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October 24, 2014     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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October 24, 2014

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PAGE 16A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, OCTOBER 24, 2014 AP's veteran Gaza reporter leaves home to preserve belief in coexi:stence Ibrahim Barzak with his sons before leaving Gaza. By Ron Kampeas First Person WASHINGTON (JTA)-- Ibrahim Barzak spent his childhood counting the days to weekends, when he would travel with his father to see friends in Tel Aviv, Herzliya, Ashdod and Jerusalem. For Barzak's young sons, by con- trast, the names of those cities conjure malevolent exotica. Barzak, 38, has worked for the past 22 years as a journal- ist in his native Gaza City, most recently as the Gaza correspondent for The Associ- ated Press. The ethos that has guided him throughout his reporting career: a commit- ment to facts and reality that knows no borders. But last month, Barzak and his family--his wife, Ghadeer IbrahimBarzak al Omari, and two sons, Hik- met, 8, andAhmed, 6--picked up and moved to Kuala Lum- put, Malaysia. Their house in Gaza's Rimal neighborhood, which has a number of gov- ernment buildings, had been flattened over the summer during Israel's most recent war with Hamas. R was the third Barzakfamily home destroyed, by direct or indirect airstrikes, in eight years. The children's room in the Barzak's Gaza City villa opened onto a garden with bushes, floweringwhite roses, red rhododendrons and lilacs. These days, the family's high- rise condo in a building with a pool and gym looks over the Malaysian capital's glittering skyline dominated by the Petronas Towers. "Four stitches in my left leg," he tells me, describing what he took away from this summer's war between Israel and Hamas. I first encountered Barzak back in 1992. I was a reporter at AP's Jerusalem bureau and he was calling in stories from Gaza. "Two rubber bullets in the left buttock," he would typically begin. Or, "A live bullet in the head." After each intifada clash, Barzak, then a slight 16-year-old, would go hospital to hospital in Gaza noting every injury logged by the medical staff. His precision never made it into copy--age and "mod- erately wounded" was all the person injured in the "left buttock" would get in an AP brief, if that. But I did not interrupt: Ibrahim Barzak at 16 was already a writer who intuited the awful and exact- ing poetry of facts. This was a natural-born journalist. Literally. His father had been AP's man in Gaza since the 1950s. Hikmet Barzak married late in life, and Ibra- him was his oldest son. They drove weekends to Is- raeli towns where Hikmet had made friends with wholesalers who supplied his stationery shop, and to Jerusalem, where they would pray at the AI-Aqsa Mosque and where his father had helped found the Arab Journalists Union. "My father took me every Friday and Sunday," Barzak recalled. "I used to know who was beyond the wails, who I was sharing the land with, without thinking of occupation." When his father died, Bar- zak started calling reports into AP's Jerusalem office. "This is Hikmet's house," he would begin each call. The family, fearing loss of income, did not want to reveal that the patriarch was gone. The AP embraced Ibrahim Barzak, sending him to Jeru- salem and other capitals for training. After PLO leader Yasser Arafat returned to Gaza in 1994, Barzak posted an official portrait in his office, alongside an array of candid AP shots of his hero, Princess Diana. And when Arafat's reign imploded in corruption and double- dealing, Barzak's familiar baritone relayed every detail. In 2009, he watched his home destroyed. "The Israeli army issued a video of the bombing of the Hamas compound, which it posted on YouTube," Barzak wrote at the time. "I can see my home being destroyed, and I watch it obsessively." It was his second house; the first was destroyed in 2006 after Hamas kidnapped Israeli Cpl. Gilad Shalit. (He was held for more than five years before being released.) The family used savings to purchase new homes. This summer, the first hit on Barzak's housewas preced- ed by a warning "knock"--an unarmed missile dropped on a building--at 9 a.m. Itappears the Israeli army was target- ing Mohammed Deif, a top Hamas terrorist whose wife lived some 500 yards away. The army did not immediately returna request for comment. Barzak, who had returned hours earlier from the office, awoke and helped gather the kids. He was the last to scramble down steps toward the basement; that's when the shrapnel hit his leg. The family decamped to a relative's apartment, but Bar- zak kept track of his home. His bedroom was destroyed, then the kitchen and living room. And then "the stairway in our beautiful garden." "Beautiful," a word packed with vagaries untypical of his practiced precision. Barzak misses