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Today's News


June 28, 2017





Ultra-Orthodox Lawmaker: Reform Jews Don't Believe in Temple

 By VOA News &


A senior ultra-Orthodox Israeli lawmaker on Tuesday dismissed the protestations of liberal Jews over alternative access to Jerusalem's Western Wall as provocations, saying they don't even believe in the sanctity of the site. Deputy Finance Minister Yitzhak Cohen of the Shas party said worship practices at the site — a retaining wall of the compound where the biblical Jewish temples once stood — have been in place for centuries and not everyone can "come and change the rules.


"What are the Reform [Jews] claiming? That the Western Wall is theirs?" Cohen asked. "Why do they need the Wall? Do they believe in what resides there? Why? Let them go and build a wall wherever they want and pray there. They don't believe in what they're doing, anyway."


Leaders of the Reform and Conservative movements have canceled meetings with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to protest his government's decision to scrap plans for an expanded mixed-gender prayer area. They're warning of an unprecedented crisis between Israel and the Jewish diaspora over the issue. "The Western Wall doesn't interest Reform Jews. They don't believe in the Holy Temple," Cohen told Israel's Army Radio, expressing a view that many Reform Jews would take issue with.


Most American Jews belong to the more liberal Reform and Conservative streams and feel alienated by Israel's ultra-Orthodox authorities, who question their faith and practices.


Sunday's Cabinet decision touched a raw nerve and sparked a rare display of public anger from American Jewish groups, who hinted the move could undermine their longstanding political, financial and emotional support for Israel. Ultra-Orthodox leaders in turn ramped up their criticism and said diaspora Jews would have no say in how religion was conducted in Israel.


The plan to officially recognize the special mixed-gender prayer area at the Western Wall was reached in January 2016, after three years of intense negotiations between liberal Israeli and American Jewish groups and Israeli authorities. It was seen at the time as a significant breakthrough in promoting religious pluralism in Israel, where ultra-Orthodox authorities govern almost every facet of Jewish life.


But the program was never implemented, as powerful ultra-Orthodox members of Netanyahu's coalition government raised objections. The about face, coupled with another government decision to promote a bill that would enshrine the ultra-Orthodox monopoly over conversions, provoked the ire of liberal Jews.


Netanyahu's office tried to deflect some of the criticism, noting that there are already arrangements for egalitarian prayer and saying that construction to expand that area would continue. The Western Wall, or Kotel, is the holiest site where Jews can pray, and its main plaza is divided into separate men's and women's prayer sections. Those attempting to hold egalitarian services in the area are often heckled and harassed. Under the plan, the small egalitarian area would be expanded and receive a more central entrance alongside entrances to the current male and female prayer sites.


Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who also oversees diaspora affairs, said the crisis was ill-timed and he was having intense negotiations to resolve it. "The representatives of U.S. Jewry feel they were slapped in the face by the Israel government and that they are apparently no longer welcome here. Of course, this isn't true," he said. "Mistakes were made regarding timing and the way things were done. Additionally, there is an apparent campaign of misinformation claiming the Kotel is being closed to Diaspora Jews and that the status of conversions is being changed. This is false."


Ultra-Orthodox rabbis strictly govern Jewish practices in Israel such as weddings, divorces, burials and conversions. The ultra-Orthodox religious establishment sees itself as responsible for maintaining traditions through centuries of persecution and assimilation. It resists any inroads from liberals, who it often considers to be second-class Jews who ordain women and gays and are overly inclusive toward converts and interfaith marriages.


The liberal streams have made some progress in recent years, but have encountered ultra-Orthodox resistance when it comes to official state recognition and having a say in religious practices.


Cohen said that "Reform Jews are ruining the Jewish religion and offending everything that is sacred to us. How can we even be talking to them? Why are we even discussing [this] with them? These people are faking Judaism. We will never recognize them."


U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman on Tuesday evening criticized the conduct of the Reform Movement in recent days, following the government's decision to freeze the plan to establish a designated mixed-gender prayer area at the Western Wall. “I want to speak to you to some extent not as the United States Ambassador to Israel, but as a member of the Jewish faith and as the son of a rabbi who practiced before his pulpit for at least 45 years and committed his life to Jewish unity,” Friedman said at a B’nai Brith event.


“Three years ago, you all recall the tragedy that befell the three boys who were kidnapped in Gush Etzion and for whom, for 18 days, the entire world prayed and hoped, wishing for their safe return, and unfortunately it was not to be. On the anniversary of their untimely passing, their parents began something called the Unity Prize,” he continued.


“There are people who commit their lives to Jewish unity, but sadly we’re not where we need to be. Yesterday I heard something that I once thought I would never hear. I heard a major Jewish organization say that it needed to ‘rethink’ its support for the State of Israel. This is something unthinkable. We have to do better. We must do better,” stated Friedman.


“There is plenty of room to cast blame, whether it’s on the issue of the Western Wall or the issue of conversion. I’m not going to take sides tonight, but I can tell you that we can only resolve these issues by mutual respect and understanding. We have to get back to those basic principles of Jewish unity.”


