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August 8, 2014

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, AUGUST 8, 2014 PAGE 5A By Simone Rodan- Benzaquen "Wie Gott in Frankreich leben'--,living like God in France"--was a popular Yid- dish saying amongAshkenazi Jews for a long time. It sug- gested a certain fascination with France, implying that Jews living there are uniquely fortunate. Growing up in a traumatized post-Holocaust Germany and haunted by the imperative of "Never Again," that rosy vision of France, despite the dark episodes of its historical treatment of Jews, no doubt played a role in my decision to make Paris my home. France, to me, was the land of the Enlightenment; human rights; liberty, equality, and fraternity--a place that pro- vided opportunity for anyone of any ethnic or religious background to achieve what he or she desired. After all, while Benjamin Disraeli had to convert to become prime minister of England, Leon Bium, a publicly identified Jew, became prime minister of France. For years after I came to France I was awestruck to learn how many famous Jews had distinguished themselves in French society. Their Jew- ish identity was known and taken for granted, and yet they viewed themselves, and were viewed by others, as proud citizens of France. But in the early years of the 21st century, I became less sure that the "Never Again'' caution was irrelevant to France.Anti-Semiticviolence has increased substantially over the past 14 years. Just to mention some of the better- known outrages, a French Jew, Ilan Halimi, was mur- dered in 2006; two years ago, three Jewish schoolchildren and a teacher were murdered in Toulouse; a French ter- rorist has been arrested for the March murder of four at the Jewish Museum in Brus- sels; and a so-called "day of anger" a few months ago in Paris brought hundreds into the streets to yell vicious threats at Jews. In just the first quarter of this year, 169 anti-Semitic incidents were recorded. - Today I ask myself trou- bling questions. Does my public expression of Judaism endanger my safety and that of my children? Might show- ing my support for Israel generate threats? Am I being a responsible parentby raising my children in this country? My fears reached a high point on the eve of Bastille Day, and a day later on the anniversary of the Vel D'Hiv roundup of French Jews by the puppetVichy government for transport to Auschwitz. On July 12 and 13, during a massive pro-Palestinian demonstration in Paris, sev- eral groups spread out to synagogues in the middle of .Paris to threaten the Jews inside, while in Aulnay sous Bois, outside the capital, a synagogue was hit with Molotov cocktails. The mobs chanted "Death to the Jews," and a politician from the Green party said it was "not surprising that synagogues are attacked when they sup- port Israel's policy." We often hear that such events sympt6mize the im- portation of the Israeli-Pal- estinian conflict into France. The fact that they tend to occur in connection with pro-Palestinian demonstra= tions gives the theory seem- ing credibility. Yet there is nothing pro-Palestinian in attacking Jews because they are Jewish. No pro-Palestinian ideology can possibly justify the humiliation, the injuries, and the deaths. In fact, the Palestinian cause and the appeals to their "oppressed brothers" become pretexts for pure and simple Jew-hatred when demonstrators cry, "Hitler did not finish the job," while at the same time waving Hamas and Hezbollah flags. Unfortunately, the problem is far more profound. It is a combination of Jew hatred, extremism, and the will to bring down our society and our values. France has become a ref= uge for people with a deep aversion for democracy and Western values. This is not only a problem for the Jewish community but for France as a nation. Whether French- born or not, we are morally obligated to protect our core commitments: no toleration of hate speech, no leniency for extremists, no compromise with the decay and debase- ment of our public space. There must be zero toler- ance for anti-Semitism. Every anti-Semitic act needs to be morally and criminally con- demned. Additionally, it will require recognizing and fac- ing up to the changing sources of anti-Semitism. A certain guilt and political correctness has for too long prevented us from acknowledging that French anti-Semitism comes not only from the extreme xe- nophobic rightand the radical anti-Israel left, but today, first and foremost, from a minor- ity of the immigrant Muslim community. France must recapture its unifying