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October 25, 2013

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PAGE 4A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, OCTOBER 25, 2013 i One week's activities illustrate continuity of Jewish people By Gidi Mark CEO, Taglit-Birthright Israel A decade ago, Jewish parents worried that their children wouldn't marry Jewish or bar and bat mitzvah their own children. Today, however, we see a younger generation that is marrying within the faith and looking to raise their children Jewish, while maintaining a strong bond to Israel. Taglit-Birthright Israel's free educational trip, offered to young Jewish adults between the ages of 18 and 26, is largely responsible for creating the change we believed only a decade ago to be impossible: The younger generation is not only more connected to their Jewish identity and to the State of Israel, but they are actually even more connected than their marriage partners or significant others who did not participate in Birthright. The past week's activities aptly illustrate the actions that are ensuring the continuity of the Jewish people. We had 5,000 participants from abroad, alongwith 1,000 Israeli participants, plus afirst-eversports day thatbrought together 2,000 participants and 500 IDF soldiers in an incredible show of Israel-Diaspora teamwork. Inadditionto our regular 10-day educational trip, we now offer a four-day extension with content focusing on popular topics such as Israel's hi-tech industry, a unique search and rescue program within the IDF, and Mada, an eco-environmental extension that gives participants abetterand more in-depth glimpse of Israel. While we were preparing to accommo- date the 44,000 Birthright participants we anticipate, for this year, Hebrew University Shipley speaks Jim Shipley A singular voice Life at the top can be lonely. If you became the "Decider'--the one who must make the difficult decisions--taking the best advice of trusted associates, there would come a time in any really important decision when it is on you and you alone. While Dick Cheney gets a lot of the blame for the horrific miscalculations that led to more than decade of war and hundreds of thousands of lives lost, the fact remains, the president was in the chair and he had the final yeses and noes. Same goes for the head of any democratic society. If you happen to lead a nation of just over seven million people--less than half the population of Florida, it is even more cantan- kerous and difficult. If that nation happens to be Israel, oy vey. A close associate of Prime Minister Be- nyamin Netanyahu told me that Netanyahu goes to bed every night and wakes up every morning with one thing on his mind: Iran. Remember that Bibi's dad was a noted his- torian and professor of Jewish history at Cornell. His seminal work was on the Span- ish Inquisition. Raised in the household of a solid revisionist and as former secretary to Jabotinsky, Benzion Netanyahu schooled his sons on the need for a Jewish homeland and the threats that would forever hang over it once it was established. I met Bibi Netanyahu at his dad's home in 1980 when I accompanied a U. S. congressman to Israel on what we euphemistically called a "fact finding trip." At the time the younger Netanyahu was in essence a furniture sales- man working with a few kibbutzim in their manufacturing efforts. At the time he told me that his one mbi- tion was to found an anti-terrorist foundation in the name of his brother Yonatan who had been the only one killed in the Entebbe rescue mission. In our rather short meeting there was no question that he had political ambition and that he was indeed a chip off the old block. As a student of history and the head of a nation threatened on a daily basis by jihadists like Hamas and Hezbollah, the latter backed by Iran, the former probably so to some extent, it is his job to be cautious and ever vigilant. Yes, the Israeli public is restive and tired of war ol" warnings of war. But, the average Israeli also knows their history and can still see evidence of the years when busses blew up, hotel dining rooms were attacked and pizza parlors full of teenagers were bombed. When the new president of Iran came to the U.S. bearing promises of a new day and a new attitude toward negotiation with the Western World, he was greeted with some skepticism but with the attitude: well, let's see. President Obama had a chat with him via telephone. Meetings followed at a lower level. There are meetings in Geneva between the parties and the U.N. as this is being written. There is no doubt that the Persian nation is hurting. Their banking channels have all but been shut off. Their oil continues to flow through clandestine channels, albeit in much fewer quantities than before the sanctions took hold. As the people of Iran are squeezed, it is even beginning to be felt by the Revolution- ary Guard, the militant leaders of the Iranian military and staunch defenders of the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Kh-amenei. The guard controls a huge share of the Iranian economy. Any time you are looking for a power