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August 8, 2014

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, AUGUST 8, 2014 PAGE 11A survivor worries By Ben Sales RAMLE, Israel (JTA)--In her living room in the Israeli town of Ramle, Sarah says she wants a peaceful life. At 79, she deserves one. A Hungarian-born Holo- caust survivor, Sarah was sent to a Nazi concentration camp in Serbia as a child, arriving in Israel at age 17. Her entire family perished in the Holocaust. Now she watches from her armchair as her family is threatened once again. Sarah--not her real name-- is now a Muslim, and her daughter lives in Gaza City. "The whole city is in ru- ins," Sarah says. "Everyone is just trying to find a piece of bread." Sarah arrived in Israel in 1950, one of the tens of thou- sands of Jewish survivors who found refuge in the young Jewish state, From there, her story departs from the conventional narrative. In 1962, she married an Arab Israeli and, with no surviving family of her own, converted to Islam to join his. Neither of them were particularly religious. "In my time it wasn't Arab or Jew," said Sarah, who speaks Hebrew with a slight European accent. "We knew there was no problem between Jews and Israeli Arabs. I'm very liberal; my husband was the same. We felt no discrimination." Light-haired and soft- spoken, Sarah has lived for decades in the same Ramie apartment, which she now shares with her daughter, Nora. Both women leave their hair uncovered, and Nora said not to worry as she set out tea and cookies on the last day of Ramadan. She wasn't fasting. Sarah's other daughter, also an Israeli citizen, moved to Gaza in 1984 after she married. On Sunday, Sarah and Nora waited by the phone as the Arabic news network Al Jazeera played on the television. In the first days of Israel's Operation Protective Edge, Sarah's daughter took her six children and one grand- child and fled their home in the Zeitoun district of Gaza City for a calmer area in the southern Gaza Strip. The day they left, their four-story home was destroyed, most likely by an Israeli airstrike. Since then, the family has survived on dry goods and whatever they can scrounge up during brief cease-fires. Alongwith food, electricity is scarce in Gaza, so Sarah has a hard time getting in touch with her daughter. She learned the house was destroyed only when another relatTve posted on Facebook a picture of the rubble. She hopes for the rare phone call when her daughter manages to charge her phone. But sometimes, no call at all is better. "With every phone call, we pray that she's charged so we can reach them, talk to them, see how they are," said Nora. "Every call jolts us, that we won't hear bad news." Neither women would agree to be photographed or give many personal details out of fear of retribution from Israeli authorities or Hamas, the reigning power in Gaza. Only Nora would give her first name. Though they have lived through such conflicts before--Protective Edge is the third such campaign in Gaza in six years--Sarah says this round has been harder than previous ones. Anti-Muslim discrimination flared up during previous conflicts, but Sarah said the antagonism seems stronger this time. "I go to day centers [for the elderly], and they don't talk to me," Sarah said. "Behind my back, they curse me. I hear it. I hear 'Their name should be erased. They should die.'" Sarah and Nora used to enjoy driving to Gaza City to visit Sarah's daughter. But Nora hasn't been allowed to visit since the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993. Sarah was allowed only once, for a five-day visit several years ago. Will the family return t~) Zeitoun to rebuild its home? When will Sarah's daughter be allowed to visit the family in Ramle? Will Sarah ever be able to visit her grandchil- dren and great, grandchild in Gaza? They don't know. Is there still hope for peace? Emad Nassar/Flash90 Palestinian men seen in front of a fire raging at the Gaza's main power plant following an overnight Israeli airstrike, south of Gaza City, July 29, 2014. At that question, Nora shakes her head. "Honestly, no. I don't think the situation will get better after this war," Nora said. "There's tension between me and my Jewish friends. They want to justify themselves and this war. I never encounter a person that says, 'Enough spilled blood' or 'Poor civilians,' I haven't heard that." Like most Israelis, Nora has coped with the sirens that warn of incoming mis- siles for a month now. She opposes Hamas, she says, and understands that Israel needs to protect its citizens, though she wishes the government would scale back its operation and pursue diplomacy more aggressively. Hei" family in Gaza, she said, is not affiliated with any movement--not Hamas, not Fatah, not any other. "Israel has the full right to self-defense," Nora said. "The missiles don't differentiate between Jew and Arab, We don't need to see houses de- stroyed, women crying, dead soldiers. A soldier is the son of a mother. Anywhere in the world, the pain of a mother is the same pain." Both Sarah and Nol:a say they support a two-state solu- tion to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Both wish their Gaza family could visit Israel to eat Bamba and Bissli, the classic Israeli snack foods they love. Both wish they could hop into a cab and drive to Gaza City to eat fish on the coast. But Sarah says that be- cause of Hamas, because of the war, because of the antagonism born of decades of separation between Israelis and Palestinians, a hopeful future seems less likely than ever. She scoffed at the oc- casional peace negotiations. "It's all nonsense," she said, then in Yiddish: "Bubbe meises." ra Maxine Dovere lsraeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer