Last Thursday night, some Jewish teens were hanging out in Jerusalem looking for trouble. Emotions escalated and they viciously beat some Arab boys, leaving one in critical condition.
I, as well as the entire State of Israel, am outraged. Rabbis, educators and politicians across the spectrum have denounced this vile act. A special police committee is investigating, arrests have been made, and those responsible will assuredly be punished to the full extent of the law.
The Jewish people pride ourselves in being different. Violence is not the Jewish way – especially not targeting someone due to their nationality. This troubling incident indicates that we are not doing a sufficient job educating our children in the ways of tolerance.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu forcefully declared:
"This is something that we cannot accept – not as Jews, not as Israelis. This is not our way; this goes against our way, and we condemn it in word and deed. We will quickly bring to justice those responsible for this reprehensible incident.
"We say as clearly as possible: The State of Israel is a democratic and enlightened state in which when we come across acts such as these, the entire state and all of its leaders come out together against such phenomena, and we will continue to do so. This is what makes us unique in the environment around us and this will continue to make us unique. I hope that one day our environment will change as well. But we will be persistent in our complete opposition to racism and violence."
On the flip side, the fact that all sectors of Israeli society have so strongly condemned this outrageous act shows that even in our errant moments, our moral compass remains acute.
As Ruthie Blum writes in Israel Hayom, a society is not judged by immorality in its midst, but rather by the response of its leaders, educators and the general public to it.
Blum compares the current crime to another lynch that took place in October 2000, when two Israelis took a wrong turn and ended up in Ramallah by accident. A mob of 1,000 Palestinians attacked – choking, stabbing, disemboweling, and setting the Israelis on fire. One of the murderers proudly stood at an open window and displayed his bloody hands to the cheering crowd. In the aftermath of the lynch, the Palestinian Authority made no arrests, and uttered no condemnations. (Indeed, Palestinian police helped facilitate in the lynching, and the Palestinian Authority's primary concern was to prevent video footage of the atrocity from getting into the hands of Western media outlets.)
This is no way justifies or excuses Jewish acts of violence. Yet can we see the difference?
Palestinian society today is rife with rhetoric that vilifies Jews and encourages murderous violence against them. Suicide bombers are elevated to the pinnacle of Palestinian society – lionized with poems and immortalized with dozens of schools, roads and sporting events named in the bombers' honor. In a popular Palestinian children's program, a Mickey Mouse look-alike calls on children to "annihilate the Jews" and "commit martyrdom." Ahlam Tamimi, the woman who helped carry out the gruesome Sbarro Pizzeria bombing in Jerusalem that killed 15 civilians and wounded 130, is treated like a rock star in the Arab world.
These are just a few of the thousands of examples.
To make matters worse, the Western media downplays it all: The New York Times characterized Palestinian calls to genocide as merely an "insult to Jews" ("Hamas's Insults to Jews Complicate Peace Effort," April 1, 2008). And the Christian Science Monitor quoted a Palestinian TV director that encouraging kids to jihad "isn't for teaching hate. It's for teaching children to think in the right way, to socialize them in our culture's way of life." ("Hamas's Approach to Jihad: Start 'em Young," August 20, 2007)
For peace to exist, all parties need to accept the idea of tolerant, peaceful coexistence. A sincere condemnation of violence is a crucial first step.READ MORE...
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I've been closely watching the start-up curve of Better Place, the first nationwide network of 100% electric vehicles. It began with a concept – removable batteries that switch (i.e. "fill up") just like a gas station. Then it was the funding – nearly a billion in venture capital to date. Next was adapting a traditional automobile – in this case, the Renault Fluence. And finally, putting the entire infrastructure into place.
It took about five years, but now the dream has become reality: Yesterday, company founder Shai Agassi drove the entire length and breadth of Israel in a single day.
In the morning, he left his home near Tel Aviv, driving north to the border with Lebanon, then onto Mount Hermon, the tallest mountain in Israel near the Syrian border. At noon he headed south, and by 7:30 p.m. had covered the entire length of Israel, arriving in the resort town of Eilat. Then for good measure, Agassi drove home to Tel Aviv, arriving just after midnight.
Total: 1,150 km (715 miles). "Range anxiety" no more!
Keep your eyes on this. I predict that within 10 years, you too will own a Better Place car.READ MORE...
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Back from an amazing week in the Golan Heights, in Israel's northeast corner. Some random thoughts:
• I always thought that Hawaii had the ultimate weather, but the Golan was indescribably great: 80 during the day, 70 at night, with a cooling breeze all the time.
• The town where we stayed – Ramat Magshimim – is just a few miles from the Syrian border. So I took a 40 km bike ride from the Syrian border to Lake Kinneret. Exhilarating!
• One aspect of Israeli life that I've always treasured is the relative safety of day-to-day life. I can send my 7-year-old alone to the grocery store, and have my teenage daughter walk home after midnight, without fear of anything weird happening. Our stay in the Golan was even more carefree; we marveled at how nothing gets locked up – not bikes, not homes, not even the Holy Ark containing the expensive Torah scrolls.
• This area of the Golan was overrun by Syrian invaders on the first day of the 1973 Yom Kippur War. It's a good thing Israel didn't cave into all the pressure and hand the Golan over to Syria's Assad regime. Imagine how worthless that piece of paper would be right now.
• The family whose home we rented was totally hospitable and treated us like kings – offering full use of everything from toys, games and books, to bikes and washing machine. They fulfilled the number one rule of a good host: Making us feel at home!READ MORE...
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A few months ago, Israeli President Shimon Peres got some backlash when he launched his own Facebook page under the banner:
"We used to be the people of the Book. Now we're the people of the Facebook."
This cartoon is a good rejoinder:
The story of Hungarian Jewry during World War Two is one of the most tragic elements of the Holocaust.
The community of approximately 850,000 Hungarian Jews avoided deportation during much of the war, but in May 1944 sweeping transports were begun to Auschwitz. On a typical day, 12,000 Hungarian Jews were being unloaded from cattle cars and directed straight to the gas chambers.
Over 70% of Hungarian Jewry was wiped out in a span of months – what Winston Churchill would later call "the greatest and most horrible crime ever committed in the whole history of the world."
And now Hungarian Nazis are back in the news.
Laszlo Csatary, the world's most-wanted Nazi war criminal who was a Hungarian police commander, has now been arrested in Hungary. The 97-year-old Csatary was in charge of the Jewish ghetto in Kassa, Hungary, where in April 1944 he supervised the loading of 16,000 Jews onto trains headed for the crematoria at Auschwitz.
Csatary was convicted in absentia for war crimes and sentenced to death by a court in Czechoslovakia in 1948. He escaped to Canada where he lived under a fake identity for nearly 50 years. He escaped again, before being tracked down in Budapest.
Another "Hungarian Nazi" was in the news this week when it was revealed that Hungarian politician Csanad Szegedi, a member of European Parliament, discovered that his maternal grandmother was Jewish and had been imprisoned in Auschwitz.
The irony is that Szegedi is a member of Jobbik, a radical neo-Nazi party which has proclaimed it the "duty" of all Hungarians to "prepare for armed battle against the Jews."
Szegedi, who now says he is proud of his Jewish heritage, recently met with the Chief Rabbi of Hungary. In response, the Jobbik party is pressuring him to resign his seat in European Parliament.
Nearly 70 years after the war, remnants of Nazism are alive and well in Hungary.READ MORE...