May 25, 2020

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05/11 Links Pt2: Zionism before Herzl and the Jewish connection to the capital; The embassy move could turn out to be Trumps most enduring presidential achievement.

From Ian:

Zionism before Herzl and the Jewish connection to the capital
Any attempt to deny the Jewish connection to Jerusalem is preposterous, says President Reuven Rivlin, a seventh generation Jerusalemite, whose forebears came to the capital of the Jewish people in the first decade of the 19th century at the behest of the Gaon of Vilna.

Many Lithuanian Jews who were part of the Vision of Zion movement established by followers of the Gaon in 1771 came to Jerusalem hoping to greet the Messiah, Rivlin said on Thursday in a Jerusalem Day interview with The Jerusalem Post.

There were old Sephardi families who had been living in Jerusalem for centuries, he said, listing among others the family of one of his presidential predecessors, Yitzhak Navon. Since 1809, Rivlin added, there has consistently been a Jewish majority in Jerusalem, because the surrounding Arab villages were not actually part of the city, but sat on its periphery.

Rivlin, even before he became the country’s number one citizen, was a walking symbol of Jerusalem, always responding to greetings by radio or television interviewers: “Shalom from Jerusalem, the capital of Israel.”

Born before the establishment of the state, and having grown up in the city, Rivlin knows about its history with the kind of familiarity of the next door neighbor. He was, in fact, the neighbor to some of Jerusalem’s most illustrious personalities – if not next door, then just two or three doors away.

Right at the beginning of the interview, as an outcome of his intimate knowledge of the history of the city, Rivlin put paid to the popular myth that Mishkenot Sha’ananim was the first neighborhood established outside the walls of the old city.

Trump’s Jerusalem Stand

We may never know why he did it. The number of additional Jews who are likely to vote for President Trump because of the embassy move would probably fit comfortably inside a polling booth. The decision, made in December of 2017, wasn’t even engineered to coincide with — or influence — any election. The move won’t win President Trump any peace prizes. Neither is it likely to change the outcome of any peace talks: the administration has specifically said this and reiterated its commitment to a two-state solution. As many of his detractors have pointed out, in this instance, our negotiator-in-chief seems to have given without a corresponding take. That might be an ill-advised tack with an adversary, but with a friend, we would more typically think of it as common decency.

The Trump economy may soon be a distant memory. In the next administration, the tax bill might easily be reversed or much of it allowed to expire, and so much deregulation undone. Every measure achieved by unilateral executive action — the travel ban, the tariffs, withdrawal from various international accords — dispatched as quickly as it was put into place. But the embassy move, accomplished by coordination of two branches of government, is unlikely to face reversal.

The Jewish people’s memory when it comes to Jerusalem is endless. Thrice daily we pray in the direction of its chalky limestone walls. We declare at every Jewish wedding, quoting Psalms, that our right hand should wither if we forget Jerusalem, and tempting the evil eye is not for the insincere or faint of heart. We mourn Jerusalem’s long-ago destructions with rigorous fast days and celebrate its rebirth with a Festival of Lights.

It isn’t hard to imagine that for hundreds of years, Jews will teach their children what I will tell mine when we travel to Jerusalem to watch history being made: On Israel’s 70th birthday, May 14, 2018, President Trump ensured that America, which has long been great, once again kept its word.

Why these Latin American countries support moving their embassies to Jerusalem

US President Donald Trump’s decision in December to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital drew wide international criticism, with 128 countries including the United Kingdom, Germany and Canada voting in favor of a United Nations resolution condemning it.

But several countries saw Trump’s decision in a different light: as an example to follow.

Shortly after the United States officially moves its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem on Monday, it will be joined by Guatemala and Paraguay. Both countries are planning to make the move this month, and Honduras may be next: Its Congress recently passed a resolution urging its foreign ministry to move its embassy.

Along with the Czech Republic, whose president said last month it will begin the process of moving its embassy to Jerusalem, these countries belong to a small club (albeit one with a superpower). On a visit to Venezuela on Monday, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas urged other Latin American countries not to move their embassies.

