Within hours of today’s terrorist attack on the Kehilat Bnei Torah synagogue in Jerusalem’s Har Nof neighborhood, Israeli singer Amir Benayoun had already written, produced and released a new song about the killing of four Jewish worshipers by Palestinians.
The popular musician, who sings in Hebrew and Arabic, has a history of responding to political events. In 2010, Benayoun released a song called “I’m Your Brother,” in which he accused human rights activists in Israel of being the enemy for criticizing the Israeli state and its army. In 2013, he initiated a first-of-its-kind concert at the Cave of the Patriarch in Hebron. And in February of this year, he wrote a song attacking Obama’s policies on Jerusalem titled “Jerusalem of Hussein,” a play on the famous song “Jerusalem of Gold.”
Today’s new song is titled “Jewish Blood.” You don’t have to speak Hebrew to understand the gist of it — the mournful melody says it all — but you can read the lyrics in English below:
In the wake of the terrorist attack that claimed four lives in Jerusalem’s formerly peaceful Har Nof neighborhood, some are speculating that the bloodbath may have been meant as revenge for the murder of Palestinian teen Mohammed Abu Khdeir by Jewish extremists in July.
The father of Yosef Haim Ben-David, the main suspect in the Abu Khdeir murder, prays in the same complex of synagogues where today’s attack happened, Maariv reports (Hebrew). The report suggests that the killers may have been aiming for Ben-David’s father, or the closest they could get to the inner circle of the Jewish extremist.
The location of the Ben-David home seems to have been well known. Footage of the area was broadcast on Channel 10’s “Hamakor,” in the context of a program focusing on the Abu Khdeir murder, just last week. On social media, some are now pointing fingers at that program’s Raviv Drucker, blaming him for divulging the location and leading the killers to Har Nof.
Drucker has responded, saying that the synagogue where the attack took place was hundreds of meters away. He also wrote a blog post last week about his decision to run the story about the murder at such a tense time, despite receiving many requests not to broadcast it.
The Kehilat Bnei Torah synagogue is just 200 yards from the Ben-David home, according to the Telegraph.
Following the Abu Khdeir murder, the Haredi website Kikar Hashabbat also ran a profile on Ben-David, mentioning that his father serves as the head of the Kollel in Har Nof, as well as a rabbi in the Katamonim neighborhood.
The theory that today’s attack was meant as revenge for the Abu Khdeir murder is still just speculation. But, if true, it might go some ways toward explaining why the killers chose to perpetrate this attack specifically in a synagogue, and in this normally-calm neighborhood in particular.
Shortly after putting forward this theory, Maariv redacted its article, removing any mention of the Channel 10 broadcast and other details, and citing a gag order.
A Yachad tour overlooking the South Hebron Hills at the southern tip of the West Bank / Yachad
In a historic move on Sunday, the Board of Deputies of British Jews (BoD) voted overwhelmingly to admit Yachad into the umbrella organization.
Yachad was set up in 2011 to build support within the British Jewish community for a two-state solution. Its work involves both education and grassroots advocacy. Securing 135 votes in support, against 61 “no” votes, Yachad reached the two-thirds majority required for inclusion according to the constitution of the BoD.
The BoD is the British Jewish community’s official representative body. “Deputies” are voted in by their synagogue members, and from within the deputies a leadership structure is then elected, which includes amongst other positions a president and number of vice presidents. It is from this process that the BoD earns its title of being the democratically elected body of the British Jewish community. (Note that the community also has the Jewish Leadership Council, made up of the chairs and chief executives of communal organizations, more similar in nature to the American Jewish community’s Conference of Presidents.)
In more recent years, the BoD has created a provision for community organizations to be represented, recognizing that not everyone identifies with the community through a specific synagogue. Through this provision, Yachad applied to become a member organization.
It goes without saying that Yachad is delighted with the outcome. Having been established just over three years ago, Yachad has amassed a significant body of support within the community for its work. Our supporters want to have a seat at the community table — that’s why the application was submitted. It was in fact our supporters themselves who encouraged us to apply.
Students walk past a statue of a former Princeton president on the school’s campus / Getty Images
A faculty petition recently appeared in The Daily Princetonian calling for the university to divest from companies operating in the West Bank. The Center for Jewish Life, Princeton’s Hillel, quickly responded with a letter stating that the CJL is “taking the best, positive strategic approach to defeat this action.”
