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Independence Day Terror Attack Thwarted

By DEBKAfile, World Israel News & IsraelNationalNews.com Inspection of a Palestinian truck trying to pass through the Reihan crossing near Jenin into Israel discovered a powerful bomb hidden in the roof. It was apparently being smuggled across for staging a major terrorist attack on Israel's Independence Day Thursday. The bomb was found in a bag weighing 10 kilos along with iron fragments and a digital detonation device. Police sappers are defusing the explosive device after shutting down the crossing and arresting the Palestinian driver. Earlier, a Palestinian from Gaza was detained at the Qalandiya crossing north of Jerusalem in possession of a knife. He admitted he intended to attack Israelis. Israel made the complex transition from Yom Hazikaron (Memorial Day) to Yom Ha'atzmaut (Independence Day) on Wednesday night, as the official ceremony kicked off the celebration that took place on Mount Herzl, in Jerusalem. Each year, Yom Ha'atzmaut – Israel's Independence Day – begins immediately following Yom HaZikaron, Israel's Memorial Day, in memory of fallen soldiers and victims of terror. This transition from somber remembrance to joyous celebration helps serve as a reminder that the State of Israel owes its existence to those who made the ultimate sacrifice. This remarkable ability to grieve for the fallen and then rejoice in the miracle of the Jewish State is manifest in the State of Israel, where the people continue to look to the future with hope and optimism. The state ceremony that ushers in Yom Ha'atzmaut takes place at Mount Herzl, Israel's military cemetery, by the grave of Theodor Herzl, one of the founders of Modern Zionism. The flag, which was at half-staff for Yom HaZikaron, was raised to the top of the pole. The celebration includes soldiers marching with flags creating various formations, hundreds of dancers, and of course, fireworks. The program was televised on Israeli TV channels. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu lit a torch during the state ceremony marking the commencement of Israel's 70th Yom Ha'atzmaut on behalf of all the governments of Israel since the establishment of the state. Another 12 dignitaries, equaling the number of Israel's tribes in the bible, were honored with lighting a torch during the ceremony on Mount Herzl. They were selected for their outstanding contributions to the country and Israeli society. It is considered one of Israel's highest honors. Many museums and cultural institutions across the country open their doors to the public during the holiday, and there is a wide variety of events and activities for families. One of the most popular traditions for Israelis is to barbecue, called the "mangal," and to go hiking in nature reserves. Parks are packed with people grilling their meat as they give thanks for the State of Israel. Another popular event on Yom Ha'atzmaut is the annual International Bible Contest, a worldwide competition on the Tanach (Jewish Bible) for high-school students held at the Jerusalem Theater. The competition, broadcast live on Israeli TV and radio, is sponsored by the Israeli government and is attended by the prime minister. Each year, the Israel Air Force (IAF) also displays its military strength with a flyover across the country. Residents from north to south check the schedule ahead of time to know when the planes will pass over their neighborhoods. Quadcopters with LED bulbs created multicolored Star of David images on the walls of Jerusalem. Forty ambassadors to the United Nations have taken part in the celebrations. They hail from Africa, Asia-Pacific, the Caribbean, Europe and Latin America. In Israel's Ministry of Economy and Industry contest, the public ranked as the greatest Israeli inventions of all time, the Iron Dome missile-defense system, followed by Waze international navigation, drip irrigation and Disk on Key data storage (Memory Stick.) No fewer than 250 missionaries from Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, South Korea and Russia are currently touring the country as part of an extensive campaign of Christian sects. The peak of their activity took place on Independence Day. Anti-missionary organization Yad L'Achim reported that the missionaries have converged on many cities in Israel. The organization's emergency hotline has already received hundreds of calls from concerned citizens over the missionary offensive. Rabbi Shmuel Lifshitz, one of the leaders of Yad L'Achim, mentions that he appealed to the Interior Ministry to ban the entry of foreign missionaries to Israel. "Christian missionaries come here to convert the religion of the citizens of Israel and, as such, constitute a danger to the foundations of Jewish life in the country. "They mislead enforcement authorities and identify with border inspectors as tourists, whereas, in fact, they have come for missionary purposes only. The struggle of the Interior Ministry must be identical to the determined and successful struggle against the BDS people," he said.