The key to Jewish unity, opined Friedman, “is that nobody ever has to win. This is not a question of winning. This is a question of mutual understanding and respect and co-existence. As soon as someone wants to win – everybody’s going to lose.”



 Prophecy? What Ben Gurion Said to the Reform Movement

 By David Bedein (Commentary)


In 1970, during my first months in Israel, I lived with two fellows who were learning at HUC, the Hebrew Union College. They very much wanted to live in Israel, but they and their fellow Reform Rabbinic students were concerned about their status in the Jewish State.


A prominent Reform Rabbi, Ezra Spicehandler, arranged for HUC students to meet and express their concerns to David Ben Gurion, the first Israeli Prime Minister. He was an elder statesman by then, having just retired from the Knesset. After hearing the concerns of the HUC students, Ben Gurion, known as BG in English, responded with a healthy dose of reality.


BG answered their concerns by saying that if American Reform Rabbis want recognition, they should bring 300,000 Reform Jews with them to Israel. Ben Gurion’s response envisioned the dilemma that Non-Orthodox Jews cope with in Israel today.


An estimated 20,000 Jews are active in all the 64 Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist synagogues around Israel. This is growth when compared with 1970, when you could count the amount of non-Orthodox synagogues on your fingertips.


Yet these numbers do not compare in numbers to the estimated two million Orthodox Jews in Israel - of all stripes - who hold at least 40 seats in the current Israeli Knesset, both in religious parties and in parties that do not define themselves as religious.


Today, when an Israeli prime minister considers vital decisions, a constituency of two million outweighs a community of 20,000, regardless of how many supporters those 20,000 have who reside in the diaspora. And recent surveys in the US show that the number of those flaunted supporters is decreasing by leaps and bounds due to intermarriage.


Had Reform Jews brought 300,000 Jews in 1970, their sheer numbers would have catapulted them into a position where they could have shaken the balance of Jewish religious power today. Decisions are made by leaders who live in the Jewish state, not by those Jews who try to affect Israeli decisions from afar.


Ben Gurion’s observations were all-too prophetic.


David Bedein is director of Israel Resource News Agency and heads the Center for Near East Policy Research, author of Genesis of the Palestinian Authority and Roadblock to Peace: How the UN Perpetuates the Arab-Israeli Conflict: UNRWA Policies Reconsidered.



The Neo-Nazi Who Converted to Judaism



For most people only faith in reincarnation can explain such a story. But Yonatan Langer, a kippah wearing Jew from West Berlin, is quite capable of recounting his previous incarnation: it ended only a few years ago.


Yonatan, 33, or Lotz if you go by his original name, was a neo-Nazi. In the neighborhood where he lived in Berlin, he spent time in Neo-Nazi clubs, used the Nazi salute, and admired the SS. "Hitler, Himmler, Hess—they were heroes to me, war heroes," said Langer in his interview for the newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung.


Just a few years ago he used to celebrate Hitler's birthday, but today he celebrates the Jewish holidays and puts on tefillin every morning. This week, in New York, he is set to complete his conversion to Judaism, after undergoing the traditional circumcision.


Langer managed to get out of the very depths of the violent and racist scene. He attributes his change mainly to the conversations he had with the director of the group Exit. which helps neo-Nazis "get out of the extreme right and start a new life. It's actually quite simple to convert extreme right-wingers, or radical Islamists," Langer said. "You just need to allow them to take part in life, and extremism is solved by itself."


Langer recalled having a dream, during a time in his life when he was starting to distance himself from his friends. In it, he was standing in a warm cave, when the word "Kabbalah" appeared on the wall. Langer awoke from the dream, jumped out of bed and ran to his computer. From there he went to an introductory course for Kabbalah. These days, he studies Hebrew, works at the Kabbalah Studies Center in Berlin and tries to work through the vicissitudes he underwent.


Gabe Pressman, Pioneer of TV Reporting, Dies at 93



Gabe Pressman, a pioneering TV newsman who was a fixture in New York City journalism for six decades, has died at 93. Pressman, who died Friday, was one of the first reporters to take a camera crew into the streets for live coverage. “All I know, I was alone out there. I was the only one holding the mike,” he told The New York Times in 1998.


Pressman is survived by his wife, four children, eight grandchildren and one great-grandson. He became a reliable and engaging source for many New Yorkers who tuned into local stations like WNBC and WNEW. (Your Israel News Faxx editor was privileged to be his NBC News assistant film editor and then film editor between 1961 and 1966.)


He was honored with many accolades — 11 Emmy Awards, a Peabody and the George Polk Award — for his original reporting, uncovering topics like homelessness and the mentally ill. He also served as president of the New York Press Club from 1997 to 2000.


The Bronx native was the son of two Jewish immigrants who supported his deep interest in reporting. Pressman showed promise at a young age, having started a family newspaper at 8 or 9. He was known by family and friends for his love of all things news and public affairs.