As a Jewish undergraduate at Princeton, the CJL is a very important community to me. I go there every day, and most of my experiences are overwhelmingly positive. I am consistently impressed by the dedication of the CJL staff to their students.
I view the CJL as my home on campus, and so I was particularly surprised by the CJL’s letter. Because I am an observant Jew who cares deeply about Israel and opposes the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, I was upset by the letter’s implication that such opposition is an unquestioned assumption in our community. Along with many other Jewish students, I signed an open letter to the CJL and Hillel International, explaining my discomfort with the CJL’s stance.
Our letter did not take a stand on the issue of divestment itself. Rather, we asked for the CJL to refrain from taking a unilateral position where there is no consensus in our community. I do not oppose people speaking out against the faculty petition. The counter-petition signed by many faculty members and a petition created by Tigers for Israel, an Israel advocacy student group, are both legitimate and worthwhile. What I do oppose is the CJL, an organization meant to represent all Jews on campus, making a statement about Israel as if it were unanimous. This complex issue calls for ideological diversity and discussion, not a top-down initiative to “defeat this action” that alienates students.
Still from CCTV footage of the West Bank killing / Youtube
I hate to say I told you so. But the fatal shooting of two Palestinian teens in the West Bank this summer? Not faked. Not “Pallywood.” Not even close. It was exactly what it appeared to be.
On May 15, four Palestinians, three of them children, were shot in the town of Bitunya during a demonstration near the Ofer Prison. Two of them, Nadim Siyam Nawarah and Muhammad Mahmoud Salameh, both 17, died of their wounds. CCTV footage of the shootings clearly showing both boys collapsing after being mortally wounded went viral around the world and was immediately met with conspiracy theories, first by bloggers and then by current and former high-ranking Israeli officials, that the shootings had been staged.
In some versions, as promoted by Rabbi Kenneth L. Cohen, director of the Vine and Fig Tree Project, a religious pro-peace organization, as well as many other prominent commentators, the boys were said to not have fallen “correctly” or in a manner “consistent” with their having been shot. Having seen many films of shootings while doing research on war crimes, I questioned the validity of such arguments in a previous blog post, noting that people fall in a variety of ways after being shot and that the footage was in no way “inconsistent” with the young men having been shot in the upper torso.
Soon after the initial conspiracy theory of staged shootings made its way around the internet, even more involved and unlikely conspiracy theories began to be promoted by prominent officials. On May 22, former Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren, speaking on CNN, not only said that the boys had fallen in a manner inconsistent with their having been shot but stated that they may have never died in the first place. This, despite numerous interviews with the young men’s parents and the doctors who tried to save their lives and a plethora of footage of their funerals on Youtube.
A #Drive4alAqsa meme, part of the “car intifada” campaign / Twitter
The past few weeks have seen widespread incitement to violence among both Palestinians and Jewish Israelis. There have been stabbings, harassments, shootings, stone-throwings, hit-and-runs. And now, there’s the “car intifada.”
This campaign, which is drawing significant media attention, calls on Palestinians to run over Israelis with their cars. As the latest hit-and-run attacks by Palestinians make the rounds on social media, the buzz surrounding this phenomenon is adding a new aspect to the perennial speculation about the next wave of violence to hit the region: Will the third intifada be motorized?
In three incidents over the past few weeks, Palestinians rammed their cars into pedestrians. Four of them were killed and over 20 were injured. On Monday, in two separate incidents, Palestinians stabbed four Jewish Israelis. Two of them were killed.
Facebook pages and tweets popped up, using the term “car intifada” and the Arabic verb “daes,” which means to run over. Hashtags, cartoons and memes were created, some of them anti-Semitic in nature. Many directly and indirectly call on Palestinians to use their cars as weapons.
A music video by two Palestinian residents of Ramallah, called “Run Over, Run Over (the Settlers),” has also been making the rounds on social media. It urges Palestinians to run over settlers and soldiers.
Well, here’s something you don’t see every day. The Israeli Embassy in Tokyo has launched an anime web series to encourage Japanese tourists to visit the Holy Land — and it’s kind of amazing.
