Convicted terrorist Rasmea Odeh’s status as leftist icon untarnished by plea deal
She’s a convicted terrorist preparing to be deported for entering the United States illegally, but Rasmea Yousef Odeh has seen her status as a leftist celebrity remain intact.
The Palestinian and feminist activist is scheduled to speak this weekend at the Jewish Voice for Peace conference in Chicago despite agreeing last week to a plea deal in which she will admit to failing to disclose her criminal record on her visa application. In exchange Odeh will be sent to Jordan and receive no jail time.
Still, Jewish Voice for Peace has remained steadfast in supporting Odeh, a featured speaker at the left-wing group’s annual three-day meeting, which starts Friday at the Hyatt Regency.
“Rasmea has made the difficult decision to leave the home and community she has built in the U.S. over the last 20 years,” the organization said in a statement after the plea deal was announced.
Odeh is slated to speak at a session called “All In!” along with Women’s March organizer Linda Sarsour, another Israel critic who leads the Arab American Association of New York.
“We are pleased that we will be able to host Rasmea at our National Member Meeting next week, to hear her story of resilience in the face of state violence and offer our enduring support in the next steps in her work and life,” Jewish Voice for Peace said.
Despite months of our Fake News Media insisting that only Trump voters could be responsible for a wave of bomb threats targeting Jewish institutions around the world and American Jewish Community Centers in particular, according to police, the real culprits are nothing of the kind. One suspect is a left-wing member of the same American media that spread all that defamatory Fake News. The other is a Jewish Israeli-American, a young cyber-criminal inspired by our media’s malicious slander of Trump and his supporters to increase his reign of terror.
The 19 year-old recently arrested in Israel is considered to be responsible for most of the threats. According to Haaretz, this crime wave of cyber-attacks lasted for more than two years but only became a real focus for the American FBI because of President Trump. Unlike President Obama, it was Trump who made these crimes a top priority and the result was an important arrest:
The Jewish Israeli-American arrested this week on suspicion of making a host of bomb threats on Jewish institutions worldwide has been making such cyberattacks for two years, but only recently was his capture given high priority, according to police sources.
The sources attributed the turnabout to pressure from United States President Donald Trump. A few weeks ago, after Trump announced that the FBI would do everything in its power to catch the perpetrator, the agency sent 12 investigators from its cybercrime unit to Israel to assist the Israeli investigation.
Police sources also told Haaretz that the teen’s muse, his inspiration, his North Star, his guiding light and actual modus operandi was … The American Anti-Trump Media!
Altogether, the teen has made hundreds of threats that the public never heard about, police said. When they got no media attention, he stopped making threats in those places. In contrast, the bomb threats to Jewish institutions in the U.S. in recent months received especially prominent coverage, not just in America but worldwide, so he began focusing his threats on those institutions.
In other words, the very same media that for years during the Obama administration, did not care even a little about these bomb threats (got to protect our Precious Barry!), is the very same media that inspired an increase in these threats as they politicized the attacks as a means to smear Trump and his supporters.
Ben-Dror Yemini: An open letter to Richard Gere
Hello, Richard Gere. You recently visited Hebron, guided by Breaking the Silence activists. They likely told you what they tell many other diplomats, journalists, parliament members and occasional guests, about Israel’s crimes, about the poor Hebron residents, and more. Your only response was that “it’s exactly what the Old South was in America. Blacks knew where they could go… It was well understood. You didn’t cross over if you didn’t want to get your head beat in, or you get lynched.”
Let me tell you that I am not a supporter of the Jewish settlement in Hebron, or of the settlement enterprise in general. Far from it. I am in favor of a decent solution which will give the Palestinians welfare, prosperity, sovereignty and independence. If only they wanted that too. if only they would fight for themselves, rather than against Israel’s existence. But in order to contribute something to a reconciliation between Israel and the Palestinians, there are a few facts you should know.
Hebron is the Jews’ holiest and most important city after Jerusalem. Jews lived there even after the Arab occupation in the seventh century. They held the status of inferior citizens, the “dhimmis,” as was customary under the Muslim rule. In the 16th century, Jews were already banned entry to the Cave of the Patriarchs. There were riots against Jews in 1517 and 1834. There was no occupation, no Zionism and no Israel then. The major pogrom took place in 1929. Fifty-nine Jews were murdered by a rampaging Muslim mob, while a few Muslims, Righteous Among the Nations, hid Jews. Following the pogrom, the Jews were forced to leave and the Muslims took over the Jewish neighborhood and the Jews’ homes.
