Passover is the holiday of freedom. A person or a society are free when they are on their own, not subject to any other authority. But the meaning of freedom can be grasped in different and even contradictory ways. The seder night is not an imitation, but three original and bold interpretations of freedom that Judaism gave to the world: religious freedom, national freedom, and moral freedom, writes Dr. Shraga Bar-On, a research fellow at the Jerusalem-based Shalom Hartman Institute.
As Ukraine continues to unravel, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) will try to help that country’s Jews celebrate as normal of a Passover holiday as possible in chaotic times. As a tenuous cease-fire holds, aid organizations are working to provide relief to civilians caught in the crossfire. Among them, JDC is currently assisting more than 4,600 Jews displaced by the conflict or stranded in separatist-controlled regions. Despite the upheaval, JDC-run Hesed social welfare centers and JDC-supported Jewish community centers will hold a variety of Passover events—including seders, matzah baking, and cooking workshops—for thousands of Ukrainian Jews. “Now there is an atmosphere of insecurity in Ukraine,” said Oksana Galkevich, JDC’s Ukraine director of external affairs. “An absolutely safe place does not exist.”
A first-of-its-kind conference organized by StandWithUs—entitled “Combating the Boycott Movement Against Israel: Understanding the BDS Movement’s Strategies and Tactics”—was unique in the sense that it enabled pro-Israel experts and advocates from around the U.S. and Israel to put their heads together, compare notes, share their experiences, and discuss the best strategies to fight the BDS scourge, writes conference attendee J.J. Surbeck, executive director of San Diego T.E.A.M. (Training and Education About the Middle East).
Father Gabriel Naddaf, a Greek Orthodox priest from Nazareth, believes his people have mistakenly been called “Christian Arabs” when in reality they are Arameans—descendants of people who lived in Israel in biblical times. A leading advocate of Christian enlistment in the Israel Defense Forces, Naddaf writes that Israeli Muslims, Arab members of the Knesset, NGOs, and media outlets are orchestrating a massive campaign against Aramean Christian integration into Israeli society. He writes that while Christians are persecuted elsewhere in the Middle East, they should be supported—not demonized—for efforts to more fully join the benevolent society of the Jewish state.
“Each man kills the thing he loves,” wrote Oscar Wilde. And President Barack Obama bears him out. Obama’s zeal to create a Palestinian state, and his elevation of that quest to the most important goal of American policy in the Middle East, has been profoundly disquieting for Israel. Not only do Israelis perceive Obama as placing undue pressure and censure upon Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but they also perceive him as an appeaser of the Iranian mullahs and of the Assad regime in Syria. Should the phrase “two-state solution” become a permanent metaphor for a failed policy, Obama’s contribution on that score will have been decisive. But he will choose to blame Israel and Netanyahu instead, writes JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen.
“The difficult we do immediately, the impossible takes a little longer.” When Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, spoke those words, he could very well have been referring to the scientific breakthroughs that were destined to emerge from the school that would bear his name. What Ben-Gurion may not have envisioned is the emergence of an annual rite in which American journalists see those discoveries for themselves. After 10 years, the Murray Fromson AABGU (American Associates, Ben-Gurion University) Media Mission has brought nearly 100 reporters and editors from across the Atlantic for an up-close look at the cutting-edge research taking place at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. “We want [the journalists] to see that, although it’s so new, only 45 years old, this university was the realization of Ben-Gurion’s vision of a world-class research center in the heart of the desert,” said Ronni Strongin, the AABGU vice president who kickstarted the media trip.
People have long joked that after 40 years in the desert, Moses still led the Jews to the only place in the Middle East without oil or gas. In 2009, that changed with the discovery of the Tamar and Leviathan offshore gas fields. But while natural gas offers the prospect of freedom from foreign energy interests, Israel has few practical engineers ready to populate the industry. Into this gap leapt Sandee Illouz, CEO of Erez College, a vocational school in the northern Israeli town of Shlomi. “The discovery of natural gas in Israel opens a whole new realm of jobs and job opportunities,” Illouz said at a recent ceremony that unveiled the college’s Mechanical Practical Engineer program and new Natural Gas Laboratories.