“Israel, Like!” is an unusual blend of hasbara and manga — I hereby dub it “hasbaranga” — featuring two Japanese sisters, Saki and Noriki. As they tour different parts of Israel, they get to know each area’s special attractions.
The goal of this unexpected media initiative is to “use anime to reach the Japanese audience, especially youth, and display the Israel beyond the conflict,” Israel’s ambassador to Japan, Ruth Kahanoff, told Ynet. Ronen Medzini, the embassy’s spokesperson, added: “The main goal is to showcase the lighter and original aspects of Israeli society.”
The lighter aspects — check. The weirder aspects? Again, check. I actually found the inaugural episode (there will be seven total) strangely riveting. Allow me to walk you through some of the oddest moments.
Protesters took to the streets of Paris this summer to demonstrate against Israel / Getty Images
(JTA) — Each year on the anniversary of Kristallnacht, we recall the opening salvo of the violent assault on Jews that foreshadowed the Holocaust and ask ourselves what should have been done at that moment.
In thinking about Kristallnacht, we should also consider the outpouring of violence against Jewish communities in Europe this summer and draw the right lessons for today.
It is rightly said that the Holocaust began not with gas chambers but with words. The significance of Kristallnacht in the history of the Holocaust is the passage from anti-Jewish legislation and anti-Semitic rhetoric to violence against Jews. And therein lies the lesson for today.
To be clear, in today’s democratic Europe, there is no risk of a new Holocaust. Invoking such a possibility obscures rather than illuminates the serious situation of European Jewry. Comparisons to Kristallnacht, however, are apt.
This summer we saw in France, Germany and elsewhere in Europe, anti-Semitic rhetoric followed by assaults on Jews and attacks on synagogues, Jewish-owned shops and other Jewish institutions. The differences with Kristallnacht are stark and significant, but the similarities cannot be ignored. Not on this anniversary — not at a time of great insecurity among Jewish communities in Europe.
Score one for the settlers.
In the ongoing battle between the most extreme West Bank settlement and the Israeli Defense Forces, the settlers of Yizhar have now announced a modest, if bizarre win.
Following the threat of legal action, the IDF has agreed to move treadmills it had set up in Yizhar’s religious study hall to the dining room.
The Israeli army seized Yizhar’s Ode Yosef Chai yeshiva in April after settlers from the West Bank hilltop community attacked the IDF.
The military turned the yeshiva into an army base and surrounded it with barbed wire. But apparently the people of Yizhar were keeping a close eye on the comings and goings at the site. In September, a group of settlers entered the compound and videotaped the study hall, where the IDF had set up exercise equipment.
The situation reached a fever pitch around the High Holidays when Adi Kedar, an attorney with Honenu, a Zionist legal organization that defends settlers, sent a letter to the IDF:
Rabbi Yehuda Glick / Tumblr
The first time I met Rabbi Yehuda Glick, I thought he seemed completely normal. I never would have thought to call him a right-wing extremist, as many reports are doing nowadays. And I certainly never would have dreamed that a few years later he would be the target of an assassination attempt as a result of his efforts to win Jews access to the Temple Mount.
I was a teenager visiting the Temple Institute in Israel for the first time. Since I had just learned about the Institute in my Modern Orthodox day school in South Florida, I suggested to my family that we go visit it. On that chilly Jerusalem morning I remember feeling the tension between being interested in the subject matter and simultaneously having to act “cool” — for whom I’m still not sure. Though my appearance during the tour was perhaps aloof and disinterested, on the inside I was plotzing.
At that point, I didn’t know about the controversy surrounding the Temple Mount. I did not know, for example, that even calling it the Temple Mount and not Haram al-Sharif was politically charged. I did not know that there would one day be a member of the Israeli Knesset, Moshe Feiglin, advocating for Israel to “expel the Moslem wakf from the Temple Mount.” I just wanted to see the actual Temple vessels that I had learned about in my Bible class.
An Israeli soldier walks past a bus on which suspected Jewish vandals painted graffiti reading ‘Gentiles in the land are enemies’ / Getty Images
Young Israelis don’t want separate bus lines for Palestinians — and they’re asking American Jews to ensure segregation never becomes a reality.