So how come? Why do these Latin American countries go where others fear to tread?

Observers suggest a number of reasons, or a combination thereof: The countries are likely motivated by a desire to curry favor with the Trump administration, their leaders’ personal views of the Jewish state and strong historic ties to Israel.

How Trump’s Jerusalem-Embassy Decision Could Lead to Peace for Israel

Monday, May 14, is the day that the United States Embassy in Israel will move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. This is not merely a change in address, but an historic event that will correct a decades-old injustice and lay the groundwork for a peace based on truth.

Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. For thousands of years, Jews around the world turned three times a day toward Jerusalem in prayer, and ended their most important ceremonies with the phrase, “Next year in Jerusalem!” As Israel’s founding prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, declared in 1949, “Jerusalem is the very heart of Israel.”

Unfortunately, since Israel’s founding exactly seventy years ago, most countries have housed their embassies in Tel Aviv. Despite the fact that Congress passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act in 1995 by an overwhelming bipartisan majority, the embassy of our greatest friend and ally remained outside our capital.

As President Donald Trump noted in announcing this change in U.S. policy, “Through all of these years, presidents representing the U.S. have declined to officially recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. In fact, we have declined to acknowledge any Israeli capital at all.”

This refusal by the international community to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital helped feed Palestinian rejectionism and delegitimization of the Jewish people’s connection to their holiest city. And when you delegitimize the presence of a people, you legitimize violence against them. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his government’s denial of the Jewish connection to Israel and Jerusalem, as well as their incitement to terror, constitute the greatest obstacle to peace.

This rejectionism is a key element in official PA rhetoric and propaganda. One week after President Trump’s December 2017 announcement recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital (without taking a position as to the boundaries of Israeli sovereignty), Abbas declared that Jerusalem is a “Palestinian, Arab, Islamic, and Christian city” and that Israel’s presence is illegitimate. At the same time, Abbas’ Fatah movement began to call for “days of rage,” while the official PA daily printed a cartoon of a Palestinian cutting off the arm of a Jew with a cleaver.

The message from the leadership to the Palestinian street was clear. That month, Palestinian firebomb attacks and violent riots increased more than ten-fold.

American official: ‘Israel will not pay a price for embassy relocation’

U.S. Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, held a briefing to journalists on Friday with Victoria Coates, a member of the National Security Council, in preparation for the relocation of the American embassy to Jerusalem, which is scheduled for Monday.

Coates stated that President Donald Trump moving the American Embassy to Jerusalem serves U.S. interests and is not part of a “give-and-take” with Israel.

“This is something that serves the United States. There is no give and take with Israel with regards to this decision,” she said.

Coates added, “There are people who are happy with the decision and people who are unhappy – but it’s far too early to measure reactions. We are convinced this decision creates a platform and an opportunity to promote a peace process based on realities, not fantasies. We’re sure it will create greater stability in the long run.”

US embassy moves to Jerusalem — on Twitter

In a symbolic gesture ahead of the relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem, the mission changed its Twitter name Thursday from USEmbassyTelAviv to USEmbassyJerusalem.

The embassy posted a short video clip of the alteration being made to its official account with a message saying it was “still looking for a suitable header photo.”

The account’s Twitter handle is now @usembassyjlm.

An opening ceremony for the relocated embassy, which will move from Tel Aviv to the capital, is scheduled for May 14.

It was the second sign this week of the upcoming move, after Jerusalem municipal workers on Monday erected signposts reading “US Embassy” in Hebrew, Arabic, and English around the site, currently a US consular building, in the city’s Arnona neighborhood.

Trump to deliver video address at Jerusalem embassy opening

US President Donald Trump will deliver a video address for the opening of the new US embassy in Jerusalem next week, senior administration officials told reporters Friday morning.

Over the last several weeks, Trump had been toying with flying to Israel for the second time in his presidency to attend the ribbon-cutting ceremony, much to the surprise of Israeli officials who were unprepared for a potential presidential visit.