The die is now cast. On Wednesday of this week the British prime minister, Theresa May, triggered Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union, the start of the process by which the UK will exit the EU.
Britain and the EU now enter stormy and uncharted waters. A geopolitical divorce on this scale is unprecedented and much remains contestable and unknown.
Underlying the specifics remains the big issue dividing those who wanted to remain in the EU – and who still hope the referendum result can somehow be reversed – from those who support Brexit.
That issue is nationalism, for so it is perceived in great alarm by Remainers – and by many in Britain’s Jewish community.
Nationalism has implications of aggression and bigotry. That’s what Remainers fear Brexit will revive. National identity, on the other hand, is benign. Yet national identity, or the revival of the spirit of the nation, is what Brexit is actually all about.
Only a nation can produce freedom and democracy, because only a nation binds people together in a shared project of unified cultural destiny, expressed through laws made by a nation’s sovereign parliament.
Truth is not a political position. Yet some who disagree with the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) wrongly label us and similar groups as “right wing,” “ultra right” or even “extreme.” Hurling such labels avoids fair, reasoned and fact-based debate on the issues, and is merely an attempt to delegitimize anyone that the libelers disagree with.
It wasn’t “far right” or “right wing” for the ZOA to predict the Oslo Accords would lead to more terrorism and not peace. Why? Because on the very same date that the accords were signed in Washington, Yasser Arafat broadcast this “stages” message in Arabic: “Since we cannot defeat Israel in war, we do this in stages. We take any and every territory that we can of Palestine, and establish sovereignty there, and use it as a springboard to take more. When the time comes, we can get the Arab nations to join us for the final blow against Israel.”
Arafat and later Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas failed to fulfill any of their signed agreements under the Oslo Accords. Arafat and Abbas did not stop inciting hatred and violence against Jews, they did not ban terrorist groups like Hamas, they did not collect illegal weapons. Instead, the PA named schools, streets and sports teams after Jew-killers, and glorified terrorists with posters and parades. The PA’s official emblems, stationary, school atlases, maps, stamps and textbooks all show Israel as “Palestine.” The PA also teaches its children to use knives and car-rammings to “liberate” “Palestine,” and pays terrorists to murder Jews.
Opposing Oslo was a rational, centrist position.
The former Home Office Minister Sayeeda Warsi claims that British Jews who go to fight for the IDF should be treated in the same way as British Muslims going off to fight for ISIS.
I left the UK to join the IDF when I was 21 and was inducted at the age of 22. The Israelis sent me to fight threats to Israel. They are facing attacks on their own soil, in their own cities and in their own homes. When I left for Israel the British Army had just been sent to Sierra Leone. It was pretty clear which homeland needed defending more.
Baroness Warsi was a member of David Cameron’s cabinet until she resigned in 2014 as a protest to ongoing British support for Israel. In an interview with the Middle East Eye she spoke about how British law doesn’t allow a British national to be prosecuted for service in a foreign army saying;
“The only reason we allow the loophole to exist is because of the IDF, because we are not brave enough to say if you hold British citizenship, you make a choice. You fight for our state only.”
Warsi’s argument is twofold, that it’s only because of the Jews that no one is prosecuted for serving in a foreign army and that Muslims are being arrested for fighting for ISIS while Jews are free to go and fight for Israel. This argument is abhorrent. It is also wrong on both counts.
Dear Baroness Warsi,
As a former Mahal volunteer to the IDF who grew up in Britain, I read about your latest comments with great interest. Seeing as I speak from first-hand experience, perhaps you might be interested in hearing what motivated my decision to serve.
First, a brief explanation of why Israel is, and has always been, a massive part of my life. Although I grew up in London, almost all my extended family live in Israel. My grandfather, a Jewish refugee from Iraq, started the trend in the 50s, and although he left for a number of years, eventually he, my grandmother, and all their children apart from my mother ended up making Israel their home. Yes, I may have grown up in London, but my family is Israeli. More generally, I speak as Jew. Jerusalem is my people’s spiritual home. Jews are indigenous to Israel; the Holy Land is our ancestral home and developments there have always been important to us.