center, follow the money. If indeed the sanctions are starting to bite, the guard might just be feeling it. That would be almost the only reason for a detente of any kind. All that Iran is doing is playing for time. Israeli intelligence feels that Iran is doubling their efforts to get to the point of no return. U.S. intelligence has guessed wrong beforewith disastrous results. The question that keeps Netanyahu (and many others with interest in Israel) up at night is: What if? Is this a phony approach to buy another six months or a year for their centrifuges or Uranium development to go past Netanyahu's point of no return? Is the U.S, really ready to back Israel if they decide they have to go it- alone and attack? Israel was smart enough to warn the U.S. not to get involved in Syria because it is too hard to separate the bad guys from the good guys. Now, it is a different story. The Iranian regime is bad guYs. There are no good guys. Do they really have an interest in living in harmohy with the rest of the world and making life better for their citizens? Or is Netanyahu's study of history and instincts that in the end only Jews will take care of Jews correct? No wonder he is kept up at night. I'm not sleeping too well myself. THE VIEWS EXPRESSED ON THIS PAGE ARE NOT NECESSARILY THE VIEWS OF HERITAGE MANAGEMENT. CENTRAL FLODA'SINDEPENDENTJEWISHVOICE   ISSN 0199-0721 Winner of 43 Press Awards Editor/Publisher Jeffrey Gaeser Editor Emeritus Associate Editor Assistant Editor Gene Starn Kim Fischer Chris DeSouza HERITAGE Florida Jewish News (ISN 0199-0721) " is published weekly for $37.95 per year to Florida ad- Society Editor Bookkeeping dresses ($46.95 for the rest of the U.S.) by HERITAGE Gloria Yousha Paulette Alfonso Central Florida Jewish News, Inc., 207 O'Brien Road, Suite 101, Fern Park, FL 32730. Periodicals postage Account Executives paid at Fern Park and additional mailing offices. Barbara do Carmo Marci Gaeser POSTMASTER: Send address changes and other correspondence to: HERITAGE, P.O. Box 300742 Contributing Columnists Fern Park, FL 32730. Jim Shipley Ira Sharkansky David Bornstein Ed Ziegler MAILING ADDRESS PHONE NUMBER P.O. Box 300742 (407) 834-8787 Production Department Fern Park, FL 32730 FAX (407) 831-0507 David Lehman Joyce Gore email: news@rlandheritage'cm Elaine Schooping , Gil Dombrosky I and Brandeis University hosted a two-day prolonged and as a result, the majority of the conference dedicated to discussing the suc- people missed out on the experience. cess of Taglit-Birthright Israel. The conference Today, we have a State and we have Taglit- brought together more than 50 researchers Birthright Israel--the bridge that gives every from around the world who not only debated young Jewish adult an opportunity to discover and tackled academic issues, but discussed their Jewish heritage. Now is the time to call the researchofBrandeisUniversity, whichhas upon those who haven't yet takeI charge of consecutivelyshownforthreeyears, thatwhen bringing home the masses, who have not yet Taglit-Birthright Israel alumni return home, connected with their Jewish identity or expe- they want to marry within the Jewish faith rienced Israel first hand. while maintaining a strong bond with Israel. It is in our hands, but more importantly, it The book of Bamidbar (Numbers) tells the is our obligation, to make sure that each and story of the Jewish people wandering in the every young Jewish adult takes advantage desert, ontheirwaytoIsrael. Butfears, doubts of their historic "birthright" to visit Israel, and skepticism make the journey list some connect with their Jewish heritage, thereby 40 years longer than planned. The dream of attaining the crucial building blocks to help a strong Jewish people bonded with Israel is create a strong future. By Ira Sharkansgy Somewhere in the American side of my brain is a memory of hearing that America is safe only when Congress is on vacation. The feeling may not be appropriate this week, when members of Congress are trying to do something along with the White House to loosen their collective hands from the throat of the world's largest economy, and via globalization on the rest of us. Leaving America aside for the time being, the view of danger when a legislature convenes fits Is:ael, especially this week when the Knes- set returns from its summer vacation, and begins scaring us with wall-to-wall demands for change, repeated and magnified by like thinking media personalities. It's a great opportunity for demagogues, who appear in Israel as well as in other places, and a tough time for analysts inclinedto ask how much will it cost? Is it worth the price, which includes what We may have to give up in order to pay for what you demand? How serious is the problem you identify, i.e., how many individuals are affected, and are there ways of dealing with the problem other than by adding to government programs, increases in taxes or borrowing? And what about the opponents, who may object to higher taxes, or giving up programs that you think are superfluous? Israel is one of the more desirable places, but falls short of the paradise that . various