But last week, the White House released its official delegation list, which did not include the president. Among the administration members attending are Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, US Special Envoy Jason Greenblatt, Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner and daughter Ivanka Trump.

US Vice President Mike Pence will also address an event hosted at the Embassy of Israel to the United States in Washington DC on the same day to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Israel’s founding.

U.S. Monitoring Potential for Violence at Israeli Embassy Opening ‘Minute by Minute’

U.S. officials are closely monitoring the security situation in Israel ahead of a historic ceremony celebrating the opening of the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, according to senior Trump administration officials.

Senior administration officials acknowledged the potential for violence as armed protests by Palestinians continue along Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip, but emphasized their preparedness and close coordination with Israeli security organizations.

The opening of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem became a reality when Trump made good on a campaign promise to relocate the embassy from its longstanding perch in Tel Aviv to Israel’s capital city of Jerusalem. Monday’s celebration is expected to attract more than 800 dignitaries, officials, and others.

The move has splintered U.S. allies, some of whom have praised the move and some who have objected, warning that such a recognition of Jerusalem of Israel’s capital by the United States would further foment violence and make it more difficult to broker a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.

The Trump administration has objected to these arguments, telling reporters that Hamas terrorists and their supporters are the ones chiefly responsible for engaging in violence in the region.

Israel said to thwart EU condemnation of American embassy move

Israel, aided by several European nations, on Friday thwarted plans for a European Union statement condemning the relocation of the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, Channel 10 news reported.

European diplomats and Israeli officials said the statement, initiated by France, sought to present a unified European front against Washington’s move.

But objections by Hungary, the Czech Republic and Romania helped Jerusalem stop the statement.

According to the report, the draft resolution stated that Jerusalem should be the capital of two states — Israel and Palestine; that the status of Jerusalem should only be resolved as part of peace negotiations; and that EU nations will not follow the US in moving their missions to the holy city.

The Czech Republic’s president has voiced support for moving the country’s embassy to Jerusalem, though the move is opposed by the prime minister. Romania’s prime minister has also spoken in favor of such a relocation, opposed by that country’s president.

Meretz to boycott opening of US embassy in J’lem

Citing its opposition to “unilateral moves”, the leftist Meretz faction will not attend next week’s festive opening ceremony for the US Embassy in Jerusalem.

“I really want to see all the embassies in Jerusalem, and I want to see Jerusalem recognized by the world as the capital of Israel within recognized and safe borders. I want to see Jerusalem recognized by the world as the capital of Israel,” Meretz Chairman Tamar Zandberg told the IDC Herzliya Conference on Thursday.

“We simply can not celebrate unilateral moves whose potential for danger is so significant. “

According to Zandberg, “Past experience shows us that unilateral steps do not remove an issue from the table, but on the contrary, complicate it further, and while Jerusalem is the capital of Israel is an undeniable fact, peace is not.”

The embassy will be inaugurated on May 14 and will include a US delegation led by Deputy Secretary of State John J. Sullivan, and will include US Ambassador to Israel David M. Friedman, Secretary of the Treasury Steven T. Mnuchin, and US Special Representative Jason Greenblatt.

Indonesians protest US recognition of Jerusalem as capital

Thousands of Indonesian Muslims staged a rally Friday protesting US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, ahead of next week’s US Embassy relocation to the city.

About 5,000 people flocked to Jakarta’s landmark National Monument and unfurled Indonesian and Palestinian flags.

On Monday, the US plans to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, five months after Trump recognized it as Israel’s capital. Palestinians seek East Jerusalem as their intended capital.

“We, the Muslims, oppose all forms of colonialism and oppression of the Palestinians,” said a speaker standing on the top of a car, greeted with shouts of “Allahu Akbar” (God is Great).

Iranians Praise Trump on Twitter for Withdrawing From Iran Deal: #ThankYouTrump

Several Iranians responded to President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal Tuesday with the Twitter hashtags #WeAreHostages and #ThankYouTrump.