In the early 2000s, I flew to Israel almost every summer as a mixed family visit/religious pilgrimage. My parents wanted our family to remain close, but many of my friends were scared away by the threat of suicide bombers and Molotov cocktails. Those were the bloody Intifada years. At its peak, bombs exploded daily, sometimes killing dozens of people at a time. Over a thousand Israelis were murdered in those years. There were too many tragedies to recount.
Just last week marked the 15th anniversary of one of the most shocking murders in the conflict – the shooting of Shalhevet Pass, a ten-month old baby who was shot dead in her pram by a Palestinian sniper in Hebron on 26 March 2002. Events such as this were seared my consciousness, and I realised that although I might live in the relative safety of London, my cousins, some of them babies, were at risk of being callously murdered by terrorists.
Human Rights Watch, an organization that is supposed to look out for victims of human rights abuses, not abusers of human rights is begging US decision makers not to designate the Muslim Brotherhood — which, if it had its way, would take away everyone’s human rights and substitute them with sharia law — a foreign terrorist organization.
“Allah is our objective; the Prophet is our leader; the Quran is our law; Jihad is our way; dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope”. — Muslim Brotherhood motto.
Conveniently, Hamas — which according to article two of its charter, is “one of the wings of Moslem Brotherhood in Palestine” — is, it seems, working on a new charter. The new charter would declare that Hamas is not a part of the Muslim Brotherhood, despite its always having been so. That way, is the Muslim Brotherhood’s “narrative” of newfound “nonviolence” suddenly supposed to become believable?
On March 29, 2017, a group of pro-BDS NGOs – Al-Haq, International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH), French League of Human Rights (LDH), Association France Palestine Solidarité (AFPS), CCFD-Terre Solidaire, la CGT, Union Syndicale Solidaires, and Fair Finance France – released a report calling on the French government to force French banks and insurance companies to “disengage without delay from any financial link with Israeli banks.” The NGO action also lobbies for “a legislative proposal prohibiting enterprises from all sectors to invest in the settlements.” This is the most recent NGO-led attack against Israel, and, as in the past, is funded through European government frameworks.
Alleging “Dangerous Ties between French Banks and Insurance Companies with the Israeli Occupation,” the NGOs point to French banks’ direct and indirect “minority shareholdings in banks or businesses operating in the Israeli settlements.” One “notable case” mentioned in FIDH’s press release is the Israel Electric Corporation (IEC). The report states that a number of French Banks provided a €288 million loan to IEC, a company that “supplies directly to the settlements” and claims that this loan somehow causes violations of human rights. (This argument is contradicted by FIDH’s claim that denying electricity to Gaza would constitute a violation of human rights; the same ought to be true if the IEC denied electricity to settlements.)
BDS campaigners falsely claim that corporations operating over the 1949 Armistice Line violate international law. However, this claim has failed in every court case brought in Europe and North America, and in particular in France. All courts that have examined this issue have ruled that only states, and not corporations, are subject to international humanitarian law (IHL), and there is no international rule whatsoever imposing liability on corporations for allegedly aiding and abetting claimed violations of a state. For instance, a French court noted that building the Jerusalem Light Rail was not illegal because occupation law allows for the governance of occupied territory and includes the building of transportation infrastructure (see below).
The publication is funded by the Swedish Government through the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) with analysis conducted by Profundo Economic Research Consultancy in the Netherlands.
The Jerusalem municipality announced Friday that due to suspected cyber attacks, all municipal digital services — including its website and smartphone app — have been shut down in order to prevent any harm to its servers.
Earlier this week, hackers attempted to target a new server that the municipality was testing. Jerusalem officials stressed in a statement that this server was not central to its operations. The hack was “discovered immediately and dealt with quickly and professionally,” it said.
The hacks came a week before the annual OpIsrael cyber campaign, during which an international collective of hackers known as “Anonymous” targets websites and social media accounts of the Israeli government and other major organizations, in solidarity with the Palestinians.
The event has been held on April 7 every year since 2013, where the participants have attempted to gain access to Israelis’ personal emails and credit card information.
In 2015, the hackers had warned of an “electronic holocaust” that would strike Israeli sites.
Jewish Voice for Peace’s national conference, which caused much controversy after the group announced it will be hosting convicted Palestinian terrorist Rasmea Odeh at the event, will open in Chicago on Friday.
JVP, which “seeks an end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and east Jerusalem,” vocally supports the Boycott, Divest and Sanction movement. The conference, which will run from Friday to Sunday, is aimed at crafting strategies to “resist the right-wing extremism emboldened by the leadership of President Trump and his mirror in Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and to build community for the long haul.”