advocates would prefer. In this, it's a typical democracy. It also has the special problem of being Jew- ish, which means on the one hand that others want to liquidate it, and on the other hand, that its politicians operate in the tradition of Biblical prophets, for whom the sky is not the limit, and feel themselves to be speaking for the Almighty., The well-known security problem means that wealth produced by the younger gen- eration of scientists, engineers, and techni- cians, especially in the burgeoning field of IT ( cannot be used as in other democracies. Israel spends more than six percent of its resources on security; comparable figures are less than five p.ercent in the US, and from three to less than one percent in other western democracies. Several things have coincided with the Knesset's return that add to the emotions of its members, activists, and media stars. One is a downturn in the fortunes of Teva, the country's most prominent corporation and a major actor in the field of medicine. The patent is about to expire on one of its best sell- ing, non-generic creations, widely used in the treatment of multiple-sclerosis. Thus, Teva, a leader in the production of generics, is about to be hurt by generics produced by competi- tors. Some might see that as fair play, but Teva has announced a downsizing for the sake of efficiency, with projected dismissals of some 5,000 worldwide and perhaps 800 in Israel. What is exciting the politiciaqs is that Teva is a major recipient of Israeli tax concessions. The simple calculation is that, in exchange, Teva's Israeli employees should be outside any plan to downsize. It sounds right, until the economists wade in with their explanations of tax concessions, meant to attract or keep as much as possible of Teva, Intel and other industries in Israel, especially those that can relocate to places where conditions--including taxes--are more attractive than they are here. There are also demands that the heads of Teva, along with the heads of banks, insur- ance companies, and other prominent firms give themselves smaller salaries and pension benefits, or at least pay a higher rate of taxes on what they take. Americans tuning into these demands might think them familiar. American states compete with one another and foreign sites for industry by way of tax concessions. There are also long traditions, here, there, and elsewhere, of at- tacking the benefits Of those who are unusually rich. Often it seems justified, especially when their companies are given special benefits, and seem to be losing money despite their highly paid executives. However, Americans should also know that Israeli taxes are already higher than theirs, both for the rich and the not-so- rich. For example, our marginal income tax rate is 33% on incomes over about $74,000 a year, and 48 percent over about $140,000. Those rates are about half-again higher than U.S. rates. What's left to an Israeli after income tax is subject to an 18 percent sales tax, alongwih social security and property taxes comparable to those in the U.S. We're also having one of our periodic squab- bles over the cost of housing and food, and the availability of public housing for the poor. It is not difficult to find cities where the cost of housing is cheaper than in TelAviv, or coun- tries where the cost of certain food is less than in Israel. Two summers ago there was a wave a demonstrations, largely by young Israelis with higher than average income and education, chanting that they could not afford the kind of housing they wanted, where they wanted to live; and that the cost of cottage cheese had increased. Dairies and other food producers respondedwith media campaigns emphasizing price reductions, which reached even to the vending machines that sold soft drinks in the Hebrew University. Politicians on tl% right, led by the Prime Minister, promoted their proposals to reduce the approvals necessary to allow contractors to begin building. Left- ists then complained that this would give too .... much freedom to builders. There has not been a wave of social protest since the summer of 2011, and prices for food, housing, and other products have gone their way with only occasional notice, including a return to the status quo ante at Hebrew University vending machines. Several years ago, one of Israel's most fiery Knesset Members campaigned to enact a law to allow long term residents in public housing to purchase their apartments at highly subsidized prices. He argued that poor folks should be entitled to own property that they could pass on to their children. His campaign promised to use the proceeds to build additional public housingfor subsequent generations of Israel's poor. However, with the price of construc- tion increasing, and large discounts offered to those purchasing existing public housing, the arithmetic could not produce a substantial number of new units. Now Knesset members are demanding increased spending for public housing, while competitors who would rely more heavily on the market want to stay with existing programs that give the poor a welfare supplement for Sharkansity on page 15A