“The future of Iran belongs to its people. They are the rightful heirs to a rich culture and an ancient land, and they deserve a nation that does justice to their dreams, honor to their history and glory to God,” said Trump on Tuesday.

Saeed Ghasseminejad, a native of Iran and research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, sent out a tweet earlier Wednesday about many Iranians showing their support for Trump withdrawing from President Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran.

“Many Iranians are using #WeAreHostages to echo what @realDonaldTrump said in his speech yesterday,” Ghasseminejad tweeted. “Also, last night, they used #ThankYouTrump to show their support for US decision to leave the disastrous #IranDeal. The US media doesn’t cover the real Iranians who hate this regime.” (h/t jzaik)

Boycott Israel Movement Stunts The Palestinian Economy

A push to “boycott, divest and sanction” (BDS) Israeli companies has limited impact on the credit profile of Israel, yet it directly harms its intended beneficiaries, the Palestinians. The BDS movement, including universities, pension funds and leaders of some Christian denominations (to the chagrin of many congregants), ignores economic data. And it coincides with a disturbing rise of violent anti-Semitism across Europe.

“The impact of BDS is more psychological than real so far and has had no discernible impact on Israeli trade or the broader economy,” Kristin Lindow, senior vice president at Moody’s Investors Service and Moody’s lead analyst for Israel (in full disclosure, a former Moody’s colleague) told Forbes. “That said, the sanctions do run the risk of hurting the Palestinian economy, which is much smaller and poorer than that of Israel, as seen in the case of SodaStream.”

While the broader Israeli economy is presently shielded from BDS, one victim is SodaStream, an Israeli company manufacturing DIY soda that shuttered a West Bank factory and moved it to southern Israel. This cut hundreds of jobs for Palestinians that reportedly paid between three and five times the local prevailing wage.

SodaStream’s CEO Daniel Birnbaum denied the move was BDS-related, though its profits plunged after BDS activists locked the fizzy pop maker in its crosshairs.

“It has nothing to do with politics; we’re relocating to a modern facility that is three times the size,” Birnbaum told The Independent. “But if it was up to me, I would have stayed. We showed the world Arabs and Jews can work together.”

The numbers speak for themselves: Israel (population 8.3 million) has GDP of $291 billion, the Palestinian Territories (population 4.1 million), $11.3 billion. In 2012, Israeli sales to the Palestinian Authority were $4.3 billion, about 5% of Israeli exports (excluding diamonds) less than 2% of Israeli GDP, according to the Bank of Israel. In 2012, Palestinian sales to Israel accounted for about 81% of Palestinian exports and less than a percentage point of Israeli GDP. Palestinian purchases from Israel were two-thirds of total Palestinian imports (or 27% of Palestinian GDP).

Rape Suspect Tariq Ramadan Loses Bid for Release Ahead of Trial

The Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan, who is being held in France over rape allegations by three women, has lost his bid for early release ahead of trial, his lawyer told AFP.

Judges had already refused bail for the 55-year-old Ramadan, who is being treated behind bars for multiple sclerosis, as well as a request for release on health grounds.

“We were informed of the decision today and I immediately lodged an appeal,” his lawyer Emmanuel Marsigny said late Monday, calling the decision “incredible”.

The prominent TV pundit and Oxford University professor, whose grandfather founded Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood movement, has been held since February on charges that he raped two Muslim women in France.

In early March, a third woman came forward claiming Ramadan had raped her in Brussels in 2013 and 2014, accusing him of subjecting her to violent and sexually degrading acts during a dozen meetings.

Meanwhile a fourth woman has filed rape charges in Geneva against Ramadan, who is a Swiss citizen.

His supporters — including two million Facebook followers — have lashed out angrily at his arrest, with many complaining that he has been unfairly targeted because he is Muslim.

Keith Ellison Offended by Questions About Anti-Semitism

Rep. Keith Ellison (D.-Minn.), vice-chairman of the Democratic National Committee, has been under fire from the media over his continued ties with controversial Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.