According to the conference schedule, Rasmea Odeh is scheduled to speak as part of the program’s “All In!” workshop, alongside three other panelists, including anti-Israel activist Linda Sarsour.
Odeh, who is a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, was sentenced to life in prison in Israel for her role in two 1969 PFLP bombings in Jerusalem, which she confessed to, and for her membership in a terrorist organization. One of the attacks targeted a supermarket where two students – Leon Kanner, 21, and Eddie Joffe, 22 – were killed and nine other people were wounded.
Odeh was released in a prisoner exchange in the 1980s. She later moved to the US, but in 2014 she was convicted by a US federal jury of immigration fraud, for concealing her arrest, conviction and imprisonment for the 1969 bombings. Last week, she agreed to plead guilty to this. Odeh said she didn’t disclose her past because of post-traumatic stress disorder from being tortured in prison.
Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan on Thursday lamented a Jewish organization’s decision to host a convicted terrorist at its weekend conference in Chicago, saying it made him feel “ashamed” as a Jew.
“As a Jew, I am ashamed that a conference filled with hatred for Israel, and that is hosting a terrorist as a central speaker, is led by a Jewish organization,” Erdan said.
The Likud minister, whose office oversees efforts to combat Israel boycott campaigns, was referring to the Jewish Voice for Peace group in a statement published by his office a day before the gathering began.
JVP, which supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel, is set to host Rasmea Odeh for a closing plenary session at the conference on Sunday.
Odeh confessed to planting the bomb that killed two students and injured nine others in a 1969 Jerusalem supermarket attack. She claims the confession was given under torture, but Israeli officials dispute this account.
During a town hall meeting near Boston on Wednesday, four Israeli Knesset members — from across the political spectrum — each gave powerful responses to an audience member who questioned the Jewish state’s commitment to making peace with the Palestinians.
At the conclusion of the discussion — which was organized by the Ruderman Family Foundation and moderated by The Algemeiner editor-in-chief Dovid Efune — an American Jewish woman named Shifra came to the microphone in the sanctuary of Congregation Kehillath Israel in Brookline and warned the Israeli guests, “You are losing me and you are losing many, many, many people in the Jewish community…I cannot look the other way when three Israeli teenagers are brutally murdered, and the response is to kill 2,300 Palestinians” — a reference to Operation Protective Edge in the summer of 2014 and the events that preceded it.
“I want to know what you are doing to make peace with the Palestinians,” she continued. “I want to know what the government is doing to make peace.”
Kulanu MK and former Jerusalem deputy mayor Rachel Azaria replied first, saying, “One of the challenges is that when you’re thousands of miles away, it looks simple. And it’s not. You know, I’m a mother of four. My four children are going to join the army. It terrifies me. That was my first thought when I realized that I [was] going to have a son. After I had my baby, that was my first thought. To think that we enjoy living in terror and living with our rifles, we hate it. We all hate it. But we can’t seem to find a solution that will keep us strong and sheltered. It’s not around yet…I think you have to trust us. If it would be easy, we would be there…I wish reality would be easier, God knows I wish, unfortunately it’s not. And that’s something we need to live with every day of our lives in Israel.”
The Muslim and Jewish communities in the Flanders region of Belgium have criticized a bill that would ban the slaughter of small animals that have not been stunned, which they say would contravene the Jewish and Muslim rules for ritual slaughter.
Under the draft bill, animals such as sheep and poultry would have to be stunned electrically before being killed, which most animal rights campaigners say is more humane than the Islamic halal and Jewish kosher rituals, both of which require that butchers slaughter an animal swiftly by slitting its throat and draining the blood. As larger animals such as cattle cannot be stunned without also fatally wounding them, the bill requires that such animals be stunned immediately after their throats are cut if they are slaughtered according to religious ritual.
“Unstunned slaughter is outdated,” Ben Weyts, regional minister of animal welfare, said in a statement. “In a civilized society, it is our damn duty to avoid animal suffering where possible.”
The bill has broad support in the predominantly Catholic region.
The issue could play with a wider audience, including right-wing politicians and animal rights campaigners, who generally support the legislation.
Jewish students at Toronto’s Ryerson University told The Algemeiner Wednesday that intense and long-standing lobbying to have their peers adopt an official definition of antisemitism finally paid off.
