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October 28, 2011

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, OCTOBER 28, 2011 imm By David Suissa The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles You can say a lot about Israel, but not that it's a normal country. Any way you look at it--its biblical roots and miraculous revival after 1,900 years; its state of virtual siege sur- rounded by ruthless enemies; its improbable military victo- ries; its scientific innovations to help humanity; its eco- nomic power; its democratic character; its ingathering of immigrants from around the world; its flourishing cultural scene; its heated debates and never-ending political dramas; and, lest we forget, its ridiculous status as the United Nation's most scrutinized and condemned country--this tiny nation has become, in a short time, one of the most unusual and extraordinary experiments in the history of nations. Let's look at just three recent events: First, what kind of country would trade 1,027 convicted criminals and terrorists for one kidnapped soldier? Certainly not a normal one. Let's face it--the deal for Gilad Shalit makes no sense. As awell-known Israeli writer once wrote: "Prisoner releases only embolden ter- rorists by giving them the feeling that even if they are caught, their punishment will be brief. Worse, by lead- ing terrorists to think such demands are likely to be met, they encourage precisely the terrorist blackmail they are supposed to defuse." The writer was Benjamin Netanyahu, in his 1995 book, "Fighting Terrorism: How Democracies Can Defeat Domestic and International Terrorists." Of course, now that Bibi is in charge, it!s not so easy for him to ignore the wishes of a nation yearning for the freedom of one soldier, a sol- dier who has become, in the poignantwords of Yossi Klein Halevi, "everyone's son." This solidarity is not nor- mal. Here is virtually a whole nation acting as one irratio- Israel is not normal nal parent (is there a price tag too high to save one's son?), and exhibiting a love of life that transcends reason. Many of us worry, justifi- ably, that the price for Shalit will be paid in more Jewish blood. I don't pretend to have a good answer for that, but I do think Israel's message is not just one of weakness. Israel is also saying to its enemies: If we are so crazy about saving One life, imagine how crazy we will get about saving the life of our nation next time you try to mess with us. I can't think of another country thatwould make such a crazy gesture. My second example of Is- raeli abnormality is the tent city protests of last summer and the Trachtenberg Report that followed. To understand how ab- normal this is, just imagine President Barack Obama forming a commission next week to address the Occupy Wall Street movement; the leader of that commission meeting nightly with pro- testers to get their input and ideas, while launching an open-source Web site to solicit ideas from concerned citizens; the commission drafting a comprehensive report to the president with detailed recommendations on everything from cost of living and education to tax re- form and affordable housing; and the plan being approved by Congress--all in less than eight weeks! Like I said, not normal, but it's exactly what happened in Israel. My third example of Is- raeli abnormality is the world's hysterical reaction last month to Israel's desire to build apartments in a Jewish neighborhood in Je- rusalem. Specifically, many world leaders went nuts and called it "provocative" and "detrimental to peace" when Israel's Interior Ministry gave preliminary approval for the building of 1,100 residential units in the Southeast Jeru- salem neighborhood of Gilo. Never mind, of course, that it is widely accepted that Gilo is one of those Jewish neighborhoods that would stay in Israeli hands in any final peace plan, or that Israel has made generous offers for peace in the past that have been rejected. And never mind that the genocidal Hamas terror re- gime in Gaza, which yearns for Israel's destruction, as well as the continued Palestinian promotion of Jew-hatred and glorification of terrorism, make other so-called "ob- stacles to peace" a farce. Never mind all that. As thousands of protesters were being murdered in Syria, as Christian Copts were being mowed down in Egypt and Kurds were being slaugh- tered in Turkey, much of the Western world decided to condemn a preliminary building permit for Jewish housing in Jerusalem. , This might not surprise you, given the world's impeccable record of singling out the Jew- ish state for disproportionate abuse. But, whatever side of the ideological fence you sit on, don't tell me it's normal. PAGE 5A In many ways, this abnor- mal hostility has hardened Israel to the outside world, while paradoxically increas- ing its desire to succeed anc be accepted. As a result, Israel has often appeared conflicted and emotionally unpredictable. The one constant has been the nation's intense love of life. The world witnessed an outpouring of this love last weekwhen millions of Israelis welcomed home their "son" Gilad Shalit. I wonder what went through the minds of out- siders when they viewed this spectacle: "Look at these foolish Israelis, releasing a thousand terrorists just for one human life. Crazy country." Yes, a crazy and flawed country, but also a coura- geous and incredibly re- sourceful country that is madly in love with life--and is definitely not normal. David Suissa is president of TRIBE Media Corp.Jewish Journal and can be reached at davids@jewish By Gary Rosenblatt The New York Jewish Week When a call for a Kol Nidre service among Jews protesting near Wall Street produced a huge response virtually overnight--press reports on the number who participated on Yon Kippur ranged from 500 to more than 1,000--it was more than just an example of'lvitter power. There is a new pulse of Jew- ish expression out there; you can embrace it as grass-roots authenticity or feel threatened by it as anti-establishment. But don't dismiss the fact that significant numbers of American Jews, particularly among the young, are com- bining politics and faith in ways that blind a discontent with those in authority and an interest in exploring deeper Jewish values. Carrying over the energy of their anger toward the business elite that drew them to the Occupy Wall Street movement, Jewish activists are also registering their dis- satisfaction with mainstream Jewish life. Some are calling for an Occupy Judaism move- 'Occupy'Judaism echoes past protests ment, as witnessed by Occupy Sukkahs sprouting up here and other major cities around the country last week. The message is both fresh and familiar: Down with the old ways that favor the privileged and leave out the little guys. Enough of crass materialism and empty rhetoric. Time to express real Jewish