CNN’s Jake Tapper has been one of the few mainstream journalists to call out Rep. Ellison over his lies that he severed ties with Farrakhan. Even the Washington Post’s Fact Checker gave Ellison’s claims of severed ties ‘Four Pinocchios’ rating, meaning it’s pretty much a lie.

It was revealed this year that Ellison and other Democratic Party congressional representatives meet with Farrakhan after Ellison’s denouncement in 2006. A photograph was also published by a journalist where then-candidate Barack Obama posed with Farrakhan and admitted he buried it out of fear it could have derailed Obama’s political future.

Ellison recently spoke at Harvard University for Harvard Institute of Politics forum and was asked a question on anti-Semitism in the party and his ties to Farrakhan. His response was that “it’s a smear.”

BBC’s special report on Palestinian refugees avoids the real issues

Knell refrained from making any effort to clarify to listeners to which so-called “international resolutions” Momeni was referring – and whether or not they actually exist.

Knell: “Back at the Gaza protest camp there’s traditional Palestinian dancing. Here the case for right of return is uncompromising but Israel rejects that demand, pointing out it would destroy its Jewish majority. Leaks on previous peace talks suggest they focused on compensation for Palestinian refugees and return for just a token number. It remains to be seen what Washington will propose on one of the most painful issues in this long-running conflict.”

As we see, notwithstanding that rare mention of Jewish refugees, Knell’s report was essentially superficial. She failed to clarify that the whole point of the demand for ‘right of return’ is the destruction of the Jewish state and that Palestinian refugees have for decades been used by their leaders as pawns to further that aim. UNRWA’s role in keeping millions of Palestinians in refugee status was not explained to listeners and neither was that of the Arab League.

While giving the impression of balance with her visit to Mahane Yehuda and interview with Danny Ayalon, Knell nevertheless managed to both avoid the real issues behind the topic she ostensibly set out to ‘consider’ and promote a portrayal of the topic that amplifies the messaging of the ‘Great Return March’ organisers.

New York Times Exults Over Election of Malaysian Prime Minister With Sordid Anti-Semitic Record

The New York Times is hailing the election of a 92-year-old with a history of antisemitism as prime minister as “the greatest show of democracy” in Malaysian history.

“The optimism and energy of Election Day were a clear clue about the monumental result to come. At the polling station in the Lembah Pantai constituency, in Kuala Lumpur, for example, the camaraderie was palpable,” said the one opinion piece the Times has so far published about the election results, by Tash Aw. “Malaysians can exult in the knowledge that they took part of the greatest show of democracy this country has ever seen.”

Jews may be forgiven for failing to join in the exultation. As the Anti-Defamation League said in a tweet, “With Mahathir Mohamad again leading Malaysia, we cannot forget his decades-long record of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. The world cannot accept this from any leader.”

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency pointed to Mahathir’s more than 40-year record of antisemitism, from a 1970 book that said, “The Jews are not merely hook-nosed, but understand money instinctively,” through a 2012 blog post claiming “Jews rule this world by proxy.”

The front-page Times news article about the election runs 1,400 words and includes not a single mention of Mahathir Mohamad’s past statements about Jews.

New York Times Runs Column By Wife Of Radical Islamist, Taliban Fighter

The New York Times seems destined to sink Gina Haspel’s chances of becoming CIA director — even if it means running op-eds by the wife of a radical Islamist.

The Gray Lady decided to give one of her pages on Wednesday to Fatima Boudchar, who was jailed by the CIA in 2004. To hear Boudchar tell it, you’d think the U.S. government abducted and tortured a poor pregnant woman in a Bangkok secret prison simply because of her tangential relationship with an anti-Qaddafi freedom fighter.

In reality, Boudchar’s professed ignorance of being a simple woman “from a small town in Morocco” who “hardly thought about the United States” stands in opposition to her marriage to Abdelhakim Belhaj, an Islamist military leader who once fought for the Taliban and has alleged ties with al-Qaeda leaders.

Of course, Belhaj’s name is nowhere to be found in Boudchar’s column — surprisingly (or not, depending on your level of cynicism) The New York Times’ editors didn’t find it necessary to include this fact either.