Israel at 70: How 1948 Changed American Jews

By JTA
One year after Israel's establishment, in the dead of night, three students ascended a tower at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York and raised the Israeli flag. The next morning, the Conservative rabbinical school's administration took it down. That act of surreptitious Zionist protest was one of several at JTS during the years surrounding 1948, when Israel gained independence, Michael Greenbaum wrote in an essay in "Tradition Renewed," a JTS history edited by Jack Wertheimer. Students supported the new Jewish state. However, the seminary's chancellor, Louis Finkelstein, opposed American Judaism focusing all its efforts across an ocean, and also needed to appease a board wary of Jewish nationalism. But the students persisted. Once, they sang the Israeli anthem "Hatikvah" following graduation ceremonies. Another time, they convinced their colleagues at the Union Theological Seminary, the Protestant school next door, to play the anthem from their bell tower. Today, nearly all American Jewish institutions are vocally, even passionately pro-Israel. But even in the years after the Jewish state won its independence 70 years ago, that feeling was not yet universal. Before the Holocaust, Zionism itself was polarizing among American Jews. Many, especially in the Reform movement, felt support for a Jewish homeland would cause their loyalty to America to be called into question. The other side was represented by Louis Brandeis, the first Jewish Supreme Court justice, who saw no conflict between American values and Zionist aspirations.

By the time Israel declared independence on May 14, 1948, American Jews, scarred by images of the Holocaust and Nazism and inspired by newsreels of tanned kibbutzniks, were largely supportive of Zionism. But they were not yet turning out for organized political advocacy and mass tourism to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Instead they were getting used to the idea of a Jewish sovereign state — gradually incorporating it into their culture, prayers and religious outlook. "After the mid-1930s, the majority of American Jews had come to be positive one way or another about the idea of a Jewish homeland," said Hasia Diner, director of the Goldstein-Goren Center for American Jewish History at New York University. "While 1948 on the one hand was very exciting and [had] lots of communal programming and celebrations, it was slightly anticlimactic in the sense that opposition had been gone for at least 10 years." North American Jewish support for Israel was turbocharged by the Truman administration's quick recognition of the state, and by the Israeli army's victory against the Arab states in its war of independence. In February of that year, Golda Meyerson (later Meir), raised $400,000 in one day (the equivalent of some $4 million today) on behalf of the provisional state on just one stop in Montreal. In the weeks following independence, she started a drive in the United States and Canada for $75 million more (or about $750 million in 2018 dollars). "There was a sense that once America recognized the state, Zionism had won, and everyone wanted to link with the winners," said Jonathan Sarna, a professor of Jewish history at Brandeis University. "It was growing very quickly, it took in all of these refugees, which solved that problem." After Israel secured its independence, American Jews began to engage with the new nation in small ways. There was no rush of tourism, but American Jews would show their support by purchasing goods from Israel, reading books about Israel or holding Israeli dance classes in their community centers. "Here's this new state they had to kind of develop this relationship with, [and] the cultural realm was really the place it was happening," Emily Alice Katz, author of the 2015 book "Bringing Zion Home," told the New Books Network podcast. "There were these years in which it wasn't as much about rallying the troops for these massive outpourings of aid or political influence, but it was more of this coming to know Israel." Part of the reticence to support Israel stemmed from the ethos of 1950s America, with its focus on suburban growth, the "melting pot" and assimilation. Against that backdrop, American Jews were trying to prove they belonged as social and cultural equals in American society. So again they were fearful of "dual loyalty" charges that could stem from vocal support for a Jewish state. In a watershed moment in that debate, Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion sent a letter in 1950 to Jacob Blaustein, president of the American Jewish Committee, which for many years had been hesitant to throw its support behind the Jewish national movement. Ben-Gurion pledged not to speak for American Jewry or intervene in its affairs, and to dial down his insistence that American Jews move to Israel. In exchange, Blaustein recognized "the necessity and desirability" of supporting Israel in its nation building.

