Newsletter : 20fx0925.txt
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Israel Tightens Lockdown as COVID Infections Skyrocket
By VOA News
Israel is tightening a strict lockdown beginning Friday as the number of COVID cases
continues to skyrocket. There are close to 7,000 new cases a day, and total infections
have passed 200,000, all in a country of just nine million people. Hospitals are turning
away infected patients and the Israeli army is building a large field hospital for new
Israel has become the first country in the world to order a second lockdown, after
infection rates have spiked in the past few weeks. Israel now has one of the highest rates
of new infections per capita, with more than one in eight Israelis who take a coronavirus
test getting a positive result.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said there was no choice but a complete lockdown
to get the numbers down. He said that if Israel does not take serious steps immediately,
the country will be on the brink of disaster.
The order is for the entire country, except for essential services like supermarkets and
pharmacies, to shut down completely for at least two weeks. Schools were moved online a
few weeks ago after the number of cases among students and teachers climbed.
On Sunday and Monday, the lockdown will affect prayers on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of
the Jewish calendar when people fast and atone for their sins. Small groups will be
allowed to pray together both inside synagogues and outside, with some doctors saying even
this is a mistake.
The new rules also limit antiNetanyahu demonstrations which had been gaining
strength over the past few months. Officials have also considered shutting down Tel Aviv's
Ben Gurion airport. The lockdown will exact a heavy economic price, and analysts expect
the unemployment rate - which had been improving - to rise as more businesses close down
Hagai Levine, a professor of epidemiology and an advisor to Israel's coronavirus czar,
says Israel handled the first wave of the virus very well, but made some mistakes after
that. "At the beginning Israel responded and the public went with the plan, there were no
exceptions, there was a complete lockdown and the public responded," said Levine.
"What happened is that once the rates went lower, Prime Minister Netanyahu told the public
go and have a good time. He said this is like an accordion when the rates are low, you can
behave almost normally, when the rates are high, lockdown for everything. This is a wrong
concept. Dealing with the current pandemic is like a marathon and in a marathon you need
to keep pace all the time, you can run a bit differently but you need to keep moving on.
You cannot stop completely."
Levine warns that Israel needs a detailed plan about how to slowly open up after the next
lockdown. He also said that any long-term plan will only work if the public has trust in
the government. For now, polls suggest that is in doubt.
The Man Who Brought the Swastika to Germany, and How the Nazis Stole It
By Lorraine Boissoneault (Smithsonian Magazine)
When archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann traveled to Ithaca, Greece in 1868, one goal was
foremost in his mind: discovering the ancient city of Troy using Homer's Iliad. The epic
poem was widely believed to be no more than a myth, but Schliemann was convinced
otherwise. For him, it was a map to the hidden location of ancient cities.
It wasn't until 1871 that Schliemann achieved his dream. The discovery catapulted him to
fame, and with his fame came a burst of interest in all that he uncovered. The intrepid
archaeologist found his Homeric city, but he also found something else: the swastika, a
symbol that would be manipulated to shape world history.
Schliemann found his epic cityand the swastikaon the Aegean cost of Turkey.
There, he continued the excavations started by British archaeologist Frank Calvert at a
site known as Hisarlik mound. Schliemann's methods were brutalhe used crowbars and
battering rams to excavatebut effective. He quickly realized the site held seven
different layers from societies going back thousands of years. Schliemann had found
Troyand the remains of civilizations coming before and after it. And on shards of
pottery and sculpture throughout the layers, he found at least 1,800 variations on the
same symbol: spindle-whorls, or swastikas.
He would go on to see the swastika everywhere, from Tibet to Paraguay to the Gold Coast of
Africa. And as Schliemann's exploits grew more famous, and archaeological discoveries
became a way of creating a narrative of national identity, the swastika grew more
prominent. It exploded in popularity as a symbol of good fortune, appearing on Coca-Cola
products, Boy Scouts' and Girls' Club materials and even American military uniforms,
reports the BBC. But as it rose to fame, the swastika became tied into a much more
volatile movement: a wave of nationalism spreading across Germany.
Initially, "Aryan" was a term used to delineate the Indo-European language group, not a
racial classification. Scholars in the burgeoning field of linguistics had noticed
similarities among the German, Romance and Sanskrit languages. The rising interest in
eugenics and racial hygiene, however, led some to corrupt Aryan into a descriptor for an
ancient, master racial identity with a clear throughline to contemporary Germany.