Former secretary of state James Baker, a prominent figure in president George H. W. Bush’s administration and a critic of the Israeli government’s policies, is under fire from conservatives and pro-Israel activists for his decision to speak at the annual conference of the left-wing J Street lobby. But should the pro-Israel community’s concern extend to former Florida governor and presumed presidential candidate Jeb Bush, for whom Baker serves as a foreign policy adviser? “Baker is not a key adviser to Jeb Bush; he has about a dozen policy advisers, all of whom are strong supporters of Israel. ... Jeb disagrees with [Baker] on the U.S.-Israel relationship and the way forward in the Middle East,” said Fred Zeidman, a Houston businessman and Republican fundraiser who is close with the Bush family.
In “Risk: The Game of Strategic Conquest,” the classic board game, players imagine empires and vie for world domination. After a defeat, a player must retreat. Bret Stephens’s new book, “America in Retreat, The New Isolationism and the Coming Global Disorder,” reveals a real-life Risk board. In a vacuum of American leadership, modern nations compete for influence and resources, too often at the expense of Free World ideals. Stephens examines America’s present-day hand in a crumbling world order. The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist—formerly editor in chief of The Jerusalem Post, currently deputy editorial page editor of The Wall Street Journal, and a popular columnist among Jewish and pro-Israel readers—makes a compelling case that the U.S. not in decline, and that a strategy of retreat is both unnecessary and a terrible risk.
Until the Obama administration decided to shift its support away from Israel because of a rather torturous interpretation of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s campaign rhetoric, it seemed absurd that a major policy decision against an ally would ever turn on the hyperbole of a political campaign. But President Barack Obama's conflict with Netanyahu is not about Netanyahu—it is about the U.S. administration grabbing a fig leaf to justify a move toward the Palestinians, writes Abraham H. Miller, an emeritus professor of political science at the University of Cincinnati and a senior fellow with the Haym Salomon Center.
The 76th installment of Harvey Rachlin's new comic strip, "The Menschkins." Click here for more JNS.org coverage on Jewish arts.
Fresh off a decisive election victory, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu finds himself in yet another diplomatic storm with U.S. President Barack Obama over pre-election comments that a Palestinian state would not be established under his watch. Netanyahu later clarified that he wants “a sustainable, peaceful two-state solution.” But were his initial remarks even a policy change to begin with? While mainstream media outlets reported that Netanyahu’s pre-election remarks were a significant departure from a 2009 speech he gave at Bar-Ilan University, in which he backed a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes a Jewish state, both supporters and opponents of Netanyahu within Israel say that the prime minister’s policy on a two-state solution has been consistent.
On Monday, nearly 500 college students attending the annual J Street conference in America’s capital gathered outside the Walter E. Washington Convention Center for a two-block march to the headquarters of Hillel International to express disappointment that the Jewish campus umbrella’s CEO and president, Eric Fingerhut, cancelled his appearance at the conference. Fingerhut had pulled out of the gathering after learning that chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, who has compared Israel to the Islamic State terror group and defended Hamas, was also speaking at the conference.
When the champion of the U.S.-Israel alliance sounds the alarm, something about the steadfast allies’ relationship is more contentious than usual. Last week, the staunchly bipartisan American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC)—which does not frequently issue public statements, let alone criticize a sitting American president—urged the Obama administration to “recommit to improving” U.S.-Israel ties. Tension between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Barack Obama is nothing new, but seems to have escalated to an even higher level. JNS.org reviews five current sources of bitterness in the leaders’ relationship: Iran, the two-state solution, the U.N., Israeli Arabs, and alleged U.S. funding of anti-Netanyahu campaign efforts.
While visiting Israel in March to speak at Hebrew University’s conference marking 50 years of German-Israeli diplomatic relations, Tuvia Tenenbom—author of the recently published book “Catch the Jew!”—stayed clear of Ramallah. But Jibril Rajoub, the former head of the Palestinian Authority’s Preventative Security Force, had welcomed him as a VIP when Tenenbom arrived as “Tobi the German journalist.” Tuvia is now a wanted man. “I hurt [Rajoub’s] honor because he believed that I’m German,” Tenenbom told JNS.org at the seaside Fitzroy Lounge in Tel Aviv. “He did not for a second suspect me of being a Jew. It’s not nice for his self-respect.” Tenenbom’s story of his “undercover” foray into the disputed Palestinian territories breaks rank with politically correct, mainstream media-compliant analysis of Mideast politics.