In an exclusive report, the Jewish Exponent in Philadelphia has revealed that Josh Fattal, one of the two American hikers released from Iranian prison last week, is Jewish. This information had been purposely kept out of the press for the 26 months of his captivity for obvious reasons.
Although local friends, acquaintances and rabbis in suburban Elkins Park, Pa., Fattal’s home town, knew of his being Jewish, it was a deliberate decision on the part of the Fattal family to decline offers of assistance from Jewish organizations. The hiker’s Jewish identity was kept almost completely under wraps, and the Exponent refrained from reporting the story. “When it comes to someone’s physical safety, we’ll always err on the side of caution, even if it means suppressing such a dramatic and important story,” said Lisa Hostein the paper’s executive editor.
Fattal, 29, had been in Israel just prior to meeting up with friends Shane Bauer and Sarah Shourd in Syria and then continuing on together to visit Iraqi Kurdistan. It was as they hiked in Iraqi Kurdistan in July 2009 that they allegedly — according to Iranian officials — crossed the Iranian border, prompting Iran to claim they were U.S. spies and arrest them. Shourd was released in September 2010.
Uri Fink, who 30 years ago created Israel’s first superhero, in the form of Sabraman, has a theory about why comic book superheroes have caught on only in America. “It’s naive just thinking people will go out and fight the bad guys out of the goodness of their hearts,” he told the Forward. “It’s Americans’ un-cynical culture. Someone can run around in tights and not be embarrassed.”
Fink will be one of the presenters at Animix, Israel’s 10th annual festival of animation and cartooning, which will kick off on August 17. “It’s the closest thing we have to a comics convention,” Fink explained, adding that Israeli comic book culture is still “in diapers.”
American Jews created some of the greatest American superheroes, like Spider-Man and Superman, so the absence of Israeli superheroes seems puzzling at first. But Israeli culture and American Jewish culture are not the same.
True, it was an opportunity to shake hands with President Obama, to shmooze with Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan and to count more than 30 Jewish lawmakers who showed up for the first ever White House Jewish American Heritage Month reception.
But for many, the most thrilling moment was getting to shake hands with and ask for an autograph from baseball legend Sandy Koufax. At 75, Koufax was the biggest attraction in a room filled with accomplished Jewish Americans. Even Obama chose to make Koufax the center of the only joke he weaved into his speech. “Sandy and I actually have something in common — we are both lefties,” Obama said. “He can’t pitch on Yom Kippur; I can’t pitch.”