Rebecca Katzman, president of the school’s chapter of Students Supporting Israel (SSI), and Tamar Jaclyn Lyons, the group’s vice president of communications and an Emerson fellow with Israel education group Stand With Us (SWU), said months were spent appealing to the Ryerson Student Union (RSU), after a “shameful” Dec. 2016 mass boycott of a RSU vote on instituting “Holocaust Education Week.” Subsequently, RSU President Obaid Ullah was caught lying about direct involvement in orchestrating the walkout.
“We have been in meetings with every executive of the RSU, and we told them that, to make up for some of the RSU’s actions regarding [the walkout], it was important that they pass Canada’s federal definition of antisemitism,” Katzman said, referring to the Ottawa Protocol, adopted by the Canadian parliament in 2010. The definition includes Holocaust denial, denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination and delegitimizing or applying double standards to Israel.
Katzman said she was “shaking” after the motion — the first of its kind at a Canadian university — was added into the RSU’s anti-oppression glossary late Wednesday night.
An interactive map project created by a watchdog group highlight “three key ingredients of campus antisemitism,” its initiator told The Algemeiner Wednesday.
Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, founder of the AMCHA Initiative, which monitors antisemitism on campus, said, “The maps show very clearly, in one glance…[the] intensity, geographical spread and mode of transmission” of the phenomenon at universities and colleges around the US.
One map tracks swastika graffiti; another tallies anti-Israel boycott motions passed by student governments since 2012; a third lists faculty members who have supported anti-Israel initiatives.
“We hope these new visual tools will help decision-makers better understand the pervasive nature of the problem, the schools where things are escalating most rapidly and the distinct vehicles that antisemitism uses to infest campus life,” Rossman-Benjamin said.
In a bid to demonstrate that the president they accuse of misogyny does not control them, feminist activists announced today they will have portions of their genitalia cut off in a ritual associated with male domination of females, to show he does not control them.
Leaders of the women’s movement coalescing around opposition to Donald Trump vowed today to go beyond the symbolic donning of the hijab, a head covering for women that is mandated in Islamic societies, to show solidarity with Muslims in the US who face prejudice. The most prominent proponent of that prejudice, they charge, is President Trump, who sought to ban entry to the US from seven countries associated with terrorism that also have a large Muslim majority.
Activists asserted that Trump would only face stiffer and stiffer opposition if he continues down the path of sowing fear and repression. “Neither Trump nor his GOP cronies may control my body – as they might try to do by overturning existing abortion laws,” protested Linda Sarsour, an advocate for feminism and anti-feminist Islam. “To show that intolerant, woman-hating bigot who controls my body, I and my sister activists are going to have our clitorises removed, and some of us might even go far enough to have the entire labia excised,” in a ritual used by tribal cultures in the Middle East, Africa, and elsewhere to ensure male control over female sexuality.
“We have to fight manifestations of misogyny and Islamophobia wherever they occur,” concurred Medea Benjamin of Code Pink. “No one may stand by as Trump and his minions ride roughshod over the progressive values that define this culture. If this continues unabated, we may have no choice but to take our protests to the next level, whether it involves stoning blasphemers and adulterers or having women subjected to honor killings.”
Included in the written report was ‘analysis’ from Jeremy Bowen which was repeated on radio:
“He [Masha’al] seemed to be calibrating his comments on the conflict with Israel to catch the prevailing mood of anger towards Mr Netanyahu in the White House, after his sharp turn to the ultra-nationalist Israeli Right in the last days of the election campaign.
Mr Meshaal called for a sovereign independent Palestinian state and an end to the occupation of land captured in the 1967 Middle East war. So did the White House chief of staff earlier this week.”
The claim that Hamas has embraced the two-state solution and “agreed to accept the boundaries which existed before the 1967 Middle East war as the basis for those of a future Palestinian state” was of course as ridiculously far-fetched two years ago as it is now.
Nevertheless, one should not be surprised if that theme crops up again in BBC reporting in the near future because – as AP reports – the terror group is apparently in the final stages of creating a new PR stunt.
Representatives of the umbrella organization of Jewish community centers discussed recent bomb threats against their institutions with US Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Officials from the JCC Association of North America met with Sessions on Thursday, a week after an Israeli teenager was arrested on charges of calling in over 100 bomb threats to JCCs and other American Jewish institutions.
Ian Prior, a Justice Department spokesman, said the meeting was “positive and productive” and that Sessions had praised the Jewish leaders “for their responsiveness, efficiency, calm and competence” in dealing with the threats.