Gaza, the coastal strip where he was born and his family lived for centuries. "It's very hard to leave," he said. The Gaza of his youth, of weekend trips to Israeli cities, is gone. For one, no longer is travel between Gaza and Israel so freely permitted. "My sons know nothing about who we are sharing the border with, who is across the border," Barzak said. His wife, also a Gaza native, recorded her helplessness at the hatred growing in her sons. "This morning, Hikmet and Ahmed woke up to the sound of a huge explosion," she wrote on the website Voices of Gaza, a resource for journalists. "I hugged their shaking bodies, asking them not to be afraid. Hikmet,who is 8, said, 'I hate Is- rael. I hate all the Israeli people.' I asked him, 'Why, sweetheart?' He answered, 'Don't you know why, Mum? Don't you see what they are trying to do? They want to kill us.'" It was time to move. "I can't convince [my sons] of my beliefs," Barzak said. "I can't tell them thatwe can live in peace and tolerance, I can't say I have a Jewish friend who helped me get out of Gaza and I am proud of my friendship. I am one of the few left who believe in it." Itwas the Jewish friendwho helped facilitate his move to Malaysia, he said. Barzak is planning to ac- quire a degree in business in Malaysia, to open restaurants and to wholesale toys made in China. "I hope I feed my children with the culture I grew up with," he said, referring to the values ofmulticulturalism and tolerance he holds dear. When I called Barzak right before Yom Kippur, the first thing he said was "Chag Sameach," undaunted in his belief in a time when Muslims knew precisely how to greet Jews and Jews Muslims. He is its fierce guardian because it is his legacy for his boys. Why Malaysia? It is the one country that does not require Palestinians, upon arrival, to formally immigrate, Barzak told me. Malaysia accepts Palestinian passports without a visa. "I'm not 'emigrating,' "he said. "We are living here until we go back to our land." Jewish Academy of Orlando students celebrate Sukkot One Jewish Academy student has fun making her own edible sukkah with pretzels and graham crackers. The festival of Sukkotwas in full force at the Jewish Academy of Orlando this year. Students celebrated in traditional ways such as using the lulav and etrog and visiting the school sukkah. Jewish Academy's middle school students also went to visit the sukkah at Con- gregation Ohev Shalom one day during the week-long festivities. The school also celebrated in nontraditional The lulav and etrog are part of the celebration of Sukkot. ways such as making edible sukkahs out of pretzels and graham crackers. All in all, it was a great week of celebrating our wonderful Jewish traditions with fun and great pride. For more information or to arrange a visit to the school, please contact Alan Rusonik, Head of School, at arusonik@jewishacad- or 407- 667-0713. Researchers: high-fat meals can prevent obesity By Nicky Blackburn ISRAEL21c--Israeli re- searchers have discovered that carefully regulated high-fat meals can lead to loss of weight and a unique metabolism in which in- gested fats are not stored, but are used for energy in between meals. In the past, it was thought that feeding mammals a high-fat dietwouiddisrupt the metabolism and lead to obe- sity, but lead researchers Prof. Oren Froy and Prof. Zecharia Madar of the Hebrew Univer- sity o f Jerusalem believed that careful scheduling of meals would regulate the biological clock and reduce the effects of a high fat diet. In animal tests, the re- searchers fed a group of mice on a high-fat diet on a fixed schedule for 18 weeks. The mice ate at the same time and for the same length of time every day. Three control groups were given alternative diets. One group ate a low-fat diet on a fixed schedule, one ate an un- scheduled low-fat diet (eating whenever they felt like it), and another ate an unscheduled high-fat diet. All four groups of mice gained weight during the experiment, with a final body weight greater in the group that ate an unscheduled high- fat diet. Surprisingly, however, the mice on the scheduled high- fat diet not only had a lower final body weight than the mice eating an unscheduled high-fat diet, but also a lower weight that the mice on an unscheduled low-fat diet, even though both groups consumed the same amount of calories. In addition, the mice on the scheduled high-fat diet exhibited a unique metabolic state in which the fats they ingested were not stored, but rather used for energy at times when no food was available, such as between meals. "Our research shows that the timing of food consump- tion takes precedence over the amount of fat in the diet, lead- ing to improved metabolism and helping to prevent obe- sity," said Prof. Froy. "Improv- ing metabolism through the careful scheduling of meals, without limiting the content of the daily menu, could be used as a therapeutic tool to prevent obesity in humans."