As the Washington Post reported in a story about the rise of Nazism several years before
the start of World War II, "[Aryanism]
was an intellectual dispute between
bewhiskered scholars as to the existence of a pure and undefiled Aryan race at one stage
of the earth's history." In the 19th century, French aristocrat Arthur de Gobineau and
others made the connection between the mythical Aryans and the Germans, who were the
superior descendants of the early people, now destined to lead the world towards greater
advancement by conquering their neighbors.
The findings of Schliemann's dig in Turkey, then, suddenly had a deeper, ideological
meaning. For the nationalists, the "purely Aryan symbol" Schliemann uncovered was no
longer an archaeological mysteryit was a stand-in for their superiority. German
nationalist groups like the Reichshammerbund (a 1912 anti-Semitic group) and the Bavarian
Freikorps (paramilitarists who wanted to overthrow the Weimar Republic in Germany) used
the swastika to reflect their "newly discovered" identity as the master race. It didn't
matter that it traditionally meant good fortune, or that it was found everywhere from
monuments to the Greek goddess Artemis to representations of Brahma and Buddha and at
Native American sites, or that no one was truly certain of its origins.
As the swastika became more and more intertwined with German nationalism, Adolf Hitler's
influence grewand he adopted the hooked cross as the Nazi party symbol in 1920. "He
was attracted to it because it was already being used in other nationalist, racialist
groups," says Steven Heller, author of `The Swastika: Symbol Beyond Redemption?' and `Iron
Fists: Branding the 20th-Century Totalitarian State.' I think he also understood
instinctually that there had to be a symbol as powerful as the hammer and sickle, which
was their nearest enemy."
To further enshrine the swastika as a symbol of Nazi power, Joseph Goebbels (Hitler's
minister of propaganda) issued a decree on May 19, 1933 that prevented unauthorized
commercial use of the hooked cross. The symbol also featured prominently Leni
Riefenstahl's propagandist film Triumph of the Will, writes historian Malcolm Quinn. "When
Hitler is absent
his place is taken by the swastika, which, like the image of the
Führer, becomes a switching station for personal and national identities." The symbol
was on uniforms, flags and even as a marching formation at rallies.
Efforts to ban the display of the swastika and other Nazi iconography in the post-war
yearsincluding current German criminal laws that prohibit the public use of the
swastika and the Nazi saluteseem to have only further enshrined the evil regime it
was co-opted by. Today the symbol remains a weapon of white supremacist groups around the
world. In recent months, its prevalence has spiked around the U.S., with swastikas
appearing around New York City, Portland, Pennsylvania, California and elsewhere. It seems
the harder authority figures attempt to quash it out, the greater its power to intimidate
Lorraine Boissoneault is a contributing writer to SmithsonianMag.com covering history and
The New York Town of Swastika Votes to Keep its Name
A small town in upstate New York voted to keep the name Swastika, saying that the town
founders named it after the Sanskrit word and not the hate symbol associated with Nazis.
The Town of Black Brook town board, which has domain over the hamlet, voted unanimously to
not change the name, Jon Douglass, supervisor for the Town of Black Brook, told CNN.
Swastika was named by the town's original settlers in the 1800s and is based off the
Sanskrit word meaning "well-being," according to Douglass. "We regret that individuals,
for out of the area, that lack the knowledge of the history of our community become
offended when they see the name," Douglass said. "To the members of our community, that
the board represents, it is the name that their ancestors chose."
The vote follows a national reckoning with what the symbol means in modern America. In
April 2019, a neighborhood in a Colorado town outside Denver voted to change its name from
Swastika Acres to Old Cherry Hills. The area had once been home to the Denver Land
Swastika Company, a company that chose its name before Nazis adopted the swastika symbol.
The term swastika is derived from the Sanskrit word "svastika," which means "good
fortune," according to the United States Memorial Holocaust Museum. The symbol first
appeared about 7,000 years ago, and is considered a sacred symbol in Hinduism, Buddhism,
Jainism and other belief systems. It sometimes adorns the walls of houses or temples.
The symbol became popular in Europe in the late 19th century and early 20th century, in
part as Europeans learned about ancient civilizations through the work of archaeological
excavations. The Nazi Party adopted the hooked cross as its symbol in 1920 during a time
when other far-right nationalist movements in Europe were beginning to use it, the museum
Israel's Netanyahu brings his Dirty Laundry to Washington. Literally.