Poles fatally betrayed most of country’s Jews in hiding from Nazis, study claims

According to new research done in Poland, two-thirds of the local Jews who hid in the country from the Nazis lost their lives due to the actions of their non-Jewish neighbors.

The figure comes from a two-volume work of 1,600 pages that historians from the Warsaw-based Center for Research on Holocaust of Jews have compiled over the past five years. It covers nine out of Poland’s 13 regions, the Tok FM radio station reported Sunday.

Arriving amid a polarizing debate in Poland over a law that limits rhetoric on Polish complicity in the Holocaust, the study suggests Poles bore partial responsibility for hundreds of thousands of deaths of Jews in the Holocaust — a figure that is significantly higher than previous estimates.

The findings of the research were published earlier this year in a Polish-language book titled “The Fate of the Jews in Selected Regions of Occupied Poland.”

They pertain to the fate of more than one million Jews who went underground to avoid being killed in Operation Reinhard — Nazi Germany’s campaign of annihilation of 3.3 million Jews in occupied Poland.

Bulgaria Investigates Case of ‘Nazi’ Boys at Soccer Cup Final

Bulgarian authorities said they were investigating photographs that appear to show a child making a Nazi salute and another with a swastika on his chest at the country’s soccer cup final.

The images of the shirtless young boys standing on the athletics track at the national stadium on Wednesday, in front of the crowd of supporters of the Levski Sofia team, caused a public outcry after being posted online.

One has his arm raised in what looks like a Nazi salute, and the other a swastika scrawled on his bare chest. Both have slogans on their torsoes such as “Levski hooligan” and “ACAB” (All Cops Are Bastards). They appear to be well under 10 years old.

“We see Nazi greetings, which are a worrying fact for us,” said Stefka Ilieva, an inspector at the State Agency for Child Protection.

She said the agency wanted to establish the boys’ identities, adding that if they had been unaccompanied at the evening match their parents could be fined up to 500 levs ($300).

Children under 14 have to be accompanied at events that take place later than 8 p.m., according to the Child Protection Act.

The Organization of the Jews in Bulgaria strongly condemned the incident.

“It is unacceptable that young children should be encouraged to exhibit such behavior,” it said.

Greek Jews to hold silent protest against antisemitism

Members of the Greek Jewish community and Greek government officials and public figures will protest this Sunday against the desecration of a Jewish cemetery near Athens discovered on May 6.

“The World Jewish Congress abhors the despicable and cowardly act of desecrating Jewish property and stands firmly with the local Jewish community,” said WJC CEO Robert Singer in a press release, adding that “every citizen of Greece deserves the full protection of its government. We thank Athens Mayor Giorgis Kaminis for publicly condemning this anti-Semitic act, and urge other politicians and authorities to follow suit.”

Before World War II, Greece was home to large and vibrant Jewish communities, especially in Athens and Thessaloniki. These communities were largely destroyed by the Nazis after the German occupation of Greece in April 1941.

Jewish life in Greece still flourishes, but the emergence of the Radical Right Golden Dawn party, which is often described as a neo-Nazi party, is a cause of growing concern.

President Reuven Rivlin visited the Holocaust monument in Thessaloniki during a state visit in February and spoke out against renewed antisemitism, extremism, racism and neo-Nazism.

Japanese Camera-Maker Canon to Acquire Israeli Video Review Technology Company

In the second major acquisition announced this week for an Israeli company, Modi’in-based BriefCam — maker of widely used rapid video review, search and analysis technology — revealed its upcoming acquisition by Tokyo-based Canon, a world leader in digital imaging solutions.

“We are thrilled to be joining forces with a global leader in digital imaging. The acquisition will allow BriefCam to continue to deliver industry-leading video content analytics solutions, while remaining a standalone company within the Canon Group,” said Trevor Matz, BriefCam president and CEO.

Masanori Yamada from Canon’s Network Visual Solution Business Promotion Headquarters added, “With BriefCam, we can deliver an even broader range of leading-edge technology and solutions in the fields of network cameras, video management software and video content analysis software to customers and partners across the globe. We are very excited to work with such an innovative organization.”

