid at Fern Park and additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes and other correspondence to: HERITAGE, P.O. Box 300742, Fern Park, FL 32730. MAILING ADDRESS PHONE NUMBER P.O. Box 300742 (407) 834-8787 Fern Park, FL 32730 FAX (407) 831-0507 email: The truth is that most American Jews do not have any Israeli relatives and would much rather vacation in Hawaii than a patch of desert. American Jewry has become mainly prayer-based and sgnagogue community- based, or at least that's the way many youth see it. Jewish youth believe that if they be- come a b'nai mitzvah or get confirmed or go to synagogue every once in a while with some Jewish friends, they have fulfilled the criteria for being an ideal Jew. But Judaism is the culture, the identity, the history--and 90 percent of it involves a dedicated relationship with Israel. While liberalism coincides with what young Jews believe, unfortunately a liberal mindset is commonly very anti-Israel. A close Jewish friend of mine constantly argues how the aggressive bully Israel must be stopped. He listens to NPR, watches the BBC, and is influenced by the constant anti-Israel rancor, Yet he has never been to Israel to see the country's situation for himself. Now don't get me wrong, I am a strong Democrat, but I keep Israel in priority. Many American Jews have forgotten this. How do we show American Jews that the connection with Israel means as much about being Jewish as does the siddur in their hands? The only solution is to travel to Israel. American Jewish travel to Israel has fallen by 60 percent in the last 12 years. This alarm- ing statistic should scare every person who sees it. Israel has become an afterthought in the American Jewish household. As part of the Write On for Israel program. I recently went on a trip to Israel with 17 other Jewish teens. As I saw many of my peers experience Israel for the first time. it was obvious that during those precious 10 days they felt more Jewish than ever before. Programs that offer trips to Israel for teens are creating a desperately needed generation of pro-Israel advocates for the future. As current Jewish teens in the United States grow into their 20s and beyond, what have we taught them? That it's OK to marry a Catholic as long as you name your kid David and take him to Yore Kippur services once a year? That you do not need to speak a word of Hebrew or even know what you are chanting in synagogue? That Israel is a dangerous place? That you can fulfill a mitzvah by sending Israel a few bucks each year? Our history and, most importantly, our connection with Israel is what makes us Jew- ish, and this is in real jeopardy. American Jews need to hop on an El A1 flight (the kosher food isn't that bad) and see for themselves. Elan Merry recently spent 10 days in Israel as a participant in Write On for lsrael, an in- tensive two:year program that teaches high school students about journalism and lsrael. He is 15 and lives in Mountain View, Calif. Peace without me? Rachel and I sat in the comfortable living room of the Prime Minister's residence in Jerusalem. We had been invited for tea by Aliza Begin, wife of the Prime Minister. It was the spring of 1980. When Menachem Begin entered the room there were greetings and hugs all around. Rachel and I had been close friends of the Begin family since our meeting on an air- plane in 1968. The Prime Minister had just returned from a meeting at the American Embassy in Tel Aviv. As I remember. ve sat. had tea and some cookies. I asked Prime Minister Begin what could he tell us of the meeting with the American ambassador that was not classified. The thin, bespectacled 70-year-old intel- lectual, freedom fighter and former lawyer smiled. "We had." he began in his slightly accented English, "a discussion of the peace process." Now,. let us remember that this is a con= versation that took place some 29 years ago. Therefore, the exact wording'of the discussion might not be totally accurate, but believe me my friends, the essence and the message are still very clear in my mind and memory. "The ambassador felt that we could have a peace agreement with the 'so-called PLO' in a short period of time, based on conces- sions we, Israel. would make." Yes. I know, the names have changed but the thrust of the comersation between an Israeli Prime Minister and an American official sounds stunningly familiar, does it not? "What concessions?" we asked. The Prime Minister took a sip of his tea. "He wanted us to cede some more land to the so-called PLO. He wanted us to negoti- ate over Jerusalem and the return of the Palestinians who left fn 1948. He did not want to discuss the 700,000 Jews pushed out of Arab lands in the 1950s. "I asked him if he really thought that giving back land that would put us back to our pre-1967 borders would actually bring peace. He said yes. Eventually. So then I told him that peace was an honorable goal. But what good is peace, Mr. Ambassador. to me without me? For surely under those circumstances I and my people would no longer be here." "And his answer to that?" we asked, Another sip. "He of course had none. Just a smile and an assurance that America stands behind the State of Israel." And so here we are. almost 30 years later. The only change that has taken place is the emergence of Iran as a state backing two terror organizations on Israel's borders. And while Arafat was a gangster and a terrorist. at least we knew where he stood. There are myriad plans that could radi- cally change the conditions of the Palestin- ian people. They or their leadership, such as it is. have no interest in bettering their living conditions and creating a solid economy. All we have to do is look at Gaza and see the chances wasted there. They are so fixated on killing Jews that their own future, their own success is not even a factor. Tell me that, "Well, that is only the radi- cal elements." That as a people they have the same aspirations as any other people. True. But so what? If their schools teach the children that Israel is evil and Jews are to be feared and killed, if those radical elements rain rockets down on innocent civilians on a daily basis, what hope is there for the future? Peace is an abstract subject. In the time of the Soviet Union. they expressed peace as a world wherein the Communist system was the only one. And that then and only then would there be true peace. To the Arabs, a new caliphate represents the kind of peace they recognize. There is no democracy in the Arab world. The true aspirations of the people are never considered. The oil wealth is being invested in the infrastructure of other na- tions. That in itself is not a bad thing, but does little for their people and therefore they must keep the bogey man of the Jew front and center. President Obama is right about settle- ments. They cannot pop up like pimples on the landscape justified by the fanatical fringe of Israeli society. But it has little to do with the actual peace that would satisfy those whose sole goal is the destruction of the Jewish State. And unless and until the United States takes the lead in shutting down the terrorist infrastructure in Gaza. the West Bank and Lebanon. nothing will be accomplished. How can the U.S. do this? Follow the money. If it leads to Iran. so be it. Then, get off Israel's back. How much of this "new approach" is the- ater. I don't know. What I do know is this: Almost 30 years later, the words of the last great Prime Minister of Israel echo: Peace? Peace is wonderful. But peace without me? Of what good is that to me?