"The 1950s were the heyday of American Jewish assimilation," said Sara Hirschhorn, an Israel studies professor at Oxford University. "It was the postwar era, when American Jews were benefiting from the same things everyone else was benefiting from — the GI bill, all kinds of ways for people to move into the middle class — and they wanted to continue to make the most of that." Nevertheless, Israel began to show up in American Jewish religious practice. A Conservative prayer book published in 1949 had readings about Israel, but not the prayer for Israel that is now standard in many prayer books. Religious schools gradually shifted their pronunciation of Hebrew from European Ashkenazic to Sephardic-inflected Israeli. Non-Zionist religious leaders eventually were sidelined. The biggest shift, Sarna said, was American Jewry viewing Judaism's history as one of "destruction and rebirth." That outlook posed the Holocaust and the establishment of Israel as its two poles and, Sarna said, remains dominant in American Jewish thinking today. He noted that Israel's Holocaust Remembrance Day and its Independence Day are commemorated about a week apart by design. "The theme of destruction and rebirth becomes a very important theme in the lives of American Jews," he said. "So much so that American Jews don't know the history of Zionism going back, and have bought the idea that it's all about the Holocaust being linked to the birth of the State of Israel." American Jews became more open in their celebration of Israel about a decade after 1948. "Exodus," the 1958 novel by Leon Uris that painted Israel in heroic terms, was a national best-seller and was adapted into a popular movie in 1960 starring Paul Newman and Eva Marie Saint. In 1961, the Yiddish star Molly Picon starred in a Broadway musical about a visit by American Jews to Israel, "Milk and Honey," which ran for over 500 performances. A few years later, the Israel Pavilion at the New York World's Fair showcased the country's charms. And as Cold War tensions continued into the 1960s, Israel began to be seen as a U.S. ally against the Soviet Union. In 1967, Israel's existence was again threatened by Arab armies. Between the anxious buildup to that war and Israel's lightning victory, American Jewish acceptance of Israel had turned to adulation, placing the Jewish state at the center of their identity. The few dissenters are found on the non-Zionist left, among various haredi Orthodox movements, and in the quiet grumblings of some mainstream leaders and rabbis who think the emphasis on Israel has thwarted the development of distinctly American Judaisms. "Slowly but surely, Israel became more important for American Jews," Sarna said. "1967 is at once a reflection of Israel's growing importance, but at the same time it is a great intensification of Israel's centrality."

Seneca Nation Celebrates Israel's Independence Day

By IsraelNationalNews.com
The Seneca Nation, a federally recognized Seneca tribe based in western New York State, officially recognized April 19, 2017, as the '70th Anniversary of Israel's Independence.' The proclamation states that "the Seneca Nation and the State of Israel share in common a passion for freedom and a willingness to fight for and defend our sovereignty and our shared right to be a free and independent people." The proclamation further states: "The Seneca nation has admiration and respect for the warrior spirit of the Israeli people… The warrior spirit of the Israeli people has enabled the State of Israel to protect and defend its sovereignty and its very existence against all that have tried to destroy it… Now, therefore, be it resolved that I, Todd Gates, President of the Seneca Nation of Indians, do hereby declare April 19, 2018 as Israeli Independence Day on the territory of the Seneca Nation of Indians." Israel celebrates its Independence Day of the Hebrew anniversary of its declaration of Independence, the fifth of the Hebrew month of Iyar, which falls on April 19 this year.

Anne Frank Exchanged Letters with a Young Girl from Iowa

By the BBC

Although it was only a one-time letter exchange between two girls – one from a farm town in Iowa and the other living in Amsterdam – the surviving correspondence speaks volumes. Because one of those pen pals was Anne Frank. Danville, a city in south-eastern Iowa just over 10 miles from the Mississippi River, is where the story of this brief correspondence began. Now, it is being retold inside the Danville Station, a museum and cultural center, through a permanent exhibit that opened April 16. The exhibit's design involves a convergence of two worlds: one being Anne Frank and her family, and the other Juanita and Betty Ann Wagner, two girls from Danville who received letters from Anne and her sister, Margot. It features a timeline starting from the 1920s up through 1945, comparing events in Europe to those within the United States. There is also a replica of the top floor of the Secret Annex that housed the Franks and four other Jewish people for two years. The exhibit includes a 2008 video interview with Betty about the exchange. Betty passed away in August 2012; her sister preceded her in 2001.

