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Jerusalem Marks 49th Anniversary of Historic Reunification

By Israel Hayom & IsraelNationalNews.com

Jerusalem celebrated 49 years since its reunification under Israeli sovereignty Sunday with a number of ceremonies and events.

The official state ceremony for Jerusalem Day took place at the Ammunition Hill memorial site where six torches were lit in memory of those killed in the battle for Jerusalem. Those lighting the torches were representatives of bereaved families and of the brigades that fought in the battle.

Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev said of Jerusalem Day: "Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, is marking 49 years since its reunification. This is the day that we commemorate those who fell in battle to liberate it and give thanks to the heroes who reunited the city. We have kept guard along your walls, City of David, and we are still keeping guard. The war for your security is not yet over. We will continue to defend and safeguard you. You will always be our Jerusalem of gold."

The main Jerusalem Day event raised concern of potential clashes is the annual flag parade, in which thousand of people, mainly youth, marched with Israel flags through the Muslim Quarter of the Old City, ending at the Western Wall where the participants danced.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spoke at the Jerusalem Day celebration at the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva in Jerusalem, where he vowed that Jews would never be removed from their land. "The love of Jerusalem unites all of us as one man with one heart. I remember the divided city of Jerusalem with the Jordanians on the fence. That will not come back. Jerusalem will remain whole."

Netanyahu recalled how, after the Six Day War, tens of thousands of people came and touched the stones of the Western Wall. "We connected to generations of 4,000 years. We stood there excited and committed to keeping Jerusalem, the Temple Mount and the Western Wall," he said, before promising to keep Jerusalem united and build in it. Until Jerusalem returned to Israeli sovereignty there was no peace. We are looking for peace, I look for peace. I do not oust people from their homes and no one will rob us of our land," stressed the Prime Minister.


(((Echoes))) Exposed: The Secret Symbol Neo-Nazis Use to Target Jews Online

By Tech.Mic & YnetNews.com

Neo-Nazis, anti-Semites and white nationalists have begun using three sets of parentheses encasing a Jewish surname — for instance, (((Fleishman))) — to identify and target Jews for harassment on blogs and major social media sites like Twitter. As one white supremacist tweeted, "It's closed captioning for the Jew-blind."

The origins of the symbol ((())) can be traced to a hardcore, right-wing podcast called The Daily Shoah in 2014. It's known as an "echo" in the anti-Semitic corners of the alt-right — a new, young, amorphous conservative movement that comprises trolls fluent in internet culture, free speech activists warring against political correctness and earnest white nationalists. Some use the symbol to mock Jews; others seek to expose supposed Jewish collusion in controlling media or politics. All use it to put a target on their heads.

In an email, the editors of the Right Stuff said it is also intended as a critique of "Jewish power." They explained further: "The inner parenthesis represent the Jews' subversion of the home [and] destruction of the family through mass-media degeneracy. The next [parenthesis] represents the destruction of the nation through mass immigration, and the outer [parenthesis] represents international Jewry and world Zionism."

If you try to search for "(((Last Name)))," Twitter's search engine strips the results of the parentheses, yielding every single result for the last name, the sheer size of which obscures instances of the symbol being used.

Whether they know it or not, Neo-Nazis on Twitter have discovered a brilliant loophole — a code that's difficult to filter whose meaning incites waves of hate before the target realizes what's happening. Jewish writers can report those tweets all they want, but the damage ((())) sets into motion may only be beginning.

However, last week Google removed an add-on called "Coincidence Detector" from its Chrome browser, which identifies Jews' names and places parentheses around them. For example, when the individuals who downloaded the add-on searched for the name Levy, they received the following result, (((Levy))).

Cooper Fleishman, who first exposed the "Coincidence Detector", wrote that his last name appears as (((Fleishman))), when using the add-on. According to an investigation, it is possible that the tool is connected to a right-wing extremist group in the United States.