addresses the 2014 Christians United for Israel (CUFI) summit. By Sean Savage WASHINGTON, DC--With the conflict in Israel in their hearts and on their minds, thousands of evangelical Christians converged on Washington, DC, from July 21-22 to flex their collective muscles for the Jewish state as part of the annual Chris- tians United for Israel (CUFI) summit. "Our joy is consistently interrupted by news from Israel. But it is good to be together with loved ones at a sad time. I see the energy more than ever, that w.e have to speak out and be a voice for Israel," David Brog, executive director of CUFI, told With nearly 1.75 million members, CUFI calls itself the largest pro-Israel organi- zation in the United States. But CUFI's vocal support for Israel also draws a number of detractors who deride the group's mixing of bible-based morality with lobbying and politics. "The day American turns it back against Israel, God will turn its back against the United States of America," CUFI's founder, Pastor John Hagee, told thousands of sup- porters packed into Washing- ton's Walter E. Washington Convention Center. Despite the skeptics; Jew- ish and Israeli leaders have taken notice of the rapid growth of evangelical support for Israel over the last few decades, and those leaders' presence at the CUFI summit reflected their gratitude and respect. "I come here to get re- freshed," said Malcolm Hoen- lein, executive vice chair- man of the Conference of Presidents of MajorAmerica Jewish Organizations, refer- ring to evangelicals' strong passion for Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (in a recorded video message) and Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer also ad- dressed the summit. Dermer focused on the threats facing Israel and the conflict in Gaza, saying that the Jew- ish state should be given a Nobel Peace Prize for the "unimaginable restraint" it is showing in its current military operation. But the summit strove for more than the series of speeches celebrating Israel and criticizing U.S. President Bar ack Obama's policies. CUFI has a number of leg- islative goals that it hopes its supporters will deliver to Congress. First and fore- most is preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. CUFI urged its supporters to back further U.S. sanc- tions on Iran, which have been held up in Congress in order to allow the U.S.--as part of the P5+1 powers (U.S., U.K., France, Russia, China, and Germany)--to continue diplomatic hegotiations with the Islamic Republic in Vienna. During his address, Tea Party favorite U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) urged the audience to lobby Congress to pass new sanctions on Iran, which he blamed the White House for stalling. "[The] greatest threat to the state of Israel is not Hamas. [The] threat of lran acquiring nuclear weapons capability is the 'greatest threat," Cruz said. "[Iran] will e!ther halt their program now and dismantle it, or we will dismantle it," he added. While external threats to Israel remained a focus throughout the summit, CUFI more subtly reminded its supporters of the internal threats to American support for Israel. David Brog explained that one of CUFI's goals is to make sure the next generation of evangelicals continue their support for Israel and don't go the way of the mainline Protestants. "Once you cut yourself off from the bible and you just be- come a reflection of modern politically correct passions, you lose your distinction from the rest of society, so why go to church?" Brog told In his opening remarks, Pastor Hagee heavily criti- cized mainline Protestants such as Presbyterian Church USA, which recently voted to divest from Israel at its sum- mit in June. "When you turn against Israel you have lost your moral compass," Hagee said, while also noting the rapid decline in the Presbyterian Church's membership over the past decade. While Israel has histori- cally enjoyed overwhelming bipartisan support in the U.S., in recent years the 'cause of the Jewish state has become increasingly em- braced by conservatives, who champion America's shared values with Israel and the threat of common enemies like radical Islam. A new survey conducted by the Pew Research Center amid the Israel-Gaza conflict found a large partisan gap in support for Israel, with 73 percent of Rep.ublican respondents saying they sympathize with Israel in the current Gaza conflict, compared to 44 percent of Democrats. "Dating back to the late 1970s, the partisan gap in Mideast sympathies has never been wider," the Pew Research Center said. Like its Jewish counter- part, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, CUFI believes that bipartisan support for Israel is essential and welcomes anyone on either side of the aisle who shares the group's values. "We are studiously biparti- san," Brog told Yet Brog admitted that CUFI does not want its mission of bipartisanship to prevent the organization from criticizing the Obama administration or other Democrats for their policies on Israel. "We have been pretty vo- cal in our criticism of the Obama administration," he said. "We don't feel the cause of bipartisanship needs to blind us to the failures of this administration." Perhaps highlighting the growing partisan di- vide on Israel and liberals' lack of interest in courting evangelical voters, CUFI's summit featured a heavy "concentration of conserva- tive commentators such as Bill Kristol and Charles Krauthammer, as well as Republican politicians like Cruz and U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.). "I hope that in the future we will see more Democrats," Brog said. "We are in danger of losing one of our parties on Israel, and that would be a disaster."