The financial details of the not-yet-completed BriefCam transaction have not been disclosed. Earlier this week, International Flavors & Fragrances of New York announced its planned acquisition of Frutarom of Haifa in a cash-and-stock transaction valued at approximately $7.1 billion.

Lebanon’s History, Destroyed

Jewish Quarter of Sidon, the old plaque where was inscribed “Ḥaret el-Yahoud” was replaced by another plate with the inscription “Ḥaret el-Quds.”

In the ramp up to the final moments of the election in Lebanon (May 6th, 2018), many politicians work to please their voters. Sadly, in Sidon, this means the physical erasing of the Jewish community. The Jews of Sidon believe that their community dates back to the first arrival of Israelites (roughly 1000 BCE) and their synagogue to the Second Temple period (Josephus, Jewish Wars 1:422). They even have a tradition that the tomb of Zeḇulun the son of Yaʿaqoḇ (yes, one of the members of the twelve tribes) is buried there and a mausoleum stands in his honor. “Zebulun shall dwell by the seashore; He shall be a haven for ships, and his flank shall rest on Sidon.” – Genesis 49:13

When the Jews lived in Sidon, they kept only one day of yom ṭoḇ because of its close proximity to Jerusalem. Though only a small amount of information exists, Sidon probably had a small Jewish community at the time of the Muslim conquest in the seventh century. In the twelfth century, Spanish traveler Benjamin of Tudela mentions that twenty Jews (perhaps twenty families) lived in Sidon, which he called “a large city.” 1 In the nineteenth century as Beirut became more metropolitan, many of the Jews spread throughout Lebanon flocked to Beirut.

Nagi Georges Zeidan, an amateur historian on Lebanese Jewry, posted on his Facebook page (followed by many of the Lebanese Jews around the world) on April 23rd, 2018:

Though there is nothing inherently wrong with the term “el-Quds” (one of Jerusalem’s names in Arabic), the erasing of the “Ḥaret el-Yahoud” is strictly political. This is not the only change going on in Sidon, on April 20th, 2018 Nagi reported that the “west wall of the cemetery that separates the old seaside is completely demolished by excavators.” “These machines are well inside the Jewish cemetery, in fact they… damaged and partially destroyed tombs.”

In 2016, Nagi (who has been collecting everything he can find on the Jewish community in Lebanon since 1996) returned to revisit the remains of the Jewish community. When Nagi could not locate the Jewish Quarter, he was advised to “follow the swastikas” in order to find the location – the place had been renamed from “Ḥaret el-Yahoud” to “Ḥaret el-Ghaza.”

Canada’s oldest synagogue celebrates 250 years of Jewish life in Montreal

When Edmond Elbaz tells people the Montreal synagogue of which he’s president is celebrating its 250th anniversary, he has a simple way of putting it into perspective for them. He says his congregation, Shearith Israel, was founded a century before Canada was born.

Known more commonly as the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue, or often just The Spanish, it’s Canada’s oldest Jewish congregation and one of the first in North America. While it is certain that the synagogue was established in 1768, the exact date is lost to time. To celebrate the sestercentennial, the Orthodox congregation is now in the midst of a year-long series of special events in 2018.

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante helped launch the celebrations in March, hosting a special ceremony at City Hall where she presided over the inauguration of a traveling exhibit of photos, documents and artifacts (some dating back to 1768) showcasing the synagogue’s history.

It was one of the first major events the mayor hosted in the beautiful Hall of Honor since she was elected last November. Among those in attendance were leaders of the local Jewish community and other dignitaries including diplomats from Spain and Portugal.

“I was touched by the event as it gave me a great sense of pride,” says Elbaz, who has been associated with the synagogue for the past 40 years.

“The mayor and her team, along with the head of the opposition, all gave us a very warm welcome. Sitting next to her during the ceremony, I saw she was particularly moved by our children’s choir, which reflects the diverse makeup of our community,” Elbaz says.

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