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In what was reportedly the first-ever event specifically devoted to presenting academic arguments in support of Christian Zionism, the Institute on Religion and Democracy sponsored a recent conference titled “People of the Land: A Twenty-First Century Case for Christian Zionism” in Washington, DC. The combined presentations at the symposium made a theological and historical case for Christian Zionism that illustrates how it is a movement rooted in traditions as old as the Church itself, writes Tricia Miller, a senior research analyst for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA).
Mainstream Jewish organizations—including the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the women’s Zionist organization Hadassah, and a local Jewish Federation—are raising concerns about a Boston University-affiliated high school workshop over what they consider to be its anti-Israel bias and questionable pedagogical techniques. In April, Jewish communal attention was initially drawn to the issue when the advocacy group Americans for Peace and Tolerance (APT) released a video on Axis of Hope’s (AOH) “Whose Jerusalem?” workshop, which specifically selects Jewish students to act as members of the Palestinian terror group Hamas during mock negotiations. “It’s very concerning, when as a way to teach conflict resolution, we’re having kids role play this particular organization (Hamas),” said Robert Trestan, director of ADL's New England Region.
Pro-Israel voices are fighting back against anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism on college campuses, but who is winning this war of ideas? An episode at Columbia University, a historic hotbed of anti-Israel activity, illustrates the complex dynamics at play. Last month, Christians United for Israel (CUFI) planned a lecture at Columbia concerning the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., and his support for Israel. CUFI says that the school administration unfairly singled out the pro-Israel group's event, including imposing what called CUFI called an “unprecedented level of bureaucratic scrutiny in an effort to intimidate.” But the event went on as planned at Columbia, a campus that also happens to top the new JewHatredOnCampus.org initiative's recently published list of 10 American college campuses where anti-Semitism is most rampant.
Illinois on Monday became the third state in a month to pass legislation formally opposing the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. But going further than non-binding anti-BDS measures in Tennessee and Indiana, the Illinois bill took concrete action against those who boycott the Jewish state. The legislation—which unanimously passed both the Illinois House (102-0) and Senate (49-0), and will be signed into law by Governor Bruce Rauner—prohibits state pension funds from including BDS-participating companies in their portfolios.
Eighteen-year-olds have a habit of forming close, family-like relationships with each other. It’s rare, however, that Israeli and American teenagers living thousands of miles apart have the chance to create such bonds. But this year, 25 teens have been doing just that as part of the first-of-its-kind Hevruta program for the so-called “gap year” between high school and college. A collaboration of Boston’s Hebrew College and Jerusalem’s Shalom Hartman Institute, the program’s inaugural year in Israel has offered a mix of Jewish learning, Israel advocacy seminars, and volunteer opportunities to a group of 17 Israelis and eight Americans. “When I heard about the program, I liked that mix,” says Hevruta participant Aaron Tannenbaum of New York City. “I knew from the start that I didn’t want to be isolated in an American bubble here.”
Three months ago, he retired as chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, one of the world’s most prestigious military commands. But on a warm spring evening in Baltimore, Lt. Gen. (Res.) Benny Gantz joined another prestigious group. Gantz is in good company as a recipient of the Baltimore Zionist District’s Justice Louis D. Brandeis Award, an honor previously bestowed on the likes of Vice President Joe Biden, famed Natan Sharansky, Member of Knesset Michael Oren, Israeli ambassador Abba Eban, and others. “I’m proud that Israel is the strongest nation in the Middle East. And mostly I’m proud that we have become that way because we are a moral people,” Gantz said in an interview.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was accused of snubbing President Barack Obama when he addressed Congress on the Iranian nuclear threat back in March. Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, meanwhile, can be said to have snubbed Obama by not coming to Washington for the president’s May 14 summit with Gulf Arab leaders. The Gulf states regard a nuclear Iran as such a peril that they’ve lined up with Israel to stop that outcome. As unpleasant as it is to see Israel aligned with these regimes, whose human rights records are abominable, there’s no denying the strategic significance of this de facto alliance. Above all else, it demonstrates conclusively that the Iran deal Obama is trying to drive through is opposed by most of the Middle East, writes JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen.