The credit for the story lays with Birdie Matthews, a Danville Community School seventh- and eighth-grade teacher who was also a world traveler. She took summer holidays to Europe and introduced her classes to what lay beyond their hometown through letter correspondences with other schoolchildren. Each year, she would have her middle school history students write letters across the world to begin a pen pal exchange with an interested school. In January 1940, Matthews got a list of student names from the 6th Montessori School in Amsterdam, which included Anne Frank. At the Danville school, 10-year-old Juanita Wagner picked Anne's name; Anne was the same age as her. In their letters, each shared some details about themselves. In Juanita's introductory letter in the spring of 1940, she mainly wrote about living on a farm with her mother and her sister Betty; her father was deceased.

In Anne's response to Juanita, dated April 29, 1940, she wrote about her school and living with her parents, sister and grandmother. She said her birthday was on June 23, and asked Juanita to send her picture so Anne could see what she looked like. Anne also mentioned that she thought that some of her friends would also like to write to other girls at Juanita's school, and that she collected postcards. Anne included a postcard of Amsterdam's canals and her school picture. There was one more item enclosed: a letter from Anne's older sister, Margot. Margot's letter differed in that it spoke to what was happening in Europe at the time and mentioned that they listened to the news on their radio. Anne and her family had previously uprooted their lives. The Franks had fled from Frankfurt to the Netherlands in 1933 due to rising anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany. Then on May 10, 1940, German forces attacked the Netherlands with an invasion so swift and brutal that the Dutch army conceded defeat five days later. No more letters would come to Danville from Amsterdam. In July 1942, Margot received call-up papers; she must report to a German work camp. The Franks went into hiding along with four other people in the Secret Annex, the back of a building where Anne's father, Otto Frank, had his business. The group was discovered during a raid on August 4, 1944 and taken to various concentration camps. Otto would be the only family member to survive the Holocaust. Anne and Margot would succumb to typhus at Bergen-Belsen in 1945; their mother, Edith, died at Auschwitz the same year. Over the course of World War II, the Wagner girls worried about the Frank sisters and wondered if they were safe. "I remember that we would talk about Anne and Margot and wonder how they were doing," said Betty Wagner in the video. "Are the bombs dropping there? Did they have enough to eat? We didn't know, but we always thought about them." Betty said that she and her sister didn't know that Anne and Margot Frank were Jewish, and couldn't remember hearing about the Holocaust during the war. After the war ended, the Wagner sisters wrote to the address they had for the Franks. Otto sent a reply, explaining what the family had gone through and what happened to his daughters. Their father would be also instrumental in getting Anne's diary published in 1947, which would go on to be produced in multiple languages and turned into a play. Otto was also the reason why the letters are written in English. He knew the language well as he'd visited New York City and worked at Macy's Department Store and then a bank for two years before returning home in 1911. He read the letter from the Wagner sisters to his daughters in Dutch; Anne and Margot wrote their replies, which Otto then translated into English for the girls to hand copy. Following her school years, Betty held on to the letters – "I'm a packrat, so I save everything," she said in her interview – but got wrapped up in her new life in California. It wasn't until 1956, when Betty heard news on her car radio that a play based on Anne's diary – which became a smash hit on Broadway – that she thought about the letters again. "I said, `oh, that's my Anne Frank'." Betty and her mother went out and bought copies of the book. "We spent the evening reading it and crying too because we just had no idea."

The Wagners kept the Franks' letters mainly private for years, only discussing them with relatives and acquaintances. It wasn't until Betty had dinner with a friend who collected World War II memorabilia that this changed. The friend suggested that she might consider putting the letters up for auction. In October 1988, Swann Auction Galleries in New York City sold Anne and Margot's letters for $165,000 to an anonymous bidder. The buyer donated them to the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, where they are still kept. Today, Danville School's eighth-grade class studies the Holocaust. They're involved in a project to collect 1.5 million postcards from around the world – by sending out a brochure about the pen pal exhibit to relatives and friends, movie stars and athletes ­– in remembrance of the estimated 1.5 million children who perished in this genocide. To store these postcards, the Danville Station is raising money to bring a pre-World War II railcar – similar to those used in transporting Jews to the camps – from Europe to Danville. And while these Danville teens learn about the genocide, another lesson will be always closer to home: a handwritten letter from a young girl who became its defining symbol and whose story lives on.


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