That’s the nutshelled version of a letter sent today by Young Israeli Labor, the official youth branch of the Labor Party, to the leaders of major American Jewish organizations including Abe Foxman (Anti-Defamation League), Malcolm Hoenlein (Conference of Presidents), Jeremy Ben-Ami (J Street), Eric Fingerhut (Hillel International) and Rabbi Rick Jacobs (Union for Reform Judaism).
The striking thing about this is not just the willingness of Israeli youth to speak out against segregated buses, but the fact that they’re turning to American Jewish leaders to appeal, on their behalf, to Israeli leaders — specifically, Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ya’alon. The subtext seems to be that they don’t feel they can make themselves heard (or heard successfully) in their own country without a powerful intermediary. We can chalk this up partly to their perception that “Ya’alon is caving in to a well-organized campaign of the extreme right, who hold powerful positions inside the Likud party.” Here’s the rest of their letter:
This unfortunate decision is a disastrous one in any respect. Apart from being a severely miserable decision in every moral aspect, it also adds a very powerful weapon to the arsenal of those seeking to undermine Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.
Side by side with you, we, the Young Israeli Labor, the official young branch of the Labor Party, lead an uncompromising struggle on Israel’s international standing. Exactly because of our love for Israel, we must at present do whatever it takes to stop this poor decision from realization.
I call upon you to turn to Israel’s Prime Minister, MK Netanyahu, and demand that he interferes in this matter and prevents Defense Minister Ya’alon from surrendering to the extremist right-wing in Israel, which is jeopardizing our continuing existence as a Jewish and democratic state.
Thinkstock / Getty Images
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confronted quite a challenge when the Atlantic’s Jeff Goldberg quoted Obama administration officials calling him a “chickenshit.”
Israeli reporters, in turn, faced their own challenge: How to translate “chickenshit” into Hebrew.
Modern Hebrew is rich with phrases alluding to the Bible and rabbinic literature. Swear words, not so much. A 2004 song by Israeli hip-hop group Hadag Nachash says “Here, everyone speaks Hebrew/And curses in Russian, English and Arabic.”
So Israeli papers, reporting the anonymous comments Wednesday morning, had to settle on something less evocative than “chickenshit.” The consensus translation that emerged among major news sources was “pachdan,” or coward. Haaretz did a little better, using “pachdan aluv,” or “lowly coward.”
As any poultry farmer can attest, none of these are chickenshit. “Coward” lacks the crude, sandlot insult quality that “chickenshit” conveys. “Coward” is what you’d call someone before a duel. “Chickenshit” is what you’d call someone before a bar fight.
To compensate, Israeli news articles put the word, in English, in their articles, such that “chickenshit” is clearly visible in the opening paragraph, running counter to the Hebrew text.
A friend of mine suggested that Israeli reporters could have avoided all this by translating the phrase to Hebrew literally: “Hara shel tarnegolim.” Of course, that’s also not quite Hebrew: “Hara” is a swear word in Arabic.
As of next month, Israel will operate separate buses for Palestinian residents of the West Bank returning from jobs as day laborers in Israel, thanks to political pressure from West Bank settlers who donʼt want to ride on the same buses as “Arabs.” The question is: Should we care?
Settler leaders claim that the move was due to aggressive and uncouth behavior by Palestinian passengers, coupled with an overall concern for Jewish passengersʼ security. According to a report in Haaretz, one settler told a meeting of a Subcommittee on Judea and Samaria, convened by MK Motti Yogev of the Jewish Home party, about having been sexually assaulted by a Palestinian rider. Another complained that his pregnant wife was not given a seat by Arab passengers. Others were worried that Palestinians on buses could lead to hijackings, or worse. But IDF officials insisted they did not see the Palestinian presence on board these buses as a security threat.
In a democracy, of course, an official report of sexual assault should result in an investigation and possibly individual charges being laid. An informal report — as this one was — might lead a municipality to intensify its safety and surveillance measures. But to collectively deny an entire ethnic group the right to travel on some buses would be collective punishment, rightly considered prejudicial.
Israelʼs rule in the West Bank, however, is far from democratic. Palestinian residents of the West Bank arenʼt Israeli citizens, which means that the normal democratic channels arenʼt open to them from the get-go.
Jay Michaelson has it wrong. AIPAC is not, as he argues, anti-Israel.