“The Department of Justice will not tolerate hate crimes against Jewish communities or the targeting of any community in this country on the basis of their religious beliefs,” Prior said, according to media reports.
A Holocaust memorial was vandalized in the town of Kavala in Greece Wednesday night, the Greek news site Ekathimerini reported.
The marble-coated memorial to the 1,484 Jews from Kavala who were murdered in Nazi death camps, which was erected a year ago, was reportedly smashed with a hammer.
“Every act of vandalism on a monument opens a new wound in regards to the history and culture of Kavala, a community that has always been open, always tolerant and respectful of other cultures and religions,” the municipal authority said in an announcement.
Kavala Mayor Dimitra Tsanaka visited the site Thursday morning to inspect the damage to the memorial. Afterwards she spoke with David Saltiel, the president of the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece and condemned the act of vandalism.
French authorities recorded a 58 percent drop last year in anti-Semitic incidents in a report that identified only far-right perpetrators and questioned the existence of anti-Semitism by Muslims.
The annual report by the National Consultative Commission on Human Rights, published Thursday on its website, counted 335 anti-Semitic incidents in 2016 compared to 808 the previous year — the sharpest drop on record since 2001, when the SPCJ security group of the Jewish community documented a 71 percent decrease to 219 cases. Data by SPCJ, which has not published its annual report, usually correspond with those published by the commission.
The commission also reported a 57 percent drop in anti-Muslim attacks to a total of 182 incidents in 2016.
According to the report, the decrease in attacks of Jews “is primarily due to security measures applied by the authorities as part of the Vigipirate plan.” The plan, which involves the deployment of thousands of troops around Jewish institutions and heavily Jewish neighborhoods across the country, was initiated in 2015 following the slaying of four Jews at a kosher store in Paris by an Islamist.”
The terror attack referred to by the report took place on a Friday in 2015 at the Hyper-Cacher food store. The victims were buried in Israel.
Israeli scientists from the Rehovot-based company Nucleix succeeded in developing a first of its kind blood test to diagnose lung cancer.
The new test is able to diagnose the disease long before it spreads in the body, thus increasing the chance of survival, as many patients usually die within a few months of the diagnosis.
Each year, approximately 1.8 million new lung cancer patients are diagnosed, a 1.59 million of whom will die within the first year post-diagnosis. Most cases are discovered by chance, after a screening test, or due to abnormal symptoms such as prolonged cough, bloody cough, breathing difficulties or weight loss.
Diagnosis of the disease is usually done via a CT scan, but its level of accuracy is not high, and in 25 percent of the cases, the lung scan shows lesions of which only 3% are indeed cancerous.
Over the past two and a half decades, the Caucasus nation of Azerbaijan — a Shiite Muslim-majority state — has become a close ally of Israel, manifested by deep economic and military bonds.
In December, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Baku, where he met with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev. “The world sees so much intolerance, so much darkness, and here is an example of what relations can be and should be between Muslims and Jews everywhere,” Netanyahu said at the time.
On Wednesday, Azerbaijani Ambassador to the US Elin Suleymanov sat down for an interview with The Algemeiner at his country’s embassy in Washington, DC and talked about a wide range of topics, including Azerbaijan-Israel ties, the Azerbaijani Jewish community, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Iran and the Trump administration, among other things.
First of all, for readers who are not familiar with Azerbaijan, speak about your country’s place in the world at the current moment in history.
“Azerbaijan is in a way very unique. You have a country on the shores of the Caspian Sea and it’s the only country in the world which borders both Russia and Iran. On a map, if you move from the Arctic Ocean down to the Persian Gulf, there are only three countries — big Russia to the north, big Iran to the south and small Azerbaijan in the middle. The other thing is that Azerbaijan has historically always been at the crossroads of many cultures and empires. So it has a very diverse environment.”
Under moonlight, some 200 ornithology enthusiasts headed to the Arava Desert for a 24-hour charitable competition to identify as many bird species as possible.
From 12 a.m. to 11:59 p.m.
Tuesday, the bird-watching teams from Israel and around the world partook in the fourth annual “Champions of the Flyway” event, exploring a triangular territory stretching from Eilat in the south to the Arava junction and Nitzana in the northeast and northwest.
Through their participation, teams from 14 countries ultimately raised NIS 254,000 to save black storks and combat illegal bird-hunting in Turkey.