By the Washington Post
Most politicians go to great lengths to conceal their dirty laundry. And then there's
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Over the years, the Israeli leader has developed a reputation among the staff at the U.S.
president's guesthouse for bringing special cargo on his trips to Washington: bags and
suitcases full of dirty laundry, according to U.S. officials familiar with the matter. The
clothes are cleaned for the prime minister free of charge by the U.S. staff, a perk that
is available to all foreign leaders but sparingly taken advantage of given the short stays
of busy heads of state.
"The Netanyahus are the only ones who bring actual suitcases of dirty laundry for us to
clean," said one U.S. official, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to
discuss the details of a foreign leader's visits. "After multiple trips, it became clear
this was intentional."
Israeli officials denied that Netanyahu overuses his American hosts' laundry services,
calling the allegations "absurd," but they acknowledged that he has been the target of
laundry-related accusations in the past.
In 2016, Netanyahu sued his own office and Israel's attorney general in an effort to
prevent the release of his laundry bills under the country's freedom of information act.
The judge sided with Netanyahu, and the details of his laundry bills remain secret pending
an appeal in the Supreme Court.
The Israeli Embassy in Washington issued a statement saying the laundry accusation was an
attempt to overshadow the success of the normalization agreement that Israel, Bahrain and
the United Arab Emirates signed at the White House last week. "These groundless and absurd
allegations are aimed at belittling Prime Minister Netanyahu's monumental achievement in
Tuesday's historic peace summit brokered by President Trump at the White House," the
embassy said in a statement.
The embassy added that Netanyahu's laundry needs were relatively modest during his most
recent trip. "On this visit, for example, there was no dry cleaning, only a couple shirts
were laundered for the public meeting, and the Prime Minister's suit and Mrs. Netanyahu's
dress were ironed also for the public meeting. Oh yes, a pair of pajamas that the Prime
Minister wore on the 12 hour flight from Israel to Washington was also laundered," the
embassy statement said.
Another U.S. official said Netanyahu's recent visit did not include multiple suitcases of
dirty laundry, unlike several instances in the past. The officials who confirmed the past
uses of laundry bags included both political and career officials spanning the Trump and
Natan Sachs, an Israel expert at the Brookings Institution, said "the Netanyahus
who travel together even on diplomatic trips are notorious in Israel for their
reportedly extravagant habits." Sachs noted that the signing of the agreement with Bahrain
and the UAE was a "legacy" moment for Netanyahu, which he had worked toward for years.
"The contrast of the historic achievement and the petty acts is remarkable, even tragic,"
70-Year-Old Gets Circumcised, Converts and Marries - in 1 Month
Last Wednesday, September 16, Ronen Plot, mayor of Nof Hagalil, posted about a special
man who underwent circumcision, celebrated his Bar Mitzvah and wedding - all in a period
of one month.
"Opening the year on an optimistic note and wishing Yaakov Baranov of Nof Hagalil, who, at
the age of 70, completed the three most important ceremonies in the life of a Jew within a
one-month period - circumcision, Bar Mitzvah and wedding," the mayor wrote. "Despite the
coronavirus and his advanced age, Yaakov insisted on undergoing a circumcision about two
weeks ago and on Wednesday of this week completed the conversion process, donning a
tefillin. Immediately after recovering from the operation, he re-wed the love of his life
Galina according to Jewish Law.
"I met Galina while living in Moldova. I was a singer and she was an instructor for voice
development. We fell in love and had a civil marriage. She was Jewish and I was
partiallyfrom my father's side," he recalls.
The topic of conversion to Judaism remained in the background throughout their mutual life
together. While the two maintained a Jewish household, and their elder daughter even took
up religious Judaism, they felt something was amiss. "All these years I was afraid to ask
Yaakov to undergo conversion because of the circumcision. I was afraid he'd get hurt
during the operation and eventually made up with the fact that it wouldn't take place,"
But about a year ago, Yaakov surprised everyone when he turned up at the Haifa rabbinic
court. Ilana Raz, who accompanies converts on their way to Judaism, recalls how despite
his advanced age, he didn't give up on a single Torah lesson and passed all the conversion
tests with shining success.
The two have been together for 47 years during which they have brought two children and
eight grandchildren to the world. "They say it's never too late for love. It's not,"
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