An independent analysis has confirmed the greatest fears of 20 watchdog and advocacy organizations who had expressed concern that University of California, Riverside (UCR) is offering a course that meets the U.S. State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism. A preliminary report on the issue by Verity Educate, an independent non-profit group that analyses the educational accuracy and objectivity of classroom curricula, determined that the student-initiated “Palestinian Voices” class at UCR “reflects a singular interpretation” of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and presents Israel exclusively “as an ‘occupying’ power... guilty of ‘settler-colonialism.’”
Given Israel’s penchant for innovation, it was only a matter of time before the “start-up nation” established a robust presence at the Offshore Technology Conference (OTC), one of the world’s largest annual trade shows for the oil and gas industry. “The people in Israel are entrepreneurs in their souls, so as soon as they see an opportunity, they take it,” said Michal Niddam-Wachsman, head of the Israeli government’s Economic Mission in the U.S. Southern Region. “When we discovered the natural gas [in the Tamar and Leviathan fields off Israel’s coast], they immediately saw the opportunity of developing the technology that would be related to the natural gas and the oil market.” Fourteen Israeli companies were on display in Houston from May 4-7 at the OTC, which was attended by 94,700 people. It was Israel’s third year with a pavilion at the trade show.
“We are so used to bombs and the sound of firing guns that we don’t get upset anymore.” In choosing those words, Florence Bar Ilan probably hoped to convey that there was a certain stability to her daily life, but one can imagine her parents, Rachel and Samuel Ribakove, back in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, trembling as they read the letter their daughter sent from besieged Jerusalem during Israel’s 1948 War of Independence. “Dear Florence, Dear Mother and Dad,” a collection of letters between Florence and her American relatives from the 1930s through the 1960s, has been published by family members ahead of Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day), which falls on May 17. The collection provides scholars, students, and the general public with a remarkable eyewitness account of an American immigrant’s life in Israel, including a riveting description of daily life during the 1948 siege of Jerusalem, writes historian Rafael Medoff.
Something disturbing recently happened that slipped right past pro-Israel advocates. Mati Weiderpass, a fervent ally of Israel who happens to be gay, hosted a discussion in his Manhattan home with Republican presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas), a staunch ally of Israel. In the aftermath of the discussion, Weiderpass and his businesses are being boycotted by extremists in the LGBT community for daring to host an event with Cruz. There’s an indefensible hypocrisy with groups such as Palestinian Queers for BDS or Queers for Palestine, who could easily and legally stand in Israel proclaiming who they are and what that stand for, but would be persecuted for their sexual orientation in the Palestinian territories or most any Arab nation, writes Ronn Torossian.
The new Nakba Museum Project in Washington, DC could have been an ideal platform for an exhibition about the ongoing suffering of Palestinians in Yarmouk and elsewhere in Syria, the vast majority of whom are experiencing actual displacement for the first time in their lives. But instead, the project plays into the hands of the tired narrative on the 1948 war that enshrines eternal Palestinian victimhood at the hands of the Israelis, and then continually reinforces that message, writes JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen.
When Iran was in the incipient stages of its nuclear program, U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) sponsored the Iran Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Act of 1998, a bill that passed in the House of Representatives but not in the Senate. Seventeen years later, Menendez looks back with concern on how his initial calls to action on the nuclear issue went unheeded. “We had not listened to the alarm bells… I wish others were right and I wrong, but, I was right and they were wrong,” Menendez said in an exclusive interview with JNS.org, referring to his colleagues in Congress. “We have allowed Iran to advance to the point that we are now willing to accept that a great amount of [nuclear] infrastructure will stay in place, even though it may be in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions.”