Most of what the lobby does is focused on strengthening the bond between the United States and Israel — various aspects of this relationship, including the U.S.-Israel security cooperation — which is undisputedly pro-Israel.
But not only AIPAC. All American Jewish organizations that focus on Israel, including the ones on the extreme right, are pro-Israel. They support Israel, and they do so wholeheartedly. They care deeply about Israel, and they are deeply concerned about its future.
The deep disagreement between such groups and organizations such as ours (Americans for Peace Now) is not over who is more pro-Israel, who loves it more or who cares more about its future. The dispute — a deep and thorough dispute — is about Israel’s future. It is about the kind of Israel that we want to see. It is about what kind of Israel we are “pro.” Or, more precisely, what vision for Israel we support.
MTKL’s Israeli Army Women Calendar
Just a couple of months after the Gaza war, Israel has found a new way “to show the world the beauty of Israel and its people” — via the power of a pin-up calendar featuring real IDF soldiers.
Or, as the creators of the MTKL Israeli Army Women Calendar like to call them, “the chosen amongst the chosen people.”
These chosen women, brought together by two former (male) soldiers who “scoured the ranks of the powerful Israeli army,” would like you to donate $25 to their Indiegogo campaign so that they can not only ship you this calendar, but also create a whole line of clothing and accessories that will blend “the best of military and street into must-have urban fashion.”
Their goal is to make $30,000 off the calendars, enabling them to bring their clothing line to production in early 2015. So far they’ve raised about $3700 — which means that a bunch of people are already walking around wearing jewelry “fashioned after the official IDF Dog Tag.”
I say that because, if you ask me, this fashion line — and the pin-up calendar being used to showcase it — is pretty much the most unsexy thing I can imagine.
It’s not just that this product is the work of two men using a bunch of women’s bodies to make a quick buck. Leave aside for a minute the obvious feminist objections to pin-up calendars writ large — and hone in on this calendar in particular. It doesn’t take long to see that we’re being sold more than your average “male gaze” sexual fantasy. What we’re being sold is an ideology that equates sexiness with militarism, and Israel with both.
Palestinian mourners carry Orwa Hammad to a prayer session at a Silwad school / Naomi Zeveloff
On Sunday afternoon, the main street in Silwad, a village north of Ramallah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, was lined with parked cars for as far as the eye could see. Palestinians from all over the area had come to pay their respects to Orwa Abd al-Wahhab Hammad, the 14-year-old killed in clashes on October 24 with the Israeli military. Posters with Hammad’s photo — a serious-looking teen with his black hair combed forward — were plastered on bumpers, windshields and on fences throughout the town, each one bearing the imprint of Hamas, Fatah or the People’s Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
According to news reports, the Israeli Defense Forces said it opened fire on Hammad after he was getting ready to hurl a lit firebomb toward Route 60, an account which Palestinian officials dispute. A family member said that Hammad was with a group of boys throwing rocks when he was killed.
Hammad was raised in Silwad, a village of around 6,000 people marked by a stone Arabic sign and a marquee advertising a USAID-sponsored road project. But Hammad was also a United States citizen, the second one claimed by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the past week. On Thursday, an East Jerusalem Palestinian named Abdel-Rahman Shaloudi plowed a car into the Ammunition Hill light rail station, injuring seven people and killing three-month-old Chaya Zissel Braun, an American citizen whose family had taken her to the Western Wall for the first time that day. Shaloudi was killed by Israeli police as he fled the scene. On Sunday, an Ecuadorian woman injured in the attack died from her wounds.
Nine workers at Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport lost their jobs yesterday because they refused to interact with passengers who arrived from Ethiopia.
The workers, contractor employees of the Israel Airports Authority, were asked to hand out Ebola information pamphlets to the Ethiopian Airlines passengers and to direct them to an area where they could have their temperatures checked. The workers were reluctant to do so out of fear that they would contract Ebola. They argued that they weren’t properly protected.
These nine workers weren’t the only ones afraid to come into contact with the passengers. They told Ynet that they were asked to perform the task only after the airport’s permanent employees refused to do it. The contract workers were threatened, and when they still insisted they would not perform the procedure, they were fired on the spot.
Eventually, cops stationed at the airport were the ones who agreed to undertake the procedure.