ethos even as it celebrates its diversity. Greater equality and social cohesion will reduce the impulse to .lash out against Jews. There must be more and better education against group prejudice, focusing on similarities and shared values between religions and cultures. Intergroup dialogue is an essential aspect. Prime Minister Manuel Valls's unambiguous remarks that the "fight against anti- Semitism is the problem Of the Republic, of all of France" should be embraced by all who truly care about FY~nce. We need more political, re!iglou~, and Civil society leaders who tell the truth. Entrepre- neurs, writers, athletes, media personalities, and students should speak out against group hatred. It was long ago, on May 15, 1990, when 200,000 people demonstrated against anti- Semitism in the streets of Paris. That was the last great moment of French solidarity with the Jewish people. I think of it with great nostalgia, and wonderwhether anything like it can happen again. Simone Rodan-Benzaquen is director of the American Jewish Committee (AJC) office in Paris. By Edmon J. Rodman Editor's note: This article was received too late for the Aug. l issue and Tisha b 'Av was Aug. 4, but Edmon Rodman's message here is too important to pass over just because of deadlines2 LOS ANGELES (JTA) Af- ter weeks of missiles falling on Israel and bombs dropping on- Gaza, we land on Tisha b'Av. With the day-to-day images of explosions and tunnels so fresh, I wondered how they might connect to my mid- summer night's struggle with the somber holiday's relevance. Tisha b'Av, this year start- ing on the evening of Aug. 4, is a day on which we are supposed to mourn for the destruction of the First and Second Temples. I say "sup- posed to" because each year I become less certain--as I suspect is the case for many American Jews--as to why I mourn. O n Tisha b'Av we are forbid- den to eat, bathe, have sex and wear leather (it's considered a luxury). But do we really mourn the loss of the Temple enough to forego all that? Enough to want to see the Temple rebuilt? The promotional copy for a recent Second Temple "3D experience" DVD says it "will transport you back in time" and that "it's like having a personal guided tour of the Second Temple." On Tisha b'Av, wouldn't that alone do it for many of us? Every year, to prepare for Tisha b'Av, I practice a few verses of Eicha, the Book of Lamentations--a dirge that tells of the tragedy of Jerusalem's destruction--to chant at my minyan's evening service. However, evenwithan uneasy review of the historic loss and the national tragedy, I have found it increasingly difficult to connectwith a text from a distant time filled with a sorrow that I can compre- hend only through footnotes. But when watching the news one night and seeing a video of an Iron Dome missile intercepting a Gaza rocket, I found myself saying, "God, don't let it miss." Then I thought that Jews around the world were probably saying that simple prayer, too. I began to get some insight into why we mourn on the Ninth of Av. As a baby boomer'born in the 1950s, I have never known a world.without the State of Israel. Gen X'ers and Millen- nials know that same reality. As a kid, I had a bar mitzvah where I received a stack of Jewish National Fund tree certificates. As an adult, I saw my own kids go on Birthright trips.Aworldwith Israel is the world as it's supposed to be. Thousands of missiles fired (more than 2,000 at this writ- ing), though mostly missing their intended targets, scored a direct hit on my world as I know it. As a result, I got myself to a pro-Israel rally. "From where will our help come?" asked a rabbi there, chanting from psalms. Afterward, remembering the worried faces in the crowd that day, and my own appre- hension, I can see that Tisha b'Av connects to feelings about communal loss, shared pain and the potential for history to repeat itself. The feeling is a kind of anxiety that grows with the numbers of tunnels dug up and civilians killed, and begins to float freely as other coun- tries and international orga- nizations weigh in with what they think Israel should do. To counteract that feeling of anxiety, I had to do some digging of my _own. Returning to Eicha, I re- called its opening verse, "Lonely sits the city/Once great with people!" This year, with air raid sirens blaring and Israelis taking shelter underground, has the potential to connect us to their experience. At the same time, however, I reatized that Eichaand Tisha b'Av make for an imperfect shelter in a world in which Jews--no matter how justi- fied world leaders