A Google spokesperson told CNN Money that the tool violates company policy regarding incitement, which does not allow "content advocating against groups of people based on their race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, gender, age, veteran status, or sexual orientation/gender identity."

According to Google's data, 2,473 people downloaded the "Coincidence Detector" and rated it with five stars. Various media outlets also reported that the add-on had the capability to identify 8,700 Jewish last names.

It was not long until a protest broke out on Twitter. Brian Teeman, one of the founders of Joomla, a free and open-source content management system, called on all his members to change their names on social media to following form: (((Brian Teeman))). "Join me and change your username to add parentheses to defeat the neo-Nazi hate," he wrote.


In Remote Madagascar, a New Community Chooses to be Jewish

By JTA

A nascent Jewish community was officially born in Madagascar last month when 121 men, women and children underwent Orthodox conversions on the remote Indian Ocean island nation better known for lemurs, chameleons, dense rain forests and vanilla.

The conversions, which took place over a 10-day period, were the climax of a process that arose organically five to six years ago when followers of various messianic Christian sects became disillusioned with their churches and began to study Torah.

Through self-study and with guidance from Jewish internet sources and correspondence with rabbis in Israel, they now pray in Sephardic-accented Hebrew and strictly observe the Sabbath and holidays. The conversions were facilitated by Kulanu, a New York-based nonprofit that specializes in supporting isolated and emerging Jewish communities, but were initiated by the residents.

"Now that we've re-established the State of Israel, it is time to re-establish the Jewish people, especially in the Diaspora," said Bonita Nathan Sussman, vice president of Kulanu. Her husband, Rabbi Gerald Sussman of Temple Emanuel on Staten Island in New York, added: "We are in the process of reconstituting the Jewish people, which would have been more numerous had it not been decimated by the Holocaust and had we not lost millions of Jews in Arab lands."

Beginning on May 9, members of the community came before a beit din, or rabbinical court, convened for the occasion at the Le Pave Hotel here, the Madagascar capital. The court comprised three rabbis with Orthodox ordinations: Rabbi Oizer Neumann of Brooklyn, Rabbi Achiya Delouya of Montreal and Rabbi Pinchas Klein of Philadelphia. All three belong to a group of rabbis who serve far-flung Jewish communities and support converting emergent Jewish groups.

Delouya, whose background is Moroccan, spoke with the converts in their second official language, French, and also provided Sephardic influences for which the Madagascar community feel an affinity.

The conversion process included periods of intensive Torah study, interviews by the beit din and full body immersions in a river located a 90-minute drive away from Antananarivo. A privacy tent was hastily erected beside the river for the occasion, and a festive atmosphere ensued as men, women and children, ranging in age from 3 to 85, lined up to take the ritual plunge. Additionally, the Madagascar men, who are already circumcised, underwent "hatafat dam brit," or ritual penile bloodletting, to affirm their new faith.

The 10-day period concluded with 12 Jewish weddings and a symposium on Madagascar's Israelite connections featuring a keynote address by Tudor Parfitt, a British scholar and expert on the Lost Tribes of Israel.

Indeed, many Malagasies, as the islanders are known, believe they are of Jewish or Israelite descent, and that their founders were seafaring members of the Lost Tribes. Belief in the "Malagasy secret" persists despite evidence that most Malagasies are of Indonesian and African origin.

According to local lore, Madagascar is the biblical land of Ophir and played a pivotal role in providing construction materials to King Solomon's temple. Many also believe that the Ark of the Covenant and other ritualistic temple items are buried on the island.

Even Prince Ndriana Rabarioelina, a descendant of the Merina monarchy of Madagascar, proudly asserts Jewish ancestry. He told JTA that up to 80% of Malagasies can claim Jewish roots. He asserts that portions of the tablets, Moses' rod and a copy of the Book of Daniel are safeguarded by descendants of Levites in the Vatamasina-Vohipeno region of Madagascar. Additionally, several Merina tombs, including those of his family, bear Hebrew symbols or letters, he said.