This incident follows a new directive that was issued three days ago. According to the latest decision, passengers coming to Israel from any country in Africa have to fill out a questionnaire and have their body temperature checked. This new protocol is an expansion of a procedure that included only passengers from countries with incidences of Ebola: Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leon.
As part of the new protocol, even passengers coming from Cairo ¬— only about an hour flight from Tel Aviv — are getting tested, as they come from “Africa.”
Hossam al-Dabbus makes art out of remnants from the Gaza war / Getty Images
As donors pledge billions to rebuild Gaza in the wake of Hamas’s war with Israel, one Gazan is engaged in another type of construction: turning remnants of the war into works of art.
Hossam al-Dabbus, a 33-year-old who works in Gaza’s honey industry, has collected shells, rockets and missiles from the war that killed around 2,2000 Gazans and more than 70 Israelis — and turned these objects into flower vases.
Dabbus, who lives in Gaza’s Jabaliya refugee camp, first found his materials by combing through the Gaza wreckage. As orders poured in for his art, he asked Hamas police for more defunct projectiles from the war.
“When my children grow up I’ll be able to show them these and tell them — here are remains of the 2014 war that left over 2,000 people dead, and this is how I transformed an instrument of death into a vessel of life, making these bombs into flower vases,” Dabbus told Agence France-Presse.
Demonstrators call on the British parliament to recognize ‘Palestine’
The British Parliament’s decision to back a motion to “recognize the state of Palestine,” by a margin of 274 to 12 votes, means nothing — and everything.
Nothing, because the passage of this motion was a purely symbolic matter, close to but not really a true indication of parliamentary feeling on the matter, since not all MPs were allowed a free vote and fewer than half of them even bothered: 90% of Conservative MPs didn’t show up. At worst, the whole thing can be viewed as a stunt, promoted by a cadre of anti-Israel MPs on the backbenches, seized upon by Labour leader Ed Miliband to undermine the authority of the government and score political points, less than a year out from the general election.
The fact of the matter is that, even prior to the vote, the government was clear that its position on Palestinian statehood would not alter. While critical of settlement policy and human rights violations, the Conservative Party is the most pro-Israel party of the three main parties in Britain. The Conservative Friends of Israel continues to have a great deal of influence within the parliamentary party itself. One vote will not overturn that dynamic, nor will it make a state for the Palestinian people any more of a reality. Only the Israelis and Palestinians together, not the British, can make that happen.
So, no need for Israel to drag the British ambassador in for a lecture, as recently happened to Sweden’s envoy. But that doesn’t mean that Jerusalem should ignore events in Parliament entirely. While the vote might mean nothing today, it means everything insofar as it shows something is shifting in Britain and Europe more broadly, where the increasing criticism of Israel heard on the street is being reflected at a higher political level.
Rebecca Vilkomerson speaking at the Open Hillel conference / Gili Getz
“I bought my ticket right after my rabbi’s Rosh Hashanah sermon. I knew I needed this community,” a student participant at the Open Hillel conference told me today.
The student went on to thank Open Hillel for providing a long overdue space for young Jews to come together and question the institutions, frameworks and viewpoints we have been taught. The message rang out loud and clear today at the inaugural Open Hillel conference: My generation is not content to be spoon-fed talking points, courted by free trips to Israel, or talked down to from patriarchal institutions that advocate policies at odds with our values. We want to proactively grapple with the hard questions that define the political and moral choices facing our community today.
Hillel International’s Standards of Partnership construct a political litmus test that prohibits the ability of students to engage with these questions. For Hillel, openness is an only-if-you-agree-with-our-funders kind of deal. The line is drawn at support for nonviolent resistance to occupation through boycott, divestment and sanctions — beyond that you become a “demonizer’” or “delegitimizer.” These are the rules of the conversation as dictated by Hillel, but the students are not content to stop there.
It was clear today, after hours of packed workshops, panels, speeches, and conversations in the hallways, at lunch and in the elevator, that the Open Hillel conference had struck a nerve. The floodgates have been opened and they aren’t shutting anytime soon. Over 350 people participated in this weekend’s conference — a far cry from the “small group of activists” Hillel International president Eric Fingerhut dismissed in his recent op-ed.