Pressman received his bachelor’s degree from New York University and his masters from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. He served in the Navy as a communications officer from 1943 to 1946. Following World War II, Pressman toured Europe on the Pulitzer Traveling Fellowship to report for Overseas News Agency, a subsidiary of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, and The New York Times.


Beginning in 1956, Pressman was a daily reporter for WRCA-TV, the predecessor of WNBC, where he would serve for over half a century. Peers and colleagues recognized Pressman for his ability to cover a wide range of issues, from subway accidents to election scandals, in a thorough yet tenacious manner. Pressman also interviewed many cultural and political icons throughout his career including Fidel Castro, Marilyn Monroe, Malcolm X, and politicians on the local and national level.


In October 1982, during an interview from Jerusalem for WNBC-TV’s “News Forum,” Pressman asked then-opposition Labor Party leader Shimon Peres if Israel was guilty of “immorality” in the massacre of hundreds of Palestinian civilians by Christian Phalangist forces in the Shatila and Sabra refugee camps of south Lebanon.


Peres replied: “I would never imagine in my darkest dreams that there would be a single Israeli that would ever give his hand to a massacre of innocent people. I don’t buy it.”


Pressman did not retire — until his last few days he was active at WNBC.  “He was truly one of a kind and represented the very best in television news reporting,” Eric Lerner, the New York station’s president and general manager, said of Pressman’s legacy and influence. “Gabe was still coming to work and thinking about the next story. He was a treasured colleague and friend to all of us and he will be missed.”





The Holocaust in the Third Reich  as Depicted in Hollywood Cartoons


Donald Duck: Der Fuehrer's Face


Cubby Bear:


The Ducktators:


Daffy Duck, The Commando


Bugs Bunny, Herr Meets Hare:


Donald Duck: Commando Duck:


3 Little Pigs: Blitz Wolf:


Popeye: Spinach fer Britain



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By Frances Bernay-Cohen

I can't speak for you, but my grandparents came to the United States to find a refuge from "change." They came to The United States where their basic freedoms were guaranteed by the Constitution; where they could build a future on this solid ground.

Whether our forefathers and forI'm sure you will find some truth in this song.






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Air France flew from the U.S. to Israel during the early 1950s. They flew Lockheed Constellations and the flying time was 20 hours.

This promotional film - in English for an American audience - shows Israel as it was three years after the War of Independence .

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 Paradise Regained, Paradise Lost

By Don Canaan (Commentary)

This year marked the 34th anniversary of the return of the Sinai by Israel to Egypt--a day of mourning by many of the 2,000 settlers who settled and later were forcibly evacuated by Israeli authorities under the command of Ariel Sharon, from the seaside city of Yamit on the Mediterranean.

Yamit was former Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Dayan's dream--a projected seaport and city of 250,000 founded on the Sinai sand dunes overlooking date palm trees and the blue Mediterranean--a populated buffer between the Gaza Strip and Egypt on the other side of the Suez Canal.

Some alternate historians say Moses and the children of Israel passed near the site of Yamit 3,500 years ago as they wandered for 40 years through the Sinai Desert on their way to the proverbial land of milk and honey.

Since April 25, 1982 only the whine of the desert wind weaves its currents through the crevices of destroyed homes, businesses and monument--a memorial to the young men who died during the 1967 Six Day war.

Christians, Jews and Muslims died during three Arab-Israeli wars and battles that took place in the Sinai in 1956, 1967 and 1973--Egyptian and Israeli--young people who fought and died in that desolate, forsaken desert wasteland.

The modern-day chariot carrying Egyptian President Mohammed Anwar al-Sadat hugged the intermittently green coastline of Sinai on its historic mission to Jerusalem. Israelis glancing upward into the clear night sky saw merely a jet banking gently to the northwest.

Official Israeli government policy was that the settlers had to be removed and the army came and forcibly removed the remaining diehard residents. The Jerusalem Post described the scene: Apocalypse had arrived in Yamit and in the dust and noise and destruction one could wander freely. Dozens of bulldozers and giant mobile air hammers were loose in the city like a pack of predatory beasts."

April 25, 20011 marked the 29th anniversary of Israel's withdrawal from Yamit and Sinai and a cold peace between long-term enemies.

That gift of peace silently glided overhead as the Sabbath disappeared and the stars appeared. At 8:01 p.m. Sadat's jetliner landed at Ben-Gurion Airport and the first minutes of a then potential peace came to the Middle East.

Old enemies became new friends. The crowds roared its approval when Sadat shook hands with Moshe Dayan. A person standing nearby, according to the Jerusalem Post, said Sadat told Dayan, "Don't worry Moshe, it will be all right."

The peace treaty between the two nations was signed on March 26, 1979 and on April 25, 1982; the events that had started on a November day at Camp David came to fruition. Sinai was returned to Egypt. Yamit was bulldozed to the ground. But Anwar Sadat did not live to see that day. He had been assassinated seven months before.



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