Nevertheless, evidence of a historic Judaic presence in Madagascar is scarce, and what signs can be found could date from the seventh century, when traders from Arab lands sailed to the island, or the 1500s, when conversos may have been among the Portuguese sailors who established trading posts.

Madagascar, a country of 20 million people, is awash with missionaries. Some 50%t of the population practices some form of Christianity, while most of the other half practices an indigenous animist faith in which ancestor worship features prominently. Approximately 7% of the population is Muslim.

While many Malagasies were brought to Judaism through study of the Old Testament and a sincere effort to get closer to God, some see the practice of Judaism as a return to their roots and an overthrowing of the last vestiges of colonialism.

"I was a victim of the colonizers, as you know we had the French here, and then the communists and then the socialists ... so I didn't have any roots anymore," said Mija Rasolo, an actor who hosts his own late night talk show on Madagascar TV and took the Hebrew name David Mazal. "So I told myself for now I am going to be Jewish, because that works for me. I found Judaism. I found my roots, baruch Hashem ... Am Yisrael Chai" – the people of Israel live.

As residents of Antananarivo began to explore Judaism, three leaders emerged to guide the nascent community: Andrianarisao Asarery, known as Ashrey Dayves; Andre Jacque Rabisisoa, known as Peteola, and Ferdinand Jean Andriatovomanana, known as Touvya.

Ashrey is a dynamic former pastor and singer who works as a pastry chef by day and is famous throughout Madagascar for his television cooking show. His father is also a famous Malagasy singer. He favors a more liberal and welcoming version of Judaism, leads a congregation of about 25, and conducts radio broadcasts on Jewish topics and religious practices.

Peteola, a computer programmer, conducts Hebrew language lessons and religious radio broadcasts. He has a following of about 30 and favors a mystical and kabbalistic approach to Judaism. He teaches Torah concepts with Gematria, through which meaning is derived to the numeric values of Hebrew letters.

Touvya, a self-taught cantor, davens devoutly and sports peyot, the traditional sidelocks mentioned in Leviticus. He leads his congregation of 40 in strict observance of the Torah.

All three have set up makeshift synagogues in their living rooms, while some prayer services are also held in a space provided by the English Language Institute. Services are generally held at Touvya's house, which is large enough to accommodate most community members. Getting there can sometimes be problematic because not everyone lives within commuting distance of the home. Most Malagasies do not have cars and rely on their feet or bush taxi (taxi brousse) for transportation.

The move toward conversion was spearheaded by Ashrey, who functions as president of the Jewish Community of Madagascar, which is also known as Sefarad Madagascar. Ashrey thought conversions would bring legitimacy to the group as well as greater ties to world Jewry.

Touvya and Petoula were reluctant at first to accept conversion. Touvya in particular felt that conversion was unnecessary because he believed that he was already Jewish, and did not want or need the validation of an outsider to confirm it.

Community members dress modestly and strive to keep kosher in a land lacking the proper infrastructure to do so. Without a kosher butcher, most will eat only fish, dairy and vegetable products. Many observe the practice of niddah, avoiding marital relations or even touching while a woman is menstruating.

Only 30 people were originally scheduled to convert when Kulanu arrived on the scene last month, but the number ultimately swelled to 121 as family members and Touvya's congregation joined in. Kulanu estimates that at least 100 more potential converts live among the community.

The conversions are an ironic twist of fate, occurring around the 76th anniversary of the Madagascar Plan. Launched by Nazi Germany on June 3, 1941, it was conceived as an alternative method to achieve the Final Solution by deporting European Jewry to Vichy-controlled Madagascar. Most were expected to die en route, succumb to disease or be massacred without international oversight. The plan was never implemented. Instead, decades after the Holocaust took the lives of 6 million European Jews, one pocket of the African nation has become a place of Jewish rebirth.































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