say we are in defending ourselves--are still being held responsible for much of the death and destruction in this conflict. With every photo of a bombed hospital, and especially with the death of a child, the world seems to ask: Why are you mourning? I am mourning and fasting, I would say, as a response to those in the worldwhowrong- fully perceive us as the willful perpetrators of destruction. It reminds me of the baseless hatred that is said to have brought down the Second Temple. Before Tisha b'Av and its day of fasting, it is also traditional to eat a "seudah mafseket," a small final meal. Often consisting of a hard-boiled egg and a piece of bread with some ashes, it is eaten while seated on the floor, without conversation. I have never tried it, but this year, eating the bread will connect me to all the Jews who have come before, and the ash will connect to me to our tragedies. And as I chew on the egg, I also will think of Passover, and the egg on the seder plate, representing the renewal of life. In the silence, I will mourn Israeli soldier Max Steinberg, a 24-year-old man originally from L.A.'s San Fernando Valley, who just had a hero's funeral in Israel. Will I need a war every year to get into Tisha b'Av? No. But this year I will chant Eicha as a cautionary tale whose mournful tone echoes in our time. "Renew our days as of old!" exclaims the book's finai verse--a hopeful ending in which, in these days of mis- siles and tunnels, we can all find meaning. Edmon J. Rodman is a JTA columnist who writes on Jewish life. By Elliot Goldenberg As the war between Israel and Hamas intensified, and Secretary of State John Kerry was meetingwith Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and others to try to broker a ceasefire, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, while being interviewed by Sean Hannity onFox News, proclaimed that the Obama administration was the most hostile to Israel in the history of the U.S.--something Han- nity agreed with. Well, not so fast. Barack Obama may not be the best friend Israel has ever had-- some say he makes Jimmy Carter look like Harry Tru- man-but he is probably no more likely to stab Israel in the back than quite a few of the other commanders-in- chief who preceded him in the Oval Office. Yes, iVs true that a miffed John Kerry made a caustic comment into an open mi- crophone about Israel's so- called "precision" bombing of targets in Gaza inwhich many Palestinian civilians were unintentionally maimed and killed.But, at the~ame time, when appearing on ABC's This Week, Kerry followed a taped tirade by Palestinian talking head Hanan Ashrawri--she called what Israel is doing in Gaza a "massacre"--and laid 100 percent of the blame on Hamas. During that same inter- view, when This Week host George Stephanopoulis tried to goad Kerry into also fault- ing Israel, Kerry once again stood firm and became even more strident in his con- demnation of Hamas over its rocket attacks and use'of human shields. Compare Kerry to Bill Clin- ton's former secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, who was doing the talk show circuit at the same time and opined that there was blame to be had on both sides--something Israel's supporters, especially Republicans, vehemently disagree with. Not surprisingly, George w. Bush, like most of the rest of the "religious right," was unwavering in his support for Israel when he was president; however his father, Bush the elder, while generally support- ive of Israel, once threatened to cut loan guarantees to the Jewish State. Decades earlier, there were also questions as to whether President Richard Nixon--whose secret tapes may have labeled him as an anti-Semite--along with his Machiavellian secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, were intent on letting Israel "bleed a little bit" during the Yore Kippur War, before coming to Israel's aid, as John Loftus wrote in his book, "The Secret War Against the Jews." And while Ronald Reagan was a staunch supporter of Israel, not every one of his advisers apparently shared those views. A reporter once asked Angelo Codevilla, a former senior staff member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, what was it, exactly, that civilian Naval Intelligence analyst Jonathan Pollard, now serving a life sentence in prison for spying for Israel, actually passed on to Israelis during the Reagan presidency. "He gave them that part of the flow of U.S. intelligence Goldenberg on page 15A Ak0 AEL IS PI l'l SACK WTH ALL ITS MIC.ClT,,, RON OOME ACTUALLY F0R APP I'LY, WE TO A OLOGI