values, and put them into practice. Similar complaints have echoed throughout the ages. and insisting that the other approach spells disaster. Kenneth Bob, national president of Ameinu, a pro- gressive Zionist organization, hails the nascent Occupy Judaism movement, writing that it"inspires creativity, de- velops leadership and results in community. Are these not the values that the Jewish community Strives for?" Critics on the right, though, see it as artificial, even dan- gerous. The biblical prophets railed against the hypocrisy of Jew- ish life, warning the people that God did not want their insinceresacrifices, but rather that they deal kindly with each other and follow the commandments. Today, in a country bitterly divided between Red and Blue, liberals and conservatives, one man's Tea Party is an- other's Occupy Wall Street protest; we have a hard time accepting the earnestness of those on the other side. Both groups express discontent with things as they are. But their solutions are at odds, calling either for less or more government involvement, "The organizers' attempts to combine Judaism and today's fashionable politics are simply incoherent," wrote Matthew Ackerman on the Commentary magazine web- site, calling the trend "deeply troubling." Have we lost the ability to accept an adversary's point of view as genuine, perhaps containing a grain of truth? Those calling for radical change today are, in manyways, thebeneficiaries of the menand women who sit at the center of the Jewish establishment, both professional and lay, and who themselves led efforts to shake up the status quo four decades ago, with mixed results. In 1969, a small group of Jewish undergraduate and graduate students, influenced by the campus protests that were sweeping across the U.S. and Europe, staged a demonstration at the Gen- eral Assembly of the national Jewish federation movement in Boston. Under the glare of the national media, they called for a re-prioritization of communal goals and chal- lenged their elders to deepen their communal commitment to Torah ideals. The result was the es- tablishment two years later of The Institute for Jewish Life. Its creators called for an independent body fueled with $100 million to spark a renaissance in Jewish life for generations; in the end it was far from independent, received less than $5 million and closed its doors four years afterit opened. The victim of unrealistic expectations and turf wars, the Institute ultimately was a failure. (It is so little known that a Google search yields not a single reference.) But the goals of the student protest- ers in Boston have become" so ingrained as communal priorities that we find it hard to believe today that young people had to take to the streets to insist on more fund- ing for Jewish education and programs to enhance Jewish identity, values and connec- tions to Israel. Those objectives were clear; it's too early to tell if those advocating Occupy Judaism have a specific agenda. While they acknowledge that social justice has become a major than tearing down those in authority. Humility, and a sense of history, even recent history, should be a requirement for those activists calling for more do-it-yourself Judaism. Let them remember they are challenging an organized community, some of whose leaders were branded "young radicals" four decades ago. And they should be aware that the bible of do-it-yourself Ju- daism, "The Jewish Catalog," cause in the community a major best seller in the today, they insist there is too early 1970s that spawned two Auschwitz's future secure, worry about 'forgotten' Nazi camps By Ruth Ellen Gruber other preservation efforts and threaten the integrity or even the existence of the memorials and museums at lesser:known camps and Holocaust sites in Poland. "Because Auschwitz is treated as the symbol of the Holocaust and the whole world is supporting only this museum, everybody in Poland, including the govern- ment, seems to think that this is enough," said historian Robert Kuwalek, a curator at the state-run Museum at Maj- danek, the Nazi concentration camp and killing center near Lublin in eastern Poland. "The problem is deeper because it is the lack of basic knowledge that the Holocaust happened in forgotten sites like Belzec, firsthand. All are marked by memorials or even museums. But some are located in re- mote parts of the country, and most are in serious need of upkeep and preservation. The museum at Sobibor, for examplenthe site of John Demjanjuk's crimes--was forced to close in June when funding from local authori- ties ran out. An estimated 167,000 to 250,000 people, mostly Jews, were murdered at Sobibor, which is located in a remote part of eastern Poland. In May, a German court convicted Demjanjuk, now 91, of complicity in the murder of 28,000 Jews there. "We simply realized thatwe iittlewillingness to call atten- tion to the concentration of wealth in America. They say the organized community, fearful of offending major donors, is morally implicated in the cruelty of the broader economy. It's a message that may be hard to hear but worth con- sidering. So too, those calling for dramatic change would be most productive if they channel their efforts toward building community rather sequels, was created to make rituals and customs more ac- cessible for disaffected Jewish youth--as are many of today's activists. Ironically, it was a $5,000 seed grant from the Institute for Jewish Life that led to the publication of "The Catalog." Gary Rosenblatt is editor and publisher of The New York Jewish Week, from which this article was reprinted by permission. You can email him at Dry Bones Sobibor, Treblinka, Majdanek and Chelmno." Belzec, Sbibor and Tre- blinka were the three kill- ing centers of the so-called Operation Reinhard plan to murder 2 million Polish Jews in 1942 and 1943. During that operation, Kuwalek said, "more people were killed in a shorter time than in Aus- chwitz-Birkenau during the whole period that the camp functioned." Despite their importance in the history of the Holocaust, these and other sites--such as the forced labor camps at Stuffhof and Gross-Rosen-- are overlooked by the vast majority of visitors who want to learn about the Holocaust or pay homage to its victims Worrff on page 19A ROME (JTA)--Auschwitz, the most notorious camp in the Nazi killing machine, may soon claim success in its campaign to preserve the legacy of the Holocaust. The foundation supporting the site in southern Poland has attracted tens of millions of dollars from donor coun-* tries, and the camp's barracks and other buildings seem set to be preserved for decades to come. The museum memorial at the former Nazi death camp attracts more than 1 million visitors per year. Some fear, however, that the concentration of re- sources and attention on Auschwitz could overshadow Y EACH -i f