“Unfortunately, all kinds of species are hunted there – birds of prey, storks and other gliders – in the name of sport,” said Jonathan Meirav, the competition’s organizer and a senior ornithologist for the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, before the event.
Administered by SPNI’s Israel Ornithological Center, the contest is jointly sponsored by the world’s largest birding organization, BirdLife International.
A delegation of 30 young evangelical pastors traveled to Israel earlier this month on their first visit to the Jewish state. Rabbi Pini Dunner, senior rabbi at California’s Young Israel of North Beverly Hills, accompanied the group in an expression of Jewish solidarity with evangelical Christians.
“The overwhelming miracle of Christian-Jewish brotherhood in the wake of the creation of the state of Israel is something that is under-recognized and under-appreciated, particularly of evangelicals, whose love for Israel is breathtaking and illuminating,” Dunner said.
The rabbi elaborated in an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), saying, “The more that Jews realize that they have brothers and friends in the evangelical world…the greater the chances for the success of the state of Israel.”
Christian Aranza, a delegation member and pastor from Alabama’s Church of the Highlands, conveyed similar sentiments on Christian-Jewish camaraderie.
“Taking the journey really of the Jewish people and being able to walk that with them and then being able to now say, ‘I stand with Israel’…After seeing their journey, there’s no other side to stand on. You can’t grasp that unless you’re here,” Aranza said, CBN reported.
The delegation of millennial-aged pastors toured Israel as part of an initiative organized by Eagles’ Wings, a ministry based outside of Buffalo, NY.
Some 230 new immigrants from Ukraine arrived in Israel over the past week.
The immigrants landed Tuesday at Ben Gurion Airport on a flight organized by the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews.
There were 78 families in the group, as well as four Holocaust survivors and more than 40 children.
Some of the new arrivals left war-torn areas suffering from civil unrest.
“Life in Ukraine has become life without a future, especially for families with children,” said a couple identified in a news release as Olski and Irina L. “Because of the continuing war the economic situation is also terrible. For us it was clear, if we are looking for a future for our children, it is better to do it in the land of Israel.”
Since the fellowship began bringing immigrants to Israel in 2014, 5,179 arrivals have some from Ukraine.
“It’s always Jews who want to know if I’m religious,” Noad Lahat told me over the phone from his Las Vegas home, followed by a chuckle as a dog barked in the background. I tried explaining that the existence of a Jewish professional athlete is interesting to other Jews, especially considering that earlier in our conversation he told me that his father is an Orthodox rabbi, which is not exactly the sort of job you expect for the father of a professional mixed-martial-arts fighter—one who’s a 5’8”, 145-pound slab of pure muscle.
“I don’t really like labels. I see myself as a Jew,” Lahat said. “Yes, I observe—I keep Shabbat, and eat kosher—but I really believe that it’s between me and God.”
Lahat does fight on Shabbat. I mean professionally, not the way most of us do when our families gather around the table. But that’s really neither here nor there.
One of the fighter’s younger brothers, Elon, said the need to be right is one of the things that drives Noad, that he attacks every verbal debate with the zeal of a man expecting the loser to be sentenced to death. It could be the Israeli in him; the country’s citizens aren’t known for being open to differing opinions—and Yemenite Israelis like Lahat might be the most stubborn of the bunch. But his friend and longtime manager, Bob Cook, had a different way of describing the fighter’s personality. “He’s definitely a man willing to speak his mind,” Cook said.
One good turn deserves another, so 1.1 million good deeds deserve at least a mention in a humble column, especially as similar selfless acts are spreading from Israel around the world.
More than a million Israelis marked Good Deeds Day on March 28. Doing good is a growth industry. International Good Deeds Day will be held on April 2, when volunteers will be thinking and acting positively in 93 countries.
Good Deeds Day is one of Israel’s best exports, right up there with Waze and the disk-on-key (flash drive). It is a modern adaptation of an ancient precept: “Derech eretz kadma latorah,” that behaving as a decent human being comes before everything else.
Creating a specific day dedicated to doing good was the idea of businesswoman and philanthropist Shari Arison, who launched the project 11 years ago via Ruach Tova (Good Spirit), her nonprofit, which is part of the Ted Arison Family Foundation.
“We have built an immense infrastructure of good deeds,” Arison said in a press statement ahead of this year’s events. “Each individual can do a good deed, but togetherness creates power. Together we can shift the pendulum to the positive side, tapping into a tremendous source of hope.”
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