The president of a normal, civilized country naturally is anxious to distance himself from any suspicion of ever having had a connection to a terrorist. That’s how President Barack Obama reacted when the Bill Ayers controversy erupted. But the recent decision by the Palestinian Authority’s president to give awards to three Arab terrorists reminded us that some governments are neither normal nor civilized, writes Stephen M. Flatow, whose daughter Alisa was killed in a Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995.
Latin gospel singer Ingrid Rosario, accompanied by a four-piece band, belts out impassioned ballads before a captive audience, hands clasped or in the air, eyes transfixed on the stage or closed in a meditative state. Is this scene from church? A Christian rock concert? Hardly. It’s a prayer session at a staunchly pro-Israel event. The Jewish state was front and center at the April 28-30 annual convention of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC)/CONEL in Houston. On the first day of the gathering, NHCLC/CONEL—the world’s largest Hispanic Christian organization, representing more than 40,000 American churches and another 500,000 globally—launched an initiative called the Hispanic Israel Leadership Coalition, which will seek to rally support for Israel among the world’s nearly 150 million Hispanic Evangelicals.
One of the most enduring images from the Baltimore riots was that of the irate mother of a rioter vigorously admonishing and slapping her law-breaking teenage son. Some Israelis are probably wishing there were a few such “riot moms” in the Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem. There are many contributing factors that lead up to the moment when a youth picks up a rock and throws it at someone, whether it be in Baltimore or Jerusalem. But it all starts in the home, writes Rafael Medoff.
For just more than a month now, the Virginia State Bar (VSB)—which, it should be noted, is a state body working with the legal profession in Virginia—has been embroiled in a nasty political row over its apparent boycott of Israel. After their cancellation of a planned seminar at the David Citadel Hotel in Jerusalem, what VSB leaders need to understand is that, at a minimum, they have been co-opted by a virulently anti-Zionist political agenda, writes JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen.
“It’s a little bit blank, and it’s hard for me to talk about that, actually,” Gal Carmeli tells JNS.org when asked to recall how she received the news of the death of her brother Sean, an Israel Defense Forces lone soldier from Texas who was killed in last summer's Gaza war. “It was confusing, and I understood, but I didn’t. It was a really, really hard day because we couldn’t contact my brother… it’s like a big balagan (mess) in my head, that day.” Gal spoke at the April 27 gala of the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) Texas Chapter. The event shed light on how Sean Carmeli's death not only shook his own relatives, but also a much larger, Texas-sized family of sorts. “It’s hard to explain, but for Texans, there’s a lot of pride here, and it feels like one big gigantic family,” says Scott Kammerman, director of FIDF's Texas Chapter.
From his childhood, to his time as mayor of his birthplace, to his three terms as governor of New York, George Pataki fostered a close relationship with the Jewish community. If he decides to run for president in 2016, a much broader Jewish constituency will get acquainted with Pataki. “I grew up in this little town of Peekskill, but it was a very ethnically diverse town,” Pataki said in an interview with JNS.org. “I went to many a bar mitzvah and talked to many of my Jewish friends and their parents, primarily about Israel. I developed my jump shot in basketball at the synagogue in Peekskill. And then when I first got elected to office and was mayor [of Peekskill], I was pleased to welcome a yeshiva, Ohr HaMeir, to our community, and help them make sure that the community embraced them with open arms... I am pleased that I have had the opportunity to get to know so many members of the Jewish community in New York so well over the course of my time as governor and even before that.” Pataki, who has flirted with a presidential run multiple times, said he is “far closer to making a favorable decision to run than I’ve been at any point in the past.”
After a devastating earthquake measuring 7.9 on the Richter scale hit the impoverished mountainous country of Nepal over the weekend, killing more than 4,000 people, Israeli and Jewish humanitarian and governmental organizations have assumed their traditional role on the frontline of relief efforts for a natural disaster. “I think that is one of the outstanding features of the Jewish community, its ability to come together and respond to crises and to show its dedication to tikkun olam (repairing the world),” said Michael Geller, communications director for the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.