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December 26, 2014     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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December 26, 2014
 

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, DECEMBER 26, 2014 PAGE 11A By Linda Gradstein The Media Line Bassem Eid, a Palestinian human rights activist, has launched a crusade against the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), tasked with providing "as- sistance and protection" for five million Palestinian refugees around the world. In Palestinian refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan, UNRWA gives food, aid, and runs schools. Eid said a recent study by well-known Palestinian pollster Khalil Shikaki shows that 70 percent of Palestinian refugees are seeking financial compensation rather than the "right of return" to their former homes inwhat is today Israel. He said that UNRWA has an interest in perpetuat- ing the right of return, to justify its large budgets. It is part of Eid's blistering attack on UNRWA, which operates with a $1.2 billion budget from donor countries including the United States. "Palestinians in refugee camps are suffering while UNRWA is gaining power and money," Eid, who grew up in the Shuafat refugee camp in Jerusalem, told a small group of journalists. "In Gazayou hear more and more voices saying that UNRWA is responsible for delaying the reconstruction of Gaza (after the heavy fighting between Israel and Hamas in Gaza last summer)." In an article in The Jerusa- lem Post earlier this month, Eid called for a five-point program to reform UNRWA including a call for an audit of all funds allocated to UNRWA and a demand that the orga- nization dismiss employees affiliated with the Islamist Hamas, which controls Gaza. "Hamas has never denied that the majority of UNRWA employees are affiliated with Hamas and coordinate with the organization," Eid said. During the past summer's fighting in Gaza, Israel ac- cused UNRWA of allowing Hamas to use its schools to fire rockets at southern Israel, a charge UNRWA denied. Over the summer, UNRWA twice found rockets in two empty schools and issued a strong condemnation. "UNRWA strongly and unequivocally condemns the group or groups responsible for this flagrant violation of the inviolability of its premises under international law," the group wrote in a statement published on its website. "The Agency immediately informed the relevant parties and is pursuing all possible mea- sures for the removal of the objects in order to preserve the safety and security of the school. UNRWA will launch a comprehensive investigation into the circumstances sur- rounding this incident." UNRWAofficials declined to comment on the allegations. But a UN source provided The Media Line with a list of 16 "errors" in Bassem Eid's original article to the Jerusalem Post. The rebut- tals were brief. For example, in response to Eid's charge that UNRWA staff in Gaza are affiliated with Hamas, the source said, "UNRWA staff are not affiliated with Hamas." In response to Eid's call for an audit of UNRWA, the source wrote that Eid "insinuates no audits take place--they do." UNRWA has long been a target of the right-wing in Israel, and they have happily embraced Eid. He told The Media Line that he is not paid by any of these groups and is currently seeking indepen- dent sources of funding. "I have only started this proj- ect three weeks ago and I will be meeting with many people trying to get it funded," he said. Kirk and Anne Douglas Kirk and Anne Douglas in the pool together, circa 1960. By Tom Tugend LOS ANGELES (JTA)-- Kirk Douglas, born Issur Danielovitch, the son of an immigrant Russian Jewish ragman, marked his 98th birthday on Dec. 9 by launch- ing his 11th book. The legendary star of 87 movies (who can forget "Spartacus"?) can look back, in happiness and grief, on countless one-night stands with filmdom's most beautiful women, a helicopter crash in which he was the only survi- vor, astroke, two bar mitzvahs and the death of a son. He has written about these and many other parts of his life in previous works. But there is something special about his latest, "Life Could Be Verse." "I have expressed my per- sonal feelings and emotions more than in any other of my books," said Douglas, sitting in his art-filled Beverly Hills home. In the slim volume of po- ems, photos and anecdotes, Douglas is no longer the swag- gering Hollywood star and se- rial philanderer of the 1950s, '60s and '70s. His trademark dimpled chin and bright blue eyes are still there, but his blond hair is now fastened into a gray ponytail, and he walks carefully and speaks with a slur, a legacy of his stroke. What he has not lost is his sharp sense of humor, his pride as a Jew and his love for Anne, his wife of 60 years. The cover of"Life Could Be Verse" shows an early photo of Doug- las and Anne fondly kissing and the subtitle "Reflections on love, loss and what really matters." In his previous 10 books, Douglas' prose is marked by the artlessness of a man whose casual conversation has been surreptitiously taped, and his poetry as well makes no pretensions to Shakespearean loftiness. But there is no doubt of his deep devotion when he serenades his wife on their 50th wedding anniversary in "Please Stay in Love With Me." Does fifty years together Seem so long to you? The older the violin, the sweeter the music It is often said, and it's true. To me, it seems like yes- terday We met in gay Paree. Now Paris is sad, but I am glad You chose to marry me. A lesser-known side of Douglas is expressed in "For Eric," an elegy for the young- est of his four sons from two marriages, whose drug- induced death still haunts his father. I sit by your grave and weep, Silently, not to disturb your sleep. Rest in peace my beauti- ful son It won't be long before we are one, While I lie down by your side. And talk, no secrets to hide. Tell me, Eric, what did I do wrong? What should l have done to make you strong? Now I sit here and cry, Waiting to be with you when I die. Neither Anne nor Doug- las' first wife, actress Diana Dills, are of Jewish descent. But Anne converted to Juda- ism 10 years ago, explaining, "Kirk has been married to two shiksas, it's time he married a nice Jewish girl." The con- version did not change the couple's relationship except for one ritual: Anne has taken over the Shabbat candle light- ing on Friday nights that Kirk handled in their first 50 years together. During an hourlong con- versation, Douglas looked back on the lessons of a full and long life. On God and religion: "I grew up praying in the morn- ing and laying tefillin. I gave up much of the formal aspect of religion... I don't think God wants compliments. God wants you to do something with your life and to help others." Douglas celebrated his first bar mitzvah at the Sons of Israel congregation in his hometown of Amsterdam, N.Y., and his second at 83, after the traditional biblical lifespan of 70 years, at Sinai Temple in West Los Angeles. He skipped his third bar mitz- vah at 96, and plans to do the same at 109, when he would be entitled to his fourth bar mitzvah. "That would be showing off," he said. "I'm an actor, so I have already been showing off all my life." On attracting women: "When I was courtingAnne in Paris, I couldn't get through to her," Douglas said. "One day she agreed to go to the circus with me, and when the circus performers recognized me, they insisted that I participate in the show. I had no ideawhat I was supposed to do, but as a string of circus elephants trotted out, I followed them in my tuxedo with a shovel and broom and started to clean up what the elephants had left behind." Anne was still laughing when Douglas took her home and she bestowed her first goodnight kiss on him. The poet in him celebrated the triumph by noting: "Anne thought I was a big hit, As she saw me shoveling s***." After the interview, Doug- las emailed a final thought on a more serious topic. Infinity Kornfeld Studios Kirk Douglas, right, with son Michael and grandson Dylan at Dylan's bar mitzvah, May 2014. "In the Jewish tradition, a birthday gives a person spe- cial power," he wrote. "And if he issues a blessing, this blessing becomes true. So on my 98th birthday, I bless all people in the Land of Is- rael that the current conflict resolves itself, that no more people die or are hurt and that you can continue your lives in peace." E February 27, House and home, real estate, travel, food and dining, cars, fashion, jewelry, Judaica, entertainment, books, sports, games, music, art, crafts, hobbies and leisure, clubs and organizations, volunteering. Advertising Deadline: February 18, 2015